Tina Leser

Tina Leser (1910-1986) is among the generation of American designers credited with creating and popularizing the “American Look” during and immediately after World War II. Along with designers such as Carolyn Schnurer, Louella Ballerino and Claire McCardell, Leser designed casual ready-to-wear clothing inspired by non-Western garments and textiles. Based in New York, Leser’s extensive world travels informed her designs and she often spoke on the subject of interpreting non-Western artistic traditions into contemporary fashions. Though she is less well-known today, when Leser was actively designing she was “noted for her casual clothes defined with an air of elegance”1 and for the overall wearability of her creations.

The Tina Leser skirt seen in these photos is labeled a “Tina Leser Original.” During the 1950s, if a designer’s name was paired with “original” on the garment label, it designated a ready-to-wear garment produced in extremely limited quantities and available only at select stores. Bridging the gap between custom made haute couture and widely available ready-to-wear, the buyer of an “original” garment was unlikely to encounter another women wearing the same model. This labeling technique was used by numerous American designers, including Adrian.

A brief 1955 New York Times article on this exact skirt stated that the tape lace embellishment at the hips was hand-made by nuns in a Flanders convent. Leser designed a pattern for the lace, which then took 10 days for 3 nuns to complete. The article comments on the exclusivity of the skirt, noting that it had limited availability and would be a suitable “gift to be handed down from mother to daughter.”2 The retail price was $195, probably a bargain for the amount of handwork involved!

Tina Leser Original
c. 1955
Gift of Mrs. Carita Kadison

Leser20037925-3Detail of 2003.792.5

1 “Designer’s Pattern” Los Angeles Times 8 Oct. 1950.: C9.

2 “From a Belgian Convent” New York Times 17 Dec. 1955.: 20.

2 responses to “Tina Leser

  1. Rachel Clarke says:

    The FIDM library has a large number of sketches and designs from Tina Leser as well!

  2. Rachel says:

    I hope these are utilized…Leser is such an underappreciated designer. Perhaps you could display some of the sketches in the library

Leave a Reply