Blog post by Jacklyn DeVito (’18)
From Senior Editor of Vogue and dotcom entrepreneur to best-selling author and magazine/content developer, Cornell alumna Dorothy Schefer Faux (’69) has had great success since her days on campus.
Dorothy attended Cornell from 1965 to 1969. Surprisingly, she didn’t focus her studies exclusively on fashion. Rather, she explored many different disciplines, from Physics and English to Art and Politics, while majoring in Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.
Dorothy’s time on campus was a transitional period for women, and throughout her undergraduate experience at Cornell, Dorothy was deeply involved in women’s issues. As Dorothy puts it: This was the “era of working women, ever-higher education and women moving outside the home.” Women were beginning to find success in careers and began slowly moving up the corporate ladder to the newly realized “glass ceiling.” “All my views about women, style and society, fashion and appearance were formed during my years at Cornell,” Dorothy remembered. “Those ideas have stayed with me my entire career.” Dorothy believed strongly in the future of women, and she carried this interest far beyond college. It has defined her life and career.
After being told women could not become editors at TIME magazine, Dorothy moved on to Condé Nast, where she became one of the company’s top senior editors. While at Condé Nast, Dorothy took on a wide variety of roles. She worked on the business side of House & Garden and oversaw production at Glamour. She then worked at Harper’s Bazaar (Hearst) and Seventeen (Triangle) before attaining the prestigious position of Women’s Image Director of Vogue. After this, she teamed up with former Vogue editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella to develop the renowned Mirabella magazine, funded by Rupert Murdoch. Since then, Dorothy has founded gloss.com and published two highly successful books, What is Beauty? in 1997 and Beauty: The Twentieth Century in 2000. Dorothy’s career is inspiring and demonstrates that with passion, drive, and vision, outstanding accomplishments can be achieved.
Cornell in the late 1960s was exciting and a tumultuous time of change. Dorothy linked the music of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, the war protests, Willard Straight’s takeover, and the women’s movement, all of which came to a head in the late 1960s, as great influencers of fashion and style. The turmoil and transition was reflected in a variety of styles on campus, particularly for women. A notable shift in women’s fashion reflected women’s changing position in society. Students voiced their perspective on the changing roles through what they wore on campus. Some women donned “square” preppy looks that reflected the status quo styles of the 1950s. Others embraced denim and a more relaxed style, while yet others were artsy and more experimental in their dress. Dorothy herself was part of the art crowd, whose style was influenced by the London look, politics, music, and the art scene of the time. Dorothy remembered Jim Dine as an artist-in-residence at Cornell; he invited the Earth Artists to campus to lecture and create an Earth art installation.
Dorothy remembered denim as a universal fabric on campus. Dress codes for women were abolished in fall of 1968, and suddenly everyone was wearing jeans. But, as with any widely adopted fashion, people wore denim styles differently. Sorority girls tended to wear pressed, straight-leg jeans with preppy collared shirts, while the more progressive crowd embraced low-rise, faded bellbottoms coupled with fringed bags. Even professors could be seen sporting this ubiquitous new style.
Students often paired jeans with graphic t‑shirts. The innovative technique of screen-printing enabled graphics to be applied to clothing quickly and efficiently. Young people were wearing graphic t‑shirts to communicate messages. Dorothy donated many of her 1970s graphic t‑shirts to the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection. One of her t‑shirt donations was displayed in the CCTC’s “150 Years of Cornell Student Fashion” exhibit last year. The t‑shirt is dated 1974 and has the words “Save Central Park” printed on it. It was used to inform people of the need to restore New York City, which was going through difficulty at the time, politically, socially, and economically. Beneath the slogan is a tree, painted in a style similar to artwork used on Beatles’ album covers. This t‑shirt imagery functioned as a cultural icon of the time.
In addition to graphic t‑shirts, Dorothy has very generously donated nearly 600 pieces of mostly designer clothing and accessories to the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection. The garments range from casual items she wore as a Cornell student to important designer pieces she’s acquired throughout her career. While some garments reflect the culture of Cornell during her time on campus, the majority of her collection provides close insight into the high fashion world from the 1970s to the present. Behind every piece is a story and a provenance, revealing how ideas and history can be communicated and reflected through fashion, and how fashion can connect people across generations and cultures.
Jackie DeVito (’18) is a Research Assistant in the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection majoring in Fashion Design Management. She is passionate about fashion history and enjoys working in the collection to preserve and document a visual and material record of styles that have been valued and appreciated at different moments in time.