Tag Archives: Textile Industry

Working For My Dad’s Firm in NYC Lead to my Love of Lingerie

15 Jan

Growing up with a father in the textile industry in New York City had certain blessings. My Dad was involved in the women’s lingerie, undergarment and swim suit industry. And among his clients were some of the top names in lingerie at the time: Christian Dior, Maiden Form and many others. When Ginger Rogers started her own lingerie line, my Dad was one of her suppliers of fabrics. Gottex, the Israeli bathing suit company was his client in the late 1960s and 70s.

Dad was the ‘converter.’ He made sure that a printed fabric was made correctly. He had an artist on staff who did the colorizations if they were printing several different color combinations of the same print. He worked with textile factories in the Carolinas and Providence, Rhode Island. With his start in the embroidery manufacturer, he also knew so much about lace and embroidery.

He did very well, until the textile industry in the US started to fall under the burden of cheap imports from other countries.

But when I was in high school and college, Dad was in his most productive and expansive years. I worked in his office in the summer time. I got to know his staff and his customers, his sales men and his clients. At lunchtime I would go out and shop at B Altman’s, my favorite store. Dad would give me his credit card and I would chose items to be shipped to NJ to avoid sales tax on clothing. He paid me a small salary, but the benefits of his credit card are not to be denied.

However working with Dad brought about other benefits.   When I went away to college, his friends, who knew me, wanted to help.   One provided me with 144 pairs of panties. Do you know how popular you are when you have 144 pair of clean underwear?   I cannot tell you how many I gave away my freshman year of college.   And I will not say it was a daily event. But at least once a week, a dorm mate who heard about my stash would show up at my door, asking for a pair. You do not have to do laundry as long as you have clean underwear! I saved the day for many girls.

I carried the need for many pair of undies with me for my adult life. When my daughter went away to college, I did not send her with 144 pair of underwear, but I did send her with about 48. In my mind I had to make this same advantage for her that I had when I went to college.

My daughter and I have spent many hours at Victoria Secret searching for the perfect undergarments, lingerie and comfort clothes. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunities I had for free samples. When I started shopping with her, I realized even more emphatically what a benefit I had with my Dad’s career in with the fashion industry.

As for samples, I was the perfect Gottex sample swim suit size as well. I had multiple bathing suits that were designed and never made it to production. Then they became mine. I still remember a white bikini with hearts on it and a navy blue flowered print one-piece suit.

The bathing suit company was from Israel. Which leads up to my next underwear story. I spent my sophomore year of college in Israel. Before I went, I was once again the beneficiary of many undergarments. Did they really think I used up all those from freshman year? I guess so. Because I got lots more.

In any case, one of my father’s friend sent me four boxes of lingerie for his family and me to my dorm in Israel. When his Mom and sister came to pick up the boxes, we first opened them all, and they said, “Take what you need and what you want.” I did not want to take too much because I already had some I had brought along with me. But they were insistent.   Really, for me and for them, what was another 24 pair of panties and several nightgowns? Wow! I had the most beautiful underwear and lingerie in all of Har Hasofim, the Mount Scopus Campus of Hebrew University.

Mom's peach colored peignoir.

Mom’s peach colored peignoir.

Until my father retired, I never had to worry about buying any negligee, camisole, nightgowns underwear or slips, as well as swimsuits or swim wear cover-ups. I had the loveliest items. I was not the only one to benefit from this lingerie largesse, my Mom and sister also benefited. I still have a beautiful peach colored peignoir my Mom received as a gift from Deena of California. As my sister reminded me, we also were delighted every Hanukkah with gifts of lovely lingerie.

Bras were another story. But luckily a friend of mine’s parents own a lingerie shop, Sylvette’s, in North Bergen, where those could easily be obtained. I will admit, as a tween and teen, I was a little embarrassed to go there and see my friend’s father behind the counter. But he never made you feel uncomfortable. I think because he had the best sense of humor.

I still remember the first few times I went with my Mom. The first time I was o be fitted for a training bra. What is that all about? Can you train your chest? Not really. A few months later, we went back again for me to be fitted for a real bra. I think my friend’s Mom is the person who took me to the back room both times to measure me. Then she and my Mom had a long conversation on what would be best. There were drawers upon drawers of bras and lingerie. Eventually I got over my embarrassment and would go by myself. I loved going in there and looking at all the pretty items.

One of my honeymoon peignoirs.

One of my honeymoon peignoirs.

When I got married, the bounty from my father’s friends continued. I think I was the only bride with three peignoir sets to wear on her honeymoon. My mother and I looked them over to decide which ones I should take with me. Should I really take three? We were going on a cruise and that seemed a little too much.

I can see them in my mind. One was a creamy white satin with inlaid lace on the shoulders of the robe and the nightgown. It was designed for Saks Fifth Avenue. Another was beige chiffon. I was lost in the billowing skirt. The last was my favorite. A Christian Dior with a long cream color negligee with embroidery and a short jacket/robe.

I still have the two sets I actually took, including the Christian Dior one. They were too lovely for me to give away. I guess I am hoping to one day present them to my daughter. And after being married for almost 35 years, I am sentimental.

