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

Date: 1957

Culture: American

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jean de Menil, 1959

Accession Number: 2009.300.832


Eroticism takes many forms, both subtle and blatant, in James' oeuvre. In the design and cut of this mermaidlike dress, he pulled out all the stops. Curvaceous pattern pieces, which abstract and idealize the feminine form, are accentuated by playing off the luminescent and matte textures of contrasting materials. Black velvet reiterates the shapes. An affinity for the biomorphic forms typical of 1950s architectural and decorative arts is evidence of James' modernity.