Bonnie Cashin: Mother of Affordable Style

by Alexis Ansley

Today, the average woman looks for three things when she shops for clothing: affordability, functionality, and style. It’s become second nature to shop for clothing with these parameters, and stores like H&M and Forever 21 have flourished by providing all of these in their stores.

Bonnie Cashin discussing a purse's design among colleagues. Courtesy of Vogue.

Bonnie Cashin


Before California-born Bonnie Cashin began designing women’s clothing, the idea of purchasing clothing that featured style and affordability was unheard of. Many women either made pieces to mimic current trends or simply went on without them.

Cashin, born in 1908, is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of stylish ready-to-wear clothing, also known as sportswear. During her time as a designer, she was known for both her skills and acute intellect. She saw designing as a special form of art and her garments were ‘sculpted’ from the most efficient yet luxurious materials.


Coats designed by Bonnie Cashin

Coats designed by Cashin


Cashin began her designer journey at age 8, when she began sketching clothes in her free time. Her skills further developed and as a senior in high school, she began designing and creating costumes for her local dance school. She was hired as a full time costumer for the company post-graduation.

It was through her work with the dance company that she began working in New York and received her big break as costumer for the Roxy Theater, creating weekly costumes for the Roxyettes in 1933. Living in New York boosted people’s awareness of the unique quality of Cashin’s designs, and in 1938 Cashin was hired by Adler & Adler, a Seventh Avenue sportswear manufacturer, as a designer working primarily in coats and outwear.


Bonnie Cashin's purse designs for Coach

Bonnie Cashin for Coach



In 1943, Cashin returned to California to design costumes for over sixty films at 20th Century Fox, including Anna and the King of Siam (1946). While working for Fox, Cashin saw an opportunity to begin designing for other fashion brands as well. She began designing hand bags for Coach and later began designing under her own name brand, Bonnie Cashin Designs. Cashin’s name brand collection varied in prices to include all customer budgets. Coats in her collection ranged from a $14.00 plastic raincoat to a $2,000.00 fur kimono. Her more affordable options were extremely popular, making Bonnie Cashin Designs the ‘go-to’ company for affordable women’s clothing from the 50’s into the 70’s.

In 1950, Cashin received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award and Coty Fashion Critic’s Award for her first “return collection” created in California. She won the Coty Award a total of five times, and was inducted into the hall of fame in 1972.

Our ideal of the affordable, functional and stylish wardrobe was birthed from Bonnie Cashin. We can thank her for bringing runway style to a price point attainable for all women. Because of her, we all can sport ensembles that rival the best-styled editorials in Vogue.


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Image Sources:
Bonnie Cashin photo: Vogue
Cashin’s Coach Bags: Birds of Ohio blog
Cashin’s Coats: Female Daily blog



Alexis AnsleyAbout the Author:
Alexis Ansley is a Central Florida fashion blogger, fashion consultant and co-founder of Lex&Pooch Styling Co. An avid enthusiast for all things vintage, Alexis has made a name for herself by uniquely combining vintage and contemporary styles within her personal fashion choices and while styling clients. Alexis is a member of the Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) community and work towards bringing fresh and unique fashions to the forefront of all her style ventures.



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