WWD reports that Marie-Louise Carven-Grog (born Carmen de Tommaso, and later known as Madame Carven) died today in France at the age of 105. In the post-war era when Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, and Cristobal Balenciaga were making headlines in fashion, Carven was one of the very few female designers of her time—and an innovator, as well, patenting the push up bra in 1950.
Here are 11 of her most fascinating fashion achievements.
1. A couturiere for petite women: The designer launched her namesake house in 1945 with the aim of dressing petite women like her (she was 5'1").
2. Au revoir corset: Carven wanted women to feel comfortable in her clothes and so she loosened haute couture's waist-whittling reins and offered billowing silhouettes that allowed women to move easily in her designs.
3. You can thank her for: Pink gingham!
4. She was into fast(er) fashion: In Carven's day, Paris was all about haute couture—an exclusive, expensive made-to-measure business. Alongside fellow couturiers Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, Jean Desses, and Jeanne Paquin, she pioneered prêt-a-portèr, or ready-to-wear. Customers were finally able to get high fashion, way, way, faster.
5. She took fashion shows on the road: Today, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dior often take their collections out for a spin and show in different cities (think Seoul, Palm Springs, and Cannes). Carven, however, was the first to do so, presenting her collections in Egypt, Thailand, Morocco, Cuba, Brazil, Singapore and Mexico.
6. The OG It-girl brand: Iconic French singer Edith Piaf was a Carven fan, as was Brigitte Bardot, who wore Carven at her 1959 wedding.
7. She invented one of the first push-up bras: Carven worked with a lingerie maker to patent the Sylvène, a push-up bra.
8. She loved Hollywood: In 1954, Carven worked with legendary costume designer Edith Head to create costumes for Grace Kelly in Hitchcock's Rear Window.
9. A national treasure of France: In 1978, she was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and in 2009, she was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor, France's highest distinction for civilians.
10. She designed for half a century: Madame Carven retired at age 84—48 years after she founded her fashion house.
11. She celebrated a century in style: French style icons Loulou de la Falaise and Claude Montana were among the luminaries who celebrated the designer's 100th birthday in November 2009. Carven blew out the candles on a pistachio Laduree macaron cake while wearing a matching pistachio-green Carven suit.
Today, Carven is designed by artistic directors Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud. The collection still has the joy and exuberance the house's founder. Carven's former artistic director, Guillaume Henry has often said that Madame Carven was a constant presence—and that they had regular conversations, well into her 100th year. Madame Carven will surely be remembered, as will her impact on all of our wardrobes.