BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“I am never the most beautiful woman in the room but I can always be the best dressed.”
There has not been a better occasion in recent months than the opening gala for the Chicago History Museum’s new exhibit, Making Mainbocher, to repeat the now-famous bon mot first uttered by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
Executive committee member of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum Sherrill Bodine perfectly captured the glamour of the celebration in echoing the words of the iconic American socialite, a favorite client of the legendary designer.
Vogue’s recent headline describing the show, “Mainbocher—The Most Important American Designer You’ve Never Heard Of—Is Getting His Due in Chicago,” was on the lips of Petra Slinkard, the show’s curator and the museum’s director of costumes, as she toured guests through the collection before dinner and dancing that evening.
Costume Council Gala co-chairs Nancy Connelly, Marci Holzer, and Mary Shearson channeled the elegance of the Chicago-born designer to fête the exhibit now on display through August 2017. The exquisite Liz Stiffel was the evening’s presenting sponsor.
Highly regarded for his impeccable construction and understated elegance, Mainbocher dressed stylish women across the world from Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland, Millicent Rogers, and Elsie de Wolfe to actresses Helen Hayes and Mary Pickford, and later Manhattan’s fashionable elite: Doris Duke, Adele Astaire, Gloria Vanderbilt, Babe Paley, and C. Z. Guest. He balanced these elaborate creations and exclusive clientele by designing uniforms for the United States Navy, the Girl Scouts, and Chicago’s Passavant Hospital.
Considered the first American couturier, Main Rousseau Bocher grew up on the west side of Chicago and frequently returned to visit his alma mater, John Marshall High School, as well as the Chicago socialites who donated their favorites to the History Museum for this exhibit.
Congratulations to Costume Council President, Kristin Noelle Smith, and her chic and civic-minded team who raised over $150,000 to support the History Museum’s efforts in maintaining one of the largest and best costume and textile collections in the world and to fund future exhibits.
Mainbocher would have loved dressing the Costume Council’s glamorous guests who assembled at the History Museum in his honor.
Photo credit: Robert Carl