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Eiseman, Florence

clothes children business eiseman’s

B. 1899

D. January 8, 1988

Birthplace: Unknown

Awards: Neiman Marcus Award, 1955
         Gimbel’s Fashion Award, 1971
         I. Magnin’s Great American Award, 1974

Florence Eisman never intended to be a designer, much less one of the most influential children’s designers of the twentieth century. She studied stenography before she married Laurence Eiseman and settled into motherhood. After the birth of her sons, she taught herself to sew and began making clothes for her boys and other children in the neighborhood.

In 1945, to supplement the family’s income, Laurence took Florence’s organdy pinafores to Marshall Field’s. Impressed by the dresses, Field’s placed a $3,000 order for Eiseman’s clothes, and her business was born. During the early years of the business, Eiseman worked from her Milwaukee home and employed women to do piecework from their homes. A few years later she moved the business to a factory and eventually added additional designers. She retained ultimate control over all designs until her death.

Eiseman’s design philosophy revolved around the needs of the child. Unlike other children’s wear designers of the 1940s and 1950s, she believed that children were individuals and should not be dressed like miniature adults. Therefore she ignored adult fashion fads and crafted uniquely young clothes instead.

Unimpressed by the somber, muted colors of most children’s clothes, she used bright, primary colors in her own designs, often taking inspiration from the modern art she collected. Using the finest quality fabrics, she designed simple garments with clean lines which were often accented with hand-sewn embroidery and appliqués.

She tried to make children comfortable by carefully placing seams, eliminating tight waistbands, and removing encumbering ruffles and flounces. She debuted the trapeze shape and empire waist for children prior to their prevalence in adult fashion. Also, she popularized one-piece garments including the That’s All, which replaced the traditional toddler’s shirt and overalls. She introduced knits at moderate prices for everyday use.

Eiseman introduced a number of innovations which improved the longevity of children’s clothes. By designing adjustable buttons and deep hems into her garments, Eiseman increased the useful life span of the clothes, which made them more affordable. One of Eiseman’s designers, Gloria Nelson, invented the “add-a-hem” which allowed one to drop a hem by pulling a thread, thereby extending the use of a garment.

To expand her business, Eiseman signed licensing agreements with Dan River Mills and Simplicity patterns. From 1967 to 1976 she produced women’s swimsuits. In 1984 she added a couture line to regain the high-quality, hand-sewn garments that she had made in the early years of the business. Since Eiseman’s death, despite declaring bankruptcy in 1999, the company continues to uphold her philosophy of high-quality clothes designed specially for children.

 

Eisner, Michael - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Michael Eisner, Social and Economic Impact [next] [back] Einthoven, Willem

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