Tag Archives: Mid-Manhattan Collection images NYPL

NYPL Digital Collection: An Open Book

This collection is so vast that it took me two hours to find again what I found by accident the day before! Bookmark any site you might want to return to,  to save your sanity. (For example, knowing that I wanted to re-visit “Costumes — 1930s” did not take me to “evening wear” from the 1930s. That has its own navigation listing. And, since the Mid-Manhattan Collection runs to 34,746  images, and is “navigated” by alphabetical order, I had to scroll down through a lot of “Birds” before getting to “Costumes” in the alphabetical listing! )

I hope this post will give you a better way…. The “Book” method. (I feel pretty silly for not realizing that I would find this feature just by scrolling down past the bottom of the page that filled my screen!)

It’s worth trying, because there are treasures there.

A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932.

A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932. The graded red gown is by Louiseboulanger.

I found it most enjoyable to view this fashion collection as if I were turning pages in a book. To try it, Click Here, and immediately Scroll Down until you see a series of gray descending boxes (collection, sub-collection, etc.) Then, from that drop-down on the left, choose View as Book.

If you want to see two pages at a time, click the double rectangle.

If you want to be able to read the information about an item, click the single image rectangle, and then magnify the image as many times as needed, and push the image up so you can read its bottom text. At the bottom of this sketch, there is an exact year written in pencil: 1937.

I love this particular 1930’s “book” because it also shows men’s evening clothes illustrations from the 1930s. This one, for example, reminds us that tuxedos and “white tie” cutaways could be purchased in either black or navy.

Check out other decades, like “men’s clothing 1920s” …

Men's clothing, 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.

Costumes — Men’s clothing 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.

If you’d like to browse men’s fashions for the 1920s, click here , then click on any image that interests you; scroll down below the image, look at the left of the screen and, again, choose View as Book.

Digression:  As the pendulum of fashion in the 1920s swung away from those skinny-legged, “pegged” and cuffed, “high water” trousers from men, “Oxford bags” appeared as the equal and opposite reaction:

Cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear'em.

Punch cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear’em.

Maybe the the equal and opposite reaction to “jeggings” will be a fad for palazzo pants and 1930’s beach pajamas ….

About that 1920 illustration of two men in suits and a woman in a bathing costume: it would be tempting to write a whole story about it —  the Ferris wheel in the background (Coney Island?), the reason the men are fully dressed while on the beach, their relationship to the girl, and to the airplane or balloon they are all watching so intently….

The Open Book Approach, or Getting What I Needed Without Using the Alphabetical Navigation List:

The trick I finally figured out when using the Mid-Manhattan Collection is that you can do a search — say, for “Molyneux” — then click on any one of the images that shows up, Scroll Down, and that will lead you to a sub-collection “book” of related images, at a convenient scale for viewing. You don’t have to click on individual images and enlarge them, one by one. I love the “book” option.

I was especially happy to find designs by two lesser-known couturiers from the 1920s, Louiseboulanger and Jane Regny. (I’ve been saving other images of their work, but haven’t written posts about them yet.) Louise Boulanger was very influential in the late 1920s.

Other good news: 180,000 public domain images can be found through  the New York Public Library online. Click here.





Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Menswear, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs

Andre Collection at NY Public Library Digital Collections

Andre Studio Collection: Reefer Coat design by Pearl Levy Alexander, 1939. Copywight New Your Public Library.

Andre Studio Collection: Reefer Coat design by Pearl Levy Alexander, 1939. Image Copyright New York Public Library.

Andre Studios in New York was a business which produced sketches of French couture, with variations for the American market, selling the sketches to clothing manufacturers from about 1930 on. A collection of 1,246 Andre Studios sketches from the 1930’s is now available online from New York Public Library and from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA.)  The name on most of the sketches is Pearl Levy Alexander, and that is the best online search term.

NOTE: please do not copy or republish these images; their copyright belongs to the New York Public Library and they have been made low resolution as required by NYPL.

An excellent article about the Andre collection can be found here as a pdf. (The name of the article’s author is missing!) It explains how (usually unauthorized) sketches of couture wound up in the hands of dress manufacturers, to be copied or modified as they worked their way down the economic scale, eventually reaching the cheapest parts of the mass market.

