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Alexander, John White (07 October 1856–31 May 1915), artist, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, the son of John Alexander and Fanny Smith. Alexander’s father died soon after his birth, and his mother died when he was five years old. Sent to live with his maternal grandparents, Alexander left school at the age of twelve to work as a messenger for the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh. Colonel Edward Jay Allen, an official of the firm, was impressed by a sketch done by Alexander. Allen eventually adopted Alexander....

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Aronson, Boris ( October 1900–16 November 1980), scene and costume designer, was born in Kiev, Russia, the son of Solomon Aronson, the chief rabbi of Kiev, and Deborah Turfsky. By the age of eight he was exhibiting astonishing artistic talent and went on to study art in Kiev, Moscow, and Paris....

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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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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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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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Bresci, Gaetano (11 November 1869–22 May 1901), silk weaver and regicide, was born in Coiano, Italy, the son of Gaspero Bresci, a peasant/artisan, and Maddalena Godi. At age eleven Bresci was apprenticed to learn the art of silk weaving; he later attended a Sunday school to acquire a specialized trade. While still a youth, Gaetano participated in an anarchist group. First arrested for disturbing the peace in 1892, he was subsequently confined to the penal island of Lampedusa for more than a year for his role in organizing a strike. Now identified as a “dangerous anarchist,” Bresci had difficulty securing employment....

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Bulova, Arde (24 October 1889–19 March 1958), businessman, was born in New York City, the son of Joseph Bulova and Bertha Eisner. His father emigrated to New York from Bohemia and in 1873 started a small jewelry manufacturing business that eventually became the Bulova Watch Company. Bulova attended school in New York and in 1905 began working as a salesman for his father’s company. The family business prospered and in 1911 was incorporated, with the father as president and the son as vice president and treasurer. The firm was reincorporated in 1923 as the Bulova Watch Company, Inc. Bulova became chairman of the board in 1930, a position he held until his death in 1958....

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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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Pierre Cartier. With wife Elma Rumsey and daughter, 1926. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-124396.

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Cartier, Pierre (1878–27 October 1964), jeweler, was born Pierre-Camille Cartier in France, the son of Louis-François-Alfred Cartier, also a jeweler; his mother's name is unknown. Pierre Cartier's grandfather Louis-François Cartier (1819–1904) founded Cartier, the renowned jewelry company, in Paris in 1847. Early on, Pierre Cartier and his brothers Louis-Joseph and Jacques-Théodule worked in the family business. Cartier's original clientele included French royalty as well as a burgeoning upper middle class, soon complemented by international customers traveling through the country. Aristocrats from all over Europe and Russia as well as wealthy Americans such as ...

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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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Cornell, Joseph (24 December 1903–29 December 1972), artist and designer, was born Joseph I. Cornell, Jr., in South Nyack, New York, the son of Joseph I. Cornell, a traveling salesman of woolen goods, and Helen Ten Broeck Storms Cornell. Although Joseph Jr. was the sixth male in his father's family to bear the name, he was never told what his middle initial stood for, and he dropped both the I. and the Jr. as an adult. Joseph Sr. had come from a family of modest means; his wife's family, whose ancestors included Dutch families of colonial New York and New Jersey, was wealthy and socially prominent. Joseph Sr.'s income, combined with his wife's modest inheritance, allowed them to establish a comfortable upper-middle-class household for their family, which also included three younger children. High culture was not emphasized, however; instead of visiting museums and attending the opera and symphony, the Cornells often took their children to New York City, just across the river from their home, to attend vaudeville shows, amusement parks, and penny arcades....

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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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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 ...