Friday, 5 April 2013

'Dress' of the Week - Lounging pyjamas by Edward Molyneux, 1932

Today, not a dress, although from a distance it does look like one, but lounging pyjamas, designed by Edward Molyneux in 1932.


I am doing a separate post on beach and lounge pyjamas, so today a bit of background about Molyneux.  I had always thought of him as French, that surname perhaps, but it turns out Edward Molyneux was actually born in England, in 1891, although he was of Irish and French ancestry. He dropped out of school at the age of 16  after the death of his father, and aimed to pursue his ambitions as a painter and illustrator.  He turned his artistic talents to fashion drawings, and by age seventeen was contributing to the English magazine Smart Set. In 1911 he won a competition and was hired by the fashion house of Lucille [Lady Duff Gordon], then known as the greatest dressmaker in London, and he worked in her salons in New York and Chicago as well as London.
Lady Duff Gordon with one of her models in her New York design studio, 1916
During World War 1 he served as an infantry captain with the Duke of Wellington Regiment in the British army,and lost vision in an eye due to injuries sustained in battle. He forever became known as
'The Captain.' Molyneux returned to work for Lucille after the war, but in 1919 opened his own fashion house on the Rue Royale in Paris, which was an almost immediate success.

 Paris - Looking down Rue Royale, c. 1900
In 1921 he diversified into perfumes launching “Le Numero Cinq” (No 5) as his premier perfume - apparently on the same day that Chanel launched her 'Chanel No. 5'.

Le Numéro Cinq by Molyneux (1925)

Although said to be openly homosexual, and friends with Noel Coward, he married his first wife (Jessie) Muriel Dunsmuir (1890–1951), one of the eight daughters of the Hon. James Dunsmuir, Premier of British Columbia in 1923, but the marriage only lasted a year.

Edward Henry Molyneux
In 1925 Molyneux opened a further boutique in Monte Carlo, followed by one in Cannes in 1927, and then London in 1932. He liked sleek, simple looks, which won him favour with European royalty like Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, whose wedding dress he designed, as well as Hollywood stars Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Vivien Leigh.  That's why I also love his work, it's modern and sleek without any necessary frills or flounces. His typical customer was tall, thin and intelligent, and usually in her late twenties or thirties. He soon became known for his "never too rich or too thin" ideal.

The Duke of Kent & Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, 1934
During World War 2 Molyneux stayed in France until just before the fall of Paris.  He returned to  London, and kept his fashion house open throughout the war.  He was actually so financially successful that the British Overseas Board of Trade sent him to the USA after the war to survey trade options, even though the proceeds from his London Branch went into the British Defence Budget. He also funded wartime canteens in London and Paris as well as a school for couture workers and a camp for war victims.  Sounds like a pretty nice guy really.

A war time suit by Molyneux
New York fashion writer Caroline Milbank called him "The designer to whom a fashionable woman would turn if she wanted to be absolutely right without being utterly predictable." He also designed dresses for McCalls and Vogue patterns, such as this dinner dress, for McCalls from December 1936.

McCall Style News December 1936.
After retiring in 1950 because of failing eyesight, in 1964 at age 71 he collaborated with his nephew to open “Studio Molyneux”, which produced high quality fashions but in a line of ready to wear garments. It received mixed reviews, but by then he had also incorporated not only perfume, but cosmetics, millinery and lingerie into his overall Fashion business, the name of which is going today.

He retired finally in 1969, but Studio Molyneux continued under the direction of his cousin John Tullis until it closed in 1977.  He died in Monte Carlo in 1974 at the age of 83 - truly an inspirational individual.

Deb xxx

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