Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tish-U-Knit Sweaters by Leon Goldsmith

Posted on behalf of Lenore Goldsmith -

I’ve recently become aware that my grandfather was not only in the sweater making business in the 1930s and 40s, but that he himself patented a design for a sweater on February 13, 1940. The sweaters he manufactured and sold were called “Tish-U-Knit” sweaters. Each label sewn into the sweaters he made consisted of the style of the sweater, the brand name, Tish-U-Knit, and then the words “designed by Leon”. My grandfather, Leon Goldsmith, was the owner of Olympic Knitwear, which was located in the garment district of New York at 1372 Broadway.

Like many residents of New York at that time, my grandfather’s parents had come to the United States just before the turn of the century to make a better life for themselves. My grandfather started his sweater business in the mid to late 1930s.
In my research, I’ve found nothing more than that about Olympic Knitwear, but did find an excerpt from an interesting book entitled As Seen In Vogue by Daniel Delis Hill that makes reference to the Tish-U-Knit line and describes the conditions that contributed to the birth of the Tish-U-Knit sweater. With regard to the United States’ entry into WWII, he writes: An enourmous array of raw materials and manufactured goods were immediately rationed for war needs. …Under its L-85 regulation, the US War Production Board (WPB) set strict guidelines for the kinds and quantities of materials that could be used in almost every category of apparel and accessories.

The L-85 regulation restricted the hem lines of skirts, the length of suit jackets and the circumference of pant legs. However, it wasn’t the L-85 regulation, or even style that governed American designers clothing lines, it was patriotism. A Vogue editor was quoted as saying, “No law compels us to wear clothes as narrow as these. L-85 allows much more generous measurements. Of our own free will, we’re wearing them. Voluntarily, a group of American designers have pledged themselves to use less fabric than L-85 allows- in order to save every yard…” Hill goes on to explain:
American designers were so successful in creatively adapting the restrictions on fabric use that more than fifteen million yards of material were saved for the war efforts…Even before America entered the war, conservation was the guideline for daily life. From as early as 1938, imports of coal, oil, and gas began to diminish as foreign producers were invaded and ocean trade routes were disrupted. …American designers and ready to wear makers expanded the varieties and price point ranges of sweater styles. The layered twin set – a pullover and matching cardigan- became especially popular. Not only did the garments help ward off the chill of colder seasons, but they also afforded women wardrobe options for numerous looks.

It is here in Hill’s book that he illustrates the page with an ad for Tish-U-Knit sweaters from 1940 that features Judy Garland wearing one of my grandfather’s twin sets and the words “Judy Garland looks irresistibly smart”.

I share this with you not only to impart a little history behind a vintage clothing line, but to reach out to the readers and collectors of all things vintage and ask that if you should happen to have a Tish-U-Knit sweater, an ad, or any information about Olympic Knitwear, that you drop me a line and let me know. Thank you!



propriatress said...

well, I'll be dog-gone!! I have a Tish U Knit box...that exact one with the gal with her legs in the air! I love it...but no sweater .yet.

BomshellShocked said...

Fascinating! Good luck in your search.

Hoardmeister said...

Wow! Thank you for this post. I love learning about vintage history, and this is absolutely fascinating. I don't have anything Tish U Knit (because of the picture I almost wrote Tush U Knit! :)) or I'd send it along.

Thank you again!

BomshellShocked said...

I commented on this post nearly a year ago, but just found my first Tish-U-Knit. Its fantastic!!

Anna said...

I bought a lovely Tish U Knit today. It's absolutely gorgeous black rayon with a mesh spiderweb yoke with rhinestones!

Anonymous said...

I have a small poster my dad carried in the war. The girl is wearing a yellow sweater and brown skirt. My dad sent it to my mom with a letter on the back claiming that the girl reminded him of her.

ePammy said...

How nice to know! I have a Tish-U-Knit that I adore, an all wool olive green pullover sweater that is labeled "Ivy Shag". I think it is from 1957, judging by the ad I found that reads "Girls will be girls in the IVY SHAG!... shown in "Mademoiselle" and "Seventeen" Tish-U-Knit designs a...." (See ad here: