I recently sold a vibrant cotton skirt from the 1950s, and the label sent me searching for more information.
Then I watched a favorite movie from 1945, The Bells of St. Mary’s, and there she was! Martha Sleeper, born in 1910, started acting in films in 1924. The Bells was her last movie, after having a very busy film career in the 20s and 30s. In the 1940s, Sleeper appeared on Broadway.
|Image of the actress from The Bells of St. Mary’s|
If I were more involved in the world of vintage jewelry, I would no doubt have known of Martha Sleeper’s Bakelite, wood and metal creations, which she began making for herself in the 1930s. Others in Hollywood took note, and requested her work, and soon the actress had a major sideline profession.
|From the Milwaukee Sentinel 2/23/40|
|Attrib. Martha Sleeper Bakelite and wood poodle pin from deja-voodoo.com|
|Martha Sleeper matchsticks necklace and bracelet sold by Mod Bag on 1st dibs|
or her cotton shift dress from Belle à Coeur Treasure Trove Vintage:
I’ve certainly got my eye out for this multifaceted woman’s work now, whether on film, in Bakelite, or in brilliantly-colored cotton!
Sleeper in the 1960s, during the time she was designing clothing in Puerto Rico (photo from silenthollywood.com)