Participant Info

First Name
Mary Lisa
Last Name
independent researcher
Website URL
Beauty industry, direct selling, menswear
Additional Contact Information
Can be contacted through Viking Penguin or McCormick Literary.

Personal Info

About Me

For most of my life, my day job has been journalism. I started on daily newspapers in Virginia and Pennsylvania before moving to Manhattan, where I worked as a senior editor for print publications including Glamour, InStyle, Mirabella, and Fairchild’s WWD/DNR/Menswear, a columnist for Elle, and a freelancer for Fast Company, Health, People, The Hollywood Reporter, and The New York Times Magazine.

Two years ago, I moved to the outskirts of Boston, where I’ve been consulting for digital media, raising my son, and finishing a book about the direct selling industry that grew out of a year-long fellowship at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. Over the course of my career, I have published hundreds of print and digital pieces in newspapers, trade magazines, consumer magazines, and academic journals. Here, I list only publications that show my bona fides in social history.

Select Honors

2014–2015 Wertheim Study privileges, New York Public Library

2009–2010 Fellowship, Leon Levy Center for Biography, City University of New York Graduate Center

2008 NOW Women of Power and Influence Award (declined)

1989 Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute

Conferences and Panels

2012, Presenter, “Bright Modernity: Color, Commerce, and Consumption in Global Perspective.” German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

2010, Presenter, “Fashion in Fiction.” Drexel University, Philadelphia

2009, Presenter, Fashion Studies Group, CUNY Graduate Center, New York

2007, Panelist, “French Design, Luxury Industries and Intellectual Property”; Ministère de l’Economie et des Finances, Paris

2005, Panelist, “Creative Motivation Through Sustainable Resources.” Ingeo Roundtable, New York


2003–2015, Gotham Center for New York City History, Member of Expert Resource Directory

2003 Dove Advisory Board. Part of the five-woman committee of feminist scholars who brainstormed the “Dove Global Study”

1995–1997, Executive Board, Cosmetic Executive Women

Recent Publications


Selling Opportunity (tentative title). New York, Viking Penguin, forthcoming in late 2024 or early 2025. Social history of America’s direct selling industry.

“Who Decides the Color of the Season?” chapter in Bright Modernity, Regina Blaszczyk and Uwe Spiekermann, eds. Worlds of Consumption series, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

The Fairchild Encyclopedia of Menswear. New York: Bloomsbury, 2008. Sole author of illustrated, 2,200-entry reference encompassing biographies, textile and tailoring terminology, and social history.

Color Stories: Behind the Scenes in America’s Billion-Dollar Beauty Industry New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002; trade paperback, 2007; eBook, 2008

Encyclopedia Entries

“Dudley Williams.” African American National Biography. Henry Louis Gates Jr., ed. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013


“The man in the red suit: An endearing enigma in a scarlet fur-trimmed jacket, Santa has spent the past 150 years spreading joy—and shilling for Macy’s, Maxwell House and Dewar’s scotch.” 23 December 2006.

Exhibition Reviews

Review of “Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s” at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Aesthetica. 8 April 2014.

“Dressed to kill.” The Chronicle of the Horse. 1 September 2005.

Media Coverage
Quotes/interviews:, The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, New York Post, CBS "Early Show," CNN, NPR, et al.
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
Early Modern, Modern, 20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Capitalism, Gender, Material Culture, Women