I find markets fascinating. I think it’s interesting how things become valuable and why, the cycles that trends and objects and styles go through. For some reason I’ve always found my taste to be just after the front of these trends, not early enough to really capitalize on them but not late enough to pay a lot at the height of a bubble.
Speaking of bubbles, the vintage market is experiencing something of a Lilli Ann bubble right now. A few months ago it was Disney circle skirts, commiserate with the weather in the northern hemisphere, and right now Lilli Ann suits and especially princess coats are commanding prices equivalent to one months’ rent. A “princess coat” is one that utilizes princess seams in its construction, or, according to Wikipedia:
Princess seams are long rounded seams sewn into women’s blouses or shirts to add shaping or a tailored fit to closely follow a woman’s shape. They are sewn into the front and/or back of a shirt, and extend from the waist up to the arms.
This is a photo taken by the lovely owner of Adira’s Vintage Boutique in Pasadena, where I happened to wander in last week based on a Yelp recommendation. Within minutes she had me styled in this late 1950s Lilli Ann princess coat and was snapping some pretty great pics that I would happily edit later. Anyway, this coat is the same as this one:
And recently, coats like this have sold for about that much – I’ve seen them sell quickly for $500-$1200 in the last couple months. Are they worth it? Of course. This was the highest quality wool and fur blends with the most expert tailoring available in ready-to-wear. Black is most common, as seen here.
though I have seen some stunning examples in brown, gray, plaid, purple, green, cream and red. Spoiler: I don’t own this coat, and as of this writing it was still available in her shop for $675.
Lilli Ann produced princess-seamed coats starting in the 1940s, like these examples from 1948:
These were designed by Jean Wright and Arthur Carew, and they’re even more rare than the 1950s versions. But the most sought-after coats today are the extravagant examples designed by Billie Dugan and Cosmo Giannoulis in the mid- to late-1950s to accommodate the giant New Look skirts. Giannoulis was a master at shaping and cutting heavy fabrics to still be flattering and fitted even with a huge amount of yardage. “We used lots of fabric. We made coats with so much fabric… that if you dropped them on the floor, you’d think it was a rug,” he said many years later. 1
So, keep an eye out for a princess seamed coat–you might find a treasure.
1Marueen Reilly, California Couture.