Saturday, January 4, 2014

Oh Lilli Ann... you are a beloved name in fashion

funkomavintage doesn't do fashion, honey, we do Style!  and that means that you are encouraged to dress in a manner that pleases you, that isn't dictated by Fashion runways...  Oh, if you love something on the runway, from a famous or infamous designer, you can wear it...that's following fashion......but you create your own personal style by putting yourself together in a way that makes you happy....and wear things that look good on you.

 if  a vintage  Lilli Ann coat or suit makes your heart go flutter flutter should indulge your whim!

That may mean, that if pleated pants are in and are worn by everyone, but they make you look like a stuffed sausage...well, then you will never wear pleated pants.  If short puffy sleeves make you look like a toddler that grew too tall, well then, you will never ever wear them even if they are on the Chanel runway, and all your friends are koo-koo for the 40s look (again).

Early 1940s Lilli Ann suits. (

The Lilli Ann fashion company began in 1933, in the middle of the world wide Depression. What chutzpah! Knowing full well that rich people always have money even if the working class does not, Adolph Schuman  believed that quality clothing, made of the best fabrics, with hand-tailoring will always sell well. So, A. Schuman opened his factory in San Francisco, California.
A clothing company named Lilli Ann was born and created by Adolph Schuman, and he named it for his wife Lillian.

Back in those times, quality garments were bought and worn by not only the rich, but the middle class and working class as well.......for one simple reason......... Quality will last when cheap needs to go in the garbage can.
It makes better sense to buy something that will last several seasons, made  of quality fabric, so it can be remodeled if needed.........than to spend far more money on buying cheap clothes again and again and again......

The company quickly grew from humble beginnings as the story goes.....they began in  a Chinatown building with a small crew designing intricately detailed suits and coats. The earliest designs were by Jean Miller, and were labeled "A California Costume".
Whatever the style trend of the year, Lilli Ann company made it and then went farther in the design  to exaggeration. This really pleased the ladies!

So the suits from the 1940’s show style trends of that era.... the fitted waistlines, wide peplums, jackets with single or  double breasted buttons, wide full sleeves, matching tie belts at the waist or with a belted tunic.

Fur was often used to trim jackets and coats. Or sometimes the sleeves featured fur trim.  These dramatic jackets were worn with a  slender skirt. Old ads from fashion magazines suggest $50 to $60 was an average suit price during the mid-1940’s.   $100.00 in 1940 is equivalent to about $1500.00 today.
So, to pay $500.00 today for a Lilli Ann suit or coat is a real bargain!

1940s label from the Vintage Fashion Guild.

After WWII, with weddings soaring as the soldiers came home and women could now snag a groom, Lilli Ann  advertisements show suits being worn for weddings. Saving a lot of money for penny-pinching brides, made it popular when the expense for a gown was considered so expensive for a one-time event. A new suit however, would be a wardrobe investment.  Because they held special memories, vintage  Lilli Ann suits from this period are often found well cared for and neatly stored, ready for a new generation of discerning women.

A 1947 suit, getting married!

(ebay seller  reader149)

Always using high fashion wool suitings, the Lilli Ann Company advertising show their customers as being high-fashion, influenced by the Paris runways. "Exciting young suits for exciting young women" gushes one early 50s ad.

California as well as San Francisco are mentioned in many of the advertisements in the 1940’s. Post-war, Parisian and European-made buttons and trims were produced by Austrian Lidz and H. Pomerantz & Co, and French (Blin and Blin), Fabric-of-France with names like Bittersweet and Bamboo (often blends of mohair and wool with silk), Rodier, and the best fabrics from England. These European wools were imported by A. Schuman after WWII as part of the rebuilding efforts to make Europe strong again. Lilli Ann labels, post-war, show Paris added to San Francisco, to highlight the exclusive fabrics and international design cachet.

Early 50s Lilli Ann vintage wool coat. Fitted wasp waist, flared collar and dolman sleeves. Deep blue with white mohair blend wool imported French fabric. The skirt flares and it buttons at the waist with 3 (non-original) rhinestone buttons. The wide skirt is accented with black velvet stripes that are woven thru the skirt.

50s vintage Lilli Ann coats trimmed with silk velvet.

Lilli Ann always had a great response with the Princess style of coat ...fitted waist and very full skirt. Wartime restrictions allowed some use of "extra" fabric for coats, but compared to the 30s and the 50s, the WWII 40s styles are very slim and skimpy with fabric.

 Lilli Ann coats had wide shoulders and a narrow waistline over a full skirt for several years. As the 50's neared, a more tailored bodice appeared,  to replace wide shoulders of the 40s, with slimmer,  unpadded ones. This style change was influenced by Christian Dior and the dramatic change once the war was over.
The end of this post, shows a few iconic Dior 1947 designs and the complete change from slim tailored suits and dresses, with knee-length restrictions removed!

a 1954 Lilli Ann suit with a fitted line and small collar.
 (ebay seller mirluck)

A 1947 Lilli Ann suit with the WWII influence......broad shoulders, dramatic peplum.
(ebay seller  wyevilleabyss)

 1948 Lilli Ann coat.
(ebay seller mirluck)

1943 Lilli Ann coat.(ebay seller  tisa2)

Vintage 60s Lilli Ann coat....

 60s vintage Lilli Ann ivory mohair wool blend Coat with a slimmer line, contrasts with the wide styles of the 50s.

While the 30s - 50s, Lilli Ann styles were most famous, and the most desirable, the 60s and 70s  with less formal restraint on dressing up....saw some of the detail and quality fall, and by the 80s Lilli Ann was producing work and career clothes for women using polyester. The fantastic era of Lilli Ann came to an end.
Adolph Schuman died in 1985, his heirs continued the direction of the company until the 1990's when it was sold and closed soon after.

60s polyester Lilli Ann from etsy seller, VintagebyBeth

This large white building in San Francisco's Mission District is the former Lilli Ann building at 17th and Harrison. In this former garment factory building, developer Robert Cort rehabbed for internet corporate business office space. The blank wall in the foreground had been the site of a four-story surrealist mural, which the new owner whitewashed. The family and partner of the muralist -- Jesus "Chuy" Campusano -- filed a lawsuit in response, resulting in a $200,000 judgment against the developer. (year dates - mid-2000's)

Post WWII, the shape of the era was a fitted waist and a very full skirt. After the deprivations of The Great Depression during the 1930s, and then the rationing and the denial of basic pleasures, men and women were ready for some wild fashion! They wanted full skirts, lots of petticoats, luxurious fabrics and indulgent feminine styles. Even men's clothes saw more luxurious fabrics, wide full pleated pants, peak lapels, and lots of details.

Based on Dior's 1948 Corolle suits, Lilli Ann didn't miss a beat...and soon their coats and suits had the same full skirts that women lusted for......

Dior's designs from 1947 and 1948....

from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Christian Dior's reputation as one of the most important couturiers of the twentieth century was launched in 1947 with his very first collection, in which he introduced the "New Look." Featuring rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and very full skirt, the New Look celebrated ultra-femininity and opulence in women's fashion. After years of military and civilian uniforms, sartorial restrictions and shortages, Dior offered not merely a new look but a new outlook. Dior helped to restore a beleaguered postwar Paris as the capital of fashion. Each of his collections throughout this period had a theme. Spring 1947 was "Corolle" or "figure 8," a name that suggested the silhouette of the new look with its prominent shoulders, accentuated hips, and small waist."