FRAME|WORK: A Woman's Evening Dress by Norman Norell

If you’re fretting over what frock to wear on New Year's Eve, this week’s FRAME|WORK provides some inspiration from the “Dean of American Fashion.” Sure to invite some resolution-worthy dance moves, Norman Norell’s Woman's Evening Dress is nothing if not celebratory. This dress is not currently on view, so we hope you enjoy this exclusive virtual viewing.

Norell Evening Dress

Norman Norell (American, 1900–1972). Woman's evening dress, ca. 1965. Silk crepe, silk organza, metal and plastic sequins. Gift of Mrs. John Rosekrans, Jr. 1983.36.38

Known for his timeless and classic designs, Norman Norell first encountered fashion in his father’s haberdashery business. This early exposure to menswear instilled in Norell a design ethos dedicated to simplicity and practicality, two characteristics that came to define his oeuvre.

Born in Indiana in 1920, Norell left the Midwest for New York where he studied fashion design at the Pratt Institute. He soon went to work on Broadway, where he designed costumes for the original stage production of the Ziegfeld Follies.

In 1943, Norell received the first Coty American Fashion Critics Award; he would go on to win four more, and was ultimately inducted into the Coty hall of fame. By 1944, Norell’s designs had garnered the respect of Parisian couturiers and American socialites alike. Meticulously attending to detail, Norell coupled pragmatism with a flair for the dramatic, resulting in the perfect marriage of couture and ready-to-wear.

During World War II, rationed yardages affirmed Norell’s penchant for paired down silhouettes reminiscent of his favorite period, the 1920s. This dress clearly references the flapper style, its minimalist cut and tiered beading the perfect accessories for a night out dancing.

What will you be wearing when the clock strikes midnight and the familiar tune of Auld Lang Syne begins to waft through the air? Happy New Year from the Fine Arts Museums!