A peek into our collections, one object at a time

A Mid-Century Spin on Weaving

January 31, 2024
Social Media Share Tools
Liebes Lurex Ad
Advertisement, "The Thread of the Story Is Lurex: The Look of Porcelain" ca. 1953. Dorothy Liebes Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

American textile designer, weaver, and color authority Dorothy Liebes (1897–1972) had a profound influence across design fields, helping to shape American tastes in areas from interiors and transportation to industrial design, fashion, and film. The “Liebes Look”—which combined vivid color, lush texture, and often a metallic glint—became inextricably linked with the American modern aesthetic.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, Liebes collaborated with some of the most prominent architects and designers of the time, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Dreyfuss, Donald Deskey, Raymond Loewy, and Samuel Marx. Fashion designers, including Pauline Trigère, Adrian, and Bonnie Cashin, also used her fabrics, yielding some of the most distinctively American fashions of the mid-20th century.

Despite widespread recognition during Liebes’ lifetime, her powerful impact on 20th-century design remains largely unacknowledged.

The advertisement pictured above is from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum features Liebes’ work in its exhibition, “A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes,” which is also online. View one of the videos about Liebes featured in the online exhibition.

For a deeper dive, the Archives of American Art has a collection of Liebes’ papers, which provide rich and extensive documentation of Liebes’ career and personal life.