You might think that Donna Karan invented the “easy pieces” concept. But actually, the idea of mix and match separates goes back to the 1930s, and really caught on the the 40s and 50s. By the late 1940s, sportswear firms were producing entire collections of matching pieces, with often over a dozen pieces, all which were bought separately.
I recently was lucky enough to buy this set from Annie’s Attic. There are nine pieces in all: playsuit, shorts, clam diggers, crop top, jacket, skirt, two shells – orange and black, and a dress that is not an exact match, but that is very similar. The pieces date from about 1960. The label is Tabak, one of the many California sportswear firms.
What makes this set very special is that the grouping came from the estate of Irene Saltern, who was the designer at Tabak 1950-55, and again from 1958 until 1965. Saltern had designed for the movies earlier in her career, in the late 1930s and 40s, and then went on to help pioneer the concept of separates.