Honestly, I started collecting scarves at a young age. They reminded me so much of paintings, something I longed to collect but couldn’t afford. It was only after studying fashion history that I realized I had amassed quite an impressive collection of scarves. While I collect them much less now, I couldn’t resist my newest acquisition . . .
Lucky me to have come across this mint condition scarf! “Downtown” by Wesley Simpson. To me, finding this scarf was like scoring a Renoir painting for $7 at a flea market. Wesley Simpson (1903-1975) was an American textile manufacturer who was responsible for bringing many artist-designed textiles to the market after World War II.
He started his career in retail sales c. 1919 for Cheney Brothers. Simpson job was to sell textiles to dress companies throughout the garment district in Manhattan. During this time, he met his wife, Adele Smithline (later known as Adele Simpson, the famous designer).
During the Great Depression, Simpson established his own business as a textile converter. This means that designs were produced in-house or via freelance artists, and then the actual printing was contracted to outside factories. Simpson was the chief stylist of his company, which came to be known as Wesley Simpson Custom Fabrics, Inc. The company operated from 1932 to 1950.
My scarf has a lovely repeat of a furniture store, with a sale sign in one window, and a bed frame in the other. Next to it is most likely an apartment building. So cute! The border is a contrasting yellow, and the edges are hand-rolled and tacked down. There is no care label, but the fabric feels like rayon. I’d say this scarf is from the late 1940s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a very similar scarf from c.1948:
Has anyone seen a scarf like mine? Please leave a comment if you have any clues!
For more information on Wesley Simpson, please read this excellent presentation by Lynn Felsher.
And take a look at this fantastic ad campaign featured on The Vintage Traveler
You should also buy a copy of Artist Textiles: 1940-1976 – it’s worth the investment!