Category Archives: First Person Stories

Linda Morand and Key West Hand Print Fabrics

You may not know the name Linda Morand, but if you are a child of the 1960s like me, you certainly have seen her face.  Starting in 1965 she was a model in New York, appearing in all the top magazines of the period. But what is interesting to me about Linda is how she got her start. I recently received an email from her in which she told her story.

 I worked at Key West Hand Print Fabrics from the summer of 1964 till the beginning of 1965.  Jim Russell discovered me at 18 when I had run away to Key West to become a painter.  I was waiting tables at a Cuban restaurant near the old Key West building (I think they called it Harbor House before)   He hired me on the spot.  I sold the fabric and he gave me several dresses to wear.  Jim and Peter encouraged me to appear as the lead in Under the Yum Yum Tree.  I wish I had the playbill.  They took pictures of me in Lilly’s fabrics and ran an ad in The New Yorker.  It was my first modeling job!  I left Key West with the encouragement of the wonderful artist community and went on to have a successful modeling career as a Ford model.  All thanks to Jim Russell and Peter Pell.

If you are a regular reader, then you read my interview with Jacq where he told the story of Key West Hand Prints.  This information from Linda gives us a bit more of the under-told story of Key West Hand Prints. Thanks so much, Linda!

UPDATE: Here’s even more from Linda.

 I thought it might interest your readers what happened to me when I went to New York with the pictures.  In the pictures I already sent you, Jim Russell took the color one in front of the screen in the shop. Peter Pell arranged the bolts of Hand Print Fabrics for me to lunge through, and Jim took the picture.  No hair and make-up…just Key West casual.  I met Suzie de Poo and Lilly Pulitzer.  I was so young, but I was trying to look like Veruschka.  Here are some of the first pictures taken when I went to New York.  I signed with the Ford agency. They put me in the teen-age category. 

I only worked in New York for a year.  The resemblance to Jackie [Kennedy] was awkward for me, even though the clients were clamoring for the Look, so I fled to Paris and lived in Europe for several years.  I am glad I did.  
1966, Linda in a Betsey Johnson dress in Mademoiselle magazine.

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Serbin of Miami by Marianne Serbin Friedman

Almost a year ago I showed off my new Marianne by Serbin golf set.  At the time, a lot of what I wrote in my post was guesswork, as I could find very little about Serbin in my resources and on the internet.  But as I usually do in these cases, I added to the end of the post that I’d love to hear from the Serbin family.

It took nearly a year, but the worldwideweb came through, and I got an email from Marianne Serbin Freidman, the Marianne whose name is on the label.  Marianne very kindly answered my questions, and she sent along some great photos of her family.  That’s her father, Lewis Serbin, in the photo above.

SERBIN FASHIONS

My father, Lewis I. Serbin, founded Serbin Fashions in Cleveland, Ohio in the mid-1940’s. My uncle, John Serbin joined the company a few years later.

In his young years Lewis Serbin dropped out of school after the eighth grade to work and help support his family of his parents and eight brothers and sisters. He was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he met my mother who was from Cleveland, they married soon after and moved to Cleveland, and so did his brothers and sisters.

Before founding Serbin Fashions my father had the good fortune of working for Joe Lample of Lample Dresses. Joe Lample mentored many men who also went on to become very successful in the garment business. One of these men was Maurice Saltzman, the owner of Bobbie Brooks.

Serbin Fashions began as a dress company and became quite successful and in 1951, my dad and uncle flew to Miami many times, where they fell in love with the city and decided to buy a factory. Our families moved and extended the invitation to their key employees to move with the company. The Miami apparel industry was thrilled that Serbin Fashion relocated to Miami as it provided more credibility to the Miami fashion industry.

Mr. Serbin then bought a factory in Fayetteville, Tennessee for production. And in later years a very large factory was also built to handle the expansion of the company; making assured that Serbin Fashions was all “Made in America”. Serbin Fashions grew from a small company to a major force in the woman’s moderate dress and sportswear industry.

