1906-1978 Charles James
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far from home...
Join Date: Aug 2005
Charles James (1906-1978) was born in London. His father was an English military officer, while his mother came from a socially prominent Chicago family. After he was expelled from Harrow as the result of a sexual escapade, his family packed him off to Chicago to work. Not long after, he began his career as milliner. His shop at 1209 North State Street was called Charles Boucheron, the surname borrowed from a school friend. Two years later he moved to New York City and began designing dresses with the same sculptural sense that characterized his millinery.
“Charles James is not only the greatest American couturier, but the world’s best and only dressmaker who has raised it from an applied art form to a pure art form,” declared the great Spanish couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga. His famous “butterfly Dress,” originally created for Mrs. William Randolph Hearst Jr. in 1954, is featured here in another version, worn by Mrs. John V. Farwell III. Made of 25 yards of
peau de soie
and nylon net, the dress weighs 18 pounds. Its most notable features are structured side wings and a back bustle skirt. The Chicago History Museum has more than a dozen dresses by Charles James, many of which were donated only a few years after they were first worn, possibly because they were so difficult to store.
Charles James, evening gown, 1954, USA, gift of Mr. and Mrs. John V. Farwell III, photograph by Irving Solero
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And I am nothing of a builder
, but here I dreamt I was an architect
And I built this balustrade to keep you home, to keep you safe from the outside world
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