Engineering: Charles James
The magnificent engineered gowns of Charles James are as close to pure works of art as
the garments of any other fashion designer in the world. They represent American fashion
creativity at its most complex. A relentless
perfectionist, James was constantly re-
vising his previously "finished" garments.
As a result, his body of work is small, but
he is widely regarded as America’s
James began as a milliner. He engineered his garments using millinery materials and hat-
making, rather than dressmaking, techniques. The layered and rigid understructures of
many of his skirts were made from materials such as buckram, horsehair, and covered wire.
James deftly balanced the heavy, voluminous skirts on the wearers’ hips, but they were
cumbersome and restricted the wearers’ movements.