I stumbled across a remnant of the man shown above in a bookshelf on a rainy day during the fall of my freshman year in college and fell headfirst into the depths of a mystery which would haunt me for the following three years of my collegiate career.

The mystery manifests itself within the front cover of the autobiography of Paul Poiret, entitled King of Fashion. Paul Poiret was a notable nineteen twenties French fashion designer whose revolutionary designs inspired the conventionalized “flapper girl” aesthetic. Poiret’s legacy altered the course of twentieth century fashion history and his unique vision inspired a multitude of twentieth century designers—Coco Chanel, Hubert de Givenchy, and Christian Dior among them.

It just so happens that my college’s 1931 edition of Poiret’s autobiography bears the signature of his most mysterious predecessor—a man by the name of Maxwell Shieff. 

In the weeks following the discovery, I conducted as much research as I could on the man behind the mysterious autograph. Determined that Maxwell Shieff was beyond-average, I unpacked every detail of the signature (which also features a date and address) and scoured the internet for traces of Shieff. 

My suspicions turned out to be correct. 

Maxwell Shieff wasn’t just anyone.

I found out that he was a famous American fashion designer who designed decadent evening wear during the nineteen fifties and sixties. 

I also found out that he worked as a costume designer in Hollywood where he clothed Zsa Zsa Gabor. 

I found a few of his garments which still exist, listed as “rare” by a handful of vintage sellers. 

I also found an image of the label he affixed to his garments which features a signature identical to the one scrawled in the front cover of the book I found. 

This wasn’t enough. I wanted to know more.

Who was Maxwell Shieff?