Appointment at Bergdorf's

The Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon was a made-to-order luxury service within the department store on Fifth Avenue from 1923-1969. Socialites and fashion lovers flocked to Bergdorf’s for access to a “Paris original,” with imported designs from top luxury French designers for the first time. 

These fashion illustrations were used for reference and to track the reproduction of licensed couture copies with a peak in custom sales during the 1950s in New York City, but the use of the sketches beyond that is unknown.

The Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon sketch Collection was donated by Andrew Goodman in 1971 between Library Special Collections and College Archives at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The 8,991 sketch collection housed at FIT consists of sketches from the late 1930s until 1969, when the custom salon closed its doors. 

Ethel Frankau was the director and head buyer of the Custom Salon for over forty years and would travel to Paris for collection showings each season to select garments to order to be recreated by Bergdorf's. New seasonal designs were exhibited at semi-annual invitation-only fashion shows at the Salon. In addition to Parisian copies, Salon clients could also work with in-house designer Leslie Morris on customized looks.

Appointment at Bergdorf’s features a selection of original fashion sketches sourced from Special Collections. The sketches exemplify the most popular women’s fashions of the mid-twentieth century, including Christian Dior’s "New Look," extravagant evening gowns, lavish cocktail dresses, and matching sets. Featured designers include Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Gabrielle Chanel, Nina Ricci, and many more. 

Image: Christian Dior evening gown, Fall 1959.

Curated by Danielle Paterson, BFA Photography 2020, Staff at Library Special Collections and College Archives