Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Walter Holmes

Playboy Bunny Stewardess uniforms, 1969-1976

Walter Holmes was born in London in 1934, the youngest of 11 children. With only two years of formal education, Holmes entered an apprenticeship at a London custom tailor’s shop before serving two years in the British Army. After his release in 1954, Holmes worked as a photographer’s assistant, commercial artist, theatre costume designer, and also immigrated to Chicago at some point during the late 1950s.

In 1962 Holmes created his first couture collection and with financial backing from socialite Norisse Rant, he opened his salon ‘Walter Holmes Inc.’ at 134 E. Delaware in Chicago in the fall of 1963. For fall 1964 he did a line for Harmon Knitwear as well as some designs sold exclusively through Bonwit Teller.

Mediaeval Minis for Paraphernalia, 1968

In 1968 he got a lot of press for the ‘mediaeval minis’ he created under the Paraphernalia label that looked like nun’s habits with micro-mini hemlines – the Catholic church was not amused. In 1969 Holmes was selected to create designs for the flight attendants of Hugh Hefner’s big black bunny plane, which lead to a job as the men’s fashion editor of Playboy magazine in the 1970s.

By 1973 Holmes no longer seems to be designing but by the early 1980s his name appears again in conjunction with men’s wear, including a Walter Holmes line of sweaters and suits through the Chicago firm of Bigsby and Kruthers. His name stops appearing in newspaper searches after 1987, which correlates to about the same time that Holmes got turned onto yoga; he is now a yoga master.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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11 Responses to Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Walter Holmes

  1. David Freeman says:

    Absolutely loved the Jet Bunny uniforms he designed. And especially the over-the-knee crinkle vinyl boots all the Jet Bunny’s wore…….love those boots!

    • Jonathan says:

      I wonder if there are any surviving uniforms from Hefner’s plane. Cliff Muskiet, the stewardess uniform collector, doesn’t have an example in his collection.

  2. Rosanne says:

    You had just scratched the surface with what Walter Holmes has done and is still doing. Please go back and do some more research. This person is a true definition of “one of a kind.” You will be surprised!

  3. Bobby Reed says:

    I just bought a dark blue knit tie with a WALTER HOLMES LONDON label (thrift shop find for $1.67!), and wonder if it’s from his Chicago line, but perhaps they added the word LONDON for panache. Any thoughts?

    • Jonathan says:

      I bet its the same – a know in the past many companies had a base (often just a mailbox) in Paris or London to legally permit the use of those city names on their labels

      • Bobby Reed says:

        Thanks, Jonathan. Some of my thrifting finds have real history: ties from Oleg Cassini and Don Loper (remember Lucy in the Don Loper wool tweed suit?).

        • Jonathan says:

          I JUST rewatched the Don Loper episode yesterday and added it as one of the fashion themed comedies in my last blog update.

  4. Hilton joseph says:

    Walter did not just become a yoga master in the eighties. I did yoga him and Susan in the seventies. yoga with him at Susan’s. Studio was a blessing to behold. Hilton joseph

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