Exhibition Details

Location: Steele Gallery
Dates: February 27, 2011
to May 22, 2011


Original, creative, bold, athletic and gracious, Ann Bonfoey Taylor (1909-2007) was a recognized American tastemaker and accomplished sportswoman. Regularly featured in publications such as Vogue, Town and Country and Harper’s Bazaar, Taylor was known for her beauty, love of adventure and theatrical dash. In 2008, her extraordinary wardrobe of custom-made couture and personally designed sporting ensembles was donated to the Museum by Mr. Vernon Taylor, Jr. and family of Denver, Colorado. Selected by Art and Antiques as one of the top 100 art museum gifts of 2008, Taylor’s impressive collection features works by some of the most masterful fashion designers of the 1950s and 60s including Charles James, Madame Grès, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Fortuny. It is significant for both the quality of the designers and depth, as the numerous examples allow for a comprehensive look at each designer’s artistic process.

Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor features more than 60 full ensembles and accessories that provide a comprehensive look at the wardrobe of a dynamic and sophisticated woman. Often designed by Taylor herself, the clothes demonstrate a refined personal style reflective of her outdoor savvy and gracious indoor elegance.

Raised in Quincy, Illinois, Taylor’s passion for sports and adventure began at an early age. At six years old her father took her flying in his open, two-seater biplane and later taught her to fly it. When World War II broke out, she became a flight instructor for Army and Navy pilots. In the 1930s, she competed in tennis at Wimbledon and began ski racing in Stowe, Vermont, and, in 1939, was selected as an alternate on the Women’s Olympic Ski Team. Complimented for her stylish look on the ski slopes, she started her own line of innovative skiwear which appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1946 and was sold at Lord and Taylor.

In 1947, she married Vernon Taylor, Jr. and they established residence in Denver, Colorado, where they raised a family. With her love of the outdoors, Taylor developed a passion for horses and annually fox hunted in Virginia and England. The Taylors also built one of the first ski chalets in Vail, Colorado and maintained a cattle ranch in Montana where she was known as a gracious and elegant hostess to her worldwide circle of friends.

Taylor was recognized among an international jet setting social circle for her spirited discipline and fashion independence. Legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland once wrote to her, “I can remember years ago when you were in a marvelously creative mood, which has never ceased, and you just wanted everything and you just wanted everything to be right.” In today’s climate of rapidly changing fashion trends and runway spectacles, Taylor’s achievement of a timeless, original style with classic elegance makes her a true visionary.

Fashion Independent will be a showcase of Taylor’s wardrobe, style and vision. Large-scale photographs of Taylor taken by noted fashion photographer Toni Frissell will further enhance this personal and engaging exhibition.

Image Credits

Left: Charles James, American. Ball Gown with Jacket, c.1950, silk taffeta, duchess silk satin and silk taffeta. Gift of Mr. Vernon Taylor, Jr. and Family. Center: Mme. Grès, French. Coat, Dress and Belt, mid-1960s, wool jersey, double-faced wool. Gift of Mr. Vernon Taylor, Jr. and Family. Right: Hermès, French. Hunting Ensemble (Jacket, Skirt, Sweater, Hat, Tights, Boots, Bag and Gloves), early 1970s, wool, cotton, leather with metal fastenings. Gift of Mr. Vernon Taylor, Jr. and Family. All photography by Ken Howie.

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