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Charles James

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Charles James used boning and forms to shape dresses.

In Threads no. 159, author Claire Shaeffer takes a closer look at the work of iconic designer Charles James. Here, we include some more examples of James’s work.

“One of the most challenging elements of writing an article or book is that I have to choose what is included when there are so many options. Here are a few additional photos from the Charles James exhibition at Chicago History Museum that I particularly like. Special thanks to the Chicago History Museum for the photos and its help with this article.” — Claire Shaeffer

In this photo you can see the various colored underskirts of this gown.


Sketched by Antonio Lopez, this coat was fabricated from the silk damask draperies in Mrs. Potter Palmer’s apartment by a subsequent owner. The coat is intricately seamed with folds at the front and back edges.


James began his fashion career as a milliner and often used the techniques he had learned for molding hats to mold dresses.

This ready-to-wear dress is as modern today as when it was designed more than 50 years ago. A duplicate was worn by Angelina Jolie in a recent movie.

These are examples of how James used boning and forms to shape dresses.

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  1. User avater
    maddie964 | | #1

    It's so interesting and cool to see how James' millinery skills bleeded to his fashion skills.

  2. Rabia | | #2

    I am sure the grim reaper known as "Angelina" appreciated the FAKE hips (and, probably, a fake rear end) the CJ dress was rigged with, since she has none of her own! I heard recently that the reason she doesn't have any "designer endorsements" for clothing is because the "falsies" (hips, rear, bust) she has to wear in order to gain the semblance of a "figure" tend to SHOW THROUGH clothing and designers are not pleased with this. I understand one of the first scenes in "The Tourist" features two policemen making a remark about her character's rear end...I got a HUGE LAFF out of that because it is well known to her detractors that that rear end of hers is FAKE.

  3. User avater
    2tango | | #3

    Oh that coat!!

  4. jbfjcmo | | #4

    Please keep the comments on the dressmaking - I don't log in here to read other's comments about celebrities. Thanks. The Charles James clothes are gorgeous - just read that Jason Wu uses some of his techniques.

  5. jbfjcmo | | #5

    Please keep the comments on the dressmaking - I don't log in here to read other's comments about celebrities. Thanks. The Charles James clothes are gorgeous - just read that Jason Wu uses some of his techniques.

  6. ustabahippie | | #6

    That grey dress is so subtly wonderful, I'd like to try to copy it. I'd wear it as often as I could. Wish I knew the exact fabric from which it was made.
    I, as well, don't appreciate the inappropriate comment on Ms. Jolie. Not on this blog, please.

  7. chilisand | | #7

    Thank you for this interesting article. I would love more details on how he completed the pink dress.

  8. KarylC | | #8

    I love repurposing and that coat is a gorgeous example! Love it, love it, love it.

  9. Ceeayche | | #9

    Sometimes, Threads publishes an article that I will carry around for weeks as I digest the information and absorb the photos. This article is the type of content that sets Threads head and shoulders apart and above the other sewing periodicals available today. Loved it. Examining the inside construction was a treat! The fact that such a high fashion topic also included recycling was pure genius!

  10. pickingtulips | | #10

    I would love to get more information on the dress that Angelina Jolie had made for the movie. I have the perfect fabric to make it. And his red carpet dresses are stunning.

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