Vera Neumann Jollytop

If you are a newer reader, you might not have realized that I’m a big fan of the work of Vera Neumann.  I’ve done multiple posts on Vera and her scarves and clothing, and just when I thought I’d said it all, a nice surprise lands in my lap.

I spotted this little top on eBay and thought it was so unusual that I bought it.  When it arrived, I was even more puzzled, as it was not made from the soft cotton twill that I’ve come to associate with Vera clothing.  In fact, it felt and looked like a bed sheet, and it flitted through my mind that this was a pillowcase project.  After turning it inside out, I noticed the details, that did, at first glance, tend to make me think this was a project.

The shoulders were shaped solely by an angled stitching line.

The arm holes were where just openings that had been machine finished.

There was a bias binding casing through which ran ties.

The only thing that wasn’t saying “pillowcase/blouse” was the shape of the top.  Instead of being an oblong rectangle, it was a square, like a scarf.

And that’s when I found the label.  It was not the label usually found in Vera clothing.  It was a “Scarves by Vera” label, the one she put, well, in scarves.  That’s when the truth dawned on me.  I remember reading that the first garment made at the Vera Company was a top made from two scarves.  Somehow I always thought that meant silk scarves, as at that time, 1960, that was the material that Vera was using.

Note:  I really do want to show that label, but it came off in the wash and I can’t find it.

So I got my copy of Vera, the Art and Life of an Icon, and found the passage I needed:

In 1960, Vera fashioned two scarves into her first garment, the Jollytop, a flowing, square blouse.

And while this cotton version isn’t exactly flowing, it is quite obviously fashioned from two scarves.

It’s interesting that I’ve never seen one of these, and yet, right now there is another on ebay.  It is made exactly like mine, from cotton and with a drawstring waist.  And the scarf from which it is fashioned, a smiling fish,  is pictured in the Vera book.

Another hint about the age of the top is the signature.  This is the ladybug, signature and copyright symbol that was first used in 1960.  The ladybug and the V are pretty much the same size, and are quite inconspicuous compared to the huge signatures that followed in the later 60s.

My next quest?  This print in a silk scarf.  I’m sure they were made.

I cannot recommend the Vera book enough.  You can easily find it on Amazon or eBay for around $10 including shipping, and if you love textiles and design, this is a must have volume.  It would have been easy for Susan Seid, the author and owner of the Vera Company, to have produced just a book with lots of pretty pictures, but instead she gives us the pictures and a great deal of information about Vera that can’t be found in any other source.


Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing

19 responses to “Vera Neumann Jollytop

  1. Oh I do love a good fashion mystery!! This is so unique too! I never would have thought of Vera doing blouses, but this is just wonderful! And I can imagine it would be the perfect thing to wear on a warm summer day!


  2. Oh that stinks that you lost the tag in the washer! But what a fascinating research project this top turned out to be.


  3. Pat Setzer

    Hi Lizzie:
    Your Jollytop is really interesting.
    I just ordered the Vera book from Amazon. Can’t wait to get it. Thanks for the post. Pat


  4. Yea! Another thing on my list for treasure hunting ( also known as thrifting).
    Will you wear it? Thanks for the heads up on the book.


  5. Love this, and that it was made from two scarves – the print is gorgeous! I picture this with a cute denim skirt in the summer, with a pair of slingback flats.


  6. So very cool! I’m going to check out that Ebay listing. I’ve been on a little Vera binge lately, and may just have to add a Jollytop to my collection.


  7. THis was an interesting little story, Liz….So sorry you lost the label. Look in the filter of the washer.. Or it could be hanging on to anything that was washed with it. Thanks for the story.


  8. I love Vera scarves as well and have seen tutorials on how to make tops using scarves.


  9. Great find! I love that print…so cute!


  10. I got the book as a gift from my sister some years ago. It is amazing. Although I love Vera scarves, I have never been a big fan of her mostly polyester clothes. And to think she started out with scarves as a base.


  11. This is so fascinating – I can always count on you for a good detective story! (When you find the label, please check to see if my missing sock is with it!)


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