Charles James: Chelsea Couture

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) "Four Leaf Clover" Evening Dress, 1953 White silk satin, white silk faille, black silk-rayon velvet The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Elizabeth Fairall, 1953 (C.I.53.73)

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)
“Four Leaf Clover” Evening Dress, 1953
White silk satin, white silk faille, black silk-rayon velvet
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Elizabeth Fairall, 1953 (C.I.53.73)

When I first moved to New York City as a student in 1966, I serendipitously landed a room in the Chelsea Hotel. At the time, there were many luminaries from the arts who resided there and it was possible to literally rub elbows with them in the elevator. My roommate, also a  fashion student, and I were lucky enough to meet the legendary fashion designer, Charles James, and visit him in the apartment where he lived and worked. The main room was dominated by an enormous, cluttered work table with many projects in various stages. We knew we were experiencing a special moment in history.

It is with great respect to that history that I recommend visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the comprehensive presentation of Charles James’ extraordinary work and learn his unique fashion philosophy.

Another highlight of that time for me was meeting (and occasionally joining his entourage) another hotel resident, the most talented fashion illustrator of all time, Antonio Lopez, who illustrated many of Charles James designs.  Some of these illustrations grace the Charles James exhibit.

 -Gale Epstein, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Hanky Panky Ltd.

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) "Butterfly" Ball Gown, ca. 1955 Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund, 2013 (2013.591)

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)
“Butterfly” Ball Gown, ca. 1955
Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund, 2013 (2013.591)

Charles James: Beyond Fashion is on view at the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 10th.

1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street)
New York, NY 10028
Phone: 212-535-7710 (TTY: 212-650-2921)

Open 7 Days a Week
Sunday–Thursday: 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.

 

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About Hanky Panky

Over 30 years ago, in 1977, designer Gale Epstein created a hand-made lingerie set for her friend, Lida Orzeck, crafted out of embroidered handkerchiefs. The original designs were the inspiration for the company name, Hanky Panky. Blending traditional with modern glam looks, Hanky Panky is a fashion favorite of countless celebrities.
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