Design in Exile: Jewish Contribution to Fashion

Center for Jewish History

Featuring the works of Lucie Marcus Ritter, Abe Grubère, and Ruth Phillips, from the collections of Leo Baeck Institute and Yeshiva University Museum 

The Center for Jewish History
The five partners housed at The Center for Jewish History are committed to collecting materials that reflect the diversity and beauty of Jewish culture and people across the diaspora, but also to preserving and reflecting the wide-ranging contributions made by Jews to the larger spectrum of intellectual and cultural history. As such, we have materials that are probative to many areas of studies within the social sciences, arts, and humanities, including fashion design. These sketches help to flesh out the historical record to reflect the Jewish contributions to fashion, fashion design, and the garment industry, but they also show a shared, uniquely Jewish legacy of persecution and flight from oppression. These “Designers in Exile” were able to bring their talents to America, where they were able to flourish and grow as artists, an outcome that would have been unlikely in their countries of origin.

The collection

These lovely drawings and sketches held by Leo Baeck Institute and Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History showcase the impressive accomplishments of the three featured designers. They also demonstrate, in a broader fashion, the impact that Jewish people have had in a variety of fields, including fashion design and the garment industry.

Lucie Marcus Ritter
Our first featured artist, Lucie Marcus Ritter, was born in 1895 in Breslau, Germany (today Wroclaw, Poland). She studied art in Breslau, and followed art as a career, receiving positive reviews and selling her work in Breslau galleries. 

Woman in a Blue Jacket
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s

Fashion illustration designed by Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman wearing a navy suit and a blue and white striped cap. She holds yellow gloves. Includes a detachable blue jacket that used to be attached.

Yellow Black Polka Dots
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s


Fashion illustration by Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman wearing a yellow black polka dots dress.

During the Nazi period, she moved with her husband to New York, where she received a job as a fashion designer for Inez Gowns.

Black Grecian Gown with Pink Cape
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s

Fashion illustration designed by Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman in a black Grecian dress with a pink cape. Sketch of another Roman figure on the left. Tracing paper attached to paper.

Pink Chiffon Bridesmaid Dress
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s

Fashion illustration designed by Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman wearing a pink evening gown and flowers around her neck. She holds a pink handkerchief.

Woman in a Black Cape
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s

Fashion illustration designed by Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman wearing a white evening gown. Affixed to the paper is a detachable black cape.

Grey Wool Suit with Green Hat
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s

Fashion illustration designed y Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman wearing a grey suit and green hat, holding black gloves in one hand and a purse in the other. On each side of the woman are two smaller figures showing details on the clothing.

White Gown with Organdy Tucks
Lucie Marcus Ritter for Inez Gowns
1940s

Fashion illustration designed by Lucie Marcus Ritter of a woman wearing a white dress with a bow at her throat. She holds a pink handkerchief and a rose in her hands.

Marcus Ritter's work at Inez Gowns led to more fashion design work in Los Angeles. She died in 1967.

Abe Grubère
Our second featured artist, Abe Grubère, was born Abraham Gruber in Russia, in 1899. He emigrated from there to the United States as a young child, ostensibly to escape the pogroms and anti-Semitic activity in Russia during that period of time. 

Drawing of Woman's Dress Suit
1920 - 1960
Abe Grubère

Drawing of a woman's dress suit designed by Abe Grubère, a New York City fashion designer, active in the field of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s. He had a long and illustrious career as a coat and suit designer and worked as a consultant to many leading coat and suit manufacturers.

Grubère's career

Grubère enjoyed a long and prolific career as a designer in the fashion industry, working for manufacturers such as Morris W. Haft & Bros., which was at the time the country's largest manufacturer of women's and misses' coats and suits. Professionally active on many different levels, Grubère was elected President of the Guild of Designers (1943) and also served on Mayor La Guardia's Committee on Creative Industry.

Drawing of Woman's Dress Suit
1920 - 1960
Abe Grubère

Drawing of a woman's dress suit designed by Abe Grubère, a New York City fashion designer, active in the field of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s. He had a long and illustrious career as a coat and suit designer and worked as a consultant to many leading coat and suit manufacturers.

