Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The History of Handmacher Suits

Alvin Handmacher was the president of the largest maker of womens suits in the US. If you love vintage suits, you're probably familiar with the Handmacher name and you know what a high quality garment a suit with this label is.

1953

Alvin Handmacher was born in Chicago into the suit business. His father started a ladies suit company in Chicago in the 1880s. Handmacher graduated from the University of Chicago. In 1939, he moved to New York and opened Handmacher-Vogel with his partner, Irving Vogel. The company's offices were located on 7th Avenue in New York.

1956

Handmacher was the first to use assembly line production methods in the garment industry, an innovation that allowed him to produce huge quantities of high quality suits at reasonable prices. The sewers were trained to become experts in one facet of the suit's construction, whether that be sewing a dart, setting in a sleeve, or adding a waistband. Each sewer had a specific job, and that is what they did day in and day out.

1956

There were 6 Handmacher factories across the US, and each was precisely in tune with the other. Patterns were cut with rigid controls and tension was minutely calibrated on all sewing machines so that a size 10 suit made in New York was exactly the same as a size 10 suit made in Tennessee.

1961

Jane Derby was the designer for Handmacher, as well as for her own couture business. Derby interpreted, but never copied, European fashion trends from year to year. Handmacher suits were available in a wide range of sizing in both women's and junior's, as well as plus sizes.

1961

Handmacher suits were sold through one exclusive store in each city. In 1952, the suits were sold in over 600 stores across the US. 25 store buyers formed a judging panel. They were shown prototypes of new designs each season. Through this process, Handmacher chose only the most popular styles to put into production, thereby insuring a high sell through of product. By 1965, sales of Handmacher suits topped $19 million.

1963

Handmacher also manufactured a lower priced suit called "The Weathervane". These suits were manufactured of Celanese acetate, a less expensive fabric that held up well with use and wear.

Alvin Handmacher died on April 16, 1966 at age 60. The company continued in business until around 1990, but was never as successful as it was during the years when it was run by Alvin Handmacher.

Please note: Biographical information about Alvin Handmacher is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.

13 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

Those are really stunning. You just don't see that level of tailoring in mass-market clothing anymore.

Erin said...

Very interesting post!

Louise said...

Wonderful information- and these suits are incredible.

My Favorite Pieces said...

lovely,thks for the info:I learn so much about vintage clothing from your blogs,xoxo

Lisa said...

Ack, I so regret selling a chocolate brown Handmacher skirt suit I once had. It would fit me again now. I feel sick just thinking about it. *mope*

Sandy's Fancy Pants Antiques and Collectibles said...

Very nicely done history of this man and clothing. Thank you. Sandy

Amber said...

Wonderfully informative! I found you through DearGolden.

*follow*

Bruce said...

A few additional historical tidbits...
The 'WEATHERVANE CUP" was the first women's professional golf tournament in the United States.
The Name of the company, Handmacher-Vogel was changed to Country Miss, in 1972. Country Miss was run by Alfred T. Gifford, out of Alvin Handmachers original office at 533 7th Ave. until the company was sold to Hart, Schaffner & Marx in 1981. The Weathervane division was probably the last vestige of the past, and was closed in about 1988.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Thank you for that additional information Bruce. We all appreciate it!

Jojo's Retro and Vintage said...

Thank you so much for the Country Miss reference- wondering if my label was 70s when garment looked 50s. Thank you!

Mark Goldfogel said...

Alvin was my grandfather and is my middle name. (after him). This is the first time I have seen this page and am fascinated.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Welcome Mark! You had a very talented grandfather!

wardrobeexperience said...

thanks for sharing. i'm recently hunting a weathervane suit on ebay and was looking for some information about handmacher ...

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