Traphagen School of Fashion

Coordinates: 40°45′47″N 73°58′58″W / 40.763094°N 73.982781°W / 40.763094; -73.982781

Traphagen School of Fashion was a school in operation from 1923–1991, and was located at 1680 Broadway in New York City.[1] The school was founded and directed by Ethel Traphagen Leigh (1883–1963) with a focus on the foundational concepts of the American design movement.[1] This was one of the earliest fashion schools and played a role in the development of American fashion by educating over 28,000 students in 68 years of operation.[2]

Traphagen School of Fashion
1680 Broadway, New York City, New York, U.S.
Other nameTraphagen School of Design
FounderEthel Traphagen Leigh


Traphagen School of Fashion was founded in 1923 by Ethel Traphagen Leigh (1883–1963) with a focus on the foundational concepts of the American design movement.[1]

Traphagen School encouraged student experimentation with materials and construction techniques.[2] One of the educational tenants of the Traphagen School of Fashion was a "design-by-adaptation" method, which included historical research.[2] The school had a large collection of books and historic fashion plates, which was a source of inspiration for student work.[2] The "design-by-adaptation" method often resulted in the appropriation of fashion in different cultures, including Native American and African American fashion.[3]

The semi- quarterly alumni magazine was called Fashion Digest, highlighting industry partnerships, honors and work by alumni.[2]

In March 2019, the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) hosted a survey exhibition of the school, The Traphagen School: Fostering American Fashion.[2][3]


Actors, entertainment industryEdit

Fashion designersEdit

  • Geoffrey Beene, (class of 1947, Costume Design) fashion designer.[5][6]
  • Luis Estévez, (class of 1951, Costume Design) Cuban-born American fashion designer, costume designer.[7]
  • James Galanos, (class of 1943, Costume Design) fashion designer.[7][8][9]
  • Stan Herman, (class of 1952, Costume Design) fashion designer of corporate uniforms.[7]
  • Victor Joris, (class of 1945, Costume Design and Sketching) fashion designer known for women's apparel and pioneering pantsuits and long coats.[7]
  • Anne Klein, (attended c. 1937–1938, Costume Design), fashion designer.[7]
  • John Kloss, (class of 1958, Costume Design) fashion designer, known for lingerie and sleepwear designs.[7]
  • Robert Knox (1908–1973), fashion designer at Ben Gershel.[10]
  • Helen Lee, (class of 1926, Costume Design) fashion designer for children's clothing. Her own line, Designs by Helen Lee Inc., was established in 1955.[7]
  • Maurice Levin, (class of 1949, Costume Design) fashion designer for Jantzen, and West Coast mid-century modern fashion for men and women.[7]
  • Mary McFadden, (class of 1956, Costume Design) fashion designer.[7][11]
  • Arthur McGee, (class of 1951, Costume Design) fashion designer, first African American designer working in design studio on Seventh Avenue in the Garment District in New York City.[7]
  • Franklin Rowe, fashion designer.[12]
  • Carolyn Schnurer (class of 1939, Costume Design) fashion designer and a pioneer in American sportswear.[7]


  • Antonio Lopez (illustrator) (class of 1955, Illustration) Puerto Rican-born American fashion illustrator.[7]
  • Esta Nesbitt, (class of 1937, Illustration) fashion illustrator and xerox artist.[7]
  • Robert William Meyers (1919–1970), magazine and children's book illustrator.[13]




  • Alon Bement (1876–1954), served as Dean of Traphagen between 1946 until 1951, where he taught interior design courses.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "Ethel Traphagen Leigh Is Dead; Founded Fashion School in '23". The New York Times. 1963-04-30. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Traphagen School: Fostering American Fashion". Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  3. ^ a b Ernest, Genevieve (2019-03-12). "Visiting the Traphagen School at the Museum at FIT". Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  4. ^ Apone, Carl (July 9, 1967). "Daisy Mae From Grove City, PA". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 2019-12-10. dress design at Traphagen School of Fashion Design
  5. ^ Rayner, Polly. "Body of Work for 30 Years, Designer Geoffrey Been Has Designed Clothing Without Compromise". The Morning Call. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  6. ^ "Designer Achieves a Distinctive Look; Simplicity and Comfort Mark Clothes for Modern Life". The New York Times. 1964-05-13. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Traphagen Alumni, The Traphagen School: Fostering American Fashion". Museum at FIT. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  8. ^ Jacobs, Laura. "'James Galanos: Design Integrity' Review: The West Coast King of Fashion". WSJ. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  9. ^ "James Galanos, whose gowns were worn by Nancy Reagan, Judy Garland and Heidi Klum, was 'America's couturier'". Los Angeles Times. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  10. ^ "Robert Knox Dies; Fashion Designer". The New York Times. 1973-06-13. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  11. ^ Bennetts, Leslie (1979-03-02). "Mary McFadden: Life of Her Own Design". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  12. ^ Fraser, Kristopher (2017-08-30). "Call it a comeback: the return of Franklin Rowe". Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  13. ^ "Robert Meyers, 51, Illustrator, Shot". The New York Times. 1970-10-30. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  14. ^ Henkes, Robert. Latin American Women Artists of the United States: The Works of 33 Twentieth-Century Women. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland, 1999. Print.
  15. ^ Morgan, Bill (1997). Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac's City. San Francisco, California: City Lights Books. pp. 38. ISBN 9780872863255.
  16. ^ "ALON BEMENT, 78, A PAINTER, IS DEAD; Former Dean of Traphagen School of Fashion Had Led Art and Industry Alliance". The New York Times. November 24, 1954. p. 23. Retrieved 2020-04-23.