Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where is Dovima when you need her?

If you have never seen a Charles James gown in person, you have missed a religious experience. I saw the Butterfly Dress a couple of years ago at Chic Chicago, and was I ever blown away.

So what was the big deal when Marisa Tomei wore a Charles James dress to the Oscars this year? She was not treated well by the press, and even Parsons entered the fray with this article. I'm not sure that I don't agree with them, but not because of how she looked.

Charles James is museum material. It's not just the outright rarety of finding one -- he made so few garments that they are one of the truly, truly rare treasures in vintage fashion. It's the fact that mere mortals should not own them.

How could you store it properly? Granted, if you follow the links in the Parsons article, it points you to another article that shows how the dresses retain their shape on a hanger. But do they belong on a hanger? Textiles are delicate creatures. Heck, I wouldn't even keep a vintage Dior myself, and they are much more common finds. Charles James' gowns are typically silk and tulle creations -- and those are some of the most delicate fabrics God ever made. Only a museum can properly care for something sent from the gods.

As for Ms. Tomei's posture or carriage, yes, perhaps she is too short. She definitely isn't taking full advantage of her cosmetics to set the dress off properly. She doesn't have the haughtiness of the period in which the dress was made, true. (I never thought of haughtiness as an accessory, but I think this dress requires it.) But I will say that Ms. Tomei did a great job of bringing attention to a designer that most of us would love to study.

I just hope the dress went to a museum afterward.

Photo: Charles James' Four Leaf Clover dress, 1953.