I always feel like fashion history sometimes forgets about the American greats. We always talk about Balenciaga, Chanel and Dior, but we never talk about Mainbocher, Valentina or James Galanos. Although only Mainbocher (more on him later) was officially a member of Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris, they all made an incredible impact on American formal dressing. Lately, I’ve been looking at the work of James Galanos, a legendary American designer that made beautiful clothing (both ready-to-wear and couture) for five decades before officially retiring from fashion in 1998.
James Galanos, 1960s
During his career he has designed gowns for Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy and Ali MacGraw, although his most loyal costumer was Nancy Reagan (well, she was very elegant). Galanos was particularly regarded for his ingenious manipulation of chiffon, a material he pushed to its fullest extent so much so that his workmanship was admired by his peers (yes, even the French guys) worldwide.
This vintage gown is a beautiful example of his chiffon work featuring the incredible ruching and draping. With the striking combination of purple and red (a combination that can either go incredibly right or horribly wrong), this is a gown that defines timelessness. I’m going to take a wild guess that it’s from the early 70s, but if you put it on any red carpet right at this moment, it would stand out in its modern elegenace and kick all the other gowns to the curb.
I have a black tie event coming up in a month or so. Clearly, I won’t be wearing James Galanos. If only I were rich….
$3,900 at TheFrock.com.
PS. Anyone new to James Galanos? Give your eyes a treat and Google him.