By Erin Agans
there was ever a doubt in your mind about what the latest styles in fashion
were, you could be sure to find advice about what to wear from Madeliene Corey.
For close to 50 years, Madeliene Corey dispensed fashion advice to Rhode Islanders
as both a fashion writer and columnist for the Providence Journal-Bulletin.
Throughout her entire career, Miss Corey was a staple in the local fashion
scene with the ability to ward off ugly clothing trends as well as make people
Madeliene Dunphy Corey was born in Providence in 1909 to the late Henry and Bridget Dunphy Corey. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where she originally had plans of becoming a painter. However, she eventually changed her major to education.
Upon graduating from RISD in 1933, she got a job teaching art at a public high school, Hope High. After one day on the job, she resigned because, according to an interview she later gave, "I hated it."
From there, Miss Corey applied for a feature writing post at the Journal-Bulletin. She sold herself to the paper, saying that not only could she write, but she could illustrate her articles as well. Obviously, she presented herself well because she got the job at the paper she would remain with for the rest of her long career.
Eventually, her feature writing evolved into a decorating column, which led to her fashion beat, which culminated in a stint as fashion editor. On her beat, Miss Corey's fashion advice column provided her with a platform on which to portray not only her fashion expertise, but also her sense of humor. She often responded to her readers' questions with snide remarks.
For instance, when one reader wrote asking if it would be okay for her to wear large glasses on her small face, Miss Corey responded, "So if you don't mind looking like an owl with insomnia, go to it."
Madeliene Corey was not only known for her fashion advice, but also for her own sense of style. According to fellow reporters, she always wore hats. Martha Smith, a fellow reporter at the Journal, wrote in an article, "I have always loved hats, a fondness that was influenced by working near Madeliene Corey, the Journal's late fashion editor, who subscribed to the credo that an ensemble without a chapeau is just duds. She herself wore silk turbans to work and sat at her desk wearing them all day, resembling the Queen Mum after a shampoo." In addition, Miss Corey had a fondness for furs.
The importance that fashion played in her life was evident to those who knew her. In her obituary, Ted Holmberg, who worked with Miss Corey for almost 20 years at the Journal-Bulletin, talked about the importance of fashion to her. "Madeliene really believed in fashion and thought there was a place for high fashion and proper dress," he said. "That played a large part in her life and affected her own style in the office."
Her career in fashion didn't just keep her within the borders of Rhode Island. Miss Corey reported on the fashion shows in New York City and even Paris. She extended beyond the realm of the newspaper. She went back to her alma mater, RISD, to act as a juror for the spring fashion show and she had her own radio show. Miss Corey also designed her own jewelry and gave lectures on fashion history.
Her varied and full career slowed down greatly in 1980, when Miss Corey retired. She didn't completely stop, however, for she continued to write her advice column. Upon her retirement, her friends and colleagues threw a retirement party for her at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Providence. Everyone who was somebody attended the party, including the mayor at the time, Vincent Cianci Jr.
After suffering an illness, Madeliene Corey died in January of 1983 in Rhode Island Hospital. She was 73 years old. Of those 73 years, nearly 50 were spent as an arbiter of fashion for the Providence Journal-Bulletin. In her obituary, the paper wrote, "Throughout her tenure, she was a fixture of local fashion and art world, as famous for her hats and fur coats, and her uproarious sense of humor as she was for her ability to skewer repulsive clothing trends."