This fantastic evening gown c. 1935 is peach silk shot with silver threads and has a matching bolero jacket. While it is not labeled, it has some hallmarks of designs by Elsa Schiaparelli including the incredible pink plastic zipper in the right seam. Schiaparelli was known for her eccentric use of color and in 1933 she promoted the new plastic zipper being experimented with by the Lightning Fastener Company of Great Britain and Canada.  I’ve read that she was offered $10,000 by them in 1933 to use these zippers in her clothing. Not only did she use them, she often placed them in prominent and unexpected places on the garment and dyed them colors to coordinate with her fabrics. The short jacket or “bolero” was added to many of her designs from the 1930s.

Schiaparelli was indeed featured in clothing advertisements with these zippers. In an advertisement from Vogue (British) 14 April 1937, page 65:

“Schiap and the Zipp

Zipps on day suits, on evening gowns, on cocktail trouser suits. Zipps at front, side or back, in every colour of the rainbow, matching, contrasting…always decorative, always practical.

Schiaparelli has made plastic zipps a feature of her recent collections, and continues – as do other leading couturiers – to use them for fashion fastening.

Lightningtrademark Coloured Plastic Zipp Fastener”

These plastic zippers predate the nylon coil zippers, nylon being invented in 1935 but not used in zippers initially. By 1934, the Japanese company YKK, the US company Hookless Fastener (maker of Talon zippers) and the French company Eclair all had made plastic zippers.  The teeth on these early plastic zippers were quite large, more the size of today’s heavy brass industrial zippers, as is the one on this garment.

Another interesting feature on this dress are the little extra fabric tabs at the front neckline. They are simply tacked on – perhaps to make the rather plunging neckline more modest? Our lovely dress was worn by Serena Randolph (Mrs. Theodore Fitz Randolph) of Birmingham, AL.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday