From Towel to Dress

Several years ago I posted this photo of a cocktail towel that is in my possession, which goes to show what a great memory my friend Mod Betty has when it comes to design.  She was doing a bit of online shopping when she happened upon a dress with a design that rung a bell with her.  She sent the link my way to see if I could find my photos of the towel so we could compare the two.

As you can see, the two prints are not identical, but the dress print was apparently based on the print of the vintage towel.  Look carefully and you will see that the martini glass with  olive and the ice cubes have been added to the original design.  The website where this dress is sold describes the print as  a “unique new Atomic Martini print.”

My towel was made by Martex, which was originally a maker of printed kitchen linens.  Today, Martex is still in business and is owned by WestPoint Home, which also owns many of the other great American home textile makers including Stevens, Pepperell, and Utica.

Does the addition of the martini glass, the olive and the ice cube make this print new?  Is there a copyright violation?  It would take a copyright expert to answer those questions, something that I am not.

I love interesting printed fabrics, and I like the dress.  However, it bothers me that the line between what is vintage and what is reproduced is so terribly smudged.  I’m glad I’m a collector now, and not twenty years down the road, because between all the retro fabrics and reproductions, it is going to be hard to tell what is what.  Add to that all the people (including me) who are sewing with vintage patterns and vintage fabrics, and there are going to be a lot of very confusing clothes at the Goodwill of the future.

17 Comments

Filed under Novelty Prints, Viewpoint

17 responses to “From Towel to Dress

  1. Joyce

    BOTH are fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If that print is new, I want to find out where I can buy some!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. QueensGirl

    Imagine hosting a cocktail party, and wearing a dress that matches the linens, fabulous.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. LOVE IT…i carried a collection/line of French terry womens sportswear in my shop in the mid 70’s from a Partout-sold out as soon as i opened the boxes!…very “chic”/sexy but tasteful-mini shorts ,skirts-mid riff /bolero tops halters beautifully made-no zippers..all seams covered in cotton satin cording…long wrap skirts,sarong mid length dresses,great colours..from a designer in France-Partout…the fabric was so perfect for the sub tropics… also from Bendels Stepnen Burrows terry beach robes and PJ’s done in colour blocking,,,tried to “pull it up ” on internet with no luck!? ALL of the terry clothes i found were just great…even kitted terry and french terry “beach sweaters”..the Burrows robes were floor length-som with cap sleeves-just thought you would like to hear about this…

    Like

  5. Hi Lizzie – I “hear” you. And I thought you were going to show us a dress you made out of a towel!

    Like

  6. Glad I could share Lizzie – as I love the original print and I actually do like the addition of the martini glass and cube. I know copyright attorneys today must have their hands full with all of this type of thing nowadays, especially with the advent of Spoonflower etc.

    Interesting to think – with the advent of the internet, people are exposed to more prints that they had not ever seen before, so there’s a wider range to be “inspired by” or “knock off” depending on your point of view. However, the internet also allows for these Inspirational Knockoffs to be more easily discovered too – by people who might buy the product OR someone who could take umbrage or lawsuit to the creators of the new print. Interesting times we live in indeed!

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  7. I really love your original tea towel . . . and I have to admit, I’m not sure if it’s just personal preference or if I’m swayed by knowing what the original it’s (clearly) based on looks like, but I don’t love the dress. (I’m not sure I’d like it even if they removed the martini glass, though . . . perhaps it’s just not my style. It reminds me of novelty printed dresses and things from the 1990s.) I think calling it a “unique new” print is really stretching things in an annoying way. “Unique” and “new” would be hiring and paying an illustrator to start from scratch–not just adding a martini glass.

    Mod Betty has a great eye and memory!

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  8. Well, I like the simplicity of the original much better than the newer version. And you’re right, Lizzie. Figuring out “vintage,” already not easy, is going to become a nightmare.

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    • I have a few pieces that I’m not entirely sure of. Several years ago I bought a fantastic ski themed scarf that I was sure was early 60s. I got it home and noticed a designer signature – a man who did not start designing until the 80s.

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  9. Great point on the addition of the martini – does it infringe of copyright. I’d love to know more!

    It’s so funny to me though that a towel print made its way to a dress, because so many of the retro prints I loved in middle school, and wanted clothes made of, my mother would always comment that I was wanting to wear kitchen textiles, designs she only saw on towels and curtains!

    Like

    • She was correct. Some time ago a famous textile “designer” was caught simply reproducing vintage tablecloths and putting her name in the cloth’s selvage. It caused an uproar then, maybe 10 years ago, but now it’s just common practice.

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  10. neatokeenetsy

    I collect and sell vintage linens and frequently get asked “is this REAL vintage?” due to the appearance of reproduction fabrics. I’ve been collecting for so long that it’s pretty easy for me to distinguish between old and new; however, it’s not always apparent to new collectors and I completely agree that it will be difficult for the next generation to sort it all out. I already see Vera and Martha Stewart repros being sold as genuine vintage! Great post and I must vote for the Martex towel. I like the abstract simplicity.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: My New Favorite Martex Design | The Vintage Traveler

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