collection SC.20 - Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon sketches, 1930-1969

Identity area

Reference code

US NNFIT SC.20

Title

Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon sketches, 1930-1969

Date(s)

  • 1930s-1969 (Creation)
  • bulk 1950-1969 (Creation)

Level of description

collection

Extent and medium

16 linear feet, 8976 sketches

Context area

Name of creator

(1901 (date of establishment))

Administrative history

Bergdorf Goodman began as a custom tailoring shop in 1901, named such after Edwin Goodman (1876-1953) bought out his partners in what had previously been the tailoring firm of Bergdorf and Voigt. Goodman had acquired a reputation for immaculate tailoring and an inspired understanding of cut and materials. Bergdorf Goodman expanded into ready-to-wear in 1923, but continued to offer custom clothing and millinery well into the 1960s. It was one of the last department stores to offer this service, indicative of the very wealthy clientele who favored Bergdorf Goodman and placed orders from around the globe. Primary couturier to New York society, Edwin Bergman and the Bergdorf Goodman custom salon also outfitted international royalty, Broadway and Hollywood stars, and the elites of Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and the West Coast, many of whom spent $100,000/year in the store. Bergdorf Goodman was known for the immaculate craftsmanship of its clothes, and later for furs.

The custom salon was never strictly profitable for Bergdorf Goodman because of the high cost of labor and materials, and the cost of research and buying trips to Paris and Italy. A 1951 Business Week article on the department store reported that the custom salon “has not made money since 1929.” The salon employed 3 top-notch designers, 115 dressmakers, 55 tailors, 14 dressers, a “string of saleswomen, models, and assistants,” not to mention the sketch-makers and watercolorists who produced the sketches that comprise most of this collection. But this boutique service raised the profile of the department store and the house designers who worked in the custom salon also contributed designs for Bergdorf Goodman’s ready-to-wear collection. Edwin Goodman has been credited with extending the construction techniques of higher-end garments (deep hems and cutting on the true bias) to ready-to-wear, and raising the standards for the mass manufacture of clothing in the United States.

Andrew Goodman (1907-1993) succeeded his father as President of the store in 1951 on the occasion of the store’s 50th anniversary, and remained active until 1975, three years after it became part of the Broadway-Hale department store chain. Bergdorf Goodman subsequently became a division of the Neiman Marcus group. The store has been at its present location at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue since 1928. Unlike other department stores, Bergdorf Goodman never expanded to include branches in the suburbs.

Bergdorf Goodman Inc. is a luxury goods department store based on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The company was founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf and was later owned and managed by Edwin Goodman, and later his son Andrew Goodman.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gift of Bergdorf Goodman, June 1971.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon sketches collection contains 8,976 pencil, ink, and watercolor sketches by staff artists representing clothing and millinery available in Bergdorf's custom salon. These garments were made to order either from designs purchased by special arrangement from the leading coutouriers of the day or from sketches by Bergdorf's then well known in-house designers. Representative designers include Dior, Balenciaga, Halson and Courreges. House designers include Leslie Morris, Mary Gleason, and Bernard Newman. There is a complete run from 1950 to 1969. In addition, there is a representative sampling of sketches from the 1930s and 40s.
In addition to the sketches, the collection contains preliminary manuscripts and galley proofs of Booton Herndon's book Bergdorf's on the Plaza (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956) as well as typescripts of his interviews with and about members of the Goodman family and with and about such key members of the staff as Ethel Frankau, Odna Brandeis, and house designers Bernard Newman, Leslie Morris, and Mary Gleason.
The last series contains the original finding aid for the collection.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

After having been arranged chronologically, the Bergdorf Goodman collection was reorganized by designer in late 2010, after SPARC observed that most people using the collection searched by designer. Within the folder or folders for each designer, the sketches have been arranged chronologically, by year and separated by season within a year when known or applicable.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access is open to researchers by appointment at the Fashion Institute of Technology Library, Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives.

Conditions governing reproduction

The Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives does not own copyright for all material held in its physical custody. It is the researcher's obligation to abide by and satisfy copyright law (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#108) when copying or using materials (including digital materials) found in or made available from the department. When possible, the department will inform a researcher about the copyright status of material, the researcher's obligations with regard to such material, and, wherever possible, the owner or owners of the copyrights. Any and all reproduction of originals is at the archivist's discretion.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Pencil, ink, and watercolor sketches

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

The Library of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives, 27th St. at 7th Ave., NY, NY , USA, 10001

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Additional sketches from the Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon are held by the Costume Institute Library at the Metropolitan Museum of art as well as the Brooklyn Museum.

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

AAT; ANSI; DACS; DCMI; ISAD(G); ISO; LoC; NISO; etc

Status

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Series 1 April-May, 2011; Series 2 August- October, 2013

Language(s)

  • English

Script(s)

  • Latin

Sources

Archivist's note

Arrangement, description, and/or archival processing of Series 1 by Karla Nielsen and Series 2 by Allyn Young, FIT, NY, NY, USA. Finding aid data formatted for AtoM and uploaded by Chelsea Cates.

Accession area