Four Good Dresses

Once again it’s spring, and spring means summer dresses!  Indeed, I know that many of you are in draping labs working on term garments of this sort, even as I type.

During the last dozen or so years of her life, the designer Pauline Trigere came every spring to FIT, to give a lecture on draping in Katie Murphy Auditorium.  While she draped a coat collar in double-faced wool, she would talk about her life in the industry.  She related that when she began, a friend advised her not to panic, but to begin small.  That all she needed to get into her first stores was “four good dresses”.  So she designed four dresses, sold them, and began her long career.

Here is one of her great dresses, with its matching coat.  Dated 1964, this ensemble is featured in the Museum at FIT exhibition catalog “American Beauty”.  The graphic quality of this outfit is absolutely stunning, and still as fresh as though it came down this season’s runway.

My experience designing sportswear makes me approach each new season much the same way I used to when I worked at it:  flip through countless magazines looking for images to feed my head, make bulletin boards of inspiring images, organized by themes, sketch out the pieces to make those themes happen, and then sketch technical flats to work out the cutting and fitting details as they evolve in my head.  This being the library at FIT, I have awesome resources to get inspiration for summer dresses.  This post is about some of the sources I found this week that helped me sketch up far more than just four good dress ideas.

I have lots of delicious magazines to choose from.  So I flipped through a few to share.

I started with the Tobe Report, which is industry fashion research.  I found some great images from their coverage of street fashion in St. Tropez last spring   (=forecasting for this spring):

That’s a cute dress, but it’s been pretty done here, already, I think.  Seems to me I saw a version from the Gap which was almost these exactly, including the “bra-friendly” wider straps.

Flipping through “2013 Hot List” issue, I found this interesting update, also from Tobe:

Food for thought, this one.  Since “Fit & Flare” is pretty much where my 1950’s-loving-eye always ends up for summer, that advice is easy to take.  Anyway, Tobe produces a “Hot List” for every season, and it’s worth taking a look to get their (sales-driven) point of view.

As I continued my periodical-flipping, I came across this fabulous placement print by (of course) Prada, photographed for Another Magazine.  Definitely a shirt-type dress, though.  And pencil, not flared skirt.  Hmm.

Form fitting seems to dominate the dresses I found in The Gentlewoman, too:

Of course Beyonce has a certain professional imperative driving her both sartorial choices and her self presentation.  But the magazine stylist must have had something to do with this choice.  Interesting that the strong linear quality of this dress echos the Trigere dress above, even if the shape is very different.

But overall, this magazine, UK’s The Gentlewoman, is very stylized in it’s visual presentation.  Most of the layouts had a very sleek black and white noir-ish feel.  I had a hard time finding a color image to attract your eyes, Reader.



But here’s a fabulous one.  The movement of the silk georgette and the buttons up the back are romantic, while the color and styling are straight out sexy.  Not surprisingly, it’s by Valentino, the Italian designer who’s famous for his use of red in evening gowns.  Coupled with the Prada dress pictured above, the red might signal a coming theme…


Even though this dress is really dressy, there are still some good ideas that can be applied to a comfortable summer dress.  Perhaps the sheer overlayer that buttons would be pretty down the front, or diagonally down the side of a dress.  And the color is divine!



As I continued to flip through magazines and news papers in our department, the daily issue of Womens Wear came in.  And lo, it had a fabulous dress on the cover:


Not red here, but still the strong graphic qualities of the Trigere ensemble.  Plus an interesting use of a new dress material: neoprene.











Then, because I am planning to sew, I thought it would be worthwhile to flip through Threads magazine and see what’s cooking over there.  Threads is an old sewing/crafty title that had gotten a bit stuffy.  However, recently it’s been revamped and it seems a lot more fashionable.  Still pretty middle-America (as opposed to Brooklyn), but definitely more responsive to the younger-spirited DIY action that’s been growing the last five years or so.

And then I stumbled onto this:  Not only does this layout have a super cool steampunkish feeling, but careful reading revealed that the artist whose work is shown is one Mimi Prober, AN FIT FASHION DESIGN GRADUATE!  (Issue 166, May 2013)   Mimi won the 2012 Critic Award for these gowns, and no wonder!  The construction techniques put together antique lace into corsetted-looking sheer layers.  The whole effect is both elegant, artsy, and comic-book-heroine-fabulous!  I want this dress! And now I know how the layers are constructed, and the lace stitched together.  This is a bit much for a summer dress to wear to evenings out at the Frying Pan, but it does have me rethinking lace insets a bit… Good job on the update, Threads!

But look where else edgy romantic dresses show up:

Lana Bittman (the librarian who runs PERS) always talks about Sassy magazine being her growing-up printed companion, so I thought I’d take a peek.  I just randomly pulled out a volume from the 1990s, since all the designers researching here are currently obsessed with this decade.  This layout from the April, 1993 issue spotlights lacy, gauzy, romantic white dresses for summer!  This is very much what’s happening here in the city, (again) I’d say.

Finally, I picked up the current issue of Vogue Patterns, the sales magazine for the Vogue Pattern company.  I’ve always had a soft spot for this magazine, even though it had gotten sort of dry.  I enjoy having access to it to see the styling of the new season’s sewing patterns.  Plus, Vogue patterns have better instructions than Butterick, their less-expensive sister company.

I’m really excited to say that Vogue has also stepped up their game.  The last two issues of this magazine are much more colorful, styled more modishly and modern-looking.  Plus this issue highlighted serious couture finishing techniques like creative smocking and passementerie flowers, with a spot on the best sewing tools for fine handwork.  There was also a well-researched and illustrated article on embroidery, a topic near and dear to my heart (as you may have guessed).

Like Threads, the new Vogue Patterns included good how-to articles on special techniques by such industry leaders as Nancy Zieman and Claire Shaeffer.  Like Threads, it included a wrap-up of current runway styles and the patterns that relate to them.  But Vogue Patterns seems aimed at a more upscale designer/stitcher, and the articles looked more fashion-forward than Threads.

And even better, there was an article on the founder of Marfy Patterns, which is also a title we carry at the Gladys Marcus Library.



I found it heartening to see that the red theme I saw in Another Magazine and The Gentlewoman was carried through in this project on Vogue Patterns‘ pages.Maybe I just liked it better because Vogue Patterns felt more “New York” to me, and this is where I live and work.





I hope you found something to inspire your own summer creativity in this post.  Once again, I encourage you to stop up at the Periodicals Desk on the 6th floor, and take a look at our great resources.


Here are some places you can find out more about Pauline Trigere:

On the 5th floor, in the Main Stacks her work is discussed in:

American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion

5th Floor, Main Stacks TT 505 .M43 2012

Impact: 50 Years of the Council of Fashion Designers of America

5th Floor, Main Stacks   TT 504.4 .M43 2012

Women of Fashion: Twentieth-Century Designers.

5th Floor, Main stacks at TT 504 .S74 1991

At the Circulation Desk on the 5th floor, we have:

Videos of Ms. Trigere’s lectures at FIT filed under TT 505 .C55 and the date.

We also have a video of an oral history interview with Ms. Trigere filed under D 16.14 .O73 1980.  To request these video formats, you would give the call number I’ve listed to the clerk at the 5th floor service desk.

We also have Designer Files for Ms. Trigere’s work.  These are found at the 5th floor desk, filed by the designer’s name.




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