Monday, February 12, 2018

NORELL: Dean of American Fashion

These 1920's flapper-inspired ensembles were designed for Lauren Bacall. She has donated hundreds of gowns to MFIT, and a significant portion on the designs in the exhibition. Bacall was one of Norell’s many A-List clientele, along with Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Paley, Doris Day, and Gloria Guinness.
Text & Photographs by Jill Lynne

“NORELL: Dean of American Fashion” is the name of the beautiful and informative new exhibition opening at the Museum of The Fashion Institute of Technology. The exhibit which will run through April 14th, showcases more than 100 examples from the last 12 years of the life of Norman Norell, who died at 72.

Guest curated by designer Jeffrey Banks under the Direction of Fashion Historian Patricia Mears and Fashion Historian and MFIT Director Valerie Steele, the breadth of Norell’s innovations in fashion are clearly evident in the presentation.
Guest curator, designer Jeffrey Banks.
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s fine exhibitions and programs is a credit to those who orchestrate it all, such as acclaimed fashion historian and director extraordinaire, Valerie Steele, and Patricia Mears, fashion historian and deputy director.
Jeffrey Banks leads the VIP pre-opening tour (pictured with Norell silk twill scarves).
The delightful fashionista (once model) Lisa Silhanek returned from her now home in Italy for NYFW. Showing up with extraordinary creativity, Louise Doctar is a continual wonder to behold.
President of the National Arts Club, and fashionista (known for her hat collection), Linda Zagaria popped in to celebrate. She is pictured against a sketch by the wonderful Designer Michaele Vollbracht. Couturier Maggie Norris is always a stylish regular. Here she is wearing one of her signature fitted historically inspired brocade coats.
Michelle Gerber Klein, who is a member of the Couture Council at FIT, is the author of the upcoming book, Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art. Long-time designer Adrienne Landau.
From a paired-down sleek silhouette reminiscent of the ‘20’s flapper, to fabrications in silk jersey, through the “mermaid” gowns with tiny sequins individually sewn onto body-skimming fabrics that evokes the allusion that the wearer seems to “float”!

When Norell first entered the New York garment business, it was known as “Seventh Avenue” or the “Rag Trade” and its bosses “Garmentos.” His designs raised the bar, elevating ready-to-wear to a level where it was taken seriously by the fashionable women. Some referred to him as “The American Balenciaga” with fashions “the equal to Paris.” His work brought him a clientele such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall, who gifted MFIT more than 100 pieces she acquired during those later years.
Norell, who was raised wearing sailor suits, integrated the classic look of the bow and square back draped collars into a wide range of designs. Here, a 1968 white oganza sailor gown fabricated with silk taffeta A 1972 silk crepe dark green dress embellished with rhinestones and mink —  Norell only used fur as a Trim — and short black dress with sewn-in sequin cross as highlight.
Gingham — historically a favored fabric — reinterpreted by Norell. Belts & Bows — Note the curve of the belt.
Norell Integrated elements borrowed from menswear, such as the double breasted suit look for coats and jackets. Also of note, his like of capulets in outer and Inner wear. These examples are circa 1968.
In 1960, Norell debuted his first breakthrough culottes. He fashioned them in wool suits, linen dresses, and here in evening ensembles. Inspired by the 19th century, Norell created this empire-style gown worn by Judy Garland.
Norell is acknowledged to have changed the silhouette to a lean, narrow, body-skimming style. Frequently employing silk jersey and other form-following fabrics, he led the avante garde way in the 1940s whether for business daywear or evening.
Fur trimmed evening coat with “Mermaids” — gowns of small sequins, allowing the wearer to flow gracefully. This multicolor printed silk satin evening robe dates from 1965-1967.  Norell was a colorist — appreciated for his understanding and use of a full color palette — subtle and bold.