Fashion History Friday: Mainbocher

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting The Chicago History museum's exhibit dedicated to the first American Couturier, Mainbocher. 

I spent about an hour in awe over every sketch, every drape, every stitch and every quote. The beauty of these garments are just undeniable . The exhibit was exquisite and truly an inspiration booster.

One thing that stuck out to me the most about Mainbocher was his resiliency, despite setbacks he just kept pushing. In his pursuit of success he went onto reinvent himself several times, as in artist, musician fashion illustrator, magazine editor and lastly a dressmaker. This fact along resonates deeply with me because over the past few years I have constantly reinvented my business concept and merchandise lines in pursuit of my storefront dreams! 

All in all I left the museum brimming with optimism and enthusiasm for my path as a vintage shop owner and future fashion historian, despite how twist filled it is. So a job well done to the CHM's curators 👏🏾 for highlighting this not so well known but so very influential couture designer. 

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1930s - 1950s designs  

1930s - 1950s designs  

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Just a quick blurb about Mainbocher. 

Born Main Rousseau Bocher in the west side of Chicago in 1891, after serving in World War I, he decided to remain in Europe. His career in fashion began in 1922 when he worked as an illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar. Later he moved to Vogue, working there from 1923-1929 as a fashion editor and eventually became editor-in-chief of the French edition of Vogue. In 1929, when he opened his Paris couture salon, in an effort to fit in as a American in Paris he combined his first and last names to become Mainbocher.

A Young Mainbocher in his Paris salon  (Source: Making Mainbocher site) 

A Young Mainbocher in his Paris salon  (Source: Making Mainbocher site) 

Mainbocher's society client list included Daisy Fellowes, Diana Vreeland, Millicent Rogers, the Duchess of Windsor, Barbara Paley, C. Z. Guest, and Gloria Vanderbilt. He designed on and offstage wardrobes for Mary Martin, Katharine Cornell, Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell, and Ruth Gordon.

Mainbocher closed his Paris salon in 1939, reopening it in New York in 1940. During that time, he designed costumes for numerous Broadway theater productions such as Blithe and The Sound of Music. 

Mainbocher closed the doors of his salon at 609 Fifth Avenue in 1971. Returning to Europe, he alternated his final years between Paris and Munich, where he passed in 1976 at 81.

Contributions to fashion:

  • First strapless evening dress, 1934
  • The intermediate girl scout uniform, 1946
  • Introduced the terms "off white" and "sports clothes"
  • .....and so much more!!
Pink shantung coat that could also be worn as a dress. Photo by Karen Radkai, Harper's Bazaar, July 1951

Pink shantung coat that could also be worn as a dress. Photo by Karen Radkai, Harper's Bazaar, July 1951

Layers and layers of ostrich feathers over a narrow dress of thin black crepe inlaid with black satin. Mainbocher. 1955 (source Pinterest) 

Layers and layers of ostrich feathers over a narrow dress of thin black crepe inlaid with black satin. Mainbocher. 1955 (source Pinterest) 

Read more in depth about Mainbocher  below  

Read more in depth about Mainbocher  below  

References

http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mainbocher

 https://blog.colettehq.com/inspiration/mainbocher

 

Me and my mini, Gia, taking in all of the vintage beauty  .....it was def a great museum day! 

Me and my mini, Gia, taking in all of the vintage beauty  .....it was def a great museum day!