I do not remember much about Muriel Ryan. She was very talented and designed for Serbin for many years. After she retired I designed everything and handled Public Relations. Leroy Lustig Advertising Agency handled all the advertising, and there was no marketing firm. Babe Didrikson Zeharias designed the golf dresses for several years. She was the “Woman Athlete of the Half Century” and the greatest woman golfer of all time.

As the years passed Serbin had lines of dresses, sportswear, golf and tennis clothing. The company was famous for the Shirtwaist Dress and Sweater Dress and Sportswear. We also had fashion editorials in fashion magazines. The garments were sold in major department stores, mail order catalogues, pro shops and specialty stores all over the United States.

After the death of my father, Lewis I. Serbin, and fifty years of a fabulous business, our family decided to discontinue the business. My dad accomplished so much over his lifetime. Amazing for a man who never went to school beyond the eighth grade.

Written by Marianne Serbin Friedman
March, 2016

“I am the older little girl. My Dad made the matching mother- daughter dresses and also a giant doll with the same dress.”

“My Dad had a golf tournament  in Miami Beach which was Babe’s first win after her cancer and he presented her with a trophy topped with a diamond studded metal golf ball..quite a thrill for everyone.”

Serbin Sportswear, as seen at Saks Fifth Avenue in the 1960s.

A big thank you to Marianne for sharing her family’s story.

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History behind Gunne Sax By Roger and Scott Bailey

Elle Bailey, still sewing at 92.

In one of those happy internet occurrences, I got an email last week from the son of one of the founders of Gunne Sax.  Roger Bailey explained that Elle, his ninety-two year old mother had sewn some shirts for him for a very special occasion, and he was in search of some of the original labels to sew into the shirts.  I couldn’t help much with the labels, but I know an opportunity when I see one.

Roger and his brother Scott very kindly spent some time reminiscing about how their mother helped found one of the most iconic brands of the 1970s.  Roger wrote it all up, and Elle approved the facts.  It is a real pleasure to be able to present one of the untold stories of fashion history.

History behind Gunne Sax By Roger and Scott Bailey

Sometime in the spring of 1967, Elle Bailey was contacted by the local high school to do a sewing presentation for the school’s career day. At that time, Elle was giving sewing demos and helping novices make their own clothing while working for Stevens Fabrics in Menlo Park, CA. Elle is a graduate of the Vogue School of Design in Chicago and had been sewing for years. She often made shirts for my brother Scott and me. We tolerated this until somewhere around the 6th grade, when I decided I no longer wanted to look like my third grade brother!

As usual, mom was eager to help the school’s efforts to help kids find some career path. Whoever organized the program also invited Carol Miller, a design student from Chabot College, across the bay in Hayward. Carol and mom hit it off and over lunch they sketched a few ideas on a napkin. This was the conception of what was to become Gunne Sax. As the weeks rolled on, Mom and Carol got serious about their ideas and decided to bring their ideas to life. Mom patterned the designs and the two of them would cut and sew until they had enough of a “collection” to try to sell. Around our dinner table one night, back when families ate dinner together, we were all brainstorming a name for this new clothing line. From this session, the Gunne Sax name was born, an adaptation of “sexy gunny sack” as I recall.

Mom and/or Carol would pack the car with their wares and set about marketing their new line to Bay Area boutiques. By the summer of 1968, they had quite a little business beginning to grow. A typical order in those days might be just a couple units,never more than a dozen units of various sizes of any one design per boutique. I remember many days when we would get home from school and Mom and Carol would be working away into the evening to satisfy their orders.

Then one night, while having our family dinner, the phone rang. I answered it and the caller asked for mom. She answered hello and the conversation went something like this. ” Yes,…..yes…um..yes, how many!!” I will never forget the look on her face! Her mouth dropped open, and her eyes widened to the size of a desert plate. She sputtered “I’ll have to call you back.” Mom hung up the phone, turned to us in shock and said, “You won’t believe this. That was the buyer from [I. Magnin], and they want a hundred and forty four units for fall!” As the saying goes, we were no longer in Kansas, Toto!

