Designer Spotlight

Jeanne Lanvin, 1867-1946

Jeanne Lanvin began her career as a milliner in Paris in 1890, and later started the fashion house of Lanvin, the oldest Paris fashion house still in existance today.  She became known for the dresses she made for her daughter, Marie-Blanche.  Other mothers and young women wanted her designs for their own children and themselves.

She opened her clothing store in 1909, selling mother-daughter garments, and her “robes de style” designs.  The “robes de style” dress consisted of a nipped in waist and full skirt; 18th century designs with modern embellishments.  She was influential in bringing fashion such as Eastern styles to Paris, and the Chemise dress of the 1920’s, as well as innovations like the modern department store.  Her store was the first to dress the entire family in ready-to-wear clothing when she introduced a menswear department in 1926.  She dressed many celebrity clients including Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford, and royalty from Italy, Romania, and England.  Her impeccable craftsmanship and design has continued throughout the house’s existence since her death in 1946 through today, under the direction of chief designer Elber Albaz.

Madame Jeanne Lanvin has always kept the symbol that inspired her and her fashions in her label logo.  As seen in the label below, the left corner has an image of a mother kneeling in front of her daughter.  This dress also has an Henri Bendel label which notes which store of fashion boutique it was sold at.

1979-022-021label

This Black Lace Evening Dress is from 1930 is a part of the Museum of Texas Tech’s permanent collections.  The overlay is completely made of lace, with ruffled layers making up the skirt for a flowing effect.  There is a black silk shift, underlayer for lining.  The straps have a cream, silk ribbon woven through the lace.  An interesting design feature, the zipper is in the front of the bodice for decoration.

1979-022-021zipper

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Designer Spotlight

Oleg Cassini

This magenta dress has a V-neckline with an overlapping “wrap” closure. The silk dress has printed bands of turquoise, gold and deep purple.  The long kimono-style sleeves have button cuffs with a printed boarder around the wrists. The same border is repeated at the hemline. It was designed by Oleg Cassini for his 1983 line.

detail of the print on the sleeve

This summer, the Museum of Texas Tech University is sponsoring “Celebrating Our Heroes,” a collaborative exhibition with other Lubbock museums designed to honor local veterans.  Part of the exhibit at the Museum of Texas Tech University, called On The Home Front, highlights the contributions of fashion designers in WWII. Oleg Cassini provides another example of a designer’s role in the war effort.

Born in Paris to a Count and Countess, Oleg Cassini immigrated to the United States and started designing costumes in Hollywood.  In 1941, the first picture he worked on was I Wanted Wings, designing for then newcomer, Veronica Lake.

Actress,Gene Tierney Wearing a Costume Designed by Oleg Cassini, 1941

Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor soon interrupted his career as a costume designer.  Although he had only lived in America for a few years, he took citizenship in order to fight in WWII with the United States.  He served five years in the US Calvary as a First Lieutenant.

Following the end of his military career, Cassini moved to New York in order to start his own clothing line.  He quickly gained widespread notoriety by his close association with Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.   Appointed “Secretary of Style” in 1961, Cassini became the exclusive couturier to the White House.  He remarked that his desire was to make Jackie Kennedy the most famous First Lady of all time.

Worn by Jackie Kennedy in 1962, it is now on display at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

Today, his clothing and bridal lines are still worn by countless celebrities. His designs focus on clean lines, luxurious fabrics, and classic garment shapes.

Suit, Evening

courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Designer Spotlight

LUCIEN LELONG, Grey-Blue Chiffon and Silk Wedding Dress, 1946

Mrs. Kay Boutin wore this long grey-blue chiffon wedding dress with full-gauged skirt, wide scoop neckline and chiffon bow for her wedding to Major Paul Boutin on May 29, 1946 in Paris, France.  Paul Boutin was a Major in the US Army and Mrs. Kay Boutin  was an Army Librarian with the special services. The Bride wore a white orchid in her hair, carried a bouquet of white orchids and wore long white kid gloves. The dress was made by Lucien Lelong, and this particular one was one of his designs post WWII.

This is the original Bill of Sale for the Delong wedding dress purchased on May 27, 1946, days before the wedding.

