Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Morning Inspiration

 Happy Monday Everyone!
Today I would like to showcase a lesser know designer, Charles James. It is said that Alexander McQueen gained a tremendous amount of inspiration from him.
I had the opportunity to see this exhibit at The Chicago History Museum. The exhibit was rather small, but still incredible. I tried to find where you could order a copy of the exhibit book, but I was unsuccessful. I will continue to look, because if you love construction, this is a book that you should have in your sewing library.
Charles James began his career as a milliner.
Soon, he moved on to creating clothing. The dress below was called La Sirene and was created in 1941. 
"To see things in the seed," the Chinese mystic philosopher Laozi tells us, "that is genius." 
"For Charles James, the human body was the seed of his creativity. James saw fashion not as an abstraction or an adornment to cover the body, but as an extension-viscerally and inextricably connected to flesh and bone-of the human form."  
 In the above picture, you can see what the interior of the dress looked like. This was The Clover Gown, 1950. You can see in the picture below that from overhead it looked like a four leaf clover.
A magnificent sleeve.
 The photographs do not do this gown justice. The velvet trim is absolutely spectacular in person.  
When viewed from above, the skirt creates the infinity symbol. The Pouff, 1952.
My favorite of all, The Petal, 1951. The skit has twenty-five yards of fabric. To eliminate bulk at the waist, the gathered fabric is sewn to the petal shapes so there is only one layer of fabric at the waist.
 One of James most iconic dresses, The Butterfly, 1954. The dress weighs nearly eighteen pounds.

 Another beautiful gown. The lace wraps around the waist giving the effect of hands.
The Tree, 1957.
 The dress was put through a CT scan to better understand the interior of the gown.
 For the exhibit, mock ups were made to show the layering process of the interior of the skirt.
 The inner skirt.
Petticoat Flare added.
 Six layers of tulle.
 A close up of all the layers of stitching that hold out the back of the dress.
In 1964, James met the up and coming fashion illustrator, Antonio Lopez. The two collaborated and many of James' designs were documented by Lopez. The drawings are now in museums all over the world, 106 were donated to The Chicago History Museum by James before his death.
I hoped you've enjoyed possibly gaining a little knowledge about a designer who although not well known has continued to inspire.
Have a wonderful week.

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  1. You are right! I did not know this designer---fabulous clothes. Love the petal skirt, too. Just imagining the labor involved makes me want to swoon. Lopez' illustrations are so elegant.

    1. I had the opportunity to meet Antonio before he died. As far as I'm concerned, there has never been as great an illustrator as he was.

  2. WOW! Were these gowns actually worn? We see what they look like, but I am trying to imagine what they felt like on the body, both standing & moving.

    Thanks for the visual treat.

    1. Yes, each gown was made for a specific client and pictures of them in the dresses can be found in the book. I would love the chance just to try one on!!!

  3. gosh incredible work - a designer that I didn't know about. thanks for sharing.

    1. So glad that you enjoyed it!
      Funny thing, while I was writing this up, I thought about you and your recent gown creation :)

  4. For more on James you can check out my profile of him here on my site. This series of profiles was originally posted on the Colette Patterns blog 2 years ago.

  5. After seeing these images I can see why you are so creative.

    1. Oh my, what a lovely compliment. Thank you.

  6. Oh ! Lala ! I love all these dresses. It makes me feel so small such as the pictures taken by the nasa of the constellations. It is art.
    Odile (in Paris, France)

  7. Thought you might like this video: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=wbq6hs4zlc8