Masks required in Abakanowicz Research Center MORE

3.20 | Charles James: Genius Deconstructed

Brilliant, but often difficult, Charles James was one of the twentieth century’s most innovative fashion designers. While living in Chicago in the 1920s, James launched his career and established a loyal clientele. His dresses enchanted the fashion industry, but surviving examples of his work are so rare that his genius is not widely understood.

To get inside James’s mind, Museum staff sought to uncover the secrets held by some of his most iconic pieces. We studied them. Turned them inside out. Sketched, photographed, X-rayed, and recreated them. We deconstructed James. Now, it’s your turn. Explore the genius of Charles James.


The Chicago History Museum is situated on ancestral homelands of the Potawatomi people, who cared for the land until forced out by non-Native settlers. Established in 1856, the Museum is now at 1601 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park, its third location. As a major museum and research center for Chicago and U.S. history, the Chicago History Museum strives to be a destination for learning, inspiration and civic engagement. Through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming, the Museum connects people to Chicago’s history and to each other. To share Chicago stories, the Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents, images and other items that are relevant to the city’s history. The Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. 

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories