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Keeping Nebraska in Fashion: The Success of Postwar Custom Dressmaker Ilona Dorenter Berk examines the life and work of previously undocumented Midwestern dressmaker Ilona Berk. Through the interdisciplinary study of three vital components in the entrepreneurial dressmaking business of Ilona; who worked out of her home in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1953 to approximately 2000; research establishes her as a significant contributor to the fashion system of the twentieth century, and an important figure in Midwestern costume history. Components chosen for the study are: Ilona’s unique personal characteristics, the global and regional fashion systems she worked within, and the garments she designed and created. The comprehensive method of study is qualitative examination via published scholarly works, archival public records, oral interviews, and object-based analysis. Results of the study are presented as: a partial biography of Ilona, summary tables of her methods, and a modified E. McClung Fleming method group artifact analysis. Discussion includes a comparison of Ilona and her work to documented characteristics of successful female immigrant entrepreneurs, Jewish Holocaust survivor immigrants, custom dressmakers, and couture garments.
Advisor: Barbara Trout