Fashion Design Career: A Glimpse Into the NYC industry in the 60's and 70's

SFD086 This 76 Year Old Worked in the NYC Fashion Industry since the 60’s. Here’s her story

Judy worked in the industry way back in the 60’s and 70’s in New York and she has so many fun and inspiring stories about what her journey was like through fashion back then. Whether you’re listening for a fun flashback or for some insight into what the New York fashion world was like back then before you were born, you’re going to love this episode!

P.S. This interview was done here in my living room in Denver, and my terrier Lana was home and very excited that the ladies were talking. She doesn’t bark, but she’s definitely there tapping around (and chewing on a bully stick). She’s excited about this episode too!

In the interview (which you’ll love) we will cover:

  • How Judy decided to start in the fashion industry
  • What it was like working in the fashion industry when she was right out of college in the 60’s
  • What it was like working for a t-shirt factory in New York (yes–a factory in New York!)
  • How the fax machine changed the lives of the sketches being sent!
  • How the car industry would influence the fashion industry
  • How Judy presented her ideas (sketching, sketching, sketching!)
  • Which celebrity wore her westernwear shirt designs!
  • How the fashion industry was different without Adobe Illustrator

Press the orange play button below to listen here, or listen on Apple Podcasts:


Judy Karp was like a lot of us in that she was always interested in art. She knew she wanted to study that (maybe become an art teacher?) But when it came time to choose a college in the 60’s, her counselor suggested Washington University in St. Louis. When she saw the fashion design course in the brochure, she knew she wanted to try it–she liked sewing (“everyone sewed back then”), so she did her four years out there. This was back when FIT was a tiny little course, and RISD was somewhere out there. But Judy got her BFA and made her way into the world.

At first she got a job for Formfit Rogers, but then decided to move to New York. Formfit Rogers had an office out there, so Judy packed up her volkswagon and made her way out there! Shortly after she got a job as an assistant designer at Smartee–one of the first places to actually DO t-shirts. Seriously–no one wore t-shirts back then (maybe to the beach), but she got to be on the forefront of creating that trend! Vogue and Harper used to come by the factory (yes, factory in NY) to check out the t-shirt trend. (Thank goodness Judy helped create the t-shirt as we know it–my life would not be the same without them!)


As you might imagine, Judy spent a lot of time sketching. And sketching some more, and sketching some more. There wasn’t any way to do anything except by hand, she says. Doing things on a computer “wasn’t normal.” My, how the tides have turned! After working in New York until about ‘78, she made her way west to Denver, Colorado. She worked for Carmen westernwear and got to design western shirts for John Travolta in Urban Cowboy! Yes–he wore her designs!

Judy’s story really is a fascinating insight into the fashion industry in the 60’s and 70’s–you’re going to love it!

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