Friday, January 21, 2011


A big THANK YOU to Jessica Gold Newman - not only was this a very fun interview, but Jessica's blog is a very intelligent and refreshing take on the fashion industry, check it out.

from t

Fashion historian John Tiffany on Eleanor Lambert and The Coty Awards

In the past, fashion industry awards such as the Neiman Marcus Fashion Awards(1938-1995) and the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards(1943-1984) garnered as much interest as any of our present-day red-carpet rundowns.

The Coty Awards, in particular, were considered on-par with the Oscars and the Tonys in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and were given to American fashion designers for the excellence of their work. Award show attendees included heads-of-state, Hollywood stars, and industry power-players. Pictures of the award shows were splashed across the pages of mainstream newspapers and winners were interviewed on television by the likes of Dinah Shore. A winning designer or manufacturer was assured that he or she would benefit from the acclaim... click here to read the entire article.

The Coty Awards Show 1950, Bonnie Cashin and Charles James
(courtesy of

Friday, December 17, 2010


photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

First Lady Michelle Obama in vintage Norman Norell at "Christmas in Washington" show

It’s truly funny how things happen…

This week, I was in a few different locations knee deep in archives researching various fashion show spectaculars that Eleanor Lambert staged in the 1940s and 1950s. I kept thinking about Norman Norell - and his work kept coming up time and time again. Of course, he was from Miss Lambert’s home state of Indiana, he was the very first winner of a Coty Award and he won so many Coty Awards that they created a new category of award – The Coty Hall of Fame. In addition, Miss Lambert was his publicist and dear friend. During my research this week, I came across some incredible pictures of four Norman Norell designs that were featured in The New York Times from 1958 and I really wanted to do a post on Norell but I kept thinking that I did not want to overdo it.

Then… our First Lady Michelle Obama makes history this week at “The Christmas in Washington” concert in Washington, DC dazzling in one-of-a-kind vintage number by designer Norman Norell!!

According to the The Huffington Post, The First Lady picked up the black-lace overlay dress, which boasted a full tea-length tulle style skirt and a square neckline (something rarely seen in contemporary designs), at New York Vintage boutique, signaling what store owner Jon Schneck believes to be the first time a first lady has worn a vintage dress to a public event, reports donned the elegant 1950s piece.

Maybe Michelle Obama will wear a vintage Norell sequined mermaid gown to a state dinner... here's hoping!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Diahann Carroll & Richard Kelly in Donald Brooks' Costumes for the Broadway Play "No Strings"

Carol Burnett in "Fade Out-Fade In"

Liza Minelli with Judy Garland after a performance of "Flora the Red Menace"

As I mentioned in my last post, Donald Brook’s passion, as well as the majority of his career, belonged to stage design.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Brooks campaigned to design costumes for the 1962 production of "No Strings" starring Diahann Carroll. He presented his concept to the producer Richard Rodgers on a black model. "That sealed the deal for him," said Brook’s sister Kay Blick.

Donald Brooks received a Tony nomination for "No Strings" and the first of three Oscar nominations, for "The Cardinal," in 1963, the same year he won his first Coty Award.

Mr. Brooks designed costumes for more than 20 Broadway shows, including "Flora, the Red Menace" with Liza Minnelli and "Fade Out, Fade In" with Carol Burnett, both in 1965, and was elected to the nominating committee for the Tony Awards in 1992. He won an Emmy for his designs for Lee Remick in the 1982 television film "The Letter."

source: New York Times, Eric Wilson, August 3, 2005

Monday, November 22, 2010


Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene and Donald Brooks were known inside the fashion industry as "the three B's of fashion."

Donald Brooks however, never became as famous as Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene, the design legends of his era. It is extremely surprising to me after pouring through pictures, press releases, bios and his work that Donald Brooks was not a HUGE star known to everyone!

According to the New York Times:

“Mr. Brooks emerged as American designers began to develop their own style during and after World War II, introducing more casual sportswear while stepping out of the backrooms of garment manufacturing to become fashion personalities with their own labels. “

Mr. Brooks's passion, however, and the majority of his career, belonged to stage and film costume design. I have been doing a lot of research lately and have been completely taken by Donald Brooks and his work and his incredible career...

Much more to come on Donald Brooks…. but in the meantime, enjoy these pictures from the archives...

Thursday, November 18, 2010


A lot of you correctly guessed Geoffrey Beene!

Geoffrey Beene was truly an American master and was one Eleanor Lambert's favorite designers. In fact, the last fashion show Miss Lambert attended just after her 100th birthday in September 2003 was Geoffrey Beene and she placed an order as well!

So now we have 2 of our 3 B's...
Lisa Smilor from the CFDA guessed all three and so did an anonymous reader!

These are some pictures from Beene's early career...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


If you guessed Bill Blass as one of "The Three B's" then you were correct! It was a tie between my friends Christian May of Masion 21 and Superstar Matt O'Grady!

Two more to go... who were the other Two B's...???

Hint: Miss Lambert did public relations for all three...

Keep guessing!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The break is over...

First came the emails on the blog, on Facebook and the Twitter.... "John Tiffany, please return to blogging..."

then my friends nudged me.... "John, get back to it, I really miss it..."

then... people on the street, at events and parties all around the city and last weekend people outside NYC asking what happened...

Empress of Fashion blog fans.... I hear you and I am back... and I plan to stay with you...

so... let's talk INSIDER FASHION...

Has anyone heard of: "The Three B's?"

take a guess... Who were the Big Three insiders of fashion -- whose names started with a B?

Who will be the first to guess all three?