Lilli Diamond cocktail suit available at Blue Velvet Vintage. 38 bust 31 waist
One of my all time favorite lesser known mid century clothing labels is Lilli Diamond of California. When it comes to well constructed, showstopping cocktail dresses and special occasion wear the designer of this line deserves much more recognition than he has received. And, yes, I did say “He”, because the person behind this glamorous line is designer Al Diamond, who was married to the Lilli of the label! But more on that in a minute.
In all the years I’ve been collecting and selling vintage clothing, I have come across a handful of dresses with the Lilli Diamond label and I’ve always been impressed with the workmanship and how sexy, yet classy and sophisticated, the designs were. But I was never able to uncover much information about the origins or designer of this intriguing label.
That was until I found this blog of a lovely ex-burlesque dancer turned vintage collector from Melbourne, Australia. Apparently Julie is a big fan of Lilli Diamond dresses, as well, and has amassed an impressive collection. And the best part is, through her unending tenacity to find out more on the history behind the Lilli Diamond label , she was actually able to locate and interview the REAL Lilli Diamond! How cool is that?
Thanks to Julie, here are some facts about Lilli, Al and how the line came to be.
• Lilli originally came to California to be an actress. But ran into Al Diamond her second day in LA. It was love at first site. So she put her acting career on the back burner to become a wife and mom.
•Al was a Russian immigrant who started out sweeping the floors of a dress factory. When he met Lilli he was poor and supporting his mother and siblings. But he had dreams to one day have his own dress line.
• Over the years Al worked his way up to the cutting room. And when he took Lilli out on the town he would be inspired by the glamorous clothing women wore in Hollywood and Vegas. According to Julie’s website, Lilli is quoted as saying
“If we saw a woman walking down the street in Vegas wearing a glamorous dress, Al would rush straight back to his workshop and the next morning, he would have his own version of that dress.”
•Al eventually quit his job at the factory and started his line with a handful of samples. And, of course, he named his line after his beloved Lilli!
•Lilli Diamond dresses were sold in upscale boutiques across the country and Frederick’s of Hollywood offered exclusive designs in their catalogs and showroom.
If you want to read more about this fascinating couple and their dress line , then you should visit Julie’s fabulous website www.lillidiamond.com.
Al designed Lilli Diamond dresses in the 1950s and 1960s, but sold the company to Campus Casuals in 1965 and they continued to produce dresses with the Lilli Diamond label until the 1980s. Often featuring figure hugging silhouettes and glitz, embellished with sequins, feathers, fringe or jeweled accents, they were definitely designed to turn heads!
Here are a few sold examples typical of Lilli Diamond designs.
Couture Allure sent this lace beauty with the fabulous draped chiffon swag to a good home!
Stunning red and white cocktail dress and coat set from Tanaka Vintage on Etsy.
A shimmery gold bombshell dress in a figure flattering draped sarong style, sold by Fletcher and Webb
60 black fringe Lilli Diamond cocktail dress, a past sale from Blue Velvet Vintage.
I hope these photos entice you to hunt down a one of a kind Lilli Diamond next time you need a standout dress for a special event. And if you find something you like that will fit you, snap it up right away, because this label is becoming more sought after, especially the earlier designs.
Have a glamorous day!