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Bernstein, Aline Frankau (22 December 1880–07 September 1955), set and costume designer and author, was born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph Frankau, an actor, and Rebecca Goldsmith. Joseph Frankau, who was of German-Jewish ancestry, first named his daughter Hazel, but her mother changed it to Aline. Educated in the New York public schools and raised in the theater, as a child Aline wanted to be an actress, but her father encouraged her talent for drawing instead. After the early deaths of her parents (both had died by 1897), Aline became the ward of her aunt, Rachel, a drug addict. She attended Hunter College as a student of fine art. Tom Watson, a family friend and a member of the board of directors of the New York School of Applied Design, arranged for her to study drawing on scholarship at the school. She later studied portrait painting with ...

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Carnegie, Hattie (15 March 1886–22 February 1956), fashion designer and merchandiser, was born Henrietta Könengeiser in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Isaac Könengeiser and Hannah Kraenzer. The family emigrated to the United States, settling on New York’s Lower East Side in 1892. Hattie’s first job was as a messenger at R. H. Macy’s, where she encountered the heady new world of modern retailing and the lifestyle of affluent New York. That experience may have inspired her to assume the name Carnegie; ...

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Hattie Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92431).

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Cashin, Bonnie (28 September 1908?–03 February 2000), fashion designer, was born in Oakland, California, the daughter of Karl Cashin, a photographer and inventor, and Eunice Cashin, owner of a dress shop. Supposedly named after her grandmother's horse ( Tribune, 23 Apr. 1970), Cashin said she was born in 1915, one year before her brother Richard. Some published statements support her claim; however, other sources suggest probably 1908. For example, an article on her costume work at the Grenada Theater and Metropolitan in Los Angeles, published in the Oakland ...

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Daché, Lilly (1892?–31 December 1989), hat and fashion designer and entrepreneur, was born in Bègles, France. Because of her unconventional red hair, skinny figure, and preference for using her left hand, Daché’s parents (names unknown) considered her both plain and clumsy, and in later years she attributed her desire to create beauty to an early need to feel attractive and thereby loved. Even as a child Daché decorated her hair with cherries and flower garlands and cut up her mother’s clothes to make hats of her own design. Daché began her millinery training with her aunt, a dressmaker in Bordeaux, but talent and ambition soon led to a four-year apprenticeship with Caroline Reboux in Paris. She later worked for both Suzanne Talbot and Georgette, also noted Parisian milliners....

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Demorest, Ellen Curtis (15 November 1824–10 August 1898), publisher and businesswoman, was born Ellen Louise Curtis in Schuylerville, New York, the daughter of Henry Curtis, a farmer and manufacturer, and Electa Abel. She attended local schools and graduated from Schuylerville Academy at age eighteen. Exposed to the fashion industry from an early age—her father’s factory made hats, and the nearby resort at Saratoga Springs regularly featured dapper visitors from across the nation—she established a prosperous local millinery business immediately after graduating. Within a year she had moved on to larger markets in Troy and finally—by the early 1850s—to New York City. Settling in Brooklyn, she met merchant William Jennings Demorest during a business transaction. They were married in 1858. In addition to raising two children from her husband’s first marriage—he was a widower—Demorest would have two of her own. Unlike most couples of their era, the Demorests became equal partners in professional as well as domestic life....

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Hawes, Elizabeth (16 December 1903–06 September 1971), fashion designer and social critic, was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, the daughter of John Hawes, a railroad executive, and Henrietta Houston, a community activist. Hawes learned to sew as a child and even as an adolescent sold dresses to family friends and a store in Pennsylvania. Hawes majored in economics at Vassar College, graduating in 1925. She sailed for Paris, where she spent several years learning various aspects of haute couture. She worked at a copy house and was hired by an American dressmaking firm to secretly sketch designer fashions. She subsequently worked in the Paris offices of Macy’s and Lord & Taylor and designed clothes for Nicole Groult. Hawes also reported on Paris fashion for American newspapers and the ...

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Head, Edith (28 October 1897–24 October 1981), Hollywood costume designer, was born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California, the daughter of Max Posener, a mining engineer, and Anna Levy. During her long life, Head was curiously quiet about her parents, their divorce early in her life, and her stepfather. Even in her autobiography she did not illuminate her formative years; indeed, the index of ...

