Her mother’s designs helped designer succeed

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Mary Mitchell of Omaha’s recently published book, Drawn to Fashion, covers her 45 years as a fashion illustrator.

Mary Mitchell of Omaha’s recently published book, Drawn to Fashion, covers her 45 years as a fashion illustrator.

The book includes her thoughts, stories and illustrations from her career drawing clothes for top designers and major retail stores.

According to Oscar de la Renta, who wrote the book’s foreword:

Mary is a true artist, elegant and masterful. Her illustrations have enriched the experience of fashion in our time, and brought joy to the mind’s eye.

German Vogue is among the publications touting Mary’s book, which is itself a history of the fashion illustration world from the 1960s through the 1980s (Mary’s favorite decade for designs).

Mary is donating all the money the book makes to scholarships for students in UNL’s Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design.

But Mary’s career almost didn’t happen.

Her mother, who’d always encouraged her to go to college and study art, died when Mary was just 17. Her dad, a Greek immigrant with old-school ways, didn’t think she needed college.

“You don’t need a college degree to be a wife,” he told her.

But her mother had other, secret plans:

One day, awhile after Mary’s mother had died, Mary’s dad handed her a little black book. It was a book to a savings account that no one knew her mother had started. She’d saved her dimes and quarters over the years and had accumulated enough money for Mary to enroll in college. And she had put the savings account in Mary’s name only.

On Page 7 of Mary’s own book, Drawn to Fashion, there’s a black page and only these words:

To my mother, who clothed me in love, and made my dream come true.

Says her husband, John Mitchell: “Her mother helped her. Now she wants to help others.”

So it’s no surprise that Mary wanted all proceeds of Drawn to Fashion to support scholarships for UNL art students.

Another surprise to Mary, who also had an exhibit of her illustrations at the Durham Museum in Omaha earlier this year, came more recently as her husband worked behind the scenes to donate money to renovate the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design’s main apparel studio on East Campus. And he had it named for her:

The Mary Mitchell Fashion Studio.

The studio is a professional, state-of-the-art workspace for the next generation of fashion-product developers and designers. Ribbon-cutting ceremony on the studio was Oct. 21.

To learn more about Mary and her new book, go to drawntofashion.com.

“It’s unbelievable,” she says, “to think those lonely little pieces of artwork that I drew 30 years ago would make it to this book.”

Student support is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you, like the Mitchells, also would like to help UNL fashion students, please consider giving online to the Mary Mitchell Fashion Illustration Scholarship Fund or contact the foundation’s Jane Heany at 800-432-3216.

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