Helft’s of Beverly Hills ~ UPDATED!

Note: I originally published this post on April 24, 2011, and, as expected, I did hear from one who knows more about Helft’s of Beverly Hills.

The sweater above has a label, Helft’s Beverly Hills & Los Angeles.   An internet search for the label has turned up very little information, but I’m posting about it because I know that some time, maybe not tonight, not tomorrow, and not even next week, but some time someone who knows all about Helft’s is going to get curious.  They are going to do a net search, and they are going to find this post.

Then they are going to comment here and tell me all I need to know, like when the store opened, and when it closed.  And even better, they are going to know all the good stories associated with the store.

I know this is going to happen because it has so many times in the past.  When I started this journal almost six years ago I had no idea that it would connect me to so many helpful people.  Sometimes several years can go by, but through the marvel of google, the connection is made.

I’m patient, Mr./Ms. Helft’s person.  I’ll be here waiting for you.

And so I have heard from a niece of the Helft’s.  Read this interesting story:

I was so excited to see this. I am a great niece of Blanche & Tedd Helft who operated Helft’s. Here is what I know or remember of their story:

Long before etsy or Ebay, they were among the many who drove to California from the Midwest in the 1930s-40s with the hopes of finding fortune in California (which in itself was a story!). They financed their journey by selling steamer trunks and nickel-a-day life insurance along the way.

They opened their first store in the Beverly Hills Hotel.  As I recall, the hotel lobby and shops were configured in a split-level.  Harry Winston’s was at the top of the stairs of the lobby level — walk down and Helft’s was on the left.  Or, if you continued down the hall past the store, you’d reach a door that opened to the tennis courts and bungalows.

As it was told to me, Blanche & Tedd Helft subleased their Beverly Hills shop from Elizabeth Taylor’s father, who operated an art gallery.  Their store was frequented by hotel guests and many of Hollywood’s “screen goddesses.”  Later, they opened additional stores, I believe in the Beverly Hilton, Centur CIty, and others.  In terms of the origin of their merchandise, it is my understanding that Blanche frequently traveled to Europe on buying trips.  (I don’t know who sewed the labels).

I remember Blanche as a stylish, elegant woman.  They resided in their Bel Aire home for many years.  Tedd took up oil painting in his 60s. Within their house was a studio with gorgeous views of the ocean. Hanging in my home today are several of his paintings that he or my mother gave to me.

He was always proud of the fact that, like Van Gogh (his favorite artist), he only sold one painting in his lifetime. As I recall, the only painting he sold was hung somewhere in the World Trade Center.

Tedd & Blanche were married over 50 years. Blanche died in 1982 and I believe their only child (a son who is probably in his late 70s/early 80s by now) and possibly their grandchildren assumed operations of the business.

I visited my Uncle Tedd on a few occasions in 3-5 years prior to his death in 1993. Once, after breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge, he guided me on a walking tour by the bungalows and tennis courts. He’d share stories of Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more. He was a mesmerizing story teller of Hollywood’s hey-day.

One of his final gifts to me was a privately published autobiography that he personally inscribed and distributed to family members.  It’s one of my most treasured possessions and gives a more intimate story of his upbringing and his life in California.

There was seldom anything as exciting for me as getting off a plane from Los Angeles and seeing someone with a shopping bag that said “It’s from Helft’s.” I’m sure his son and grandchildren know far more than I.  Still, I hope you find this of interest.

Of interest?  Definitely!  My thanks to Andrea for this fascinating look at the story of  Helft’s.

35 Comments

Filed under Vintage Clothing

35 responses to “Helft’s of Beverly Hills ~ UPDATED!

  1. I love this sweater and I think it offers even more mystery. Where is the manufacturer’s label with possible fiber content, and why is this label sewn in so crudely, (and in black thread)? Maybe someone walked into Helft’s and asked if they could knit some sweaters at home to see if they’d sell in the store? Maybe someone sewed the label into it to make it look more vintagey, like some of those unscrupulous etsy /ebay sellers, or googlers of “how to fake vintage clothing”. Beverly Hills, oooh lala! You know? Anyway –I don’t know, but I love your curiosities , and your blog in general!

    Like

    • Thanks for much, Lisa. I love compliments!

      Yes, this sweater has given me a lot to think about. There is no care or fiber label because it predates the legal mandate that there be one. Makers had to start adding those sometime in the 1970s.

      In the years before Macy’s gobbled up so many of our local department stores, there was certain cache in shopping at the “best” stores. The local label was just as important – or even more so- than the maker’s label. After the goods were delivered to the store, an employee stitched in the store label, and at the same time, sometimes removed the maker’s label, especially if it were not a recognized brand or designer. This was a low-man-on-the-totem-pole type job, and store labels are often sewn in an amateurish manner.

