During the 1930s and 40s, Caroline Gershel Davis of New York made her fortune by creating knockoffs of designs by well-known Parisian designers. The Caroline Gershel Davis Illustration Collection includes over 2,000 copied and modified illustrations from designers including Balenciaga, Chanel, Claire Souers, Doucet, Lanvin, LeLong, Molyneux, Pacquin, Patou, Pigeut, and Schiaparelli, as well as unnamed outerwear, evening gowns, suits, day dresses and sportswear. Numerous designs also reveal the various stages of the illustration and design process from early Parisian sketches to finished, high quality illustrations of single garments. Instructions describing slight changes to designs can be found on edges of many pages, as are fabric and design details, initials, and dates, some of which are written in French. The reverse of several designs are covered in heavy pencil lead which enabled quick and easy creation of multiple copies of one design. Illustration mediums also vary widely and include pencil, water color, opaque paints, and even glitter and faux rhinestones.
Perhaps the most unique part of this collection are three Saturday Evening Post magazines from 1940 and 1941, inside of which are pasted fashion illustrations cover to cover. This was one method the company employed to smuggle illustrations out of France and into the U.S.
Through the generous donation of Friends, etc., the Davis Illustration Collection has grown to include more than 2,000 illustrations. Use of the Collection has already begun in TAM Product Development courses, exhibition and graduate research.
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