1950s Silver Block Printed Textile Dress Set by the Tapleys | Retailed at Frost. Bros. | XS
Era: early 1950s vintage
Approx. size: XS/S
bust: measures 36” and I recommend allowing an inch or so of room for ease
top waist: 29”
top length: 22 ½”
skirt waist: 26”
skirt length: 32 ½”
Fitted top with elegant notched neckline and full circle skirt. Both pieces cut out of a stunning shimmering metallic silver on blue block printed fabric.
Material: blue cotton poplin with metallic silver block printed design
closure: fine blue metal Crown zippers on the skirt and top side seams
label: Designed and Hand Blocked by the Tapleys, retailed at La Boutique, Frost Bros.
My research indicates that Dorothy and Roberts Tapley were a husband and wife team working out of New Hope, Pennsylvania mid-20th century. An example of one of their metallic hand-block printed textiles (made in 1948) was included in a textile exhibit titled Textiles U.S.A. at the Museum of Modern Art in 1956. I have otherwise, sadly, found very little on either artist.
The original owner of this avant-garde dress set was Marie Collins McGuire Thompson, who purchased it from high end retailer Frost Bros. in San Antonio Texas where she lived and worked from the 1930s-1960. In 1949 she became executive director of the San Antonio Housing Authority where she gained recognition working to understand and improve the public housing needs of the elderly. 1961 Marie became the first woman to serve as federal public housing commissioner, appointed by then president Kennedy (this role eventually became part of HUD) where she furthered her reputation by working to improve the housing conditions of American Indians. This dress was surely purchased during her time in San Antonio between 1949-1960 and likely in the earliest years of that tenure.
condition: fair/good. stunning, wearable piece of textile art with great provenance. Freshly washed. Stress tears/damage have been stabilized at both underarm seams. previous wearer added a second bust pleat on the left to mask a tear. 2” vertical tear on the back near zipper has been patch mended. Small L-tear in skirt has been patch mended. Although this has been gently hand cleaned, a little residual soiling remains on inner neckline and underarms, which could probably be removed with further treatment, but I’ve opted to leave as-is. Metallic paint is relatively stable, I have handled this set extensively (to clean, mend, photograph) and have noted a very minimal amount of flaking – maybe a few small pieces over many months. However, its clear the blocked paint has undergone some general lifting + flaking over the decades and little losses, especially where the paint is thicker are evident.