Here's a haute couture history lesson for you, courtesy of Parsons and Saks Fifth Avenue. On view from January 22nd through February 12th at the New School is the exhibit Sophie Gimbel: Fashioning American Couture. Despite being highly influential in her own time and after, her name isn't as well known today as it probably should be. Therefore, we've included five facts you should know before heading to the exhibit.
1. She was the director of the Salon Moderne at Saks Fifth Avenue.
In 1929, Sophie was named the director of Saks' Salon Moderne, an exclusive haute couture boutique inside the department store that introduced brands like Balenciaga, Vionnet, and Schiaparelli to the states. In the 1940s, Gimbel's own couture designs became a salon highlight.
She stayed on the job until the salon's closing in 1969. In those four decades, Gimbel assisted in outfitting Marlene Dietrich, Rose Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson—whom Gimbel dressed for her husband's inauguration.
2. You have her to partially thank for culottes.
According to the exhibit's press release, Gimbel popularized a wide array of categories, like bolero jackets, culottes, beaded sweaters, ball gowns, and sari dresses.
3. And for Fashion Week.
Gimbel also played a huge part in organizing the "first combined showing of American fashion," which is now basically a little something we call Fashion Week.
4. She has legit magazine cred.
In 1940, one of Sophie's designs was featured on the cover of Vogue's inaugural American fashion issue. And in 1947, she became the first American designer to be featured on the cover of Time magazine.
5. She was very much an American designer in support of other American designers.
Parsons curator Beth Dincuff Charleston explains Gimbel's influence on the fashion industry, and also on fashion education: "She rejected the radicalism of Christian Dior's New Look in favor of subtler changes in American women's wear, speaking to an intelligent consumer who was no longer willing to follow fashion dictates from a distant European capital." She adds, "Among Sophie Gimbel's many contributions towards an emerging American style was her strong support of Parsons, and the education of a new generation of American designers."
Now that you've digested all that information, here's one final note on the exhibit itself. In addition to the Parsons show, Saks will also include some of Gimbel's looks in their window displays. For additional information, head to the New School's rundown of the show.
· Parsons Presents Sopheie Gimbel: Fashioning American Couture [New School]