Blog post by Aidan Shiller ’18
Bonnie Cashin is one of the most significant American ready to wear designers of the twentieth century. She was known to push boundaries when it came silhouettes, fabrics, and closures. Cashin is most known for her sportswear designs, which were subtly detailed and meant to be worn everyday. Some compared her clothing to kinetic collage because of its movement and array of color and texture in the woven textiles. She is known for using heavy, luxurious materials such as wool, leather, and wool jersey in everyday clothing.
The CCTC’s Bonnie Cashin Collection includes 44 garments, all donated by Philip Sills in 1980. Philip Sills was a leather garment manufacturer who worked with Cashin from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. The earliest garment in the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection is dated 1955 and the latest dated 1977, the last year that Sills manufactured for Cashin. In addition to the garments, Sills also donated patterns, original drawings (with swatches), photographs, fashion show posters and other promotional materials.
My favorite example of Cashin’s successful combination of sumptuous wool, leather and metal closures is CCTC #3217ab, in the image above. This wool coat is the epitome of Cashin’s signature aesthetic: clean design with incredible details and a pop of luxurious color. The coat was designed in 1970 and features nine metal rotating clasp closures (one of Cashin’s motifs), contrasting orange leather trim, and an orange, yellow, and gray wool plaid lining for the collar. This coat has been paired with a matching jersey dress that features the same leather and rotating closures.
Bonnie Cashin rose to fame in the design world in the 1950s, and became very prominent in the 60s and 70s. Over her career she designed for brands such as Coach, Bergdorf Goodman, and Hermès, and was the first American designer to have a boutique in Liberty’s of London. Cashin’s designs were fairly revolutionary for her day and most of her designs are still relevant in the world of fashion today. She was able to push boundaries in the 70s which have become norms of today’s fashion.
Aidan Shiller is a research assistant at the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection and a freshman design major with a focus on menswear. He loves incorporating subtle details into his work. His biggest focus is to push the audience to think and interpret their own messages from his designs.