Evening dress, Charles James

Evening dress, Charles James

Evening dress
Charles James (1906-78)
1938-9
USA or London or Paris
Printed silk
Museum no. T.274-1974
Given by the designer

Couturier clothing like this was custom-made for each individual client, and was out of most women's reach. However, couture influenced the silhouette and style of more affordable fashions, and dressmakers everywhere followed its lead. The prevalent 1930s style was the bias cut, in which fabric is cut diagonally to the grain of the fabric, creating garments that skim over the body's curves. The 1930s silhouette is therefore slinky and close-fitting. The line was simple and uncluttered, with few trimmings or accessories.

Towards the end of the 1930s, the fashionable silhouette altered slightly and the prevailing streamlined shape was gradually replaced by wider shoulders and constricted waists, as seen here. Also, designers introduced bold prints and colours in an attempt to break away from the minimal adornment of the bias-cut line.