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.