April 17, 2020
Last Updated on September 8, 2023 by Dominique de MerteuilHome » Vintage Outfits »
When in doubt, wear a Handmacher suit!
In this post, you will discover the history of the famous Handmacher brand synonymous in the 1940s and the 1950s with quality suits for an affordable price.
I will also share with you some of the most beautiful examples of Handmacher clothes depicted in 1950s ads and my personal collection.
To say that I have an abundance of vintage skirt suits would be an understatement as it’s my number one choice when buying 1940s and 1950s clothes.
I can never resist the immaculate tailoring 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 with 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 great 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!
What We Learn From the Ad 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;
The Weathervane Suit Tailored by Handmacher
” The Weathervane commercials for Handmacher-Vogel, one of the most exclusive and coordinated spot campaigns in TV history, was produced by Promotional Films through The Zan Diamond Company, advertising agency. From original idea to finished prints, the entire series was produced in eight weeks. There was no deviation from schedule at any time.”
*Production costs approximately $24000
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
My very first Weathervane suit appeared in the ad (see picture above) from 1953!
The off-white beauty with just a hint of delicate mauve looks surprisingly good paired with a black 1940s belt and a late 1950s Koret wicker purse.
“Not so many years ago introduced a completely new kind of suit, made entirely of Celanese acetate, the Beauty Fiber.
He called it “The Weathervane.” Today is the best-known, best-loved suit in America…and because fabric contributed so much to its popularity-it is still made exclusively of Celanese acetate.
For the acetate fabric in Weathervanes keeps them crisp and smooth. It falls into simply beautiful lines…has a way of looking fresh on the most wilting days…keeps a press beautifully. And although the Weathervane is an inexpensive suit, it is so well tailored, women in the upper brackets wear it as devotedly as the working girl who literally lives in it.”
THE 1953 WEATHERVANE WAS TAILORED BY HANDMACHER
“best loved suit in America…fits you and your life.”
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!
One of my favourite Handmacher suits, although I say this about all of them.
Photography: Gregory Michael King
- 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.
The Late 1940s Handmacher Suit From My Collection
I paired the new-to-me beauty 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.
MY FAVOURITE HANDMACHER SUITS
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.
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.