Cotton print sundresses from the 40s and 50s are my favorite outfits to wear. I guess living in Florida has something to do with my attraction to these dresses, since I get to wear them almost year round!
And not too many people designed sundresses better than Tina Leser. She was the pioneer of playclothes, being one of the first to design ready to wear sportswear and resortwear for the casual American lifestyle. Her innovative designs were heavily influenced by her global travels, since she travelled extensively through Europe, Africa and Asia.
She moved to Honoulu in 1935 with her husband, where she opened a boutique to sell her own designs. In the 1940’s she visited New York, bringing with her a playsuit she had designed from Phillipino cotton fabric. Saks Fifth Avenue ordered 500 after they saw it. She won a Neiman Marcus and Coty Fashion Award in 1945 and continued designing until 1982. You can read more about her in this great article written by Vintage Fashion Guild member, Lizzie Bramlett. Another good source of information on Ms. Leser and other talented mid-twentieth century designers is "New York Fashion, The Evolution of American Style" by Caroline Rennolds Milbank.
I’m fortunate to have two of her amazing sundresses, as it it pretty rare these days to find any of her clothing from the 40’s and 50’s. The first is done in a gorgeous bright tomato red batik print. I love the one shoulder style on the bodice and how she joined the two sections of fabric together with the tasselled tie. She very often liked making her skirts look sarong like. On this dress yards of fabric were gathered at the left side of the waist, the folds creating an interesting focal point.
This lovely dress is definitely influenced by her trip to India, with its exotic print, metallic trim and sari like draping.
Both for sale right now at Blue Velvet Vintage .