Sunday, September 12, 2010

Designer Profile: Tina Leser

There are some clothes which transcend the era in which they were made and stay modern looking forever. There are many items from the great mid-century American designer Tina Leser that I would put in that camp. Tina was a contemporary of other great American designers like Claire McCardell, Anne Fogarty and Bonnie Cashin. She originally started designing for her own clothes shop in Honolulu in 1935 and her creations were influenced by Hawaiian prints and styles. By the 1940s Tina was working in New York and selling her 'American sportswear' to the masses in stores like Saks. The war years - when American women were unable to purchase European designs anymore - heralded a golden age for American fashion, and clothes had to become practical as well as decorative. The Vintage Fashion Guild even says Tina referenced American factory workers by using flannel and plaid in her frocks.
Tina loved to travel and was inspired by the prints and silhouettes of India, Mexico, China and more.

Tina was also an accomplished swimwear designer; she had an arrangement with Gabar swimsuits for many years. I particularly love these swim/play suits with floral embroidery on the bodice.

And here is a dress with very similar embroidery, courtesy of Fuzzie Lizzie. I wonder if they were from the same collection, or if this was one of Tina's signatures. Regardless, it is lovely work.

Tina wound up her business in the early 80s and passed away in 1986. Her wearable creations cost a pretty penny these days, but it isn't too hard to find items from her label.
One day I'm determined to make a real life Tina Leser mine, but meanwhile here are a few items - some still for sale - that you and I can both drool over. Whether done simply in plaid or gingham or stopping traffic in florals or paisley, Tina Leser's prints truly were divine.


betty jordan wester said...

i love the dresses with the front-side gathers. i sew but i don't know what they're called ;D thanks for posting great pics!

mini dresses said...

Awesome designs in frock. Very unique! Thanks for sharing such nice captures.