A lovely comment from an article from Vogue where Miuccia Prada is asked whether she considers fashion art: “In the end I decided, “Who cares what it is?” she says, laughing, “The important thing is if it’s good or not.”
Born in Hampstead in 1891, Molyneux (d. 1974) got his start in fashion in 1911 when he won a competition sponsored by the London couturiere Lucile. Upon winning this competition, he was allowed to sketch for the designer herself. Molyneux continued to work for Lucile until the outset of World War I, when in 1914 he joined the British Army and earned the rank of captain. During his time at war, he was wounded three times and lost an eye.
Evening Dress, 1939, V&A
In 1919, Molyneux opened his own couture house in Paris and later added branches in Monte Carlo, Cannes and London. Molyneux escaped France at the outset of World War II by boarding a fishing boat leaving Bourdeaux. While living in London during World War II, Molyneux was one of the original members of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, an organization founded by Norman Hartnell. In 1946 he returned to Paris and reopened his couture house. He added to his line of offerings by designing furs, lingerie, millinery and perfumes. In 1949, Molyneux closed his London house due to ill health and threatened blindness in his remaining eye. In 1950 he turned the operations of his Paris house over to Jacques Griffe, a well-known tailor of the time. Molyneux then retired to Montego Bay in Jamaica but came out of retirement to design a line of ready-to-wear items to be sold in America in 1965. This endeavor was not successful, and Molyneux once again retired, this time to Biot, near Antibes.
Day Dress, Autumn 1942, V&A
Molyneux is remembered for his fluid, elegant clothes and timeless creations. He designed printed silk suits with pleated skirts and tailored suits, coats and capes. His clientele included Princess Marina of Greece, for whom he designed a wedding dress when she married the Duke of Kent. Other clients included the Duchess of Windsor, and film personalities like Lynn Fontanne, Gertrude Lawrence and Merle Oberon.
For further reading: “Who’s Who in Fashion” by Anne Stegemeyer and “Fashion: The Century of the Designer” by Charlotte Seeling
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Costume Society of America Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia. It was such a great experience and I feel anyone interested in fashion and dress should join the Costume Society of America and try to attend this annual symposium.
During my time in Atlanta, I attended a workshop about working with mannequins, a presentation on exhibition planning, and a workshop on making invisible felt mounts for displays. I also attended as many of the research presentations as I could, all of which were very interesting, and toured the Atlanta History Center and Swan House.
The Costume Society of America Symposium also offered the chance to meet peers in my field. It was wonderful to meet so many people interested in the same field as I am and to hear where their interests are taking them. Fashion and dress history is a rather small field but the chance to connect with others was a highlight of the symposium for me.
Next year the symposium will be in Las Vegas and I’m already looking forward to it. It will be so nice to reconnect with people I met this year and to hear what they have been up to! I’m also excited to meet any new members who decide to make the trip to Las Vegas! The symposium was a great experience for me as I’ve just graduated with my Masters in fashion and dress history and am trying to find a job in the museum world.
If could sum up the experience in one word it would be: phenomenal.