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Ruth Finley was born January 14, 1920, in Haverville, Massachusetts to a Russian immigrant father and New York born mother. She attended Simmons College in Boston and received a Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and Nutrition. During her college education, she interned as a food journalist at the New York Herald Tribune and for Eleanor Lambert's Red Cross Fashion Show in Press Week. Two years after graduating, in 1941, she and a friend founded the Fashion Calendar. From the 1940s to the present, she played many roles in the New York fashion industry, including director of New York Fashion Council, member of Roundtable of Fashion Executives, and board member for philanthropic organizations, including City Meals on Wheels,.
Born August 10 1903 in Crawfordsville, IN, Eleanor Lambert attended the Chicago Art Institute before moving to New York in 1925 with her first husband Willis Connor. She soon found work with publicist Franklin Spear and brought in new clients from the New York art world, representing both artists and institutions. She was involved with the founding of both the Whitney Museum of Art and MoMA in the late 1920s and early 1930s. By 1935, she was sufficiently established and branched out on her own, forming Eleanor Lambert, Inc. The marriage to Connor was short-lived and Lambert married Hearst newspaper executive Seymour Berkson in 1936, with whom she had her only child, William in 1939. During the 1930s, her professional attentions shifted away from art and towards the American fashion industry. She helped establish the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1937 and established the New York Dress Institute in 1939, serving as director until 1962. When the International Best Dressed list was suspended during WWII, Lambert appropriated it, running it until 2002 when she turned it over to Vanity Fair. In 1941 she created the American Fashion Critics Awards (aka the COTY Awards) and launched the first New York Fashion Press Week in 1943. Long associated with the Costume Institute, Lambert established the annual Party of the Year fundraiser, the precursor to what is now the Costume Institute Ball. In 1962, Lambert is instrumental in the founding of American Art Dealers Association of America and created the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In 1964, she launches a syndicated newspaper column on fashion "She" which was renamed "Eleanor Lambert" in 1982 which would run until the time of her death. Over the next several decades, Lambert received numerous awards and recognition for her dedication to the American fashion industry, notably the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. At the age of 99, Lambert shuttered the doors of Eleanor Lambert, Inc. and passed away at the age of 100 in her Park Avenue home.
Claire McCardell was born May 24, 1905, in Frederick, Maryland. She showed an aptitude and passion for fashion from a young age, and began making her own clothes during her early adolescence. At age 18 McCardell enrolled in Hood College in Fredrick, Maryland, but she left after two years to pursue fashion illustration at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (known today as Parsons School of Design). In 1927 McCardell transferred to the Parsons branch in Paris at the Place des Vosges. There, she gained hands-on experience with Paris couture and perfected her understanding of garment construction. When she returned to New York she worked as a model, a seamstress and as a designer for a small knit-goods company.
In 1929 McCardell began working as an assistant designer for Robert Turke, and moved with him to Townley Frocks, Inc. when Turk’s own firm disbanded. A month before the spring showing in 1931, Turk tragically drowned and McCardell was left responsible for completing the collection. She copied the latest styles from Paris and the collection sold well, although it was moderately received. For the following collection she experimented with shapes and materials in a more avant-garde style, but these were too advanced for the mainstream market, which was not yet ready for her revolution of casual clothing and sportswear. Then, in 1938 McCardell launched her famous 'Monastic Dress', a shapeless bias-cut dress that was worn with a belt to cinch the waist. It was extremely successful and widely copied by mass retailers. McCardell left Townley Frocks for a brief time and went to Hattie Carnegie (1938-1940), where she worked alongside Norman Norell. She later returned to Townley Frocks, where she spent the rest of her career.
While other designers struggled during World War II without the guidance of French designers and with the unavailability of traditional fabrics and materials, McCardell took advantage of the circumstances. She used nontraditional fabrics such as denim and wool jersey, while continuing to design clothing to meet the everyday needs of the American woman. In 1942 she designed the 'Pop-over' dress, a wrap dress that was meant to be popped-over pants, bathing suit or the bare skin. It was simple, comfortable and functional- a style that became McCardell's signature. The dress was very successful and was incorporated in different variations into every collection from then on.
