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Ellen Tracy

allard fashion gallen women

Awards: Dallas Fashion Award, 1986, 1987

There is no Ellen Tracy. The company, was founded in 1949 by Herbert Gallen to manufacture blouses for the junior market. Gallen, a veteran of the garment trade, invented the name Ellen Tracy, believing a woman’s blouse manufacturer should be named after a woman. However, in 1962, Gallen hired the woman who would come to personify Ellen Tracy: Linda Allard, a Kent State University fine arts graduate who came to New York City with $200 in her pocket to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer. Allard grew up in a small town in Ohio with five brothers and sisters and was taught to sew by her mother when she was ten. Now, instead of designing clothes for her dolls, she would be designing clothes for Gallen, drawing a salary of $60 per week.

Gallen hired Linda Allard as a design assistant to design packaged shirts and t-shirts for the junior blouse market. However, while working on the shirt line, Allard designed a sailor-style pant and pea coat. The new pieces were an immediate success, Ellen Tracy was launched into the sportswear market, and Allard was promoted to director of design. After this initial success, Gallen and Allard decided to reposition Ellen Tracy to target the newly emerging female workforce. As the women who entered in the workforce in 1960s were beginning to climb the corporate ladder in the 1970s, they needed a professional yet stylish wardrobe to wear in the workplace. Allard, one of the first designers to cater to this new demographic, created the new “woman executive” look.

The Ellen Tracy label not only provided women with the wardrobe they needed to succeed in the workplace, it also became the anchor for the newly emerging bridge market that filled the gap between designer fashions and mass merchandisers. In 1984 Linda Allard’s name was added to the Ellen Tracy label to recognize Allard’s work and to create a “designer” feel for the line. However, Ellen Tracy is run as a fashion business, not a fashion house, with an emphasis on the profitable. Each line is designed with the consideration that the majority of women do not have the bodies of fashion models, but still want to wear fashionable clothes.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Ellen Tracy label continued to grow under Allard’s design direction. Divisions for petites (1981), dresses (1985), plus sizes (1993), and evening wear (1993) were launched. A new sportswear line, Company, was launched in 1991, and licensing agreements were signed with Collection XIIX for scarves, Buckray for shoes, Private Eyes Sunglass Corporation for eyewear, Susan Gail Handbags for bags, and Revlon for fragrance.

In 1999 Ellen Tracy celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Over the past fifty years, the Ellen Tracy label has become synonymous with quality fabrics, unique color stories, and fashions for real women. Every piece in the collection is sold separately to allow women to interchange pieces to create their own unique looks as well as to ensure a good fit. To Allard, couture fashion has little relevance to most women’s lives. “The extreme end of fashion is over-rated. It gets a lot of coverage by the press, but it doesn’t mean anything to a lot of women. We mean more to real women” (Martin, p. 16).

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