Know Your Vintage Designers: Ceil Chapman

Draping, tucking and folding:  these are the hallmarks of a Ceil Chapman dress.

Often said to be Marilyn Monroe’s favorite designer, Ceil Chapman created beautiful body-consciousness styles that celebrated the female figure.  Born on Staten Island, the native New Yorker created one of the gowns worn by Monroe for her very first performance for a live audience—entertaining the U.S. troops in Korea.  She designed for movies and television as well as hollywood icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Mamie van Doren, specializing in cocktail and evening wear, favoring silk, taffeta, jersey, chiffon, organdy, cotton and metallic brocades often embellished with beads, lace and sequins.

Ceil Chapman Floral Ceil Chapman Pink Ceil Chapman Floral 2

Ceil’s first foray into fashion was with partner, Gloria Vanderbilt, trading as Her Ladyship Gowns, but Ceil started her own label with her husband Samuel in 1940.  The 50s and early 60s were Ceil’s heyday with her partnership with her husband ending in the mid 60s.   She died in the late 1970s.

The draping techniques that are signature Ceil are still prevalent in today’s trends.  Look at Rodarte:

Rodarte Rodarte 2

and Elie Saab:

Elie Saab

And the Collective Concepts dresses ($82) we have at West Asheville Minx echo the draping and tucking techniques of Ceil as well but update the look with an exposed zipper.

Collective Concept dress 2 Collective Concepts dress 3

So now that you know about Ceil Chapman, keep your eyes open for her design successors.  Remember:  draping, tucking & folding.