Mount Mary University Digital Collections

Florence Eiseman

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Florence Eiseman wearing a Pauline Trigère evening gown (Object ID #1988.19) while winning the Gimbel's Fashion Forum Award in 1971
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
Florence Eiseman (née Feinberg) (1899-1988) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 27, 1899. She met and married Lawrence Eiseman in Chicago and the couple moved to Milwaukee where they had two sons. After seeing a doctor for a “nervous condition,” she was advised to take up a hobby. Eiseman began sewing clothing for her sons and the children of her friends. In 1945, her husband took several examples of Eiseman’s pinafores to a buyer at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. The buyer placed a $3,000 order and the business was born.
Of the firm belief that children should be dressed like children, not miniature adults, Eiseman created designs featuring A-line silhouettes, bright primary colors, and whimsical appliqués. She used the highest quality fabrics, often sourcing materials from Europe. Her commitment to excellence did not go unnoticed. Eiseman was awarded the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in 1955, the first childrenswear designer to receive this distinction. She went on to receive many other accolades, including the Gimbel’s Fashion Forum Award in 1971 (see photo at left) and Mount Mary's Gold Needle Award in 1980 (see photo below). Eiseman was herself a snappy dresser, favoring simple, well-made clothing from the likes of Norman Norell and Pauline Trigère. She was involved in the business almost until her death in 1988.
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Florence Eiseman holding her Gold Needle Award in 1980
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
The Florence Eiseman brand lives on today. The company honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to offer classic, high-quality designs. In an echo of last century, when notable clients included the children of Princess Grace of Monaco, Debbie Reynolds, and the younger Kennedys, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama commissioned the company to design special outfits as the official baby gifts from the White House.
Dress (Object ID #2022.04.03) from Eiseman's Functional Fashions line
Source: Mount Mary University Digital Fashion Archive
Working with Helen Cookman, a designer and advocate for people with disabilities, Florence Eiseman created the first line of commercially available, ready-to-wear high-end fashions for children with disabilities. This line featured innovative design details, such as large, easy to manipulate buttons, long skirts to accommodate wheelchairs, and reinforced underarm seams for crutches. Eiseman prided herself on making Functional Fashions that were indistinguishable from her standard line, believing that all children deserved beautiful clothing. She would go on to use several design elements from this line throughout her career. The Mount Mary Fashion Archive was fortunate to acquire several garments from this Functional Fashions line from the archives at Florence Eiseman Inc. in 2022. 
(Final paragraph taken largely from "Functional Fashions for Every Child," by Natalie Wright, in the 2017 Museum of Wisconsin Art Florence Eiseman: Designing Childhood for the American Century exhibit catalog.)
This exhibit showcases items Florence Eiseman designed. To see items from her wardrobe, visit the Florence Eiseman Wardrobe exhibit.