Norman Norell was born as Norman David Levinson in Noblesville, Indiana in 1900. His father had a haberdashery, a store dealing in men's clothing and accessories. In 1918, he attended Parsons School of Design in New York, followed by fashion design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1920 to 1922.
Joining the New York studio of Paramount Pictures in 1922, he designed clothes for Gloria Swanson and other silent film stars. Shortly there after, he worked as a costume designer on Broadway, as well as for the Brooks Costume Company and for wholesale dress manufacturer Charles Armour. In 1928, he began working for Hattie Carnegie and remained with her until 1941. Norell also taught at the Parsons School of design in New York, which he continued until 1972.
Following his departure from Hattie Carnegie, Norell went into business with Anthony Traina to form Traina-Norell. Traina looked after business aspects, while Norell served as the fashion designer. Upon Traina’s retirement in 1960, Norell started his own label using the name Norell.
Considered one of the most globally respected New York fashion designers, Norell was best known for his chemise dresses, sequined evening sheaths, fur coats, evening dresses, fur slacks and empire waist dresses. Additionally, he had the ability to translate French couture into American ready-to-wear.
Norman Norell died in New York, in October 1972. Norell was a founder and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) the governing body of the American fashion industry. The recipient of five Coty awards (1943, 1951, 1956, 1958, 1966), he was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1956. The house of Norman Norell has continued under the creative direction of Patrick Michael Hughes.
Callan, Georgina O’Hara. The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Fashion and Fashion Designers. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998.
“Norman Norell: Cocktail Dress.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/coho/hod_1986.517.5.htm