Grubère's contribution to the garment industry

His contributions to the garment industry do not stop with his beautiful designs; he was also very involved in the teaching of future designers. Between 1943 and 1944 Grubère helped to organize and became the first director of a two-year course at the Straubenmuller Textile High School. The course, the first of its kind in New York, was designed for high school graduates and included practical dress designing, sketching, and other skills specific to the garment trades.

Drawing of Woman's Dress Suit
1920 - 1960
Abe Grubère

Drawing of a woman's dress suit designed by Abe Grubère, a New York City fashion designer, active in the field of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s. He had a long and illustrious career as a coat and suit designer and worked as a consultant to many leading coat and suit manufacturers.

Drawing of Woman's Dress Suit
1920 - 1960
Abe Grubère

Drawing of a woman's dress suit designed by Abe Grubère, a New York City fashion designer, active in the field of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s. He had a long and illustrious career as a coat and suit designer and worked as a consultant to many leading coat and suit manufacturers.

Grubère also briefly ran his own couture design house in the mid-1940’s.

Drawing of Woman's Suit with Beret
1920 - 1960
Abe Grubèr

Drawing of a woman's dress suit with beret designed by Abe Grubère, a New York City fashion designer, active in the field of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s. He had a long and illustrious career as a coat and suit designer and worked as a consultant to many leading coat and suit manufacturers.

Drawing of Woman's Dress Suit
1920 - 1960
Abe Grubère

Drawing of a woman's dress suit designed by Abe Grubère, a New York City fashion designer, active in the field of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s. He had a long and illustrious career as a coat and suit designer and worked as a consultant to many leading coat and suit manufacturers.

Grubère eventually returned to designing for other companies. Abe Grubère died in Brooklyn on August 2, 1970.

Ruth Phillips
Our third featured artist, Ruth Phillips, was born in Berlin to a Polish father and a German mother. She originally apprenticed in the fashion industry, after being forced to quit school due to the harsh restrictions imposed on Jews when Hitler rose to power in the 1930’s. 

White Silk Suit
1933 - 1937
Ruth Phillips

Fashion drawing of a suit by Ruth Phillips, made in Berlin around 1933-1937. Phillips apprenticed in the fashion industry after being forced to quit school under the Hitler regime. Her parents sent her to live with relatives in England, where she married a former German citizen serving as a British soldier in 1941. In the same year she was notified that her parents died in Polish concentration camps.

Phillips fled to Brighton, England, where she lived with relatives and eventually married a former German citizen serving as a British soldier in 1941. Unfortunately, her parents were not able to escape Germany, and died in concentration camps in 1941.

Green Dress
1933 - 1937
Ruth Phillips

Fashion drawing of a dress by Ruth Phillips, made in Berlin around 1933-1937. Phillips apprenticed in the fashion industry after being forced to quit school under the Hitler regime. Her parents sent her to live with relatives in England, where she married a former German citizen serving as a British soldier in 1941. In the same year she was notified that her parents died in Polish concentration camps.

The sketches shown are mainly dress and coat designs, drawn in Berlin around 1933-1937, while she was still an apprentice.

Search the collections

The collections held at the Center are used by scholars in many disciplines unrelated to Jewish history; our materials highlight the successes accomplished by Jews in virtually every field of study, and every possible career path. It is our mission to keep documenting these contributions to our shared history, including the humanities, sciences, and the arts. These designs are just a fraction of the treasures than can be found within our collections.

Credits: Story

Design in Exile, presented by Center for Jewish History and featuring work from the collections of Leo Baeck Institute and Yeshiva University Museum, was curated by Melanie Meyers and Laura E. Leone.

Lucie Marcus Ritter (AR 4393) and Ruth Phillips (AR 6909) works are from the collection of Leo Baeck Institute. Abe Grubère works are from the collection of Yeshiva University Museum.

Biographical information and research courtesy of Yeshiva University Museum, Leo Baeck Institute, and The Center for Jewish History.

Digitization was done at the Center for Jewish History in the Gruss Lipper Digital Laboratory.

CJH site
Digital collections

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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