Irene Lentz Early 1960s Dress

This Irene dress in my collection is a great example of beginner’s luck.  This was so long ago that clothes from the 1970s were not vintage, and people were just beginning to see that maybe there were some things of interest from the late 1950s and early 60s.  Most of the few books that had been published about vintage clothing suggested that there was not much of value after the early 50s.

So with that mindset I was at a church rummage sale, looking for things from the 1930s and 40s, when I came across this dress.  I knew it was older, due to the construction and the very fine metal zipper, though not as old as I was seeking.  Because it was so beautifully embroidered, I plunked down my $2 and took it home.  From there it languished in a box with other miscellaneous bits for at least a decade.

After the internet came into my life I could see how it was going to be a great help in getting information about old clothes.  It was the early days of eBay, and I would come home every afternoon from teaching, sit down in front of the computer and go through all the new listings in the vintage clothing category.  It took me about thirty minutes. Before long eBay set up discussion rooms, and I gravitated toward the one for vintage clothing.

People there were great about sharing knowledge, and one thing that was popular was to post a label and everyone would sort of pool information.  One day someone posted an irene label.  I remembered my dress that I’d stuck away all those years ago.  Though I’d seen that it was a very nice dress, I had no idea of the wonderful history behind it.

It was a common practice for high end designers to do some designs that were exclusive for a particular store.  I’ve read that Adrian had agreements with twenty-five stores across the country.  The Halle Bros. Co. was located in Cleveland.

The embroidery is machine made, but still very beautiful.  It reminds me of an Oriental shawl.

The bust darts are on the outside of the dress.  What makes this so special is that the darts do not stop at the side seam, but continue around to the back where they form a little bustle effect.

The bodice front and back are cut as one piece.

It just makes me worry about the great things I saw in the 1980s but was too foolish to buy.

UPDATE:  The dress is not ombre shaded the way my photos look.  It is the light beige you see in the small photos.


Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing

12 responses to “Irene Lentz Early 1960s Dress

  1. seaside

    Thanks for the photos. It is a beautifully designed and tailored dress. I’ve never seen bust darts on the outside and I love the way they continue and add interest to the back. Is it a color wash? Yellow fading to white? Some of the photos look like it’s off-white and others yellow to off-white.


  2. just beautiful! i have not seen much of anything on the racks at NM or SFA that is as simple or refined..most everything i have glanced thru is so over done-i love the back – great reception dress and a second wedding dress ! When i was a “personal stylist image consultant -i always selected suits-jackets-dresses-gowns with pretty backs– my clients were all very much in the public eye-nothing more unattractive than looking at a zipper in a receiving line or entering/exiting a room with all eyes on you…hope you can wear it Lizzie!


  3. Those darts are so cool! I’ve never seen anything made like that! Is the ombre effect an original dye job or is it just discoloration due to age/photographic lighting? I’m glad you bought the dress and thank you for sharing it with us!


  4. No, the ombre is only in the photos! I didn’t notice it was so bad until I had them ready to post. Yes, those are some darts!


  5. I love this dress. There is so much art in the construction that can go unnoticed by an untrained eye. I have one Irene suit. She is an interesting lady. I’m still not quite sure why she wanted to take her life, other than it may just have been an overwhelming sense of depression. Thanks for sharing these images on this wonderful gem. It’s so interesting to hear of how much things cost pre-internet. I was also the same and could have stocked up on many gems back then, had I only a clue.


  6. Carla

    Hi! I’m from Cleveland and YES! Halle’s was a treasure. The building still remains although the department store is long gone. Here is a recent story about Halle’s:


  7. Christina

    Sweet, understated dress.


  8. Great dress! Love everything about the bodice design.


  9. Isn’t that beautiful.?! I love the dart which goes right round to the back. Lovely.


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