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Charles James: Beyond Fashion

This 1955 photograph of Nancy James shows her in James's famed — and quite literal — swan dress. According to the museum, "the beautiful curvature of the bodice back is signature James anatomical styling designed to displace extra flesh that might ruin the graceful line."

He used transparent chiffon and stiff nylon tulle, a relatively new textile innovation for the time. The skirt's six layers, composed of 1,080 square feet of tulle, are combined in various colors to offer a luminous effect. Despite its ethereal appearance, it is, at 12 pounds, the weightiest of his grand creations.

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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