This pussycat bow would not look out of place on Mad Men career girl Peggy Olson--and the style is back in fashion this spring, thanks to Valentino, Rochas, Haider Ackermann, and Emanuel Ungaro. Gucci even showed pussycat bows as menswear. They were the trademark of William Pearson, who designed this dress in 1970 and later served on the faculty of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
A native of Alabama, Pearson began his career working under Norman Norell, then designed for the California firm Harou before launching his own, Los Angeles-based label in 1960. At the time, Los Angeles was just coming into its own as a fashion capital. The country's second-largest apparel market was best known for its inexpensive sportswear, but Pearson joined an emerging group of serious designers lured west by the chance to run their own businesses outside the Seventh Avenue establishment, including James Galanos, Rudi Gernreich, and Gustave Tassell.
Young and handsome, with a square jaw and a Southern drawl, Pearson looked as if he'd stepped out of one of the classic Hollywood films from which he drew inspiration. The fashion press even compared him to another attractive, charismatic newcomer, Yves Saint Laurent, who had take over the house of Dior in 1957. Although Pearson had declared at the outset of his career that he'd "never" move to Paris, he did just that in 1967. As the Los Angles Times reported, he became so frustrated with the fashion industry that, one day, he threw dozens of his signature pussycat bows into the air and walked away from his business. After a two-year Parisian sabbatical--during which he studied traditional couture dressmaking techniques--Pearson began returning to Los Angeles twice a year to design collections under his own name for the dress manufacturer Lee Gersten, Inc.; this printed wool dress is one of his Lee Gersten pieces. By 1975, he had returned to Los Angeles for good and joined the FIDM faculty. In 1983, Pearson made history in his adopted state by designing the gown Gloria Deukmejian wore to the inaugural ball of her husband, California Governor George Deukmejian.