n°119/ Charles James

May 2014


Christian Dior considered him the "greatest talent" of his generation and Balenciaga, a miser with his enthusiasms, said he was “the only one in the world who has raised dressmaking from an applied art to a pure art.” Charles James is the first American couturier the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum dedicates an exhibition. After designing in his native London- where he met Virginia Woolf, Cecil Beaton and gay eccentric StephenTennant,  and then Paris- where he met Cocteau,  James arrived in New York City in 1940. And the business went really good for he had this incredible talent to cut dresses as sculptures, and the society connections to sell them. His ballgowns are the most famous but as Coco Chanel, he always favored comfortable cuts and fabrics. His 1932 Taxi Dress got its name because he wanted to design a garment that a woman could slip into—or out of—in the back of a cab. Did it happen by any chance to inspire her wrap dress to Diane Von Furstenberg? Still he went out of business in 1958 and died twenty years later in a miserable condition.


 Charles James