Woman's Dress, 1948–58


There is no information as to who wore this dress designed by Adele Simpson. The Washington Fashion Group, a chapter of the Fashion Group International, donated this dress to the Smithsonian Institution in 1975. This association of women executives began in 1931 at the insistence of a few prominent women in the fashion industry who wanted to promote more careers for women in the fashion business.

Adele Simpson, who was born in New York in 1905, created ready-made clothes for the sophisticated, yet conservative, American woman. She was one of the founders of the Fashion Group International and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. By 1924, she was one of the highest paid designers in the fashion industry, but her name was not known to the general public. At that time, manufacturers only put their name, not the designer’s, on their labels. When Ms. Simpson purchased Mary Lee, Inc. in 1949, where she had been working as chief designer, she changed the name to her own. She continued to run the business until her retirement in 1980. Her dresses were sold in the country’s leading department and specialty stores. Her customer list included five women who were or would become First Ladies of the United States: Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Rosalynn Carter, and Barbara Bush.

Adele Simpson loved to travel and was interested in indigenous art from many parts of the world. She incorporated Indian fabrics in many of her collections, as evidenced in this dress, which was made from a sari.

This full length two-piece dress is constructed from a burnt orange and gold silk sari cloth. The dress is cut straight with shoestring straps, and it is semi-fitted with long darts on either side of the center front and the center back. Additional darts on the sides control the fit in place of side seams. There is a heavy gold metallic border at the bust and the hemline. A horizontal band with a curved wedge is inserted under the border at the bust for further shaping. There is a metal zipper at the center back opening. The accompanying shawl has a gold metallic woven border that is more prominent in the front. There is a snap closure covered with a bow that fastens over the shoulder. The center back of the dress measures 45 3/8 inches.

Date Made: 1960 - 1969001946-1956

Designer: Simpson, AdeleSimpson, Adele

Location: Currently not on view

Made In: United States: New York, New York City

See more items in: Home and Community Life: Costume, Clothing & Accessories


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of The Washington Fashion Group

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: CS.310259.005Catalog Number: 310259.005Accession Number: 310259

Object Name: dress, 2-pieceObject Type: Main DressWomanDressEntire Body

Measurements: center back: 45 3/8 in; 115.2525 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a1-6532-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_360605

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