Sunday, February 5, 2012

Carolyn Schnurer

I quite like learning about vintage labels and designers, though I am so tactile that it sometimes takes an item of clothing in my very hands to pique my interest. I recently acquired a "Carolyn Schnurer" dress and through my research have found her to be an incredible woman. It seems that if she were a "project runway" contestant (i mean, the height of american fashion today, right? :) kidding), she would win for things like; using gorgeous unique textiles, being able to translate a place of inspiration into design, and using many aspects of other styles without being too referential. 
 Here is a collection of photos of her creations as well as more information about her life and contributions to fashion. Also, there are so many more great dresses (and advertisements) that i couldn't include, so you should definitely google image search her.
 The first dress, which fueled my interest, is in the shop, here :) Many of her items have been featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern art. They are true pieces of history and works of art. 

yes, the divine Lauren Bacall in a playsuit by Schnurer (source)

Dress 1951, source 

from the metropolitan museum of art website 

1950s swimsuit, sold by Deargolden Vintage

Carolyn Schnurer was born Carolyn Goldsand in New York City on January 5th, 1908. She began as a music and art teacher, but found her true fulfillment in fashion, which she studied at the Traphagen School of Design in New York from 1939-40. In 1940, she began working with her husband, at his bathing suit company, Burt Schnurer, Inc.

 In a time when european fashion was greatly missed, due to the war, Carolyn brought creativity and originality to the fashion scene. Because of her ability to adapt, she became  well known for her casual clothing. so much so that the company changed its name to Carolyn Schnurer, Inc. in 1946.

Between the american world wars, becoming free from the european dictates was a theme in fashion. Because of this, fabric and garment designers were encouraged to do original research in museum collections. Schnurer was glad to explore other countries and base her collections on her inspirations. She would then study museum objects that were relevant to those inspirations at places such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan museum of art in NY. 

Her first survey trip was to the Andes mountains, which inspired her Serrano Collection containing her first enormous Success: the Cholo coat. Her other travels included visits to Brittany and Normandy, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, India, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, and Norway. These trips were sponsored by stores such as Peck and Peck and other fabric companies. American Fabrics Magazine, founded in 1946 was one of her greatest promoters. They adored her originality. She became genius at incoporating ethnic elements into american design, without being too literal. for instance,  she would feature a kimono sleeve, padded hem or wide, obi-like sashes on conventional full skirted dresses, pagoda-shaped shoulder and hem details on a bathing suit, beach coat, and shorts, and necklines which left the nape bare in virtually every outfit. She was able to translate the  unique textures that she saw in her travels (like Japanese ink paintings, African wood carvings, or even Islamic architecture) into american clothing that was easy for women to wear in their everyday life. 

After her divorce in the 1950s, she decided to stop working so directly in fashion and consulted for a textile firm. 
     Though her career in fashion was fairly short, her legacy was great. She opened peoples minds to styles and textiles from across the globe and also provided beautiful casual wear that enhanced the leasure times of women. She also gave credibility to american design at a time when it was much needed.


thanks so much for reading, 



  1. Such gorgeous designs with beautiful prints! Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Do you remember where you got this? In Michigan! I remember as you were politely haggling the shop owner on the price that I whispered, "It's a Carolyn Schnurer!". Good score. :)

  3. swoony goodness- I love that colour photo of the model in the backless floral dress- the tie is just wonderful. Thanks!

  4. absolutely stunning dresses!! ^__^

    my blog:

  5. Wow. Those are some crazy beautiful dresses! I'm kinda drooling over that beautiful playsuit with matching robe!

  6. Love these prints, Maria! Thanks for the informative post. I'm in love with everything you've posted here, and especially the dress in your shop.

  7. Such amazing pieces! Those playsuits are to die for...and that backless dress - oy boy! Thanks for sharing a bit of fashion history.

  8. LOVE this post! It was so neat to read about her. I really love that orange dress....and all the others. haha! They're all so beautiful!

  9. Great post, loved that she was so influential in the company they changed the name!