Friday, February 5, 2010

the j

My favorite J. Peterman travel case, just like the one Kay Francis
carried in One Way Passage, 1932. So romantic.



I was a huge fan of the
J. Peterman Company
way before he was
parodied on Seinfeld as
Jacopo Peterman by
John O'Hurley, who
played Elaine Benes' boss.
Even though Seinfeld
brought the company moderate success, it filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Certainly not because of me, one of their bestest customers. Funny thing, John O'Hurley, became a major investor and helped resurrect the J. Peterman Company in 2001. Is this a case of life imitating art, or what?

The real J. Peterman is a retail
and catalog entrepreneur from
Lexington, Kentucky. (Not New
York, like Seinfeld lead you to
believe.) He has written a book
about his company's trials, the
influence of Seinfeld, and more
called Peterman Rides Again.


So, all this to say, I am happy to again find the delightful catalog in the manor mailbox. The products are accompanied by entertaining, exotic descriptions, as well as artwork, for each item with quirky names, like the "Victor Lazlo Shirt" or "Flowers for Mrs. Oglethorpe". I'm sure Mr. Peterman won't mind if I share with you a little excerpt from his latest catalog.


1947.
Paris had a new president.
Optimism was in the air.
So was spring.
And there were never enough polka dots to go around. Since you
may have just commandeered the entire city supply. Not just little
dots. Big ones. Paris was still in its coming out party mode. And you
were there, on the grandest boulevard in the world, to make sure
the party continued.
Look, isn't that Le Fouguet's? Wonder if they still serve those
great champagne cocktails?
Found the original at a vintage boutique in the Right Bank. It
looked lived in. And enjoyed. Champs-Elysees Dress (No. 2663)
When the world still needed a hug. And so did you.
.
.
How's that for a description of a polka dot dress?
.
If I happened to be writing for the company, my dream
job, by the way, (do you hear that, Mr. Peterman?) I would have
to call this little polka dot number the "Demendante Dress".

.

76 comments:

  1. I had no idea it was a real company! I'd love to get the catalogue just to read the stories (though the merchandise does look wonderful).

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  2. I have long missed that wonderful catalog. Why didn't I save them? Former customer here, too. Thanks for this post!

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  3. Thanks for letting us know that J. Peterman is back in business! I'm going to order my catalog .....now!

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  4. I always loved the J Peterman catalogs--I had a blouse I wore to death from there, and a huge smile came over my face remembering the "Urban Sombrero" that was one of Elaine's wonderful, descriptive names for one of their products on the Seinfeld show. It was so like what they used to do in real life, n'est ce pas?! They wove magical stories about each item, and that's what sold their products, I'm convinced. I loved that blouse.....

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  5. ps
    "...it's businessmen taking fiestas...you know, the Urban Sombrero!" Cracks me up. Big smiles.

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  6. Well, I've learnt something new again! Had never heard of J. Peterman (have never seen a Seinfeld program, either!). I live under a rock! Love that travel bag!

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  7. That would be a fitting name for that polkadotted dress. Need to go now and order that catalog.

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  8. I thought that J Peterman was a Seinfeld character, only. But, what do I know? LOL

    I know that there was a real Soup Nazi

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  9. I'm happy to hear that they're back! Such delightful reading! Though I confess, I don't think I bought much from them. But it was always fun to dream...

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  10. Sue, the Urban Sombrero was SO funny! My favorite piece of clothing from J. Peterman was a red wool riding jacket, trimmed in black velvet, with brass buttons that I wore until it practically fell apart, back in the early 90s. Loved it.

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  11. I love vintage clothing and bags. Oh, and J. Peterman. How fun when nostalgia becomes new-age.

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  12. This is what makes your blog so special, a bit of history, a bit of romance, a picture, a movie, a book and wonderful evocative things all gathered around. Love the new look of the the blog, btw.

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  13. with descriptions like that...they would be smart to hire you. smiles.

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  14. Gorgeous dress description. It reads like poetry.

    It reminds me of a sweater tag I found last fall that accompanied a lovely short sleeve black sweater I purchased. I stashed the tag somewhere to type up as a blog post someday. Of course, now that someday is here, I can't find it!

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  15. Oh I was a fan as well and am so happy to hear they are back. I use to love reading through their catalogue...I would imagine myself in far off lands, wearing the clothes...

    much love

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  16. willow--I so loved that catalog and Peterman's descriptions of each item--I was transported to faraway places by just turning the pages--lovely! C

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  17. Oh my Stars,
    I have one very close to that.
    It was owned my Patricia Murphy
    ( Restaurant owner) on Pier one Fort Lauderdale.All beautiful brown leather. I carry it for make up and Jewerly.

    You have beautiful taste willow.

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  18. Mmmmmmmmmm... I covet your travel case! How wonderful... just enough room to carry the necessary accoutrements of beauty, plus a pair of undies in case the other luggage goes missing over night. At least, that was always my understanding of one. I knew the catalogue, but had no idea it had gone out of business. So glad it's back! I loved the Seinfeld take off, so much fun!

