Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Designer Polly Hornburg and Calypso Shops

Designer Polly Hornburg wearing one of her own dresses, 1952.
Polly Hornburg was a Bermudian and former model who started designing play and resort clothes in the early 1950s.  She got her start in the business after seeing a movie which featured an African chief wearing a brightly colored cotton toga.  After finding that the cottons were made in England for African trade, Hornburg placed an order with the fabric manufacturer.  She was surprised to receive 10,000 yards of various native prints and her Calypso Shop was born.  She eventually added exotic silks from Siam, batiks from India and other ethnic fabrics from around the world to her selections.  By 1957, Hornburg had 6 Calypso Shops in Bermuda and Jamaica and was also selling her clothing throughout the US both in boutiques and department stores like I. Magnin and Bonwit Teller.  She designed everything from simple shorts and tops to evening dresses, along with swimsuits and diving gear.  Hornburg died in October, 2010 at age 94.

I've shown a few garments by Polly Hornburg over the years, but never anything that I am more in love with than this blouse and skirt set from 1954. Made of African Khanga cloth the bold design is used to great effect here.  Bright turquoise is the main color.  Sold for $35 in 1954 (about $294 in today's dollar.)

Also from 1954, this black and white Khanga cloth blouse and skirt is a wonderful use of a border print.  Sold for $34 in 1954 (about $286 in today's dollar.)


From 1955, this top and pant set is fashioned from an Indian cotton batik print.  The set sold for $48 in 1955 (about $391 in today's dollar.)

 Another Khanga cloth blouse, this time paired with simple black pants.

13 comments:

nadine said...

All these pictures are great & I love the dresses! Can't quite imagine them on a petite body, tho - sigh. The pant set reminds me of Doris Duke. Happy Tuesday.

Trudy Callan said...

Beautiful pieces.

Erin said...

Very interesting! Are you anticipating her death, or did you mis-type that year? :)

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Accckkk! 2010 2010!!!!

Nicole said...

I have never heard of this designer. These are some amazing pieces. I am really in love with the black and white Khanga cloth blouse and skirt. Simply lovely! Thanks for sharing.

BaronessVonVintage said...

How fascinating. I've noticed African and batik cotton 50s dresses a lot lately and this helps to explain one possible source of (or at least major contributor to) this look! I love that I always learn something when I visit your wonderful blog! :)

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Aren't her prints great? I've only had one piece by Hornburg over the years. It was a 50s cotton batik blouse. Long gone, but now I wish I'd kept it.

materfamilias said...

Thank you so much for your supportive and informative comment on my blog today. I'd love to know how you managed the right-clicking/copyright pop-up. . . does that require considerable tech savvy?

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

My web designer did that for me, but I think it is just a matter of simple code that you can add to your blogger template. A Google search should bring up the info you need. It doesn't stop everyone and it can be frustrating for regular readers who want to copy a web address, but I had no choice.

Mad Scientist said...

I love the fisrt two dresses and the jacket at the end. These are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

what did she use on the tag? was it her name, or "calypso shop"? i'm curious.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

The tags usually say Calypso or Calypso Shop, but I've also seen her name under that.

plainsarah said...

Wonderful! Stunning pieces and I love learning about 'new' vintage to keep my eye out for!

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