Tag Archives: The Met

DESIGNER CHARLES JAMES WAS NOT A GENIUS: DISCUSS

Hue noticed a rather interesting passage in Charles James, a book about the designer (1906-1978), sometimes called “America’s first couturier,” who designed the famous “clover leaf” dresses, and other garments (some of which are in the collection of The Museum at FIT).

Charles James

Charles James with his ladies

Curator Richard Martin wrote:

“The term ‘genius’ is often used to describe James and he certainly possessed the explosive temperament often associated with that word.  But his achievement is, in truth, less than that of a genius.  He compromised his 1930s elegance with his work in the 1940s and 1950s, and his pictorial imagination came to surpass his design innovation.  So he was probably not a genius, but he was surely close enough to being one that we can look at his dresses with a combination of awe and the more modest respect.”

Hue wonders what it means to be a “genius” in terms of designing clothes.  Is sheer beauty enough?  Does the garment need to solve problems too?

What a rump!

James’ “Balloon Dress”—probably not being worn by Angelina Jolie any time soon.

Richard Martin (1947-1999) was curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume institute when he died, but he also had a long association with FIT, where he mounted many noted exhibitions.
Check out Martin’s Wikipedia entry.