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  19. What a wonderful catalogue and wouldn't I just love the red one? Yum yum.

    Willow could you please make a vedeo of the raindance? I take it it will be in the all together, well, it has to be to work but at this time of the year I am sure it will even if you have your woolly socks on.
    I look forward to your snaked, woolly socked cavorting in the snow.

    Hugs in anticipation,
    Arija

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  20. That is indeed a marvelous way to present the product.

    I enjoyed this.

    Thanks,

    Jerry

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  21. You are just so darn smart and clever. I love it!! (And I've always loved polka-dots!)

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  22. Love the new header, Willow! I had no idea the J. Peterman company was anything other than the one parodied on Seinfeld. What a description! I'm going to order a catalog! Thanks for the post.

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  23. It would be fun to write for an apparel company. I once worked for an apparel company and always enjoyed the women that wrote describing the clothes. She was so creative with her words.

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  24. How wonderful! I have to have a catalog! And that make-up case.

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  25. I think that I bought an old travel case like the Peterman one that you featured, years ago at a flea market. I used to put my daughter's Barbie clothes in it. the latch was different of course. I guess I better call and ask if she still has it, or look in the attic of my barn!

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  26. Willow, you always have the most interesting posts. I love,love, love the dress. Polka-dots are so fun! The dress looks comfortable and classy. In the 50's I remember such cute bags like your little travel bag. It always makes me think of little romantic getaways and quick trips to some place exotic.

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  27. Seriously...Peterman's back? This is so cool!
    This was a wonderfully fun post. I will be looking into getting a catalog. And you should be getting a cut for the free advertising! And yes, you'd be good at writing the descriptions of the items.

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  28. Oh and BTW your blog header is great!

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  29. What a fun, fun post! I have a deep love for leather travel cases -- I agree, so romantic. It's been ages since I've looked at a J. Peterman catalog, but they are fun for sure. You would be a great descriptive writer for it. Let me know when Mr. Peterman gives you a call.

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  30. I'm crazy about your new header, Willow. And this travel case looks like a new version of my Mom's, which I have in my closet. It still smells like her powders and lipsticks. I could never part with it. I always took it to the theatre with me, filled with all my theatre make-up and hair stuff. I'm going to get it out tomorrow and clean it up.
    Have a fabulous weekend,

    Catherine

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  31. Who is that person about to do unspeakable things to poor Kay Francis?I hope she has a truncheon
    in her travel case!

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  32. Hello Willow,

    The dress description is wonderful and ought to entice buyers but I'm sure many of us would read the catalogue for such gems and not actually buy! It reminds me of a book I have of travel stories from Vogue magazine when the world was a romantic place. This has inspired me for today's post!

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  33. Congratulations on Blogger's recognition.

    Congratulations on the tweet. I happened to see it and popped right over.

    You know we are supposed to get kicked in the butt today. A significant winter storm? Get your woolies out.

    I liked the post and the catalog and that 1947 red, poke a dot dress. Wow. Wouldn't I look good in something like that in drag?

    Don't answer that. My wife would stop fixing me excellent sandwiches for lunch.

    Hope you can cope with the fluffy stuff.

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  34. What a nice mix....thanks for your memories.

    ps..I still use my 'flyer' to haul art supplies around. -J

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  35. In all my movie books, I've yet to come across this still of Kay and William Powell!

    But as the whole "retro" thing is taking leaps and bounds, luggage of this type is coming back in vogue :)

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  37. The picture marriage of art and history and writing.
    Divine.

    And I was a polka dot nut as a child. Now, not so much.

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  38. I cannot believe it: Only a few days ago did I mention the J Peterma catalogue and illustrations and there you are, with good news at that! I am dancing around my desk, er, dining room table, wearing that Polka Dot Dress!

    Thank you!!!!!! :-))))
    (Especially since I am trying to learn how to install a 1 TB sized hard drive to automatically save a copy off all my pictures and am not succeeding so far. I already had to put in a muffin making session - my youngest is studying next to me, good excuse).

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  39. You mentioed Fouquets in 1947. That restaurant was THE place for people-watching. Over a century old now, it was always a celebrity favorite: it has attracted Chaplin, Chevalier, Dietrich, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Jackie Onassis.

    That was in the days when the Tour d'Argent and Maxim's served fantastic cuisine for about the price today of a MacDonald's happy meal.

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  40. Rallentanda, hey, that's the dashing William Powell with Kay Francis!

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  41. Abe, only with your blond wig.

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  42. OH! I love it! I think you have a career at J. Peterman! Wouldn't it be grand?

    LOVE that travel case...isn't it great the way that little things, like a travel case, can give us such great pleasure!?

    Love this post!

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  44. I would love that vintage black cross over polka dotted dress - that has got my name on it. I've even got shoes that would go perfectly

    Want.

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  45. I, too, had no idea it was a real company... and I love, love, love the Champs-Elysees Dresses!

