George Halley: From Cows to Couture

Born in Ohio in 1930, George Halley milked cows on his family's farm until he graduated from high school, then hitchhiked to New York to follow his dream of becoming a fashion designer. He began his career as a window dresser at Lord & Taylor; Charles James admired his work and gave him a job in his atelier. Halley worked his way up in the business, launching his own collection in 1967; he was rewarded with a Coty Award in 1968. Halley was the rare Seventh Avenue designer who could construct a garment from start to finish; he always made one or two dresses in each collection himself, "just for luck."1 

George Halley, New York
c. 1971
Gift of Clarissa Dyer

In 1958, Halley married Claudia Morgan, a former model for Norman Norell, who became his muse. "I never design anything Claudia wouldn't wear," he once said. When Claudia demanded evening clothes "that make me feel like I can get up and have fun," Halley recognized an untapped market for sexy dance dresses. A few weeks later, for a dinner dance at the St. Regis Hotel, "George insisted Claudia wear his new feather-printed chiffon capelet gown rimmed in ostrich"–possibly the same model as this gown in the FIDM Museum collection. "We danced all night," Halley remembered. "When Claudia is happy with a fashion, it sells. She's a fantastic barometer."2


This sleeveless, high-waisted gown with attached stole unites many of Halley's signatures: a bold print, feather trim, and high-quality fabric and workmanship. Like most of his evening wear, it is a romantic, feminine, expensive-looking garment that barely touches the body. Combining seventies chic with Old Hollywood glamour, it captures the seductively original viewpoint of the man Women's Wear Daily called "a designer in a lovely world of his own."3 

200379410-31 Women's Wear Daily, June 30, 1967.

Beaver County Times, December 4, 1971.

Women's Wear Daily, June 11, 1970.

One response to “George Halley: From Cows to Couture

  1. Anita Shapiro says:

    Love! I can imagine this design had great movement. I love George Halley’s silhouettes and the whimsy! ❤️

Leave a Reply