Although Charles James was considered an American designer, he was actually British, born in England. His mother, an American, was from the Chicago. This is where he relocated and began his first step into the fashion world through the work as a milliner (someone who makes women's hats). He opened his hat shop in 1926 at the young age of nineteen.
This young entrepreneur had bigger dreams and left Chicago for New York City. With only 70 cents in his pocket and a handful of hats, his gamble paid off as he opened another hat shop in Queens. Even so, the building was located above a garage, he began creating some of the world's most beautiful dresses in the fashion industry. Such an amazing story of possibilities that this nation offers through dreams
Soon this lead his desire to make women's dresses. However, these were not just your typical dress but literally a piece of art layered with the finest and luxurious fabrics. Some of these dresses were reported to way as much as 18 pounds!!! Not surprising as many of the designs had undercarriages, multiple petticoats, and full skirts with trains.
After having such success in New York, he moved to London. He not only spent time in London but Paris as well. It is said that he received some training in Paris but mostly he was self taught. Can you imagine to have such talent without formal training? He is a fashion prodigy if you ask me.
Charles James made dresses for Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. Much of his work can be seen in fashion magazines in the 1940s and 1950s such as Vogue.
Charles James retired in 1958 after returning to NYC from Paris. I read that he continued his artistic abilities by designing furniture for millionaire husband and wife, John and Dominique de Menil's home right here in little ole Houston, Texas. I'd love to see those pieces. Perhaps I can try to hunt those down. If so, I'll report back.