The La Sylphide Gown, designed by Charles James, was worn by Miss Esme O’Brien when she came out as a New York debutante in 1937 (a sylph is a lovely, slim young woman or girl).
In 1937, Anglo-American couturier Charles James created the first high-fashion, down-filled jacket; an early James masterpiece. James meticulously constructed this classically inspired garment around the human form, resulting in a jacket quite unlike the boxy version produced by Eddie Bauer.
Soft and pliable, it was also dramatically different from James‘ own best known work: gowns as rigid as the hats he designed. The James jacket reappeared in the fashion press decades later. It then gained cult status and also may have inspired a number of New York designers who began to make their versions of the down-filled parka during the 1970s.
Down Filled Evening Jacket by Charles James was photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in July 2014 (Top Photo) and in the Museum at FIT as part of the Exhibit, Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme, which closed January 6th, 2018.
With its petal-like stole, this evening gown, The Tree (1955), transforms the wearer into a flower, giving her a sensual elegance. Couturier Charles James (1906 – 1978) often envisioned his clients as exotic flowers and he believed that fashion should arouse the mating instinct. Ooh!