If you’ve ever pored over old photos of such silver-screen stars as Mary Pickford, Irene Dunne, and Claudette Colbert, and such society swans as as Syrie Maugham, Babe Paley, and C.Z. Guest, odds are you’ve seen a Mainbocher dress or three. If you’ve seen the famous pictures of Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor that Cecil Beaton took right after their wedding at the Château de Candé, in the Loire Valley, you’ve for sure seen the famed Franco-American couturier’s work—he designed that famous blue dress as well as her trousseau.
What you might not have realized, though, about the designer—whose full name was, in fact, Main Rousseau Bocher—was that he was originally, a Chicago boy. After studying at what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he headed for Paris, where first he served as a U.S. spy and, eventually, as the editor of French Vogue. (We trust the two roles were not related.) Learn all this and more at the exhibit Making Mainbocher, currently in the middle of its yearlong run at the Chicago History Museum.