Pert and pretty and definitely green, this 1950s cocktail dress would be perfect for a St. Patrick’s Day party. Jade green chiffon over green taffeta, the full skirt has a green net petticoat for the stylish bouffant look of the day. The boat neckline softly drapes over the shoulders, echoing the cummerbund-style waistband. The ballerina length was popular in the 1950s as was the V-style back neckline. It has a label: Lorrie Deb / San Francisco, a clothing line first launched in November 1950.

This dress was worn by a daughter of Alvin Arthur & Frances Cains Burbage of Charleston, probably Mary Frances, who was born around 1940.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our 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

Holiday party time! In the late 1950s you might have chosen this sassy red taffeta cocktail dress designed by Madeleine Fauth. Nancy Dinwiddie Hawk of Charleston did just that. She purchased the dress at Margaret Riley’s dress shop at 103 Church Street and wore it to parties. The dress bodice is fitted with long vertical darts and has fitted kimono sleeves. This style of sleeve became popular in the 1950s with its sloping shoulder line, in contrast to the padded “power” look of the 1930s and 1940s. The kimono sleeve is cut as part of the bodice, emphasizing a continuous line between the neck and the arm, subduing the shoulder. The bodice meets the full gathered skirt at a low V waistline, trimmed with a band of tucking.

Nancy Hawk (born Nancy Shepherd Dinwiddie in 1922) met her husband, John, as a pre-med student at the University of Virginia. They moved to Charleston in 1951 when he took a position with MUSC. Even while raising nine children, Nancy was an active community leader, a preservationist and nationally honored mother of the year. She died in 2008, leaving a long and influential legacy.

Madeleine Fauth began designing in the 1930s, with one of the 7th Avenue junior houses. She started her own line, Valroy, with a friend but it lasted only a year. At the International Dress Company she again designed for junior and in 1942 did the same at Arkay. Her 1950s dresses often had full skirts and matching accessories.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our 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

Accessorize for the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Snake!

These fabulous purple snakeskin and suede shoes, from the 1970s are labeled Andrea Pfister. Pfister was a noted Italian shoe designer, born in Pesaro, Italy in 1942. After designing collections for Lanvin, he opened his first shop in 1967, branching out to an accessory line in 1974 and a ready-to-wear line in 1976. He collaborated with Anne Klein for many years, invented colors and finishings for the Italian tannery, Stefania, and, since 1993, worked as the artistic director of Bruno Magli Shoes. Pfister describes his art: “My shoes are feminine, sexy, full of humor and perfectly made.” Colors are very important to him and are the starting point of any design.  

These stunning pink, black and white snakeskin sling-back shoes are also from Andrea Pfister.

Brown snakeskin zippered bag, probably 1950s, by Morle. It is edged with tan leather cording matching the long handles and bag lining.

Gray snakeskin clutch purse, probably 1970s, by Gucci, but the design is pretty timeless. It is lined with gray leather, has interior pockets and an enclosed mirror. The brass top spring clasp is covered with the same snakeskin and has Gucci’s distinctive symbol on the front.

We have many more photos of these snakeskin accessories. Click to view more!


These all belonged to the donor’s wife, Quintillia “Tilla” Shuler Ripley (1922-2003) of Charleston.
Gift of Warren Ripley in 2003

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 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

Woman’s lilac shorts playsuit with matching overskirt, c. 1950, made of the “miracle fabric,” acetate rayon jersey. It bears a Sacony / Ciella label, and the advertisements of the day tout the fine qualities of Ciella acetate jersey. From the Charleston News & Courier, February 1952:

Sacony Ciella – It’s a Wonderful Buy!

Sacony Ciella Acetate Jersey – Refuses to Wrinkle, Wilt, Stretch or Sag – Washes Beautifully – In Refreshing Colors. Flexible waistband.”

Both the playsuit and the overskirt have “an ingeniously ribbed” elastic waistband.

The ad was placed by the Harry Miller Fashion Shop, a woman’s clothing store opened in Charleston in 1946 by Harry Miller who came from the wholesale clothing business in New York as a stylist. He married a local woman, Mrs. Jean L. Meyers, and together they offered dresses, coats, suits, blouses and sportswear – direct from New York.

Advertisements for Sacony Ciella garments in other newspapers 1945-1956 claim the garments are “ever-cool and creaseless.” It is “the dress you’ll wear the most – and needs the least care.” “Slide behind a steering wheel, or sail across the ocean. You’ll never go more prettily or free from care than in your Sacony dress of Ciella acetate jersey. America’s most perfect travel dresses!”

