Thursday, April 23, 2015

Panorama of 50 years of vintage styles.

A panorama of some of my fifty years of vintage collections. I will gradually have larger photos and many more in an album.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

“Color Codification of Emotional Energies”

There is nothing more exciting than being quoted by another scientist in academia, when you have innovated a new theory. I designed this chart for a conference, “Innovations”, sponsored by Boston University, October 29-30, 2002. I explained, “Energy follows thought. When we use our will to take control over thoughts, they take control over our emotional energies, which in turn, control chemical releases in the brain. The first step toward mastery, the long term goal, is to become conscious of every emotion we experience as we experience them.”
Ashley Wilkie, in a blog for a UK university quoted me and my color chart, December 15, 2014: “A table of colors with their properties defined by Shirley Willett, the model presented is used as a guideline for the basic emotions with their colors. The model that she presents, figure 3, has many overlaps with the data found from Claudia Cortes work with the only difference it reduces the list to the basics. (Jiang and Bian 2013, pp.189-194)” [Note: Wilkie eliminated “Joy” from my original. ]

Thursday, September 25, 2014


This photo of Marilyn Riseman and me was taken in 2009 at Massachusetts College of Art. Sadly Marilyn has left us, but she was a wonderful supporter of fashion and creativity - and especially of me as a designer in the 1960s and early 70s for her many Apogee stores. She used me for excellent pattern making and production as well as my many creative styles, Marilyn and I were talking memories here and agreed that the 60s and 70s was a wonderful time for fashion in Boston.

Jay Calderin, Founder & Director of Boston Fashion Week, dedicated it to Marilyn this year. You can see more at  Boston Fashion Week - on Facebook. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My 80th birthday celebration with proteges and fashion meet up friends

It was the greatest birthday celebration, at the Charlesgate Hotel, by the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup. On the left is Ann Steeves ( then me. On the right are 3 proteges, Ann Russo (Technical Design Services), Tess Coburn ( and Mika Nakafuji.

Here's two of my favorite people. Ron Ranere, who started the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup with me in 2004 and a great photographer - and his wife, Charline, both who have done so much for me.

The delicious birthday cake made by Kathleen Wright, another protege, who, unfortunately could not make the celebration.

Thank, thank you to all.

Friday, March 08, 2013

True Fashion Design is a Moving 3-D Sculpture

  The Boston Globe had a photo today of (above) one of the most beautiful stoneware sculpture by H. Nakashima at the Museum of Fine Arts. It prompted me to think about the beautiful 3-D curves in great fashion design. Nakashima’s sculpture has a feeling of motion in observing it, but fashion is greatest when on a moving human body.

  One of my proudest 3-D fashion sculptures is a 6-ply pure silk crepe I sold to Neiman-Marcus in 1958. (left) The cape sleeves start as a sleeve in the front, form a cape in the back and come around to the front to finish as a sleeve. It moves beautifully when moving your arms.  


  Another of my favorites that illustrates fashion as a great moving 3-D sculpture is my “Sunburst” dress, of bright orange silk pesante.(left) The accordion pleating goes all around the body and comes together in one point in the front, finishing with a sunburst pin. The pleating had an amazingly beautiful motion as the woman walked. The photo was in a full page article in the Boston Sunday Herald in 1962. It was also a favorite of my customers, who bought many of them. 

  Both of these styles required great expertise in sculpting fabric in outer space, feeling the motion in “inner visualization” – not fitting tightly to a dress form or model, as so many young designers learn to do when draping today – or when being committed to the rules of drafting. As Frank Gehry, the famous architect and jewelry designer, said, “Beauty without rules.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tess's Coat at Obama's Inauguration


  It is a proud moment for me as a mentor to see one of the  coats designed by my great protégé, Tess Coburn, worn by one of her customers at the Obama inauguration. The photo on the left is one of fifteen taken by the New York Times in their January 22nd issue of our president's inauguration. The customer, wearing Tess's coat is in the lower left hand corner. The photo on the right is the same coat on a fashion model.

  Tess began independently while living as an English teacher in China, and in a few short years her collections have become very successful, growing the company 50% each year. She has been working with me, Shirley Willett, for the past 10 years, returning to China to produce each year . Recently, with her now great production knowledge, she produces in Massachusetts. 
  Many have asked about specific relationships in the way my protégés and I, as their mentor, work. Each one is very different with special needs and desires. It is not education itself, although some need more of my teaching than others – but all of them need pieces of my deep knowledge and experience, particularly in pattern making and production, and/or my unique creative ability to solve their special problems. Whenever someone needs just my knowledge to solve a specific problem, especially a business one, I consult, but do not continue a relationship as a mentor, guiding them.

  I have had many protégés off and on over 50 odd years. Presently I have four protégés, all in their own businesses and with different degrees of success. Tess Coburn is my number one protege. She designs elegant silk and cashmere jackets and coats. I met her through the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup, , for which I was the Organizer. She was doing beautiful trimming but her jacket and coat shapes needed work. She began working with my Stylometrics blazer jacket template, and all her jackets and coats since have great shape and consistent good fit.  

    Being very creative herself, I encouraged her to experiment with new shaping. The photo on the top shows the studied develop-ment of a beautiful raglan sleeve and a nicely shaped shawl collar. The next photo  is recent and shows how her creativity with sleeves became a great line in this elegant motorcycle type jacket. The elbow expansion shows her excellent learning for great easy motion.
  An email from Tess (2.5.10) shows the closeness of our thinking: 

Hi Shirley,

Been thinking of you daily.  You are always present in my studio while I work-how would Shirley drape that?, what would Shirley say about that line?, Shirley would say it looks too bound up and it needs to be released, not tightened....:))


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Boston Fashion Industry Meetup with Jay Calderin, Boston Fashion Week

The group photo was taken by Domenico, at the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup, July 24, 2012. We are the six organizers: Joseph Gualtiere, Vicky Anson, John Bilotti, , yours truly, Shirley Willett, Kathy Benharris, and Ron Ranere. If you want to know more about our meetup, go to   We would love more fashion people, especially designers, to join us.

 The other photo is Jay Calderin, founder and organizer of Boston Fashion Week. He gave a great talk about all the exciting details of the week in the fall. If you want to know more about Boston Fashion Week, go to

I have great news about myself. I will be the feature article in the fall issue of Boston Common Magazine. They are doing a Boston heritage issue and will talk about my involvement as Boston’s number one designer in the 1950s and 1960s, and then my suede manufacturing in the 1970s. I am not sure when the next issue comes out, either August or September. If you want to know more, go to