Cashin Copycats

The Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection here at Ohio State is currently sorting through our own collection of Bonnie Cashin outfits as part of a 2018 National Endowment of Humanities funded Preservation Assistance Grant. Cashin was a well known fashion designer with a creating span of over 40 years. She became known as one of the “Mothers of American Sportswear,” and was known for frequently saying, “chic is where you find it.” Unimpressed with many of the day’s fashions, she created her own line called “Bonnie Cashin Designs”. Cashin’s designs were new and original for the time she created them. However, many of her designs have been reinvented by “copycats” without any credit or acknowledgment for Cashin. She was once quoted as saying, “The moment you think of an idea, it is no longer yours exclusively.” Perhaps she knew that her designs would be copied one day because of how unique and original they were. Today, it is hard to know what was her idea because the designs have become ever-so mainstream in modern day.

Cashin was born on September 15, 1908 to an inventor and a photographer. From a young age, she was brought into a world of original thinking and creativity. Her mother had opened a custom dress shop in California where she learned to sew before she could write. She made her way from California to New York and became “the youngest designer to ever hit Broadway.” Later, she would go on to create clothing for women in armed forces, Hollywood, sportswear, and more. Cashin wanted to make clothing for women that played a certain role, not just what was the latest trend. This may have been what set her apart in her designs, or how she cultivated such unique ideas.

To combat against copycats, Stephanie Lake, Cashin’s heir and owner to her personal design archive, created an Instagram account called “Cashincopy” in order to showcase the true work of Cashin and display side by side images of today’s knockoffs. One of the more controversial copycats was made by Calvin Klein. Raf Simons, designer for Calvin Klein’s 2018 Spring Collection, designed an orange poncho extremely similar to one of Cashin’s designs. From the color to the diagonal zipper front pockets and drawstring, Calvin Klein copied it almost exactly. More big name copycats include Miu Miu, Lisa Perry, Rachel Zoe, and Coach.

Bonnie Cashin was perhaps one of the most original fashion designers to date. From the start to the end of her career, she never had any investors or assistant designers to help her. Her style was unique, one of a kind, and the first of its kind. The remakes began in the sixties and still continue today. Stephanie Lake was quoted, “She wished that people copying her would do a better job. And in the sixties she went to D.C. to campaign for designers’ rights, acknowledging that people were going to copy but the originator of the idea should by law receive credit and compensation.”













College Students: What were they Wearing?

Have you ever wondered what you would have worn to an Ohio State football game in 1926? Let’s just say it wasn’t crop tops and leggings. The Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection is currently showcasing college fashion throughout the past 150 years that encompasses a variety of style and culture. From 1870 to World War II and beyond, visit our collection to view and learn about the different outfits worn by college students.

Let’s start with women’s fashion. When walking on campus in the late 1800’s to 
early 1900’s, you may have noticed a large number of bustles. This was the prime period when bustles were implemented into women’s everyday fashion. In the 1870’s, women’s dresses, which consisted of a skirt and bodice, were long and had a train to follow. As years went on, however, the dresses became less in  length to a few inches above the ground, and the train had just about disappeared.  However, as the dresses got shorter, the bustles only got bigger, putting more emphasis on the rear. They were usually adorned with bows and shaped with drapery.



Several dresses ranging from 1929-1940 are displayed as well. Women’s fashion definitely changed greatly from the turn of the the century to the 1920’s. Dresses were still below the knee, yet considerably long in today’s sense. They had a drop waist and loose fit, and you would often see Mary Jane’s or T-Strap heels  to finish the look.

If you went to a football game, you most likely would’ve cheered on the team in a raccoon fur coat, a cloche hat, and your favorite pair of fur-trimmed boots if you were a woman. For men, your university’s letter sweater and wool knickers would have been the go-to look.

The lower gallery showcases white dresses worn at either graduations or initiations. The first was a gift of Vera Lee Conley Cox from when she graduated from Antioch College. The second, was worn by a former OSU student, Ruth E. Moore. The off-white silk crepe two-piece was worn for both her high school graduation in 1922 and when she pledged Delta Sigma Theta sorority as well. Moore went on to receive not only her bachelors degree from Ohio State, but her masters and PhD in addition

Home Economics cooking class in Campbell Hall, 1953   

 The third dress is an off-white silk crepe dress with lace trim and a faux jacket front, which was worn by another OSU student, Margaret Jacob Dombey (class of 1927). Margaret was considered a rather beautiful woman and was crowned OSU May Queen in 1927 and Rosebud in 1924. She wore this dress for her initiation into Kappa Kappa Gamma and possibly her graduation. The fourth and last dress was of Anne Clark who graduated in 1955 from Ohio State. Her white pique dress was worn for her initiation into the Mortar Board Society.

Nurses weren’t the only ones to sport the white dress look. Female students in classes like home economics as pictured above to the right, also had to wear a uniform (white lab  dress) to class.

Our gallery is also displaying an array of International Student clothing, as well as outfits crafted by Ohio State Alumni themselves when they were students as Ohio State.  To the left  is  striped  maxi  dress  made  and  worn  by  Mary  Lou  Swisshelm  Star,  a student who  received  her undergraduate degree from Ohio State in 1970.

To learn and discover even more unique college styles throughout the decades, make sure to visit our exhibit. For times and location be sure to check out the rest of the website.













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