American fashion designers took advantage of Europe’s wartime preoccupation to gain a foothold in France’s long dominated fashion designer ramparts and allow New York fashion week rival Paris’. As the rationing of fabrics and goods was lifted, the world’s fascination with and longing for luxury and glamour escalated.
After the war, Christian Dior and his New Look and Cristobal Balenciaga’s Revolution would once again command the fashion world’s attention with many American fashion designers regarding them as Masters and immersing themselves in their 50s fashion design theories.
Yet as society changed, American designers innovation and diverse talents allowed them to meet the shifting consumer needs to make these New York fashion designers a style model for generations.
Born Adrian Adolph Greenburg yet known simply as Adrian, his “Gowns by Adrian” credits appear in over 250 films. Head costume designer for MGM and designing for film greats Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, Adrian’s most notable creation was the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” The original slippers are on display at the American History Museum in Washington, D.C.
Although Parson’s School of Fashion and Pratt Institute alumni Norman Norell began as a costume designer for Paramount Pictures during the silent film era, his route to famous fashion designer began with designer clothing and costume jewelry industry icon Hattie Carnegie.
Neither a dressmaker nor an illustrator, Hattie Carnegie’s fashion sense and business acumen would build an unrivaled fashion empire. American fashion greats Norman Norell, Pauline Trigère, and James Galanos became her disciples and advanced to 1950s clothing industry heights. Carnegie received the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 1952 for her Women’s Army Corp. uniform design.
Established in New York’s 57th Avenue in 1940, Mainbocher, Inc. would become American fashion designer premiere with only the most exclusive clientele gaining entrance and rights to own his haute couture designs. His renowned bridal wedding dress design for Wallis Simpson’s marriage to The Duke of Windsor remains his greatest achievement.
Without Paris’ mentoring and utilizing WWII fabric restrictions, Claire McCardell established “The American Look” to become responsible for changing 1950s dress. Many of her innovative designs were made of easy care synthetic fabrics with a comfortable fit her primary premise. These same 50s dresses are revered today.
French born Pauline Trigère immigrated to the United States and began her stateside fashion designer career as an assistant to Hattie Carnegie. Trigère’s insistence on quality, excellence, and taste produced timeless costumes of finest fabrics. Pauline Trigère was the first high fashion designer to employ African-American fashion models.