Late Bronx Hollywood & Fashion Icon Lauren Bacall’s Garments on Display at FIT

Lauren Bacall on the cover of Harper's Bazaar — the photograph which launched the legendary icon's career.
Lauren Bacall on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar — the photograph (by Louise Dahl-Wolfe) which launched the legendary icon’s career.


The Bronx born and raised beauty, known to the world as Lauren Bacall but to her family and childhood friends by her birth name of Betty Joan Perske, passed away last August at the age of 89.  She was the last surviving icon named in Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ list of Hollywood legends — all of whom are gone now.

From 1968 to 1986, Bacall donated over 700 items to The Museum at FIT and now, some are on display in a new exhibition, ‘Lauren Bacall:  The Look’ which runs until April 4th, 2015.

Calling her a legendary icon is an understatement as she graced the silver screen and was always dressed with a style of her own.

According to The Museum at FIT’s brochure on the exhibition:

“Her mother taught her how to look her best on a limited budget, by emphasizing simple silhouettes and quality garment construction. As a young girl, Bacall admired designer fashions in the windows of the stores along Fifth Avenue; a few years later, she wore them as a model. She was introduced to Vreeland in 1942 and started appearing in Harper’s Bazaar. “I began to be aware of fashion,” Bacall remembered of her time at the magazine. “I noticed what she [Vreeland] wore, which were always the simplest things.”

By the early 1950s, Bacall was a major Hollywood star, and she had begun to develop relationships with leading fashion designers. She regularly attended presentations by couturiers in Paris, including Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy. Bacall later quipped, “From the day I could afford it, I shopped too much.”

Norman Norell, coat and two-piece dress designed for Sex and the Single Girl, wool, rhinestones, 1965, USA. Gift of Lauren Bacall. Photo: Eileen Costa/The Museum at FIT
Norman Norell, coat and two-piece dress designed for Sex and the Single Girl, wool, rhinestones, 1965, USA. Gift of Lauren Bacall.
Eileen Costa/The Museum at FIT

New York Magazine writes of Bacall:

Lauren Bacall, like many Old Hollywood stars, was made, not born. Her trademark downcast look wasn’t a come-hither ploy but rather a result of nervousness in front of the camera. Her voice, while naturally low, was exaggerated — director Howard Hawks made her pull her car over on Mulholland Drive and shout into the canyons to make it huskier. And her regal bearing belied an ordinary, middle-class upbringing in the Bronx. But her love of fashion was one thing that wasn’t the creation of a studio — even as a young woman, she bought Norman Norell’s designs on steep discount in Brooklyn, and she would later go on to have a close relationship with the designer, who costumed her for 1964’s Sex and the Single Girl. Bacall was also friendly with Yves Saint Laurent and Emanuel Ungaro.

Not bad for a girl from The Bronx, huh?
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Head on over to The Fashion Institute of Technology located at 227 W 27th street on 7th Avenue in Manhattan

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.