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Parsons Festival: Sophie Gimbel Presentation

Written by Gretchen Harnick | May 23, 2011.

Beth Dincuff lecturing using archive garments

On Monday, as part of the Parsons Festival, Professor Beth Dincuff, BFA Fashion History Instructor, presented a lecture – including Archive garments – on American designer and Parsons benefactor, Sophie Gimbel.

Gimbel’s career began in 1929 as a stylist at Saks Fifth Avenue’s custom dress shop Salon Moderne; within two years she was director and by 1934 the shop carried her own designs, offering an American vision of practical elegance. Gimbel’s importance was confirmed by her post-New Look Time magazine cover of September 1947, the first awarded to an American fashion designer, and in 1965 she designed the inauguration outfit for Lady Bird Johnson. Gimbel’s personal style was legendary and earned her induction into the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame in 1964.

The Gimbels supported Parsons endeavors: the Adam L. Gimbel Library was opened in 1972, the same year Sophie received the Parsons medal. Upon her death in 1981, the library was renamed “The Adam and Sophie Gimbel Design Library.”

Appropriately, Sophie Gimbel is well represented in the Parsons Archive, whose holdings encompass a wide-range of American and European 20th century garments. Professor Dincuff explored four Gimbel garments, from surface embroideries to boned interiors. Students and instructors pondered pocket placement, textile content, seams, and sequins.

Professor Dincuff is also the curator of 560 Magazine’s online exhibition “Sophie of Saks: Sophie Gimbel & The Salon Moderne.” Images of and information about 32 Gimbel garments and accessories can be accessed through the exhibition site, including close-ups of construction details and intricate embellishments, as well as a biography and timeline.

Structure of a Sophie Gimbel gown

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