Dorothy Liebes

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Dorothy Liebes
Dorothy Liebes.jpg
Dorothy Liebes in her studio
Born (1897-10-14)14 October 1897
Santa Rosa, California
Died 20 September 1972(1972-09-20) (aged 74)
New York City
Nationality American
Education San Jose State Teacher's College; University of California, Berkeley; Hull House, Chicago
Occupation Textile Designer
Awards 1938 Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, 1946 American Institute of Decorators award, 1947 American Institute of Architects Craftsmanship Medal, 1948 Elsie de Wolfe Award

Dorothy Wright Liebes (1897–1972) was an American textile designer and weaver renowned for her innovative, custom-designed modern fabrics for architects and interior designers.[1] She was known as "the mother of modern weaving".[2]

Early life[edit]

Born Dorothy Wright on October 14, 1897 in Santa Rosa, California, she was the daughter of Frederick L. Wright, a chemistry professor, and Bessie Calderwood Wright, a teacher.[3] While studying anthropology, art, and teaching at San Jose State Teacher's College and at the University of California, Berkeley, she was advised to experiment with textile design.[3] She bought a small portable loom and taught herself how to weave.[1]

In 1928, she married Leon Liebes, a businessman. They divorced in 1940, although Dorothy Liebes retained his surname professionally. In 1948 she married the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Relman Morin.


After several years as a schoolteacher, Liebes decided to become a textile designer, and studied weaving at Hull House, Chicago, and made study trips to France, Italy, Guatemala, and Mexico to learn about traditional weaving forms.[3] Her first studio, Dorothy Liebes Design, Inc. was opened in 1934 in San Francisco, and following demand, she opened a second studio in New York.[3] She relocated full-time to New York in 1948.[1][4]

Her fabrics were known for their bold colour combinations and interesting textures, and often used unexpected materials such as feathers, plastics, metallics, jute, ticker tape, leather strips, and bamboo.[1][4] They were commissioned by architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Edward Durell Stone, Miller and Pflueger and Samuel Marx.[1][5] Other clients included King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California.[2][6] Her textiles were also used in airplanes, ocean liners, theatres and hotels.[2]

Liebes was a design consultant for companies such as DuPont, Dow, Bigelow-Sanford, and Goodall Fabrics of Sanford, Maine.[3] A promoter of textile mass-production, she advised on the development of synthetic fibres, and assisted in the development of machinery that could replicate the aesthetic irregularities and unevenesses of hand-loomed fabrics.[3][4]


Liebes was one of the first recipients of the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award at their launch in 1938. In 1946, one of her designs was chosen best textile by the American Institute of Decorators[7] The following year, 1947, she received The Craftsmanship Medal from the American Institute of Architects.[4] She also received prizes and awards from Lord & Taylor, the Paris Exposition, and the Architectural League.[3] In 1948, she received an honorary degree from Mills College and the Elsie de Wolfe Award.[3]


Due to a heart condition, Dorothy Liebes semi-retired in 1971.[3] She died in New York City on September 20, 1972.


Her work is held in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.[8] and The Art Institute of Chicago.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Dorothy Liebes: Sample room divider (1973.129.7)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)
  2. ^ a b c Olsen, Kirstin (1994). Chronology of women's history. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 326. ISBN 0-313-28803-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i About the Dorothy Liebes Papers at the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, accessed 31 January 2012]
  4. ^ a b c d Fiber Art: Following The Thread: Dorothy Liebes Papers at the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, accessed 27 March 2009.
    NB: As of January 2012, most of the information from this source has been relocated here.
  5. ^ "Paramount Theatre History". Paramount Theatre. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ History of the Paramount Theatre, Oakland, California, accessed 27 March 2009
  7. ^ Decorator's Choice, TIME Magazine, Monday 13 January 1947
  8. ^ Dorothy Wright Liebes | People | Collection of Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum