Born on October 24, 1890, Main Rousseau Bocher (1890 -1976), also known as Mainbocher, was a Chicago native. The first American designer to succeed in Paris, Mainbocher founded what would become an iconic fashion brand.
In 1942 he volunteered his services to design a uniform for a new branch of the US Navy, the WAVES (Women Appointed for Volunteer Emergency Services). The snappy ensemble consisted of a blue jacket, gored skirt, white blouse, a two-tone cap with rolled side brims, black seamen's tie and shoes that made even 20 year old feet look like those of an eighty year old.
Mainbocher's style was best depicted in couture evening apparel but he made his mark by carefully selecting such prestige clients as Wallis Simpson, for whom he designed her wedding gown in 1937 to the Duke of Windsor.
Mainbocher studied at the Lewis Institute (University of Chicago) and at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts (Art Institute). Following a year of study in Germany he went to work for a clothing manufacturer in New York, E. L. Mayer. At the end of his army tour during World War I, he remained in Paris and went to work for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazines, first as an illustrator, eventually as an editor. In 1929 he opened his own fashion design firm in Paris. He returned to the United States when WWII broke out in Europe.
A few fashion hallmarks attributed to Mainbocher are beaded cashmere sweaters, strapless evening gowns and mantailored suits, all with his signature simplicity of line and emphasis on function. Lisa William's blog pictures many of Mainbocher's best known projects.