July Treasure of the Month: Frances Neady Collection

For the better part of the 20th-century, department stores used illustration rather than photography in advertising, fashion magazines, and newspapers.  Some illustrators were on staff at the stores, some worked for advertising agencies, and some were self-employed with contracts to provide drawings for stores.  Illustrations shown here were created for Lord & Taylor between the 1940s and 1989 and are included in the Frances Neady collection in the Gladys Marcus Library’s Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives.

In the ’40s and ’50s, Lord & Taylor had some of the most notable illustrators in the business, among them Dorothy Hood, Carl Wilson, Helen Hall, Arnold Hall, Jean Karnoff, Susan Abbott, and Betty Offt.  Hood’s work is remarkable for creating a distinctive character for Lord & Taylor – the “Hood Girl.”  Hood is often incorrectly credited as the originator of the store’s script logo, however, she was the first to fuse the logo with illustration as early as 1947. Lord & Taylor encouraged illustrators to incorporate the logo in their drawings for ads, resulting in a logo written afresh by each artist’s hand.

The Frances Neady collection contains over 300 illustrations by prominent 20th-century fashion illustrators such as Antonio, Kenneth Paul Block, René Bouché, Eric, Joe Eula, Esther Larson, Mats Gustafson, and Ruben Toledo. These are the works of primary practitioners who demonstrate originality and individuality in their field. Many of these illustrations have been reproduced in American and foreign publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Femina and L’Officiel.  Some of these artists created powerful visual identities for their clients, such as Dorothy Hood for Lord & Taylor, George Stavrinos for Bergdorf Goodman, and Jay H. Crawford for Bonwit Teller. This collection is a testament to the importance of these artists within the history of fashion. It parallels the impact of fashion photography on the field, encompasses work from 1920 to the present, and offers a view of history through aesthetic, cultural, and social shifts preserved in the idealized vision of fashion illustration.  This collection was established in 1983 by Rosemary Torre and Frederick Bennett as a memorial to Frances Neady, an inspiring and dedicated teacher of fashion illustration, who served on the faculties of FIT and the Parsons School of Design for 40 years.

The Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives’ mission is two-fold. Regarding Special Collections, it acquires, preserves, and provides access to a wide range of primary research materials in original formats and across many languages and geographical spectra. All acquisitions support one or more curricula offered at FIT. Regarding the College Archives, the Department acquires, preserves, and provides access to College records permanently-scheduled or of enduring value created in the course of College business by administrators, staff, faculty, and students. These efforts support myriad goals in and across FIT units as well as research from those outside the FIT community.

In order to view these original works or other Special Collections materials please email: fitlibrary.sparc@gmail.com or call 212.217.4385 for an appointment.

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One Response to July Treasure of the Month: Frances Neady Collection

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