Improving The Scenery At Home: Vintage Fashion Editorial On Designer Ralph Montenero

Continuing my research on vintage lingerie designer Ralph Montenero, I found this charming article in the Billings Gazette. Dated November 26, 1961, Jean Sprain Wilson‘s article, Improving Scenery At Home, is very illuminating — and not just about Montenero. As you read this, note not only the lingerie and fashion info, but how Wilson, herself a career girl, seems rather snide towards housewives yet flirty with Montenero. It sort of adds to the humor and overall charm of this newspaper article.

Ralph Montenero has not yet chosen the woman who will share his breakfast table, but he has abiding pity for those husbands who must each morning face pin-curled, cold-creamed creatures in ragged robes.

His sympathy extends to career women — ones who can hardly wait to get home to shed their fashions for more expensive (but sloppy) comfort.

And he has understanding for the housewife trapped in her nightgown at nearly noon with ever-criticizing in-laws knocking at the door.

Thus, to improve romance, comfort, beauty and modesty in the American home, Montenero has turned his talents to creating lingerie that leads a double life.

To be worn over soft, filmy nightgowns he has made opaque pegnoirs and doublets which do not so much as hint at being “boudoir.”

Unhampered by underpinnings, a woman can don one of these costumes early in the evening, lounge comfortably without pulling the shades down, and in no more time than it takes to stifle a yawn remove the outergarment and be ready for bed.

“The importance is in the cut,” says the handsome, slight, sometimes blushing 27-year-old who has been designing women’s clothes since he was 19. “The costume is made to flatter the bust and hide the stomach. Not jazzy and not with a lot of doodads.”

After eight years of designing daytime wear, Montenero turned to the sleepwear field because “I have a feel for soft fabrics and because “there is more opportunity for originality.”

To avoid the boudoir look, he has combined some unique materials. One of his peignoirs, he says, looks like a shaggy rug. But those strong, man-made fibers are washably practical.

Making up in elegance for what it lacks in practicality is another wide-awake Montenero sleepwear garment lavishly trimmed with fur.

Has he done what we set out to accomplish? As a result of his costumes, do men have a better view at breakfast? Career girls more comfortable neatly? Homemakers less embarrassed over their procrastination at getting dressed?

His “guinea pig” Mrs. Sylvan Doole, (28, mother of two, and an enviable size 10) believes Montenero’s designs do all of that.

And she would be just as enthusiastic, even if he were not her brother.

I’d love to see that shaggy “rug” robe! And the other designs. But this is the best image I could find of the article and the lingerie designs themselves:

As for Montenero himself, I find the presentation of the designer as somehow new to lingerie design rather strange… Perhaps post-Korea, and maybe even distancing himself from Schiaperelli after the end of her fashion house, Montenero did work outside of the lingerie industry; but it still seems misrepresentational.

I continue to research — and hope for more input from you!

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