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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Evening dress

(a, b, c) Mainbocher (American, 1890–1976)
(d) Germaine Vittu (American)
fall/winter 1947
silk, metal
Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954
Accession Number:
Not on view
Born on the West Side of Chicago in 1891, Mainbocher chose to make his home overseas. He began sketching at Harper's Bazaar and then went to work as the fashion editor of French Vogue in 1922, staying there until 1929. With his trained eye and exquisite taste, he opened his maison de couture in 1930 at 12, avenue George V with the support of fashion editors, designers and the social elite. Mainbocher became "the American" in Paris that any woman who could afford his luxuries, turned to. His clothes were perfectly appropriate for every occasion, producing an air of elegance. In his showroom, he exhibited innovative ideas, such as cotton gingham evening dresses, the strapless dress, extreme feminine details such as gigot sleeves, ruffles and trains, and the use of men's shirting, such as linen toweling and cotton pique. While innovative, his designs were always exquisitely pieced. At the beginning of WWII, Mainbocher closed his Paris house and returned to New York, opening his first showroom on Madison Avenue, next door to Tiffany's at 57th Street. He continued to prosper, and never did he find the need to place his work in luxury stores such as Bergdorf's or Bendel's. With the death of some of the grand couturiers, such as Chanel and Balenciaga, Mainbocher retired in 1971, mourning their loss and to him, the death of couture.

This evening dress is further testimony to Millicent Rogers' interest in clothing adapted from traditional cultures. This piece is an interpretation of an Indian sari, made from sari material. It is fitting that Mainbocher is the designer, for he was fond of incorporating type of fabric into his designs. To further reference traditional Indian costume, a self fabric turban has been added.
Marking: Label (c): "Mainbocher Inc."
Label (d): "Germaine Vittu"
Brooklyn Museum. "Evening Fashion," 1967.

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