For presentation at the annual national symposium of the Costume Society of America in 2009, I researched a prominent, but little-studied, San Francisco modiste who worked between the 1880s and 1916, titled Madame J. Baer and her Gowns: A Study in San Francisco High Society.
Mrs. Hermine Taubles Baer (1854-1928) was a Jewish dressmaker who catered to the upper echelons of San Francisco’s high society both before and after the great Earthquake of 1906. An immigrant, she was born in Prague and moved to San Francisco in the 1870s with her German husband Joseph Baer (an importer). She trained for her career at Ransohoff’s, the famous San Francisco department store, before starting her own label. Based on extant garments, patent and other primary source research, as well as interviews with surviving family members, this paper aims to present a biography and critical assessment of Madame J. Baer, with an eye to her inspirations, design aesthetic and clientelle. Over the course of her career she often traveled abroad to view and design based on Parisian trends and her status as an immigrant allowed her to present a unique perspective to San Francisco fashionable society.
This is a little-studied time period in terms of San Francisco’s fashion history, and no one has previously undertaken research of this particular designer. I hope to further research this topic with a view to publication.
 
Caption: Mme.J. Baer, maker
American, 1854 - 1928
Woman’s evening dress, 1910
Chiffon, satin, rhinestones and beads
Gift of Jane Scribner
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Madame Baer and her Gowns: A Study in San Francisco High Society.
35th Annual National Symposium of the Costume Society of America in Tempe, AZ, May 2009.