Wedding dress by Charles James for Baba Beaton, 1934
The Parisian fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet (1876 – 1975) is credited with having invented the bias cut. She commented: ‘Maybe because everyone else made dresses that flowed in the same direction, I saw that if I turned the fabric on an angle… it gained elasticity’.
Elasticity is something that this silk satin gown by Charles James (1906 -1978) certainly needs. The wedding gown, which looks as it has been poured onto its mannequin, has no fastenings of any real meaning – not a zip, not a button, not a dome, just a hook and loop at the neck. Created in 1934, it is an early example of the Anglo-American designer’s work. James, who opened premises in London in 1929, was to become renowned for his complex approach to cut and drape.
While the gown, which was worn by Barbara ‘Baba’ Beaton on the occasion of her marriage to Alec Hambro, gives the appearance of simplicity, its construction is clever and complex. It is elaborately seamed and darted, especially at the back. James commented ‘all my seams have meaning – they emphasise something about the body’.