Tag Archives: Vera Neumann

In Thrifting, as in Real Life, Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Lose

While perusing the goods at my fancy shopping place (aka the Goodwill Outlet Center), I’m always on the lookout for vintage table linens.  I keep some for myself, but others I pass along to people I know can use them.  While making a quick pass through the bins last week I spotted the tablecloth above.  At first it looked to be mid 20th century, but something about it looked a little too much like a modern interpretation of a vintage design.

I pulled the cloth out anyway, just to make sure I was not making a mistake.  The first thing I noticed was how thin the fabric was.  Vintage printed cotton and linen tablecloths are usually very hefty in weight.

Then I looked at the hem.  The almost half inch turn under and the very wide stitching had me convinced that this was not vintage.  But then I noticed the real proof.

Oh, well.  I knew it was too good to be true.

The popularity of retro and vintage design has really made it hard to tell what is new and what is old unless you educate yourself as to the differences.  Several weeks ago I posted a photo on Instagram of a display of new hankies that were designed to look old.  After a few washings I’m sure these new hankies will look even older.  And reissues of Vera Neumann designs are identical to those she produced in the 1950s through 1970s.  The difference is in the fabric and the finishing.

When I spotted these Vera napkins at the same fancy shopping spot, I knew they were the real vintage deal.  The linen fabric was soft but sturdy, and the edges were beautifully finished in cotton thread.  It really took the sting out of being fooled by Martha.

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Updates – The Rest of the Story

It’s time to update a few old stories.  I wrote about the above golf set almost a year ago.  It is from Serbin of Florida, had had a Marianne by Serbin label.

As I’d hoped, I have heard from Marianne Serbin Friedman, and she is in the process of answering some questions about her family’s company.  Stay tuned!

The photo above was sent to me by Pam of Glamoursurf.  Two years ago I posted an ad for fabric that Vera Neumann designed for Schumacher in the 1950s.  In my post I stated that Vera signed a licensing agreement with Schumacher in 1947 and that it lasted for ten years.  Evidently, Vera did a later project with Schumacher, as Pam found an ad for a similar fabric to the one above that was dated 1979.

It always pays to keep an open mind when reading anything about history.  There are no absolutes that I know of.

And finally, I wrote about Lou Pollock’s Asheville shoe store last year.  It was a real treat hearing from his daughter.

I am the youngest daughter of Lou Pollock and you brought tears to my eyes.I was raised in that store and learned when I was very young – how to give to the community. My father not only gave away shoes to children in need on Christmas day – but to care for them 364 days during the rest of the year.  I learned.
Later in years my husband and I were in the children’s wear business in Michigan and the 1st Christmas came along – our thoughts turned to the children and (without details) we carried on the lessons given by my father.  He was also one of the founders of the cemetery in West Asheville in 1916 and made a dream come true to create hallowed ground for our ancestors.  The Cemetery honored him while he was still living – by re-naming it in his honor. The Lou Pollock Memorial Park  where he and the rest of my family are all buried.
 
As for the Haywood Street Pollock’s Store. It was actually called the Cinderella Store and sold ladies’ shoes only.  Whereas the store on Patton Avenue sold Men’s, Ladies’
and Children’s. There were 2 floors. 
 
Did you see the SHADOW of the letters POLLOCK’S on the wall where the letters were removed when remodeled?  They still remain.
 
Thanks for remembering my Father in such a special way, I have many memories still alive on Patton Avenue and Haywood Street. 
That is from Betty Pollock Golden, who is 89 years old.

 

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Vera Scarf Tying Art

Back in October I ran across the little booklet above, Vera scarf tying art.  It’s one I’d been looking for so was glad to buy it when it came up at a fund-raising silent auction for the Costume Society.

There is no date on the booklet, but it is later 1960s or early 70s as far as I can tell.  The illustrations remind me of the ones done for small features in Glamour magazine in the same period.

One thing I’ve heard women say over and over through the years is that they love scarves, but don’t know what to do with them.  The Vera Company must have been very aware of this problem, and they wisely set out to do something about it.  The booklet covers the basics (“the triangle fold”) but also shows how to wear a scarf as a top (“halter ties are body art”) and how to hang a scarf on the wall.

Turbans seem to be having a bit of a fashion moment, and so here are four ways to join that trend.  I like the demi-Leia look, number 4.

