Most fashion histories only discuss the most famous, innovative or avant garde fashion designers. This leads to a sadly distorted picture of what fashionable women wore. Only a tiny minority ever donned one of Poiret's lampshade tunics, or one of Jean-Paul Gaultier's cone bras. The Hidden History of American Fashion corrects this view by concentrating on the less well-known women designers who were the backbone of the American fashion industry in the 20th century. Some designed for the high end of the market (Fira Beneson and Zelda Wynn Valdes) some for Main Street (Libby Payne) and some disappeared behind their labels (Jean Wright, aka "Lilli Ann" and Nicki Ladany, aka "Catherine Scott"). This book even contains chapters on a knitting pattern designer (Virginia Woods Bellamy) and two children's designers (Helen Lee and Suzanne Godart)!
No doubt this collection of essays is only skimming the surface of this fascinating topic. Hopefully someone will dive deeper into these waters at a later date and tell us more about the people behind the fashion labels. For the moment this book is amply sufficient: it explores some interesting and little known aspects of mid-century fashion history—one of my favourite eras!
The hidden history of American Fashion: rediscovering 20th century women designers
Edited by Nancy Deihl
London: Bloomsbury, 2018