Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Woman's Dress, 1948–58

Woman's Dress, 1948–58

Description
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.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
dress, 2-piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Woman
Dress
Entire Body
Date made
1960 - 196900
1946-1956
designer
Simpson, Adele
Simpson, Adele
made in
United States: New York, New York City
Measurements
center back: 45 3/8 in; 115.2525 cm
ID Number
CS.310259.005
catalog number
310259.005
accession number
310259
Credit Line
Washington Fashion Group
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Note: Comment submission on our collection pages is temporarily unavailable. Please check back soon!

If you have a question or require a personal response, please visit our FAQ or contact page.