Monday, November 3, 2014

Georgia Bullock: a California Fashion Designer

Georgia Bullock was a California fashion designer. She was born in the small town of Whittier, Ca. in 1918 and raised in southern California. In the mid-1930’s, while in college at USC, she worked as a floor model and sales associate at a major department store in Los Angeles. After graduating, she was hired by Bullock’s Wilshire, followed by a milliner and later an established fashion designer. Knowing that she wanted to pursue fashion design, she studied at Frank Wiggins Trade School in Los Angeles. During this time both her work experience with customers along with her technical training prepared her for a career in fashion.

About 1941, with an idea for a basic black dress and $50 in cash, she and her partner Dorothy Phillips started a dress company with this one design. This new company would give her additional experience with buying trips to New York and selling wholesale. This small business lasted two years, so that by 1943, at 25 years old, she was in business for herself. She did most of the work herself in her little factory to start, but by 1945 she was quoted in national newspapers as a California fashion designer and selling her designs nationally. Her business would grow, moving to several factory locations in Los Angeles as her needs progressed. This suit was advertised in the mid-1940's.

“In my own designing, I try constantly to stress fit and flattering lines, rather than the specious and merely startling. I want to give the ready-to-wear customer the opportunity to buy good lines in the same sort of basic costumes (as custom made fashions).

“Now that the designers, newly freed of wartime stringencies, can create radically different styles in great variety, women have an ideal opportunity to choose the unhackeyed, to insist upon buying, not what is the rage but what is exactly right for them.

“California has a background and atmosphere which promotes a new, fresh feeling in our styles” she says. “American women are so different from European women, in shape and posture, and way of life. We, in California, are, I think, particularly well equipped to interpret much that is typically American”. Her philosophy would shape the kind of fashions she designed, always keeping in mind her customer’s figure and lifestyle, working to create designs that would flatter them.

She was married with a baby by 1948, but continued to design. In the early 1950’s she had her own manufacturing plant in Hollywood. In addition, Georgia took a design position with the well known label “Nellie Don” in 1953, located in Kansas City, the largest manufacturer of women’s clothing. It appears that she was able to work from Los Angeles for this venture while still working on her own line.

The “Georgia Bullock” label would symbolize the effortless style of the well-to-do woman who could afford the best in design, fabrics and fit. During this time her style tended toward suave and sophisticated. During the early 1950’s she widened her line to include sportswear with a elegant sense of style. Catering to the country club crowd, she presented her fashion shows on her own tennis courts at her home in Holmby Estates. These fashions were carried by the high end department stores, such as Saks, I. Magnin’s, and Bullock’s Wilshire.

In 1958 her fashions were worn on the Danny Thomas television show “Make Room for Daddy”. This symbolized her connection to the entertainment industry and to her ability to self promote as well.

Her career continued to grow, with clients nationally. By the early 1960’s, she was living in Malibu, creating fashions for the California beach, country club and resort lifestyle.

In an important move, in 1963 she launched her “Miss Georgia” line. These designs were less expensive with price points around $50 (her “Georgia Bullock” label sold for twice that). They were more fitted, showing clean lines, long sleeves or capped sleeves, while her own label was more complex and fashion forward.

Career Highlights:

1961: Bright cotton prints were shown for patio, poolside and at home dresses were seen to knee or ankle length with hem flounce. Georgia kept artist smocks in her lines for at-home wear, often in gay prints. Wraparound dresses, jackets in printed cottons, pants and long slim dresses with adjustable belts were also popular.

Mid-1960’s “Barefoot styles”: she described her at-home fashions as something that should be worn barefoot, much like her own beach lifestyle. It included artist smocks, eyelet pants, and hostess dresses for the bare foot.

1964: Her high end line showed the“costume look” with a jacket or coat and dress in slim sheaths, princess lines, pleated styles, lowered waistlines. Overblouse silhouettes and longer jackets to hide hips were part of her figure flattering strategy.

In 1966 she would receive the Designer of the Year award for her work. Georgia’s final years as a designer were in the 1970’s. At that time she continued to show her lines at her home, then in Palm Springs or at the beach town of Carlsbad.

Georgia Bullock was considered a couture designer for the designs under her own label, never sacrificing quality fabrics and styling or catering to fads. She continued to live in southern California until her passing in 1991. During her career, her name was well known nationally and she had full page magazine advertisements. Overall, she will be known for her classics: designed with a good fit and in fine fabrics. Georgia’s designs were was popular for her blazers and jackets, sheath dresses and ensembles, but also the colorful casual lines, designed for her own California lifestyle.