Thursday, March 13, 2014

C.J. Sternberg, Commercial Illustrator (Textron Textiles, 1946-1949)

Good afternoon!

My, do I have a headache today! Do you think my skull and creepies from Tuesday's post have poisoned my juju or I just shouldn't have worn my contacts for so long yesterday? Either way, I'm blinking back a migraine here at the nonfiction desk, ain't it got me beat! I turned to Life magazine for a little midday solace, and from the years 1946-1949, did I or did I not find the prettiest late forties' textile ads to show to you?

Let's keep a good thought that the Advil kicks in, and on with the show:

All the ads in this post are from a company called Textron that manufactured a line of day, lounge, and under wear in the midcentury...from slips to pajamas to blouses to dresses, Textron literally has you covered in the forties' and fifties'. Super interesting fact about this company? When I googled "Textron", I came up with a company that appeared to deal mainly in helicopters and small aircraft. "Aw, the old textile people must have gone out of business and this is some new outfit with the same name." TURNS OUT, same company! While Textron began life as "The Special Yarns Corporation" in 1923, it diversified into an industrial conglomerate during the course of its almost one hundred year history, including Bell helicopters among their holdings. This history of the company on their corporate website sounds like a textbook example of business adaptation.

But the clothes aren't what we're here for, folks; it's the advertisements themselves that knocked my (non-Textron produced) socks right off! Above, an underwater fantasy of a sinewy, ermine haired nymph undulating in her nightclothes under the dark and lovely sea. This tableau stopped me in my tracks, and I wanted to see if there were more similarly visually stimulating spots for the company. As a matter of fact, there were plenty!

How do you like this girl in her yellow slip towering over a Dali-like landscape of sand, shadow, and diminishing perspective? I like it fine! These illustrations were done by a commercial artist named C.J. Sternberg. You can read more about this woman's career and art on this website, maintained by her daughter...the illustrations she did for these Textron spreads in the forties' are some of the most imaginative, beautifully artistic ones to come out of the decade, if you ask me.

Look at this Greek goddess in her hostess gown shooting parachuted little hearts-and-arrows down to earth! How about those artist angels working on sun-ray'd spools of fabric? Don't you just want some prints of these for your own home? I'm thinking about tracking down the originals in the periodicals here to make color copies. So gorgeous!

More surrealism in the form of roses and vines in more hostess gowns....

EVEN MORE surrealism in the form of ladies' in feathered hats, springing forth from robins' nests. We should be focusing on the blouses being touted here, but how can you focus on separates when they're everything else?!

The flying hair is so fabulous! SO. FABULOUS. As are her dress and the pagoda-laden dreamscape she's involved in here. Notice that the parachute theme continues.

Spiderweb, dandelions, and a beautiful indigo sky:

Act like I would not wear a headress exactly like this, and replicate this ensemble with the addition of a sheer blouse (see mannequin)... the elegant drama of all these ads is really what gets to me. The same thing I was saying the other day about what I like in 1940's interior design-- whimsy with form-- could easily be applied here.

More dandelions, and those oddly foreboding shadows that remind one of same-era Harper's Bazaar fashion photography.

Tangent: notice the vintage slip sizings on the banner fluttering near yon rose bush tree-- 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 38, 40, 42 sounds like someone calling numbers before a play in football, but those stand for the spectrum of women's dress sizes at the time. 

As borrowed from the always informative AND fashionable Jessica Cangiano over at Chronically Vintage, here's what some of those sizes shake down to (as printed in a 1955 Sears Catalog for your 1955 dress ordering convenience):
  • Size 10: 32.5 bust, 24.5 waist, 34 hips
  • Size 12: 34 bust, 25.5 waist, 36 hips
  • Size 14: 35.5 bust, 27 waist, 38 hips
  • Size 16: 37 bust, 28.5 waist, 40 hips
  • Size 18: 39 bust, 30.5 waist, 42 hips
  • Size 20: 41 bust, 32.5 waist, 44 hips

Compare those to the modern sizes (including the 38, 40, and 42) on this website. This is one of the many reasons it drives me INSANE when someone mentions Marilyn Monroe's proportions as some kind of guide as to how women were curvier and more accepted back in the fifties' as opposed to now, in the post-Twiggy, post-Kate Moss era. MM's dramatic hourglass measurements of 37-23-36 would be swamped in a modern plus size...the fourteen or sixteen your cousin's Facebook post presents the bombshell as being is a vintage 14 or 16 and even then that's not entirely accurate (see this near-perfect Jezebel article for a WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER side of the argument).

End tangent. Look at my favorite of these displays, woman-as-tree:

How spooky and beautiful and perfect and way more about the picture than the blouses could this ad be!

Well, my headache is still trying to spring out from behind my poor little eye sockets...woe! Woe unto me! I hope a prescription of strict bedrest, True Detective (I'm two episodes in!), and a non-alcoholic cocktail of crushed ice and diet Sprite will save my life after work today. What about you? Which of these ads capture your imagination? Seen any surreally gorgeous pictures lately? Let's talk!

Hold out hope for me and this whopper, and I'll see you back here, God willing, for Photo Friday! Take care, til then.


  1. Waahh, these are amazing! What awesome, out there ads for some underwear and blouses - so unexpected and, as you point out, surreal. I love the underwater one - can totally see how that grabbed your eye - and both the ones featuring dandelions (no particular affinity with dandelions, just like the pictures...). And, although the backgrounds are distracting, I definitely want some of those wonderfully shaped slips - especially the ones with the wide lace trim at the top. Just lovely. (And I do hope your migraine subsided, you poor thing.)

    1. Thanks, Miss Marie, I was feeling much better the next day (had to! Couldn't feel much worse! haha). And I know, the underwater one and the leaves one are my favorite! So different from what a lot of commercial ad campaigns were doing at the seems REALLY out there, right?

  2. gorgeous! beautiful!
    thanks for discovering it! could see this hanging in my boudoir....
    but the next-to-last picture are not dandelions - city girl you are - it´s wild carrot (at least in german "wilde möhre") :-)

    1. Guilty as charged! I didn't know that was a thing! Thanks for telling me about wild carrots or "queen anne's lace" as it is on some websites; I'll have to look for some next time I'm out somewhere more bucolic. It's so pretty!

  3. I just saw this post under "You Might Also Like:" and it caught my eye because Paul works for Textron Airland. He wasn't allowed to talk about what he was working on for almost two years, but the project was finally announced at the end of last year. His baby is the Scorpion Jet. I had no idea Textron used to make textiles--the name makes more sense now, though.

  4. Its a great job you have done i think. Fashion drawing is so much important on Textile Fashion and its increasing frequently across the world. please keep sharing such things to help the people like me.



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