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Haute Couturier Charles James To Be Subject of Chicago Retrospective

Wednesday Sep 28, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - "Charles James: Genius Deconstructed" explores the history of couture fashion designer Charles James and why nearly 40 years after his death he is still a relevant force in the fashion world. The exhibition, featuring approximately 15 of James's most iconic designs from 1928 - 1958, will be on display at the Chicago History Museum from October 22, 2011 through April 16, 2012.

Curator, Timothy Long, has taken the exhibition to a new level by creating full-scale reproductions of four of James's most celebrated garments including the "Tree" gown, "Four Leaf Clover" dress, and "Butterfly" dress. The interior structure of these garments have been reproduced allowing viewers to explore the engineered perfection of their unique, complex, and inspirational construction.

Charles James (1906-1978) is widely regarded as the only American designer to have worked in the pure tradition of haute couture and was described as the greatest couturier of his time by the elite Parisian design world. He began his fashion career as a milliner, opening three shops in Chicago before moving to New York in 1930.

Although James divided his time between Paris, London, and New York from 1930 to the mid-1940s, the last two decades of his life were spent primarily in New York. James was eager to preserve his legacy and urged his clients to donate the garments he had made for them to museums around the world. By the time of his death in 1978, over 31 major museums internationally contained examples of his work, including the Chicago History Museum.

The exhibition will also feature a selection of original line drawings by fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez who collaborated with James to produce sketches of his designs towards the end of James’s career, often during nocturnal drawing sessions at James’s home in the Chelsea Hotel.

The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum is the presenting sponsor for "Charles James: Genius Deconstructed."

The Chicago History Museum, a major museum and research center for Chicago and American history, is located at 1601 N. Clark Street. The Museum can be reached by CTA buses 11, 22, 36, 72, 151, and 156. Parking is conveniently located one block north of the Museum at Clark and LaSalle Streets (enter on Stockton Drive).

More detailed information and images on this exhibition are available upon request. The website for the exhibition is

Admission to the Museum is $14 adults with audio tour, $12 seniors/students with audio tour, free for children 12 years and younger. Please call 312.642.4600 or visit us at The Chicago History Museum is affiliated with the Chicago Historical Society and acknowledges the Chicago Park District’s generous support of all the Museum’s activities.


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