item 126 - Pauline Trigère interview, 1979 November 13, 16, & 20

Identity area

Reference code



Pauline Trigère interview, 1979 November 13, 16, & 20


  • 1979 November 13, 16, and 20 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Original media: 3 audio cassettes, 3 reels

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

A versatile designer, Trigère was an integral figure behind the development of the New York fashion industry. Her designs merged European craftsmanship with the contemporary American spirit.

The daughter of Russian immigrant parents, Trigère was born in the Pigalle district of Paris in 1908. She grew up behind her father’s Montmartre tailor shop, the place where, at a young age, she learned to cut and fit fabric. Although she did not recall having an early desire for working in fashion—initially preferring a career as an actress or surgeon—Trigère designed her first dress at the age of 14. While attending Collège Victor Hugo in Paris, Trigère was apprenticed at the couture house of Martial et Armand on the Place Vendôme. After graduating, she took work with the famous tailor and designer Monsieur Arnold, from whom she learned the fundamentals of draping and preparing muslins. With her brother Robert she went on to open a store at 19, Avenue de l’Opéra, which was quickly recognized for its chic suits and dresses. It was through her brother that Trigère met Russian-born tailor Lazar Radley, whom she married in 1929. Fearing the imminent threat posed by the rise of Nazi Germany, Trigère and her family left France bound for Chile in 1937. Their ship, however, stopped for a few days in New York, and, impressed by Bergdorf Goodman’s window displays and the other fashion splendours of Fifth Avenue, Trigère made the city her new home.

Trigère and Radley, partnered anew with her brother Robert, opened a small tailoring business on West 47th Street. Unfortunately, their marriage and new business came to an end in 1941. Following a brief stint working for Ben Gershel, Trigère earned a position as an assistant designer at Hattie Carnegie, where Norman Norell was also employed. However, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 prompted Hattie Carnegie to close down most of her workrooms, leaving Trigère unemployed. Months later, in 1942, Trigère partnered with her brother once more to start her own business in a work space she had rented from Hattie Carnegie. Consisting of just under a dozen dresses, Trigère’s first collection was personally advertised to retailers by her brother, who travelled by bus across the country to do so. In a time when World War II was interrupting the flow of fashion ideas from Europe, Trigère’s designs, which combined the luxury and craftsmanship of French fashion with a contemporary American vibe, were well received. Within three years her label had become a recognized name in fashion.

Trigère’s strength lay in her perfection in cut, while her designs were known for their elegance and restraint. She preferred to drape her fabric on a mannequin and to cut directly onto the model, eschewing the drafting of initial design sketches. Acting as her own principal model, Trigère wore only her own designs, decorating them with her signature turtle pins. Her most successful designs were wool evening dresses, capes, reversible double-face coats, empire coats, backless jumpsuits and little black dresses with sheer tops. She also succeeded in developing a thin wool fabric she called ‘Trigeen’, which was widely used in her designs.

In 1949, she won her first of three Coty Awards for design excellence, and in 1959 she was inducted into the Fashion Hall of Fame. In 1961, Trigère was commissioned to design the costumes worn onscreen by actress Patricia Neal in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That same year she was among the first designers to hire a black model. A progressive thinker with strong convictions, she once ordered a customer out of her store when the woman refused to purchase a dress the black model was wearing. Steel-willed and outspoken, Trigère was as much known for her volatile personality as she was for her impeccable sense of style. In 1973, Trigère launched an eponymous signature fragrance, the bottle decorated with a gold turtle—her good luck charm.

In 1992, a ceremony at the Fashion Institute of Technology celebrated her 50th year in the business. Trigère Inc. closed its doors the following year in 1993. Despite her retirement from the fashion industry, she remained a prominent figure in the New York social scene and an exemplar of style until her death in 2002.

