Pauline Trigere was born in Paris, France in 1909 to Russian Jewish émigré parents. She knew how to operate a sewing machine by the age of 10 and assisted her dressmaker mother. Her father was a tailor who had made military uniforms for the Russian aristocracy. Pauline grew up in an atmosphere of fine tailoring.
When she was a teenager, lack of money prompted her to make a dress for herself. It was plaid taffeta, its collar had 3 layers of organdy edged with red, green and blue piping. For fun, she made a copy of this dress in 1971.
After leaving school, Pauline was employed as a trainee cutter at Martial et Armand in the Place Vendome, Paris. It is said that her employer remarked after a few days, that she already knew all he had to teach. She also worked as the freelance designer, going to the fashion houses of Paris to sell her sketches.
She met Adele Simpson, a buyer from America, who told her all about the New York fashion world. So in 1937, at the age of 25, she moved to New York. By that time she had married Lazar Hadley and had two sons Jean-Pierre and Philippe.
Trigere first found work at Ben Gershel, where Adele Simpson worked. She then became assistant designer to Travis BANTON at Hattie CARNEGIE.
In 1942, Trigere started her own house. It was managed by her brother Robert. Her marriage had been dissolved. Her first small collection of 12 custom-made dresses was bought by a group of US department store executives and by 1945, Trigere was a respected New York label. She began producing ready-to-wear lines in the late 40's. In 1949, Trigere won her first Coty award. She later won it again in 1951 and 1959 and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame.
In the 1950's, like many other fashion houses, she produced costume jewelry to accompany her outfits. A turtle was a favourite design. Her Vintage jewellery and garments are still very much in demand today.
She worked by cutting and draping bolts of fabric. She was known for her crisp, tailored cuts and innovative ideas, particularly with outerwear. She is credited with the introduction of removable scarves and collars from dresses and coats. Her clientele included many famous women like the Duchess of Windsor, actress Claudette Colbert and singer Lena Horne. Her vintage dresses are much in demand and are worn by today's actresses like Wynona Ryder.
Trigere also created dresses with jewelry attached, sleeveless coats, reversible coats and opera capes. One of her capes is made from black blanket wool and angora reversible to a shocking pink. Many of her coats are designed to be worn with two interchangeable dresses. Fur trims appear often on her garments. Trigere was one of the first designers to use wool for evening wear.
Trigere's own elegance and Gallic charm, were renowned as was her favourite method of keeping fit - standing on her head. She wore her own clothes, adding printed scarves, tied her own way and with her own collection of handsome jewellery including her signature turtles, which she pinned on a shoulder or a cuff.
Pauline was awarded the CFDA Hall of Fame award in 1993.
In 2000, Pauline introduced a line of accessories especially for stylish elderly people. Her collection is available on line at goldviolin.com and features such practical items as a red ostrich box for pills and purses to hold hearing aids, as well as lots of little blankets to match a lady's handbag.
In the year 2000, the city of New York decided to honour American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This has been called the "FASHION WALK OF FAME." Pauline Trigere was one of those honoured, and here is a picture of her plaque.
In 2001, the Consul General of France Richard Duque, awarded her that country's highest accolade, the Legion of Honour.
In June 2002, Pauline Trigere died at the age of 93. She told her relatives that she wanted to wait a while as she had a hairdresser's appointment the next morning.
For some spiteful reason, for many years John Fairchild of Womens Wear Daily, would not mention her name in his publications. Other media people of course, often did. After she died, Pauline's son Jean-Pierre Radley thanked the journalists personally.
American Fashion: The Life and Lines of American Designers, including Pauline Trigere, by Sarah Tomerlin Lee