The following day, Dad took off from work, and they drove into San Francisco to find someone and somewhere to contract this new work to. A few weeks later, Scott and I along with a few of my friends from the football team, were lugging large, heavy cutting tables up a couple flights of stairs and into a loft in the garment district of the city. Gunne Sax just went big time, comparatively speaking.

Sometime in early 1969, mom bought out Carol and as is usual for most beginning businesses, it came time for a capital infusion in order to take the business to to the next level. The Bailey money tree hand been picked bare, so it became time for another investor. Jessica [McClintock] came into the picture and became a partner. After a while, Jessica and mom had different styling ideas that couldn’t be resolved so Jessica offered to buy Gunne Sax outright. With two kids in college, it seemed like the right time for Elle to sell.

Mom and Dad pinning on my 2nd Lt. bars in 1975 at my Air Force commissioning at Arizona State, a few years after Gunne Sax was sold to Jessica.

Roger did not know the exact date of the sale to Jessica McClintock, but he estimated that it was sometime in the middle of 1970.  Update:  Many online sources put the date of the sale as 1969, and in interviews Jessica McClintock uses that date.

Stories like this one are so important.  Many of the founders of mid twentieth century companies are gone, and others are elderly and losing their memories.  I’m always interested in hearing from the families of entrepreneurs like Elle.

Elle and son Roger

Elle with her family; sons Roger and Scott behind their mother.

My thanks to Elle, Roger, and Scott Bailey.

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Interview With Naomi Jackson of Vested Gentress

Courtesy and copyright of Club Vintage Fashions

About a month ago I got an email from John Fibbi in Florida.  Seems as if he was sitting with Naomi Jackson, who had been along with her husband Bud, the owner of Vested Gentress.  They were searching the internet looking for references to her company and came across an old post here at The Vintage Traveler.  He got in touch, and she agreed to answer a few questions about the company.

This was very exciting to me because despite the fact that vintage Vested Gentress clothing is pretty common and some pieces are highly collectible, there just wasn’t much about the company to be found.   Now, thanks to John and Naomi, and Naomi’s son, Dan Jackson, I can tell the story behind this whimsical label.

Copyright and courtesy of GailDavid’s Memory Lane

1.  How did Vested Gentry get started?

Fritz, or “Bud”,  Jackson Jr.  Naomi’s husband,  was good at doodling, and was in advertising for a while and good at casual art.  Around 1960 he had two comics or cartoons published; one in Look and a short time later one in Playboy.  

The first products Bud created were men’s woolen vests that were also screen printed with cocktail-themed designs and sports cars, thus the name Vested Gentry.  Ads were placed in The New Yorker magazine and orders were taken.  Bud actually hand screened the first articles at home in the bedroom on a flush door. Orders from individuals and Ambercrombie & Fitch were filled as they were received.  They also made some men’s hand screened shirts.

The label for Vested Gentry was a stoic guy, dressed in black, wearing a top hat.

2.  Is there a special significance to the name Vested Gentress?

That was the name the Bud created when he began the woman’s line in 1961 and began phasing out the men’s wear.

Courtesy and copyright of pinky-a-gogo

3.  How was the logo of the equestrienne chosen?

This was a creation of Bud’s, who felt that the logo fit the name.

Courtesy and copyright of Metro Retro Vintage

4.  What can you tell me about the fabric designs?

In the beginning all of the designs were the personal work of Bud.   He really most enjoyed drawing the animals.  Most of the floral prints were purchased as Bud did not enjoy drawing the florals.

Courtesy and copyright of Better Dresses Vintage

   Did you employ an artist? 

In the later days an artist was hired, mostly for the florals.