The dog collar reminds me of that old scary story about the girl who always wore a scarf (or in some versions, a ribbon) tied around her neck.  Turns out it was holding her head on her neck.

I can remember when young women were doing the scarf-as-top trick, but I was too afraid that it would lead to over-exposure.  Sometimes a little fear is a good thing!

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Updates – The Rest of the Story

I never imagined that I’d buy a magazine called Western Horseman, but the price was cheap and there were those magic words: “Western Wear”.  So I picked it up, and when I got home I began to really look through it.  I’ve stated before that I really don’t know much about riding attire, but I am willing to learn, and this magazine from 1966 seemed like a good place to start.

My reward for taking a chance on this magazine was swift.  A while back I asked for opinions about the age of a Miller & Co.  western shirt and Karman pants I had found.  The blouse is very much like the one in the middle in the above photo.  I’m happy to say that several readers identified it as mid 1960s, and they were right.

The copy reads, ” Candy… magic comes to western sportswear in the form of Miller & Co.’s new ice cream colored, matching ladies’ and girls’ sets.”

As for the pants, I did not get an exact match, but there were similar styles all through the magazine.  What looked to be bell-bottom legs, are in fact described in the volume as “the new bell bottom style.”

Some time ago (2010!) I wrote a post about one of the theories of why young women in the 1920s were called flappers.  One of the theories is that the name came from the hair bows that preteens  and younger teens were wearing in the decade of the 1910s, as seen in the girl on the right.

flapper

This weekend I came across the above ad from 1915, advertising clothing for the hard-to-fit girl of 12 – 16.  It is obvious that the term “flapper” is describing a girl, not a crazy, Charleston-dancing, cigarette-smoking twenty-something woman.

Last week I heard from a woman who had worked for the Vera Company.

I worked at The Vera Companies, first as an intern starting in 1983 and left in in 1990 …Manhattan Industries was bought by Salant Corp (Perry Ellis International) but The Vera Companies stayed intact until after her death in 1993…it is sometime after that The Tog Shop bought the company.

This information changes the way the Vera story is often told, with the company essentially closing in 1988.  I appreciate this important correction.

And finally, here is my semi-regularly scheduled mention of social media.  Every week I get several invitations to be friends on Linked-in.  I did join Linked-in for a very short time, and then I deleted my registration because I could not see how I could use the network.  For some reason, it still has me a a potential contact for people, but I cannot respond to all the requests because I’m not a member and I cannot log in.  So, the short of it is, if you have contacted me through Linked-in, I’m not ignoring your request; I simply cannot reply to it.

On the other hand, Instagram continues to be a constant source of interesting things and fascinating people.  There is a growing community of fashion history people there, and if you want to join us, I’ll be happy to send you a list of my favorite accounts.  I’m using it more and more as a mini-blog, posting things that are interesting, but don’t somehow deserve a post here.

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Scarf Paradise

To my great delight, two of my favorite sellers, the scarf guys, were back at the Metrolina Collectibles Show last week.  I’ve written about them before; they bought 20,000 scarves and are now selling them for a buck each at Metrolina.  Actually they are also selling at Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta, where the buyers get first choice and the scarves go for $5 and $3 each.  I was told that they occasionally pull out an Hermes which they sell for $100 – still a great bargain.

This time they had eight big bins full, and I managed to dig through them all to my satisfaction.  I only bought six, but they are all pretty special.

I find it hard to resist a blue Vera Neumann scarf.  I’d never seen this sun design in blue, and even though it was not silk, I wanted it. Vera used some high quality synthetics – rayon maybe – during the 1970s.

And there was another blue Vera, this one in Verasheer silk.

This silk scarf was not signed, but I just loved the colors.  Plus, it is long and thin, just the thing to control beach-blown hair.

Giorgio di Sant’Angelo scarves are relatively hard to find, and they are always top quality.  I’m afraid that my photo does not convey the vibrant yellow and orange adequately.  It’s truly stunning.

This is the corner of an older cotton bandana.  I’ve read that the older ones are collectible, but I honestly can’t say that I know a thing about this one except that I liked it.

The best find though was this Liberty of London scarf from the 1930s.  There is a very similar one pictured in my 1937 Liberty catalog, but in a different colorway.

I knew the scarf was a good one, but that little tag sealed the deal.  My color is a bit off, as the blue bits are actually a rich purple.

So, did I get my money’s worth?

