Everyone knows Dior. Some of us know Charles Worth. And yes, we have all been blessed with Coco Chanel. But, there are many many other designers that brought the most revolution to the table in the realm of fashion and design–particularly women designers. I am going to share how three of them have contributed to what fashion is today. Rose Bertin, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Mary Quant are the stars of this article today.
Rose Bertin is known for many things; first of which being the uncredited creator of fashion design as a profession. She was the Merchant de Mode to our favorite fashionista, Marie Antoinette. She is known to be the first celebrity stylist before fashion design was even a widely known activity. She was born in 1747 to humble beginnings and grew up to have over 1500 clients including actresses and other celebrities of France and the Queen herself. She held back nothing when it came to indulgence and extravagance when it came to making things for her clients. Merchant de Modes were limited to adding trim, and hats and such until 1776 although most didn’t follow that rule very well and found many loopholes to be able to design full dresses. They really are the first fashion designers. Some might say that while Charles Worth is the father of Haute Couture, Bertin is the Grandmother of it. She really considered herself to be an artist.
For women of the day it was almost a competition to gain the attention from well-known merchant de modes. And Rose dresses many celebrities and actresses. This was in itself controversial. She was admitted to the queen’s royal bedchambers which was very different from all other dressmakers of queens. They normally were not allowed to have other customers or be so chummy with the queen in order to keep gossip about the royals at bay.
Elsa Schiaparelli is a magic making fashion designer. She created clothing as art for her time and is an artist at heart. Elsa symbolized daring, wit, and glamour in her artwork. Some called her the genius couturier not only referring to design and style but to the spirit and creativity of the era. She is truly, to this day the only one of her kind. She surrounded herself with the creativity and artistic aristocracy of the day. Schiap succeeded and blossomed in a world where prettiness wasn’t the focus; it didn’t matter as much as the character and individuality you represented with fashion.
Schiap started to work in costumes for Hollywood, dressing the most popular stars of the screen. She also started the movement of designing feminine adaptations of menswear. Her most popular creation though, was her perfume called “Shocking” and it became an instant best seller. This perfume is her equivalent to Dior’s New Look. And that is the lady who basically invented shocking pink and art in fashion.
Mary was born in london, studied art education, and is the most iconic designer of the 1960s. She is a completely self taught sewist by taking evening classes while in school. And eventually she opened a boutique with her partner called Bazaar. This boutique started the hand to mouth production cycle in the fashion industry. This meant that what they told during the day made the money to buy cloth to be turned into clothes overnight for the next day of selling. Bazaar offered fresh unique looks in this decade. She designed one of the only alternatives to the mature styles produced by other designers.
She drew influences from dancers and musicians of the era but most importantly from the Mods—modernists. This subculture helped define London youth. She was known to be strikingly modern, simple, and to create wearable pieces. she wanted to create high fashion versions of the outfits she wore as a child to school and dance. Mary is credited to have created the most popular silhouette of the sixties-the mini skirt, along with shift dresses, the skinny rib sweater, and hot pants which became her trademark with help from Twiggy.
Dressed: A History of Fashion. Episode 10: Rose Bertin. Podcast. April 24, 2018.