Working For My Dad’s Firm in NYC Lead to my Love of Lingerie

15 Jan

Growing up with a father in the textile industry in New York City had certain blessings. My Dad was involved in the women’s lingerie, undergarment and swim suit industry. And among his clients were some of the top names in lingerie at the time: Christian Dior, Maiden Form and many others. When Ginger Rogers started her own lingerie line, my Dad was one of her suppliers of fabrics. Gottex, the Israeli bathing suit company was his client in the late 1960s and 70s.

Dad was the ‘converter.’ He made sure that a printed fabric was made correctly. He had an artist on staff who did the colorizations if they were printing several different color combinations of the same print. He worked with textile factories in the Carolinas and Providence, Rhode Island. With his start in the embroidery manufacturer, he also knew so much about lace and embroidery.

He did very well, until the textile industry in the US started to fall under the burden of cheap imports from other countries.

But when I was in high school and college, Dad was in his most productive and expansive years. I worked in his office in the summer time. I got to know his staff and his customers, his sales men and his clients. At lunchtime I would go out and shop at B Altman’s, my favorite store. Dad would give me his credit card and I would chose items to be shipped to NJ to avoid sales tax on clothing. He paid me a small salary, but the benefits of his credit card are not to be denied.

However working with Dad brought about other benefits.   When I went away to college, his friends, who knew me, wanted to help.   One provided me with 144 pairs of panties. Do you know how popular you are when you have 144 pair of clean underwear?   I cannot tell you how many I gave away my freshman year of college.   And I will not say it was a daily event. But at least once a week, a dorm mate who heard about my stash would show up at my door, asking for a pair. You do not have to do laundry as long as you have clean underwear! I saved the day for many girls.

I carried the need for many pair of undies with me for my adult life. When my daughter went away to college, I did not send her with 144 pair of underwear, but I did send her with about 48. In my mind I had to make this same advantage for her that I had when I went to college.

My daughter and I have spent many hours at Victoria Secret searching for the perfect undergarments, lingerie and comfort clothes. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunities I had for free samples. When I started shopping with her, I realized even more emphatically what a benefit I had with my Dad’s career in with the fashion industry.

As for samples, I was the perfect Gottex sample swim suit size as well. I had multiple bathing suits that were designed and never made it to production. Then they became mine. I still remember a white bikini with hearts on it and a navy blue flowered print one-piece suit.

The bathing suit company was from Israel. Which leads up to my next underwear story. I spent my sophomore year of college in Israel. Before I went, I was once again the beneficiary of many undergarments. Did they really think I used up all those from freshman year? I guess so. Because I got lots more.

In any case, one of my father’s friend sent me four boxes of lingerie for his family and me to my dorm in Israel. When his Mom and sister came to pick up the boxes, we first opened them all, and they said, “Take what you need and what you want.” I did not want to take too much because I already had some I had brought along with me. But they were insistent.   Really, for me and for them, what was another 24 pair of panties and several nightgowns? Wow! I had the most beautiful underwear and lingerie in all of Har Hasofim, the Mount Scopus Campus of Hebrew University.

Mom's peach colored peignoir.

Mom’s peach colored peignoir.

Until my father retired, I never had to worry about buying any negligee, camisole, nightgowns underwear or slips, as well as swimsuits or swim wear cover-ups. I had the loveliest items. I was not the only one to benefit from this lingerie largesse, my Mom and sister also benefited. I still have a beautiful peach colored peignoir my Mom received as a gift from Deena of California. As my sister reminded me, we also were delighted every Hanukkah with gifts of lovely lingerie.

Bras were another story. But luckily a friend of mine’s parents own a lingerie shop, Sylvette’s, in North Bergen, where those could easily be obtained. I will admit, as a tween and teen, I was a little embarrassed to go there and see my friend’s father behind the counter. But he never made you feel uncomfortable. I think because he had the best sense of humor.

I still remember the first few times I went with my Mom. The first time I was o be fitted for a training bra. What is that all about? Can you train your chest? Not really. A few months later, we went back again for me to be fitted for a real bra. I think my friend’s Mom is the person who took me to the back room both times to measure me. Then she and my Mom had a long conversation on what would be best. There were drawers upon drawers of bras and lingerie. Eventually I got over my embarrassment and would go by myself. I loved going in there and looking at all the pretty items.

One of my honeymoon peignoirs.

One of my honeymoon peignoirs.

When I got married, the bounty from my father’s friends continued. I think I was the only bride with three peignoir sets to wear on her honeymoon. My mother and I looked them over to decide which ones I should take with me. Should I really take three? We were going on a cruise and that seemed a little too much.

I can see them in my mind. One was a creamy white satin with inlaid lace on the shoulders of the robe and the nightgown. It was designed for Saks Fifth Avenue. Another was beige chiffon. I was lost in the billowing skirt. The last was my favorite. A Christian Dior with a long cream color negligee with embroidery and a short jacket/robe.

I still have the two sets I actually took, including the Christian Dior one. They were too lovely for me to give away. I guess I am hoping to one day present them to my daughter. And after being married for almost 35 years, I am sentimental.

There are times when I can close my eyes and still see my father’s office. His artist, Christine, lives in California. I often think of her and our laughter at work. My father instilled in me a love of fine fabrics and color. The touch of cloth has meaning to me.

The ‘schmattah world,’ the ‘rag trade,’ the textile industry; the bustle and noise and mayhem of the textile industry was a vital part of my life. I am glad I spent time with my Dad at work in Manhattan. It was a wonderful time leading to a life- long love of lovely lingerie.

 

 

An earlier blog about my Dad’s embroidery shop in New Jersey:  https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/a-hudson-county-embroidery-shop-started-my-dads-career/

 

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2 Responses to “Working For My Dad’s Firm in NYC Lead to my Love of Lingerie”

  1. Protopian Pickle Jar January 18, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    My grandmother & her sister ran a ladies clothing store in NYC during the 40’s & 50’s, specializing in bras, girdles, slips, etc. I still go to specialty lingerie stores to get fitted for bras and like to think about Grandma Fanny and Aunt Annie in their store.

    • zicharon January 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

      The good memories make the experience better!

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