Muriel King: Artist of Fashion Discussion Guide
This guide is meant to supplement and encourage discussion of Muriel King: Artist of Fashion. Suggested questions pertain to various sections of the exhibit, but you are encouraged to use them as you think best serves your classes. A glossary of fashion terms has been included.
Fashion designer Muriel King had a hugely successful career that spanned three decades and two continents. However, she has been largely forgotten today, despite the beauty of her work and her role in elevating high-end American fashion. Born near Seattle, Washington, in 1900, King trained as a painter before settling in Paris in the 1920s and embarking on a career in fashion illustration. She later moved to New York, where she opened her own couture house in 1932. King lacked the cutting, draping, and sewing skills typically needed for fashion design, but her beautifully executed watercolor sketches were transformed by her staff into fully-realized garments. She created couture garments for some of the most visible and stylish women of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as ready-to-wear lines for a number of New York’s major department stores. King also made a brief sojourn to Hollywood, where she designed costumes for films such as Cover Girl (1944) and Stage Door (1937). King devoted the last twenty years of her life to painting. She died in 1977.
couture French word used throughout the fashion industry to describe original styles by fashion designers, representing the ultimate in fine sewing and tailoring, and made of expensive fabrics. Couture designs are shown in collections twice a yearspring /summer and fall/winter.
costume designer A designer who creates garments to be worn by characters in a film or play.
cut Trade term used in ready-to-wear industry for cutting out fabric preparatory to sewing.
designer Person engaged in creating original clothing and accessories in various areas of the fashion industry. Some designers own their businesses, others are employed by manufacturers to develop collections of merchandise in ready-to-wear, couture, lingerie, millinery, footwear, accessories, and jewelry.
draping Trade term for arranging and pinning muslin cloth over a dummy to conform to the design of the intended garment. After draping, muslin is removed from dummy, stitched as seams and tried on a model. Then it is altered, refitted on model, and cut apart at the seams to make the pattern.
ready-to-wear Apparel that is mass produced in standard sizes. Known in French as prêt-à-porter (prêt-ah-por-tay).
sew To join together by stitches.
uniform Any specific type of apparel required for wear by the armed forces of any country; for a specialized occupation, by a school, or for competitive team sports such as baseball, football, and hockey.
*Majority of definitions courtesy of Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta. Fairchild's Dictionary of Fashion (New York: Fairchild Publications, 1988).