“The essence of chic is to appear extravagantly lovely.” – Charles James
One of very few American designers in the history of haute couture, Charles James, created dresses that were nothing short of works of art. One of the most forward-thinking, innovative designers of his time, he still inspires: this year, his work is the theme of the Met Gala, with a dedicated exhibition at the Met, “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” , on display May 8 through August 10, 2014.
Here, we look back at the most gorgeous creations by Charles James.
“James is the greatest American couturier and the only designer in the world who has taken an applied art and made it art”. – Cristobal Balenciaga
The son of a British military man and an American heiress, James first came to fame as a teenage milliner who shaped his hats directly on his clients’ heads, and later dressed Marlene Dietrich and Babe Paley. Known for his amazing ability to combine intuition and technical precision, he is said to have influenced Christian Dior to come up with the New Look. Supposedly, after seeing James’ first Paris presentation , Paul Poiret, once “the king of fashion,” said to James: “I pass you my crown, wear it well.” Vogue would praise James as a “master of color comparatives, of the cut and fold of exceptional cloths. James was also dear friends with Halston, Elsa Schiaparelli, and one of our favorite photographers, Cecil Beaton, from their school years in England back in 1919.
Before becoming a designer, James studied architecture and was keen on illustration, creating elegant sketches that later on turned into designs.
Charles James’ legacy lives on and continues to inspire modern designers, from Zac Posen to Oscar de la Renta.