Friday, December 19, 2014

Best of: Don Loper, 1950's Green Silk Suit Jacket

This masterpiece was designed by Don Loper who is probably better known now for his appearance on "I Love Lucy" during the mid-1950's, where he presents a showcase of his fashions, and poor Lucy is morose, unable to wear fashion, having a severe sun burn.

This 1950's Kelly green silk suit jacket is worthy of a complete stop in conversation. An open mouth gape at the pure luxury and blatant exhibitionism of the collar. It encircles the neck like a sculptured cape. With dramatic notches far back near the shoulder seam line, it is truly regal in the crown shape of the crescent curved roll line around the shoulders.

Don Loper had a brief career as an actor during the previous decade. His resume reads like a survey of TV and film positions. There was little in Hollywood that Loper didn't give a try to. But it is the glamorous fashions he created that put his name on the map. Working with the best textiles, he demonstrated a skill and understanding far beyond what might be expected from someone with a lack of training or mentorship.

This simple green jacket, with its small bodice and 3/4 length sleeves from the mid-1950's departs from the norm in a way that sets it apart from just about any other jacket of its era.  The color, often called "Kelly Green", was very popular during the 50's and was seen in cocktail dresses and evening suits such as this one.

This article has been reprinted with larger photos from an original post on April 2, 2008, just in time for a little vintage inspiration for the holidays. Shouldn't we all have a bit of green to wear to parties right now?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bonnie Cashin: Coat Pattern Draft for Leather and Canvas Coat

Bonnie Cashin coats like this one in leather on canvas for Sills, have a very simple, easy to draft and sew pattern. To help in understanding this 'Noh' silhouette coat, I prepared a draft to scale that shows all details involved in this coat.

You can see in this photo that many of her 'signature' details are present: simple shape with sleeves cut in one with the body, leather bound edges (rather than hems), and brass twist looks (instead of buttons). This coat is lined in a cotton plaid twill. Usually a Cashin coat will have some sort of large and functional side seam pocket. In this case she applied a whimsical mock shoulder bag for each side of the body.

This draft is drawn to scale with one grid square to equal one inch. The leather trim creates mock shoulder straps that are about 1.5" wide. Rather than being straight, these straps do curve a bit at the shoulder. The big zippered 'purse' pocket is 13" across including the strap pieces. It is shifted slightly towards the front.

In this back view, the rest of the bag details are seen. The collar in center back is about 4.5" wide and 20.5" across from point to point. This collar is nearly straight, having only a slight curve to the neckline edge. There is a center back seamline.

This front view shows how the coat appears when worn and the close up view shows more details there.

The pocket has an industrial brazz zipper that is about 8" long. It is set into a slot to fit that is about 5/8" wide. The lower pocket closes with a twist lock. It is nearly 10" wide and 9.5" deep where it is 'framed' by the strap leather edge.

Here is a closer view of the front collar with it's twist lock, and the back view of this coat.

This pocket is inspiring, and I hope it gives you an idea or two for some custom sewing of your own. Don't overlook sewing with leather because it's not that difficult, especially as it is used here. A good used leather skirt could be savaged for leather, if you want to test this pocket for yourself.

For more on Bonnie Cashin Drawings and Photos--follow my Cashin board on Pinterest: Here

I have also published the following articles on Cashin in this blog, click on any title:

Cashin Coat Illustration from Spring 1966

Mohair Blanket Coat

Cashin Turn Locks and HERE

Knits and Girdles advertisement, 1961

Summer Coat, June 1950

1949 Coat Patent, Illustrated

This wonderful coat was purchased from Chelsea Harris, who curates "Femalehysteria"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Irene Lentz: Jacket c. 1949

This suit jacket by the MGM costumer and fashion designer Irene Lentz was probably sold in 1949. The label lists Bullock's Wilshire, located in Los Angeles, as the high end department store where it was shown. In July 1947, before her career at MGM terminated, Irene began a fashion business designing for a group of 25 department stores who helped to finance her business. With exclusive rights to Irene, Inc. for their stores, located across the country, they would make her fashion designs available to affluent women who patronized them.

She tried for two additional years to work for both MGM and establish her own “Irene, Inc.” business at the same time. After that she left the film industry to devote her creative energy to Irene, Inc, starting her wholesale business with 20 department stores showing her line. By 1951 she would have 37 stores that carried the Irene label.

