History of the Handmacher Suit!

Last updated on March 18th, 2024 at 08:24 pm

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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.

History of the Handmacher suit.
History of the Handmacher suit. Image found on Pinterest.

History of the Handmacher suit
History of the Handmacher suit.

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, except 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

1950s Handmacher suit
My favourite Handmacher suit from 1952.

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

Handmacher suit 1952

Well, I did try the Handmacher suit on, and it fits like a glove!

1950s Handmacher suit
The 1952s Handmacher suit.

1950s outfit ideas
In the picture, I’m wearing the 1952 Handmacher suit accessorized with vintage hair snood.

A Brief History of the Handmacher Suit

Dovima in a Handmacher suit 1954. Vintage fashion blog.
History of the Handmacher Suit. Dovima wearing a Handmacher suit in the October issue of Harper’s Bazaar 1954.
  • 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.
Handmacher suit Ad

Advertisement in LIFE magazine from May 11, 1953, reads;

The Weathervane Suit Tailored by Handmacher

WEATHERVANE Reg.No. 339, 318 issued on October 6, 1936 for piece goods, WEATHERVANE GOLFER with the representation of weathervane ( Reg. No. 553,814, issued on January 22, 1952) for skirts, women’s jackets and hats; and WHEATHERVANE with the representation of weathervane (Reg. NO. 554, 949 issued February 19, 1952) for women’s suits.

44 Trademark Rep. 1123 (1954) Handmacher-Vogel, Inc. v. Weathercrest Jackets Inc.

” 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

Brief history of the Handmacher suit

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

History of the Handmacher suit
Handmacher Weathervane suits advertising in 1953 Life magazine.

brief history of the Handmacher suit
Handmacher Weathervane suits from 1953
How to dress in vintage this spring. Vintage fashion blogger.

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 by Handmacher suit.

History of the Handmacher suit!


“best loved suit in America…fits you and your life.”

Sales of women’s suits under the trademark WEATHERVANE increased in volume each year from 108,101 items in 1947 to 607,766 in 1951; sales of WEATHERVANE skirts amounted to 7,881 in 1948, 22,839 in 1949, 21,770 in 1950 and 6,781 in 1951; and advertising expenditures in connection with WEATHERVANE and WEATHERVANE GOLFER items during the years 1947-51 amounted to more than one and three-quarter million dollars.

44 Trademark Rep. 1123 (1954) Handmacher-Vogel, Inc. v. Weathercrest Jackets Inc.
1950s Handmacher suits
My dream Weathervane suits! I’ve been looking for the pink version you see in the ad for years.

1950s Handmacher suit
There is only one Weathervane and it’s tailored by Handmacher.

Who designed the elegant, stylish and beautifully tailored Handmacher suits?

A SUIT TO LIVE IN AND LOVE…see how Handmacher underplayes its elegance…gives it a gentle jewelled, perfection for day and early evening. Black charmalaine or worsted flannel.

History of Handmacher suit 1955.
History of Handmacher Suit 1955.

The incredible suit from the picture above, the holy grail of vintage fashion, recently joined my Handmacher suit collection.

Vintage fashion blogger Dominique de Merteuil in a 1955 Handmacher suit.
Vintage fashion blogger Dominique de Merteuil in a 1955 Handmacher suit.

1950s Handmacher suit. Vintage fashion blog.
1955 Handmacher suit paired with a 1970s purse.

WHO ELSE could turn grey into such an exciting, tantalising suit that simply animates style and sophistication? A suit that hugs tightly, gently…tailored and moulded to fit YOU. Yes, the young and wonderful look has been captured, of course, by Handmacher.

Vintage fashion blogger
Handmacher suit from 1955.

Witness Handmacher’s highly cultivated tweed…its roots clearly classic, (as every good tweed should be) Handmacher makes it speak the new narrow lines so beautifully. Entirely sauve, easy and awfully

History of the Handmacher suit.
History of the Handmacher suit.

Who designed the Handmacher suit? 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!

history of Handmacher suit
A brief history of Handmacher suit!

1950s Handmacher suit

This is 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 CorcoranThe 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. 

1950s Weathervane Handmacher suit
Examples of a 1950s Weathervane suit.

1950s Handmacher suit

*Editor’s note.

I would gladly represent the Handmacher brand in exchange for an endless supply of his magnificent suits.

The Late 1940s Handmacher Suits From My Collection

I paired the new-to-me beauty with;

  • A 1940s brooch
  • 1950s gloves
  • French Sole Penelope Ankle Tie
  • Wolford tights
1940s Handmacher suit

1940s Handmacher suit Vintage fashion blog
History of the Handmacher Suit.

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.

1940s-1950s women's suit
How similar is the Handmacher suit depicted in the ad to the two I own?

1940s skirt suit
When in doubt, wear a Handmacher suit!

