- 1938-1976 (Creation)
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Name of creator
Mainbocher (1891-1976) was the first American-born designer to work as a successful Paris couturier. He was also the first to transfer his business from France to America in 1940 at the outbreak of World War II. Before becoming a designer, he was an intelligence officer with the American forces, opera singer, staff artist at Harper's Bazaar and fashion editor turned editor-in-chief at Paris Vogue. He debuted his first collection in Paris in November 1930, and designed biannual collections in America from 1940 to 1971. Throughout his career, Mainbocher was known for his ageless style and quietly pursued his own private vision. He maintained his belief that "women ought to be investors, not speculators in fashion," and likened his clothes to museum pieces. Although he claimed he was not interested in setting trends or influencing the fashion world, his designs did just that.
He studied classical singing in Munich and Paris. He had intended to pursue an operatic career until overcome by severe stage fright. It was then that he turned his attention to fashion design as a career.
He introduced the strapless evening gown, designed uniforms for the Red Cross, the Waves, Spars, Girl Scouts. He made a success with elegant, wearable clothes; elegant evening gowns were his forte. He has been ranked with Molyneux, Schiaparelli, Lelong. His philosophy has been widely quoted: "The responsibility and challenge...is to consider the design and the woman at the same time. Woman should look beautiful rather than just trendful."
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
The scrapbooks are extremely fragile. Several of the scrapbooks are housed in archival boxes while others are still loose.
The small collection of correspondence dating to 1957 does not seem to relate to Mainbocher at all, as it consists of letters from Nancy White to her aunt, Carmel Snow.
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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 College Archives. If you have any questions, or wish to schedule an appointment contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 217-4385.
NOTE: Photocopied reproductions of the scrapbooks should be provided for research instead of originals for preservation reasons.
Conditions governing reproduction
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Generated finding aid
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Subject access points
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Name access points
- Mainbocher, 1891-1976 (Subject)
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
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Dates of creation revision deletion
2019 - Import into AtoM with some additional information on the Scrapbook Series by Samantha Levin