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CHARLES JAMES BALL GOWNS, 1948. All photographs courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Charles James




What an exhausting burden it must have been to be Charles James (1906-1978).The descriptives ricochet, one after another, whether documenting his oeuvre and life in the handsome volume Charles James: Beyond Fashion or impromptu observations while touring his current retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Genius. Eccentric. Volatile. Irascible. Unstable. Rude. Charming. Litigious. Gracious. Impecunious. Opportunistic. Generous, and so much more. His was a high wire balancing of a multifaceted, multicomplex personality. While much of his time was lost to despair and he attempted suicide more than once, he was also witty and fun, magically and gregariously impulsive when he wanted to be. Legendary among those prescient enough to appreciate this couturier’s brilliance, he struggled with never achieving the recognition he so deserved—the fashion world’s always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The acclaim he sought remained elusive and frustratingly out of his reach.






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