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See Bendel, Henri

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Bendel, Henri (22 January 1868–22 March 1936), and Henri Bendel (22 January 1868–22 March 1936), fashion designer and entrepreneur, , was born Henri Willis Bendel in Vermillionville (renamed Lafayette in 1884 after the Marquis de Lafayette), in southwest Louisiana to William Louis Bendel, purported to have been a former British Naval officer,and Marie Plonsky, born in the German states. They arrived in Louisiana before the Civil War and opened a dry goods store. His father died in 1874; four years later his mother married Benjamin Falk, a Russian-born dry goods merchant, when Henri was ten years old. His mother, a successful businesswoman, ran a furniture store, a dry goods store, a drugstore and a funeral parlor. His stepfather was one of the most successful businessmen in late 19 ...

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Blass, Bill (22 June 1922–12 June 2002), fashion designer, branding innovator, and philanthropist, was born William Ralph Blass in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His father, Ralph Aldrich Blass, was a traveling hardware salesman, and his mother, Ethyl Keyser, was a dressmaker who worked from their home. Although his sister, Virginia (Gina), was just two years older than he, they were never close. When Blass was barely five years old, his father committed suicide at home, which Blass later assumed to be from manic-depression, although his mother never discussed the family trauma with her children. His mother did not remarry, and the family struggled during the Depression years on her income from a small annuity, rent from a lakeside cabin, and dressmaking....

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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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Ellis, Perry (03 March 1940–30 May 1986), fashion designer, was born Perry Edwin Ellis in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Edwin L. Ellis, the owner of a fuel company, and Winifred Alene Roundtree. Ellis grew up in neighboring Churchland. By his own account, he was interested in fabric and color as a child and often peeked into his mother’s copies of ...

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Halston (23 April 1932–26 March 1990), milliner and fashion designer, was born Roy Halston Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of an accountant and a homemaker (names unknown). (The name Halston came from his maternal grandfather, Halston Holmes.) Halston spent his boyhood in Iowa. His first design was a red hat and veil he created for his mother to wear on Easter Sunday 1945 to the Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. After World War II the family moved to Evansville, Indiana, where as a teenager, Halston was known as the best dresser at Bosse High School. Following high school Halston attended Indiana University but left two years later for the Art Institute of Chicago. Halston attended the Art Institute for only two semesters and did not graduate....

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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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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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Rosenstein, Nettie (26 September 1893–15 March 1980), fashion designer, was born in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Joseph Rosencrans, a dry-goods merchant, and Sarah Hoffman. The family emigrated to the United States in 1899 and established a dry-goods shop in New York City at Lenox Avenue and 117th Street. Playing in the shop, Nettie began to sew her own doll clothes and fell in love with fabric while still very young. By the time she was eleven she was ambitiously making garments for people. To use her mother’s sewing machine, however, she had to stand, being unable as yet to reach the foot pedal while sitting down....

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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....