A Dress and Its Label

By: Jeanmarie Tucker

1981.75.4. Black velvet dress with gold trim and sheer sleeves. Front view. 1981.75.4. Black velvet dress with gold trim and sheer sleeves. Front view.

Pulling boxes to process from Pratt House is a fun adventure. One box contained a beaded evening dresses from the 1960’s  worn by Mrs. Ral Parr (Sonia Walshe-Whitman) gifted to the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) by her son, Mr. Francis S. Whitman Jr. One such evening dress stuck out to me because of the large gold embroidered label.

The evening dress is a black velvet shift dress with chiffon sleeves dating to around 1967-1971. A trim runs down the left side of the dress, over the shoulder and down the back. There is a slit along the side of the dress that would have opened as Mrs. Parr walked, revealing the brilliant gold satin lining.The trim is hand beaded with rose-pink and yellow-green glass rhinestones, sequins, and beads.

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The dress’s tag reads “DYNASTY/ DRY CLEAN ONLY/MADE IN THE BRITISH CROWN COLONY OF HONG KONG.” Post world War II it became more common for a designer to sew a label inside of a garment. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the larger designer labels such as the one seen below became popular. 

Hong Kong, then under British Crown rule, developed a booming western-themed garment industry in the 1940’s. By the 1950’s dresses from Hong Kong were highly sought after as they had excellent bead-worked evening dress.  For this reason, as well as the generally low labor and fabric costs, many designers sent their dress patterns to Hong Kong for mass production.

1984.75.4. Detail of Label. 1984.75.4. Detail of Label.

The ‘Dynasty’ label was established in 1953 by designer Dora Sanders inside the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. The label was tailored to the American consumer as they traveled through Asia. The logo features an embroidered gold crown behind the label’s name. By 1959, Dynasty's trademark printed silk dresses were sold in over 600 stores in the United States. Name brand department stores such as Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin, and Lord & Taylor held exclusive designs which were sold  six months before being released to customers in Hong Kong.  After Urleen Chaplain became the new designer of Dynasty in 1964, the label began to produce dresses in other materials, such as the velvet and chiffon dress in the MdHS collection.


Labels of designers who line were sent to be manufactured in Hong Kong. Courtesy o fwww. vintagevixen.com


"Dynasty." Vintage Fashion Guild : Label Resource (12 July 2010) Accessed  22 July 2016 through: http://vintagefashionguild.org/label-resource/dynasty/#