In fact, Pearl Levy Alexander signed/designed many hundreds of sketches which included Andre Studios’ suggested modifications and variations of current designs.

The designs in the Andre Collection may include adaptations suitable to the American market, but some have attributions to known couturiers — e.g., “Import R” was their code for Patou —  as on this red wool siren suit (for wearing in air raid shelters) designed by Jean Patou in 1939.

Andre Studio's sketch of a red wool

Andre Studios’ sketch of a red wool “siren suit” by Patou. 1939. “R” was the import code used for Patou. Image Copyright New York Public Library.

You can recognize Andre’s “Import Sketches” of original couture because they were done in black and white; the modified designs, suitable for U.S. manufacture, are more elaborate drawings and use some gouache — white or colored watercolor. This “black marocain” suit is an actual sketch of a Chanel model; in the lower right corner you can see “Spring/Summer 1938; Import Code J = Chanel.”

This sketch says “Designed by Pearl Alexander” but acknowledges that it is “after Molyneux” — not an exact copy.

This boxy coat with construction details is Alexander's modification of a Molyneux design. Copyright NYPL, Andre Collection.

“Boxy coat after Molyneux” 1940, designed by Pearl Alexander, is Alexander’s modification of a Molyneux design. Image Copyright NYPL, Andre Collection.

On the other hand, this suit, dated 1/30/39, simply says it is designed by Pearl Levy Alexander. The sketch is highlighted with white opaque watercolor (gouache) and has a pink hat and blouse.

This black and white sketch is a 1938 suit by Schiaparelli (Import Code AO):

Andre Studio sketch of an original Schiaparelli Suit, with a note about the embroidery. Copyright New York Public Library.

Andre Studios’ sketch of an original Schiaparelli suit, with a note about the embroidery. (1938) Copyright New York Public Library.

If you are looking for designs by particular couturiers, look at the last two images in the collection. They are lists of designers’ names; the “Import Key” for Spring/Summer 1938 is a long list of designers whose work was sketched for Andre’s manufacturing customers, including Chanel, Heim, Lanvin, Vionnet, Nina Ricci, Redfern, Mainbocher, Patou, Paquin, Schiaparelli, Worth, and many less remembered designers, like Goupy, Philippe et Gaston, Bernard, Jenny, et al. You can see it by clicking here.  A search for these individual names may (but may not) lead to a sketch. (There’s also an Import Key for 1939-40.)

Mainbocher design, Andre Studio Sketch. Copyright New York Public Library.

Mainbocher design, 1938; Andre Studios Sketch. Image Copyright New York Public Library.

World War II momentarily cut off free access to Parisian designs, and this particular NYPL collection of sketches ends in 1939-40. However, Andre Studios continued to produce sketches into the 1970’s.

Three Sources for Andre Studios Research

In addition to the portion of the Andre Studios collection donated to New York Public Library — over 1,200 sketches made available online — the Fashion Institute of Technology (NY) and the Parsons School of Design also received parts of the collection of Andre Studios’ sketches and scrapbooks, photos, news clippings, etc., which were donated by Walter Teitelbaum to (and divided among) all three institutions.

The Parsons School has information about its Andre Studios collection here, including this sketch of four coats designed by Dior in 1953. Parson also supplies information about other places with Andre Studios and Pearl Alexander archives.

FIT has not digitized its part of the collection, but researchers can visit it. For information, click here.

Bonus: More Thirties Designs in the NYPL Mid-Manhattan Collection Online

Image from New York Public Library's Mid Manhattan Collection. Copyright NYPL.

Image from New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan Collection. Copyright NYPL. “Dormoy’s Frock, Agnes hat, Chanel, Molyneux, Mainbocher.”

Another, completely different collection of fashion sketches from the 1930’s — many in full color — can be found here, at the NYPL digital collection, in the Mid-Manhattan Collection. [Note, when I asked it to sort “Costumes 1930s” by “date created,” images from 1937 came before images from 1935, so don’t assume it’s chronological.]

Nevertheless, if you explore the alphabetical list at the left of the Mid-Manhattan Collections page, scroll down, down down under Costume, and you’ll find many images by decade, before and after the nineteen thirties! I was surprised by this 1850’s bathing costume cartoon:

Morning, Noon and evening dress for a

Morning, Noon and evening dress for a “Watering Place.” Image copyright New York Public Library.


Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs