Print Engineering – An Example from Vera

What looks to be a huge factory printing mistake is actually the beginnings of a Vera Neumann blouse.  Find the two sleeves, the two back pieces and the front and you can see how this worked.

Sometime in the 1960s, the Vera Company decided to expand into clothing.  Using a Vera scarf as the springboard, designs were adapted into a piece of cloth from which the clothing was cut.  According to Vera’s nephew, Fred Salaff, the designs for the clothing pieces were based on a 36″ X 36″ original that Vera painted.  Her clothing designers would then take the original and manipulate it into the pieces for the garment.  I’d think that the original would have been quite similar to the front piece, which is in the lower left of the photograph.

This type of print is an engineered print.  Pucci was known for his engineered prints, as was Leonard of Paris.  The print being engineered means that each piece – the sleeves, the collar – are designed and printed to fit the pattern piece instead of being cut from an all-over design.

In addition, there were color specialists who translated the design into different color combinations.  It’s possible that this design exists in other colorways.

The fabrics were printed with large flat screens at Vera’s  Printex plant, in Ossining, New York.  They were then sent to the sewing plant, the Grafton Apparel Manufacturing Company in Grafton, West Virginia.

Here is a close-up of the neck area.  The marks show the cutters where to place the pattern pieces.  There are also registration marks on the edges of the design.  These marks were made to ensure that the different colors were aligned properly.

This cotton twill fabric came from the estate of a Vera collector in Missouri.  How she obtained it is unknown, but according to Fred Salaff, pieces like this were quite common around the Printex factory.  It could have been an end piece, or a piece with flaws, or even a sample which never made it into production.

Samples were were always produced in order to make mock ups for potential garments. They were made first for mannequins, and then were  tried on live models.

Upon close examination, the printing in the piece has a few irregularities.  It’s my guess that this is a “factory reject,” not up to the high quality expected of a Vera garment.  So somewhere along the line, either at the printing factory, or at the sewing facility, this piece was pulled from production.  How it got into the hands of the collector is just a guess, but it’s possible that employees were allowed to take these home.  It’s also possible they were sold in a factory outlet.

If anyone ever spots this print in a finished blouse, I’d love to hear about it.


Filed under Designers, Made in the USA, Textiles, Vintage Clothing

12 responses to “Print Engineering – An Example from Vera

  1. Vera also did some ladies handkerchief designs. They are lovely. I showed one in my book “Printed and Lace Handkerchiefs of the 20th century”


  2. Super! I also appreciate the nice words about my blog!


  3. sarahc

    Thank you for posting. My late grandmother was a textile designer in the 1920’s and 1930’s but she died when I was too young to ask her about it. I feel enlightened now.


  4. Great post Lizzie. I love the colour combination of this print. Looks like it was probably a factory reject. Such an interesting story. 🙂


  5. How amazing! Please check out my Mega May Giveaway going on now, featuring a free Vera scarf, plus lots more designer goodies!!



  6. Wow this is fascinating. I am a textile designer and have never seen one like this!


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