Vera Huppe Maxwell (April 22, 1901, New York City – January 15, 1995, Rincón, Puerto Rico) was a sportswear and fashion designer until her retirement in 1985. She was the first American designer to make clothes with Ultrasuede material. She won the Coty American Fashion Critics' Award in 1953, the Neiman Marcus Award in 1955 and was honored in 1970 with a retrospective exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Born to Viennese parents, she traveled to Europe with them as a child and lived for a while in Vienna. She attended Leonia High School in Leonia, New Jersey and studied ballet in New York. She was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet from 1919 until 1924 when she married Raymond J. Maxwell. They divorced in 1937. She married Carlisle H. Johnson, an architect, in 1938 and divorced him in 1945.
Maxwell became known as a designer in the 1930s and became famous for her innovative designs. After years of designing for other manufacturers, she founded her own company, Vera Maxwell Originals, in 1947. Her heyday was in the 1950s. By 1960 her clothes were being sold in 700 stores around the country, but during that decade with its huge upheavals her classic style waned and she "decided to lie fallow for a while".
She resurfaced in 1970 with a collection that was introduced at B. Altman. Until her retirement in 1985 she continued to turn out the tasteful classic suits, coats and dresses that her loyal customers would wear for years.
She died on January 15, 1995, in Rincon, Puerto Rico, aged 93, following a brief illness. She was survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Dr. R. John Maxwell and Rhea Maxwell, and their extended family.
- Jackson, Kenneth T.; Markoe, Karen; and Markoe, Arnie. The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: 1994-1996, p. 352. Charles Scribner's Sons, 2000. ISBN 0-684-80644-4. Accessed September 19, 2011. "She attended Leonia High School in New Jersey for one year, then entered the Metropolitan Opera School of Ballet in New York City."
- Vera Maxwell at the Fashion Model Directory
- NY Times obituary
- History of Fashion
- answers.com biodata
- American Ingenuity: Sportswear 1930s-1970s, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Vera Maxwell (see index)