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40's Vintage Suse Heart and Dagger Sweater

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by liveshopdie, Jan 30, 2021.

  1. Ranch Queen Vintage

    Ranch Queen Vintage VFG Member

    @liveshopdie, please post here. Thank you!
  2. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Queen of Tech Staff Member

    I'm familiar enough with wool to know it by feel, but acrylic is also springy. It feels different to wool though.

    You are quite right not to go snipping at it!

    If you aren't completely sure it's wool, you could try wetting a small part of it, say a corner of the hem. Be careful and don't get the whole thing wet! I don't know what moisture would do to the felt and beads.

    Wool will often have a "wet dog" smell (really it's a wet sheep smell!).

    If it acrylic, it's not from the 40s.
    liveshopdie likes this.
  3. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Member

    Interestingly, these sweaters inspired 2016 mens fashion

    "For all the newness of Michele’s vision, these styles called to mind one by a brand largely lost in the annals of fashion history: Los Angeles designer Suse’s (née Susan Dannenberg) “novelty” sweaters of the 1940s, then-pricey knits that earned her plenty of press and celebrity clients, including Barbara Stanwyck and Esther Williams. Most famous of the Suse styles was the Jezebel, whose bejeweled felt heart-and-dagger design itself surely owes plenty to the Surrealist wit of Elsa Schiaparelli. Earlier still? An arrow-pricked heart sported by Ginger Rogers in 1938’s Carefree opposite Fred Astaire and dreamed up by Hollywood costume maestro Edward Stevenson."

    And also this 2014 collection
  4. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Member

    OK this is what I have found about Suse so far. Susan Brecher* started the business in 1941 or 1942** based on the 1947 Life article, the full text of which reads:
    "Six years ago Susan Dannenberg of Los Angeles, who liked sweaters but did not have a sweater figure, knitted some for herself while waiting for a broken leg to mend. She decorated them with bleeding hearts, poodles, flowers and pink elephants with the idea of attracting more attention to the sweater and less to the shape of the wearer. The scheme worked so well that she made some for her friends, then began selling a few. Some of her best customers were Hollywood women like "Slim" Hawks (LIFE, Jan. 20), Esther Williams, Barbara Stanwyck, Jennifer Jones. By now “Suse” (pronounced Susy) sweaters are sold all over the country. They are hand-made, by 20 knitters and three girls who do nothing but cut out the zany appliques. Some are further decorated with beads and splashy fake jewels. The effect is extravagant and so is the price, from $ 50 to $ 70."

    *She eloped in 1945 with Lieutenant Larry Dannenberg, a former studio press-agent. Thus the few articles about her subsequently refer to her as Suse Dannenberg.

    **Here is the trademark for Suse with both names. Claims use since 1942 may mean that's when the business started
    Suse Brecher Dannenberg.JPG
    There are a few scattered ads and articles about her with not much new information, many circling around the famous "Jezebel" sweater pattern which is the same pattern as the one you have.
    The last ad I found for Suse sweaters is in November 1954 JET magazine. There was one earlier that year in Vogue. I see classified ads for a few other shops all the way in Boston selling Suse sweaters so I am positive that they were sold elsewhere not just her Sunset Blvd store. I. Magnin carried them.
    I did find another person by the name of Suse Brecher-Parsons who opened an art gallery just down the road from the Suse shop address in 1959 so I am pretty certain that's the same person and she remarried but I will look further.
  5. liveshopdie

    liveshopdie Registered Guest

    Oh my gosh, this is fun and fascinating, you guys are vintage detectives! and thank you all so much for your input!
    Vintagiality and GemGem like this.
  6. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Queen of Tech Staff Member

  7. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Member

    Retro Ruth likes this.
  8. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Queen of Tech Staff Member

    Gotta say, apart from its newness, I'm not seeing anything that says this isn't original. The stitchwork looks identical. I've looked at a couple of inspired by this design repro sweaters, and they are nothing like it.

    Given how expensive they were back in the day, it seems quite possible it was only worn for special occasions.
  9. liveshopdie

    liveshopdie Registered Guest

    Yes, I saw that Dutch blog, without being able to translate it, but at least the Jet magazine ad was dated. I hear that jigsaw puzzles are very popular nowadays, but this is my kind of puzzle!
    Retro Ruth likes this.
  10. liveshopdie

    liveshopdie Registered Guest

    Yes, I expected it to smell like cedar because it seems to have been so carefully stored. It does have a pale spot or two, and a popped stitch on one of the side seams, but overall it's just in such wonderful condition, no cedar smell, and thankfully no mothballs, I can't abide the smell of mothballs. I haven't dared to wet a spot and see if it smells like a wet dog, haha, I haven't even tried it on yet!
  11. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Queen of Tech Staff Member

    I'd be interested to see how the seams are finished, if you are able to take a close up photo. (I'm a knitting obsessive, just to warn you!)
    liveshopdie likes this.
  12. liveshopdie

    liveshopdie Registered Guest

    Okay! At first I thought maybe the seams were knitted together, I found a small hole and couldn't see any apparent stitching, but at the shoulder I did find some threads that indicate to me that the seams are finished by hand.

    Inside Seam Suse.jpg Inside Seam with Hole Suse.JPG Inside Seam with Thread Suse.JPG
    Retro Ruth likes this.
  13. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Queen of Tech Staff Member

    Yes those look hand finished to me. It's normal for seams on hand knits to be sewn with the same yarn that the sweater is knitted with. So I can imagine you might think it was knitted as you wouldn't see sewing thread! It is sewn, but with knitting yarn. The bit of sewing thread you found is perhaps a later repair, or perhaps was added to give extra strength.

    Anyway, this all looks okay for the 1940s date and a high-end hand finished sweater. It doesn't rule out a later date, as hand knits are still sewn this this way, but had the seams been machine sewn I would have thought that odd.

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