Maggy Rouff ~ 1896-1971 (page 1) Fashion Designer

Biography of Maggy Rouff, fashion designer (page 1 of 2)

One of the greatest female Fashion Designers largely unknown today. This page contains some new historical facts about the life of Maggy Rouff put together by detailed long researches. Read more ↓

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Finding rare fashion illustrations and photographs of her family, thought not to have been collated before, has resulted in an exciting new project. It is still an ongoing task as some interesting questions arise. Maggy Rouff at the height of her powers drawn during the 1930′s. A formidable lady who became world renowned.

Our latest acquired image by a famous Artist shows a strong and very striking image. Her family name was Besancon de Wagner, which she continued to use while married. She also became known as Maggy Rouff when they later acquired the original House of Rouff. Her daughters also took this name until they married.

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A wonderful image of Maggy Rouff modelling her own gown.

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~THE MYSTERY OF MAGGY ROUFF~ The history of Maggy Rouff, (Besancon de Wagner) begins with her family ‘s Fashion House which was started originally by the Belgian born Baron Christopher DRECOLL (1851- 1933). Founded in Vienna in 1896, dressing ladies of the Viennese Royal Court. They moved to Paris establishing at: Place de l’Opera, in 1902 this continued until 1963, with other merger’s along the way. In Paris his Head Fashion Designer was Mme. Marguerite Besancon de Wagner a Viennese lady (The Baron probably first knew her in Vienna).

Her Husband, Von Wagner was German and the Manager/Designer. Their daughter Maggie, was born in Paris in 1896 and became famous in her own right forming one of the greatest Fashion Houses of the 20th Century. Everything she needed to know about design came from her family connection to DRECOLL, together with her inherited talent.

From the age of 16 (1912-1929) Maggy worked in the family business. It is recorded that Mme. Besancon de Wagner and her husband became Directors/Managers of Drecoll in Paris. no doubt because of their earlier success.  These grand interior photographs of Maison Drecoll give an enormous insight into the early life of Maggy…..Found by us in July 2012 in a copy of L’Illustree.  

Maison Drecoll

1924 from L'Illustree


Maison Drecoll - 1924

A grand room

 Maggy Rouff Text 1

Info - Drecoll



French text description information on above photographs of Maison Drecoll




Continued text below…….


Verification of addresses and Directorship of the Maison.







Maggy Rouff  Text 2

Text info part 2



1907 – This dress was made in mousseline and silk, with effective black stripes running down the length of the gown, finishing with a black border. A very early Drecoll design, and could well have been designed and made by her mother. All this fashion surrounded the little girl Maggy Rouff, she must have adored these impressive images.

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1909 – A rare photo taken from the Journal La Mode. Drecoll used white lace for the whole dress and this style was also used by Jacques Doucet at the time.

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As early as 1914 it is recorded that Drecoll had an association with the Fashion House of BEER, or a merger, as indicated in the following newspaper report. During the First World War in 1914 A report was recorded in America about the Fashion House of Drecoll ~ Beer ‘s highly successful Exhibition in Paris. Marguerite, Maggy’s mother was the President of the Red Cross in Paris and was highly respected in these difficult times by the French and also she was designing for the Fashion House, she must have been really busy. Maggy was then just 18 years old and probably also helped with her mother’s designs.

Quote ” Not many Fashion Designers are able to be described as intellectual, but Maggy was determined to become a Surgeon during her adolescence and it was with hesitation that she focused her interest on the Couture” Written by Caroline Rennolds Milbank. In her book called Great Fashion Designers. Agnes. a Milliner formed a Fashion House in Paris in 1906, her label reads 6, Rue St. Florentin. Also, in 1929 she is recorded at 7 rue Auber, Paris (Couture). This merged with DRECOLL in 1932, forming a label Agnes-Drecoll.

Drecoll launched some perfumes as early as 1925 they were ” Tais-toi-mon Coeur” and “Le Chant de Notre Armour”, and in 1937 the perfume “Fin de Reve” .

Drecoll did not close until 1963, so it ran parallel with the original House of Rouff which Maggy eventually took over.

Maggy Rouff’s early connection to the original HOUSE of ROUFF. The address recorded in 1895 was 13 Bvd Hausmann, Paris. Jeanne Paquin (1865-1936) trained here – she also played a big part in teaching Maggy – so here is the liason/link between Drecoll and Rouff and why she eventually chose to settle there. Perhaps Jeanne Paquin was the Mentor for Maggy – giving her masses of encouragement and vast knowledge expanding her former grounding with her family. and forming a long and close association- Leading her to The House of Rouff. The original House of Rouff was operating in Paris at the same time as the House of Drecoll. The two families must have known each other and had close business conncections. This is a very rare photo of one of the earliest photos we could find.

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Dressed for dinner an original from the house of Rouff (Long before Maggy took over).

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1907 – Walking in the Park so very elegant and a beautiful colour.

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1929 – MAGGY’S LIFE STORY MOVES ON. By now Maggy must have acquired a vast number of highly successful and talented people connected with the Fashion industry many from the close family network, she was ready to continue her career with her own unique designs. It was recorded that the Fashion House of Drecoll went into Bankruptcy 28th February 1929 for the amount of 154,000 shillings because of distinquished Clients unable to meet the cost of the gowns. This may have been the main reason why Maggy Rouff had to move on.

1929 – Drecoll merged with the House of Beer, although they were mentioned in association with Drecoll as earlier reported in 1914, and at the address of 7 Place Vendome, Paris. The year it all began for Maggy “BIG TIME” Her own Fashion House opened in 1929.

Photograph found and by Studio Rahma.

Maggy Rouff

Fashion House Beer - printed in 1924

1929  Maggy took over the original House of ROUFF at 136 avenue des Champs Elysees, and from then on she was known by this Fashion House name. Using Maggy Rouff as a pseudonym for the first time. The founder was known as Edouard —– he was born in Vienna. 1929 The opening party celebrated in this advertisement for the new Fashion House.

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Here we think the Mystery begins, mainly relevant to her private life because the facts were not recorded and have been elusive to find! 1929 – It is said that Maggy married and that her husband’s name was Pierre, this could well have been earlier as she would have been aged 33 and this was quite late for the times to get married. To date we have not been able to verify this in any Paris records. If it was possible it would give invaluable information as to her husband’s name & his Trade. He was appointed as the Finance Director of the Fashion House. Curiously Maggy did not take his name, but still used her family name, (Besancon de Wagner). Her husband was also known by the name of Pierre Besancon de Wagner. 1929 – Winter Collection Advert by Artist: Paul Valentin.

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Report on Paris Fashion Show October 1931. Maggy Rouff is in full flow experimenting with great colour variety for the show. Quote: “Nobody need fear now that fashion will flaunt favoured colors in her face which will make war on her complexion, or the shade of her hair. Maggy Rouff is employing marigold, sulphur yellow, grege, coral and black. Also white silks and wools for day wear. For evening, navy, pink, emerald, slate blue, powder blue. Black and white are shown as well”.

The report continues and I would have loved to have been able to see it! “Wool corduroy diagonals, honey-comb wools and striped jerseys are in favour. Evening dresses of stiff satin, changeable taffeta, crepe satin moire, sheer lace and silk jersey delight fashionable feminity. Evening bolero jackets of stiff faille, gold moire and silk poplin round out the ensemble. Many are double-breasted, with raglan shoulders. Puff sleeves on coats and dresses are approved. Very large elbow sleeve puffs on evening dreses are a novel touch. Blouses are of striped taffeta and satin crepe, with bishop sleeves”. 1931 – Another new season design from the new House of Maggy Rouff.

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AMERICA – Maggy Rouff arrived – 24th February 1931 to lecture on modern fashions and design, on the French liner Ile de France. Her tour, under the auspices of the French Ministry of Commerce, included lectures at several large Universities. Here she became well known in the Fashion World. Her Business Manager was Jean Howald at the time and he accompanied her on her trip. It was reported – The young Fashion expert, who began her professional career only a few years ago, expressed the opinion that creating women’s clothes was “SOMETHING THAT CANNOT BE LEARNED” She added that she began with dress making for her dolls when she was 3 years old.

