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Object Name

Evening Dress


James, Charles (Primary maker)
James, Charles ([designer / maker])

Date Made

1954 circa
1954 circa


design : pink silk taffeta and satin evening dress. From exhibition label, early 2000s: 'pouff', evening dress of pink corded silk and satin, c.1955 Charles James (1906-1978) James was an Anglo-American who worked in Europe and America, in New York and London until the '50s, thereafter mostly in the U.S. His obsession with and mastery of cut was recognised by peers such as Baleniaga, who described him as 'the world's best and only dressmaker'. We are fortunate to have in the Ulster Museum a '30s dress by James which illustrates spiral draping and padding, two of his interests in the '20s and '30s, and a wool day dress by him of 1952-3 made for Lord and Taylor as well as this stiff full-skirted '50s evening dress, typical of his best-known work. His interest in architecture and engineering is evident in this multi-layered, and very sculptural garment. From exhibition label, 'Reflections: Costume 1730-2013' Charles James was an American designer who began his career as a milliner before moving into fashion. He was renowned for the complex cutting and structure of his designs. This dress is beautifully constructed in pale pink satin and silk, supported by stiffly upholstered petticoats and is extremely heavy. James had a reputation as an unpredictable perfectionist, and his wealthy clients would often have to wait for months to receive their dresses. From exhibition label 'Grand Designers' Charles James is often referred to as the 'designer's designer' and his clotheshave the qualities of sculptural works of art. He spent much of his early life travelling before settling in Chicago, where he made hats and began his career in fashion. As obsessive illustrator, he created structural design patterns for his dresses which he would often return to and modify years later. This dress is extremely heavy and is a marvel of construction, with stiffy upholstered underskirts.

Catalogue Number



National Museums NI