Pauline Trigère was born in the Pigalle district of Paris to Russian-Jewish parents in 1908. Her mother was a dressmaker and her father a tailor who made military uniforms for Russian aristocrats. After graduating from College Victor Hugo, Trigère dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her parents both encouraged her to learn the skill of dressmaking. At the age of 19 she married Lazar Radley. In 1935 Trigère opened a wholesale business specializing in tailored suits and dresses. But, in 1937 the Nazi threat forced her and her family to move to New York City. Soon after in 1941 Trigère and her husband divorced. Left to support her two sons, Trigère worked as an assistant to designer Hattie Carnegie making $65 a week. In 1942 she opened a business again with her brother with an eleven piece collection. Within three years, she was a recognized name in fashion.
Trigère used the French style to design her clothes. Instead of sketching her designs she would drape fabric over her models and cut the fabric to produce the design she wanted. She made advancements in the fashion world by being one of the first designers to use cotton and wool for evening wear and she even developed a thin wool fabric called Trigeen that she used for fifty years. Trigère was known for wearing her own practical and elegant fashion designs with her trademark turtle pins and commentating her own fashion shows. She was also known for her reversible coats and capes, and jumpsuits, which gained popularity in the 1960’s. She was one of the first American designers to hire an African-American model for her runway shows.
In addition to the National Cotton Award, Trigère received three Coty American Fashion Critics’ awards (in 1949, 1951 and 1959) and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1959. She also received awards from both Neiman Marcus and Filene’s, and the silver and vermeil medals of the city of Paris. In 1992 she was honored by the Fashion Institute of Technology for the 50th anniversary of her company. She was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1993. In 1994 she closed her business as a result of retail consolidation. She was inducted into the Fashion Industry Walk of Fame in New York in 2000 and received the French Legion of Honor in 2001. Trigère continued to design into her nineties and in 2001, she started an online business which sold accessories for older people including canes, hearing aids, eyeglass cases, and pill boxes. Trigère died in Manhattan in 2002 at the age of 93.
Druesedow, Jean. "Pauline Trigère." Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, edited by Valerie Steele, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. Biography in Context
"Pauline Trigère." American Decades, edited by Judith S. Baughman, et al., Gale, 1998. Biography in Context
Sheinman, Mort. "Pauline Trigère." Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed., Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Biography in Context
“Award-Winning Designer Pauline Trigère, 93, Dies” Washington Post, February 15, 2002.
“Pauline Trigère, Exemplar of American Style, Dies at 93,” New York Times, February 14, 2002.