Thursday, June 04, 2009

Clare Potter or Tom Brigance?

charles nudelman, clare potter, 19491949 - A model poses for photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe at the caves along the western beaches of Nassau in the Bahamas. The colors of her blouse and shorts are a perfect counterpoint to the colors of the surrounding natural splendor. The pieces are by Charles Nudelman, a wholesale manufacturer of women's sportswear. But who designed them?

Clare Potter was the well known designer for Nudelman starting in 1930. Potter won many awards and was best known for her brilliant use of color. She preferred to make her clothing distinct with color and line, rather than with added decoration. Potter was famous for her pants, which were always perfectly cut and tailored. In doing my research, the last mention I find for Clare Potter of Charles Nudelman is in October of 1948. By July of 1949, Potter was working at Timbertop and designed their line for the fall of that year.

Tom Brigance was another well known designer of American sportswear. He worked in London for Jaeger before coming to New York in 1939 as the in-house designer for Lord & Taylor. He was noted for his use of soft draping, unusual fabrics, and interesting prints. He was absent from the design world from 1942 - 47 while he served in the war. Upon his return, he once again designed for Lord & Taylor, until he announced his resignation in March of 1949 to join Charles Nudelman. He didn't stay long, however, as by 1951, Brigance was the exclusive designer at Frank Gallant.

Was the outfit shown in this photo designed by Potter or Brigance? By looking at the combination of colors and the cut of the shorts, I have to guess that this is Clare Potter's design, but mention of her name as the designer in the magazine spread is noticeably absent. Before this, her name was always used in association with Charles Nudelman, as she had greater recognition. One has to wonder what happened. Was Potter unhappy after 18 years with Nudelman? Was Nudelman dissatisfied with sales? What did he give Brigance to steal him from Lord & Taylor? Why did Brigance leave Nudelman after such a short time? Good questions all, but ones we'll probably never have the answers to.

Shown above, a dove grey rayon crepe blouse cut open to the waist is worn with sand color cuffed shorts of Moygashel linen by Charles Nudelman, available at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949 for $50 (about $459 in today's dollar).