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Louisa Keyser. With her baskets entitled "Light Reflected" (left) and "Hunting Game in a Proscribed District." Courtesy of the State of Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs (Eth-88).

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Keyser, Louisa (1850–06 December 1925), Washoe basket weaver, also known as Dat So La Lee, was likely born in Carson Valley (Nevada) or Antelope Valley (California and Nevada), the daughter of Da da uongala and a woman whose name she did not remember, who perhaps died in childbirth. Conflicting reports suggest that Keyser married three times, but only her marriage to Charlie Keyser is well documented. Louisa Keyser had no surviving children, so she is considered an ancestor to the descendants of Charlie Keyser's two previous wives, Delia Aleck and Maggie Miles Merrill. By the late 1890s Keyser was working in Carson City, Nevada, as a laundress and housekeeper for Abram “Abe” and Amy Cohn. Abe Cohn owned the Emporium Company clothing store, and Amy Cohn was transforming a portion of that store into a curio shop for Native American basket weaving. Recognizing Keyser's unusual talent for basket weaving, the Cohns soon relieved her of household chores, hiring other Washoe women in her place, and patronized Keyser as a full-time artist specialist. In return for her products, they provided Keyser and her husband with food, lodging, and medical attention until their deaths....

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Klein, Anne (03 August 1923–19 March 1974), fashion designer, was born Hannah Golofski in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Morris Golofski and Esther (maiden name unknown). (Like many Jewish Americans of her generation, Klein adopted a less Jewish-sounding variant of her name, “Anne,” early in her professional career.) Hannah Golofski went to the Girls’ Commercial High School in Brooklyn, where she discovered her natural gift for design. By the age of fifteen she had already obtained work as a freelancer preparing sketches for a wholesale fashion house. Upon graduation from high school, she declined a scholarship to the Traphagen School of Fashion Design in order to work full time in the garment industry. After only a year out of school she accepted a position at Varden Petites, where she redesigned the firm’s entire line, replacing its dresses for short, plump figures with a line of junior dresses based on a lean silhouette. In so doing, she virtually invented a whole new set of sizes in women’s ready-to-wear clothing, a category of sophisticated clothes for young women later known as Junior Miss....

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Miller, Elizabeth Smith (20 September 1822–22 May 1911), feminist and designer of the Bloomer costume, was born in Hampton, New York, the daughter of reformer and philanthropist Gerrit Smith and Ann Carroll Fitzhugh. Miller’s grandfather, Peter Smith, a partner of John Jacob Astor...

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Donna Ghelerter

Potter, Clare (1903–05 January 1999), fashion designer, was born Clare Meyer in Jersey City, New Jersey; her parents' names and occupations do not appear in readily available sources of information. Potter's ambition from her early years was to be an artist. By the age of fifteen, she was attending classes at the Art Students' League in New York City. After completing high school Potter studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, with every intention of becoming a painter....

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Sharaff, Irene (1910?–16 August 1993), costume designer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Nothing is known of her parents. She graduated from Wadley High School in New York City. Originally planning to be a painter, she studied at the Art Students League (now the Parsons School of Design), the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, and in Paris. While taking art classes in New York in 1928 she met ...

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Wheeler, Candace Thurber (24 March 1827–05 August 1923), textile designer and interior decorator, was born in Delhi, New York, the daughter of Abner Thurber, a dairy farmer, and Lucy Dunham. Educated at home and at the Delaware Academy in Delhi, she married Thomas M. Wheeler, a shipowner, on 28 June 1844 and lived in Brooklyn and New York City most of her life....

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Wilkens, Emily Ann (6 May 1917–2 Dec. 2000), fashion designer, fashion illustrator, and spa and beauty authority, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the eldest of four children of Lithuanian and Russian Jewish immigrants Morris Wilkens and Rose Drey Wilkens. Morris Wilkens was a pharmacist who also dabbled in real estate. Wilkens would later draw on the memory of her own awkward stage as a young teenager, in her quest to create fashionable yet age-appropriate clothing that fit and flattered the bodies of developing adolescent girls....