The Excessive Sophistication of Pauline Trigère
By Glynis Ward with Linda Ferguson
Sometimes the most wonderful things are borne out of necessity (after all, it is the mother of invention!), and so it was with one of the most famous 20th century female fashion designers, Pauline Trigère.
Trigère was born in Paris, but migrated to the United States in the 1930s and became a citizen of the U.S. in the 1940s. Daughter of a tailor, Trigère found herself without a husband or a means of support for herself and her children during the 1940s. She had longed to work professionally in fashion, and now was her chance. She worked for several design houses in New York, and opened her own shop in 1942. She put to use the skills she had learned from her father and those that she acquired while working in the salon Martial et Armand in the Place Vendôme. Trigère designed and made 11 different dresses, which her brother showed to some of the boutiques in the country. Enthralled with Trigère's ability to combine perfectly fitting garments which were both as extravagant as they were sophistocated, a number of stores purchased her designs.
By the 1950s, Pauline Trigère's name was part of the glamorous excess of Hollywood fashion. Her exquisite tailoring and feminine-fitting clothing was highly desired by the wealthy and famous. She could create day dresses which fit like a glove, cut in an extremely flattering style simple and elegant or devastatingly complicated gowns and opera coats dripping with adornments. Trigère designs commanded some of the highest prices often because they were made with very expensive materials such as real gold or gemstones. Trigère is also known for designing Patricia Neal's sophisticated wardrobe in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".
Coats were Trigère's most recognized garment; her innovations in their cut and style continued for 30 years. Trigère is noted for creating the first reversible coat, the sleeveless coat and coats with detachable scarves. Her signature design is the turtle, which can be found in many of her fabrics. She has a vast personal collection of turtles in various forms and materials, including jewelry, which she often wears. Indeed, even her home in Lewisboro, New York is called "the Turtle" in French.Although there were times when in public Trigère fell from grace, many of her patrons stayed true. Towards the end of the 1970s, Trigère began to slow down her production and now functions as an enthusiastic mentor for promising fashion design students. Recently, with the rise in interest in Hollywood style glamour of yesteryear, Trigère's early designs are once again becoming very popular. Trigère currently works on her line of jewelry, fragrances, and accessories. The 92-year old designer is also marketing a line of fancy walking sticks and walker accessories for senior citizens.
The Beverly Birks collection has some exquisite examples of Trigère's designs. You can view some of it online here.
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