This close up view of the jacket shows the layered crescent shaped collars that she designed which were accented by buttons. She used nine covered buttons in this design.

Crescent shapes disguised conventional darts and princess seam lines.

The business took off quickly, no doubt boosted by her reputation and well honed design and tailoring skills practiced during the years at MGM. She won the Neiman-Marcus fashion award in 1947 for her excellent work, the other recipient that year was Christian Dior.

A suit advertised for spring of 1949 shows slightly broad, but rounded shoulders on a tightly fitted jacket with long peplum skirt to cover the hips. This silhouette was typical for suits from that era.

By 1951 her business, design and showroom, had moved to a modern design and production facility at 3550 Hayden in Culver City. It had a fabric vault to store her valuable textiles, imported from the best European collections. Her fine suits used English wools and domestic textiles by such notables as Pola Stout (who also produced the graphic wools used by Adrian). She worked with a design staff that had been with her for many years. Her first pattern maker was Nancy Baker, a long time employee. Tailoring was done by John Deverling who had started with her during the Bullock’s Wilshire years.

This line drawing clearly shows the working details of the design with its dramatic crescents and over-lapping collars.

During this era, her light weight worsted wool suits had a slim, molded appearance, fitting close to the body. The shoulder line was softly tailored, not sharp, and the waistline was fitted. Early 1950’s showed face framing collars and turned back cuffs. The suiting textile she often used was all season light weight worsted wool, making it wearable year round.

It was the many couture level details, fine imported textiles, and feminine silhouette that made Irene's designs stand out from others during her era. This post WWII suit is especially dramatic and an excellent example of her fine workmanship.

Irene Lentz: Pinterest collection of images

Monday, December 1, 2014

Carl Naftal: a California label

I recently found a wonderful dress with a "Carl Naftal Originals, California" label. Because this brand was unfamiliar to me, I thought it would be fun to find out what I could about this label. Carl Naftal, owned an apparel firm in Los Angeles under his own name from the late 1940’s through the late 1960’s. I base that date on an advertisement. Records show that someone with his name was born about 1911 in New York and lived in Los Angeles until his passing in 1977. He applied for incorporation under the name “Carl Naftal Originals” in 1954, but this name as a brand was already in use before that date.

As early as 1947, I found an ad for a suit with peplum shirt in a Los Angeles area newspaper, so we know that he was manufacturing by that date.

In the mid-1950’s his fashions were sold in shops that also advertised Jonathan Logan, Berkshire, Peg Palmer, Bobbie Brooks, White Stag and Graff: labels that were in the upper middle price range. The newspaper advertisements also key in regionalism, marketing a California lifestyle, selling this image to customers outside the region.

A holiday ad from 1955 shows a white knit jersey fabric with gold threads, cut in a slender sheath silhouette.


There are other ads that showcase knits, which seem to be a popular item for this label. His “California creations by Carl Naftal” are advertised at $22.95 to $29.95. A spring ad in 1964 reads: “from sunny California come these perfection dresses by Carl Naftal”.

His customers are usually missy, but often there seems to be a junior style, with a spring ad in 1967 listing “Oh Yes! They’re the great pant pretenders…it’s really a culotte, comfortable as a shift…discover the new “pant era” now…$20 linen look rayon and acetate, misses sizes.” In the fall of 1968 an advertisement shows a popular junior style dress of wool jersey ($39.98), so this brand seems to have maintained knits in its collections.

Here are more newspaper advertisements, which market to a young crowd:

Fall 1960: “Gently tailored jersey, key to wardrobe versatility in a deftly fitted sheath, wool jersey, $29.95”

Summer 1962: “Love what Carl Naftal does with Dacron. Checking in for an easy care flight through summer, sizes 10 to 20, $22.98”

Summer 1968: “The romantic look full of feminine appeal, another of our new romantics, cotton polyester and cotton voile, lined, $26.00”

Spring 1969: “Fresh from California, the sun country, comes these fun-loving ‘about town’ dresses of 100% cotton”

The dresses produced by this label appear to be well made (especially if they were sold on the same racks as Jonathan Logan and Bobbie Brooks). Look for the “Carl Naftal” label for a quality vintage dress.

The brown lace dress shown here is now available for sale in my Etsy shops, along with more views of it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


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