New Book Explores Charles James‘ Formula for Fashion

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Known as „America’s First Couturier,“ Charles James presented unmatched skill in creating beautifully sculptural designs. While he is most remembered for his gowns, James also produced an assortment of unisex styles since the start of his career in the 1930s. Charles James: The Couture Secrets of Shape consists of 400 pages dedicated to James‘ androgynous fashions and the highly detailed design process behind them.

In the preface penned by Rick Owens, the designer credits James as an inspiration and attests that, „James‘ clothes were about order, rigor, and discipline.“ Effortlessly elegant they are not. Instead, James rooted his architectural pieces in science and math, focusing on building clothes that embody form and function. His masterful construction of couture-level gowns was also the subject of the 2014 exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

James was aware of his unique approach to fashion design. In 1973, James began writing The Charles James Approach to Structural Design–a handbook that recorded his pattern engineering techniques–which has been reproduced in whole for the first time within the pages of Charles James: The Couture Secrets of Shape.

From his famous Eiderdown Jacket–a style marked by its white quilted satin body–to the invention of what has been dubbed „,000 sleeves,“ the book dissects James‘ ingenious patterns and production. More than that, Charles James opens the door to his Chelsea studio in New York City, inviting readers to glimpse the artists, celebrities, and atmosphere that James was surrounded by from 1960s to his death in 1978. Although often overlooked in the fashion canon, James‘ analytical approach to design survives as a blueprint for innovative style.

Charles James: The Couture Secrets of Shape is available online now at booksellers everywhere.

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