Lucien Lelong (October 11, 1889 – May 11, 1958) was a French couturier who was prominent from the 1920s to the 1940s.  He is most remembered for his heroic diplomatic efforts to sustain Parisian couture during World War II. He was elected as president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in 1937, which would prove to be his greatest challenge and contribution to fashion.

As president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, it was his job to negotiate with the occupying German regime. The Nazis wanted to move Paris fashion to Berlin by any means, including violence. On July 20, 1940 five Nazi officers arrived at the headquarters of the Chambre Syndicale on an ‘inspection’; five days later they broke into the building and requisitioned the archive and seize all of the  documents pertaining to the French export trade.

Lucien Lelong

Under the plan of the Nazis, Paris ateliers would be moved to Germany or Austria, where they would train a new generation of German dressmakers. The designers would also be moved. Within a generation, the Nazis expected, couture would be German, not French. Lelong pointed out that the plan was unworkable. The skills, he explained, were unteachable, that you could not transfer them, and it took decades to reach the necessary levels of craftsmanship.

This iconic photo of Lisa in a Lucien Lelong gown swinging precariously off the Eiffel Tower, was taken by Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue 1939

By 1941 the Germans had issued textile ration cards to every design house. It was obvious that compliance with these regulations would spell the end of Paris couture. Lelong, through difficult negotiations, obtained exemptions for 12 houses. Lelong said, “Unfortunately the Germans noticed at the end of six months that 92 houses were operating, which led to more discussions. Finally we succeeded in keeping 60.” Madame Grés and Balenciaga both exceeded their yardage requirements one season and were ordered to close for two weeks. Banding together in a show of unity and force, the remaining houses finished the two collections so they could be shown on time.

Natalie Paley (Mrs. Lucien Lelong from 1927-1937) wearing a black sequined evening gown by Lelong, photo by Man Ray, 1934

Lelong is credited with saving over 12,000 workers from deportation into German war industries. Over the period of four years, 14 official conferences had been held with the Germans, at four of them the Germans had announced that la couture was to be entirely suppressed, and each time the French avoided catastrophe.

Lucien Lelong evening gown design illustrated by Rene Gruau, 1947

 Lelong employed many talented young designers and gave them the opportunity to grow professionally. Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy, and Jean Schlumberger were all employed by Lelong at one time or another.

Lelong retired in 1948 and died a decade later near Biarritz. He showed a total of 110 collections during his career, and though closed his couture business, he continued a fragrance business which he had started in the 1924 and is still in existence today.

Designer Spotlight

 LILY PULITZER, Cotton-Blend Shift, 1973

At age 21, Lily Pulitzer and her husband left their busy life in New York City to settle in Palm Beach where they owned several citrus groves.  There, Lily opened a juice stand.  To disguise the colorful juice stains that inevitably appeared on her clothes, Lily designed her own dresses out of brightly patterned fabrics.

Credit: Lilypulitzer.com

Three years later, an old schoolmate of hers, then First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, wore one of her dresses and suddenly the brand was born (pictured below at far right).

“Jackie wore one of my dresses – it was made from kitchen curtain material – and people went crazy. They took off like zingo. Everybody loved them, and I went into the dress business.” – Essentially Lilly, A Guide to Colorful Entertaining

Credit: lilypulitzer.com

Since then, the Lily Pulitzer brand has stayed true to her original vision. Starting with a “spill-proof” color palate, the textile print team develops its own prints and patterns.  Drawing inspiration from the beach, museums, paintings, and gardens, the team gives each design a uniquely creative name.

Ricci Shift in the “Hotty Pink Scorpion Bowl” print

Although the Lily Pulitzer is still known for the classic shift dresses, the brand expanded to include tops, scarves, purses and other vibrant accessories.  She also developed a children’s line, and a sorority line with separate prints for each.

"Kappa Alpha Theta" Print by Lily Pulitzer

Designer Spotlight

KRAMER OF NEW YORK, Jewelry Set, Earrings, Pin & Bracelet, date unknown

Founded in 1943 by Louis Kramer, Kramer of New York was one of the largest costume jewelry design firms of its time and is recognized to this day for its ostentatious and extravagant style. Ranging from intricate beadwork to rare crystals and gems, Kramer of New York intentionally widened its accessibility to attract a broader audience. Prices were made reasonable, varying from inexpensive to over-the-top.

