Ernestine Carter

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Ernestine Carter in 1974 (photo by Stanley Devon)

Ernestine Marie Carter OBE (née Fantl; 10 October 1906 – 1 August 1983) was an American-born British museum curator, journalist, and fashion writer. She became hugely influential in her roles as women's editor, and later associate editor of The Sunday Times.

Her obituary described her as not only influencing British taste, but also putting her authority behind emerging fashion talent, becoming: "not only the acknowledged leader among women's fashion writers but also created a reputation for British fashion at a time when this country was considered a desert".[1] In particular, she was instrumental in adding her authority to bolster the growing reputation of designers such as Mary Quant, Jean Muir, Gina Fratini and John Bates.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Ernestine Marie Fantl was born on 10 October 1906 in Savannah, Georgia, where she was brought up.[2] She studied modern and contemporary art and design at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, from which she graduated in 1927.[2] She started out as a curatorial assistant at the newly formed Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, where,between 1935 and 1937 she was Curator of Architecture and Industrial Art.[2][3] In 1936 she married a British antiquarian book dealer, John Waynflete Carter (1905-1975), and the Carters eventually moved to London.[2]

Wartime (1939-1945)[edit]

During the Second World War Carter was employed by the British Ministry of Information.[3] She worked on exhibitions and edited a book of photographs by Lee Miller titled Grim Glory: Pictures of Britain Under Fire (published London, 1941).[4] The book, which included a foreword by Edward R. Murrow, went into five printings. Later in the war, Carter went to work for the U.S. office of war information in London.[2]

Post-War (1946-1955)[edit]

Carter worked on the important design exhibition Britain Can Make It, organised by the Council of Industrial Design and held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1946.[2] That same year she became fashion editor for Harper's Bazaar.[5] Her first trip to Paris for the magazine was to report on Christian Dior's landmark New Look collection, launched 12 February 1947.[2][6] From 1952-54, she wrote her first newspaper column, a cookery section for The Observer, during which time she published a cookbook called Flash In The Pan (1953).[2]

Later career (1955-1972)[edit]

In 1955, Carter began editing the women's page of The Sunday Times.[5] She became well known for the high standard of her journalism and writing, and eventually became associate editor of the paper in 1968.[2] Carter's editorial team, including Moira Keenan, was credited with having changed the face of fashion reporting in newspapers, presenting articles that emphasised excellence of design at all price levels.[7] Carter encouraged the emergence of London as a major centre of fashion in the 1960s.[2] Her intelligent prose and high standards led to her being recognised as an authoritative figure in the world of fashion.[2] At a time when widespread intellectual snobbery led to the dismissal of fashion as a subject not worthy of serious consideration, Carter argued that fashion was "surely no more frivolous than architecture, to which it is closely related".[2][8]

In 1962, Carter was appointed to the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design, a post awarded by the Minister of Education.[9] She was appointed an OBE in 1964.[10] In the same year, she became a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.[11]

In 1966, she was the first individual fashion journalist to be invited to select an outfit for the Dress Of The Year, for which she chose a futuristic PVC and linen ensemble by Michèle Rosier, Young Jaeger and Simone Mirman.[12] Two years later, she was appointed associate editor of The Sunday Times, a role she held until her retirement from the paper in 1972.[1]

Retirement and death[edit]

After her retirement in 1972, Ernestine Carter wrote several books on fashion history (see Bibliography section). She died on 1 August 1983 at her home in Chelsea, London.[2]


The Fashion Museum, Bath holds an important archive of more than 2000 fashion photographs from The Sunday Times during Carter's tenure there.[13] This is known both as the Ernestine Carter Collection and as The Sunday Times Fashion Archive.[14] The Fashion Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum both own garments from Carter's wardrobe.[2][15]


  1. ^ a b c "Mrs Ernestine Carter: influential writer on women's fashion" (61601). The Sunday Times. 3 August 1983. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Barbara Burman, ‘Carter, Ernestine Marie (1906–1983)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 May 2012
  3. ^ a b Department of Circulating Exhibitions Records in The Museum of Modern Art Archives; accessed 30 May 2012
  4. ^ Sorel, Nancy Caldwell. The Women Who Wrote the War: The Riveting Saga of World War II's Daredevil Women Correspondents, page 195. Arcade Publishing, 1999; ISBN 9781559704939
  5. ^ a b Evening dress worn by Ernestine Carter in the V&A Museum. Accessed 30 May 2012
  6. ^ Benoit, Marie. Christian Dior: Couturier and perfumer, The Malta Independent Online, 4 December 2010; accessed 30 May 2012
  7. ^ Lester, Richard (2013). Dress of the year. Antique Collectors' Club. pp. 57–58. ISBN 9781851497256. 
  8. ^ Carter, Ernestine, With Tongue in Chic (London, 1974) ISBN 978-0-7181-1298-1
  9. ^ "News in brief" (55443). Sunday Times. 14 July 1962. 
  10. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 13 June 1964, page 4948; accessed 30 May 2012
  11. ^ "New Fellows of RSA" (56196). The Sunday Times. 16 December 1964. 
  12. ^ Dress of the Year, 1966 Accessed 30 May 2012.
  13. ^ Bath's Fashion Museum to host 1960s display this March, BBC News; accessed 30 May 2012
  14. ^ Fashion Museum – Fashion photographs; accessed 30 May 2012
  15. ^ Garments worn by Ernestine Carter profile, V&A collection; accessed 30 May 2012



  • Flash In The Pan (1953)

Fashion history[edit]

  • 20th Century Fashion: a Scrapbook (1975)
  • The Changing World of Fashion (1977)
  • Magic Names of Fashion (1980)


  • With Tongue in Chic (1974)