Pauline Trigere Oral History

Special Collections and College Archives


Pauline Trigere Oral History
Contributor Names
Trigére, Pauline
Green, Robert L. (Interviewer)
Date Digitized
Audio recording of American fashion designer, Pauline Trigere. Interviewed by Robert L. Green of the Fashion Institute of Technology on November 13, 1979 at her Park Avenue apartment.
Part 1 covers Trigere's arrival in New York City from Paris in 1937, her start in fashion through the coat business run by her husband and by her brother, her brief work at Ben Gershel as Travis Benton's assistant, and then her work as assistant designer at Hattie Carnegie. Trigere explains how this last job led to her opening her own business in 1942, which turns the convsersation towards the long work required in fashion and the over saturation of the fashion design field. Trigere also speaks repeatedly of American fashion and French fashion, and the importance of "style" versus "fashion" and how she has tried to make "style" a key element in her designs. Toward the end of the interview, Trigere comments on her ability to change over time, in taste and opinion. She then goes on to speak of her stature as an American designer and how it has affected her.
In Part 2, Trigere goes further into the topic of the American fashion designer and the relationship between French couture and American design. The beginning of the conversation covers the effects of WWII on fashion, specifically in America. Trigere returns to the story of her time working under Travis Banton at Hattie Carnegie, which leads from Banton's style to Trigere's own style. Trigere's process of creating a collection is described at length and there is some discussion of the fashion press. In addition to her design process, Trigere discusses her use of store-wide meetings and the importance of the sales team. There is some discussion of architecture, sculpture, and the modern use of space in interiors. Trigere talks about the necessity of compromise over time in regards to materials and there is a lengthy discussion about knowing the customer, and how she may differ by region. This conversation focuses on Palm Beach and ends with an aknowledgement of the power of influence and exposure.
In Part 3, Trigere returns to a number of topics which were briefly mentioned in the first two interviews. In particular, Trigere starts with the full story of how she became close with American fashion designer Adele Simpson. Next, she elaborates on the role of her longtime assistant, Lucie Porges. Porges and Trigere had been working together for 28 years at the time of this interview. This leads to a discussion on the role of the assistant in the fashion world and the role of the designer in guiding her assistants. Trigere, who was teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the time of this interview, shares her beliefs regarding the best methods of educating future designers. Trigere's process of draping is explored along with her full creative process. In discussing the skills required to conduct proper fittings, Trigere touches on the changing couture client. A brief discussion on the art of packing and shopping for a careful wardrobe turns to a discussion on the changing economy and its effect on fashion. The recession is not explicity mentioned but this interview did take place at the time of the oil crisis in America. In regards to authenticity, Trigere compares Parisian couture copies to American knock-offs, arguing that these are two different scenarios. Trigere's hiring of black model Berverly Valdes in 1961 is discussed in the context of 7th avenue fashion's resistance to non-white models. Before discussing her own beliefs and personal life, Trigere describes the ideal "Trigere Woman" to be an educated family woman who is dynamic and not frivolous. Trigere's personal beliefs and home life are discussed with special focus on her connection to turtles, her early life as an immigrant, family, her country house: 'La Tortue', her students, and her passion for gardening. The conversation ends with a discussion on the difficulty of keeping work and personal life separate.
Pauline Trigere was born November 4th, 1908 in Paris, France and died February 13th, 2002 in New York City. Despite growing up in Paris, Trigere became a prominent and influential American fashion designer and was an advocate for American fashion design, serving as one of the original founding memebers of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 1962. Trigere arrived in New York on January 6th, 1937, when she and her husband and two children left Europe as Hitler began gaining power. Trigere's brother and husband opened a coat warehouse which led, eventually, to Trigere designing dresses for the business. After separating from her husband, Trigere briefly worked for Ben Gershel and then Hattie Carnegie. Trigere eventually took over the workshop when Hattie Carnegie closed her ready-to-wear line in 1942; this was the beginning of Pauline Trigere's own business. Mostly designing by draping on live models, Trigere became known for her timeless styles which avoided being overly trendy. Crisp tailoring that was also decidedly feminine exemplified Trigere's style in addition to her innovative use of cotton and wool in evening wear. She was also known for her use of fur trim. Trigere received 3 Coty awards; first in 1949, then in 1951, and then in 1959 with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Additionally, Trigere received the Neiman Marcus award in 1950, the National Cotton Council of America award in 1951, and the Filene award in 1959. Trigere was also honored by her birth city in 1972 and 1982 with the Silver Medal of the City of Paris.
Oral histories
Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). Special Collections and College Archives
Fashion design
Fashion designers
Related Materials
Finding Aid
In Copyright
This video was produced by the Fashion Institute of Technology ("FIT") and is the property of FIT. FIT expressly prohibits the copying, displaying, or uploading to a website of any portion of this video, except for the purposes of fair use as defined in the copyright laws, without express written permission from FIT. This video has been made available online by the Fashion Institute of Technology Gladys Marcus Library strictly for research and educational purposes. If you are the copyright holder for content in this video and have any objections to this work being made available online, please notify us immediately at [email protected].
FIT Repository ID: aod_000802
SPARC reference code: US.NNFIT.SC.FITA.


Special Collections and College Archives


Project of the Fashion Industries oral history series, 1977-1990


Fashion Institute of Technology. (1979, November 13). Pauline Trigere Oral History [Video]. Archive on Demand.
Fashion Institute of Technology. "Pauline Trigere Oral History." Archive on Demand, 13 Nov. 1979,
Fashion Institute of Technology, "Pauline Trigere Oral History," Archive on Demand, November 13, 1979, video,