Wednesday, April 27, 2011

{Applique Week} "Suse" Sweaters

Taken from LIFE magazine, 27 Jan 1947 (incidentally, did you know about the LIFE magazine archive on google books? How great is that!).

Susan Dannenberg of Los Angeles ("who liked sweaters but did not have a sweater figure") knitted herself some sweaters in the early 1940s. In an effort to distract from her portly figure by drawing attention to the sweater itself she added wacky felt appliques. Friends liked her designs so she made some for them, then started to sell her work.

By the time of this LIFE magazine feature in 1947 "Suse" (pronounced Susie) sweaters were in great demand - Dannenberg counted Hollywood stars including Barbara Stanwyck and Esther Williams among her best customers. With price tags equivalent to five or six hundred dollars in today's money, the hand knitted sweaters had cult appeal.

The captions on the LIFE archive photos are from the original magazine feature.

"Jezebel" has red bleeding heart pierced by jewelled dagger. This, "Suse's" most popular design, comes in a variety of colors but the heart is always red.

"Buzzing Bees" is an evening sweater with honey-colored felt bees dotted with gold beads. Skirts to match sweaters are a recent "Suse" innovation.

"Roaring Lions" is a short-sleeved royal blue sweater with a frieze of white felt lions. Outfit costs $100 [that's nearly $1,000 in today's dollar]. "Suse" designs both the sweaters and the motifs.

"Giant Daisies" has an oversize spray spreading from shoulder to waist. All "Suse" sweaters are made to be worn over a skirt, not tucked in.

It was coming across this original "Suse" sweater on ebay that first brought the name to my attention.


  1. They're great, aren't they? I've seen these images a LOT but didn't know the story behind them. I've been planning on making myself one in the Jezebel style (which I like even better knowing it's name ;])
    -Andi x

  2. This is such a cool post... it's amazing that one turned up on eBay. Thanks for this!

  3. These are fantastic! Several of these pictures have been making the rounds online, but I never could find who the sweaters were designed by. I think the fact that they are felt appliques makes them all the more fun. Like Andi, I really want to make one that is similar to the Jezabel one!

    ♥ Casey

  4. I love this! Especially in light of Casey's discussion of beauty standards through history. Suse just defines her own style that doesn't shame her for not having a "sweater figure", and everyone loves it.

  5. These are SO awesome!! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love 'em. I'm quite inspired to do something similar as I do like a bit of applique. xxx

  7. Ooh I have never seen these before, adore the heart with the dagger and playing cards cardigan !

  8. ~ * ♥ * ~

    What a fascinating story Charlotte! I just love the "Roaring Lions" set. So very sweet!

    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  9. This is utterly amazing! I did not know about Suse. Wow.


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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