Monday, 23 February 2015

Charles James: The Sculptor and Architect of Couture

 Charles James? It can't be...surely it's Dior? I bet you're thinking of this iconic image instead:

It was taken by Loomis Dean in 1957 of Dior's collection whereas the previous picture of Charles James gowns was shot by the great Cecil Beaton in 1948, nearly 10 years earlier. Like Dior, Charles James was a master couturier. Born in England but after moving to New York at an early stage, he was as far as anyone is concerned, an American.

I was already a huge fan of James but after doing a bit more research into the designer and his work I'm just astounded by his genius. If his dresses sauntered down the catwalk today they'd still be considered cutting edge. It's easy to see his influence in modern designers such as the late Alexander McQueen and Zac Posen who have both focused of the architecture of a gown. 

 It was Charles James vision to enhance the female shape. To create dresses that gave his clients better, more pronounced figures. He achieved this through the use of contrasting fabrics, complicated pleats and seams.

It's astounding that this outfit is from the 1940's, it's just so fashion forward. I can just imagine someone like Emma Stone rocking up to the red carpet in this.

This top, designed by Charles in the 1950's has touches of sports luxe that's featured on every hot trend list . I adore this, it would make a fabulous addition to my wardrobe!!!

If you've ever worn a puffa jacket, strapless dress or wrap dress then you are wearing a piece of fashion innovation that stemmed from Charles's designs. The dress pictured above is known as the "Taxi dress" and it's construction meant that it was so easy to get on and off that a women could put it on in a taxi!
The construction of his gowns are a thing of beauty in themselves.

Charles James considered himself an artist who's medium was fabric as opposed to a designer. His love of wearable sculpture was developed when he began work as a milliner. His ability to mold head wear into fantastical shapes enabled him to transition into women's clothing.

Wouldn't this pleated 1940's gown have made a beautiful wedding dress!

ARGHHH to-die-for!!!!

Any celebrity wearing this dress would surely have won best dressed!
This is the Clover Dress and it's formation meant that the hem never touched the ground but rather sashayed as the wearer walked.

Imagine the thrill of seeing these hot pink tulle layers peaking out as you move...utterly gorgeous!

The "Butterfly" was another stunning work of art created by Charles James. I'm not sure how this lady sat down (the dress weighed about 14lbs) but she certainly looked fabulous standing!!!

Another dreamy 1950's dress, this time in sorbet silks.
Charles James's finest work spanned from the 1930's to the 1950's. There are few true geniuses in the fashion world, they can be described with other adjectives such as pioneers and revolutionists.  The Metropolitan Museum in New York honoured him last year with an exhibition in the newly renovated costume institute. The Met gala ball also encouraged patrons to wear gowns inspired by Charles James's creations. Oooh how I would have loved to have attended both of those. You can see so many more of James work on the Mets archive, the images above are just a tiny selection.

The Met also have some fantastic video's charting the exhibition and his career. Sit back and relax and learn about a true fashion master...I dare you not to fall in love with his work!

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