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Harpers bazaar
ANN COOKE SKIWEAR DESIGN featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, January 1946. Courtesy of U.S. Harper’s Bazaar.
Ann Bonfoey Taylor


Fashion Independent

 

 

 

“She knew perfectly what suited her and was able to adapt pieces, with a sense of rigor, to her personal style.”

-Hubert de Givenchy
                

The remarkable collection celebrated in “Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor” belongs to the Phoenix Art Museum, which in 2011 presented the exhibition and published the accompanying catalog, curated and edited by Dennita Sewell, the museum’s Curator of Fashion Design.This year “Fashion Independent” traveled to the Georgia Museum of Art, in Athens, Georgia, the only other venue, where it was enthusiastically received by regional press and a local audience clearly eager for more such experiences. The Georgia Museum’s first major show to focus entirely on fashion, its dramatic entrance was dominated by a mint-green silk evening dress and coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga from 1962-63 and a floor-to-ceiling photograph of Ann Bonfoey Taylor wearing the coat and a matching pantsuit while striding across an immaculate sun-dappled lawn, a pairing that gave equal attention to the garments and to their owner.

Ann Bonfoey was born in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in 1910, and her family soon moved to Quincy, Illinois, where one of her grandfathers ran the Monroe Chemical Company. According to Sewell, her father “was an early aviation enthusiast” who introduced his daughter to flying when she was six years old and hired a flight instructor for her when she was twelve. Bonfoey Taylor attended a private boarding school in Westchester County, New York, and participated in numerous athletic clubs and teams. She married, reluctantly and upon her father’s urging, at age eighteen, and she and her husband, James Cooke, soon had two children, a daughter and a son. They settled in Burlington, Vermont, where, Sewell writes, she both “embraced family life” and “strove to maintain a sense of personal fulfillment outside the home.” Bonfoey Taylor found that fulfillment through modeling, appearing in advertisements for Colgate and Lucky Strike among others, and through skiing, a sport just gaining popularity in the United States. Harper’s Bazaar noted her prowess on a ski trail in Stowe named Nose Dive for which she earned the nickname “Nose Dive Annie.” A skilled and competitive skier, she trained with the 1940 American women’s Olympic ski team, but the games were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

 

 

 

 

Ashley Callahan
Ashley Callahan is an independent scholar and curator in Athens, Georgia, with a specialty in modern and contemporary American decorative arts. She has written books and curated exhibitions on sisters Ilonka and Mariska Karasz, Hungarian-born modern designers based in New York, and Henry Eugene Thomas, a Colonial Revival furniture craftsman from Athens. Currently she is writing a book on the history of chenille fashion for the University of Georgia Press. She enjoys documenting the decorative arts history of the Southeast and promoting the region’s efforts to celebrate craft and design. For this issue she features “Ann Bonfoey Taylor: Fashion Independent,” organized by the Phoenix Art Museum and presented at the Georgia Museum of Art, where she formerly served as Curator of Decorative Arts.

 

  

 

 

This article in its entirety appears only in the print magazine.

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