The Swansdown line of coats and suits were manufactured by America's largest firm of the sort, Morris W. Haft & Brothers, Inc. The company also made the Jaunty Juniors line. Morris Haft and his 6 brothers opened the company in 1916 and were very successful until the company was dissolved in 1950.
In piecing together clues, it appears that Morris W. Haft continued the Swansdown company until his own retirement in 1955. Haft made a lot of money in the coat and suit industry and formed a philanthropic foundation with his wife Fannie in 1958. They funded Haft Hall, a dormitory at Syracuse University and the Morris W. and Fannie B. Haft Auditorium at the Fashion Institute in New York.
Swansdown wool tweed coat, 1949
In 1965, Morris Haft sold his personal collection of original Impressionist artworks at auction. The sale made the news when one of the paintings, Van Gogh's "The Sower" sold for $250.000 to an anonymous bidder. The sale brought in nearly $1.5 million total.
Full page ads from Charm Magazine, 1949. 3rd image by Ray Solowinski for Charm Magazine, 1949.
On December 2, 1978, Christie's in London auctioned the personal wardrobe of Coco Chanel which had been bequeathed to Lilian Grumbach (center above) upon Chanel's death in 1971. At the time, auctioning of "used clothing" or "personal wardrobes" was not the norm, in fact far from it. There was a lot of speculation prior to the auction about who would want to buy the "out-of-date" clothing and jewelry from an auction house that normally specialized in fine art and antiques. The House of Chanel itself was floundering in the late 70s and would not become a sensation again until 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld was hired.
Lilian Grumbach was press representative and closest personal associate to Chanel during the last 14 years of her life. She was also heir to Chanel's personal effects. The auction consisted of about 40 suits and dresses, either worn personally by Chanel herself or designed by her and kept as part of her personal collection. There were also 44 pieces of jewelry and 36 other accessories (presumably handbags and such.)
The auction was attended by museums, department stores, private collectors and women who were wise enough to realize the value of a piece of couture designed by Chanel. A beige tweed suit with bright pink silk braid brought the highest price of the evening, about $4,800 (about $17,200 today.) The total proceeds for the evening were $138,000 (about $494,000 today.)
Think about that. Less than $500,000 for 120 items owned and designed by Coco Chanel herself. If the same auction were held today, I am sure there would have been single items that sold for that price. What a difference 35 years makes!
This full page ad for Kimball scarves is from 1949. "4 clever little tricks with a knack for turning a costume into a wardrobe. Wear them in gay ways for occasions galore - they're pure silk and hand-rolled and sized just right for your Summer ensembles. All the colors you could possibly want."
Top left: "wear it tantalizingly at the base of your plunge neckline"
Top right: "tie it as a cravat adding a chic color note at the throat"
Lower left: "create the brilliant French touch with flowing wing knot"
Lower right: "sport a vivid dickey and a twin hipline fillip"
Speaking of scarves, I have a fabulous selection right now at Couture Allure, including designer silk scarves from Wesley Simpson, Vera, Giorgio Sant'Angelo, Albert Nipon, Glentex and more. Vintage scarves make great holiday gifts!
Kimball ad scanned from Mademoiselle magazine, May 1949.
"My dear, you're the most exciting woman in this room...in a Mollie Parnis dress of William Rose black taffeta. 125.00"
This dress had every opportunity of being austere with its long sleeves and solid black color. But note how Parnis offsets that by making the neckline as wide as it can be with the sleeves sitting just at the very edge of the shoulders. Those shoulders become the center of attention, don't they?
Dress by Mollie Parnis shown in a full page ad for Harper's Bazaar, December 1956.
Are they palazzo pants or is it just a very full gown? Hard to say, as there is no mention of the fact in the ad copy. I. Magnin simply says, "dreamy moonbird. Plunged in glamorous, gleamy silk satin by Ben Reig. Our exclusive."
Ben Reig, one of the designers beloved by America's well-to-do women, women who "are pillars of country clubs and who never get thrown out of restaurants," this said at a time when fashion was turned upside down by pants, plunging bra-less decolletage, mini skirts and see-through blouses. "No wearer of a Ben Reig costume is going to get photographed because she's way-out, and no Ben Reig customer wants to be."
First quote by Angela Taylor writing for the New York Times, May 1969. Second quote by Florence de Santis, New York reporter, January 1969. Photo by Jack Cowley for I. Magnin, 1969. Model Lauren Hutton.
A blog for lovers of vintage clothing and fashion, where you can learn about vintage styles, designers, and design concepts through photos from the past. I also feature vintage garments available for sale at my website. Your comments are welcome! Shop http://www.coutureallure.com/ for the best in vintage fashion.