Monika Tilley, a designer of racy swimsuits that glistened from the covers of Sports Illustrated journal on fashions like Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs and a pioneer of activewear and loungewear, died on Dec. 23 in Manhattan. She was 86.
Her daughter, Mona Tilley, introduced the loss of life in January. She stated her mom died in a hospital after having a number of strokes.
Ms. Tilley was not a reputation designer like Bill Blass or Calvin Klein; she was an trade expertise identified for her work for Anne Cole, Anne Klein, White Stag and different firms, designing what would change into a uniquely American fashion of dressing. She created a line for Caitlyn Jenner when she was a monitor star within the 1970s, and collaborated with Ms. Brinkley on a line of swimwear in 1984. For the Winter Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984, she designed the parade uniforms for the American groups.
With an athletic construct — she was an knowledgeable skier — and a deep, gravelly voice, the Austrian-born Ms. Tilley was an imposing and good-looking determine. “But she had a sparkle; you never knew if she was making a little fun,” stated Jule Campbell, the longtime editor of Sports Illustrated’s swimwear points, who put a lot of Ms. Tilley’s fits on her covers. “Her swimwear designs were provocative for their time.”
Along with Norma Kamali, who designed the red one-piece made memorable by Farrah Fawcett, Ms. Tilley was emblematic of the “sexification of swimwear in the 1970s,” stated Eric Wilson, a veteran vogue reporter.
Ms. Tilley and Ms. Kamali “combined a sense of athleticism with an open embrace of sex appeal in a way that would influence mainstream swimwear styles far more than Rudi Gernreich did a decade earlier, when he shocked the fashion world with the breast-revealing monokini,” Mr. Wilson stated. “That was just a blip of immodesty compared to the impact of Monika’s fishnet swimsuits — that left little to the imagination about a woman’s anatomy — on loosening consumer tastes and making the stuff of schoolboy fantasies and dorm-room posters for decades.”
The nipple-baring white mesh swimsuit Mr. Wilson referred to, worn by Ms. Tiegs within the 1978 concern, was maybe probably the most well-known Sports Illustrated swimsuit picture of all time, stated Terry McDonell, editor of Sports Illustrated from 2002 to 2012. “Every swimsuit issue drew threats of cancellation and howls of objection — first from moralists and then from feminists — and this image was supercharged in that sense,” Mr. McDonell stated.
It is now in the permanent collection of the Costume Institute on the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Ms. Tilley usually added saucy touches to her bathing fits, just like the bits of lace on one other white one-piece go well with that Ms. Tiegs wore for a Sports Illustrated cowl in 1983, made principally see-through by a dunking within the waterfall behind her.
“She was Viennese, after all,” stated the British designer Patricia Underwood, a longtime pal of Ms. Tilley’s. “In Austria they are very good at fur coats, loden and lingerie.”
Monika Theresia Nowotny was born on July 25, 1934, in Vienna. Her father, Franz Nowotny, labored within the division of agriculture; her mom, Margarete (Kinateder) Nowotny, taught English and bodily schooling.
Monika earned a grasp’s diploma from the Vienna Academy of Fine arts, an schooling her father allowed her to pursue provided that he may examine in along with her academics each day. (He didn’t imagine artwork was a viable profession path.)
She and Merten Arthur Tilley, an American she met when he was finding out enterprise in Vienna, married on the Hofburg Palais there in 1957, after which they settled in Forest Hills, Queens.
At first Ms. Tilley labored as an illustrator at Harper’s Bazaar. She was quickly employed as a designer of kids’s put on at Anne Cole. She would go on to design swimwear, sportswear and loungewear at Anne Klein and different firms.
Interviewed by The New York Times in 1964, Ms. Tilley, on the time a 29-year-old skiwear designer for White Stag, was requested to foretell which appears at Innsbruck, Austria, the place the Olympic Games have been held that yr, would change into tendencies. She was bullish on pompom hats and stretch pants.
In 1976, The Times noted: “Designing sportswear is Miss Tilley’s life work, and she participates in many of the sports for which she designs clothes. The tennis boom has provoked a lot of crimes in the name of fashion, and her aim is to return the basic elegance to the game, using modern fabrics.”
Ms. Tilley was additionally, because the designer Stan Herman stated, “a force in loungewear,” a class newly minted within the 1970s for girls who needed to look sharp at work however really feel snug after they bought dwelling. It marked the top of the housedress period, as Mr. Herman, additionally a power in that style, identified.
“Liz Claiborne was going to dress the new woman at work, and we were going to dress her at home,” he stated. “Monika did a very sporty kind of loungewear: lots of notched collars and housecoats that looked like men’s shirts.”
In the late 1980s, Ms. Tilley’s signature line of loungewear for Vassarette featured ankle-length sweaters in daring stripes worn over monochromatic tops and leggings, types that might not be misplaced in the present day.
Mr. Herman recalled that Ms. Tilley was as soon as memorialized in a window at Lord & Taylor, in a scene that includes a Monika Tilley model — her personal doppelgänger — sketching at a desk and looking out very official.
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Tilley is survived by her son, Martin, and her brother, Thomas Nowotny. Her marriage to Mr. Tilley resulted in divorce.
Ms. Tilley was a longtime board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the commerce group began in 1962 to advertise American vogue. She based the CFDA Scholarship Program in 1996 and remained intently concerned in its growth.
“She was an unsung hero” within the group, stated Lisa Smilor, the council’s govt vice chairman. “The multitude of design students that the CFDA has awarded scholarships to may not know her name or legacy. Nevertheless, she had a positive impact on their futures.”