During her short career McCardell collaborated with many retailers and manufacturers and received several awards and accolades for her innovative fashion. Among them were the Mademoiselle Merit Award, Coty American Fashion Critics Award, Nieman-Marcus Award, and Women's National Press Club Award. McCardell's contributions to the fashion industry include metal closures, blue-jean stitching, mix and match separates, and the influence of menswear in women's designs. Perhaps most importantly, she helped create an “American Look” that was distinct from traditional Parisian fashion. Sadly, McCardell succumbed to cancer on March 22, 1958, at age 52.
Vally Wieselthier (Valerie Wielsethier) was born in 1895 in Vienna, Austria. She started studying at the Vienna School for Applied Arts in 1914, focusing on painting but later switching to the architecture class of Josef Hoffman. In 1917, she attended the ceramics workshop headed by Michael Powolny. In 1917. Wieselthier joined the newly opened ceramics workshop of the Wiener Werkstätte, working under Hoffman and artistic director Dagobert Peche. Her work is characterized by playful and humorous designs combined with the use of traditional forms and free use of materials. She also designed in other mediums, such as textiles and glass. From 1922 to 1927 she had her own workshop in Vienna. Her ceramic sculptures were represented at the 1925 “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” in Paris. In 1927 she returned to the Wiener Werkstätte to head its ceramics workshop. She spent 18 months in New York City between 1927 and 1928 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1932, where she created work for the Contempora Group and Sebring Pottery Company.
André Studios was a sketch, or croquis, subscription service for garment industry professionals, located at 570 Seventh Avenue in New York City. The company was founded by designer Pearl Levy and her business partner, salesman Leonard Schwartzbach, sometime during the year 1930. André Studios was one of the many design services which relied heavily on copying and adapting existing models in order to supply a sufficient, up-to-date product to their customers.
In the 1940s, fashion and apparel industry members were faced with a dwindling number of qualified people to help them run and carry on their businesses. The next generation wanted to be doctors and lawyers?not tailors. A group of industry members, led by Mortimer C. Ritter, an educator with an interest in programs for young working people, and Max Meyer, a retired menswear manufacturer, set about organizing a school to ensure the vitality of their businesses. First, they created the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries to promote education for the industry. The Foundation then obtained a charter from the New York State Board of Regents to establish a ?fashion institute of technology and design.? The institute opened in 1944 with 100 students, and was located on the top two floors of the High School of Needle Trades.
Soon, supporters wanted to bring greater prestige to the industry by having the institute become a college with the authority to confer degrees. Industrialists and educators decided on two majors: Design (with programs in apparel, millinery, and textiles) and Scientific Management. The curriculum also included Liberal Arts. In 1951, three years after the State University of New York had been established and state law had provided for the creation of community colleges, FIT became the second SUNY community college empowered to grant the Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. By then, there were 400 day students and about 1,000 evening students.
FIT received accreditation in 1957, and as the curriculum and student body grew, the college moved into its first real home?a nine-story building on Seventh Avenue in the heart of the garment district?in 1959. The building had been planned for 1,200 students; by 1963, there were 4,000. During this time, the college?s curriculum was growing beyond traditional notions of fashion, to include subjects like photography and advertising and interior design.
The college wanted to further expand its curriculum by offerings bachelor?s and master?s degrees? something that ?was just not done? by a community college, according to the State University?s former chancellor. Representatives of the college and supporters in the industry and government lobbied hard to persuade legislators to allow FIT to do this. In 1975, an amendment to the Education Law of New York State permitted FIT to offer BS and BFA programs; another in 1979 authorized master?s programs.
By this time, six more buildings had been added to the campus, including two dormitories, and the Shirley Goodman Resource Center, which houses the Gladys Marcus Library and The Museum at FIT. The school continued to grow by adding state-of-the art facilities, like the Design/Lighting Research Laboratory and the Annette Green Fragrance Foundation Studio (the first of its kind on a college campus), making international programs available to students, and evolving its academic offerings
Today, the campus encompasses an entire city block, and serves more than 10,000 students. The college offers degrees in diverse subjects, such as Menswear and Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing, which are unique to the college, and Fashion Merchandising Management, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design, and Toy Design, the first of their kind in the country (http://www.fitnyc.edu/1807.asp).