Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Henry Rosenfeld - Designer for the Budget Minded

Henry Rosenfeld started his career as a shipping clerk in Manhattan's garment district. He worked his way up the ladder at Bedford Dress, Inc. before striking out on his own in 1942.

The war years were a difficult time for the garment industry due to government restrictions on fabrics and designs. Rosenfeld had contracted to buy fabrics for his line just before the OPA (Office of Price Administration) was preparing to set ceiling prices on fabrics to control inflation and help the war effort. Many garment manufacturers cancelled contracts to purchase fabrics in order to take advantage of the new, lower prices. But Rosenfeld was smart. He honored all of his contracts at the agreed-upon prices that were set before the ceilings went into effect. In later years, when fabric shortages affected the industry, grateful fabric manufacturers gave Rosenfeld first choice.


Elizabeth Hilt was the designer for Henry Rosenfeld, which was a budget label, with dresses ranging from $10.95 - $19.95 in 1946 ($121 - $221 today). Yet the dresses were well cut and simply tailored, which gave them an expensive look. In 1945, Rosenfeld grossed $8,000,000 on sales of 2,000,000 dresses to 12,000 stores.

One of those stores was Lord & Taylor, which featured a Henry Rosenfeld dress in this ad for Glamour magazine in November 1949. This dress was sold in Lord & Taylor's Budget Shops for $17.95 ($163 today). Fashioned of rayon lamé in silver, gold, or gun-metal grey, it has a velvet sash at the waist.

Thank you to Rosenfeld's nephew for pointing out these photos that were featured in a Life magazine article about the designer and his company in 1951.