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Rudi Gernreich papers, 1891-1993
1702  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985) was a controversial Austrian-American fashion designer and dancer, created clothes that celebrated the natural shape and movement of the body, including his most famous designs, the topless swimsuit and the thong swimsuit. In addition to fashion photographs, clothing, design materials, and business records, the collection includes portraits of Gernreich, personal materials, Bella Lewitzky Dance Company photographs and business records, awards, and the papers and correspondence of Gernreich’s family, including Oscar Jellinek.
Background
Rudi Gernreich was an American fashion designer, dancer, and gay rights activist. Gernreich was born on August 8, 1922 in Vienna, Austria. Growing up he loved studying fashion at his aunt’s dress shop. According to fashion journalist Marylou Luther, at age twelve he refused a fashion apprenticeship with an Austrian designer in London because his mother thought he was too young. Just four years later in 1938 he and his mother moved to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. After studying art at Los Angeles City College and designing costumes at RKO Studios, Gernreich joined the Lester Horton Dance Company as both a dancer and designer in 1942. While with Lester Horton he also designed freelance. In 1949 he decided to pursue fashion full time and worked briefly at George Carmel in New York where he struggled because he did not want to imitate Parisian fashion. In 1951, still attempting to gain entry into the fashion world, Gernreich started selling designs to Hattie Carnegie and also worked at Morris Nagel Versatogs, which ultimately proved too conventional for him. In 1952, his success began when he started designing sportswear for Walter Bass, who convinced Gernreich to sign a seven year contract with him. In 1955, he began designing swimwear for Westwood Knitting Mills and in 1956 he received the American Sportswear Design Award from Sports Illustrated for his unconstructed swimsuit, an unlined knit swimsuit that remains influential. With his contract completed in 1960, he stopped designing for Bass and Westwood and began designing for his own company, G. R. Designs, and designing knitwear for Harmon Knitwear. In 1960 he also won his first Coty Award for swimwear design.
Extent
100 linear ft. (207 boxes)
Restrictions
Copyright to portions of this collection has been assigned to UCLA Library Special Collections. The library can grant permission to publish for materials to which it holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or quote must be submitted in writing to Library Special Collections. Credit shall be given as follows: [c in circle] The Regents of the University of California on behalf of UCLA Library Special Collections.
Availability
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.