In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Gordon Conway: Poet of Chic
  • Kris Somerville (bio)

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Fashion Design: The Tatler, 1930

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

[End Page 89]


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Fashion Design: Woman with Leopard

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

After two years of finishing school in Rome and a brief tour of Europe, Gordon Conway spent time in London before heading home to Texas and an undecided future. As luck would have it, at a swanky dinner party she was seated next to publisher Condé Nast’s first art director, Heyworth Campbell. She took the opportunity to show off a series of whimsical sketches that she [End Page 90]


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Fashion Design: Red Cross Girl, 1918

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

carried with her. A tall, svelte, red-haired beauty in a chic French outfit, she won him over with her personal flair and original work. When she spoke of tentative plans for art school, he discouraged her, suggesting that it would “flatten” her talent. He recommended that she pursue fashion illustration instead and provided a letter of introduction. At twenty, Gordon Conway had charmed her way into what she imagined would be a glamorous career. But she would [End Page 91]


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Costume Design: Hat Number, Casino de Paris, 1923–1924

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin


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Fashion Design: LaDonna, Woman with Parrot, 1924–1926

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

[End Page 92]


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Costume Design: Peggy-Ann, Daly’s Theater

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin


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Costume Design: Peggy-Ann, Daly’s Theater

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

[End Page 93]


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Costume Design: Fan Dancer, Casino de Paris

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

spend the next twenty years fighting it out in a competitive, male-dominated field. The limitless demands of her profession, along with her dread of leisure, would nearly kill her before the age of forty.

Taking Campbell’s advice, Gordon skipped an academic education. She went to New York and began working in 1915 at Condé Nast’s Vogue and Vanity Fair, the two most important fashion magazines of the period. The [End Page 94] timing was perfect; the industry was hungry for new talent. Nast was investing heavily in illustrations for his twin publications. After World War I, modern women craved fine fashion, and his magazines served as their secular Bibles.


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Jazz Lint, 1924

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Heyworth provided Gordon with a custom education. He taught her elementary techniques and coached her in putting more character into her work. Most importantly, he bolstered her confidence and helped her model her own look after the bright young sophisticates Nast depicted in his magazine. With shortened dresses, bobbed hair and an exuberant air, Gordon became a precursor to the freedom-and-fun-loving flapper of the 1920s. [End Page 95]


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Fashion Design: Winter Scene, 1922

Harry Ransom Humanities Center, The University of Texas at Austin

As the flapper broke away from high Victorian mores of restraint, so did the world of art. The experimental atmosphere of the 1920s nurtured a new generation of innovative illustrators and designers. Russian-born Erte, along with Europeans Iribe, Lepape, Barbier and Benito and Americans Helen Dryden and George Plank, influenced Conway’s maturing style, while her artistic antecedents went further back to the delicate, provocative pen-and-ink [End Page 96] illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley and the colorful compositions of the last of the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Burne-Jones. Both Beardsley’s and Burne-Jones’s stylish designs had a powerful influence on Gordon’s work. Throughout her career she collected lithographs by Beardsley and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 89-100
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-14
Open Access
No
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