Courtesy and copyright of Metro Retro Vintage

5.  Was the screen printing done in your own factory?

Yes it was done in the factory, in a large room with many screeners. We could handle a ten color process.  At the factory there were approximately thirty-five employees: screeners, designers and sample makers.

Courtesy and copyright of Northstar Vintage

What about the sewing?

The sewing was contracted out.  In the beginning it was tough, as we did not have large orders.   Articles were screened and cut in the factory, and samples were sewn there. The cut pieces were then sent out for sewing.

Courtesy and copyright of Second Looks

6.  I’ve noticed that many of the designs incorporate a big, friendly dog.  Was he based on an actual dog?  Did he have a name?

The dog logo was based completely on a family pet and member of the family, a 200 pound Newfoundland hound named Briney Bear.  He was the chairman of the board and had his own stationery.  The hang tag, also designed by Bud was based on a drawing of Briney Bear.  The hang tag logo can also be found on Bud’s headstone.

Courtesy and copyright of Hatfeathers Vintage

7.  Was Vested Gentress marketed as an active sports line?  So much of it seems to be appropriate for golf and tennis.

There was a pro line, that was sold exclusively in country club pro shops.  This was late in the life of the line.

Vested Gentress had four of their own retail stores, Rehoboth, Deleware, Stone Harbor, New Jersey,  and Jupiter and Clearwater, Florida.  Florida was the largest sales area.

Courtesy and copyright of Northstar Vintage

8.  Which of the print motifs were the most popular?

Heads and Tails which is the horse with the bows, and one with a parrot.  The parrot was also based on an actual creature.  He was positioned outside a barber shop in Florida, and when they went by him the parrot would bother Briney Bear.

Copyright and courtesy of joulesvintage

9.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for Vested Gentress in vintage magazines.  Did the company advertise on a national level?

Yes, mostly through The New Yorker.

Courtesy and copyright of Hatfeathers Vintage

10.  How and when did the business close?

Naomi  remembers that Lilly Pulitzer folded (1984)  prior to her husband’s passing in 1985 and Vested Gentress closed sometime after he died.  Dan said that they kept the business going for a while after his father died, but that Vested Gentress was Bud’s passion, and it was too hard to continue without his guiding force.

Naomi stated that they were surprised at Lilly Pulitzer’s closing as they had three items in Town & Country that year.

Courtesy and copyright of pinky-a-gogo

Vested Gentress was a true family company, with Bud and Naomi running the company and the children working there as well.  Dan said that his first job was sweeping the factory floor on Saturdays.  He was able to work his way up.

Many thanks to John Fibbi, who found me and who transcribed Naomi’s story.  And thanks to Naomi and Dan for answering all my questions.  Also thanks to members of the Vintage Fashion Guild for providing so many great illustrations of Bud’s work.

Courtesy and copyright of Viva Vintage Clothing

A few words about the label:

Vested Gentress was started in 1961, and in 1966 the  equestrienne trademark was registered.  The version on the trademark site shows the woman without a riding crop in her hand, and I’ve seen labels that do not have the crop.  I assume thay are older than the much more commonly found woman with a crop.  The Jacksons had no recollection of the change in the label.  If you find a label with no crop and no R (registered) symbol, I think you can safely assume it is from before 1966.

Courtesy and copyright of Viva Vintage Clothing

Courtesy and copyright of Club Vintage Fashions

Courtesy and copyright of Northstar Vintage

To see even more, here is an old blog post at the Vintage Fashion Guild blog.

Edited to correct the name of The New Yorker

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Conversation with Magda Makkay

Two months ago I posted about a beautiful Magda Makkay handbag I’d bought.  I wasn’t familiar with the name, but the handbag experts at the Vintage Fashion Guild quickly identified the bag as being made by Makkay.  I was able to piece together a small biography of Makkay through old newspaper accounts of her work.

