Adele Simpson advertisement. Image courtesy of myaesthetica.blogspot.com
Adele Simpson (1901 – 1995) was an American fashion designer and wife of textile manufacturer Wesley Simpson. Before marrying Wesley, Adele (née Smithline) grew up in New York City. She studied design at the Pratt Institute during the early 1920s, and after graduating began working on Seventh Avenue for clothing manufacturer Ben Gershel. She continued working on Seventh Avenue after marrying Wesley Simpson in 1927.
Adele Simpson with mannequin. Image courtesy of OldMagazineArticles.com
It was during WWII that Adele made a name for herself designing clothing. The war offered women the opportunity to be prominent in business and industry. Coupled with war time restrictions and limited news from Paris, American fashion designers were free to invent new silhouettes.
Adele’s aim was desining clothing that was fuctional. She did not design garments for dramatic entrances, but clothes to live and work in. Adele’s interest in design was deeply personal. Standing at less than 5 feet tall, she could never find clothing to fit her body. She knew that other women encountered the same issues. This made her pay close attention to the needs of her customers. She explained in a 1945 article:
“There’s a personal slant to all designing and because I am a busy woman myself, I certainly am not going to spend hours getting all tricked out in an impractical costume for the sake of a dramatic enterance. So for women like me, busy women, I make clothes that are easy to manage, suits that need no blouses, dresses that slip on easily, with fastenings where you can get at them, dresses that stay smart under stress, that you can walk in and more your arms in.”
Adele’s popularity spanned from the 1940s through the 1970s. She retired in 1985. This practicality she stressed in the interview above was always present in her designs. I recently found this ultra suede dress by Adele Simpson from the 1970s and noticed all of her trappings: a simple wrap design with hook and eye closures. There were several eye fastenings, so that the dress could be adjusted depending on waist size. The fastenings were easy to find and secure.
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