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We Love Vera (Neumann)

Last week I showed a newer fabric that was copied from a 1960s print that can be found on vinyl accessories from the German company, KEK.  It’s hard to know if these newer fabrics are complying with the original owner’s copyright, especially since the rules vary from country to country and often involve China, in which there are rules but few seem to follow them.

While some companies have long gone out of business and their former owners have little or no idea that their designs are being recycled, excellent planning prevented this from happening at at least one American company, Vera.  According to Vera’s nephew, Fred Salaff, all of Vera’s designs were registered in the Library of Congress, which made her copyright easier to defend.

Another thing that has protected Vera’s work is that someone has always clearly owned it.  Vera sold her business to Manhattan Industries in 1967, but she continued to work as the designer of the scarves that carried her name.  When Manhattan sold the Vera company in 1988, all her original work, samples and archives were put into storage.  In 2005, the Vera name and archives were bought by Susan Seid who worked with other companies to get products with Vera designs produced.

One company was Anthropologie which sold a line called “We Love Vera” starting in 2010.  I don’t shop at Anthropologie, as it is owned by the same man who owns Urban Outfitters, a company that is constantly releasing objectionable products just for the publicity, much like a three-year-old pitches a tantrum just to get mommy to notice.  But I did keep up with the Vera products, mainly because I think the whole issue of print copyright is so interesting.

Susan Seid sold the copyrights and licensing agreements last year, and it does not look like Anthropologie is still selling We Love Vera.  Other companies continue to produce products that feature Vera artwork, including Brighton handbags.

I was happy to pull this We Love Vera blouse from the Goodwill bins last week.  It’s interesting to see how her designs have been adapted to a young, modern consumer.

I’m not exactly sure what this design portrays, but it is definitely from Vera Neumann’s hand.  Any ideas on what these little designs are?

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Vera Neumann for Brighton

Saturday I was in a strange environment – a modern shopping mall.  It’s not that I never go to the mall, I do, but it’s usually when I need something specific that I know can be found there.  In this instance, I was in need of a skinny latte from Starbucks, and the only one to be found for miles was in this mall.

So I was making my way to Starbucks when I stopped dead in my tracks. There, on a shop window, was a ladybug and the Vera signature.  I was intrigued to see that the store was Brighton.  I had to go in and check it out.

Brighton is primarily a maker of leather goods, and they also make other accessories like jewelry and sunglasses.  The business dates back to the late 1960s when Jerry and Terri Kohl bought a business that made men’s belts.  In 1985 they formed Brighton as part of the company, and in 1990 started making items for women.

As I was looking at the Vera items, the sales associate came over and asked if I knew about Vera Neumann.  I resisted the urge to be Ms. Know-it-all-smarty-pants and said that I remembered her from the 1970s.  That gave her the chance to practice what she’d learned about Vera.  I was impressed.  Tonya knew all about Vera, and how important she was as an artist and as a producer of scarves and household textiles.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I fell victim to the sales pitch.  Actually, I was already in love with the nautical themed line before the pitch even started.  I was a goner at “red, white, and blue fish print.”

Like the original, vintage Vera products, all the Brighton accessories are based on a Vera scarf.  I was given their spring brochure that showed the original scarf along with the products that are based on it.  And all through the brochure are photos and information about Vera herself.

I didn’t get a photo, but there is a tote bag based on this scarf, which is in my own collection.   You can see it on the Brighton website, which is well worth a look because they have a great little video about Vera, that includes some terrific archival footage of her.

Not all the Vera items are nautical, as you can tell from the photo of the Brighton window.  There are, of course, butterflies and ladybugs as well.  One of the best adaptations was the black and white butterfly pouch bag that you can see in the window.  The motif was actually embroidered onto the canvas.

Here’s the set that I bought.  I’d been looking for some good zippered bags to organize my larger travel handbag, and these were perfect.

They are even lined in a Vera design.

I liked everything about this collaboration except for one thing – the items are made in China.  I decided to overlook this because Brighton continues to manufacture their leather goods in the USA.  Hopefully they will bring back more of their production to the States in the future.

I know that there are many vintage fans who do not like modern use of vintage designs.  I’m of the opinion that good design is good design, period.  There is some concern that these modern uses tend to muddy the waters and that in years down the road the newer designs will be confused with the originals.  It may be true, but that is a small price to pay for having access to great design.

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