Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Vera Maxwell, 1959
Not on view
With a dream of being a dancer, Vera Maxwell arrived in the fashion world through the back door. Working first as a showroom model, she then became interested in the actual construction of the clothes. Not always agreeing with what was being offered, she began to make as well as mix and match her own clothes, which department store buyers from Lord & Taylor and Best Co. began to notice. Maxwell states that her first "real" design job was with Adler & Adler, where she worked from 1936-1937 and afterwards, found contract work to be very advantageous. Her classic, comfortable and timeless designs continued to garner praise and in 1947she opened a business under her own name, Vera Maxwell Originals. Her career outlasted that of her contemporaries, as she did not stop designing until 1985.
Maxwell began designing the travel suit in the late thirties and continued doing so until the end of her career. While this ensemble is from the fifties, it is a wonderful representation of the fashionable and functional. Being an avid traveler herself, Maxwell decided that women needed clothes that were easy to pack, comfortable to wear and provided options for daily activities, whether that is touring or cocktails. This particular design has several elements found in Maxwell's work: the use of wool jersey which is comfortable, stretches and packs without wrinkling; pants to wear under the skirt for plane travel or to be worn alone; the wrap blouse; and the overcoat which provides extra warmth and uses a water repellant fabric. The travel ensemble is a statement to her design philosophy, "Clothes should be beautiful, adaptable and sound."