Chicago Costume Ball Honors Designer Charles James

Kim Cummins

After a 10-year hiatus, Chicago’s Costume Council hosted its annual Costume Ball as part of Fashion Focus Chicago. This year’s Ball honored Charles James’ achievements as a designer, as well as Ralph Rucci. Both of these iconic American designers have been welcomed into the fashion elite for their innovative styles.

The night kicked off at the Chicago History Museum, where an exhibit chronicled the development of the Charles James brand. Deconstructed pieces showcased the technology and architecture that James used to create his signature pieces. Helen Harvey Mills, the daughter of one of James’ longtime muses, was the event’s Honorary Chair.

The Charles James: Genius Deconstructed exhibit not only showcases the designer’s work, but also the processes used to make extraordinary garments. From boning and strategic cuts that flatter the body, to full skirts and corseted tops, James perfected many of the staple elements of women’s wear. After starting as a hat maker in Chicago, James traveled to London, New York and Paris to begin his work as a designer. James often donated his garments to museums, and encouraged his clients in the same manner. The Chicago History Museum has had examples of James’ work showcased in its halls more than once.

Continuing the legacy of upstanding American fashion design, Ralph Rucci of Chado Ralph Rucci was honored at the event. With pieces on display in windows all along Michigan Avenue, it is no surprise that the creator of Chado Ralph Rucci received recognition from the Costume Council. As one of the top contemporary American courtiers, Rucci was given the Award for Design Excellence for his unique and sophisticated pieces.

Guests not only enjoyed the exhibit, but also had the chance to take home many fashionable silent auction items, including Jimmy Choo heels, Alexis Bittar jewelry and style consultations from Julie Watson Style. A famed Hermès Birkin bag was on display for the night’s raffle, along with fine jewelry from Pomellato. One of the top auction items was a trip to New York Fashion Week, with runway tickets included.