1950s Koret wicker purse Handmacher suit
I paired the 1940s Handmacher suit with a late 1950s Koret wicker purse.


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.

how to wash vintage clothes


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.

What do you think?

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  • Laura
    September 9, 2022

    I just found a couple of weathervane jackets for a song. One need to be reworked. The other is in good vintage condition. How should they be cleaned? You have my email now, so I am open to tips!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      September 9, 2022

      Lucky, lucky you!
      I wrote an article about how to clean vintage clothes, which you will find in the Vintage Fashion Tips section. I also added a couple of useful links to the Handmachr post.

      I send all my Handmacher suits to a trusted dry cleaner. The only exception is my black Handmacher suit from 1952 because the collar is embellished with beads.

      Before you take your Handmacher jackets to the dry cleaner make sure there are no holes or tears!

    • Laura
      September 9, 2022

      Thank you! I would like to send you a picture of what I found! (as well as the label) Can I do that? Also, I want to say that I’ve been reading through some of your articles, and not only are you beautiful, knowledgeable and have fascinating content, you are also an excellent writer! The way you write is so refreshing!

      • Dominique de Merteuil
        September 10, 2022

        Dear Laura,
        Thank you so much for your kind words! Comments like yours make me want to research and write more. I received your e-mail, and I hope you don’t mind me replying here instead. I think this might be useful to a lot of Handmacher fans who are trying to determine the age of the garment. I published an article on how to date vintage clothes with all the clues and tips, but let’s use your two jackets as a case study.

        First, let us start with the main clue-the tag.

        Handmacher launched the Weathervane line in 1947. We read in an ad that appeared in 1953 in Life magazine that “Not so many years ago, Handmacher introduced a completely new kind of suit made of Celanese acetate, the Beauty Fiber. He called it the Weathervane.”

        The “Weathervane tailored by Handmacher a Celanese rayon fabric RED.US. PAT. OFF” tag was used on suits from the date of their inception till the late 1950s or early 1960s. I’m trying to determine the EXACT date when Handmacher changed the design of the Weathervane tag, but I’m pretty sure it was around 1964. The new Weathervane tag is a simple version of the old one. It simply reads, “Weathervane tailored by Handmacher”, without mentioning Celanese acetate fabric. Also, you will find the AFL-CIO union tag attached to the lining of the jacket.

        So, based on the tag on your jacket, we can determine that it was made between 1947-1963.

        Second clue-the seams.

        The seams in my unlined jackets from the 1940s and 1950s are unfinished or pinked. On a side note, I’ve seen 1920s breeches with overlock stitching!
        Your Weathervane styled by Handmacher jacket has neat and finished seams on the back. And I have seen it on many of the 1960s Weathervane jackets.

        Third clue-the shape

        It’s hard to tell from the pictures you sent, but it looks that the previous owner removed the shoulder pads. The collar and overall shape suggest that it’s from the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have a folder on Pinterest with ads for Handmacher suits, and I suggest you go through it and perhaps find something similar. Pay attention to the collar.

        I hope it all helps!

  • Alison Cloonan
    April 17, 2021

    Beautiful Hanfmacher suits top quality and a great read.

  • Elizabeth
    March 30, 2021

    I inherited a mohair jacket Hanfmacher from my mother. I remember her wearing it in the 60s so she had it longer than that. Still in mint condition, buttons and all. Just wondered if they were still in business. Nice to read the history.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 30, 2021

      That’s amazing!

      I LOVE the 1940s and 1950s Handmacher suits. Unfortunately, they are very sought after and therefore awfully expensive. I was lucky with the blue and white suit as I found it on eBay for $70. Normally, they go for around $350.
      Alvin Handmacher died in 1966 and even though the company produced garments till much later, it was never the same. To answer your question, the company is not longer in business.

  • Eva Bayrak
    May 2, 2020

    I love your site!! I am a vintage obsessed and collector, and I try to buy mostly vintage, but sometimes is tricky to find day to day basics for my outfits, that is why I felt the need to create


    Ive just launched the first vintage inspired womenswear collection 100% made in Barcelona, Spain in a very sustanaible way. I hope you like it!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      May 4, 2020

      Hi Eva,
      I’m thrilled to hear that you like It’s Beyond My Control!
      90% of my garments are from the 1930s, the 1940s and the first half of the 1950s. I know what you mean about the day to day basics, especially for running around the park with a dog. I usually opt for a pair of Jodhpurs I would wear for horseriding and a simple 1940s blouse.Thank goodness for dress shields! 🙂

      I’ve just had a look at your website and see that you are influenced by the 1950s?

  • Donna
    April 30, 2020

    This suit, like all of your outfits, brings to the fore your striking and impressive looks! These suits are very flattering on someone of your height – love your delightful shoes too!
    Donna ‍♀️❤️