Monika Tilley - Activewear pioneer

Passing Date

Monika Tilley, an innovative fashion designer and activewear pioneer, died December 23 in Manhattan. She was 86.

Born in Vienna, Tilley earned a master’s degree from the Vienna Academy of Applied Arts and came to the United States in the late 1950s. She first worked as a magazine illustrator, then designed children’s wear at Anne Cole, and went on to establish a wide-ranging influential career in the fashion industry.

Tilley first designed skiwear while working for White Stag in 1963. She succeeded Mary Ann Buxton as design director for Ski Levi’s in the early 1980s.

Tilley is most noted for her swimwear designs, including many featured in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. Her provocative see-through swimsuit worn my Cheryl Tiegs in the 1978 issue is now in the permanent collection of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Tilley was a longtime board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and founded the CFDA Scholarship Program in 1996.