On one of my recent outings I came across some vintage clothing labeled Jack Winter. Two of the pieces, a navy blue button up with a nautical patch and a long sleeved maroon/gray plaid jacket, were quite pristine and pretty stylish. I had heard of Jack Winter clothing before. I didn’t know much about the line, so of course I did what I usually do in this situation….obsessively research for days. What I learned was totally fascinating and the reason why I love vintage so much. Every piece has a story.
If you have ever opened a vintage catalog or magazine, I am sure you have come across a few of Jack Winter’s artistic and eye-catching clothing ads, which usually featured women with striking make-up, donning colorful and a bit over the top ladies knitwear. But did you know Jack Winter was one of the first clothing designers to make woman’s slacks in the 40’s? Did you also know that Winter was commissioned by Salvador Dali to bring to life his conceptual designs for a bizarre line of women’s bathing suits?
Jack Winter born in Milwaukee in 1909, son of Sigmund Winter, the owner of the popular men’s sportswear retailer Moritz & Winter. According to Jonathan Walford, fashion historian and co-founder of The Fashion History Museum in Ontario, Winter started his company in the basement of his father’s store in 1938. In 1942, because the demand for men’s clothing had declined due to the war, he began making women’s slacks. In 1953, he shifted over to making women’s clothing exclusively and Jack Winter Inc. was born. Into the 1960’s the company added more to the line including women’s sportswear, skiwear, housewares, and fabrics in several of their own retail chains.
This is where it gets interesting…according to Dr. Elliott H. King, professor at Washington and Lee University and a leading Salvador Dali scholar,sometime in the mid 1960’s Dali came to Winter with his designs for a new line of women’s swimwear. The two came to an agreement and the Nightmare Beachwear line was unveiled in Paris in 1965. No one is sure how Jack felt about the suits which featured a woman with eyes over her breasts, one whose breasts were taped down to appear completely flat, and another with a blow up baseball catcher on her back. It is rumored that Dali himself saved some of his inflatable creations to be used in his pool, and are still there today. I have embedded the youtube video below. In the video, the man with the crew cut standing next to Dali is Jack Winter.
Winter retired in 1986 and the company filed for bankruptcy two years later. Jack died in 1991.