Down the Time Black Hole of Fashion

Good fashion can take me away for hours even before I realize what’s happened. A simple search, or worse a photo and I’m gone. Starting with cleaning out my Evernote account, less really is more, I found the obituary for Martha Phillips. This is a long lost name, but in her day, it was everything.

There is nothing about these ladies that isn’t perfect fashion. This is Martha, sitting and her daughter Lynn on the right. They oozed elegant fashion just sitting. “Miss Martha’s” emporium was on the corner of 58th and Park Avenue. During her heyday, she introduced designers like Halston, Valentino, Zandra Rhodes (when she was starting out), and Carolina Herrera. She not only knew good design but knew good value as well.

She had a store in Bar Harbor and Palm Beach, where her clients “resorted” for fun. Perusing through the Palm Beach photos, I came across Pauline Trigère, who I always adored. The Red Cross Ball was the top social event of the Palm Beach season. Here is one doyenne (on the left) and Lynn Manulis (Martha Phillips’s beautiful daughter) with Pauline Trigère on the right.

I’m officially in the grips of the black hole, and you’ll see why below.

Ms. Trigère had so much taste and style, that there wasn’t a garment that you wouldn’t love to own.

These clothes never go out of style and they are just as stylish today as the day they came down the runway. The gorgeous piece just above to the left makes my point. Although the tight, slim waist was very chic in the mid 50s, Pauline knew enough to not make it exactly on the waist. She raised it a little. The reason is that this makes a much prettier line from the bottom of the cummerbund to the real waist line is about an inch or so, but it’s enough to make an elegant silhouette line from the cummerbund to the hip.

This is the face of a determined and very sure lady. She even walked her own fashion shows, which made her styles that much more appealing – for the woman who could actually afford her clothes, with “real” figures.

She had a row or two in her life. The most famous fashion was with John Fairchild, the editor of WWD (Women’s Wear Daily). This started as a trade magazine for those in the fashion business. Still, as so often happens in fashion, this trade publication became popular with the fashionista of the time. He developed it into a full-fledged fashion publication that rivaled Vogue, Bazaar, and Elle for circulation and importance. One evidence of that importance was when Ms. Trigère and Mr. Fairchild had a major row, in which Fairchild said he would never publish anything of hers again. I’m sure she thought nothing of it at the time. However, this is back in the day before Instagrammers and social media, and if you wanted the public to see your fashion, then you were nice to that conduit – the press – that showed your fashion to the public. Fairchild didn’t budge.

Finally, Trigère relented and tried to apologize. She purchased a full-page ad in his WWD newspaper and waited for his response. It never came, much to the chagrin of many Trigère fans, and I was one.

But she continued, and later in life was awarded many awards and recognition. Pauline was truly a working designer. She wasn’t so much for all the show that designers were beginning to put on. You know, traveling to Morocco or Nice and taking a break to Gstadt after the fall collection. These designers were almost as popular personally as they were for their designs. And in some instances, their popularity was often more fun and elegant than their designs. But Trigère was never that way. It was all about the line and the elegance of a garment.

Some of this may not ring true or even be a bit dated, but to me, it’s not. This is what I cut my teeth on, and watching Ms. Trigère drape is exactly the same thing I would do with my Barbie. My Barbie was so beautifully dressed for every occasion, but particularly formal wear. My Barbie went everywhere and was always beautifully dressed in the very latest styles.

All the wording, like women not knowing about recent political events and drooling over the latest fashions, sounds extremely off-kilter today. Still, it was so much fun to watch these beautiful clothes come down the runway back then. It’s all I can see in these videos.

This last video is a retrospective of some of Trigère’s best designs – they were all fabulous – and gave you a great close-up of some of her more elegant work. These kinds of designs are to-die-for they are so full of inspiration and beauty.


Claire Kennedy


  1. Vicki on April 16, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    I was very surprised that they dragged the coats on the ground after removing them!

    • Claire Kennedy on April 17, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      I forgot about that, but that was a “thing” back then. To take off your coat and drag it behind you like some train or something. I’m not sure what the significance was or where it started, but I remember it being tres chic!!!!

  2. Ann Eckroat on May 9, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful piece., and all the information you share with us . You’re truly an inspiration.

    • Claire Kennedy on May 9, 2021 at 8:38 pm

      Yeah – Pauline was something else as was Martha. I think there’s a new series coming out on Netflix this Friday (May 14th). But I’m never sure if these things are all hype or there’s something to it. I guess we won’t know for sure till we watch it. But Martha discovered Halston – it was one of her “finds”. I remember what a huge deal he was. His style was so dang classic and timeless that I couldn’t wait to make up a Halston pattern. They were sublime!

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