Do you ever spot a piece of lingerie and wonder if it is truly vintage? Yeah, I do. All the time.
Today’s investigation began with this lacy Jezebel by Renee of Hollywood garter belt…
Hoping my obsession will be of use to other collectors and sellers of vintage lingerie, I’ve put together hours upon hours of research about the company. Let’s begin at the beginning…
Renee of Hollywood began as a maker of bras in the 1930s. The earliest references I could find (trademark dates and advertisements) were dated 1934. (It was very common at that time for bra companies to work with studios, starlets, and stars; so watch for those connections in the early ads especially.)
Renee of Hollwood focused on brassieres, but did expand their lingerie business to include corsets, girdles, and other foundation garments as time progressed.
Notice how this ad from 1943 includes the Toby Wing Bra by Renee of Hollywood.
Here’s a vintage Toby Wing Bra from Renee of Hollywood.
Additional vintage advertising for Renee of Hollywood lingerie from the 1940s through mid-1950s… Shown by age. (The images will get larger, so click them; and the image names contain the dates.)
By 1957, Renee of Hollywood was doing quite well as a company. (In fact, Renee of Hollywood even had a Ladies Traveling Bowling League team by that time!) But in 1957, the company debuted the Jezebel, a front hook bra with a deep plunge, and that seems to be the start of the company’s glory days.
It is said that in August of that year, the Los Angeles Examiner positively reviewed the Jezebel, calling it a “wicked wisp of a bra”. I was not able to locate any past issues of that newspaper, but I was able to find this review in the Lima News, dated November 22, 1957:
The advertisements call it a ‘wicked, wisp of a bra,’ and that’s exactly what it looks like: a mere froth of an undergarment. But like a fragile girl who can keep house all day and then dance all night, “Jezebel” puts on an appearance of fragility, then functions to yield that highly prized round, firm prettiest of all possible silhouettes.
And the phrase “wicked wisp of a bra” was indeed in print ads in 1957 and 1958.
But the pretty prose and illustrations do not do the Jezebel bras justice. Just look at this beauty!
So sexy and successful was the Jezebel bra, that it spawned variations — and eventually a whole new line of Jezebel lingerie for Renee of Hollywood. You can rather see in the following ads the transformation of the Jezebel bra into a line of lingerie that nearly dwarfs other lingerie names and lines, such as the Pompadour, by Renee of Hollywood.
By 1960, it appears that Renee of Holloywood’s Jezebel had taken the country by storm. In May of that year, there would be a cross-promotional co-branding between the Jezebel line and perfumer Lanvin — Jezebel’s “My Sin”, a “new panty basque by Renee of Hollywood designed to match the young, desired fragrance ‘My Sin’ by Lanvin.”
More vintage ads for Renee of Hollywood lingerie; these from the early 1960s. Note the introduction of bras for fuller figures, the Bra-vado, the Social Plunge, the Jeze-Bare, and that the basque is now called a romper.
Despite the coup of Lanvin, and the numerous advertising pieces found for Jezebel lingerie, Renee of Hollywood may have soon hit financial trouble just a few years later. Like many lingerie companies, Renee of Hollywood was likely struggling with the “letting it all hang out” natural looks which entered fashion in the last half of the 1960s.
Court records in 1964 show Renee of Hollywood legally pursuing stores for sums as low as $200, and at some time in the 1960s (possibly 1966, according to trademark information) the company changes location and corporate name; it now becomes S. D. S. Inc. dba Renee of Hollywood and remains this way at least until 1975. You’ll likely notice the change in advertising style as Renee tried to maintain the brand of Jezebel while trying to appeal to a more youthful consumer.
By the mid-1970s, it’s difficult to find even ads for Jezebel or any Renee of Hollywood lingerie. (The name Renee of California appeared in ads as early as the 1950s, especially when discussing girdles, and by the 1980s, the Renee of California name appears more than Renee of Hollywood. Soon all references to Renee just seem to disappear, leaving just the Jezebel name.) Ads don’t reappear until 1977, indicating another financial struggle and, likely, a change in ownership.
However, the Renee and Jezebel names were still popular enough to garner overseas interest. In 1989, that company president, Irv Duchowny, was invited to tour Soviet lingerie factories; a sign that uplifting women’s breasts was becoming part of those post “tear down those walls” days. Here’s all I could find about Jezebel in the 1990s: A Spiegel catalog listing and one boring newspaper ad.
But the company was still around. At some point, Jack Duchowny became the president of Jezebel/Renee of Hollywood. Jack Duchowny’s daughter, Susan Colman (who had been president of the company since 1994), purchased Jezebel and Renee of Hollywood near the end of 1995. (It’s confusing with Irv there in print in the Russian story; but Jack Duchowny and Beatrice Duchowny, as trustees of the Duchowny Family Trust, were listed in the legal papers regarding the sale to Colman.) But Colman wouldn’t own the label long either.
Jezebel and Renee of Hollywood would end up at the Sirena Apparel Group in early 1998. That too was short-lived. When Sirena went into bankruptcy in 1999-2000, the struggling company began selling-off their lingerie lines, including Jezebel, to focus on swimwear. In 2002, Piege Co., Inc., doing business as Felina, entered the picture and began resurrecting the contemporary Jezebel lingerie label. They use this version of the trademarked name (below) on their labels. It too is an original vintage trademark found on vintage pieces, because you get the trademarks and logos when you buy a company.
So how can you tell just how “vintage” your Jezebel lingerie piece is?
I refer you to my guide about dating lingerie using labels, of course; but here’s a tentative timeline of Renee of Hollywood lingerie labels to help you identify the age of your vintage lingerie by the company.
Earliest version of Renee of Hollywood trademarked logo/label:
Here it is, shown on the Toby Wing Bra.
Renee of California changed their trademarked logo in 1958.
This is an example of that design on a cloth label from this black Jezebel bra from that period.
Not long after, in 1959, as Jezebel became the focus for the lingerie company, the Jezebel name started to become the stylized form the label uses today. The “z” becomes more pronounced with a little shift of bounce, and it is printed in red. (Label from this vintage Jezebel busier.)
Not long after that, both the Jezebel name and the Renee name (without accent on the “e”) are in red. (Found on this vintage strapless Jezebel bra.)
As as laws are changed, the fabric content is added to the red label. While the law is passed in 1960, this could be more recent; likely prior to 1970. (From this vintage red Jezebel bra.)
Here the red print label just bears the name Jezebel, stylized as the name appears today. What dates it is the “Made in U.S.A.”, meaning it is probably from the 1970s or so.
The next version adds a pin-up to the Jezebel name.
This pin-up version of the red Jezebel label doesn’t have “Made in U.S.A.” on it; likely circa 1980-1990s.
If your garment has paper tags attached, note the following:
* the plastic price tag fasteners or attacher aka “pricing gun” was invented in the 1960s, and on the market in 1964;
* a barcode means it was made after 1974.
Sadly, I cannot see the labels on the garter which started this all, but, well, here’s hoping this labor of lingerie love helps you!
It should be noted that while this is quite exhaustive research, it is by no means a complete history of catalog of Renee of Hollywood or the Jezebel lingerie label. Sadly, like much of lingerie history, the information on this vintage lingerie company is incomplete. Not all the lingerie was advertised or otherwise documented; nor does that documentation remain. *sigh*
I will post information as I find it — and if you know anything, please let us know!
Image credits: The links to specific auction and sales listings have been provided, but I’d like to thank the following shops for their images: Miso Vintage, La Meow Vintage, Boudoir Barbie, The Katz House Treasurables, Pink Girl Vintage, A Collective Nest, The Enchanted Bride, and Vintage Score Store.