Friday, August 7, 2009

Lilli Ann Suits: the late 1940's, Vintage Suits with Fashion Flare

Popular vintage fashion, Lilli Ann suits from the 1940’s show style trends of that era. Fitted waistlines and peplums to the hip level were part of most jacket silhouettes. Jackets could sport double breasted buttons with wide bishop sleeves. Other suits were styled with tie belts or sashed like belted tunics.

Wide skirted coats with buttons down the full length of the back were seen, a men’s wear inspiration from the 1800’s. Wide flared peplum jackets that stood away from a narrow mid-calf length skirt grew in popularity.

Fur was often used to trim jackets. Wide sleeves of fur are shown worn with a slender skirt. $50 to $60 was an average suit price during the mid-1940’s.

After WWII, some ads show Lilli Ann suits being worn for weddings, instead of a long white wedding gown. This was a popular trend at a time when the expense for a gown was considered too high, and a new suit would be a wardrobe investment. As a special part of the bride’s life, many suits from this period are with us today, well cared for and neatly stored for decades.

Schulman actively promoted Lilli Ann’s company image as being a provider of elegance and high fashion wool suitings from San Francisco. Company advertising conveys the target customer as being a perfectionist who is sophisticated and smart.

California as well as San Francisco are mentioned in many of the advertisements in the 1940’s. Drama is also promoted within these ads. During this era, buttons and trims were produced by Lidz and H. Pomerantz & Co, and are listed in the ad copy as a significant trim. Celanse acetate linings were also advertised during this time.

French (Blin and Blin) and other European wools were imported by Schulman after WWII as part of the rebuilding efforts. This fine fabric became important in his campaign to promote Lilli Ann as a luxury suit line. Suits from the wools were priced from $70 to $80.

As the post WWII ‘New Look’ took hold, the Princess style of coat became popular. Lilli Ann coats had wide shoulders and narrow waistline over a full skirt for several years. As 1950 neared, a more slender silhouette would enter the scene, replacing wide shoulders with unpadded ones. The narrowing of shoulders would introduce the slender suit, so popular during the 1950’s.

(This is the second article in a series posted on Lilli Ann. The first article was posted on July 20, 2009. )


Teresa @ good-grace said...

This is a great article - very thorough. I especially love all of the images! No wonder vintage Lilli Ann pieces are so sought after today.

Anonymous said...

I love those styles! I have a Lilli Ann cloak that I like a lot, but it's not that old.

Denise @ Swelle said...

What a great post, so much wonderful detail! I can never get enough of ads, magazines and catalogues from those decades.

Though it sounds like nothing to us now, $40 - $60 for a suit was a heck of a lot of money back then. I'll bet most didn't have a closet full!

50sgal said...

I adore the jacket with fur sleeves. Living in 1955 this year has definitely brought me more into fashion history. It is interesting how the power of the WWII shoulder pads accompanied the stronger Rosy the Riveter woman and then the femenine almost victorian soft sillohuette of sloped shoulders nipped in waist and full skirt became des riguer for the softer more feminine girl. I have to say, for myself, I actually really prefer wearing the 1950s style. Since I am tall, the longer length of the new look is rather nice for me, though now in 55 we are moving towards the shorter lengths I will see come the early 60s. Nice post.

amy said...

Great post! Love your blog, and your shop:)

Jen said...

I have to make another post on Lilli Ann (the later years). It is a fascinating story that weaves in San Francisco and Calif. politics as well!

Cookie said...

Practically my favorite vintage item is a Lilli Ann suit from the 1940's. It's beautifully constructed, with tons of fitted pieces and seams in the jacket. It was originally a pale green, but the costume designer I got it from had tried to dye it black, and it came out a dark heather color. It's VERY Joan Crawford-esque. I just love it.

Jen said...

Cookie-- could you contact me here? pintuckstyle ((at))
thanks, Jen

Queen E said...

This is a very interesting article. I remember traveling to Lilli Ann Corporation on 16th and Harrison Sts., in SF, every Saturday morning starting in the late '50's when the public could purchase Lilli Ann suits, dresses, coats, blouses and the fabric at the wholesale price. I have many suits, dresses, pants, blouses and tons of fabric from those days some of the suits and dresses have never been worn and the original price tag is attached. Thanks for an article that brings back fond memories. I also got a chance to see Mr. Schuman in person.

Anonymous said...

I have my mother's original Lilli Ann lace wedding dress and absolutely cannot wait until the day I get to wear it. I would love to find more pieces!