Longtime Dallasite Nan Alexander served as a model in a variety of fashion contexts in Dallas, as well as a buyer for a number of prestigious retailers. Her decades-long career spanned many cultural changes in fashion and offers insights into the ways that modeling was critically interwoven into a variety of facets of the industry.
Alexander's relationship with fashion started at an early age when her mother made clothing for her from Vogue patterns, one of her first opportunities to serve as a fit model. As a teenager, she served on the Teen Board for the Dallas-based department store Neiman Marcus, where she served as an upaid model at the Preston Center on the weekends in the 1950s. Though she was not trained, she looked at materials at the public library and credits her athleticism for her modeling abilities and was quite excited to model clothing created specifically for young people - a new segment of the fashion industry. When she returned to Dallas in the early 1960s, she served as a fit model and "girl Friday" for Marge Cain, a designer who worked at the Fair Park-based manufacturer Howard Wolf, and later served as a model for the Dallas-based Kim Dawson Agency. In 1963, she began informal and runway modeling with sportswear on the third floor of the flagship Neiman-Marcus store in downtown Dallas, where her uniform was a black dress with heels and a "Twiggy" haircut by Vidal Sassoon at the suggestion of Stanely Marcus. Later Stanely Marcus recommended that she begin a junior executive training program, and Alexander shifted to a career as a buyer for the store.
The Neiman-Marcus junior executive training program shifted Alexander's career towards retail buying, specifically for advancing younger employees and spreading talent across stores. It gave Alexander the skills to move from a modeling path to an executive one, teaching a range of topics including IBM punchcards for inventory and sales tracking. It consisted of formal classes and people from across the country, though because Alexander was slightly older and a mother provided fewer networking and social opportunities.
Through her career as a buyer, Alexander created new fashion opportunities and came to know the ins and outs of selecting designs for Dallas audiences.