New Exhibition: Charles James: Genius Reconstructed

Digital Image of Charles Jmaes dresss from CT scan at the Field Museum. © Chicago History Museum

On October 22nd the Chicago History museum will open the exhibition Charles James: Genius Reconstructed curated by Timothy Long, who I interviewed here last year. The exhibition features fifteen iconic dresses from the museum’s collection. Out of these dresses four were re-created, allowing the visitors to admire their construction for which James is most known. His dresses are often made of a sculptured, rigid bodice, almost capable of standing on its own, combined with an enormous billowing skirt.

"Butterfly," 1954 Charles James. Known as the “Butterfly” dress, this gown is made of 25 yards of peau de soie and nylon netting and weighs 17 pounds. Worn by Mrs. John V. Farwell III. © Chicago History Museum

Some of the richest women in America were his devoted costumers and close friends, like the oil heiress Millicent Roger, and he had a dress form made for each of them in exact measurements. That did not stop him from changing the forms if he did not find the clients figure to be perfect. James had a volatile personalty and hot temper, and would sometimes take years to complete a dress, which for him was a study of perfection rather than a consumer product.The exhibition explores the allure of Charles James through  examination of his ability to balance engineer-like skills with artistic intuition.

Charles James with a Model. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1943.

Charles James: Genius Reconstructed on display at Chicago History Museum from October 22‚ 2011‚ through April 16‚ 2012. more details here

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One Response to New Exhibition: Charles James: Genius Reconstructed

  1. Pingback: Mystery Monday: Charles James, American Couturier | ON PINS AND NEEDLES

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