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.


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.



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

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)