November 29, 2019

James Galanos, Fashion School Dropout

Katie Rae Preston
James Galanos in 1956

James Galanos (1924 - 2016) was a fashion school dropout turned revered designer to A-List stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland. After dropping out of Traphagen School of Fashion, he secured an assistant position with Hattie Carnegie in New York in 1944. Hattie Carnegie got her start as a milliner, but had a knack for discovering fashion design talents. Her company became a fashion incubator for American designers such as Pauline Trigere, which we have a few of her designs on view at the gallery from November 14, 2019 to December 10, 2019. The job with Hattie was, unfortunately, a bit more clerical than creative and after growing disappointed Galanos left for another opportunity in California. However, the position he originally went to California for sadly never materialized; but as luck would have it, he was hired part-time at Columbia Pictures. Never one to rest too long Galanos quickly left his employment with Columbia to go work in Paris, just as the couture houses there were rebounding from World War II. He started work with Robert Piguet right alongside Pierre Balmain and Hubert de Givenchy, those are two names you might recognize! 

Left: One of the Galanos gowns available on iGavel Auctions
Right: An original advertisement for the dress

In the 1950s Galanos decided to take another shot at California. He created his own company and quickly began selling his gowns to Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. These gowns were made as ready to wear, not custom, but it was apparent from the beginning that his gowns were of higher quality, comparable to haute couture. He was a master at working with chiffon, an example of this can be viewed on item number 5593671 on the iGavel website. Galanos designs are timeless, in fact, Nancy Reagan wore a 14-year-old Galanos gown to her first state dinner at the White House in the 1980s. This is a testament to the workmanship and design of his work. James Galanos’s desire to create was lifelong and he has left an incredible legacy.