And if not for the wonder of the internet, the story would be over.  But two weeks ago I got an email from a person in New York who had seen my post, and as it turns out, is Magda Makkay’s neighbor.  She wrote to tell me that Magda was alive and well at 88, and would love to talk with me.

The next day I called Magda.  She gladly told me  about her life and career, and then she offered to send some photos and things that would fill in the gaps in her story.  We’ve talked again, and it had been so much fun getting to know her.

Magda was born in Hungary in the 1920s.  As a child she would help her mother and sister produce clothing from their home knitting machine.  By the time she was fourteen, she went to work as an apprentice in a Budapest handbag factory.  There she worked for three years, perfecting her craft.  She was the first woman to ever finish the program.  Magda also took classes in fashion, graduating from Hungary’s leading fashion school.

After marrying and the birth of a daughter, Magda returned to work as a newspaper reporter.  The paper was impressed with her knowledge of making things so she was assigned to write about and sketch manufacturing plants.    All was well until Magda was approached about joining the Communist Party.  When she refused, she lost her job.  With the help of the Hungarian Underground, Magda began to plan her escape from Hungary.

In 1956 she was hidden in the back of a truck among large cartons.  She was taken to a hideaway, and from there was led across the border to Austria.  Eventually she made her way to New York City.

In New York she went to the Pocketbook Local Worker’s Union, who suggested that she contact Hungarian business leaders in New York.  Through one of them, Mickey Gordon, she was given employment at Koret Handbags.  She worked as a handbag designer for Koret for the next nine years.

In the mid 1960s Magda began producing handbags under her own name.  In 1975 she joined Charisma by Make Well as handbag designer.  There she developed what was called the Fashion Organizer.

In the above illustration you can see an Organizer.  The flap lifted up to reveal a folded section with pouches.  It could be carried like a handbag, or it could be a shoulder bag using the detachable strap.  If you are sharp-eyed, you can spot Mary Tyler Moore carrying one on her 1970s television program.

In 1978 Magda designed a handbag especially for Princess Grace of Monaco, and she traveled to Monte Carlo to present it to the princess.  She also made a briefcase for President Gerald Ford.

Magda told me that she is still making handbags in her home.  She explained that making bags was more than just a job – it was her craft and a lifetime passion.

Many thanks to Magda for her conversations and friendship.

UPDATE:

I found a 1970s Fashion Organizer on etsy, and got the seller’s permission to share the photos here.

Thanks to YesterdayIsBack for the use of the photos.

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Bates Fabrics and Fashion

A few weeks ago I got an email from a new reader here, Diana.  After exchanging a few back and forth she mentioned that she had worked for Bates Fabrics in the late 1940s . She had trained for a career in radio, and after college she worked doing women’s programs for a station in Maine.

Bates, which was at the time most famous for their bedspreads and home fashions fabrics, hired Diana as part of an effort to expand more into fashion fabrics.  Bates had famous designers do clothes using their fabrics, and Diana’s job was to travel around the northeastern US summer resort hotels presenting fashion shows utilizing these clothes.  She got some of her friends to model the fashions while she did commentary.

Here you see Diana at the microphone, describing a gown made of Bates fabric.  The model is Hazel, Diana’s sister-in-law.

Another photo from one of the fashion shows.  Isn’t it interesting how the audience sat around under the sun umbrellas?

Diana pointed out that while the young women had a wonderful time, she’s not sure that the campaign was very successful.  I do know that at least some of the clothes were produced for the market, including the Louella Ballerino for Jantzen swim suits in the 1946 ad at the top.  I thought it was really interesting that one of the women involved, Diana’s friend Cricket, sent her the same ad as an example of the clothes included in this campaign.  Below is another example.

