June 10, 2014

A brief history of Lilli Ann

Today, while still having a fabulous time on our travels to the Pacific coast joy that is Vancouver, I am profoundly delighted to bring you a special guest post from of my dearest and most treasured online friends, Joanna, who many of you will know from her stellar, informative, elegant and always engagingly beautiful blog, Dividing Vintage Moments.

Joanna is, bar none, the most knowledgeable expert on the once hugely popular mid-century American fashion line Lilli Ann that I have ever encountered. From her vast collection of ads to her wonderful wardrobe peppered with incredibly lovely Lilli Ann garments that she has collected over the years, Joanna's passion for this brand is incredible and inspiring.

My own love of the company and their chic designs has increased exponentially since discovering Joanna's marvelous blog, and this morning I'm thrilled to bring you an introductory post on Lilli Ann written by Joanna herself. I'm honoured and thrilled about this and hope that you'll fall even more in love with Lilli Ann after you read this terrific guest post.

Thank you so much for sharing your passion for, and expertise on, Lilli Ann, with us dear Joanna You're awesome!

When Jessica asked if I might do a guest post, I was very honored and I had to think a bit about what I might write about. I thought about the art and the history of vintage and what it is about vintage that appeals to me. Then, I thought about some of my most memorable posts from my blog and thought that Lilli Ann would be a great topic to discuss.

I thought I might share a bit of the history of the company, vintage advertisements, and of course wonderful suits and coats in my collection. I've also included some Lilli Ann advertisements that you may not have seen before. There are quite a few bloggers who have blogged about the history of Lilli Ann, so I'll keep it brief and image heavy instead.

The main focus of the Lilli Ann Company was in women’s suits and coats. Lilli Ann advertised in many vintage fashion magazines like Glamour, Bazaar, and Vogue in the late 40s to the early 50s. The height of Lilli Ann style was in the mid-1950s. There is something very timeless, chic, and classic about the Lilli Ann silhouette from the mid-50s.

Brief History of Lilli Ann

The Lilli Ann Company began in San Francisco in 1934. Adolph Schuman started the company and named it after his wife Lillian. According to Vintage Fashion Guild, Schuman went to Paris after WWII and started adding "Paris" to the label. He bought many textiles from French companies after the war and helped saved many from closing. He helped to show European weavers how to modernize their systems. Schuman died in 1985 and the company closed by 2000.

Some Lilli Ann suits also contain the name "Adolph Schuman", this occurs more in the later period of the Company’s history. Schuman, through his Paris connection, gained contacts with such fashion masters as Channel and Balenciaga. It is said that Balenciaga anonymously contributed design ideas for the Lilli Ann line as a personal favor to Schuman. Lilli Ann clothing was made from the best textiles imported from France and Italy. A great link if you'd like to learn more on the history of Lilli Ann can be found in this Ruby Lane post.

One of the earliest advertisements I've been able to find is from 1947, as seen below from this Vogue magazine below. The first original labels had black backgrounds and focused on the "California edge" for marketing.

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This image is earlier still and comes from California Stylist Magazine from 1944. This is a very rare look into Lilli Ann fashion in 1944. This image is one of the earliest forms of photography based advertisements that I have seen from Lilli Ann. Lilli Ann was a California based company in its founding years and capitalized on this philosophy. The California Stylist magazine marketed to the California lifestyle and offered subscribers a look into the California fashion industry. It was almost like a trade magazine.

Here are some additional Lilli Ann advertisements from various fashion magazines:

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{Vogue 1949}

1950s ad, don't think the dog is all too happy :):

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I scanned these images specifically for you to see dear CV readers. You may not have seen these before:

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Glamour Magazine January 1954, how interesting to see Dorian Leigh with blonde hair! When you see the label Lilli Annette, it was catered to the petite lady or very glamorous teenager.

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{Harper's Bazaar}

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{Harper's Bazaar}

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There are a plethora of Lilli Images on Pinterest and MyVintageVogue also has some great examples.

Here are also a few images of some of the Lilli Ann outfits I own and adore:

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You honestly can't go wrong with a Lilli Ann princess coat!

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A vintage ad for the very Lilli Ann coat from 1949 that I'm wearing here:

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Hope you enjoyed this small journey into the look of Lilli Ann. If you'd like to pay a visit to my blog, I am at DividingMoments.Blogspot.com.

Thank you, Jessica, for allowing me to be a guest blogger! And thank you CV readers! I hope you know add Lilli Ann into your wardrobe.


  1. Thank you Jessica for giving me the opportunity to present my piece here on your wonderful blog:)) I did want to just ad to the readers (in this comment) that the 1944 ad was found after I wrote the article, this is why I first wrote about the 1947 ad being the earliest I had in my collection. Thank you Jessica! I hope you are having a marvelous vacation!

  2. It was extremely enjoyable to read this wonderful post. I'm pretty new to vintage world, and I don't know that much about the 50s (I was looking for a good book about it). So this post was a bonus! It's pretty amazing that our sweet CV guest, Joanna, has such incredible garments! Very chic, very charming!

    Have a nice time dear Jessica! And thank you Joanna for a beautiful post!

    Miss Beta

  3. I am so in Love With Lilli Ann shapes and creations. I do not wear fur and oftenly it has some on the collar which I find it pretty but just cannot wear some for an ethical reason. But whenever i find something without I am ready to buy some L.A !


  4. I really enjoyed this blog post. I love the pictures!!! The plaid one is my favourite :)

    I have never heard about lilli-ann before now, so thanks for introducing me to something new :)

  5. Thank you Joanna for this terrific post! I have seen Lilli Ann outfits and ads when I was browsing the internet before, and I think the designs are adorable!

