Charles James (1906-1978), Pagoda Suit, 1955. Red silk with gold metallic threads. Gift of Jill Anson Szarkowski. Object Number: 92.145.1. Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology ©2010 Fashion Institute of Technology
The Pagoda Suit of 1955 exemplifies James' sculptural vision, which simultaneously abstracts and flatters the female form. James' color sensibility is equally sophisticated. In this case, red silk brocade with a gold floral pattern evokes what the artist Jean Cocteau called "the red and gold disease" - an obsessive passion for the theatre - by alluding to red theatrical curtains with curvilinear, gold decoration. The Pagoda Suit also evokes Orientalist associations, both in terms of its "Chinese red" color and Persian-style gold floral pattern, and in purely formal terms, with the gracefully flared jacket and high Moghul collar.