Over the years, while on my many vintage hunts, I’ve occasionally acquired 1950s dresses with the “Kay Windsor” label in them. Always in cotton, with full skirts and often very pretty prints. I even have a couple of their adorable little numbers in my own closet! Many were made in really cute novelty and floral prints in bright shades against a black background, which is one of my all time favorite color combinations. Though not a big name designer label that many would recognize, I would imagine most experienced vintage clothing sellers are familiar with the name and would be quite happy to get their hands on any of their 40s or 50s day dresses!
The company was actually founded in 1939 in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Carl Shapiro and his father. Their goal was to take the “boring” cotton housedress and transform it into something chic and fashionable. They made a very successful business of it too, with factories all over New England manufacturing stylish moderately priced dresses and suits for career women. The company eventually sold to Vanity Fair in 1971 for $21 million.
Below images are ads from Charm Magazine in 1955 so you can get an idea of just how fabulous this dress line was.
These particular styles were designed by Grace Norman for Kay Windsor. The hats are John Frederics designs.
Left~ Matchstick print dress and jacket came in lime and blue, lilac and aqua or green and gold on a black background.
Right~ Parasol print shirtwaister, lilac, rose, gold or turquoise on black.
Left~Button front shirtwaister with “Gainsborough Girl” neckline.
Right- Pintuck bodice full skirt dress with jeweled bow.
Both were available in dusk blue, champagne, aqua and dusty pink.
Left~ The Paris Touch with pearl buttoned front panel. Came in navy, turquoise, rouge or charcoal.
Right~ The Scooped Neck Sophisticate. Was available in pink, aqua or lilac flowers on black.
Prim and proper shirred bodice shirtwaist dresses in solids and prints with white cotton pique collars
with velvet bow accents. So adorable!
Left~Tabbed empire style full skirt dress.
Right~Coat dress with huge platter buttons.
Were available in navy, plum and grey.
Also, in 1954 there was a popular television show starring Ann Sothern, called “Private Secretary.” And just as today, women were into celebrity fashions and many young women wanted her chic “office” look. So the “Private Secretary” line was created by none other than the Kay Windsor company, and the television star appeared in many of their ads that read “a dress chosen especially for you by Ann Sothern.” (source~Lizzie Bramlett, for the Vintage Fashion Guild label resource.)
So if you looking to add some classy 1950s dresses to your vintage wardrobe, be on the lookout for the Kay Windsor label. Because as their tag line states, they’re “For the Look You Love.”
Have a glamorous day!