This is another post on vintage labels to keep an eye out for. The Will Steinman dress company specialized in wedding, debutante and party dresses in the 50s and 60s.
They were known for their attention to detail and fine workmanship. I’ve only come across a handful in my 15 years of selling vintage clothing. But every one of them was extremely glamorous and well made.
From an 1964 New York Times article-
“In New York, the best known evening gown specialists making the so‐called better dresses include Will Steinman, Inc., Cameo Evening Fahions, Inc., Lee Claire, Inc., Malcolm Starr, Inc., Rappi, Inc., and Modern Couture, Inc. Any company with sales of $1 million or more a year in this field is considered big.
Edward Hoffman, president of Will Steinman, who calls his company the pioneer house in the formal industry, said yesterday that the evening‐gown makers were facing increased competition from daytime‐dress concerns.
“This business looks good to them,” he said. “But you must be an evening‐dress manufacturer to make evening dresses. This segment of the industry, must employ skilled help, dressmakers who can sew a dress from beginning to end. It just isn’t conducive to assembly line production methods.”
This means that each dress was made start to finish by only one person, instead of going through an assembly line where different people sewed separate parts of the garment.
The company was popular with debutantes, coming up with 12 new styles a season. All dresses were registered for specific events with debutante committees to ensure no deb showed up at the same event in duplicate outfits!.That would have been high society suicide for sure!
Mr Hoffman also claimed his company sold more debutante dresses in the $100-$200 range than all his competitors combined. In today’s dollars that would be equivalent to dresses in the $800-$1600 range! I used the US Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator for these figures.
“We are designing for the American girl and the American woman,” he said, “and while we are aware of Paris styles and Paris trends, we don’t really give a darn about them.”
All their dresses were made at their 525 7th Avenue, New York premises. At the time of the article they had 90 employees and their head designer was Frieda Saloff. I tried to find more information about her, but so far have had no luck. I’d love to know more about this woman who designed these gorgeous dresses.
Will Steinman was actually the founder of the company back in the 1920s, when it was originally a shirtwaist maker. A buyer for Lerner’s stores requested they make them some long dresses. That’s when they found themselves in the evening wear business.
Mr. Hoffman joined the business in the early 1930s. When Mr. Steinman died in 1961, Mr. Hoffman and two other employees became the owners of the company.
Though this dress company is not well known today, among vintage clothing collectors it is considered a very desirable label.
Here are a few for sale currently online.
A unique 1950s Will Steinman dress in lavender tulle with contrasting peach and burgundy taffeta.
At Better Dresses Vintage
Blue floral Will Steinman dress
at Vintage Virtuosa
1950s white and green tulle Will Steinman dress
at Remember Me Clothing
50s Will Steinman navy tulle and lace over blush taffeta dress.
at Blue Velvet Vintage
Till next time………….