Last Updated on September 10, 2022 by Dominique de Merteuil
When in doubt, wear a Handmacher suit!
- History of the Handmacher suit.
- Examples of the 1940s and the 1950s Handmacher suits from my personal collection.
To say that I have an abundance of skirt suits made in the 1940s and 1950s would be an understatement as it’s my number one choice when buying vintage. I can never resist the immaculate tailoring that 1950s suits are so synonymous with, and when it comes to a choice between the perfect vintage dress and an equally perfect suit, I usually end up purchasing the latter.
Nothing can beat the versatility to which a vintage suit can be dressed up or down, making it the perfect choice for a day-to-night look, a real pièce de résistance. When shopping for vintage on Etsy or at any of the vintage fairs in London, I don’t look for any particular brands, with the exception of Lilli Ann and Dorothy O’Hara that is, because a lot of incredible garments from the 1930s and 1940s I’ve found over the years were custom made. There are times however when I get extremely excited about a vintage brand, like in the case of my latest purchase of a 1950s Handmacher suit, that I later found in Harper’s Bazaar from 1952![/bigletter]
We read in one of the ads for a Handmacher suit
Why are Handmacher suits so perfectly adapted to American living? Is it the beautifully easy way they fit? Their serenely classic taste? Their forthright price? One store in your city has Handmacher suits. Try them on and see for yourself
Well, I did try The Handmacher suit on, and it fits like a glove!
A brief history of the Handmacher suit.
- Alvin Handmacher, the president and co-founder of Handmacher-Vogel Inc., was one of the biggest manufacturers of women’s suits in the USA in the 1940s, 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. According to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), the TAILORED BY HANDMACHER logo was first used in commerce in 1940, so it’s safe to assume that this was the year of the brand’s “birth”.
- Handmacher’s ads were very prominent and published in magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s and Mademoiselle. The 1949 TV ad for Weathervane suites was one of the most successful advertising campaigns of its time.
- Advertisement in LIFE magazine from May 11, 1953, reads;
Celanese* acetate wonder fabric used exclusively in the most famous suit in the world. Handmacher’s crisp, cool Weathervanes solve summer suit problem-cost only $25 and $30
Who designed the elegant, stylish and beautifully tailored Handmacher suits?
It was no other than the famous American socialite Jane Derby.
I found in a news article from The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) 21 July 1958 that Jane Derby, during one of her trips to Paris;
She turned from client to apprentice, working for three couturiers. She was taught to select fabrics, to draft and cut patterns and “to work from the muslin.
After her return from Paris to the USA she opened a dress shop. And in 1938 presented her first Jane Derby Collection of ready-to-wear suits and dresses. In 1946 she started designing the famous Handmacher suits for Handmacher-Vogel, Inc. Jane Derby was known for her elegance, sophistication and extraordinarily good taste, which she translated into her designs. Remember, when in doubt, wear a Handmacher suit!
- Until 1953, Alvin Handmacher was the main sponsor of the LPGA tour -The Ladies Professional Golf Association. The person responsible for convincing Alvin Handmacher to invest a lot of money into LPGA was its tournament director, the brilliant Fred Corcoran, known as “Mr Golf”. Corcoran’s daughter wrote in her book Fred Corcoran: The Man Who Sold the World on Golf;
Fred wouldn’t go so far as to say that without Alvin Handmacher and his Weathervane Championships, there wouldn’t be a women’s pro tour today. But make no mistake – Alvin put the Ladies’ PGA in business.
The legendary “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias represented Weathervane women’s sports clothes manufactured by Handmacher who paid her $10000 a year to wear his clothes.
I would gladly represent the Handmacher brand in exchange for an endless supply of his magnificent suits.
Here is a new to me late 1940s blue Handmacher suit paired with;
- A 1940s brooch
- 1950s gloves
- French Sole Penelope Ankle Tie
- Wolford tights
In 2021 I was lucky enough to find an identical Handmacher suit to the one pictured above but in green colour. I also know that there is a third colour version but someone else snapped it before I had the chance.
Useful Vintage Tips
If you are new to the world of vintage fashion and would like to learn how to date, store, clean and fix vintage clothes, head straight to the Vintage Fashion Tips section on my blog.
- You might be interested in my article on how to clean vintage clothes.
2. How to Fix a Hole in Clothes Without Sewing
Take a look at how I fixed many, many holes in my 1940s Handmacher suit!
Handmacher Suits Wishlist
I’m always on the look for yet another 1950s Handmacher suit. In particular one in black, grey or pink. Here are a few examples I’m drooling over.
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