Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

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Dress, 1-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*310308.001

Date: 1972

Maker: Norell, Inc.

Designer: Norman Norrell


Evening; bronze-colored silk jersey, sequinned; floor length shirtdress; stand up open collar; darts on back of neck; long front shoulder dart; bodice and skirt placket center front opening with four sequin covered buttons and snap fastener closure; bound buttonholes; long set-in sleeves with two-button cuffs; slightly eased bodice; attached wide belt; slightly eased straight skirt.


Norman Norell, born Norman David Levinson in 1900, went to New York at the age of 19 to study painting. Working as a theatrical and movie costume designer for Paramount and Brooks Costume Company, he designed costumes for Rudolph Valentino in the movie The Sainted Devil and for Gloria Swanson in Zaza. Then, from 1924 to 1928, Norell worked for Charles Armour, a New York dress manufacturer, where he designed what he called dressy sportswear.

In 1932 he joined Hattie Carnegie, where he adapted Paris design models for the American market. There he learned French couture techniques and how to change the Parisian proportions to fit the American body. After 12 years with her, he left to join Anthony Traina. He had negotiated to have his own name on the label, even though it meant earning less money. The first Traina-Norell collection was successful and in 1943 Norell was the first to receive the Coty American Fashion Critics Award. He won the award in again in 1951 and 1956. With the death of Traina, the firm was renamed Norman Norell, Inc. Jersey sequinned dresses were one of his hallmarks. When Norell died in 1972, the company offered us this dress in his memory. It was one of the last dresses he had designed. Exhibited in Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America from 1974 to 1979.

Credit: Gift of Norell, Inc. in Memory of Norman Norell