Muriel King was born in 1901 in Bayview, Washington, USA. She studied art at the University of Washington, designing theatre costumes on the side, before moving to New York. Her first jobs were in fashion illustration for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.
In 1925 and 1926, Bonwit Teller ran a series of advertisements depicting ladies tea dancing, attending the Kennel Club Show and leaving for Palm Beach on trains. These were drawn by illustrator Muriel King.
In 1927, Muriel spent the first of 3 annual 8 month stays in Europe where she free-lanced as a fashion artist for Modes and Manners, Femina and French Vogue.
Urged on by friends, she began designing clothes professionally. She worked by making her beautifully rendered drawings first and then had the clothes made up by her staff. Customers ordered from the sketches and she often worked with American fabrics.
In 1932, Muriel was chosen as one of the first 3 designers for Lord and Taylor's promotion of American fashion. She had just gone into business for herself, opening a salon at East 61st Street, New York. Lord and Taylor sold her ready-to-wear designs priced at between $ 20-50 and her private clientele could order dresses that were exclusive, at higher prices.
She designed an entire collection in 1933 for B. Altman, everything from bathing suits and skating clothes to evening gowns.
Muriel was especially interested in interchangeable wardrobes of separates and day-into-evening clothes. A dinner dress is shown in the picture here, from 1938, which emulated a 19th century Spencer with the high curve of the waistline. The lower portion of the dress with it's striped fabric, appears to be a separate skirt, reflecting the casual ethos of sportswear in the late 30's.
Beginning in 1935, she designed the personal wardrobe for film star Katherine Hepburn, as well as for her film "Sylvia Scarlett". Here on the right, is a trouser outfit she designed for Hepburn, who was very fond of trouser suits.
She also designed for Ginger Rogers for the movie "Stage Door" in 1937. In all, between 1935 and 1944, she designed costumes for 8 movies, including "Cover girl" in 1943 with Rita Hayworth starring.
Here on the left is a sketch of a Muriel King gown of 1937 which appeared in Vogue.
The illustrator who made the sketch was Ruth Grafstrom.
In the 1940's Muriel King started a venture called d'Armand King.
During World War II, she designed a wardrobe of co-ordinated garments in "flight blue" for women aircraft workers which were used by Boeing, Lockheed and Douglas aircraft makers. King freelanced for Lord and Tailor and after the War became head designer for Stein and Blaine.
By the 1950's her designs were considered respectable, dignified and mature not sexy and innovative. In the fashion industry this is the kiss of death. In 1957, she retired from fashion design to concentrate on her painting.
She died in 1977 at the age of 76.
Muriel King's clothes were breathtakingly elegant, with none of the gimmickry that marred other American designs. Her clothes reflected her artist's sense of colour and she played transparency against opacity or in contrasting textures, rather than ornamentation.