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Marybelle S. Bigelow Collection

Identifier: MS-0298

Scope and Contents

The Marybelle S. Bigelow Collection dates from 1953 to 2001.  The collection is arranged in two series, personal and professional. In addition, there is an oversized section, which contains materials from both series.  The collection includes correspondence, drafts and manuscripts, photographs, diaries, slides and other papers related to Bigelow's personal life and career as an art professor.

The Personal series (1953-2001) includes biographical material, genealogy and family histories, notebooks, travel journals and personal correspondence.  A large portion of the correspondence illustrates Bigelow's long friendship and devotion to Mary Campbell, whom she met at Vogue Magazine after winning the Prix de Paris competition.  Bigelow went on to act as advertising and design consultant for Mary Campbell's store, the Kent Shop, creating hundreds of print ads, logos and patterns which are also organized within this series.  Bigelow also chronicled her friendship with Mary in a set of illustrated volumes, entitled MB Saga.  The series also contains Bigelow's diaries, which exemplify her wit, creativity and struggle as an art professor for more than thirty years.  Bigelow's political and social commentary is presented in Contemporary Comments and The Pessimistic Philosopher, a series of illustrated volumes that Bigelow created in response to the daily print and television headlines.  This series also includes drafts and manuscripts of Bigelow's personal writings, including her autobiography, personal photographs, artwork, financial and legal papers, scrapbooks and artifacts.

The Professional series (1953-2001) includes professional correspondence, teaching materials, committee documents, exhibition announcements and awards.  A significant portion of this series is dedicated to the various drafts of Bigelow's published titles, including Alphabets and Design and Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World.  Original illustrations and artwork created by Bigelow for Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World are contained in this series, as well as drawings Bigelow created as teaching materials for her various fashion and costume history classes.  Also included in this series are slides used during class lectures, class notes, syllabi and some original work created by students in Bigelow's classes.


  • Creation: 1953-2001


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Biographical Note

Marybelle Schmidt Bigelow, born in La Mesa, California on July 18, 1923 was a distinguished professor of fashion and costume history, an accomplished artist and a prolific writer and creator. Bigelow received both her BA and MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and went on to teach there for more than six years. She was awarded the esteemed Prix de Paris for fashion design and illustration, and worked briefly for Vogue Magazine in New York as a staff designer. In 1956, Bigelow was invited to join the staff of San Diego State University (SDSU), where she taught fashion illustration, costume history, and graphic communication courses in the art department for more than twenty years. During her tenure at SDSU, Bigelow was active on a variety of committees and was recognized as an Outstanding Educator in 1970, 1971 and 1972.

In 1967, Bigelow completed Alphabets and Design, which was later adopted as a text for graphics and communications classes by the University of Minnesota. She then went on to write and illustrate her seminal text on the history of fashion and costume, Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. The second edition was completed and published in 1979 and is still in publication. Although she retired in 1980, Bigelow continued to remain very active in academic life at SDSU, and was editor of the retirement newsletter for more than 12 years.

In addition to her career as an art professor, Bigelow was an active artist and creator, exhibiting in numerous galleries and museums, including the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery. She wrote numerous versions of her autobiography, Vichyssoise and 33 Commencements, authored her own personal newsletter and wrote and illustrated a number of short stories and children's books. She died in 2003 at the age of 79.


24.20 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Bruce Gibson

Accruals and Additions

1973-001, 1982-010, 2003

Marybelle S. Bigelow Collection
Holland Kessinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US