Label List: Bill Blass, Diane von Fürstenberg, Marc Jacobs and Pendleton

When researching vintage designer stuff, it’s good to have some resources to compare labels and signatures to help you date and compare. An even better thing would be to share these resources. Today I’ve got some examples of vintage American labels to look at.

There’s a lot of talk about heritage labels these days. I like to think the best American designers have a timeless elegance. During the turbulence of the 20th century, American talent was often overshadowed by an influx of European designers such a Schiaporelli seeking refuge in the States. But after World War II, American designers like Claire McCardell embraced their own casual Americaness. By the ’70s Bill Blass was championing the “American Look” — showing collections that were wearable, not art projects. And while I do love fashion as art, on the other hand, a Diane von Fürstenberg wrap dress will never go out of style.

American fashion now has enough history behind it that New York stands beside Paris and Milan as a fashion capital. It’s also old enough that it can reference itself. Marc Jacobs, who first made his name designing for New York label Perry Ellis, now designs for Paris luxury goods house Louis Vuitton as well as his own lines. Jacobs is well known for referencing fashion’s high and low past (case in point, his plastic version of a Whitby Jet snake bracelet). The homliest of American labels to get an upgrade is Pendleton. The Pendleton Textile Mills produced the Yankee version of our beloved Hudson’s Bay Blanket. Recently their Native American-inspired weaves became hipster must-haves. Now their more matronly looks — tartan skirts, sensible blazers, etc. — are being rediscovered for their quality and heritage.