Pre-1940s America would’ve been Hell on Earth for me. All fashion was ultra feminine and it was beyond taboo for a lady to wear trousers or show skin. Now I’m no pants wearing Jezebel, but I like to be comfy. Praise the almighty that designers like Bonnie Cashin (1915-2000) came along before I was born. Shes known as the ‘Mother of American Sportswear.’ Without her I’d be one miserable soul.
This day in age sportswear consists of sports bras, spandex, hoodies, and activewear. When Bonnie was designing, sportswear was anything that wasnt a dress or skirt. Trousers, suits, and jumpers all fell into the category of women’s sportswear. A romper in the sportswear section? Wow.
Bonnie was born in Oakland, California. Her father was a photographer and inventor and her mother designed dresses. There’s no reason why she wouldn’tbe a creative child. Since she was home with her mother quite a bit, Bonnie caught on to the art of dressmaking fairly quickly. By the time she was 8, she had her own book of sketches.
As a Hollywood High School senior Bonnie went to auditon for Franchon & Marco, a dance troupe in Los Angeles. Her reputation beat her to the audition. Instead of dancing with the troupe she was hired as a costume designer. The manager of the troupe even suggested that Bonnie go to New York City and study at the Art Students League. Bonnie took the suggestion and ran with it. While in NYC studying fashion, she even landed a gig as the chief costume designer for the Roxy theatre’s ‘Roxyettes.’ In 1943, Bonnie took her fashions to La La Land. She took a job as a designer for 20th Century Fox and worked on movie sets for six years.
The early 1950s is when Bonnie began to do what she wanted. She opened a studio called ‘Bonnie CashinDesigns.’ Her goal was to produce functional clothing for the modern woman. Her first collection, ‘We Live as We Please,’ was a clear indicator of what she intended to do with her fashions. She was going to create what she wanted despite societal norms and expectations.
Many of her most famous clothing ideas came from real life situations. For example, Bonnie got the idea for the poncho when she cut a hole in a blanked while driving in her convertible. She also was the first designer to use toggled closures on handbags and gloves. She got the idea from the closures that held her convertible top on. The girl was the MacGyver of fashion!
“Chic is where you find it” -Bonnie Cashin
Throughout her career Bonnie earned the American Designers Coty Award and NeimanMarcus Award in 1950 and worked with many companies, labels, and department stores. Some of her collaborations include Bergdorf Goodman, Liberty of London, American Airlines, Samsonite, White Stag, and most recently, Coach. She worked as Coach’s original designer from the 1960s to 1974. While employed at Coach, Bonnie created signature features of Coach bags such as colorful prints, attached change purses, and zipper compartments.
The year 1985 signaled Bonnie Cashin retired from fashion. She chose to focus on painting and philanthropy until her untimely passing. In 2000 Bonnie crossed over due to complications during heart surgery.
Image Layout: Phaymiss
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