Name of creator


Biographical history

"Robert Lamont Green, a men's fashion editor, consultant and lecturer who was the fashion director of Playboy magazine for more than 20 years, has died at age 79. ... Mr. Green was a familiar figure in the New York fashion world of the 1960s and '70s. Called Robert L. by his friends and associates, he was widely known for his wit, his skills as a raconteur and his many parties. At Playboy, from 1958 to 1975, he strengthened the magazine's fashion coverage and increased its presence in the fashion world by organizing special events and founding the Caswell-Massey Awards, which later became Playboy's Creative Men's Wear Awards. ... He occasionally appeared on "The Merv Griffin Show," "The Mike Douglas Show," "Tonight" show and "Today" show. He also wrote a book, "Live With Style," as well as articles for Architectural Digest and other publications. In 1983, he moved to Los Angeles and became a fashion consultant to the TV and film industries. After graduating from Michigan State University, Mr. Green worked as a child psychologist until he served in the Army during World War II. Settling in Washington after his discharge, he started a public relations agency and became the host of a CBS radio program dealing with musical theater." Chicago Tribune, Obituary, 1997

Robert Green made a considerable contribution to the Oral History Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology's Gladys Marcus Library throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s."

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Robert L. Green interviews Pauline Trigère in part one. In part two, we see the different phases of garment production at Trigère, Inc. with an inside look at Mme Trigère cutting a coat and making decisions about fabrics and designs.
Three interviews between Robert L. Green of the Fashion Institute of Technology and American fashion designer, Pauline Trigere. This first interview covers Trigere's arrival in New York City from Paris in 1937, her start in fashion through the coat business run by her husband and by her brother, her brief work at Ben Gershel as Travis Benton's assistant, and then her work as assistant designer at Hattie Carnegie. Trigere explains how this last job led to her opening her own business in 1942, which turns the conversation towards the long work required in fashion and the over saturation of the fashion design field. Trigere also speaks repeatedly of American fashion and French fashion, and the importance of "style" versus "fashion" and how she has tried to make "style" a key element in her designs. Toward the end of the interview, Trigere comments on her ability to change over time, in taste and opinion. She then goes on to speak of her stature as an American designer and how it has affected her. In the second interview, Trigere goes further into the topic of the American fashion designer and the relationship between French couture and American design. The beginning of the conversation covers the effects of WWII on fashion, specifically in America. Trigere returns to the story of her time working under Travis Banton at Hattie Carnegie, which leads from Banton's style to Trigere's own style. Trigere's process of creating a collection is described at length and there is some discussion of the fashion press. In addition to her design process, Trigere discusses her use of store-wide meetings and the importance of the sales team. There is some discussion of architecture, sculpture, and the modern use of space in interiors. Trigere talks about the necessity of compromise over time in regards to materials and there is a lengthy discussion about knowing the customer, and how she may differ by region. This conversation focuses on Palm Beach and ends with an acknowledgment of the power of influence and exposure. In the third interview Trigere returns to a number of topics which were briefly mentioned in the first two interviews. In particular, Trigere starts with the full story of how she became close with American fashion designer Adele Simpson. Next, she elaborates on the role of her longtime assistant, Lucie Porges. Porges and Trigere had been working together for 28 years at the time of this interview. This leads to a discussion on the role of the assistant in the fashion world and the role of the designer in guiding her assistants. Trigere, who was teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the time of this interview, shares her beliefs regarding the best methods of educating future designers. Trigere's process of draping is explored along with her full creative process. In discussing the skills required to conduct proper fittings, Trigere touches on the changing couture client. A brief discussion on the art of packing and shopping for a careful wardrobe turns to a discussion on the changing economy and its effect on fashion. The recession is not explicitly mentioned but this interview did take place at the time of the oil crisis in America. In regards to authenticity, Trigere compares Parisian couture copies to American knock-offs, arguing that these are two different scenarios. Trigere's hiring of black model Beverly Valdes in 1961 is discussed in the context of 7th avenue fashion's resistance to non-white models. Before discussing her own beliefs and personal life, Trigere describes the ideal "Trigere Woman" to be an educated family woman who is dynamic and not frivolous. Trigere's personal beliefs and home life are discussed with special focus on her connection to turtles, her early life as an immigrant, family, her country house: 'La Tortue', her students, and her passion for gardening. The conversation ends with a discussion on the difficulty of keeping work and personal life separate.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

    Script of material

      Language and script notes

      Physical characteristics and technical requirements

      Finding aids

      Generated finding aid

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

      Related units of description

      Legacy audio ID no: AOH190_01, AOH190_02, AOH190a_01, and AOH190b_01

      Related descriptions

      Notes area

      Alternative identifier(s)

      Access points

      Subject access points

      Place access points

      Name access points

      Genre access points

      Description control area

      Description identifier

      Institution identifier

      Rules and/or conventions used


      Level of detail

      Dates of creation revision deletion




          Accession area