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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.