Fogarty, Anne Whitney

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FOGARTY, Anne Whitney

(b. 2 February 1919 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; d. 15 January 1980 in New York City), fashion designer who brought high fashion to middle-and low-income women and girls.

Fogarty, born Anne Whitney, was the youngest of four daughters of Robert Whitney, an artist, and Marion (Bosordnoff) Whitney. Fogarty received hand-me-down clothes, which she considered fun because no one cared what she did with them. She cut and sewed them to suit her own tastes, which at the time were extremely colorful, though not in fashion. She eventually would change that. She attended Pittsburgh public schools, graduating from high school in 1936. That year, she attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. In 1937 Fogarty transferred to Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology to study drama. The subject attracted her because it gave her the opportunity to wear elaborate historical costumes. In 1939 she attended the East Hartman School of Design to learn better how to make her own costumes.

She moved to New York City to live with her sister Poppy Cannon, who made a name for herself writing cookbooks. Fogarty had an eighteen-inch waist that she used to good effect working as a clothing model for junior misses. She modeled to support herself while looking for work as an actress. One of her employers was the designer Harvey Berin, who overheard Fogarty making astute comments about the cuts and colors of dresses to the fitters as they worked with her. When she was offered a job as an actress in a summer stock production, he suggested that she remain with him and learn the designer's trade. Her acting ambitions ended at that moment, and she devoted herself to modeling and learning how to design clothing.

In 1940 she met the artist Thomas E. Fogarty, Jr., at an art class, and on 10 August 1940 they married. They had two children and divorced in the mid-1960s. She learned the clothing trade by working as a model, stylist, and publicist for various fashion designers and manufacturers in the early 1940s. Her big break came in 1948, when Youth Guild, Inc., hired her to design dresses for teenagers. Throughout her career, Fogarty had a special understanding of what teenaged girls wanted. Her below-the-knee dresses with frills and lively colors influenced fashion, introducing the 1950s standards in petticoats and light, bouncy fabrics.

In 1951, while working for Margot Dresses, Fogarty's designs were influential enough for her to receive Made-moiselle magazine's Merit Award. She was also one of six recipients of the Coty American Fashion Critics Award, then the most coveted fashion award in America. Her use of light, comfortable fabrics in her designs garnered her an award from the International Silk Association (1955). She received the Cotton Fashion Award in 1957 and was hired by the Saks Fifth Avenue department store to design moderately priced dresses for young women. She put her years of experience in the design industry to work creating a full line of outfits that included purses, shoes, hats, lingerie, and jewelry. Her designs varied from the daring—low-necked chemises that emphasized bust lines—to the practical, including straight-cut dresses with short sleeves or no sleeves that were intended to give their wearers full freedom of movement. She also introduced Japanese patterns and colors (woody reds, pale seaweed greens, and ceramic blue) in her new line.

In 1959 Fogarty published Wife-Dressing, which offered tips on how a wife could dress to please her husband. Ironically, however, it was in the early 1960s that Fogarty and her own husband grew apart. He was a successful artist with paintings hanging in prominent museums, but he earned his living primarily at Rutgers University, far from New York City, where Fogarty worked. In 1960 Fogarty received the Sports Illustrated Designer of the Year Award for her sportswear designs for young women. She introduced bikinis that included frills and other touches that made them interesting, establishing a new, showier fashion for two-piece bathing suits. She expanded her Saks Fifth Avenue offerings from 1960 to 1962 by introducing a variety of fabrics, especially increasing her designs in silk and cotton. As young women's tastes changed, she kept up by introducing pants and jumpsuits to her line. All had her signature touches, such as paillettes (shiny spangles) and bright combinations of colors. In 1962, when she left Saks Fifth Avenue, she received the first American Express Fashion Award.

That year Fogarty and her partner Leonard Sunshine established Anne Fogarty, Inc., on Seventh Avenue in New York City. Being president of her own company allowed Fogarty to spread her wings as never before, and she busied herself in designing everything involving women's fashions, including accessories. She introduced polyester clothing by creating a division of her company, Collectors Items, which marketed practical designs, usually featuring vibrant colors, to low-and middle-income people. Another division, A. F. Boutique, offered inexpensive fabrics in coordinated ensembles of clothing, allowing purchasers to mix and match items, creating their own individual looks. Her bathing suits, which emphasized femininity, were very popular.

Fogarty married Richard Tomkins Kollmar on 22 June 1967. Theirs appears to have been a happy marriage until Kollmar's death in 1971; they had no children. In 1977 she married Wade O'Hara, but that marriage ended in divorce. In 1968 Anne Fogarty, Inc., had $7 million in sales, owing in large part to Fogarty's ability to identify trends in popular fashions and to translate them into attractive designs. By 1968 the bright colors she preferred were the rage among young people. Many young women preferred to wear casual clothing, and for them Fogarty established her Leisure-Pleasure line of sturdy but relaxed clothing.

In 1975 Fogarty sold her company and semiretired, but she would continue to take on independent projects for designers and manufacturers until her death. She thrived in the 1960s, a period in which the public's fashion preferences changed radically from one year to the next. She was not just reactive to the fads of the moment. Her use of oriental patterns started a long-term interest among Americans in Far Eastern designs, and her success with brightly colored fabrics and matching accessories inspired the fashion industry as a whole to offer similar designs. Her practical designs, such as short skirts, sleeveless straight dresses, pants, and jumpsuits, helped women feel good about their clothes while being able to participate in sports or to work at physically vigorous jobs.

Some of Fogarty's designs are in the collection of the Fashion Institute of Technology's National Museum of Fashion in New York City. Beryl Williams offers an early look at Fogarty in her Young Faces in Fashion (1956). Caroline Rennolds Milbank discusses Fogarty's fashions in her New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style (1989). Valerie Steele examines Fogarty from a feminist perspective in her Women of Fashion: Twentieth-Century Designers (1991). An obituary is in the New York Times (16 Jan. 1980).

Kirk H. Beetz