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Founded 1929
Founder Main Rousseau Bocher (1890–1976)
Headquarters New York City, United States
Products Luxury goods

Mainbocher is a fashion label founded by the American couturier Main Rousseau Bocher (1890–1976), also known as Mainbocher. Established in 1929, the house of Mainbocher successfully operated in Paris (1929–1939) and then in New York (1940–1971). Although often pronounced "Man-bo-shay," the designer's name is correctly pronounced "Maine-Bocker."[1]

French years[edit]

In November 1929, Main Bocher fused his own name, in honor of his favorite couturiers, Augustabernard and Louiseboulanger,[2] and established his own fashion house, incorporated as "Mainbocher Couture," at 12 Avenue George V in Paris.

Mainbocher designed expensive, elegant haute couture dresses and gowns for an exclusive clientele who included fashion editors like Carmel Snow, Bettina Ballard, Diana Vreeland, titles like Princess Karam of Kapurthala, Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Castlerosse, the Vicomtesse de Noailles, Lady Charles Bentinck, Baroness Eugène de Rothschild, pianist Dame Myra Hess, society like Millicent Rogers, Daisy Fellowes, Mrs. Cole Porter, Syrie Maugham, and stars like Mary Pickford, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, Miriam Hopkins, Helen Hayes.[1][2]

He designed much of Wallis Simpson's wardrobe, naming a color, "Wallis Blue," for her. In 1937, he also designed the wedding dress and trousseau of her marriage to the former Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor).[3] Described in 1950 as "one of the most photographed and most copied dresses of modern times,"[4] the bridal dress is today part of the Metropolitan Museum collection.[5]

Mainbocher's last Paris collections created a storm of controversy. Just as later Dior's "New Look", the "Mainbocher Corset," a nipped-in waist, radically altered the undefined silhouette of the thirties. This change, linked with the fame of his trousseau for the Duchess of Windsor, was a beginning of a new phase in fashion, eventually as influential as Coco Chanel's loosely cut, boxy jackets and skirts. The corset that shaped Mainbocher's last Parisian collection was immortalized in 1939 by one of Horst's most famous photographs, known as the "Mainbocher Corset."[6] The corset itself, listed in Town and Country as one of the big events of 1939, caused a furor in France.[2] Mainbocher's corseted waist, defined bosom, and back draping was an abrupt shift in sihouette and introduced the Victorian motifs that were to pervade the forties.

American years[edit]

In 1940, Main Bocher relocated his business to New York on 57th Street next to Tiffany's and established "Mainbocher Inc." As a French-American designer of international reputation, Mainbocher returned to New York with wide publicity, the first American celebrity in the French fashion world.[citation needed]

The corset controversy proved to be a significant marketing opportunity; the house of Mainbocher teamed up with the Warner Brothers Corset Company and streamlined the design for mass production.[2]

During the Second World War, Mainbocher lent his designs to the American Navy for the creation of the uniforms for the women only division of the Navy, called WAVES.

In New York, Mainbocher continued to design for generations of women like debutante Brenda Frazier, Doris Duke, Adele Astaire, Elizabeth Parke Firestone, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lila Wallace, Bunny Mellon, Babe Paley, Princess Maria Cristina de Bourbon, Kathryn Miller, and C. Z. Guest.[2] In 1947, eight of the New York Dress Institute's Ten Best-Dressed Women in the World were Mainbocher clients.[citation needed]

After he achieved fame for dressing some of the world's most famous women, Mainbocher was commissioned to design the costumes for Leonora Corbett in the comic play Blithe Spirit (1941), for Mary Martin in the Broadway musicals One Touch of Venus (1943) and The Sound of Music (1959), for Tallulah Bankhead in the Broadway production Private Lives (1948), for Ethel Merman in the musical Call Me Madam (1950), for Rosalind Russell in the musical Wonderful Town (1953), for Lynn Fontanne in The Great Sebastians (1956), for Katharine Cornell in The Prescott Papers, for Irene Worth in the play Tiny Alice (1964), and for Lauren Bacall in the musical Applause (1970).[citation needed]

In 1961, Mainbocher business moved to the K.L.M. Building on Fifth Avenue and continued until 1971 when Mainbocher, at the age of 81, closed the doors of his house.


In 2002, Mainbocher was honored with a bronze plaque on New York City's Fashion Walk of Fame in the legendary garment district.

Christian Dior: "Mainbocher is really in advance of us all, because he does it in America."[7]

Christian Lacroix: "Mainbocher, it's glamour, but with a sense of everyday glamour... It's so pure, so new." [8]

Hamish Bowles: "I am absolutely crazy about Mainbocher’s clothes. I think they are so subtle, the detailing is so extraordinary, and they are so unbelievably evocative of such a particular time and place and milieu and lifestyle, of absolute subtle luxury. You can really see why a client like Wallis Windsor would have been drawn to his clothes, and why she became so emblematic of his work."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McConathy, Dale (1975), American Fashion – The life and lines of Adrian, Mainbocher, McCardell, Norell and Trigère, The Fashion Institute of Technology, Quadrangle, pp. 115–200, ISBN 0-8129-0524-5 
  2. ^ a b c d e Jacobs, Laura (October 2001), "The Mark of Mainbocher", Vanity Fair, pp. 87–90 
  3. ^ Harpers Bazaar: Royal Wedding Gowns
  4. ^ Associated Press (12 December 1950). "Duchess Presents 'Wallis Blue' Bridal Dress To Museum". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Accession C.I.50.110a–j Duchess of Windsor Wedding Ensemble, 1937". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  6. ^ The Mainbocher Corset captured by Horst
  7. ^ The New York Times, Mainbocher Stands for a Fitting, March 25, 1956
  8. ^ Women's Wear Daily, What's old is new, Lacroix shows fashion history, November 8, 2007
  9. ^ Hamish Bowles, Interview Magazine, March 2009

External links[edit]