About This Video
Adele Simpson Oral History (part 1)
Designer, Adele Simpson, interviewed by Phyllis Feldkamp
The interview covers Simpson's childhood and early interest in sewing and fashion design. Discussion topics include her start at Ben Gershel, her work with William Bass, and her eventual role as head designer for Mary Lee Frocks. Conducted in 1978, the conversation provides information on the importance of Manhattan's Seventh Avenue within the fashion industry. Simpson also discusses her advice column, "Adele Simpson Says," which ran in The New Yorker in the 1960s. An avid traveler, Simpson repeatedly discusses smart preparation for a trip (especially in terms of packing) and how to experience a foreign place. Simpson's family life comes up several times in the interview, providing contextual information on the life of working mothers, specifically in the fashion industry in the mid-twentieth century.
Adele Simpson was born Adele Smithline in New York City, December 28th, 1904 and died in Greenwich, Connecticut in August, 1995. One of the founders of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Simpson was an American fashion designer specializing in women's ready-to-wear ensembles. Her designs were conservative and comfortable adaptations of the mode of the time, earning Simpson a Coty award in 1947. Simpson had a special interest in textiles and frequently used cotton as well as sumptuos textiles inspired by her travels. Her main clientele was the busy modern woman who cared about style. Simpson also designed for four of the American first ladies, Mrs. Nixon, Mrs. Eisenhower, Mrs. Carter, and Mrs. Johnson. At the time of this interview, Simpson had just donated her "Simpsonian Institute" collection of fashion magazines, inspirational artifacts, and garments from seasons past to the Fashion Institute of Technology. The interview was conducted at a time when Simpson's company was producing 30,000 garments annually which were then carried in approximately 450 stores, according to Ms. Simpson. No longer the head designer of the Adele Simpson clothing line in 1978, Simpson continued to oversee the overall design process, eventually passing the company on to her daughter and son-in-law. This interview was conducted by Phyllis Feldkamp, a prominent fashion writer and editor.
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