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Helena Rubinstein

Helena Rubinstein, creator of a cosmetics empire was born in Krakow, Poland on this date in 1872. She emigrated to Australia in 1902 and began to develop “beauty creams” made with a lanolin base, which was hugely abundant in the sheep-rich country. Within a few years she had fashionable salons in Sydney and in London. […]

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March 21: Elliot Gant and the Button-Down Shirt

Elliot Gant (Gantmacher), who with his brother Martin and father Bernard perfected the button-down shirt, added a hook to its back for hanging, and turned it into an “Ivy League” fashion staple, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1926. Their father was a tailor who specialized in collars, his mother a seamstress who […]

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December 5: Helmut Newton

Fashion photographer Helmut Newton fled Nazi Germany at age 18 on this date in 1938 following the country-wide pogrom known as Kristallnacht. His parents had already fled to South America after having all of their wealth confiscated. Intending to land in China, he put in first in Singapore and found work as a news and […]

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October 7: Irving Penn

Fashion photographer and portraitist Irving Penn died at 92 on this date in 2009. His work was strongly tied to Vogue magazine, where he had his first cover in October 1943, but his career came in several stages, including, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, “street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the […]

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May 9: Nudie Cohn

Clothing designer Nudie Cohn (Nuta Kotlyarenko), who designed rhinestone-studded suits for singers, actors, dancers, and other celebrities, including Elvis Presley’s famous $10,000 gold lamé suit, died at 81 on this date in 1984. Born in Kiev, he came to the U.S. with an older brother at age 11 and became an itinerant odd-jobber for a […]

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November 19: The King of Underwear

Calvin Klein, who built an empire of blue jeans and underwear using eroticized imagery of brawny young men and not-quite-of-age young women in his advertising, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1942. His father was a grocer; his grandmother taught him how to use a sewing machine. He attended the High School […]

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November 14: Delaunay’s Orphism Art Movement

Sonia Delaunay (Sarah Ilinitchna Stern), the first living woman artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre (1964), was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1885. In Paris after 1905, she founded, with her husband Robert Delaunay, the Orphism Art Movement, an offshoot of Cubism that emphasized pure geometric abstraction and bright […]

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October 28: Edith Head

Hollywood fashion designer Edith Head (Edith Claire Posener), whose movie costuming skills brought her eight Academy Awards and thirty-five Oscar nominations, was born in San Bernardino, California on this date in 1897. She borrowed a fellow art student’s drawings to land a job as costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures in 1924, and began designing […]

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October 14: Ralph Lauren

Billionaire fashion designer Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lifshitz) was born in the Bronx to Polish Jewish emigrés on this date in 1939. He changed his name, he told Oprah Winfrey in 2002, because his given name “has the word shit in it. When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun […]

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