When I’m standing in front of a huge pile of textiles, most of which are less than five years old and were cheap junk to begin with, I can’t stop the heart from beating a little faster when I spot a silk wad like the one above. It had that unmistakable look of vintage. I’m not sure if it was the shades of color or the fonts of the letters or the look of the silk itself, but I just knew.
Unfortunately, pulling it out of the bin revealed the awful truth: this scarf was trashed.
And that’s just one of the holes; there are at least fifteen of varying sizes. So why did I throw this in the cart anyway? Because I’m a sucker for an important designer.
Brooke Cadwallader was probably the first great American scarf designer. He began work in the US in 1940, after three years in Paris studying painting and then opening his own studio. But when the Germans arrived in 1940, Cadwallader assisted in the evacuation of Americans from France, and then he returned to the States to resume his business. He opened shop in New York, and became a leader in the scarf trade. According to a 1946 Life article, Cadwallader scarves sold for $15 to $20 each. That means they started at about $175 in today’s dollar!
Cadwallader’s work was clean and uncluttered, a style that became so popular in the 1950s. He used a lot of historical references, and his scarves often had the look of an antique engraving.
Until 1950, all the scarves were produced in Cadwallader’s small Manhattan workshop, so output was relatively small. Don’t expect to find these scarves in the quanties you might expect from, say, Vera. In fact, this is the first Cadwallader scarf I’ve ever found.
In 1950, Cadwallader moved himself and his company to Mexico, where he continued to manufactures scarves and ties. Production ended around 1957, but was resumed in the mid 1960s. I could not find a definite answer on when it ended.