Fashion Monika Tilley, Designer and Activewear Pioneer, Passes Away at 86

Fashion Monika Tilley, Designer and Activewear Pioneer, Passes Away at 86


She was an early adopter of a distinctively American design of casual dressing, and her peekaboo fits often graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimwear problem.

fashion The designer Monika Tilley in 2006. She designed swimwear, sportswear and loungewear for Anne Cole, Anne Klein and other companies.
Credit … via Tilley household

fashion Penelope Green

Monika Tilley, an ingenious designer of activewear, loungewear and racy swimsuits that shone from the covers of Sports Illustrated publication on models like Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs, passed away on Dec. 23 in Manhattan. She was 86.

Her daughter, Mona Tilley, announced the death in January. She stated her mother had died in a healthcare facility after having numerous strokes.

Ms. Tilley was not a name designer like Expense Blass or Calvin Klein; she was a market talent known for her work for Anne Cole, Anne Klein, White Stag and other companies, designing what would end up being an uniquely American style of dressing. She developed a line for Caitlyn Jenner when she was a track star in the 1970 s, and worked together with Ms. Brinkley on a line of swimwear in1984

With an athletic construct– she was a professional skier– and a deep, gravelly voice, the Austrian-born Ms. Tilley was an imposing and handsome figure. “However she had a sparkle; you never ever knew if she was making a little fun,” stated Jule Campbell, the longtime editor of Sports Illustrated’s swimwear concerns, who put a number of Ms. Tilley’s fits on her covers. “Her swimsuit designs were provocative for their time.”


fashion A late-1980s loungewear design by Ms. Tilley for for Vassarette. The styles she designed for that company would not be out of place today.
Credit … through Tilley family

Along with Norma Kamali, who designed the red one-piece made unforgettable by Farrah Fawcett, Ms. Tilley was emblematic of the “sexification of swimwear in the 1970 s,” said Eric Wilson, a seasoned fashion press reporter.

Ms. Tilley and Ms. Kamali “combined a sense of athleticism with an open embrace of sex appeal in a manner that would influence traditional swimsuit designs much more than Rudi Gernreich did a years previously, when he shocked the fashion world with the breast-revealing monokini,” Mr. Wilson stated. “That was just a blip of immodesty compared to the impact of Monika’s fishnet swimsuits– that left little to the imagination about a woman’s anatomy– on loosening up consumer tastes and making the things of schoolboy fantasies and dorm-room posters for years.”

The nipple-baring white mesh swimsuit Mr. Wilson described, used by Ms. Tiegs in the 1978 concern, was perhaps the most popular Sports Illustrated swimsuit picture of all time, stated Terry McDonell, editor of Sports Illustrated from 2002 to2012 “Every swimsuit problem drew threats of cancellation and wails of objection— initially from moralists and then from feminists– and this image was turbo charged because sense,” Mr. McDonell said.

It is now in the long-term collection of the Outfit Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ms. Tilley typically included saucy touches to her bathing suits, like the bits of lace on another white one-piece fit that Ms. Tiegs wore for a Sports Illustrated cover in 1983, made mostly see-through by a dunking in the waterfall behind her.


Credit … Walter Iooss Jr./ Shape by Getty Images

” She was Viennese, after all,” the British designer Patricia Underwood stated of Ms. Tilley, a friend. “In Austria they are very good at fur coats, loden and lingerie.”

Monika Theresia Nowotny was born upon July 25, 1934, in Vienna. Her father, Franz Nowotny, worked in the department of agriculture; her mom, Margarete (Kinateder) Nowotny, taught English and physical education.

Monika earned a master’s degree from the Vienna Academy of Fine arts, an education her father allowed her to pursue just if he could check in with her teachers every day. (He did not think art was a feasible profession path.)

She and Merten Arthur Tilley, an American she fulfilled when he was studying organization in Vienna, wed at the Hofburg Palais there in 1957, after which they settled in Forest Hills, Queens.

Ms. Tilley operated at first as an illustrator at Harper’s Fete. She was soon hired as a designer of children’s wear at Anne Cole. She would go on to create swimwear, sportswear and loungewear at Anne Klein and other companies.

Spoken With by The New York City Times in 1964, Ms. Tilley, at the time a 29- year-old skiwear designer for White Stag, was asked to forecast which looks at Innsbruck, Austria, where the Olympic Games were held that year, would become trends. She was bullish on pompom hats and stretch pants.

In 1976, The Times noted: “Designing sportswear is Miss Tilley’s life work, and she takes part in a number of the sports for which she creates clothes. The tennis boom has provoked a lot of crimes in the name of fashion, and her objective is to return the basic elegance to the game, utilizing contemporary fabrics.”

Ms. Tilley was also, as the designer Stan Herman stated, “a force in loungewear,” a category freshly minted in the 1970 s for females who wanted to look sharp at work however feel comfy when they got house. It marked the end of the housedress period, as Mr. Herman, likewise a force in that category, explained.

” Liz Claiborne was going to dress the brand-new woman at work, and we were going to dress her in your home,” he stated. “Monika did an extremely sporty sort of loungewear: lots of notched collars and housecoats that looked like men’s t-shirts.”

In the late 1980 s, Ms. Tilley’s signature line of loungewear for Vassarette included ankle-length sweatshirts in vibrant stripes used over monochromatic tops and leggings, styles that would not run out location today.

Mr. Herman remembered that Ms. Tilley was as soon as memorialized in a window at Lord & Taylor, in a scene including a Monika Tilley mannequin– her own doppelgänger– sketching at a desk and looking extremely official.

In addition to her child, Ms. Tilley is made it through by her child, Martin, and her bro, Thomas Nowotny. Her marriage to Mr. Tilley ended in divorce.


Credit … Max Lakner/BFA. com

Ms. Tilley was a longtime board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the trade organization began in 1962 to promote American style. She established the CFDA Scholarship Program in 1996 and stayed closely involved in its advancement.

” She was an unrecognized hero” in the organization, said Lisa Smilor, the council’s executive vice president. “The plethora of design students that the CFDA has actually granted scholarships to might not know her name or tradition. Nevertheless, she had a favorable effect on their futures.”

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