      There is also a bit on info I did not post – the presence of a tiny size label “12″ sewn into the shoulder seam. I’ve seen this a lot in sweaters from the 1950s and even into the 70s.

      And considering where I got the sweater and what I paid for it, I’m pretty sure there was no thieving trickery involved!

      But the questions you asked – and even more – have to be asked in order to arrive at the best guess of this sweater’s history.

      Like

  2. Andrea Migliore

    I was so excited to see this. I am a great niece of Blanche & Tedd Helft who operated Helft’s. Here is what I know or remember of their story:

    Long before etsy or Ebay, they were among the many who drove to California from the Midwest in the 1930s-40s with the hopes of finding fortune in California (which in itself was a story!). They financed their journey by selling steamer trunks and nickel-a-day life insurance along the way.

    They opened their first store in the Beverly Hills Hotel. As I recall, the hotel lobby and shops were configured in a split-level. Harry Winston’s was at the top of the stairs of the lobby level — walk down and Helft’s was on the left. Or, if you continued down the hall past the store, you’d reach a door that opened to the tennis courts and bungalows.

    As it was told to me, Blanche & Tedd Helft subleased their Beverly Hills shop from Elizabeth Taylor’s father, who operated an art gallery. Their store was frequented by hotel guests and many of Hollywood’s “screen goddesses.” Later, they opened additional stores, I believe in the Beverly Hilton, Centur CIty, and others. In terms of the origin of their merchandise, it is my understanding that Blanche frequently traveled to Europe on buying trips. (I don’t know who sewed the labels).

    I remember Blanche as a stylish, elegant woman. They resided in their Bel Aire home for many years. Tedd took up oil painting in his 60s. Within their house was a studio with gorgeous views of the ocean. Hanging in my home today are several of his paintings that he or my mother gave to me.

    He was always proud of the fact that, like Van Gogh (his favorite artist), he only sold one painting in his lifetime. As I recall, the only painting he sold was hung somewhere in the World Trade Center.

    Tedd & Blanche were married over 50 years. Blanche died in 1982 and I believe their only child (a son who is probably in his late 70s/early 80s by now) and possibly their grandchildren assumed operations of the business.

    I visited my Uncle Tedd on a few occasions in 3-5 years prior to his death in 1993. Once, after breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge, he guided me on a walking tour by the bungalows and tennis courts. He’d share stories of Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more. He was a mesmerizing story teller of Hollywood’s hey-day.

    One of his final gifts to me was a privately published autobiography that he personally inscribed and distributed to family members. It’s one of my most treasured possessions and gives a more intimate story of his upbringing and his life in California.

    There was seldom anything as exciting for me as getting off a plane from Los Angeles and seeing someone with a shopping bag that said “It’s from Helft’s.” I’m sure his son and grandchildren know far more than I. Still, I hope you find this of interest.

    Like

    • brandpackgroup

      Andrea – I’d love to contact you (sorry to be off topic). I have a small painting of your uncle’s that I’ve always loved. I have a few questions about him and it I’d love to ask you about.
      THANKS!
      markhazel@earthlink.net

      Like

    • Beckman Walter Helft

      Hello Andrea,
      My name is Beckman Walter Helft. Tedd was my uncle. My father’s name is Leonard Helft, who was one of Tedd’s brothers. I too visited Tedd a few years before his death and also was a recipient of his autobiography. I still have a couple of the “Helft’s” shopping bags. I’ll never forget when my wife, daughter and myself visited Uncle Tedd at his luxerious.suite in Beverly Hills. He took us out to lunch at a fabulous hotel and I’ll never forget how charming, articulate, and fit he was even though he was in his 80′s at the time. It was truly a magical afternoon that my family shared with him and we will never forget it.
      I was shocked to learn that just a couple of years after our last meeting that he had commited suicide by by jumping off his upper story balcony. My family was so shocked when we heard about this because he seemed so happy and cheerful and seemingly in good health and so mentally with it during our visit with him. If you have any other information about what caused this wonderful man who seemed to have everything going for him to reach such a level of depression and anguish to do this to himself when he seemingly had everything to live for. He seemed very happy in his retirement and he was far from being lonely due to having a loving son, Harry Walter and many in-laws and grandchildren which I’m sure kept in close touch. I and my family still wonder to this day what happened for him to end his life in such a horrible fashion.

      Like

      • Beckman, Thanks so much for adding to this story.

        Like

      • Andrea Migliore

        Hi Beckman.

        I am just now reading your response to the blog. Please email me and I’ll be glad to fill in some blanks for you.

        Like

        • Beckman Walter Helft

          Hello Andrea,

          I just happened to go to this website to see if there were more recent comments regarding my Uncle Tedd and came across your gracious message to me offering give me more details on what drove this wonderful man to end his life in such a tragic manner.

