James, Charles; 1953, White silk and black cloverleaf gown


Off white satin bodice and faille skirt strapless evening dress with black silk velvet band trim in front continuing to large cloverleaf motif in back. Heavily boned bodice with back zipper closure and pointed waistline. Missing skirt understructure, and damaged at hem. a) dress b) partial understructure satin, faille, and velvet.






Of all dresses that James named, the "Four-Leaf Clover" gown is probably the most famous. Charles Kleibacker points out that it's particularly significant that the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection at Ohio State owns James' first version of this dress created for Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., to wear to the Eisenhower Inaugural Ball in 1953. James considered this long, strapless white dress, ornamented by a wide band of black velvet around the skirt, to be his masterpiece. The clover leaf name comes from the shape of the skirt that, when the circumference of the hemline is diagrammed, resembles a four-leaf clover without a stem. It keeps its shape thanks to three distinct layers of boning, stiffening, and underlining. Suspended from the fitted waist, the skirt sways and undulates in a most graceful manner as the wearer moves. According to Anne Coleman in The Genius of Charles James, Mrs. Hearst also wore this dramatic gown to the Coronation Ball of Queen Elizabeth II and a similar function at the Palace of Versailles.


James, Charles

Fiber/Fabric Information





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“James, Charles; 1953, White silk and black cloverleaf gown,” Fashion2Fiber, accessed March 4, 2024,

Item Relations

Item: Sculpture & Drapery: The Art of Fashion depicts This Item