With between 50,000 to 60,000 pieces of clothing, the Chicago History Museum has one of largest fashion collections in the United States. "Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier" exhibition is on view at the Chicago History Museum until August 20th, 2017. This exhibition celebrates Mainbocher's (pronounced "Mahn-bo-SHAY") fascinating life, his journey as a fashion designer, and contributions to the fashion industry.
Curator of Costumes Petra Slinkard stated that the Chicago native's career of over 40 years had not yet been featured in an exhibition on this level before. As a fellow Chicagoan, I was excited and proud that the Chicago History Museum was able to tell Mainbocher's story for the first time. What a significant contribution to the fashion industry! Mainbocher put Chicago on the fashion map. Most of us just didn't know it until now.
The Fashion Group International of Chicago hosted a private, guided exhibition tour with collection curator Petra Slinkard on February 21st. The exhibition covers his childhood in Chicago, follows Mainbocher's fashion career in Paris and New York and discusses his major fashion contributions. She captivated our group with anecdotes not widely known about his life and fashion career. Except for two dresses, there are 30 pieces in the exhibit that are part of the permanent collection of the Chicago History Museum . Photography, an original painting, and illustrations are featured as well.
Before Main Bocher was a fashion designer, he served in the United States Army and was a baritone opera singer, an artist, a magazine editor and a fashion illustrator. A summary of his life and career:
Birth Name: Main Rousseau Bocher
Birthplace: Chicago, IL (East Garfield Park)
1911-1917: Lived in Paris, Munich, London, and New York
1917: Served in the Ambulance Core in Paris & enlists in the U.S. Army
1919: Honorably discharged from the U.S. Army
1921: Fashion Illustrator, Harper's Bazaar
1923: Editor, French Vogue
1927-1929: Editor in Chief, French Vogue
1929-1930: Teaches himself how to design fashion
1930: Opened fashion house "Mainbocher Couture" at 12 Avenue George V, Paris
1937: Designed Duchess of Windsor wedding gown and trousseau
New York: 1940–1971
1940: Opened fashion house at 6 East 57th Street, NY
1940: Licensed collaboration with Warner Brother Corsets Company to create Mainbocher Warner Brothers corset
1942: Designed 3 uniforms for Navy WAVES
1948: Designed for America’s Girl Scouts (pro bono)
1949: Designed nursing student uniforms for Chicago’s Passavant Memorial Hospital (pro bono)
1971: Retired (81 years old)
1971-1976: Lived in Munich and Paris
1976: Death (86 years old)
2002: Induction into New York City's Fashion Hall of Fame
Mainbocher Fashion Design Contributions & Credits
Mainbocher Fun Facts
Mainbocher's story is not only fascinating, but also inspiring. He carved his path to fashion greatness and in many ways did it first.
Thank you, Main Rousseau Bocher. You make Chicago proud.
"Mainbocher is really in advance of us all, because he does it in America."
- Christian Dior
Chicago History Museum
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier is open now until August 2017
Source: Chicago History Museum