Marybelle Schmidt Bigelow, born in La Mesa, California on July 18, 1923 was a distinguished professor of fashion and costume history, an accomplished artist and a prolific writer and creator. Bigelow received both her B.A. and M.F.A. at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and went on to teach there for more than six years. She was awarded the esteemed Prix de Paris for fashion design and illustration, and worked briefly for Vogue Magazine in New York as a staff designer. In 1956, Bigelow was invited to join the staff of San Diego State University (SDSU), where she taught fashion illustration, costume history, and graphic communication courses in the art department for more than twenty years. During her tenure at SDSU, Bigelow was active on a variety of committees and was recognized as an Outstanding Educator in 1970, 1971 and 1972.
In 1967, Bigelow completed Alphabets and Design, which was later adopted as a text for graphics and communications classes by the University of Minnesota. She then went on to write and illustrate her seminal text on the history of fashion and costume, Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. The second edition was completed and published in 1979 and is still in publication. Although she retired in 1980, Bigelow continued to remain very active in academic life at SDSU, and was editor of the retirement newsletter for more than 12 years.
In addition to her career as an art professor, Bigelow was an active artist and creator, exhibiting in numerous galleries and museums, including the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery. She wrote numerous versions of her autobiography, Vichyssoise and 33 Commencements, authored her own personal newsletter and wrote and illustrated a number of short stories and children's books. She died in 2003 at the age of 79.
1994 interview with Marybelle Bigelow, SDSU Professor Emeritus of Art from 1956-1980.
In this interview totaling 1 hour and 45 minutes, Bigelow discusses how she came to work for Vogue in New York City, went back to teaching at UCLA, and eventually came to San Diego State. She also discusses her students, her books, her design work (including the platform and backdrop for the 1963 campus visit by President John F. Kennedy), and fashion trends in society (particularly during the 1950s-1970s).
Interviewed by Lyn Olsson on 2/16/94.
Image credit: Professor Marybelle Bigelow in 1950, University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections & University Archives.
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