“This is a big, rich country, and Bill Blass looks it right in the face.”
To describe American style without mentioning the name Bill Blass is unheard of. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1922, Blass created a following that was new to American fashion in the 1960s. In a time when Vogue magazine’s Diana Vreeland was controlling American fashion (which, although beautiful, was always too whimsical and illogical for the American woman) Blass gave women an alternative. He gave them the glamour and elegance they wanted with the sophistication and functionality they needed. During the prime of Blass’s career women were in an era of power and progression. The presence of a Bill Blass ensemble proved to be a provoking and remarkable display of both what a women wanted to convey and who she really was. Blass was the first designer to mesh casual and chic which later not only became his trademark but an American hallmark in the world of fashion.
The allure of Hollywood and the glamour of Vogue captured him at an early age, when he began to sketch the images he saw.
“The beauty of being able to draw, or paint from an early age is that you never feel trapped,” Blass said in his biography titled “Bare Blass.”
His work reflected the eras of supreme grandeur and the utmost glamour. It captured a time when women wore fur over their shoulders that fell past their knees and smoked mile long cigarettes on chic terraces; his work reflected Marlene Dietrich among many other icons of Hollywood.
Growing up in a time controlled by the troubles of the Depression, this might have been the force behind Blass’ infatuation with glamour and elegance. But little did he know that his days of eating leftover mashed potatoes with lavish swirls of Miracle Whipâ€ and lots of black pepper on white bread would be over.
At the age of fifteen he began to sell sketches of evening dresses for $25 to a manufacturer in New York. Although he claims to have not made much from the sales, it was enough to help pay for school. At seventeen he traveled to New York to study at Parson’s school of design. His first home in New York was the YMCA, which according to him was where many American families sent there sons to live cheaply before marriage.
Blass was a war veteran having fought in WWII, at an early age. After the war ended in 1945 he worked for Anna Miller. When Miller retired in 1959 Blass was chief designer. He bought the company, which slowly began to represent his image, in 1970 when it became Bill Blass Ltd.
Blass had a knack for choosing the right textures, colors and lines that would be popular for years to come. He also had a knack for attracting women on a platonic level ,although he was steadfast on being a loner and never married.
“I fell in love with him, like every woman. He was as warm, friendly, intelligent and talented as he was good-looking,” Nan Kempner said.
His Philospophy: Designing for the woman not obsessed with fashion and that still cares about clothes although she has a family a career and a home.
Who he dressed: Nancy Reagan, Barbara Streisand, Nan Kempner pretty much all of the well-known supermodels.