Our pink dress example does not have a label, but appears to be the same fabric and styling and both were worn by Mrs. Ruth Holmes Walker Gadsden of Summerville.

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

What could be more summery than a party dress of yellow chiffon? This Emma Domb fashion, c. 1950, has a gathered bodice, encased stays and a back zipper. The full gathered skirt is over net and acetate lining.

It was given to the Museum by Charlestonian Margaretta Childs (1912-2000) and may have been worn by her. With a PhD from Johns Hopkins, Mrs. Childs was an archivist and librarian, She was a member of the Charleston Interracial Committee from its inception in the 1940s, and a supporter of Amnesty International, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the World Jewish Congress. She was active in efforts to preserve historic buildings in Charleston.

Emma Domb was a California dressmaking company active from 1939 through the 1970s, owned by Emma Domb and Lorraine Domb Steinberg. They specialized in wedding, party, cocktail and prom dresses. Their ‘50s fashions were known for their accentuated bodices and full, flowing skirts.

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

Red, white and blue for the 4th of July! Shoes, that is. All from the late 1940s and early 1950s, these stylish pumps are perfect for any celebration.

The RED peep-toe shoes are labeled Mainstreeter’s, size 7 and date c. 1948. In the late 1940s the open toe as well as the opening of the heel and the chunky heel were popular. The white-trimmed bow is a nice accent. This pair was worn by Mrs. Ruth Holmes Walker Gadsden of Summerville, SC.

The WHITE perforated leather pumps from the early 1950s are from Naturalizer / The Shoe With the Beautiful Fit. Started in 1927, Naturalizer became known for its stylish yet wearable shoes, a name that signified quality. In 1945, $5 million worth of Naturalizer shoes were sold. This pair was worn by Margaret Ellen Chandler James of Charleston.

The BLUE leather pumps are also late 1940s, worn by Mrs. William Mims Harper of Darlington, SC. The right shoe bears an I. Miller, Beautiful Shoes / Made in New York  label, while the left shoe label tells us  they were sold at the I. Miller Salon /  Sosnik’s, Winston-Salem, N.C. The squared walled toe is very stylish for the ‘40s, as is the smart 2 ½” heel. The unusual “bow” adds a streamlined flair.

Israel Miller, a Polish immigrant in 1892, was originally a theatrical designer in New York. He established the I. Miller Shoe Company in the 1920s, designing and manufacturing women’s shoes. In 1926 he built a large building on Times Square, with architect Louis H. Friedland and decorated with sculpture by Alexander Stirling Calder as a tribute to the theatre. The carving on one side reads: “The Show Folks Shoe Shop Dedicated to Beauty in Footwear.”

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

Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, hats were perhaps the most essential and flamboyant fashion accessory. Whether going to church, the market or just visiting, a woman would always wear a hat. After World War II, this requirement declined until it was no longer socially important in the 1960s. Even the Catholic Church abandoned its requirement of head coverings for women in 1967.

Straw hat with purple velvet and silk trim, 1890s. The label inside is Mme. Virot / 12 Rue de la Paix, a stylish milliner in Paris. This luxurious hat was worn by the donor’s grandmother, Sarah Jane Cochrane (Mrs. Stephen Sanford).
Gift of Gertrude Sanford Legendre in 1979

Mme. Virot was one of the most sought-after Paris milliners, working closely with the House of Worth. She is mentioned in Edith Wharton novels and her hats adorned a cover of Harpers Bazar Magazine and a Toulouse Lautrec poster. It was said that she was the first milliner who ever solved the problem of how to put 17 ostrich feathers on a single hat without making it look ridiculous or overloaded.

Straw hat with red, white and blue ribbon, 1940s. The brim, cocked over one eye, adds dramatic flair to this fedora style. It was worn by donor’s grandmother, Oriole Nohrden Gaffney of Charleston.
Gift of Neil Norhrden in 2006

Straw picture hat with chiffon scarf, 1950s. This Evelyn Varon exclusive sold at Condon’s for $10.95 and was worn by Regina Kawer Greene of Charleston. Born in Poland, Regina and her husband survived the Holocaust and came to Charleston in the late 1940s.
Gift of the Estate of Regina Greene in 1990

These hats are currently on exhibit in a small Easter display. Come visit!

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