Abstract: Making a Name for Themselves: Promotion and Self-Promotion of Designing Women

Rebecca Jumper Matheson


In the early twentieth century there arose a new style of female fashion personality. Primarily from the ranks of the couture, but also found among ready-to-wear designers, milliners, and cosmetic moguls, these career women bridged the divide between the creative and business sides of their companies with their larger-than-life personae. This paper will focus on publicity and promotion on the part of women who crafted an image by living out their brands in their own personal appearances, attitude, art collections, and interiors. These designers kept their names in print by using their own words and images in advertising, writing advice columns or memoirs, and creating news controversy, advancing their businesses even as they promoted themselves. The designers Lucile, Lilly Daché, Valentina and Sally Milgrim and the cosmetic queen Helena Rubinstein will all be discussed within the context of their creation of a public face which was also the face of their business. The paper will conclude with a meditation on the irony that the couturières who never advertised, Vionnet and Chanel, are among the most respected today and the best known.