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Posts Tagged ‘American fashion designers’

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Gloria Vanderbilt and her jeans, mid-1970s. 

All art, from the paintings on the walls of cave dwellers to art created today, is autobiographical because it comes from the secret place in the soul where imagination resides. 

Gloria Vanderbilt (1924-2019), American heiress, designer, author, artist.

The great-great-granddaughter of a railroad magnate, Gloria was an only child and very wealthy. Her father died when she was just a baby and her mother left her with nannies while she traveled the world spending her daughter’s money. Gloria’s aunt sued for custody and the press thrived on that for weeks, calling the 10-year old, “a poor little rich girl.” That attention sealed her fate as a non-Hollywood celebrity. After her aunt won custody of Gloria, the two lived together in a New York City mansion.

Fast forward to three marriages and many creative endeavors including model, artist, author, poet, and what she might be best known for –  fashion designer, specifically women’s jeans. In the 1970s a clothing manufacturer signed Gloria to market their jeans, which were specifically cut for women’s figures. Hers was the first “designer jean” complete with the Vanderbilt signature on the back rear pocket. The deal was a big success and grew into Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corporation, which was eventually sold to the Jones Apparel Group in 2002.

Any American woman alive in the 1970s probably sported a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

RIP, Gloria.

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Fashions by Mainbocher.

While visiting Chicago last month I took the opportunity to view the exhibition Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier at the Chicago History Museum.

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A young Mainbocher.

Main Rousseau Bocher (1890-1976) was Chicago born and raised but as a young man he set off for adventure, first to New York City and later to Paris. He sported many hats before becoming a couturier, including an opera singer and a fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar.

Quite spontaneously in 1929 he opened his first fashion house in Paris calling it Mainbocher – pronounced mon-bo-shay. For that touch of French chic he blended his first and last names. Known for his embellished ball gowns and smart suits, he soon became the go-to designer for socialites and celebrities of the time. American Wallis Simpson donned a Mainbocher piece for her wedding to Edward VIII in 1937.

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Butterfly evening dress in silk crepe, 1945.

In 1940, the early days of WWII,  Mainbocher decided to close his Paris house and reopen in NYC. There he established himself as the first American couturier, attracting the attentions of the elite chic. Additionally he designed for Broadway plays and was commissioned by the American military to design uniforms for the women’s voluntary services.

And all this is just a brief overview! Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier follows the designer’s diverse career in detail and features 30 garments from the museum’s permanent collection as well as illustrations, photos, and audio interviews with some of his clients back in the day.

Located in a smallish gallery, this exhibit is just the right size allowing for a second and third walk around and a good gander at some of the fashions on display.

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Uniform for women’s voluntary services, WWII.

Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier is on now through August 2017 at the Chicago History Museum. Any fashion enthusiast in the area should check it out!

 

 

 

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