Though the weather outside is frightful, we’re warming up in California with our latest exhibition Sun-Drenched Style at the FIDM Orange County Campus. This exhibition showcases the work of five women designers in mid-century California. It was important to us to highlight California women in particular; you may have heard the names Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, or Tina Leser, and perhaps you’re familiar with their achievements in mid-century American design. Yet California women were equally important in this space, and their proximity to the lifestyles that embraced sportswear made their designs all the more relevant. These women worked to lead the charge for a new interpretation of fashion, but they are often overlooked in favor of their east coast peers. We thought it was time to show how and why California women designers made their own unique contributions to American fashion.
Addie Masters pictured in Those Designing Women, The Los Angeles Fashion Group, 1977; courtesy of the FIDM Library
Addie Masters advertisement in California Stylist, September 1941; courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costumes & Textiles Department
Today, we’d like to introduce our readers to Addie Masters (1901 – 1983), known in her private circle as the ultimate California hostess. Addie Masters is said to have thought that women were at their most beautiful in their own homes, and her gorgeous loungewear certainly fulfilled that ideal. Using vibrant colors and rich fabrics, Masters designed wide-leg culotte pants that followed the tradition of beach pajamas – a one-piece casual garment that she made more formal by using silks that draped like a gown. Her designs were meant to be worn in the home, but could move seamlessly from pool to patio, kitchen to cabana. California’s sunny climate was ideal for outdoor entertaining, which grew in popularity as mid-century architecture integrated patios and pools into home designs. Masters’ designs aligned with the leisure activities embraced by California residents.
(L) Hostess Pajamas, Addie Masters, c. 1959, silk surah, Gift of Terry Fry, 77.1320.2AB; (R) Sari Skirt, Addie Masters, 1950-1955, silk and metallic gauze, Gift of Elizabeth Robinson, 96.1118.7
Masters dress featured in “Fashion: California: Garden architecture—and blossoming blues,” Vogue, April 15, 1954