Tag Archives: Charles James

Another Side of Textiles

While I use textiles mostly in fiber art, I love seeing how other people use textiles in garments. Recently I had the chance to ooh and ah at fashions from bygone eras at the Kent State University museum. That museum, which focuses on fashion and textiles, is showing exhibits of 1940s and 1980s fashions. As an unexpected bonus, I also enjoyed an exhibit on southern African fashion.

The 1940s exhibit covered all sorts of clothing: military, nursing, and scouting uniforms; bathing suits; undergarments; women’s day wear; accessories; and gorgeous ball gowns and wedding dresses. Designers represented include Dior, Adrian, Hattie Carnegie, Sophie Gimbel, Charles James, Claire McCardell, and Valentina. I spent some time admiring the period shoes, gloves, and hats. I have dim memories of my mother’s glove collection, and know that everyone wore hats in that era thanks to the movies. Here’s my choice for knockout dress. It’s cunningly engineered, and is by Charles James.

The 1980s exhibit included lots of evening wear, with a few day wear pieces intermingled. Yes, there were big shoulders and some very “Dallas” pieces, but many have stood the test of time well. The big find for me in this exhibit was the work of Zandra Rhodes, a British designer very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. I was spoiled for choice, but here are my top picks.

As I said, the southern African fashion exhibit was a surprise bonus. The Namibian and South African designers blend textiles associated with Africa with western style textiles to create a unique style. A few pieces were quite beige, but most channeled the colors in a roll of Life Savers.

I found additional photos of this exhibit here.

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