Empresses of Seventh Avenue: World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion (Hardcover)

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In the tradition of The Barbizon and The Girls of Atomic City, fashion historian and journalist Nancy MacDonell chronicles the untold story of how the Nazi invasion of France gave rise to the American fashion industry.

Calvin Klein. Ralph Lauren. Donna Karan. Halston. Marc Jacobs. Tom Ford. Michael Kors. Tory Burch. Today, American designers are some of the biggest names in fashion, yet before World War II, they almost always worked anonymously. The industry, then centered on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, had always looked overseas for "inspiration"—a polite phrase for what was often blatant copying—because style, as all the world knew, came from Paris.

But when the Nazis invaded France in 1940, the capital of fashion was cut off from the rest of the world. The story of the chaos and tragedy that followed has been told many times—but how it directly affected American fashion is largely unknown.

Defying the naysayers, New York-based designers, retailers, editors, and photographers met the moment, turning out clothes that were perfectly suited to the American way of life: sophisticated, modern, comfortable, and affordable. By the end of the war, "the American Look" had been firmly established as a fresh, easy elegance that combined function with style. But none of it would have happened without the influence and ingenuity of a small group of women who have largely been lost to history.

Empresses of Seventh Avenue will tell the story of how these extraordinary women put American fashion on the world stage and created the template for modern style—and how the nearly $500 billion American fashion industry, the largest in the world, could not have accrued its power and wealth without their farsightedness and determination.

About the Author

Nancy MacDonell is a fashion journalist and fashion historian. She writes the Wall Street Journal column "Fashion with a Past," in which she explores the historic roots of current fashion trends. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, Vogue, and many other publications. She is the author of five books, including The Classic Ten: The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites. Nancy is an adjunct lecturer in fashion history at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was born in Montréal and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Praise For…

"MacDonell’s book introduces us to the extraordinary American women who shaped our industry." —Tory Burch

"Why are so many of fashion’s top design jobs still mostly held by men? At a moment when fashion’s woman problem is once again making headlines, MacDonell’s history of the female designers of early Seventh Avenue is a cheering, illuminating read." —Nicole Phelps, Global Director, Vogue Runway and Vogue Business

"Nancy MacDonell understands not only what clothes are but what they represent, the international politics and national tics behind them, what they can and should be and why. Her fascinating history will introduce a reader to unforgettable characters as she enlivens pockets of as-yet-unconnected history. An American-designed dress doesn't look the same after reading this book." —Julia Cooke, author of Come Fly The World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am

"In her densely researched, yet deliciously readable Empresses of Seventh Avenue, MacDonell charts how the scrappy American fashion industry came to rival the one in Paris. Her book crackles. It’s chic, original, and packed with characters with moxie, from the familiar—Dior, Snow, Vreeland—to the near forgotten, including such gems as the shrewd publicist Eleanor Lambert and Elizabeth Hawes, raging anarchist and designer." —Penelope Rowlands, author of A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters

"At last.... the book we have been waiting for! MacDonell's exquisitely researched book is a love letter to the women responsible for the rise of American fashion. From the powerhouse players working behind the scenes as department store executives and fashion photographers to the designers who gifted women the novelty of practical chic and the fashion journalists who sung their praises, this book is the first to paint an immersive picture of the seminal role women played in American fashion's emergence from the shadow of Paris at the turn of the 20th century and beyond." —April Calahan, Fashion Historian, and host of "Dressed: The History of Fashion" podcast

"Nancy MacDonell uncovers the fascinating, forgotten history of the women who shaped American fashion as we know it today in sumptuous detail. This is an eye-opening, propulsive, and important book." —Amy Odell, New York Times bestselling author of Anna: The Biography

"Confident and approachable, Empresses of Seventh Avenue is more than a scrupulously-researched source for anyone interested in fashion. The lives of these pioneering American Women and their myriad of talents and aesthetics are crafted by MacDonell the way a florist blends an exuberant assemblage of disparate blooms—from hothouse orchids to humble wildflowers—and places them in a compelling literary narrative that is as clear and lucid as a cut crystal vase." —Patricia Mears, author and deputy director at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading Empresses of Seventh Avenue. It brought back many memories, long forgotten or unknown, in vivid detail about the American fashion industry. I loved reading about the women who built the industry in America." —Carol Spencer, author of Dressing Barbie

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250288738
ISBN-10: 1250288738
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 27th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English