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Bonnie Cashin, Philip Sills & Company publicity photographs

 Collection — binder: 1
Identifier: KA-0059-01


American fashion designer Bonnie Cashin (1908-2000) had a longstanding partnership with manufacturer Philip Sills and Co., spanning 1953 into the mid-1970s. This collection represents 65 fashion photographs, some with accompanying press releases, from 1967-1968.


  • circa 1967-1968



0.2 Cubic Feet (1 binder consisting of 65 photographs)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The collection consists of sixty-five publicity photographs for clothing designed by Bonnie Cashin for Philip Sills & Co., circa 1967-1968.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from The New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical / Historical

Active from the late 1930s through the mid-1980s, Bonnie Cashin (1908-2000) designed clothing for women with busy, modern lifestyles. Taking inspiration from a wide range of sources, including nature, Asian cultures, dance, and sports, Cashin became known for her functional, comfortable designs that frequently incorporated leather detailing, layers, and inventive pockets.

Raised in California by a dressmaker mother and a photographer-inventor father, Cashin briefly studied drawing at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles. Her professional career began in 1931, designing costumes for a local dance troupe. Following the troupe’s manager to the Roxy Theater in New York in 1933 or 1934, Cashin spent several years designing costumes for the Roxyettes. During this period she also studied drawing at the Art Students' League. Cashin later cited her backgound in dance and theatrical costume design as the source for her skill designing sportswear that accommodated comfort and ease of movement. In 1937, Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow saw a Roxyette performance and recommended Cashin to the coat and suit manufacturer, Adler and Adler.

In 1941, along with Claire McCardell and Vera Maxwell, Cashin served on a uniform committee for the Office of Civil Defense, further honing her skills in functional design. In 1943, she returned to California to work for Twentieth Century Fox. Over the next several years, she created costumes for more than sixty films, including Laura (1944), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, (1945) and Anna and the King of Siam (1946). In 1948, Cashin came back to New York, where, in 1952, she opened her own firm, Bonnie Cashin Designs, Inc. While many American designers of the period produced a single line under their own name, then licensed their name to other companies for accessories and lower-priced clothing, Cashin declined to license her name, electing to work directly with manufacturers to produce lines of clothing and accessories at a range of prices.

In 1953, Cashin began a productive partnership with Philip Sills and Co. that lasted for the next 24 years. Her all-leather collections for Sills pioneered the use of leather in high fashion. Her incorporation of leather trim on garments made of tweed, denim and other materials contributed to a clean-lined, two-dimensional look that became a mark of her signature style. In 1956, Cashin traveled to India to advise the Indian government on the handloom weaving industry, also journeying to Japan, China, and Thailand. Her fascination with Asian cultures was reflected in her design sensibility, which incorporated elements such as Mandarin collared coats and draped evening dresses reminiscent of Indian saris. Cashin's design also addressed the practical side of travel, with clothes that folded flat and had ample pockets. She has also been credited with innovating the concept of layering in fashion (and for coining the term), addressing travelers' need to adapt to changes in climate.

Cashin was appointed the first designer for the women’s division at the leather handbag company Coach in 1962. Designing Coach accessories until 1974, Cashin's handbags and wallets were characterized by her innovative use of hardware, including brass fasteners that drew inspiration from details on her convertible automobile. These toggles became a signature detail for the Coach brand, and her designs for Coach remain in production under the "Legacy" line. In 1964, Cashin began designing knitwear for cashmere manufacturer Ballantyne of Peebles. In 1972, she formed her own knitwear company, The Knittery, which featured sweaters that were knit-to-shape rather than cut-and-sewn. Partnerships with other manufacturers included Meyers, Hermès, and Aquascutum, among many others.

In 1979, Cashin set up the Innovative Design Fund, a non-profit organization that provided funding for design prototypes to emerging designers. Cashin retired in 1985.

Among many industry awards, Cashin received the Coty Award five times, entering their Hall of Fame in 1972. She had a long association with the California Institute of Technology, establishing the James Michelin Lecture Series in 1978 as well as the Bonnie Cashin Most Creative Application Essay Award.

Bonnie Cashin died on February 3, 2000 in New York. Later that year, a retrospective exhibition of her work opened at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.


Bonnie Cashin collection of fashion, theater, and film costume design, 1913-2000. Finding aid prepared by Stephanie Day-Iverson and UCLA Library Special Collections staff; machine-readable finding aid created by Caroline Cubé. UCLA Library Special Collections, 2006.,%20theater,%20and%20film%20costume%20design

Grove Art Online (Published online: 14 May 2009).

"The Forgotten Designer Behind Some of Fashion’s Biggest Trends."

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Gladys Marcus Library, Fashion Institute of Technology, in approximately 2000. Accession file is incomplete.

Related Materials

The photographs in this collection are probably duplicates that were deaccessioned from a larger collection held by the Fashion Institute of Technology, US.NNFIT.SC.81 Bonnie Cashin collection, 1953-1977. Incomplete accession records in both The New School Archives and FIT Special Collections makes the relationship unverifiable. University of California, Los Angeles holds the Bonnie Cashin Collection of Fashion, Theater, and Film Costume Design. Other significant collections of Cashin's work will be found at Ohio State University and The New York Public Library.

Guide to the Bonnie Cashin, Philip Sills & Company publicity photographs
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
May 13, 2020
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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