6 Forgotten Women in Fashion

Giving overlooked designers the credit they deserve

By Google Arts & Culture

Coco Chanel (1969) by AFP PhotoFonds de Dotation Francoise Giroud

You know the names of Coco Chanel and Vivienne Westwood, who have pioneered the fashion industry. However, there are plenty more women designers who don't get the credit they deserve. Let's take a look at a few...

Dress - Bowl Dress - Bowl (1950/1975)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Bonnie Cashin

Bonnie Cashin created innovative and uncomplicated clothing that was designed for modern women in the post war period. This included designing sportswear for the emerging female market.

Detail of beach ensemble (1960) by Bonnie CashinThe Museum at FIT

Cashin also worked in Hollywood costume design before making the move to the ready-to-wear market. She retired from the industry in 1985 and her status as a pioneer somewhat faded subsequently.

Ball gown in Chantilly lace over silver-white duchesse silk satin (1957) by Ann LoweMuseum of the City of New York

Ann Lowe

Ann Lowe is known as the first African American to become a noted fashion designer in the United States. Her one-of-a-kind designs were worn by high society throughout the 1920s to the 1960s.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in Ann Lowe Wedding Dress (1953-09-12) by Toni Frissell and Ann LoweSmithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Despite it being such a high profile wedding, Lowe is often overlooked as the designer behind the incredible wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier for her marraige to Senator John F. Kennedy.

Mme. Louise Boulanger (1923-1930) by Durr Friedley (Freedley) (American, 1888-1938)Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

Louise Boulanger

A hugely talented designer, Louise Boulanger dominated the Paris fashion scene in the 1920s. Her trademark was designing graceful and elegant evening dresses, that were often closely fitted around the torso and then layered or elaborately designed on the bottom half.

Evening dress (1929) by Louise BoulangerThe Museum at FIT

Boulanger favoured textiles rather than embroidery, and often used a selection of the same colors, including orange, peach, and rose pink. Her clothes were worn by all the great and good of the day, including film star Marlene Dietrich.

Très Parisien, 1927, No. 3, Pl. 11: Créations JANE REGNY - PROMENADE (1927) by Joumard, G-P.Rijksmuseum

Jane Régny

The pseudonym of the French fashion designer Madame Balouzet Tillard de Tigny, Jane Régny was another designer who dominated the industry in the 1920s and 30s. Before becoming a designer she had been a renowned tennis player and specialized in making sports clothing.

Art - Goût - Beauté, Feuillets de l' élégance féminine, Novembre 1931, No. 135, 12e Année, p. 7 (1931) by Drivon, R.Rijksmuseum

Working out of her own salon on the Rue La Boetie, assisted by her husband, Régny made sportswear her primary focus, which was very unusual for the time. But also way ahead of the curve.

Evening Dress and Hoop (1927) by Jeanne Lanvin (French, b.1867, d.1946)Cincinnati Art Museum

Jeanne Lanvin

A contemporary of Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin was renowned for the elegance and modernity of her creations. Lanvin was a true fashion pioneer, always looking to push boundaries and change the way people thought about clothes.

Evening Dress [Left] Evening Dress [Right] (c. 1911 [Left] c. 1911 [Right]) by Jeanne Lanvin [Left] unknown [Right]The Kyoto Costume Institute

Although overshadowed by the success of Chanel, the fashion house she founded is still going strong, one of the oldest continuous presences in the fashion world.

Hostess Gown (1939 Summer) by Madeleine VionnetThe Kyoto Costume Institute

Madeleine Vionnet

Among those in the know, Madeleine Vionnet is considered  one of the finest fashion designers of the 20th century. However, her wider notoriety has faded over the years. Vionnet was obsessed with movement and the way fabrics would sit on the body, creating stunning evening gowns.

Vionnet's Picture Dress on Rose MoireCondé Nast Archive

Trained in London, she set up her own fashion house in Paris in 1912, but was forced to close for the duration of the First World War, before becoming one of the leading designers of the 1920s and 30s. She is perhaps best known for popularizing the 'bias cut'.

‘Gazette du Bon Ton’ UNE ROBE DE MADELEINE VIONNET (1922) by Ernest ThayahtIwami Art Museum

Explore more stories about overlooked, forgotten, or underappreciated women.

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