Charles James was one of the most celebrated designers of the 20th century. James saw himself as an artist rather than a traditional dressmaker and was a notorious perfectionist. He personally draped and fabricated his garments and was known for spending months and even years perfecting his silhouettes and construction methods. James emphasized his unusual designs with contrasting fabrics and colors rather than utilize patterned fabrics or surface ornamentation. While many of his creations referenced historic styles, their appearance was emphatically streamlined.

During his career apex in the late 1940s and early 1950s, James was famous for his grand evening gowns and had a dedicated society clientele. The Bustle gown was originally designed for Standard Oil heiress Millicent Huddleston Rogers in 1947. The name refers to the form-fitting and heavily-swagged garments of the 1870s and 1880s.  This particular version is believed to have been made for Babe Paley in 1948.