Reserved for SVDG 1950s Tabak Of California Green Velvet Vest
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Gorgeous single-breasted weskit vest in a lovely shade of pine green velveteen by California sportswear master Tabak, lined in a complementary satin. Low rounded neckline. This is the perfect layering piece to wear over a white blouse with slacks or a full skirt for a festive look. Note that photos have been lightened to show detail.
Bust up to 38"
Waist up to 28"
Note that this vest is short-waisted, and measures about 13-14" from shoulder to waist.
Good vintage condition. One of the buttons has been replaced and doesn't quite match the others, and the satin lining is discolored throughout. Doesn't show when worn.
About the Label
Louis Tabak was born in Russia in 1894, emigrating with his family to New York when he was 7 years old. After serving in World War I, he moved with his family from Chicago to Los Angeles in the 1920s as a salesman for Happy Home Washdresses (which retailed for 98 cents each) and later Everywoman’s Garment Co. He and his brother Max began manufacturing women’s sportswear as early as 1934. Tabak & Verb (together with Martin Verb) manufactured blouses in 1936, and Tabak of California probably developed before 1938 (Max died of tuberculosis in 1938 or 39). The earliest reference to Tabak of California in advertising I could find is 1942, and by 1945 the label was well-known in fashion circles for its versatility and practicality. As with many of these American sportswear companies, Tabak himself was not a fashion designer. He was a businessman, diplomat, promoter, and pioneer.
This piece likely dates to the late 1940s or early 1950s, and at that time, the designer for Tabak was a young woman named Clara Buchanan Fentress. Clara was born in Alabama in 1922, where her father worked as a bookkeeper for Tuskeegee University. Her brother J.C. Fentress moved to LA around 1934 and worked for the California Eagle, at the time the largest African-American newspaper in California, and Clara moved to join him in Los Angeles in the late 1930s. She was already a junior at UCLA when the school announced a new apparel design degree, and she became the first Black woman to graduate from the program. She is, to my knowledge, one of the only African-American designers to work for a major sportswear label in the 1940s and often be credited by name. Clara left Tabak in the early 1950s and went to work for Campus Casuals, and well-known designer Irene Saltern then worked as Tabak's lead designer on and off until 1965. It's possible that this piece was Saltern's, but my instinct says the rounded neckline isn't exactly her style. Either way, it's a beautiful piece of history and a great look for the winter.