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Pauline Trigère

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13 February 2002, New York City, New York, United States

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Pauline Trigère (1912–2002) was a French fashion designer, known for her crisp, tailored cuts and innovative ideas.

Trigère was born in Paris to Russian Jewish parents. Her father Alexandre was a tailor, her mother Cecile was a dressmaker. Trigère designed her first dress in her early teens, but at that age she was more interested in acting and medicine than fashion design. While still living in Paris, Trigère apprenticed at Martial et Armand and married Lazar Radley, a Russian Jewish tailor.

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Uneasy about the political situation, Trigère, her mother, her husband, and their two sons left Paris in 1937. Trigère did not foresee running her own business when she first arrived in New York. In a 1984, she said of this time in her life “I was really a little housewife with two small children and I had a husband who really didn’t want his wife to work." After arriving in New York, Trigère found work assisting Travis Banton at Hattie Carnegie. Carnegie closed the shop Trigère worked at after Pearl Harbor, Trigere put together a collection of eleven dresses. Travelling by Greyhound Bus, her brother sold the dresses took the dresses to department across the country. The endeavor was a success and a year later, Trigère took over Carnegie’s lease, paying double the rent. Trigère won the first of her three Coty Awards in 1949. Lazar left the family in 1942 and the couple eventually divorced. According to Trigère, “He didn’t like the competition. That’s why I’m not married to him anymore.”

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Trigère did not sketch her designs, she cut and draped from bolts of fabric. Although she was considered "a designer of classy, frill-less ready-to-wear," Trigère's work was inventive in many ways. In the 1940s, Trigère was among the first designers to use common fabrics as cotton and wool in evening wear. In the 1960s, she introduced the jumpsuit as a fashion staple. In 1967, she designed the first rhinestone bra.

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In 1985, Los Angeles Times writer Bettijane Levine described the glamour of Trigère's clothing: "They seem to lend stature or stage presence even to those who don't look commanding in some other designer's outfits. By virtue of their couture-type structure and tailoring, they make even average-height women look statuesque."

In 1961, Trigère became the first name designer to use an African-American model when she hired Beverly Valdes for a permanent position in her store. In response, one major Memphis store threatened to pull their business but when Trigère held firm, the store relented and continued to buy her fashions.

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Trigère's fashions were worn by many famous women including Beverly Sills, Evelyn Lauder, Lena Horne, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, and Wallis Simpson. Trigère also designing many of Patricia Neal's costumes for Breakfast at Tiffany's, additional dresses were designed by Edith Head.

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In 1992, Trigère celebrated her 50th anniversary in fashion with benefit fashion show and dinner for 600 guests at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. In 1993, Trigère received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In 2001, she was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor.

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Pauline Trigère's papers are held by Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections.


Pauline Trigère Wikipedia

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