Anne Fogarty in her Studio 1950’s photo credit unknown
Anne Fogarty was one of the group of female creators who made American fashion important via their creative designs. The stars were Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, and Anne Fogarty who appealed to a modern post-war clientele. There were, of course, the higher priced designs of Norman Norell, Pauline Trigere, etc. that were almost Couture in look and cost. These innovative women put the American look on the International map. I was fortunate, once again, to have worked with both Bonnie Cashin (I will write several posts on her, a profile on her Biographer, Stephanie Lake, and her book and my personal experiences with her in upcoming posts), and Anne Fogarty, who I am profiling here. I did not, unfortunately, have the opportunity to work with Claire McCardell, but am a huge admirer of her creativity.
Saks Fifth Avenue 1958 Vogue Advertisement
In 1957 she signed a contract with Saks Fifth Avenue to design exclusively for our stores. It was at that time, my first year in the Fashion Office, that I worked with her. She was very quiet and very, very tiny. Reputed to have an 18-inch waist, she emphasized it with her signature tiny top and full skirted dresses and separates. The skirts were made even fuller with layers of petticoats (much like the skirts I wore in high school). You see her wearing one of her creations on the cover of her book Wife Dressing first published in 1958 and reissued in 2007. At the time, the title wasn’t politically incorrect and wasn’t meant to be. There weren’t too many “self-help” books at the time and it was rather tongue in cheek and a fun read..
First published 1959
New edition 2007
I wanted to share one memory that has lingered in my mind. In 1959 Anne Fogarty decided to do a collection of separates, rather unheard of at the time and included swimsuits, along with one piece rompers, overalls, shorts, etc. She sold 800 white lace bikinis at Saks in 1959 at the amazing price of $30.00! She loved gingham checks (influenced by Adrian perhaps?!) and used them in all her collections. She had already won many awards including the Fashion Critics’ Award in 1951 and the Neiman Marcus Award in 1952. In 1960 she received the Sports Illustrated Designer of the Year Award, yes, there was such an award. Since the Time Magazine headquarters, at the time, were in Chicago the Award was to be presented in Chicago. It was to be a huge press event with invited guests, I don’t remember if it was for a charity or not (almost every show/event we did was to benefit a charity), but do know it was HUGE! I had to work hard at finding young, shorter than average models…remember the models looked like the Norell models I have described previously and also recall Eleanor’s post and her elegant look! Well, find them I did. I must admit a couple of miscues…one being a model who, for some unknown reason, I hadn’t looked at in shorts or swimsuit, who when in them had legs that were the same size from ankle to hip, much like a stork…unfortunately, she didn’t make it to the finals but did make it to the morning staff show at least to the dressing room area when I caught my error! We did the final fittings and all was good. The event was to be held at the Imperial House on Walton Street, a magnificent restaurant, very elegant, very upscale. ..truly not the look of the clothes, but THE place to be. We were all set and I am waiting for the models to arrive. In comes one of Chicago’s top models with her hair done a la the Avadon Sphinx photos, huge hair teased within an inch of its life…hardly a young sportswear look. After I totally freaked out (not that any one could see, of course) and hoped no one had seen her arrive (by the way she thought she looked amazing!!!!) I took her into the Ladies Room and by some miracle got her hair into a low ponytail. All was saved!
Ms. Fogarty was not the easier designer I worked with, very quiet, very reserved ( I was still too new to be able to anticipate a designer’s needs and thoughts, that would come in time) but in my opinion, she read her customers perfectly. She dressed like them, had their lifestyle, therefore knew their needs and gave them what they didn’t know they wanted to wear…the mark of a true creator and marketer. Anne Fogarty designs had their own distinctive style that you could immediately recognize. It was an honor to have worked with such an innovator.
A quote from her “I feel that the greatest contribution I have made to sportswear is that of femininity.”