Hope Skillman Fabrics

Vogue, January 1, 1950

I’ve been wanting to write about textile designer and manufacturer Hope Skillman (1908-1981) for a long time, but pictures of her—especially with any sense of what she wore—are hard to find.  This Vogue advertisement, featuring her fabric on a dress by Claire McCardell, will have to do.

As a feminist, designer, and progressive factory owner, Hope Skillman Schary deserves to be better known.  Her New York Times obituary lists her many accomplishments.  Not only did she run her factory, Skillmill, with a mostly female staff, but she was an important member and one time president of the Fashion Group in New York, which advocated for women in fashion.  After her retirement from the garment industry, she headed up the US National Council of Women and was vice president of the International Council of Women.  What a lifetime of achievements.

If you look carefully through clothing advertisements in the forties, fifties, and sixties you will see that many big companies used her wares.  Not only Townley, but also Adele Simpson, White Stag, Catalina and many more turned to her for inventive cottons.  Her fabrics were included in a 1956 exhibit of American textile at the Museum of Modern Art.  But what really made my heart beat faster was the fine print at the bottom of the ad above—in 1950 her fabrics were available for purchase by the yard.

For all you vintage buyers out there—please contact me immediately if you ever come across a length of Hope Skillman cotton.  I’ll pay extra for orange.

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