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Pat Baldwin, Sweater Entrepreneur

Pat Baldwin when she was President of the Cleveland Smith College Club

Once again the internet has delivered some elusive information.  Last year I posted photos of a Pat Baldwin cashmere sweater I’d found, and asked for more information as I’d found out very little about her.  I recently got an email from her son, Art Baldwin, who very graciously sent a nice biography of his mother.  It is always a treat to hear from a family member of an important figure in fashion, especially when they, like Art, can add to the historic record.  Many thanks to Art Baldwin, the author of today’s post.

Pat Baldwin wearing one of her sweaters

Pat Baldwin was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1905.  Her given first name was Antoinette, but when she was about junior high school age, her friends decided that Antoinette was too much for them to want to handle.  Someone out of the blue said, “Why don’t we call you something simple, like Pat?  Do you mind?”  She didn’t, and that is how she was known for the rest of her life – except by her mother, who liked Pat, but always called her Antoinette.

She married another Clevelander named Fred Baldwin after graduating from Smith College while he was in law school.  Fred’s father, Arthur Baldwin, was the grandson of a missionary, Dwight Baldwin, who went to Hawaii in the 1830s.  While Arthur, who lived on Maui, was attending Yale University, he would come to Cleveland for Christmas and spring vacations with his college roommate and ended up marrying his roommate’s sister.  Although they planned on eventually returning to Hawaii to settle, Arthur started practicing law in Cleveland and became very involved with many activities, and remained in Cleveland for the rest of his life (he would normally spend a month during the summer in Hawaii, where he had an extensive family).  He became one of Cleveland’s leading civic leaders.

Fred and Pat had three children, Isabel, Arthur, and Lee.  When World War II broke out, Fred enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was sent to England as Intelligence Officer for a B-17 bomber group.  After the war, he returned to his law practice.

Pat was always very civic minded and volunteered at many non-profits, serving most of them as president during her career.  At University Hospitals she was instrumental in establishing an Art Cart, which was filled with framed works of art that was taken around to the patient rooms so the patient could borrow one of the pieces to hang in their room.

Fred died very suddenly of a heart attack in 1952 when he was 47 years old.  Pat continued with her civic activities, but then, to keep busy, got the idea of decorating sweaters for more formal wear.  Her concept was to have each sweater have an individual theme, the key element of which would be repeated on one sleeve.  For instance, if the sweater incorporated daisies in a pattern on the front of the sweater, a single daisy would be repeated once behind one shoulder.  She would do the designing and sewing herself and sell them at personal exhibits.  As she became known, she would take orders for sweaters based on colors and basic design concepts.

Early in the planning stage, Pat wanted to use only cashmere sweaters and wanted the best.  She bought Hadley sweaters at retail as each order came in.  As her business grew, she went to see Hadley to see if she could buy directly from them.  They told her they only sold to retail establishments, but she convinced them to make as exception for a widow trying to keep busy.  They agreed since they figured that the number of sweaters would be very small.

She would sell at showings in Cleveland and take a trip to Florida in the winter and Maine in the summer to also put on showings.  Within a couple of years, she had a real problem with backorders.  Not from her suppliers, but from the sweaters she had promised by due dates.  She was falling significantly behind.  She brought a woman on to help her sew, but as the business continued to grow, Pat hired several full-time sewers and set up a production operation.  Pat was not a business person per se, and after a while one of her sewers complained to someone of authority, and Pat was spoken to about running a sweatshop.  Actually she was just trying to get product out as promised.

About this time, Pat realized that the operation was getting bigger than she felt comfortable with.  The president of Hadley told her that, whereas they had agreed to quietly sell to her because they felt sorry for a widow, she had become Hadley’s largest customer.  She decided to back down a bit with her personal time and turned the management of the company over to her first assistant.  Pat would continue to run showings in Cleveland, Florida, and Maine, as well as other cities when invited.  Eventually she sold the entire operation, which included the trade name.

Pat married Wally Quail in the early 1960s.  She died in 1977.

Here’s the Pat Baldwin label, from the sweater in my collection.

The photos of Pat Baldwin are courtesy of and copyright of Art Baldwin.  Do not copy or repost.

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