There are times when I can close my eyes and still see my father’s office. His artist, Christine, lives in California. I often think of her and our laughter at work. My father instilled in me a love of fine fabrics and color. The touch of cloth has meaning to me.

The ‘schmattah world,’ the ‘rag trade,’ the textile industry; the bustle and noise and mayhem of the textile industry was a vital part of my life. I am glad I spent time with my Dad at work in Manhattan. It was a wonderful time leading to a life- long love of lovely lingerie.



An earlier blog about my Dad’s embroidery shop in New Jersey:  https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/a-hudson-county-embroidery-shop-started-my-dads-career/


A Hudson County Embroidery Shop Started My Dad’s Career

26 Feb

Embroidery. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of my Dad. The second is textiles.  These words define his profession.  Yes, he loved my Mom, my siblings and I. But it was the embroidery and textile industry where he spent most of his time.  My Dad’s life followed the course of the American textile industry.

When I was young, my Dad and a friend, Marty T., owned an embroidery shop in New Jersey on the corner of 60th Street and Bergen Boulevard in Hudson County.  At that time Union City was called the Embroidery Capital of the World, and North Bergen had many shops as well.

I remember going to visit him at work on rare occasions. First you entered a front room that showed samples of the work they had finished.  My Dad and his partner did lots of patches for the Army and Navy, as well as fabric.  I still have some curtains I made from fabric made in my Dad’s shop.  Even though it is more than 50 years old, it is in great shape.


Valance made from embroidered fabric from my Dad’s shop.

Behind the showroom was a large room with the big embroidery machines.  We knew not to ever touch them.  The rule was to walk down the middle aisle…turn right and go into the office.

But one time, the machines were down and being cleaned. So my Dad took me around and explained how they worked. How the cards told the machines where to stitch on the fabric.  I was intrigued.  Later I learned that these cards used on the jacquard embroidery machines helped in the development of computers!

When I was about 8, the business had a crisis.   Marty and Dad and taken in a third partner. This guy was a crook, a ‘goniff. ‘ He embezzled money from the firm and disappeared.  He did not pay any of the company’s bills. It was awful for my family.  Dad held three jobs through the help of friends and family.  We never saw him.  He borrowed money from family members to pay off the debts, and later spent many years paying back these loans. It was a tremendous burden that, although it scarred my Dad, it did not stop him.  He was persistent.

Finally he once again got a job in the textile embroidery business with a company called Hanna.   Mario, who owned Hanna, was both a mentor and supporter of my Dad. Dad started in production and moved to sales with Mario’s support.  Now Dad was now traveling around the country selling embroidery, checking the manufacturing and dealing with clients.

Although he learned to love sales, at first he was scared. He often told us how he walked around the block three times before he entered his first sales appointment.

At the time New Jersey and New York City were the hub of the textile industry of America.  North Carolina and Rhode Island had many textile mills. And Dad traveled to these states often.  However, over time the American textile industry declined as more and more fabric was imported from over seas.

Dad did not stay with Mario, he moved on to a company in New York City.  Arnie, the owner, became Dad’s new mentor and supporter. Eventually my Dad became manager of one of this company’s divisions.  He eventually bought this part of the company, started his own company and expanded it.  His niche was swimsuits and lingerie fabric.  He traveled not only in the US but also to Europe, primarily Italy. He had many friends in the textile industry.  I loved the summer I worked for him in Manhattan.  The many people I met did not forget me either.  When I got married, three different designers sent me peignoir sets for my honeymoon.

Many years later I went to Italy.  My Dad said, “Go to Como. It is the most beautiful city.  And it is where the silk industry of Italy started.”  In fact, Como was known as the City of Silk.

Book  from the Silk Museum in Como.

Book from the Silk Museum in Como.

So I went to Como.  Our tour guide had studies textiles at the university in Como. He took us to the Educational Silk Museum.  Even though he did not speak English and I do not speak Italian, we understood each other. Why? Because the machines were so like the machines in my dad’s embroidery shop from so long ago. I knew all about jacquard pints and how the cards told the machines where to stitch.  I recognized many of the pieces of equipment.  My husband just stood to the side as we analyzed everything.  I bought books about the textile/silk museum for both my Dad and for me.

My Dad spent his entire adult life in the American textile industry.  But even before he served in Korea for the US Army, he had one other experience in the ‘textile’ business.  When he was a teenage, Dad had the opportunity to work in a textile warehouse one summer. One of his best buddy’s father owned the company.  Every day they went to work in a giant empty warehouse where the two of them played catch.  But every once in a while a large shipment would come in. They would stencil all the boxes with words saying that there was textile machinery inside.

Years later, Dad was reading a book and started to laugh.  The book told about the smuggling of weapons to Israel before the 1948 war…the warehouse my Dad worked in that summer was one of those known to have shipped arms to Israel.

The American textile industry not only gave my Dad and my family a great life, it also provided my Dad with one of his favorite personal stories.


(Thanks to my brother for remembering with me.)