inNovember 13, 2012 - 8:17am
The recent popularity of vintage Gunne Sax dresses brings back wonderful memories of shopping at the Gunne Sax Outlet Store in the old garment district of San Francisco, California in the 70s and early 80s. Back in the day the outlet was the "place" to go for prom dresses and bridal gowns.
The outlet store, which was stuffed to the rafters with hundreds of dresses, was a huge second floor warehouse with concrete floors, high ceilings and an enormous communal dressing room reached through an antique elevator. There was very limited street parking with prowling meter maids who seemed to delight in issuing parking tickets for the slightest violation.
Any special occasion necessitated a visit to Gunne Sax for that "perfect" dress. I remember visiting the Gunne Sax outlet for my bridesmaids and flower girl dresses - we were able to find the identical dresses for everyone - a light blue cotton crinkle gauze with white lace trim with the popular Gunne lace up bodice and fitted wrist length sleeves.
Gunne Sax was founded in 1967 in San Francisco by Carol Miller and Eleanor Bailey. The company originally specialized in contemporary day dresses for the young working woman.
In 1969, Jessica McClintock joined Gunne Sax as house designer, and began designing romantic mid-calf and maxi length country prairie and Renaissance style dresses with laced bodices based on her personal concept of romantic nostalgia created by mixing small floral prints, velvets, cottons, satins, ribbons, lace, and braiding.
The company marketed their dresses to younger women, often in print ads showing hippie women with long wavy hair parted in the middle. Her dresses quickly became very popular and everyone wanted a Gunne Sax. It wasn't long before the dresses were being sold in leading department stores including I Magnin, Joseph Magnin, Saks, and Bullock's.
From the mid-80s Gunne Sax became more mainstream with tight strapless bodices and full skirts using fabrics such as stretch satin and taffeta.
Jessica invested her own funds in Gunne Sax and eventually became sole owner of the firm, renaming the line Jessica McClintock which is still in business today.
Written by Debbie Cantrelle
Deco Modern Vintage on Ruby Lane