Costume Designer, Film costumer designer

1899 – 1989


Who was Valentina?

Valentina Nicholaevna Sanina Schlee, known professionally simply as Valentina, was a Russian and Ukrainian émigrée fashion designer and theatrical costume designer active from 1928 to the late 1950s.

Schlee was born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine. She was studying drama in Kharkov at the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. She met a Russian White Emigre financier George Schlee, who would later become her husband, at the Sebastopol railway station as she was fleeing the country with her family jewels. George Schlee is best known for his twenty-year friendship with Greta Garbo. The Schlees arrived in New York City in 1923 and became prominent members of café society during the Roaring Twenties, where Valentina "stood out for her clothes and her style. When other women were wearing short skirts, she appeared in floor-length styles; when others wore low-neck dresses, she wore covered-up styles."

Schlee opened a small couture dress house, Valentina's Gowns on Madison Avenue in 1928. Her first stage commission was costumes for Judith Anderson in 1933's Come of Age. The costumes were better received than the play, and established her reputation as a designer for the stage. Schlee dressed such actresses of the era as Lynn Fontanne, Katharine Cornell, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Gertrude Lawrence, and Katharine Hepburn. Her Broadway successes included the costumes for the stage version of The Philadelphia Story. She also dressed prominent New York society women including members of the Whitney and Vanderbilt families. In 1950 Valentina also introduced a perfume, "My Own".

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May 1, 1899
Also known as
  • Valentina Schlee
  • Valentina Sanina
  • Valentina Nicholaevna Sanina Schlee
  • United States of America
Sep 14, 1989

on July 23, 2013


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