Tag Archives: Saul Steinberg

Saul Steinberg Novelty Border Prints

I think that at some time or another I’ve shown photos of the skirts in today’s post. But after showing these on Instagram I realized I needed to write a little about artist Saul Steinberg and this line of skirts. You may know Steinberg from the many covers he made for The New Yorker. Lesser known were the textiles he designed in the 1950s.

Starting in 1946 Steinberg designed a line of home decorator fabrics and matching wallpapers for Piazza Prints. It was supposed to be an exclusive contract, with Steinberg designing only for Piazza, but somehow he entered into agreements with at least two other firms.  One was another maker of home decorating fabrics, but the other was a producer of dress goods. Probably because he was in violation of his contract with Piazza, Steinberg’s name does not appear on the garment weight goods.

All of this information was researched for the book and exhibition Artists’ Textiles: 1940 – 1975.  The information about the two “illegal” lines was uncovered in the correspondence between Steinberg and Piazza representatives.  Piazza did not care about the dress goods fabrics, as they were not their competition. They were upset at the other lines, as it was a competing company located just blocks from them in the garment district.

The dress goods are all, as far as I know, labeled Regulated Cotton “Never Misbehaves”. Also included is the name of the print.  This modern day cowboy goes to Vegas scene is titled “Tin Horn Holiday”. I know nothing at all about that company  but some of the fabrics have been found in 1950s JC Penney catalogs. Like many of the fabrics in the past, yardage was available to both home sewers and to manufacturers of clothing.

The Steinberg prints are pretty easy to recognize, as most of them have some features in common. One end of the selvage, which is the bottom of the print, has a border that is not part of the narrative. Above you can see random lines along with scribbles that sort of look like words, but don’t actually say anything.  Above that is the story, in this case of a cowboy and bandit, two cat-eyed ladies in a big ole car, palm tree street lights, and a resort casino sign.

Parts of the motif are carried upward into the background. Here you see lots of little cars, probably traveling in for a holiday. As was common, this print came in at least five different colorways.

This print is, I think, called Casbah. Steinberg had spent time in North Africa, and he made a similar drawing during his visit.  This print follows the pattern of hem border, the main story, and then the palm tree motif repeated near the top.

This print also came in white, with red, gold, and blue accents.

This print had the selvage removed during its construction, so I can only guess at a name.  How about Cuckoo?  And I love that goat so much.

In making this skirt, the sewer used the bottom border to make the waistband.  A complete version has sea turtles at the hem.  I’ve seen this print with a black background with bright colors, and someday this skirt will be replaced with that version.

Instagram user gday321 posted a photo of himself wearing a cabana set – swim trunks and matching shirt – made from this print in white with bright colors.  He found his set pictured  in a 1958 Sears catalog. I’ve seen this print referred to as Calypso, though I do not know if that is the actual name.

This last print has been identified as a Saul Steinberg design, and it does look like his work.  It is a bit different in that the background is not filled in with a smaller motif.

All the Steinberg prints seem to have travel based themes, or at least travel destinations for American tourists.  There are several more besides the ones in my collection. An English fox hunting scene has the fox sitting on a “No Hunting” sign while surrounded by hunters on horseback and their hounds.  A Florida themed skirt called “Cypress Gardens” has water skiers and speed boats.  There are two prints that feature trains, “Paddington Station” and one known as simply “Train.” One of the most elaborate designs is a scene in an opera house. There is one that features a roller coaster in an amusement park.  There is one that looks like Innsbruck, with a procession of antique fire engines, and another that looks like Switzerland with people in folk costume and a Saint Bernard dog with his little cask of rum. There could be others, as some of these are rarely seen.

I’m thinking Steinberg must have made more than a little pocket change from these fabrics, as some of them were obviously very popular, especially Tin Horn Holiday. Hopefully more research will be made and more details will come to light about these fantastic fabrics.

Artists’ Textiles 1940 – 1976by Geiff Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Phelp is a great book.  Read it.

 

 

 

 

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Novelty Print Skirt – An Alpine Holiday

About ten years ago I really began to love 1950s novelty prints, and especially the many border prints that were made mainly for full gathered skirts.  I was really drawn to the designs that were labeled in the selvage as “A Regulated Cotton – Never Misbehaves”.  As it turned out, these prints were designed by artist Saul Steinberg, who is probably best remembered today for his covers for The New Yorker.

