Charles James: Beyond Fashion opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week and the exhibit about the famed Anglo-American couturier has us dreaming of pastels. James catered to the upper echelon of Manhattan’s socialite elite (e.g., Babe Paley and Millicent Rogers, among others) and crafted intricate dresses that were at the forefront of midcentury design.
While we all may not have an occasion worthy of dressing in a ball gown, we’ve taken a cue from James and scouted New York City’s stores while shopping for the best pastel pinks, blues, and yellows that embrace the master dressmaker’s aesthetic. Whether you have a Mother’s Day brunch in your appointment book, or simply an open afternoon to stroll in the park, slip into one of these pieces and you’ll do James proud.
Considering Christopher Kane’s slip dress boasts pleats, a floral motif, and delicate embroidery, it is hard not to love this piece at first sight. It’s ideal for garden parties, bridal showers, or simply lingering over a latte on a sunny, spring afternoon. $2,700. 477 Broome Street (Wooster/Greene Streets); 212-941-9656; kirnazabete.com
Giambattisa Valli can do no wrong when it comes to dressing us up for a fancy fête. Here, he meticulously crafts the perfect cocktail dress with a dropped waist and cocoon skirt, all executed in exquisite silk-crepe. $2,085. 611 Fifth Avenue; 212-753-4000; saksfifthavenue.com
Similar to Charles James, Stella McCartney is all about the details. Take note of the chic lip and heart stitch embroidery on her utterly wearable cotton-silk sheath. $2,095. 112 Greene Street (Spring/Prince Streets); 212-255-1556; stellamccartney.com
Socialite-cum-designer Lilly Pulitzer spearheaded the adoption of dressing in colorful prints and tropical pastels among the New York set. Her aesthetic still reigns, as on the brand’s Morrison frock — a romantic mix of lace layered atop a poplin dress. $258. 1020 Madison Avenue (78th/79th Streets); 212-744-4520; lillypulitzer.com
Florals get a very modern update on this tank dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim. The sleeveless silk frock has floral embellishment and a lovely scattering of sequins on the bodice. $1,345. 115 Mercer Street (Spring/Prince Streets); 212-334-1160; 31philliplim.com
The Stable San Cristobal dress by Akris impeccably blends together a blush pink with a subtle yellow shade. The silk shift’s boatneck top makes this infinitely wearable all season long. $2,490. 835 Madison Avenue (69th/70th Streets); 212-717-1170; akris.ch
Ball skirts are another way to achieve the glamorous Charles James look. Alice and Olivia masterfully embroiders godets on a floor-length skirt, which will pair perfectly with an on-trend crop top or even simple white tee. $550. 80 West 40th Street; 212-840-0887; aliceandolivia.com
It’s all charm and elegance when it comes to this belted jacquard dress by Dolce & Gabbana. The flattering dusty pink frock is cinched at the waist with a dazzling, crystal belt. $2,575. 825 Madison Avenue (68th/69th Streets); 212-249-4100; dolcegabbana.com
Burberry’s crepe jersey dress will ensure you make a dramatic exit at your next celebratory affair, and for good reason. The lace paneled back adds a feminine touch to the fitted waist and structured cap sleeve details. $995. 131 Spring Street (Wooster/Greene Streets); 212-925-9300; burberry.com
After a four-year break, Kate Moss is back designing for Topshop, and the limited-edition line is sure to sell out fast. We particularly adore the ruched, chiffon one-shoulder dress in a delicious lemon sorbet hue. $170. 478 Broadway (Grand/Broome Streets); 212-966-9555; topshop.com