Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Jacob Horwitz


Judy ‘n Jill advertisment for Rayon dresses, 1945

Born in London, UK, 1 January 1892, Jacob Horwitz immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was a child. After graduating in 1910 he opened a grocery with a friend in Manhattan. As a member of the National Guard, he was called into service in 1916 to quell Pancho Villa along the Mexican border, but when returned, the grocery business had gone bankrupt. After returning from serving in the U.S. army during World War I, Horwitz went into business again with a partner, this time making shirtwaists (blouses) and shirtwaist dresses. By 1925 they had formed the company Horwitz & Duberman.

1951 pattern for Junior sized dress, from Horwitz and Duberman

1951 pattern for Junior sized dress, from Horwitz and Duberman

In the 1930s, Horwitz became a pioneer in the field of Junior wear (along with department store owner Irving Sorger and French designer Jacques Heim). Until the 1930s teenagers and collegiate aged girls adjusted ready-made adult-sized dresses to fit their smaller frames, but Junior sized clothing was designed in youthful styles specifically for the smaller framed, shorter-waisted younger woman. Horwitz, who considered himself a manufacturer and stylist, not a designer, hired young women to design the clothes. His first label ‘Judy ‘n Jill’, which was in business from the late 1930s to the mid 1950s, was carried by department stores across the U.S. Another line he launched in 1939 was branded ‘Deanna Durbin’, after the popular teenaged singing actress.

Advertisment for Judy 'n Jill dress, 1953

Advertisment for Judy ‘n Jill dress, 1953

Horwitz was awarded the Coty Award in 1947 for his role in creating the Junior market.  In the early 1950s Horwitz bought out his partner Duberman, and the company became known as Jack Horwitz Associates. He retired from his own company by 1960, and died in 1992 at the age of 100.

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Kudos for the Conservator…

DSC_2785a-640x427I worked with Ada Hopkins for the 11 years I was at Bata and we (almost) never disagreed!

Here is a great interview from the Torontoist with Ada about her work as the shoe conservator at Bata.

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Gone With the Greeks… University of Georgia deems hoop skirts racist

According to the Online Athens-Banner Herald from March 18, 2015, hoop skirts will be banned as special-event attire for Greek organizations at the University of Georgia (UGA):

635626555340630272428746097_Southern-Weddings-KA-fraternity.imgopt1000x70“The hoop skirt ban came after UGA Student Affairs administrators met Monday with some UGA fraternity and sorority leaders, including representatives of the UGA chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) and Kappa Alpha (KA) fraternities… Part of the talk was about dress at such events as KA’s “Old South Week” and SAE’s “Magnolia Ball.” The discussion included hoop skirts, and the messages conveyed by such dresses or other articles of clothing… It wasn’t administrators who made the ultimate call on attire, it was the fraternity and sorority leaders.
“A standard aspect of event planning for Greek organizations is that costuming for events must be evaluated as to its appropriateness,” read an email sent out Tuesday by Ashley Merkel, president of UGA’s Panhellenic Council, and Alex Bosse, president of the Interfraternity Council. “The student leadership, staff and advisors agree that Antebellum hoop skirts are not appropriate in the context of some events.”
Some other symbols, like the Confederate soldier uniforms once worn by members of some fraternities on special occasions, were banned years ago… The national KA fraternity banned (confederate) uniforms in 2010, after its chapter at the University of Alabama paraded in front of one of the university’s black fraternities…”

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The 1912 equivalent of cell phones

Most movie theatres today request patrons to turn off their cell phones, but in 1912, the biggest problem was more fashion-related. Here are two slides from 1912 that were shown in movie theatres requesting offending fashionistas to doff their millinery:



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FHM opens in Hespeler Post Office!

It’s been a slog and despite there being a few more paint touch ups needed, and many more labels, the museum is open for business! It was almost exactly a year from the time we first saw the post office to opening day. The negotiations dragged while we got the financing to secure the lease, and then the renovations seemed to stall in the dry wall phase for weeks, but it all came together in the end. Here are some before and afters:

The museum is now open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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Auto Mannequins, 1950

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Swinging Britain, 1967

Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, Biba, paper dresses, hippies…

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Madame Carven (1910 – 2015)

carven-in-memoriamMadame Carven (Carmen de Tommaso), passed away in Paris on June 8 at the age of 105. Admittedly, I had no idea she was still alive!

Madame Carven ran her atelier from 1945 until 1993. Since then her atelier has been creatively helmed by Guillaume Henry, and more recently Adrien Caillaudaud and Alexis Martial. Known for her sporty but feminine simplicity, Carven designed couture and ready-to-wear, and is also given credit for creating one of the first versions of the push-up bra. See this article for more information about Madame Carven.

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Micol Fontana (1913 – 2015)


Micol Fontana with Ava Gardner

Micol Fontana, the last of the three designing sisters known collectively as Sorelle Fontana died today. Fontana was best known for their sumptuous ball gowns in the 1950s. Full skirts, beading, embroidery, and exaggerated details were their hallmarks. Their most famous client was Ava Gardner who wore only Fontana gowns in the 1954 film The Barefoot Contessa. This began a trend for Fontana to create gowns for the ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’ movies popular in the 1950s during the Dolce Vita era. Stars dressed by Fontana included: Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Ursula Andress, Grace Kelly, and Anita Ekberg. Other clients included the daughter of Marconi, and Jacqueline Kennedy.


Dress from The Barefoot Contessa, worn by Ava Gardner, 1954

In 1943 Zoë, Micol, and Giovanna Fontana founded their business in Rome – home of the top Italian couturiers of the day. While they followed the Parisian New Look silhouette for their gowns, using conspicuous extravagance in the textiles, lace and decoration, their day clothes were the opposite – often understated and immensely practical.

Zoe died in 1978, and Giovanna died in 2004. The firm was essentially closed in 1985 although some work continued until 1995.

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A Tale and Two Mill Towns

This week the town of Hespeler has been transformed into Hesplerwood – a filming location for the upcoming mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63. The main street has been dressed to resemble Lisbon, Maine, c. 1960. King attended high school in Lisbon Maine around that time and used the town as part of the novel’s setting.

e3f1e5c5d679a1522c73f1f3f8c4cfa0A few months ago I blogged about Dominion Woollens and Worsteds – the huge wool mill in Hespler Ontario. It turns out that Lisbon Maine was also a wool mill town – home to Worumbo Mill, in operation from 1864 to 1964. Worumbo mills was created by Edward Plummer and H.A. Tibbetts to make high quality woollen textiles for the fashion industry. After a rough start, the company prospered, expanding in the 1920s and modernizing in the 1940s. However, like Dominion Woollens in Hespeler, foreign competition cut into Worumbo’s business and in 1964 the mill was closed. Attempts to restart the business failed and in 1987, three years after Dominion Woollens had a spectacular fire that destroyed half the mill, the original 1864 portion of the Worumbo mill also burned to the ground, leaving only the 1920 addition intact.

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