    I am not a jealous person, but I must admit I felt a tiny bit jealousy when I saw the pics of your Lilli Ann garments. I particularly love the grey suit with stripes across the waist and the rhinestones. Amazingly beautiful! (I didn't dare to look to much at the coats, we currently have 95°F in the shade...)

    I will certainly have a look at your blog!

    Warm regards from hot and sunny Switzerland, Doris

  6. Hello.
    Anyone who has EVER seen any of Joanna's blog posts must have gasped a few times. My personal largest gasp came out when I saw her in adorable Lilly Ann Company's suits. So, I pay my deepest respect to Joanna and I congratulate you ; Jess, on picking her to be featured on this blog.

    I hope you are having fun!


  7. I am so in love with Lilli Ann. I wish to own a princess coat and suit one day!

  8. I love the pictures with the dogs in particular

    retro rover

  9. Loved this entire post and just had to express my utter adoration of the long black coat - ravishing!

  10. Delightful post with wonderful photos too. Joanna is a so beautiful woman , and very stylish! I love the grey jacket with big flower-shaped buttons...

  11. Oh dear, poor Fifi looks like she's had enough of the photo shoot!

  12. Fabulous images, such a lovely collection of suits.

  13. I had never heard of Lilli Ann until I ran across your blog, so this is a great overview! I also didn't know about the petite "Lilli Annette" label, how clever! I'm petite, so I'll have to try to find a piece from that line!

  14. Thank you for a well written post, I really enjoyed all your scans. :)

  15. The shape these garments give to the body of a woman is just outstanding.
    By just looking at these you can admire magnificent construction.

  16. i wish i had an affinity for vintage suits. and whenever i do think of vintage suits or lili ann i think of you especially!

  17. It was fun to find your post/blog. My grandmother, Mary Clemente, might have been the finisher for one of your beautiful garments. She worked at Lilli Ann for many years and was eventually Secretary of the Garment Workers Union. My mother was in her 20's in the 1940s and photographs of her at that time show her impeccably dressed in suits, coats and dresses that my grandmother made. My barbie doll even had a match teal wool boucle coat with a velvet collar.

    1. That is wonderfully interesting! I'm sure that Joanna - my dear friend who was the writer of this guest post for me while I was on holiday last year - will love to learn about your connection to the Lilli Ann company as much as I did. Thank you very much for sharing that with us (I can just picture how stunning your Barbie must have looked!).

      Wishing you a fantastic February,
      ♥ Jessica

    2. Hi Jessica & Anonymous,
      My mother passed away a month ago and when I cleaned out her personal papers, I found an “employee card” from Lilli Ann. I had no idea she had worked there (in San Francisco 1962–1963)! My mother was a master seamstress from Italy. It was her first job in the US. You wouldn’t happen to have photos of employees would you?
      Thanks! Laura

    3. Hi Laura, thank you very much for your comment. I am deeply and truly sorry about your mother's recent passing. Please know that my condolences are with you and your family during this immensely difficult time.

      Unfortunately, I do not have or otherwise know of any (online) photos of LA employees at work during the time frame when your mom was working for the company. If I should happen across any, I'll post about it here right away for you.

      Long shot though it may be, perhaps someone else reading this post might see your comment and be able to share an image or two. Fingers crossed.

      ♥ Jessica

  18. Love this website! Am desperately looking for my old friend Micki who used to manage the NYC LilliAnn showroom but have lost her last name! Can anyone help? Its been over 50 years!

    1. Hi Kelly, thank you very much for posting here regarding trying to reconnect with your friend Micki. I've never had any contact with that person myself, but it's possible that someone here may be able to help you. Another spot that you might want to consider posting is on the public forum over at the Vintage Fashion Guild website.

      Best of luck to you,
      ♥ Jessica

  19. I have 3 Lilli Ann Silk suits. They were my Mother's. One was her wedding suit in 1955. I think they are gorgeous and they always brought compliments. I was able to wear and enjoy them during the 70's,early 80's till I gained too much weight :( I keep them now just because they are beautiful, and hope to wear them again someday.

    1. How truly lovely. It's beautiful that you inherited three Lilli Ann suits from your mom, including the one that she wore on no less than her wedding day. That warms my vintage fashion + genealogy adoring heart to hear. Thank you so much for sharing your LA story with me/us here.

      Have a fantastic holiday weekend,
      ♥ Jessica

  20. Hi there, thank you much for this article. I found a beautiful real fox fur lily anne coat. It's in amazing condition and still has the tag on it. If someone could help me appraise it I would really appreciate it.

  21. Great post. I love how you paired your Lily Ann clothes with authentic looking shoes to match the time. I am a fan of Dorian Leigh and her sister Suzy Parker. I remember the 50's well. Women dressed so beautifully then. My mother wore a hat, gloves and a suit when we went downtown and dressed my accordingly.

  22. I remember picking picking up my grandmother with my mom at the factory, I think it was either 16th or 17th street in the Mission. She was a immigrant seamstress who worked there for about 10 years in the 50's.
    She had a few of LA suits, I remember because of the labels.
    As I get older I enjoy seeing photos of old time SF and reading about it's history. Thank you.

  23. I have a Lilli Ann Young Young San Francisco coat I cannot find any info on. Anybody know who I might send photos to for more background?

  24. I have a stunning fox trimmed , persimmon color with black fox fur cuffs trim on the bottom and the color it's absolutely in Flawless shape the belt is missing it's just a Teensy bit too small for me but I'd like it to go to somebody who would appreciate it but I don't know what its value is would it be possible for you to give me some sort of guess on what this coat might be worth if I send you a photo

  25. Hello can anyone tell me where the actual lilli ann factory was located? My Grandmother was a seamstress at Lilli Ann I am trying to research more thanks in advance.