Thursday, January 1, 2015

One Shot: Charles James' Clover Leaf Dress

    Deceptively simple in silhouette, refined of line, and effortless looking in motion, this gown by Charles James stands at the apex of technical skill, deign innovation, and construction complexity.  Designed in 1953 fro Austine Hearst, wife to William Randolph Hearst Jr, it was meant to be worn to the Eisenhower inaugural Ball. it was, in consistent James fashion, not ready for the event it had been created for.  It is, however, one of the prime achievements of the dressmaker's art, and a monument of architecture, and structural engineering.
                                                Mrs Austine Hearst in the Cloverleaf dress.
                Pictured here, are left to right, Hardie Amies, Charles James, and Pauline Trigere'
     There are five distinct under-structure layers, each of which adding its own component into the final movement, and ease of the garment, and over 30 pieces in its construction.  When you consider that a common dress of today has only 4 to 6 pieces this is incredible. Mrs. Hearst remarks about the dress were that it felt like wearing nothing whatever.

    The single most remarkable thing about the dress, and one which even James didn't anticipate was that in regular motion, like walking briskly, the lobes of the skirt would invert, creating an undulating motion that seemed alive.

The dress is of white duchess satin, Ivory silk faille, and black velour de Lyons.  As an expression of pared down, ultimately edited, and perfectly constructed garmenture, it is without peer.

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