Ever heard of Charles James? Wonderful 1950s dresses at the Met, New York.

Dear Reader

Charles James was one of the most influential dress designers of the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, surprisingly, he is little known in the UK. 

Charles James gowns. Photograph by Cecil Beaton

Even though he was British, he is often called ‘the first American couturier’ as he spent most of his career in the USA.

Charles James 1952, Photograph by Michael A Vaccaro

James was hugely admired by other prominent designers of the 40s and 50s. Christian Dior described James’ work as “poetry” and credited him with being the true originator of the ‘New Look‘ of 1947, as it was inspired by a conversation with James.

Charles James suit, Photograph by Erwin Blumenfeld, Vogue July 1951

James created fabulous and innovative designs for many famous figures. From royalty to burlesque performers, his client list is quite a fascinating read in itself. Iconic actress Marlene Dietrich, jewellery designer Elsa Peretti, burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, famous socialite Babe Paley, and designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel all wore his fabulous dresses.