Hoosier Hall of Fame: Top Fashion Designers

Who says Hoosiers aren’t stylish?

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This story is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.

 

In 2000, the Fashion Walk of Fame was unveiled in New York with an octet of plaques honoring the best, brightest, most influential American designers ever. Guess where three of those eight hailed from? “It’s amazing that Indiana has produced so many important designers,” says Niloo Paydar, curator of textile and fashion arts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “What is it about Indiana?” While we can no longer ask these visionaries what about their home state inspired them, a glimpse at their artful designs explains the appeal of the lauded trio, along with one newer (but, even 12 years after his death, increasingly significant) Hoosier couturier.

NORMAN NORELL
1900–1972

Norell

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indiana Connection: Born and raised in Noblesville
His Look: Ready-to-wear clothing that resembled couture—not for the Parisian lady, as was popular at the midcentury mark, but the American woman
Worn By: Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, Michelle Obama
Bona Fides: Dubbed the “father of American high fashion” by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

BILL BLASS
1922–2002

Blass

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indiana Connection: Native of Fort Wayne
His Look: Nonchalantly sophisticated, unabashedly beautiful clothes for the ladies who lunch
Worn By: Brooke Astor, Gloria Vanderbilt, Nancy Reagan
Bona Fides: Won fashion’s answer to the Oscar, the Coty Award, seven times

 

ROY HALSTON FROWICK
1932–1990

Frowick

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indiana Connection: Moved to Evansville at age 10 and studied at IU for a semester in 1952
His Look: Streamlined, sexy, drapey minimalism for the Studio 54 crowd, often in gold lame or Ultrasuede
Worn By: Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Jacqueline Kennedy (she donned a young Halston’s pillbox hat for John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration)
Bona Fides: Proclaimed “the premier fashion designer of all America” in 1973 by Newsweek

 

STEPHEN SPROUSE
1953–2004

Sprouse

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indiana Connection: Grew up in Columbus
His Look: Punk couture—think graffiti prints, mirrored sequins, and Day-Glo brights
Worn By: Debbie Harry, Billy Idol, Duran Duran
Bona Fides: Used Norell’s tailor, sketched for Blass, and apprenticed under Halston—thus bringing the Indiana fashion world full-circle

This story originally ran in the January 2016 issue.

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