William (Bill) Ralph Blass was born in 1922 in Fort Wayne, USA. His father ran the local hardware store, but died when Bill was only 5 years old. He started sketching when very young, copying the dresses he saw in the movies and in magazines. After completing high school, he started sending his designs to companies in New York, and sold several.
In 1939, when he was 17, he left the Midwest and went to New York, and started studying fashion design at Parsons School of Design. On graduation he worked as a sketcher for David Crystal, a Sportswear manufacturer, before being drafted for military service.
In 1945, after the war ended, he moved to Anna Miller and Cio., as a designer. Mrs Miller retired in 1959 and by that time Bill Blass was her chief designer. Her company was merged with that of her brother Maurice Rentner. His designs were very successful, and the company began to be more and more in his image.
In 1970 he bought the company and it became Bill Blass Ltd. Blass designed for a host of famous women, including first ladies Nancy Reagon and Barbara Bush as well as Candice Bergen, Barbra Streisand and Barbara Walters.
Bill Blass is often referred to as the "Dean of American Designers".
For around 50 years he designed clothes to meet standards of country club and evoke Hollywood glamour simultaneously. He believed a designer should not be a dictator and the client must ultimately be in charge. He travelled all over the US making sure his clothes always work well.
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." Bill Blass was one of those honoured.
On June 12th, 2002, Bill Blass died at his home in Washington, Connecticut, USA, at the age of 79. In his last weeks, he was working on a Retrospective of his work, planned for Fall 2003.
Bill Blass was best known as a designer of American daywear. He took traditional garments such as jackets and softened the lines, creating a more fluid, less severe design. His suits were tailored by curves to imitate the female body. Even his most structured garments were softened by gentle bends at the hem, lapels or fastenings. Blass was inventive in his mixing of textures and patterns. He used tweeds and shirting’s, often with a splash of colour, or a bright frill of lace or fur trim. His use of ruffles has been particularly effective.
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