She said that despite economic troubles, fashions of the last year had been more expensive than in more prosperous years because of the trend toward gowns requiring a wealth of material and expensive ornaments. Cheap, simple dresses would not have a market even if fashion experts tried to press them on their customers, she declared, adding: “Beautiful things cannot be made cheaply although it is true that there is less money to be spent than in former years.

Business from American women has fallen off about 40 per cent. The American women are good customers in Paris, but of course the bulk of our business is from the French women. I believe the AMERICAN and the FRENCH women are the Best dressed in the world”. Reported in America 13th March 1931. ” Maggy Rouff to Discuss Style. Mm. Maggy Rouff, Couturier, will be the guest speaker at a dinner meeting of the broad Silk Manufacturers’ division of the Silk Association to be held next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Advertising Club.

As a representative of the Syndicate de Haute Couture in Paris, Mme. Rouff will discuss style and styling problems. In addition to representing the syndicate she has the endorsement of the French Government in bringing to the trade here the point of view of her colleagues in style questions. An open discussion will conclude the meeting”. 1934 – A flamboyant frilled evening gown Artist: J. Shoupre.

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1936 – The Directoire collection was an outstanding theme with innovative frock coats in the fabrics of courduroy, other new skirts were a bias cut plad skirt, a printed floral shantung skirt, a black crepe skirt and a velvet /wool skirt.

1937 – Maggy makes the front cover Mode et Travaux causing an instant hit. A classic hand stitched black jacket which could be worn with anything.

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1937 – Maggy Rouff launched some perfumes beginning in 1937 “Tais-toi mon Coeur” this may have been a re-launch from the original one by Drecoll.

1938 – Maggy concentrating on a fitting: Drawing by Eric.

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1938 – Three designs and some text found in a discarded old fashion journal just about to be thrown away! Design Left: Longue robe de crepe, bleu ciel, d’une line pure et simple. Design Centre: Robe de moire de quatre tons, dont l’ampleur de la jupe a cinolin lait ressortir de minceur de la taille. Design Right: Tailleur de moire noire garni de moufflon assorti.

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An amazing rare find some enlightening facts into the character of Maggy Rouff, her Collection and also an important historical record of the actual decor of her Fashion House. Special note it records that she had two Daughters. Printed in 1938.

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1939 – During the war Maggy Rouff used a Hotel in Paris for her Fashion Shows for wider publicity. This fashion print has a Russian theme and is stunning Artist: Benito.

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1941 – The entrance of the House of Maggy Rouff. The pocket of the model’s Jacket displays the M R embroidered on dark blue the colour of her theme for all the staff.

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The House of Rouff – They specialized in sportswear and lingerie, and developed into a much wider range of fashion designs. Femininity was an important factor in her design, to enhance this she used her fondness for draped soft fabrics, often creating soft cowl folds to the neckline of her dresses. The dress above is gently gathered in the middle and also at the neck edge, the skirt typically falls into deep soft full folds. Colour and different textures were equally important. Historical costume was brought into her themes in a new way, and this continued throughout her collections. 1941 – Stepping along in a smart striped flannel suit and coat.

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THREE BOOKS written by Maggy Rouff:- 1/ 1938 – Ce que f’ai vu en Chiffonnant la Clientele, Paris . 2/ Circa 1942 – Le Philosophie de l’Elegance, Paris. A Quote in this book “Style is like love, it can happen in a flash or develop over a long period”. (Historians seem to agree that this is a subject on which Maggy is well qualified to comment on)! 3/ 1948 L’Amerique vue au microscope, Paris. They moved the House to Avenue Marceau during the forties.

1941 – A rich brown & black check for this country style coat, combined with a vibrant red pleated skirt, are an outstanding bold fashion statement. Complete with her hat a rustic M R bag to match. The Artist is Pierre Mourgue.

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Continue reading Maggy Rouff part 2…