Cocktail dresses are always in vogue and impossible to really get wrong. Yet, few have heard of the designer and label who gave us this chic dress. Ceil Chapman.
Born Cecilia Mitchell 1912 (sadly there is no more details about the date of month). New York native embarked on her first foray into high fashion with Gloria Vanderbilt on the short lived label ‘Her Ladyship Gowns’. By anyone’s standard, to have a connection with someone of Vanderbilt calibre is an fantastic window into couture. By the 1940’s Chapman with her then husband launched her own clothing label. Though the marriage did not last, Samuel continued with work with Chapman for decades to come.
Similar to Suzy Perrette, Chapman focused mostly on recreating Dior’s New Look for the average woman in America. What makes Chapman’s designs so recognisable was that she stuck to the structured motif of cinching the waist area. Chapman relayed her signature style to film and television costumes, preferring to focus on more formal wear and evening cocktail dresses than casual day wear. Like Dior, Chapman paid particular attention to sculpting and shaping the body of her customers. With padding and underpinning, she was referred to as an engineer.
Chapman was courted by Hollywood elite such as Marilyn Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Mamie Van Doren and Deborah Kerr. Even designing a wedding dress for Elizabeth Taylor (for her first marriage to Conrad Hilton).
Chapman died 13th July 1973. Considering that Chapman had no formal schooling of training in being a designer of as a seamstress, her achievement is only more extraordinary.