Iconic Fashion Designers of the 20th Century Part II

There are so many great designers that shaped the 20th century that I had to continue this series. Fashion not only tells us about the period they were created in, but it also reflects our moods. It can be a staple or symbol of status. For example, a black suit reflects power and sophistication as well as sorrow and grace. It is worn during a professional job interview or at a funeral. It was created for women in the 20th century, as women’s fashion became more comfortable and stylish. Also, fashion in the 20th century became big business for men and women, where “brands” became just as popular as the cut of the dress or jeans. Here are some designers that created signature pieces that made them household names.

  1. Tommy Hilfiger — When you see Tommy Hilfiger clothes, his signature red, white and blue colors jump out at you. He began his fashion career in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that his clothing line took off. At age 18, he opened his first store, The People’s Place, in his hometown of Elmira, New York, where he sold “hippie” clothes. He had a successful chain, but an economic downturn hit his stores hard and he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1977. He bounced back when he met Indian entrepreneur Mohan Murjani in 1984. Hilfiger was given the financial backing he needed to start his own label and went on to build a lifestyle clothing empire.
  2. Vera Wang — Known for her wedding gowns, Wang did not set out to be a fashion designer. After college, Wang was hired at Vogue as a rover. She worked her way up to become the magazine’s youngest fashion editor. In 1987, she left Vogue to work for Ralph Lauren. The switch to fashion designer happened when she was planning her own wedding. She was an older bride and noticed the styles were geared towards younger women. This pushed Wang to start her own wedding boutique and design gowns that were elegant and classic. She branched out to engagement rings, dinnerware, cosmetics, eyewear and a clothing line.
  3. Ralph Lauren — Lauren’s passion for fashion began as a teenager. He combined the classic lines of 1940s clothing (he admired Cary Grant and Fred Astaire) with “preppy” looks. He began his fashion career in the 1960s as a salesman for Brooks Brothers. Lauren first designed neckties for Beau Brummell under the Polo label. In the next decade, he designed suits for women with a men’s cut. The iconic polo shirt with the polo player logo was designed in 1972. As with many fashion designers, Lauren expanded his empire to include fragrances, home decor, shoes and dinnerware.

Originally published on lilawalter.com on April 30, 2019.

Iconic Fashion Designers of the 20th Century Part I

If you know me, I love everything about fashion from the latest styles to its history. Did you ever wonder who created the fashion pieces that gave inspiration to today’s designers? Without them, we would not have timeless fashion pieces, such as the little black dress, jeans or skirts. If you are planning a career in fashion (or just a fan like me), you should check out these famous designers.

Coco Chanel — The name Chanel says it all. It is a brand that will never go out of style. We have Chanel to thank for getting women out of corsets and into suits and black dresses. Despite her success, Chanel’s teen years were difficult. At the age of 12, her father put her into an orphanage after her mother’s death. It was there that she learned to sew, and her career as a designer was set in motion. Born Gabrielle Bonhour Chanel in 1883, the nickname Coco was given to her during her brief stint as a singer. Some believe the name came from one of the songs she used to sing. Chanel, however, squashed that rumor and stated the name was short for cocotte, French for “kept woman.” She opened her first shop in Paris in 1913, and the rest is history.

Madeleine Vionnet — If you saw her designs, you would think she was a current designer. Vionnet was a designer of the 1920s and 1930s. Her daring designs had bare shoulders, plunging necks and silky materials. She cut her materials on a bias, which created a halter top and hugged a woman’s curves. Vionnet designs are classic, since celebrities, such as Cameron Diaz and Natalie Portman, wear her dresses. And you can find her collection at expensive stores, such as Saks and Barney’s.

Claire McCardell — McCardell is the grandmother of American sportswear. She was a visionary in that she designed the opposite of her French peers; her designs were more about function and comfort. Her signature designs of the 1940s and 1950s included the Monk Dress, the Kitchen Dress, and Popover Dress. She even mixed fabrics as well as separates. Many contemporary designers (e.g. Calvin Klein and Anna Sui) have cited McCardell as a huge influence on their work.  

These designers not only made beautiful pieces, but they also made fashion sleek, colorful and sporty. Could you imagine if women still had to wear full skirts to play sports? Or to just go to the movies? I didn’t think so. There are too many designers that have made a huge impact on today’s fashion to cover here. Watch for my next blog in this series!

Originally published at lilawalter.com on April 2, 2019.