    Also love your new photo header.

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  46. You and the manor are a daily read- thank you!
    I loved J Peterman in its' first incarnation...it must have had an influence on me which I was unaware of until a distant cousin deleted me on Fb, commenting that she couldn't stand my writing style which was "J Peterman catalog meets Bulwer-Lytton.
    Now is that really ALL bad!!?

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  47. Anon, Peterman catalog meets Bulwer-Lytton?! Gosh, no one but family can be so brutal. I'm sure your FB writing is delightful.

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  48. Oh, I'd love to find one of those cases!! & hope you are doing well :)

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  49. Vickie! It always brightens my day when you pop into Willow Manor! Yes, well, and hope you and yours are, too. xx

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  50. I used to love those mail order cataloges! Glad to see they are back and still have those wonderful sketches instead of photographs. I hope one shows up in my mail box!

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  51. I too had no idea it was a real company. Love the travel case, and the description for the polka dot dress is worth reading alone just for entertainment.
    you've got me intrigued, i think i'lldrop in and have a look around, maybe order a catalogue for myself.

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  52. I loved the touch of genius to the descriptions. Didn't know anything about the company so thanks a lot for that little history lesson. As for eating chez moi, next Thursday, shall we say at 6.30pm? :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  53. Mr. Cuban, I'll click my ruby slippers and be there at 6:30 sharp!

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  54. A great catalog even if you never bought stuff. There was also the ORIGINAL Banana Republic that was mail order only and their Indiana Jones style catalogs. I remember my mother was always concerned about me buying stuff from them since they used line drawings and not photographs.

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  55. I just checked their men's section, and they have a "thug cap" for just $79. Right up my alley.

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  56. J.Peterman catalogues have always entertained me- now I get their emails. I have never ordered a thing from them not trusting the drawings to be true reps and the prices are silly expensive but I do love the stories- very much- you could so do this sort of work!

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  57. Pertermans and Polka Dots .. .
    what could be better.

    JJj

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  58. I really like the polka dot wrap dress. And I do remember your polka dot dress story... : )

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  59. fantabulous post, ladywillow - absolutely fantabulous! thanks so much for letting us know jp is back - love love the travel case - OMG and the catalogue! much too too much! now, off to grab one myself!

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  60. Junk Thief, a sidebar pic of you in the "thug cap" is now a MUST!!

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  61. The travel case is divine! Reminds me of something my mom's younger sister would have had and it had a mirror inside the lid!

    Di
    The Blue Ridge Gal

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  62. One beautiful piece of luggage!! Dreams come true traveling with that luggage.
    Oh Boy snow in the forecast...enjoy!

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  63. I think it's hilarious that this was a real company and that the actor bought into it and helped to ressuscitate it.

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  64. There once was a time I was the polka dot queen but, at 65, with a gluteus maximus that rivals an elephant, I don't think I would bedeck myself in even a pin point polka dot! I adore the dress, though, and will admire it on someone more suitable than me!

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  65. I have long been infatuated with the J. Peterman clothes and their stories. And yes, I have a few and the Colonel loves his Picasso shirt. I am partial to the Out of Africa look in sports clothes for women...such a dreamy little catlog. I too am glad he is back!
    Thanks for alerting me to his book!

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  66. I had no idea they were back! Great news as I always loved their clothes and buy several items when I was a working gal! Loved the descriptions of their clothes - like reading a short story. Bet they have travel things so I must go look! I always wanted the Aussie duster coat.

    Willow, thanks for joining in the travel quiz. I'm so excited about the trip in May - all I can think about is Africa!

    Love that magpie - make sure you always say "Good Morning George" as they do in England when a magpie lands and struts across your path! It brings good luck I believe.

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  67. Such wonderful pics of the classic polka dot dress. I was born in 1947 and during the late fifties my Mother had almost the same navy dress shown -had it taken that long to cross the channel? and had it been a dream to owned the same. She was beautiful and so was the dress - I am off to hunt for the photo - I know it's somewhere.
    Such lovely posts on this page!Thank you.

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  68. Stunning post! Stunning travel bag too - must post a photgraph of the one I have inherited from my mother (though she's not yet deceased, just decided she probably won't make it to Paris again!)

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  69. The Peterman catalog was a favorite of mine. Although I never bought anything from them, I was so tempted with their lively, witty descriptions of the items for sale.

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  70. LOVE Peterman - I still have one of the last catalogues - I'll have to check the year. I'm so happy to know they're back in business because I'm tired of everyone looking the same.

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  71. I'm ordering myself a catalog right away--thanks! I too was a fan years ago--back when I was a copywriter and had no money for anything from J. Peterman!

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  72. Former customer here, too. Thanks for this post!

    Work from home India

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  73. Are you sure that you were their bestest customer? I thought that was ME. :)

    I still have several items from it, although not the wonderful white linen dress (with a full skirt) that I wore to my brother-in-law's wedding 13 years ago.

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)