Chances are, I was a pirate in a past life. I have an incessant desire to travel the world, and love searching for treasure. The perfect treasure hunt is finding vintage clothing. Most of the time, I search alone. But when venturing into uncharted territory, it is useful to team with other vintage enthusiasts. One of my favorite treasure hunters is Lizzie Bramlett. We found some serious gems while scouring Atlanta. I’m also never disappointed by my travels with Ashley McAleavy of Remedy.
Ashley took me to a secret vintage paradise this week. While it required some serious digging, I came across an interesting dress. The construction and design of a navy wool tea-length beauty caught my eye. I thought it looked decidedly modern. Confused, I unzipped it to search for a label. I nearly passed out with excitement as I saw this:
Pauline TrigÃ¨re (1908-2002)
was born in Paris and became an iconic fashion designer in Post War America. Her mother was a dressmaker and her father a tailor who had made military uniforms for Russian aristocrats. TrigÃ¨re learned quickly from her parents, and designed her first dress as a teenager. She never sketched her designes, but worked by draping right on the mannequin.
Pauline TrigÃ¨re with model Beverly Valdes, 1961. Image courtesy of elspethbrown.org
She married in 1937. Shortly after, they left Paris for America and opened a tailoring business. TrigÃ¨re also was employed by Hattie Carnegie, where her job was to turn the sketches into dresses. After separating from her husband in 1942, TrigÃ¨re created an 11 piece collection. She was quickly recognized for her sophisticated designs, impeccable tailoring and being her own best model.
The wool jersey dress I found is a prime example of TrigÃ¨re mastery of design. While jersey can be clingy and unstructured, the geometric details and top stitching give this dress shape.
TrigÃ¨re was completely self-financed. Her only help was from her brother Robert, who assisted in getting her first collection off the ground by traveling America with the samples via Greyhound bus. She was also fiercely loyal to America, saying:
”People always say to me, ‘Aren’t you French?’ and I say, ‘No, I am American,’ ” she said. ”I found in this country everything I wanted. This country made me Pauline TrigÃ¨re.”
TrigÃ¨re’s also created scarves, accessories, and had a fragrance. She actively designed until 1994.
The only time I’ve ever come across one of TrigÃ¨re’s garments has been in a museum collection. They are difficult to find. It was so great to be able to examine the garment. You can see how the lining was hand finished. Look at that stitching!
You can imagine how happy I was to find this immaculate dress. And it just happened to be my size.
Dressing room confession: Who needs gold or buried treasure when you’ve got a TrigÃ¨re?