The prints in this series were also named.  A favorite seemed to be “Tin Horn Holiday” which has a sort of Old West meets Vegas theme.  There is also “Oasis” which is an Arabian Nights type of scene and “Paddington Station” with trains in the station.  There are others for which I do not know the name such as a scene of the interior of an opera house, an English fox hunt,  and a roller coaster ride.  Unfortunately the selvages were often cut off in the making of the skirt of dress.

But the good news is that the prints are so distinctive that they are fairly easy to recognize.  There seems to be a standard formula that that Steinberg, or maybe the company designers who adapted his work, used.  First, Steinberg drew in a certain style, using a variety of line thicknesses, from very thick to very thin.  The hem edge always has a coordinating border, as you see in the hearts and birds border of this print.  There is a background that usually goes to the top edge of the fabric.  In this case the background is the Alpine landscape.

Steinberg did not sign these prints because he had an exclusive contract with another fabric company to design home furnishing fabrics.  I’m not sure how many prints Steinberg did for A Regulated Cotton, but they all seem to be loosely based around the theme of travel and leisure activities.  Recently I’ve seen several that I’d never seen before, including this new one.

I rarely buy novelty print skirts any more because they have become extremely popular, and so the prices have risen beyond what I want to pay for them.  But this one was so great, and the price so reasonable that I decided to add it to the collection.  It came from Amy at Viva Vintage Clothing, one of my favorite online shops.

I need help naming this one.  I name all my novelty skirts for a movie or book that the print seems to suggest.  I thought about Heidi, and it also reminds me of the “Lonely Goatherd” puppet show in The Sound of Music.  Any other suggestions?

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Artist Designed Novelty Print fabric – 1950s

Back in April I posted photos of my latest novelty print gathered skirt, the cruise ship themed one above.  As so often happens in blogging in this case, the comments turned out to be more interesting than the post itself, because reader lemur178 drew the conclusion that this print was from the same “A Regulated Cotton – Never Misbehaves” series as several other prints, two of which I also have, Tinhorn Holiday and Oasis.  She also noted that these seemed to be from the illustrator, Saul Steinberg, due to the similarity in style to a fabric known to have been drawn by him, Paddington Station.

Tinhorn Holiday

Oasis

Fortunately, lemur178 had the opportunity to attend an event that put the pieces of the puzzle together for us.  She writes:

Went to the ‘Artists’ Textiles 1940 – 1976′ talk and book launch last night at London’s Fashion & Textiles Museum.  Most interesting and lots of very beautiful fabrics to admire.

I was initially going there to find out about the Saul Steinberg prints as you may remember. According to the authors (something which was confirmed to them by John Rombola, I think), although Steinberg had a licence with Piazza Fabrics for his work, he found the lure of money somewhat hard to resist and entered into various ‘unofficial’ deals with other manufacters, more specifically the Regulated Cottons – “Never Misbehaves” prints used for so many skirts at the time.  This explains why the prints are so recognisably his, yet his name never appears.  The book features several expamples, including an opera one I’d never seen before.  It didn’t have your boat, but when I spoke to one of the authors afterwards, he said they did have a boat one that they hadn’t featured in the book.  Presumably this is the same as yours. 

So, thanks to lemur178, and the research of the authors of the book, we now know that Steinberg did design this line.  The book is Artists’ Textiles 1940-1976, by Geiff Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Phelps, and it  seems to be available on Amazon.  I have been watching the page for the book, and it has been saying that the book will be released in the USA on July 16, but it now says that it is currently in stock.  I’ll be buying a copy soon and will do a review of it.

This really points out just how important blog comments are.  Several weeks ago there was a post on the Independent Fashion Bloggers site that asked the question, “Has blogging lost its community?”  

In other words, people are noticing that their blogs are not getting as many comments as in the past.  I’ve noticed it here, but not to a huge degree.  Still, I do hope that whenever you read something here or on other blogs and you can add to the conversation, that you will take the time to  post and share your knowledge and thoughts.  That is what really adds value to any blog.

Some details of the prints:

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Viewpoint