1960s Alfred Shaheen Pants Set

The Alfred Shaheen name is very familiar to vintage clothing collectors, especially those who love the sun dresses and bathing suits of the 1950s. The business was based in Hawaii, where Shaheen expanded his father’s clothing manufacturing business in the post WWII period, capitalizing on the new fad for Hawaiian shirts.

From my little history at the VFG Label Resource:

At first he used fabrics brought in from the US mainland, but he soon realized that profits would be greater if he printed the fabric in Hawaii. He set up Surf ‘n Sand Hand Prints to print the colorful Hawaiian fabrics. His handprinted textiles were based on the flora and fauna of the Hawaiian Islands, along with Hawaiian traditions and authentic tapa cloth designs.

Shaheen produced not only the fabric, but they also manufactured clothing made from it. Shaheen was known for their sexy sarong dresses and swim suits, Hawaiian shirts and halter dresses with full skirts. The company closed in 1988 when Alfred Shaheen retired.

Shaheen not only used Hawaiian themes; the design studio was also was inspired by the rich multicultural population of post war Hawaii. Even the label took on a decidedly “exotic” look.

The set looks, at first glance, to be from the 1950s. I think we can all see Lucy Ricardo wearing this for casual entertaining. But the label is one that is most commonly seen in the 1960s. To confirm the date, the pants have a nylon coil zipper, which was introduced to the American market in the early 1960s.

The pants legs are very interesting. In 1960 pants were still tapered to the ankle, but then they became straight before blooming into bell-shaped legs in the late 60s. Without the pleat my pants are very straight, but the presence of the pleat sure does hint of things to come.

The collar, too, seems to predict the short-lived fad for the Nehru collar in the late 60s. But in this case I’m guessing it was just the company’s love of the “exotic” that led them to use a collar that is more associated with India than Hawaii.

Even though permanently attached care instructions were not mandated by law in the USA until 1972, the presence of a label like the one above does not mean the garment was made after 1972. Many manufacturers were already sewing simple care labels like the one in my pants long before the law went into effect.

You may have noticed the wonderful condition of this set. I can only imagine that it was bought by a woman who was under the spell of her tropical surroundings, and that when she returned home to Tennessee, the set was just too, well, exotic.



Filed under Designers, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

13 responses to “1960s Alfred Shaheen Pants Set

  1. seweverythingblog

    What a beautiful outfit! For sure, it’s “exotic” inspired. Not just the Nehru collar but the paisley block print. At first glance I thought this was made from Benares silk, where the metallic motifs are woven in.
    I own a shalwar/kameez outfit that is this very same color and similar metallic silver motifs are woven in Benares silk. Love your post!
    May I say, I just love your posts, where you share clothing of everyday Americans of the past.


  2. Working/shopping in thrift shops and going to estate sales, I see much-loved “vacation oops” all the time. You HAVE to have it when you see it abroad (I’m including Hawaii) but at home somehow the thing looks all wrong, even silly. Still, because it was expensive, a gift from a now-gone spouse, and/or a happy reminder of a special trip, people wrap them up and save them. My sister brought home a frou-frou confection of cotton lace, tie-dye and layers from an Italian resort wear shop. “It looked so perfect there,” she said when I raised my eyebrows!


  3. ANOTHER Pretty ! Yes I agree with you re: purchase. That , and after we arrive we look at our suitcase and nothing feels appropriate – as you say “under the spell”! Really like the basket weave buttons and the self sash. Yes I can see Lucy in this! Fun!


  4. Amy

    Lizzie, that is so weird: I recently found a really similar Shaheen outfit with the same wacky, pleated-hem pant leg, but with a metal zipper in the back of the pant. (The set is on my website, if you want to see…) Thanks so much for confirming my circa 1960s dating on it! I really went back and forth… 🙂


  5. Gorgeous! That color! Thanks for sharing the information about the dating.


  6. I learn so much from your blog, Lizzie! And what a great addition to your museum.


  7. I love how we all learn from each other!


  8. Donna

    I do believe this is a Mandarin Collar. The Nehru is similar.


  9. I love that color-I would wear that in a heartbeat. Maybe she wouldn’t wear it but she couldn’t part with it and it hung safely in her closet for decades.


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