Vintage Colura Lingerie: A History Lesson

Hi Slip, I know you’re super busy, especially with the holiday season, but I’m hoping you can help me with something…

I spotted this listing for a “Colura” and I’m wondering if “Colura” is a fabric or a brand? I’ve never heard of it before and I don’t want to be missing something awesome, so if you could let me know quickly, I’d really appreciate it! Here’s a $15 tip/bribe for helping!

Sweet Sue

Hi Sweet Sue,

Let me see what I can do!

If you look closely at the listing (another great one from The Dream Merchants II), you’ll see, at the top of the description, that Colura is listed as the brand. But, I can see how the bulk of the description might leave you a bit confused, as it does go on and on about the fabric…

It’s unlikely that you have alighted on this listing – for a Colura – by accident. If you know about Colura, then you know, and we don’t need to tell you. There might be, but we cannot prove it, some fabric out there in this great big wide world that is as heart-breakingly soft as Colura but we can be pretty sure there is nothing softer. This nylon sets the standard by which everything else in the world is judged, including the kids’ grades at school. But, once we pass into the realms of genuine luxury goods, we do need some firm assurance about the condition and this, we would say, is just about as close to perfection as could be reasonably required. If this negli was hanging there, in Macy’s or wherever, being sold as brand-new, you’d check it, approve it and pay whatever it costs . . . to own what is truly one of the world’s treasures.

But Colura was definitely a label or brand, not the name of a specific textile.

This lovely illustrated ad from 1944 for the Colura lingerie label, with the tag line “Feminine Fashions,” says the brand was located at 185 Madison Avenue, New York.

At Dollhouse Bettie, there’s a vintage Colura red and white candy cane striped bralette and pantie set which not only shows the cloth label, front and back, but an original paper hangtag in the shape of a butterfly. (The paper tag has “June 1946” stamped on the back.) Both the fabric label and the paper tag show the “Feminine Fashions” line as well.

While information on the Colura lingerie brand is scant (I continue to use Newspaper Archive, my own magazines and books; so I may find more), I can tell you that the lingerie line’s marketing included the name of designer Helen Hunt Bencker.

The ad (also with the Colura butterfly) dates to 1949.  The year appears to be the end of Bencker with the lingerie label. While I found a few scattered Colura ads in the early 1950s, it seems the line was gone soon after that… Likely purchased by another company, so I’ll be checking those records too. And there’s a lot more to come about Bencker also. But I wanted to get you some of the basics in case you wanted to bid!

UPDATE: Here’s my profile on Colura lingerie designer Helen Hunt Bencker.

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