James Galanos,one of history’s great American fashion designers dies at age 92



“Once everyone started wearing blue jeans, I knew it was time to get out of the business.What happened to the days when a woman could turn heads in a restaurant by the way she was dressed?’

~James Galanos~


Simone D’Aillencourt in a dress by Galanos, 1959


James Galanos died this morning of natural causes at his house in West Hollywood, according to his friend, the designer Ralph Rucci. He was 92.

Rucci said Sunday, “He’s a touchstone, like [Cristobal] Balenciaga. He really didn’t like to give interviews. He believed the clothes spoke. He worked. He had integrity; he had great humility. Sometimes that was misinterpreted as snobbism. No – there was a great intensity to his craft. He could see in three dimension.”

James Galanos was born in 1924 in Philadelphia, PA. After graduation from high school in 1942, Galanos enrolled at the Traphagen School of Fashion, in New York City. He completed two semesters before leaving to gain experience as a designer at the firm of Hattie Carnegie.
He established Galanos Originals in Los Angeles and went on to create a successful ready-to-wear business. In 1947, Galanos went to Paris, where he secured a position as apprentice designer at the House of Robert Piguet. Galanos stayed for just one year, yet the lessons in French fabrics and couture construction he learned at Piguet’s, had a lasting impact on his later career.

Galano’s evening dresses emphasized finesse and luxury. During his career he explored many different silhouettes, including full bell-shaped skirts and dropped-waist; “ballerina” dresses in the 1950s; miniskirts and caftans in the 1960s and 1970s, and off-the-shoulder sheaths in the 1980s and 1990s. His trademark silhouette, however, is a columnar sheath shape, featuring wide shoulders and a long, slim skirt.This simple, understated form offers the perfect foundation for another of Galano’s trademarks, exquisite embroidery. Nancy Reagan, the former first lady of the United States, often wore Galanos’ gowns at formal functions.

James Galanos won his first Coty American Fashion Critics Award in 1954, followed by awards from Neiman Marcus, Filene’s, the Fashion Group, the Sunday Times, and the Council of Fashion Designers in America. Galanos’ designs are represented in the permanent collections of many major museums, and he has been the subject of retrospective exhibitions organized by such institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of art (in1975), the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York (in 1976), the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Ohio State University, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (in 1996). He was inducted into Seventh Avenue’s Fashion Walk of Fame in July of 2001.


Evening Dress James Galanos, 1987 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Galanos sequinned crepe evening gown, c.1951


James Galanos Dress, 1980


Cocktail dress by John Galanos 1955



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