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.