Vintage early 1970s St. John sweater knit set in orange and soft white pairs a sleeveless A-line dress with sporty open-front cardigan, reflecting Marie Gray’s design emphasis on versatility, travel-friendliness, and classic style.
As with all St. John garments, the set was entirely hand-made, with hand-loomed, fully fashioned pieces crocheted together by hand (rather than machine-sewn), and St. John’s signature scalloped trim added to the dress hem.
The broken herringbone pattern on the cardigan and dress bodice reverses colors from one to the other, resulting in a wonderful op art effect. The contrast striped ribbing around the armsceyes and neckline of the dress, and edging the sleeves and open placket of the cardigan create yet more visual interest. (The cardigan hem is ribbed, too, in solid orange).
The dress has a back nylon zipper to the waist. Both pieces are lined in white nylon satin, with the dress lining only partially attached and forming, in the gored skirt, a slip with lacy hem.
Two matching strips of material—a narrow 25” knit one in solid orange, and a 3” wide by 35” long crocheted one in orange-bordered white—accompany the dress. I have shown them as a chic neck-scarf and chunky belt (sans buckle), but of course there are other possibilities.
Cardigan label reads “St. John Knits”; dress is unlabelled. Though there is neither a fabric tag nor selvage for a burn test, I believe the soft, midweight knit to be a cotton blend, likely with acrylic, which the company used frequently in the 60s and 70s.
Launched in 1962 after Marie Gray bought one of the double bed knitting machines offered as a prize on Queen for a Day, the TV show Gray appeared on at the time, by the late 1970s the company had grown from a 4 person operation in the garage to a four factory firm with 400 employees. In 1972, St. John knit dresses retailed for from $70 to $100, or $400 to $550 in today’s currency. In 1976, Marie Gray won the Woolknit Design Award in the women’s couture category.
Exact measurements of this set are: Cardigan bust 38”, shoulders 15.5”, waist (with sides laid edge to edge) 34”, and length shoulder to hem 20.5”. Dress bust 35”, waist (measured where solid color begins) 30”, hips 38”, length shoulder to waist 17”, and length shoulder to hem 37”.
Excellent, professionally cleaned condition.
Proud Member of the VFG Vintage Fashion Guild