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Celebrity Vintage Spot

Jessica Alba does vintage yet again and wore this fabulous black Ceil Chapman on the red carpet. Ceil Chapman is one of my favorite bombshell designers with an interesting history - check out what the Vintage Fashion Guild (of whom Shrimpton Couture is now a proud member!) has to say about the design house:


Ceil Chapman’s son Peter, described his mother’s design skills as being akin to engineering and indeed, if one studies her skilful draping, tucking and folding of fabric it is clear as to what he meant.

Born in Staten Island (where the family maintained a home throughout her lifetime and beyond) she became a Chapman when she married her first husband Samuel, with whom she went in to business in 1940, having previously set up a company with Gloria Vanderbilt, which traded, albeit briefly, as Her Ladyship Gowns.

The earliest Chapman label, ‘A Chapman Original’, endured for around three or four years until it gave way to the simple black on white, or white on black Ceil Chapman’, which endured until a needle and thread was incorporated in to the logo in the late 1950s to early 1960s. During their business partnership that ended in the mid1960s Ceil and Samuel divorced and she went on to marry Tom Rogers but retained the Chapman name as it had built a following among both the public and movie stars.

Ceil is often said to be Marilyn Monroe’s favourite designer and although this may be rather a sweeping statement the star did indeed wear some Chapman designs as did a variety of other stars such as Deborah Kerr, who was a personal friend, Elizabeth Taylor for whom she designed a wedding dress and Mamie van Doren, who chose a white, beaded, strapless Chapman gown to attend a film premier on behalf of Universal Studios publicity machine that was ‘marketing; her as a star.

Ceil designed for the movies and television and specialised in cocktail and more formal evening wear. Although her clothes were not cheap she did manage to make them affordable to many and her label could be found in department stores and boutiques. Favourite fabrics included silk, taffeta, jersey, chiffon, organdy, cotton and metallic brocades often embellished with beads, lace and sequins. She tended to stick to fairly tried and tested signature styles and so her designs are easily identifiable but also often copied.

Ceil was astute and derived additional income by lending her name and stylish image for advertising purposes to include Cadillac, which featured elegantly Chapman dressed models draped over luxury cars. Ceil even appeared, pictured in her studio, in advertisements on behalf of Western Union Telegrams and Playtex.

The business she ran with her ex-husband ran into financial difficulties in the mid 60s and thereafter she designed dresses under the Ceil Chapman for Miss Winston label, which was a line targeted at the younger woman.

Ceil Chapman died in the late 1970s.

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