james galanos

1970s James Galanos Metallic Red Lace & Printed Chiffon Dress & Pant Set

Galanos was known as the designer that could rival the French in terms of construction and design. He launched his atelier in 1951 and although his atelier was never formally designated as Haute Couture by the French, he certainly produced clothing that met the parameters of couture and he is often referred to  as one of the great American couturiers. This set was custom made, and is from the estate of 1950s model Betsy Pickering Kaiser. Betsy appeared on several Vogue covers in the 1950s and it was during that time period time period that she met Galanos. They were friends for over 60 years. She collected, and wore Galanos, her entire life and was his friend and muse. He once told her husband ‘I would rather have Betsy wear my clothes than any other woman’. She was a constant presence on the International Best Dressed List and and was added to the Best Dressed Hall of Fame in the early 1970s.

The set is cut to a length befitting a model and it made of a beautifully printed, light weight silk chiffon that is combined with a metallic red lace. The silk has a romantic feeling, watercolor print covering its surface that gives the effect of oversized, abstract flowers. The pants are made of two layers of silk and weigh mere ounces. They are cut long and wide with an elastic waist that makes them easy to wear. The top portion layers over the pants and is also made of two layers of silk through the skirt. Each side is slit open right up to the lace top. This layered effect gives it lots of volume and movement and creates a light, floating effect when you walk. The bodice is made of two panels of lace, one making the back and the other the front, and these are connected along each side. He has cut them so that the sides plunge quite low for a bit of skin to show. It is almost scandalous. The lace is particularly beautiful with its metallic finish. I love how it is layered over a nude inner silk lining so that from a distance you look like you are wearing nothing underneath it. The entire top dress layer is suspended by four tiny silk straps that curve over the shoulder. The contrast between the silk and the metallic lace and the boldness of the colors is wonderful. Excellent condition with a small note to review below

The pants are made of two layers of silk chiffon and close with a back painted zipper. They have elastic at the waist. The over dress is lined with a nude silk chiffon through the bodice and the skirt is constructed from two layers of the silk chiffon. The overlay closes on one side with hidden fabric covered snaps. There are a couple of small repairs and light snags near the hem of the overlay that are minor and do not detract. This is a one-off, unlabelled custom piece made for Betsy and came from her estate. There is a little bit of play in the measurements because of the cut and elastic waist so it will fit a range of sizes. Its more on the larger size then the smaller.

Over dress
Bust: to 18" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: to 17" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips: open
Length: 62" from shoulder to hem

Elastic waist: 15-18" flat across from side seam to side seam
Hips: to 21" flat across from side seam to side seam
Pant: 45" from waist to hem
Inseam: 32" from inner seam to hem

Modern Sizing Equivalent: SML-LRG

Item# DD2278

Reference Photos: Cherie, Owner of Shrimpton Couture, by Erin Leydon

This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.

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Please review all measurements carefully. More often than not, vintage garments do not fit any size category exactly. If in doubt, measure a garment of your own that fits and is a similar cut and compare it's measurements to the listed measurements below.