Exploring the Vintage Velrose® Lingerie Archives

This Thanksgiving month, we’re feeling thankful for all of the many customers, old and new, who’ve kept us in business for a whopping 108 years – and counting! But how did it all start?

Today, we’re going to dive deep into the history of our oldest brand, and take you back to our very beginnings…

William and Rose Rifkin with two of their children.

Velrose® was founded in 1914 in Philadelphia when William and Rose Rifkin decided to set up an apron-making business. He would cut the fabric by night and find customers by day, and she would carefully sew each garment together on her foot-treadle machine while caring for their children at home.

From there, it wasn’t much of a stretch to expand into making slips when their sons joined the family business shortly after World War II ended. Camisoles and panties were also added, using the exciting new nylon fabrics of day, and the Velrose® lingerie brand as you now know it was officially born.

Vintage Velrose® slip. Images courtesy of M. G. Siracuse at Otra Vez Vintage on Etsy.

The first slip ever to be designed was the Velrose® 801, a straight-cut full slip in 100% cotton with a subtle trim of scalloped lace. If you’re a fan of mid-century lingerie, here’s some exciting news: we still produce this exact slip design to this day!

Left: Vintage Velrose® catalog advert (circa. 1950s-60s) featuring the 801 slip

Right: Velrose® 801 Cotton Dress Slip

Post-war life wasn’t always easy. In fact, upon his return from deployment, one of those sons, Louis, went directly to the factory in his uniform even before going home to his family – such was his commitment to ensuring the company’s success in those turbulent times!

But all of that hard work paid off, and Velrose® not only become one of the best-known names for slips around, but has survived into the 21st century where many other slip makers did not.

A snapshot of Velrose® in 1994, clockwise from top left: Alan sewing a slip; quality controlling the fit of the slip; the 1990s Alan R. collection; the old Velrose® factory.

Today, it’s owned by Louis’ son, and William’s grandson, Alan Rifkin, who has continued to run the business with that same passion and dedication as the previous generations showed, while also putting his own stamp on the brand through the introduction of sleepwear (as well as purchasing Shadowline® and Dixie Belle®).

Vintage Velrose® Snip A Row slip. Images courtesy of Gina at Vintorious on Etsy.

Alan is also the creator behind our popular ‘snippable’ slips and pettipants, which can be trimmed down to size with nothing more than a pair of scissors. No sewing, no hemming, and no fraying either! Initially called Snip A Row, today the idea has evolved into two distinct ranges: one edged with crochet just like the original, plus the gorgeously lace-trimmed Snip-It collection.

While we’re on the topic of the Snip-It collection, if you’re a fan of vintage lingerie then you may also be interested to know that our the modern Snip-It slip dress is closely based on a much older design, which you can see in the vintage catalog illustration below.

Left: Vintage Velrose® catalog advert (circa. 1950s-60s)

Right: Velrose® Snip-It Adjustable Length Full Slip

It has not only the same overall silhouette, but also the same shadow panel design meaning the front panel is double-layered for maximum opacity. Great when you’re wearing something over it that’s a little bit sheer! The original design was sold in Short, Average and Tall lengths, which is something that’s no longer necessary thanks to the customizable lace hemline.

And now we’ve arrived at 2022. A family-run business in its third generation, our current mission is simple: to bring you timeless classics with the same high quality we’ve always been known for. We’re proud to be one of the few places you can still buy a true vintage-style slip or pair of pettipants – as long as our customers keep on asking for them, we’ll keep on making them!

If you have any vintage Velrose® designs in your closet, we’d absolutely love to see them – you can tag us on Instagram @shadowlinelingerie.