Evening dress

Designer: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)

Date: 1946

Culture: American

Medium: silk, metal

Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, 1948

Accession Number: 2009.300.687


Front-point drapery is a signature James form that he reiterated throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The distinctive sculptural effect of this early example contrasts with the prevailing style for body-cleaving, bias-cut styles typical of the period. The dress also features an innovative halter bodice, which appears to be wrapped spontaneously but is in reality composed of five meticulously joined pattern pieces. James rarely used figured fabrics, preferring to give line and form priority. However, by varying directions of the fabric's grain when cutting and joining the pieces, he masterfully manipulated the leaf motif of this rare and expensive silk to emphasize the vertical and diagonal bodice lines, while at the same time creating the impression of random patterning in the skirt, an impossibility for a woven fabric.