The three-piece set in the Museum of Texas Tech’s collection reflects the grandiose flair of Kramer of New York jewelry. The earrings, pin and bracelet are made from the same variety of cut crystal and mounted on sterling sliver backings. A small engraving on the interior of the pin indicates the Kramer brand.

In the 1950’s, Louis’ brothers Morris and Harry joined the business, leading to their partnership with Christian Dior to design a couture line of jewelry.

Kramer of New York closed in 1980 and remains a significant player in the costume jewelry industry today.

Designer Spotlight

YVES SAINT LAURENT, Peach satin pumps, 1970s

Algerian born designer Yves Saint Laurent, (August 1st 1936- June 1st 2008), transformed the direction of women’s fashion in the 20th century. Laurent’s career began at the age of 17 for the fashion house of Christian Dior following his success in an international design competition. Four years later, Laurent found himself the Haute Couture designer for the label at the unexpected death of Dior. In 1960, following a traumatic military stint, Laurent founded his line of clothing, shoes and accessories with longtime partner Pierre Berge. The satin low-heel pumps in the Texas Tech collection are from his later creations in the 1970s, reflective of the styles from the 1930s and 1940s.

Yves Saint Laurent, Getty Images.

Berge and Laurent quickly gained fame for crafting couture-inspired ready-to-wear women’s clothing. Most famous of his designs is Le Smoking Tuxedo Suit, a female pantsuit aimed at questioning the boundaries of gender fashions. Androgynous influences such as exaggerated shoulders and undefined waistlines characteristically defined many of Laurent’s creations.

Sketch of Le Smoking Tuxedo, Yves Saint Laurent 1966. From Telegraph Media Collection.

Le Smoking Tuxedo, Yves Saint Laurent 1968. From Harper's Bazaar Collection.

Yves Saint Laurent further revolutionized late century fashion by employing the first ethnically diverse models on the runway. Bold colors, geometric shapes and masculine silhouettes additionally reflected his ethnic inspiration.

The Mondrian Dress, Yves Saint Laurent, Fall 1965 from Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection.

Yves Saint Laurent is highly credited for his emphatic influence on women’s clothing trends throughout the 20th century, encouraging empowerment and equality by redefining feminine color choice and shape.

Designer Spotlight

MAINBOCHER, Garnet Red Taffeta Evening Dress, 1946

Based on his experience as a Paris-based illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar and editor of French Vogue, Chicago-born Main Rousseau Bocher (October 24, 1890 – December 27, 1976) decided that he was entirely capable of opening his own couture house. He did so in 1930, first contracting his name to Mainbocher. At the start of World War II in 1940, Mainbocher closed his Paris salon and moved to New York. Though he intended to stay only for the duration of the war, he worked in New York until his retirement in 1971. Due to a policy of accepting new clients only through personal recommendation, Mainbocher’s salon was known as the most exclusive in New York City. Further reinforcing the impression of exclusivity was the lack of advertising. Rather than placing ads in fashion periodicals, Mainbocher relied on word-of-mouth publicity.

Mainbocher was the one to design the famous Navy Waves Uniform. The first uniforms for the armed services designed by a well-known designer, they received much media coverage. Shown is Mainbocher’s military summer working uniforms in a grey seersucker dress with a matching jacket and distinctive collar design.

Mainbocher’s garments were created in the strict tradition of haute couture. Clients selected a garment or garments based on the models seen during the daily 3 p.m. showing at the salon. A personalized garment was then created specifically for the client and fitted over several weeks. Due to their high-quality fit, construction and fabric, Mainbocher’s garments were extraordinarily expensive and long-lasting. A 1961 Vogue feature on Mainbocher noted this, suggesting that anyone interested in Mainbocher’s work carefully weigh the “spectacular longevity of Mainbocher’s clothes as a good, long-range-economy argument for paying prices among the highest in the world.”

Two models singing wearing sleeveless Victorian-style dinner dresses by Mainbocher (1944)