Back in the 50s and 60s Miami was America’s top vacation hot spot. A booming post WWII economy meant more people could afford to travel and Florida’s warm weather and beautiful beaches were a huge draw. Known as “America’s Riviera”, Miami attracted wealthy jet setters and celebrities, like Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack. There were swanky supper clubs where big bands played and opulent hotels like the Fontainbleau and Eden Roc where A-listers stayed. It was all about glitz and glamour. Whether lounging poolside or stepping out for a night on the town, one had to be decked out properly for this tropical playground of the rich and famous.
This demand for stylish resort wear created a burgeoning garment industry in Florida. Though not a well known name today, some of the most fabulous resort fashions were made at Alix of Miami, whose founder and president, Alex Schneidman, designed and manufactured chic swimwear and cocktail dresses that were perfect for partying in paradise!
Alex Schneidman was a Russian immigrant who moved to New York, learned the tailoring trade, attended the Traphagen School of Fashion and paid a dress manufacturer to teach him the ins and out of factory production. He also took a course in bone sculpture at Columbia University, which helped him when designing his figure flattering silhouettes.
After New York, he became the production supervisor for dress company, Rhea Manufacturing in Milwaukee, Wisc. After WWII he set up a program for employing disabled veterans, being one the first companies in the country to enact such a program.
In the 1950s Alix of Miami provided the swimsuits for the Miss Florida contest, the performing Mermaids at Weeki Wachee and Sunshine Springs and Gardens waterski show, both popular tourist attractions.
Here is a look at the outside of their building which included a factory and showroom. I love it’s iconic mid century modern lines. It was designed by Morris Lapidus, who also designed many of Miami’s famous South Beach hotels.
More mid century design goodness-interior shots of their showroom
From the St. Petersburg Times in 1955-
“With Alix the figure is all important, and he does his best to provide one where nature failed. His swimsuits boast what he calls “double bras”, one for shape, one for show, and many of his dresses perform figure control duties via linings and subtle tucking trickery.”
I have sold several Alix of Miami dresses over the years and each one was very difficult to part with. The combination of superior workmanship, beautiful fabrics and interesting design details, like sculptural seaming, appliques and other embellishments, make their designs more than worthy to be included in someone’s vintage designer clothing collection, despite the obscurity of this label.
Below are some of my favorite Alix of Miami dresses that went to good homes.
Blue floral print dress with a unique cage neckline made up of intertwining fabric covered cording.
This sarong like style was a popular design by Alix of Miami. They made it in many different prints and fabrics. The triple cord straps, rows of diagonal seaming to give dress a figure flattering fit and matching fabric “petals” were special finishing touches.
Here is the same style done in an ivory embroidered fabric and accented with rhinestones. You can get a better look at the seaming detail.
This went to a lovely lady to wear for her wedding.
Tulip print stripe cut and draped on the diagonal Love the way the fabric was gathered up at the hip for a sexy sarong effect.
A recent find. Blue floral Alix of Miami dress has beautiful white embroidered flower appliques
applied across upper bodice and has a very full skirt.
This beauty is available now. You can find more details here.
In the early 60s Alix of Miami created a new division for launching a line called “Weeds” in response to the growing trend for British inspired mod fashions that had become all the rage. He hired designer Evelyn Sini to create pieces for the line. But in 1965 he sold his whole company to Jonathan Logan.
Till next time…..