Hi there! Vera Neumann may not be an artist whose name you are familiar with, but if you’ve ever shopped for scarves at an estate sale or thrift store, chances are you’ve come across some of her iconic mid-century artwork.
Back in the 1970’s, when Mary Tyler Moore was making it “okay” for women to have successful careers, Vera Neumann was already an artistic rock star, designing tableware, clothing, and her ubiquitous scarves.
Her bright, cheerful designs appealed to women across the country, and on this deep love she built her multi-million dollar business with her husband, George. I hope you enjoy today’s post: Collecting Vintage Vera Neumann Textiles.
I’ll share some historical background as well as provide tips for dating her scarves and other textiles based on her famous “signature” logo. In fact, I’ve got a freebie for you today: a one-page guide to dating Vera!
You will find affiliate links in this post to Vera merchandise that you might be interested in. Any items you buy (Vera-related or not) will result in a small compensation for me that has no affect on your cost. Thanks in advance! Find more info here.
Vera and her husband built their business from the ground up, operating out of their NYC apartment for several years, beginning in 1942. With a DIY silkscreen press they produced napkins and placemats and marketed them to large department stores, like B. Altman & Co.
Her beautiful textiles put her art directly into the hands of people who would not have otherwise been able to afford her original paintings–of which she produced over 8000 in her lifetime. She even went so far as to teach fans how to frame her scarves to create their own affordable wall art.
Vera’s products–scarves, tableware, and clothing–are easily recognized by her “Vera” signature, sometimes accompanied by a lady bug as you see here.
Late 1950’s Era Vera Neumman Scarf
This red floral collage on silk is one of my favorites. Each of her strong, graphic designs began as an individual piece of artwork. Many can be seen in this slideshow of her work called Vera Paints a Rainbow, showing works on exhibit at Alexander Gray Associates gallery in 2015. Prices for her artwork range from $2500 to $10,000 each.
Fashion historians attribute the “signature scarf” to Vera; she initiated the trend when she began signing her products in the late 1940’s. Initially, she simply signed her name, as you see here. Products with lower case “v” date from the late 1940’s to the early 1950’s, unlike those with an upper case “V” like this one, which dates to the late 1950’s.
From a blogger perspective, I find Vera fascinating. She paved the way for creative female entrepreneurs, achieving success at a time with very few women role models. In addition, she established her own “brand” virtually before individual branding was a “thing.”
Early 1960’s Era Vera Neumann Scarves
In the early years, she manufactured most of her scarves in silk; later, polyester would be used extensively. While her square scarves are more common, this one is oblong. You can find and enjoy Vera’s booklet, 14 Ways to Tie a Scarf, HERE.
In 1959, Vera added a good luck symbol–the ladybug–to her signature logo. Initially, it was about the same size as the letter “V.”
Some people collect Vera by color–like gay yellows and oranges–others by design, focusing on florals or geometrics.
In the 60’s she began producing scarves in acetate and polyester, like this one, making her products even more available to the middle and lower classes.
The early 1960’s logo was comprised of Vera + © + the ladybug, which was approximately the same size as the “V” in Vera.
1967 Vera Dress Advertisement
In 1967 she added a line of clothing, named Hooray, and it was a hit! This Vogue ad explains that whenever you wear one, “people say, ‘Hooray, the sun just came out!’ (Whether it really did or not.)” You could purchase one for $18-23, which compares to $155-198(!).
Enjoy taking a look at some of her clothing line on the Vintage Vixen blog.
Late 1960’s to mid-1970’s Vera Neumann Scarves
Before hombre grew popular in the 2000’s, Vera had already experimented with it in the 60’s and 70’s, as you see here on another oblong scarf, as she gradually transitions from lighter to darker fall leaves. Available.
From the late 1960’s into the mid-1970’s, the size of the “V” grew larger than the ladybug.
By 1972, according to Design Sponge, Vera’s merchandise could be found in over 20,000 shops around the globe.
She definitely enjoyed the almost infinite ways that leaves could be represented, including this collage of oak leaves in various shades of beige and brown. Available.
Again you can see the late 1960’s to mid-1970’s logo, comprised of a smaller ladybug + Vera (with a large “V”) + ©.
In 1972, the Smithsonian Institute in DC held a show of her work, A Salute to Vera, a Renaissance Woman. It included works in watercolor, oil, and collage, most of which found their way onto one type of textile or another. Available.
Interestingly, Perry Ellis got his start with Vera in 1974, only leaving in 1978 to start his own company.
A Washington Post reporter in a 1978 story wrote, tongue-in-cheek, that archaeologists in the future would discover “two major American artifacts: the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and ‘millions of rainbow-colored relics bearing the name Vera.'”
And now that I’ve told you all about her, you’re going to see Vera everywhere; I can almost guarantee it(!).
Mid-Late 1970’s Era Vera Neumann Scarf
This scarf represents what I consider Vera’s duller, more geometric work, typical of the late 1970’s. But those who love that 70’s style (I lived through it!) eat the designs up. Available
The mid-late 1970’s logo was comprised of Vera + © but the darling ladybug drops out of sight.
Late 1970’s Era Vera Neumann Napkins
When Vera and George began their business back in 1942 they initially focused on tablewares–placemats and napkins–which they could easily produce on their homemade silkscreen.
This highly graphic image of black leaves against an almost Escher-esque background is one of my all-time favorites.
I’m not entirely sure that the Vera dating process is the same for table linens as for scarves, but if it is, then this napkin dates to the mid to late 1970’s, since the ladybug is missing.
Vera earned millions as an artist and received enormous acclaim during her lifetime; she was no starving artist! The fact that the Met and the Museum of Modern art both have Vera artwork in their collections recognizes the quality and influence of her work.
But unfortunately after her death at 88 in 1993, her work lay dormant until a merchandiser acquired the license and merchandise began popping up in Target, Anthropologie, Schumacher’s, and Crate & Barrel. We can easily identify these products since they bear Vera’s logo, including the little ladybug. Happily, Vera lives on!
In fact the New York City Museum of Art and Design has an exhibit planned for August 8, 2019 through January 26, 2020 called Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann. I hope to attend 🙂
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