Charles James, the innovative American courturier, who created the most complex, constructed evening gowns as well as the ultra simple oneseam dress, always with an architect's vision, died Saturday at the Cabrini Medical Center in New York City where he was admitted the day before the bronchial pneumonia. He was 72.
As much admired for his sculpture-like creations for evening such as the clover shaped skirt dress he made for Austine Heart for the Eisenhower inaugural ball - the skirt was so wide she could not get through the doorway - and his remarkably simple noseam or one-seam designs that have frequently shown up copied by younger designers, he was equally admired for his wholesale collections done for Samuel Winston on Seventh Avenue, his hats, jewelry and the mass-produced designs he created for Korvette's.
Winner of two Coty, plus several other fashion awards including the Neiman-Marcus Award, a retrospective of his designs was held at the Electric Circus, the New York discotheque in 1969, produced by Halston and Mrs. Henry Kaiser. The Smithsonian Institution owns 80 drawings of Charles James designs which were exhibited at that time.
Mr. James was born in Camberly, England. His father was an English military officer. His mother was American.
At the time of his death he had been living for several years in the Chelsea Hotel and had eight designs in the works for Elsa Perretti and was making dresses for Elizabeth deCuevas and others, according to his assistant, Homer Lane.
James Galanos once wrote to him, "You have always been in my eyes a Fashion God - a simple James creation is worth the whole output of a Seventh Avenue's year's work."