          Like

        • Beckman Walter Helft

          Hello Andrea,

          I tried to contact you about a year ago to follow up on your offer to tell me more about what was happening in my Uncle Tedd’s life before his unexpected death. I never received a response from you. Would you please let me know your email address so I can contact you?

          Like

  3. See! Was I right or what? Andrea, thanks SO much for your comments. I’ll be in touch for more information.

    Like

  4. I love reading stories like this. I solved one such mystery about a Canadian fashion designer via my blog but have yet to publish the results…. Thanks for the reminder.

    Like

  5. Amanda

    Wonderful blogging and responding Andrea.

    Like

  6. Mary

    I went on line to check out the matches I have that say: “it’s from Helft’s” beverly hills and came on this blog. Interesting about the Helft’s thanks for sharing. Mary

    Like

  7. alice schnabel

    I’m so glad to find your site. Today I purchased a really stunning cocktail dress from Helft’s, which has custom stitching/tailoring inside. Would you like to have a photo?

    Like

    • Andrea Migliore

      Hi Alice,
      This is the first time I have been on this blog for several months. By all means, I would love to see a photo of your dress! Andrea

      Like

  8. Bob Donnelson

    I to want to thank you for you posting about Helft’s. I just bought a collection of matchnoxes, one of which is “it’s from Helfts” Beverly Hills. It is a round 2 piece tube with gold tip matches. It’s great to put some history and story to these matches. Thanks

    Like

  9. Jackie

    I have the most beautiful black velvet cocktail dress from Helft’s. It has gorgeous cut out embroidery in a Victorian design that goes all around the square neckline and all around the fitted skirt. The tag is hand sew on all 4 corners. I knew the woman who purchased the dress at Helft’s so I know that it is authentic. The label also reads: The Beverly Hilton, The Statler & The Beverly Hills Hotel. I was so pleased to find this blog. I would like to know what years the dress shops were open. Thanks, Jackie

    Like

  10. i have found a fantastic sweater, with the ” Helfts” label exactly as pictured above. It is eggshell cashmere angora blend as close as I can tell with white satin cord applique over the bodice. The sleves are unadorned, cardigan style with pearl buttons. When I say found I mean literally, at an abandoned southern california custom home, that we were cleaning out., mostly every thing in the home gets donated to charity, or tossed but i held on to this just because i have always had an eye for vintage clothes, and this looks like it belongs in a display case at a textile museum. anyone interested in it feel free to contact me for pictures

    Like

  11. Susana

    I also have found the most beautiful cocktail dress at a local sale today. How could I post a picture? Anyone thought of making a Helfts Facebook page? Just a thought. :) I’m so glad you made this blog and thank you Helfts relatives for the great history of your family.

    Like

  12. Vergie

    Hello I have a dress with the label that reads “Helft” It is a silver gray label with white wording. Is this dress related to Helft’s? It is a vintage gorgeous wiggle dress.

    Thank you,

    Vergie

    Like

  13. leslie

    what an interesting blog. I had the pleasure of working for Helft’s in the 1980′s . It would have been Blanche’s son. I think his name was Harry . It’s hard to remember names . They were a very exclusive clothing store and had beautiful merchandise . They were wonderful people .

    Like

  14. Lydia Helft Fiocca Matarese

    Hello! My name is Lydia Helft Fiocca Matarese, and Tedd Helft is my father’s uncle (Tedd’s brother Nathan was my grandfather)…I met Tedd back in the 80′s when our whole family took a trip to California. I remember visiting the boutique & eating roast beef in a fancy restaurant with my dad’s uncle.. We have several of Tedd’s paintings. I have lovely memories of our extended family when we took that trip. A lot of the family still live in the Midwest.

    Like

  15. melinda weinstein

    I was going through some files, and found a receipt for some gorgeous earrings I bought at Helfts #5, on 2025 Ave of the Stars, Century City, CA 90067 in 1988. I thought I would check online to see if the business was still in existence and found your site. It was interesting to read about the Helfts.

    Like

  16. Missy Lansaw

    I just found a nice “it’s From Helft’s” shirt in a thrift store in Orange Co, CA.
    My shirt also has no sizing or fabric content label. My label has a zigzag stitch at the top. I wonder if they purchased outside of the country as suggested. Then they could have private labeled the merchandise when delivered. This would account for different stitching..

    Like

  17. Melanie

    I have a tan Helfts wool skirt and a stunning black lace skirt and top set (in mint condition). I found them in thrift stores in Northern California.

    Like

  18. wendy

    i am going to list on ebay an amazing metallic leopard print mini dress
    from helft’s from the 60′s

    Like

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