Fashion Reverie looks back at the life of iconic French-American designer Pauline Trigere. Pauline Trigere epitomized chic, elegant American glamour and was one of the first designers to be associated with American sophistication and elegance.
Pauline Trigere was born in the Pigalle section of Paris to Russian-Jewish parents. Her mother was a dressmaker and her father was a tailor. She learned to sew as a young, but never considered fashion design as a career until she and her husband Lazar Radley, also a Russian tailor, left Paris in the late thirties because of the rise of Nazism.
After settling in New York City, Trigere’s husband opened a small tailoring business with Pauline’s brother Robert with Pauline working for Ben Gershal and Hattie Carnegie. In 1942, Lazar Radley suddenly walked out on Pauline and her two small children, leaving Pauline to be the sole provider. In just one year after her husband departure, Pauline Trigere had developed a collection with 12 styles and in just three years she had become a well-known name in American fashion selling to Filene’s Basement, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdales.
In 1952, Trigere received the first of three Coty Awards. And Trigere is credited as being one of the first American designers to use black models. Most film buffs will recognized her clothes worn by Patricia Neal in “Breakfast at Tiffanys.”
Trigere had one of the longest careers in American fashion, spanning almost six decades. In 1992 she was honored for fifty years in the industry by Fashion Institute of Technology. And in 1993 Trigere received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CFDA.
Unlike many designers of her era, Trigere did not sketch, but draped material on body forms. She once said ”Fashion is what people tell you to wear,” she often said. ”Style is what comes from your own inner thing.”
Trigere’s gaments have been worn by such women as Mrs. John Hay Whitney, Beverly Sills, Evelyn Lauder, Rita Gam, and Dina Merrill, and more recently Sarah Jessica Parker. In recent years, vintage aficionados seek out many of Trigere’s iconic designs.
Pauline Trigere passed away in 2002.
—William S. Gooch