It’s always fun when a vintage-loving friend emails all excited because of a new discovery. The friend is Beth, or Mod Betty, of RetroRoadmap, and her find was a super shift dress from Vanda Fashions, Key West Hand Prints. I’ve written about Key West Hand Prints before, mainly because they supplied the fabrics for early Lilly Pulitzer dresses. But there is a lot more to the Key West Hand Print story, and Beth even supplied me with a newspaper article from 1977 which fills in the details.
Key West Hand Prints was started in 1961 by Peter Pell and Jim Russell, in Key West, Florida, of course. Pell and Russell were in the theater business, and knew little about fabrics and screen prints, but they fell in love with Key West while on vacation there, and started the hand printing shop as a means of becoming residents of the island. They began printing fabric which was being turned into tea towels and placemats, and they had soon hired a designer for the prints, Susie Zuzek DePoo. These prints came to the attention of Lilly Pulitzer, who became a major customer of the small company.
But Pulitzer was not the only designer who used Key West fabrics. Pell and Russell enlisted Virginia Peirce to design clothing for their store, using their fabric. Peirce, a recently widowed grandmother, designed under the name “Vanda,” which was the name of her boat, and a cross of Virginia and Albert, her late husband’s name. Her designs look a lot like Lilly Pulitzer’s though most of the prints I’ve seen with this label, and with the Zuzek name on the selvage, have been in two colors, rather than the three or four usually seen in vintage Lilly prints.
Virginia was still at Key West Hand Prints in 1977. At that time she was 78 years old and going strong.
The print, inspired by the sea, of course.
Vanda hem tape is the finishing touch!
And what about that handy cell phone pocket?
All photos courtesy of and copyright of Beth Lennon. Do not copy.