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The history of Barbizon, one of the world's finest manufacturers of lingerie, really started in 1917 when three young men - Harry Garfinkel, along with Gerald and George Ritter went into partnership to make silk lingerie. This brave new venture, called Garfinkel & Ritter, worked out of a cramped New York loft with just 12 sewing machines. From an initial capital outlay of just $7500 these three enterprising men had turned over $125,000 in their first year.
Then, in April 1929, Messrs Garfinkel and Ritter rented a small plant and began to weave their own silk fabric under the name of Jaunty Silk Co., Inc. This was the start of Barbizon's unique method of weaving, dyeing and finishing its own lingerie fabrics under what was later, after 1957, to become known as the Jaunty Fabric Corporation.
Established in 1933 and rapidly becoming one of the most respected slip manufacturers of all time, with it's head office in New York Barbizon also had a fabric weaving mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania which gave it the distinction of also manufacturing the fabrics from which they made their lingerie and giving each fabric a very exotic-sounding name. Barbizon's beautifully made lingerie was made in their plant in Provo, Utah from 1946 (originally with just one sewing machine!) after taking over the old Knight Woolen Mill before moving to a newly built 6-acre state-of-the-art factory at 150 W.12th North Street in 1951. The company also owned additional lingerie sewing plants in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Paterson, New Jersey. By 1972 Barbizon's Provo plant alone employed around 450 people and around 900 people in total across the United States.
From this success, Barbizon's fortunes had completely turned round by the summer of 1980 due to the harsh economic conditions of the time and unfortunately their plant at Provo, Utah had to close with the loss of 320 jobs. A proposed buyout afterwards by a group of ex-employees unfortunately failed too.
Sadly, Barbizon's time as an independent maker of fine lingerie finally came to an end when the Barbizon Corporation and Barbizon Lingerie Co.,Inc was sold out to Vanity Fair (VF Corporation) in June 1991.
Opened in 1951, Barbizon's new, purpose-built lingerie factory in Provo, Utah was spread over 6 acres and was completely air-conditioned for the comfort of their employees and utilised what was then 'modern' bright flourescent lighting throughout the factory. It had a beautiful cafeteria as well as an outdoor picnic and lunch area.
All Barbizon lingerie was completely made in-house by Barbizon Lingerie Co. from the fabric weaving through the dyeing process and finishing of the fabric; to the styling, cutting, sewing and trimming of the garments. From their new Provo facility, Barbizon's beautiful slips and lingerie were shipped worldwide. Unfortunately, the pressures of modern business caught up with Barbizon and they had to close their manufacturing plant in Utah in 1980.
Whatever your shape or size, Barbizon would have a slip available just for you. All Barbizon full slips were available in four basic figure types: 'Little Miss' (petite), 'Miss' (tall), 'Little Lady' (average) and 'Lady' (fuller figure) which made for a more comfortable fit. Barbizon had specialist lingerie consultants who toured the stores in various towns and cities and were able to give advice regarding correct sizing.
Standardization of sizes of US-made full slips: CS121-45 Women's Slip Sizes
In 1945 the US Department of Commerce published a set of regulations and guidelines governing the standardization of American-made full slips that proved to be of great benefit to consumers and manufacturers alike. Even though these regulations were a voluntary code of practice they were devised and adopted by almost every major US maker of women's slips, including the Barbizon Corporation. Indeed, Gerald Ritter, Barbizon Corporation's president was a member of the Standing Committee. That means that anyone buying a Barbizon slip could be completely sure that the size quoted on the label was exactly the true size of that slip and could be relied upon across all American slip brands, irrespective of manufacturer. Visit our page entitled 'Women's Slip Sizes (Woven Fabrics) CS121-45' to learn more.
" Wouldn't you just love to look lovelier in every dress you own! It's possible when you're wearing a better-fitting Barbizon 'Body Contour' slip...and a special Barbizon Trained Consultant will show you how. Barbizon's skillful sizing to 4 basic figure types allows for the fact that women of different heights have different proportions, curves, and contours. That's why Barbizon slips are made in 21 different "Body Contour" sizes so that you can be fitted exactly...not just at the bust as in ordinary slips; but at the waist, hips, and in the length. It will take only 59 seconds to find your exact "Body Contour" slip size, so be sure to drop in. Take advantage of this free advice and service while Barbizon's own Consultant is in town ". (Rosheks, Dubuque, August 1951)
Anthony Ritter, Barbizon Corporation: Volume 46 of Oral history project of the fashion industries.
Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.), 1983.
Barbizon Corporation: Barbizon: Portrait of a Company, 1967
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
On graduating from the Antwerp Academy in Belgium, Carine Gilson bought a lingerie workshop to fulfil her ambition to make couture lingerie. Today her lingerie is made in her atelier in Brussels from silk sourced in Lyons and Chantilly lace made in Calais.
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