Greta Plattry isn’t an unknown in the fashion world – her American sportswear includes some of the most classic designs produced by that wave of women designers (Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Tina Leser…) who came to prominance in the 1940s. However, Greta’s background story is unknown, making her a candidate for the ‘obscurier couturier.’
Greta Plattry was born Margarete Hutschnecker in Berlin, Germany on February 15, 1909. She married Frederick Plattring in 1931 and had a daughter, Gabriela, in March 1933.
Greta’s oldest brother Arnold Hutschnecker was born in 1898 and was educated in internal medicine. After reading ‘Mein Kampf,’ he became a vocal critic of Hitler. Realizing the danger he had put himself and his family in, he left Germany for New York in 1936. The rest of the family emigrated around the same time. After the war, Arnold retrained in psychotherapy, and eventually became Richard Nixon’s psychotherapist, before and during the presidential years. Greta’s other brother Leonard Hutton (who had anglicized his name when he got to the U.S.) also achieved fame as a well known art dealer of German and Russian art. At some point between Greta’s arrival in New York in February 1937 and her U.S. naturalization application in 1942, Greta divorced Frederick Plattring and anglicized her last name to Plattry.
In LIFE magazine from 8 Jan 1945 there appeared a small article: “…In 1937 a German emigree named Greta Plattry arrived in the U.S. wearing a crochet dress…Miss Plattrys dress and her crochet gloves, sweaters, scarves, caused great wonderment among American women who were accustomed to knitting, not crocheting such items. Miss Plattry decided to make a business of crocheting. In her first U.S. year she sold $300 worth of hand-crocheted mittens. Last year (1944) the sales of fancy crochet clothing from her workshop, which employs 130 women, amounted to 300,000. She makes jaunty sweaters, gloves, halters and coifs or head scarves…”
Soon after this article appeared, Greta moved up the fashion ladder to sportswear and by the end of the 1950s, her label included everything from boy-short bathing suits with versatile cover-ups, like the one pictured, to dressier day outfits and glamorous at home clothes. Although she became an American, her German heritage continued to influence her designs that often relied upon the dirndl construction.
By 1966 Greta had given up her own label and was designing a line under the Teal Traina label but by the time Teal Traina closed in 1978 Greta’s name was all but forgotten in the fashion world. When her brothers Leo and Arnold died in 1990 and 2000 respectively, their obituaries referred to Greta Plattry as a surviving sister; if Greta were still alive today she would be 102.
Special thanks go to Lynne Ranieri for tracking down some helpful and hard to find information. If you want to see more images of Greta’s work, check out Couture Allure’s blog