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Monday, September 29, 2014

Marking the Beginning of the Fashion Calendar - A look at Charles James; American Fabric Sculptor, Craftsman, and Design Perfectionist

As anyone who saw The Devil Wears Prada knows, September marks the start of the fashion calendar year. The September issue of Vogue (and Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour, etc.) is traditionally the grandest of the year, chock full of the latest in haute couture. In honor of this month of couture, GMD takes a look at some garments by accomplished self-taught American designer Charles James. From expertly-sculpted coat sleeves to a cocktail dress that nearly stands up on its own, James looked upon his garments as works of art.

Here's a glance at two Charles James garments in the GMD collection.


The wonderfully detailed little black coat featured above has an elaborate stand-up collar, elegantly folded to create a peek-a-boo diamond cut-out. The coat's swing shape maximizes the fabric's thick body and sheen, making dramatic light catching waves. The sleeves, cut from a single piece of fabric, are expertly sculpted with minimal darting. Initially designed for pioneering Harper Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, the coat was originally made from a brightly colored wool plaid blanket. This formal version, in sleek black satin, provided far less warmth than looks. A bright yellow lining provides an unexpected burst of color.

James broke the rules of the traditional couturier - he often ignored the schedule of seasons and worked out of the US - and was therefore not eligible to be named an official haute couturier by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris.

But he didn't need a French title to develop his innovative couture garment construction techniques and enjoy popularity as a fashion designer. James died in 1978 but has recently been the subject of a much loved exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as a result, his bespoke designs are in the midst of a popularity surge.


On the surface, this dress seems rather straightforward - a typical 1950s cocktail dress meant to show off a woman's hourglass figure. In fact, this dress is so elaborately constructed, it nearly stands up on its own! James' inclination for complex construction is reflected in the darting and design lines; curved darts are difficult to execute, especially with a fabric as unforgiving as taffeta. And on the bodice construction, the same pattern piece transitions from back to sleeve without a seam line; an expensive and unheard of convention in manufactured garments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Report: Legendary Lake Design Event a Success!

GMD friends and supporters enjoyed a beautiful late summer evening at Meadow Knoll on Lake Minnetonka for Legendary Lake Design, the 5th annual fall benefit.

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Guests sported fashion statements driven by Minnesota's changing weather and bid on fun silent auction experiences including an evening with University President and Mrs. Kaler.

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Tasty food by Epicurean Garden Catering and music by sHorn hortZ set a festive tone and hostess Zita Hawley Wright gave tours of her historic lake home to the evening's VIPs.

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GMD's fall benefit raises important funds to support free exhibitions and the collection photo project.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Classic, Elegant, Spirited: A Glimpse of the Piper Hawley Wright Home, GMD Benefit Location

Designed by Minneapolis-based architect Andrew Schuehle, Meadow Knoll is a sprawling shingle-clad home overlooking the shores of Lake Minnetonka. Schuehle's commitment to showcasing the area's natural beauty is reflected in all aspects of the 1920s-era house. Among the first homes built on the lake, the site was chosen for its rolling fields and sandy beaches. Sitting atop a gently sloping hill, Meadow Knoll echoes its north woods surroundings. With its light grey wooden shingles, expansive windows edged in mossy green, and elaborately carved wooden front door, the home sits unobtrusively amidst the old growth forest.

This is the site of the Goldstein's fifth annual benefit, held this year on September 13. One of the most exciting aspects of the benefit is the opportunity to visit some of Twin Cities' most interesting architectural sites. Past events have been held at locations from International Market Square to Davis-Winton-Nelson House (designed by Phillip Johnson). Despite its idyllic locale, Meadow Knoll is no ordinary lakeside cottage. Built by George F. Piper, president of the Minneapolis/St. Paul stock exchange, the house was a lavish summer resort in the manner of Jay Gatsby's fictional Long Island mansion. Shingle style houses were all the rage in beachside communities such as Newport and Cape Cod, and Piper's goal was to bring a little east coast glamour to his Midwestern lake retreat.

Party-goers might have lounged in cozy wicker chairs, enjoying the conversation and lake view inside an elegant screened porch. Bolder guests may have stood upon the broad stone terrace to drink champagne and breathe in the fresh pine-scented breeze. Others may have dipped their toes in the cool swimming pool or walked barefoot along the sandy beaches, listening to jazz music spilling from the gazebo and the clicking heels of a Charleston dancer strutting her stuff.

Meadow Knoll's current resident, Rosita "Zita" Hofmeister Hawley Wright understands the importance of maintaining the home's historic essence. She has lived here since her late husband John Blackstock Hawley, Jr. purchased the home in 1938. Zita's loving stewardship ensures that the spirit of the roaring 20s lives on in this legendary lake home.

For more information about the benefit, visit: