Vintage early to mid-1950s Dalton novelty cardigan sweater in navy cashmere is enlivened front and back by gambling-themed appliques embellished with beads and sequins. Long-sleeved, fully-fashioned, and ribbed at the cuffs and waistband, the sweater closes with 10 square shell buttons suggestive of pearly dice.
Made of red, yellow and white wool felt (with lamé accents on one), the appliques on the sweater’s front represent: A pair of dice; a card deck queen with cards in her hand, a shot machine, and a roulette wheel. The back features an Ace of Diamonds playing card and a banner embroidered “Nacional”, for the elegant Cuban casino that was a pre-Castro tourist hotspot, back when Havana was known as “the Monte Carlo of the Western Hemisphere.” And, for good luck, there are two tiny faux pearl wishbones at the collar, and a tiny faux pearl horseshoe near the cuff of the left sleeve.
Label inside the neckband reads “Dalton Cashmere, 100% Pure Imported Cashmere”, and a second label, along the tape of the button placket, reads “Nan Duskin, Philadelphia”, for the world-famous high society boutique in business from the late 1920s through the mid-1990s.
Dalton’s biggest seller through the earlier part of the 1950s was the twinset. Photo #9 shows a twinset ad targeted at the college set, with a cardigan (with navy color option) that strongly resembles the sweater here. Later in the decade, Dalton offered many beaded and fox-collared “evening” sweaters.
I am undecided whether this cardigan was appliqued before or after it was sold. On the one hand, the appliques are beautiful and quite professionally done (with ingenious placement of the sequins and beads to create trompe l’oeil effects like dice holes, a slot machine handle, and the “As” on the playing card on back). On the other, the sweater is unlined, and its cut and sleeve length does suggest the early 50s. Either way, it is wonderfully unique!
Measurements are: Bust 36”, shoulders 15.5”, sleeves (uncuffed) 23”, waistband 23” (stretches to 25”) and length shoulder to hem 18.5”.
Very good condition, clean, free of holes, and with all beadwork intact; only issue is slight pilling.
Proud Member of the VFG Vintage Fashion Guild