Bonnie J Brown
Marc Jacobs is everywhere. If he isn’t designing his own clothing line, he’s gracing the glossy pages of magazines in an advertisement for his very own cologne (in all his oiled-up glory). And if he’s not the talk of the gossip pages, he’s creating more fashion under the Louis Vuitton label, and oh, what designs they are. Jacobs may have even initiated the 1950’s trend that is projected to be big this fall with Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear collection. With the full, tea and floor-length skirts and dresses that vary between ballooning flounces and structured shapes, the line could be interpreted as a nod to Christian Dior’s New Look. The New Look, which debuted in Paris in 1947, was Dior’s response to the end of World War II. No longer were there rations on fabric, so many of his garments were created with a sense of excess; some of his garments used up to 80 yards of fabric. However, Dior wasn’t the only designer during this era who was known for such excessive designs, British/American designer Charles James was also creating full fashion pieces that may have even inspired Dior himself, if that’s possible.
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James is known as America’s first couturier; his clothing possessed a highly structured aesthetic, with expert tailoring and sculpted shapes. James’ most successful collection also debuted in Paris in 1947 and possessed similar shapes to Dior’s New Look, that of a nipped in waist paired with voluminous skirts. However, unlike Dior, James approached designing his clothing like an artist. James was known to structure his garments while they were on his models and would often be concerned with the weight of the fabric and balance distribution. This hands-on sculpting would sometimes result in shapes such as a four-leaf clover or butterfly. While his success came from manipulating fabric into avant garde, wearable sculptures, his short-lived success could also be attributed to his artistic mentality. Even though James continued to design clothing through the 1950s, he often ignored the fashion industry’s seasons and instead would rework his previous designs into new works. Because of this approach, most of James’ clients also looked to his garments as works of art as well.
While James did not gain nearly as much popularity as Christian Dior, he is skill known to be influential to today’s designers. As America’s first couturier his clothing is often looked to as an example of superb craftsmanship in embroidery, fabric draping and styling as well as lavish design aesthetics. And while there is even less similarity between James and modern designers like Jacobs, who spread themselves in multiple fashion sectors, he did dabble in other areas which included designing a children’s clothing line as well as designing interiors and furniture for a short period. But ultimately, James faded from the fashion scene after the success of his 1950’s designs.
Sources: american-fashion-designers.suite101.com, Wikipedia, Style.com
Image Layout: Laura Funk