Norman Norell was born in April 1900. He first attended Parsons but transferred to Pratt a year later. Norell entered a blouse design contest while at Pratt and won first prize. In 1922, he designed for Brooks Costumes in NYC. He moved to Paramount studios, which was then in Astoria, Queens, and created costumes for Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. Next, Norell costumed shows for the Ziegfeld Follies. His first credited designs were costumes for a show at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In 1924, he was hired by Charles Armour and designed under that label for three years. In 1927, he was hired by Hattie Carnagie to design under her brand. Carnagie would purchase roughly Parisian Couture garments a year and bring them back to study the construction and style. This is how Norell learned couture construction. In 1940, he and Carnagie got in an argument about a design for Gertrude Lawrence which ended in him getting fired. In 1941, he was hired by Anthony Trainer. Trainer gave him the option of higher pay or Norell's name on the label. Norell chose to have his name on the label. Norell learned mass production techniques at Trainer. This lead to a fusion of ready-to-wear and couture that Norell was known for. Norerell won the first COTY Award in 1943. In 1960, Anthony Trainer retired, giving Norell full control of the designs. He continued to design until 1972 when he passed away, at the age of 72.
Born April 20, 1900 in Noblesville, IN, Norman Norell was an American fashion designer known for his elegant suits and tailored silhouettes. After spending some time in military school during World War I, Norell studied illustration at Parsons School of Design and fashion design at Pratt Institute from 1920 to 1922. Born Norman Levinson, Norell changed his surname while at Pratt. He described his name change as, “ ‘Nor’ for Norman, ‘l’ for Levinson, with another ‘l’ added for looks.” After graduation, he joined the East coast studios of Paramount Pictures as a costume designer and after a year went on to work for the Brooks Costume Company and for wholesale dress manufacturer Charles Armour. In 1928, Norell went to work for Hattie Carnegie, where he spent the next twelve years working in “complete anonymity,” modifying elements of Paris couture for American ready-to-wear designs. During these early years, Norell learned about cut, fit, and quality fabrics, as seasonal trips to view the Paris collections exposed him to the standards of couture. However, a disagreement with Carnegie led Norell to accept a position with the design firm Anthony Traina in 1940. Traina offered him a large salary if when he joined the company name did not have to change; however, Norell insisted and accepted a lower salary in exchange for changing the company name to Traina-Norrell. In 1943, Norell won a Coty Fashion Award and became a critic at Pratt Institute fashion department, where he was previously a student. In 1960, Norell started his own label, Norman Norell Ltd. He popularized the Empire-line dresses, culotte-skirted suits, sailor-style dresses, and the chemise dress, which was inspired by his favorite decade, the 1920s. He considered his simple, round necklines—at times embellished with bows or Peter Pan collars—his greatest contribution to fashion. Unlike couture designers, who only produce a garment for a specific person, Norell applied his high-standards to mass produced garments. Even though his clothes were ready-to-wear, each Norell garment was handled from start-to-finish by the same worker. Upon his death in 1972, the New York Times proclaimed: “Norman Norell made Seventh Avenue the rival of Paris.”