May 01, 2016
BY STUART MESIRES
As warmer weather approaches, my mind turns to summer dress and to my collection of vintage Vested Gentress.
The Vested Gentress was started in 1961 in Valley Forge, PA by Fritz “Bud” Jackson Jr and his wife, Naomi. It was a print-based line known for its whimsical hand screen printed fabrics featuring Bud’s drawings. Bud started his career in advertising and had a talent for drawing cartoons – two were featured in Look magazine and Playboy.
The Vested Gentress’ fabrics were hand screen printed in its factory located in Trappe, Pennsylvania. Because the fabrics were hand screened, small batches and specialty orders of prints could be made. This accounts for the huge variety of Vested Gentress prints that were produced. Although, I have been collecting The Vested Gentress for quite a while, I am still able to come across prints that I have never seen before – this adds to the thrill of the hunt! The blouse pictured below was a rare find. It was made especially for the 1964 Democratic National Convention. It features donkeys holding balloons, cowboy hats with the initials, ‘L.B.J.’ and 1964 printed badges.
I think the reason that I love the Vested Gentress so much is because of the irreverence of the prints and their ability to make me laugh. Bud’s drawings showcased his sense of humor and often featured animals such as birds, cats, dogs, frogs, horses and elephants, amongst others.
A recurring image in the Vested Gentress prints was a drawing of a dog based on the Jackson’s Newfoundland, Briney Bear. Briney Bear appeared in many different prints as well as on the Vested Gentress hang tags.
Nautical themes were often portrayed in The Vested Gentress prints.
One of The Vested Gentress’ signature dress and skirt designs was called, ‘Heads and Tails’. The front of the dress featured a row of horses facing forward. The back of the dress featured the backsides of the horses – most often bows were applied to the horses’ tails.
The earliest Vested Gentress labels featured a woman dressed in equestrian clothing.
Later Vested Gentress labels featured a taller, more slender woman dressed in Equestrian clothing with a taller hat and the addition of a riding crop.
The Vested Gentress produced a clothing line for girls called, ‘The Wee Gentress’.
The Vested Gentress also produced a woman’s sport line. It was called the Pro Line and was sold exclusively in Pro Shops.
The Vested Gentress was sold in a handful of signature Vested Gentress stores located on the East Coast. It was also sold in boutiques located throughout the country. Some of these boutiques can be seen in vintage newspaper advertisements.
Sadly Bud passed away in 1985 and shortly thereafter, The Vested Gentress closed its doors. Fortunately for us, however many of Bud’s fabulous creations can still be found today on the vintage market and never fail to crack a smile.