When she was 14, she began studying design at a Fashion school in New York City. She began working in the industry shortly thereafter.
She lost an eye due to Glaucoma, but continued designing for the brand Madeline Couture through the 1960s.
She was the great granddaughter of a slave and a plantation owner.
She designed the dress Olivia de Havilland wore to receive her Best Actress Oscar for the film To Each His Own.