Our neighborhood lost an icon earlier this month. Elizabeth Hope Evans Verhalen, a renowned fashion designer, died of cancer on Valentine’s Day.
Verhalen graduated from Ursuline in 1948 and sketched the school’s signature plaid in 1971. But she’s known internationally for designing the first U.S. swimwear line to be produced outside of California.
We spoke with her long time friend, Mary Ann Neuhoff Collins. The ladies met in pre-k, were in the same class at Ursuline, often double dated and attended the same church.
“She’s going to be remembered as a very creative person,” Collins says. “She designed these really beautiful ribbon dresses that her daughters and granddaughters wore to her memorial service … She was [also] very spiritual.”
Claire Webb, Ursuline’s director of alumnae relations, remembers seeing Verhalen at an event in Houston.
“I thought, ‘Who is that?!,’ ” Webb says. “She just had this presence. She really looked like someone — and she was someone.”
That’s no joke. According to The Dallas Morning News, Mademoiselle called Verhalen “the most promising designer in the U.S.” in 1959. A few years later, “Ladies Home Journal named her one of the six top designing women in America.” She also received nods from Glamour and Seventeen.
Ursuline’s Alumnae Association sent this floral cross to Verhalen’s memorial service. It was adorned, thoughtfully, with the school plaid:
Those wishing to honor Verhalen should make a donation in her name to the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
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