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#shareHERstory: PEM and Salem Film Fest to screen one of Fashion’s untold stories with CALENDAR GIRL

This month, Creative Collective is celebrating Women’s History Month! Follow along as we tell the stories of women small business owners and woman-led organizations.

by Joey Phoenix
Images provided by Christian Christian D. Bruun
for Salem Film Fest/Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum and Salem Film Fest invite guests to join for a special livestream of CALENDAR GIRL (Bruun 2020) and panel discussion on March 10th about Ruth Finley and her impact on the fashion world, featuring Director/Producer/Cinematographer Christian Bruun, Writer/Producer Natalie Nudell, Associate Producer/Fashion Calendar employee Mary Myers Hackley, and PEM’s own Petra Slinkard, Nancy B. Putnam Curator for Fashion and Textiles.

Get tickets. 

Calendar Girl is an American documentary film about Ruth Finley, founder and editor of the Fashion Calendar, and is directed and produced by Christian D. Bruun and produced and written by Natalie Nudell. The film premiered at the 2020 DOC NYC via virtual screenings

Ruth Finley (1920-2018), the creator of the iconic pink, subscription-only Fashion Calendar which has compiled every important fashion show and event since its inception in 1945, is one of fashion’s underappreciated heroes. 

Born Ruth Faith Finberg in Haverhill, MA in January 1920, this tiny powerhouse of a woman adopted the less Jewish-sounding Finley when she moved to New York – a choice described by her son Larry as an “attempt to avoid adding additional prejudice” to her journey as a young businesswoman already up against challenging odds. 

Until March 14th, viewers can live stream the documentary about Ruth’s life and legacy with CALENDAR GIRL or immerse themselves in show-stopping ensembles, street fashion, ready-to-wear, and haute couture with Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion at the Peabody Essex Museum in downtown Salem.

“A miraculous one-woman operation.” 

The special screening of CALENDAR GIRL – presented by The Peabody Essex Museum and Salem Film Fest – and accompanying panel discussion on March 10th is a perfect homage to the closing of the women and fashion centered exhibit: Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, which ends Saturday, March 14th. The exhibit explores 107 works, spanning 250 years, recognizing women’s often-overlooked contributions to the fashion and design industry.

While the exhibit primarily focused on designers, some of the sub themes included the people who have impacted the industry at large – including retail, journalism, and fashion shows, as well as some of the industry’s creative drivers. 


Bill Cunningham and Ruth Finley at City Meals on Wheels event honoring Ruth.
Photo Credit: Christian D. Bruun

“It’s remarkable how [Ruth] carved out a niche for herself in this now-behemoth industry, and she was able to do it on her terms using her resources and her style,” said Petra Slinkard (she/her/hers), Director of Curatorial Affairs, The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles. “And not only was she successful, but she garnered all of this respect and, in a very friendly and approachable way, commanded authority over this extremely important driver with the calendar.”

A job at Lord & Taylor and an internship at New York Herald Tribune were the initial impetus that inspired Finley’s love of fashion, but it wasn’t until much later that her idea for a fashion calendar was born. While at tea with two close friends, who both happened to be fashion designers, Finley heard them discussing, with some frustration, how shows at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman were happening at the same time on the same day, 

She knew something had to be done. 

She borrowed $1000 from a friend and launched the calendar in 1945 and this choice changed the course of fashion history. According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, “Finley served as the miraculous one-woman operation as the master planner of all New York’s fashion events for seven decades.” 

Ruth Finley and rise of American fashion

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, fashion was predominantly a male-run industry in the United States. But when a World War II pro-American fashion movement (formerly Parisian-led) took hold in the late 1930s and early 1940s, things subtly began to shift. 


Ruth Finley getting her hair done for a photoshoot.
Photo Credit: Christian D. Bruun

“Paris shut down when the Nazis had entered the city, and there was a legitimate panic among journalists and retailers who were thinking: ‘if there’s no Paris, there’s no fashion,’” Slinkard said. 

But it didn’t take long for American fashion designers, many of them women, to step up and point out that American fashion didn’t have to come from Paris. And not only that, American fashion didn’t have to be as uptight as French fashion. These movements opened the door for American-made American fashion to start trending, making space for people like Ruth Finley to revolutionize the industry in their own way. 

“There was this emergence in a more relaxed method of dressing because women were tired.  and this was an opportunity to express that fatigue,” Slinkard described. “So you see designers like Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin really begin to create and streamline more accessible styles of clothing.” 

Salem Film Fest Announces Film Lineup for Virtual Film Festival and Fundraiser for Filmmakers and Local Charities

But with so many American designers suddenly vying for the spotlight, and fashion critics and lovers having to choose between one show and another without a centralized calendar, Finley was not only able to coordinate dates so that double booking was less of a problem, but she was also able to establish herself as a champion for all designers – not just the ones who were industry famous but those who were on the rise as well.  

“Ruth provided agency for highly successful and emerging designers alike, and she was willing to make sure that everyone had a seat at the table through her calendar. But she also took it a step further – and you’ll see this in the film in how she chooses pieces to wear to shows – she embodied a sense of representation and became a cheerleader for designers themselves,” she said. “And at PEM we have a continual celebration of creative expression where it’s not just about the end product, but about the process and about the people that contribute to that process – which is something that Ruth really stood for as well.” 

The special livestream of CALENDAR GIRL and panel discussion will be held on Wednesday, March 10th at 7:00 pm. Click here to register. To learn more about the Peabody Essex Museum or to register for upcoming events, go to https://www.pem.org/ or follow them on Facebook and Instagram


Joey Phoenix (they/them) is the Director of Brand Strategy and Innovation at Creative Collective. As the resident storyteller and town crier, they encourage you to send story ideas, inspiration, or pictures of adorable critters to joeyphoenix@creativecollectivema.com.


This month, Creative Collective is celebrating Women’s History Month! Follow along as we tell the stories of women small business owners and woman-led organizations.

And make sure to use the hashtags #shareHERstory, #shareTHEIRstory, #shareXYRstory (or other pronouns), and #shareYOURstory to highlight the women, the femmes/fems, and the non-binary/genderqueer individuals in your community who have and are continuing to inspire you.


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