Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985) was a controversial Austrian-American fashion designer and dancer, created clothes that celebrated
the natural shape and movement of the body, including his most famous designs, the topless swimsuit and the thong swimsuit.
In addition to fashion photographs, clothing, design materials, and business records, the collection includes portraits of
Gernreich, personal materials, Bella Lewitzky Dance Company photographs and business records, awards, and the papers and correspondence
of Gernreich’s family, including Oscar Jellinek.
Rudi Gernreich was an American fashion designer, dancer, and gay rights activist. Gernreich was born on August 8, 1922 in
Vienna, Austria. Growing up he loved studying fashion at his aunt’s dress shop. According to fashion journalist Marylou Luther,
at age twelve he refused a fashion apprenticeship with an Austrian designer in London because his mother thought he was too
young. Just four years later in 1938 he and his mother moved to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. After studying
art at Los Angeles City College and designing costumes at RKO Studios, Gernreich joined the Lester Horton Dance Company as
both a dancer and designer in 1942. While with Lester Horton he also designed freelance. In 1949 he decided to pursue fashion
full time and worked briefly at George Carmel in New York where he struggled because he did not want to imitate Parisian fashion.
In 1951, still attempting to gain entry into the fashion world, Gernreich started selling designs to Hattie Carnegie and also
worked at Morris Nagel Versatogs, which ultimately proved too conventional for him. In 1952, his success began when he started
designing sportswear for Walter Bass, who convinced Gernreich to sign a seven year contract with him. In 1955, he began designing
swimwear for Westwood Knitting Mills and in 1956 he received the American Sportswear Design Award from
Sports Illustrated for his unconstructed swimsuit, an unlined knit swimsuit that remains influential. With his contract completed in 1960, he
stopped designing for Bass and Westwood and began designing for his own company, G. R. Designs, and designing knitwear for
Harmon Knitwear. In 1960 he also won his first Coty Award for swimwear design.
100.0 linear ft.
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