You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

Sally Milgrim

1898 – 1994

by Jennifer Vafakos

Against stiff competition of Paris originals, an American designer won the loudest and longest applause yesterday in the preview of Fall costumes at the custom made salon of Sally Milgrim. The silhouette of classic slimness refuses to be displaced and emphasizes its popularity in the medieval richness and color of its fabrics and the brilliant novelty and gaiety of its trimmings.

So reads a review in the New York Tribune’s January 1923 issue of Sally Milgrim’s evening wear collection for Milgrim’s Department Store. With this collection, and the ones that followed, she became one of the premiere American fashion designers of the early twentieth century.

Born in New York City on April 21, 1898, to Philip and Tillie Noble, Sally Noble was just sixteen years old when she married Charles Milgrim on June 27, 1914. Charles Milgrim was then operating a custom suit business on the Lower East Side of New York City with his father and two brothers. Shortly after World War I, at age seventeen and with little more than a public school education, Sally Milgrim joined the business as a dress designer. By the 1920s the business had grown and moved briefly to Broadway and 72nd Street before moving permanently to 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. Milgrim, at this point, not only designed dresses for the company but had expanded into exclusive evening wear and was marketing her talent for fashion to the “smart society set, political wives as well as stars of the stage.” During Milgrim’s career, she became a friend of the impresario Florenz Ziegfeld and designed clothing for entertainers such as Marilyn Miller, Ethel Merman, Pearl White, and Mary Pickford. The quality of her ready-to-wear gowns, wraps, furs, negligees, and accessories was rare at a time when high fashion was still a made-to-order industry.

At a time when well-to-do women dressed three or four times a day to carry on their daily social lives, Milgrim designed for any and all of these occasions, always incorporating luxury and detailing into the richness of her designs. Milgrim’s signature looks typically included details of cross-stitch embroidery, bands of tucking, slot seaming, and fagoting. Color and high-quality fabrics played a large part in her designs. Lace and chiffon could often be found embroidered with crystals in pink or mauve. Whether working with ruffles, tiers, or layers, as a rule hemlines were thirteen inches from the floor.

In 1933, Milgrim’s greatest success came when she designed Eleanor Roosevelt’s gown for the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The pale blue, floor-length ball gown remains in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

By March 1936, Milgrim was one of twenty-four women honored by the New York League of Business and Professional Women at an annual achievement dinner. This honor was remarkable in that it recognized not only her achievements among her peers but also as a woman in a male-dominated industry and world.

With the success of her designs, the Milgrim stores expanded along the East Coast to the Midwest, including Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Chicago, White Plains, Miami, Palm Beach, and East Orange, New Jersey. In addition, Milgrim sold a wholesale dress collection to stores throughout the country. She retired in 1960, and in 1967 her husband died. The last Milgrim store was closed in Cleveland in 1990.

In June 1994, at age one hundred and six, Sally Milgrim died in Miami, Florida. She was survived by two sons, Franklin and Paul.

Bibliography

“At Milgrim Uneven Hemlines for Cocktails and Evening.” Women’s Wear Daily (March 1, 1947); “Designer Sally Milgrim Dead at 104.” Women’s Wear Daily (June 15, 1994): 21; “Sally Milgrim, 103, A Clothes Designer.” NYTimes, June 16, 1994; WWIAJ (1938).

33 Comments

According to my grandmother and great aunt my great grandfather, Maxwell Sweetbaum,may have been spelled Swetebaum at the time, was a first cousin of the Milgrims. He had his own high end custom tailor shop on the east side of Manhattan, but worked closely with the Milgrims. The family always said he was a custom suit maker for the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. I was just curious if you have ever come across any information about him in your research. My e-mail is redcsw@aol.com Thank you. Kind regards. Mimi Greenman

Does anyone know the reason why Max Milgrim, Charles, Louis, and Herman's brother, was not involved in the Milgrim's store? Moshe Milgrim had handed the business down to his sons. I am a descendant of Max Milgrim.

I'm under the impression that Max was Louis' son. I am Herman's great-granddaughter and was in the family business in Florida until my father, Robert became ill. We closed our last three stores in 1988. I am in the business still in California, though on a much smaller scale.

Does anyone have contact information on Franklin or Paul Milgrim?

The last I knew Frank lives in Miami in Turnberry. He and my father were cousins.

My mom worked at Milgrims on 57th Street as a young girl/lady. Today she's 88 and with it. She speaks glowing of that time and loved the Milgrim family. Does anyone have any photos from that time and location. I'd love to see if there's a photo of my mom and or her sisters. I can be reached at mores@aol.com or 973 218 1263. Sincerely, Frank Meo

I bought my dress for my Senior Prom in the White Plains store. I never knew it was such a wonderful woman who brought it into my life.

I am just beginning a genealogy search and discovered that my aunt worked at Milgrim on 57th Street in NYC, she lived in Jersey City; and made Eleanor Roosevelt's first in augural gown out of white brocade with silver thread. Any information would help.

Hi I met Sally Milgram at a beauty salon on East 87st in the 1990s
I later took her photo on several occasions.
She said she married into the Milgram family. She lived on the asr 86 st nyc. She since has moved I heard but would love to share the photos. The last time I visited her sh was still as beautiful as ever but not well. Any info I would be grateful. Thank you
Salvadora lorelli

There is a picture of Eleanor in a book of famous people the wonderful photographer Muncasi photographed in the 1930's. It features Eleanore and a model wearing the same black garment and hat in Milgrims on 57th street-interesting story about the inaugrial gown-probably true..

This message has been forwarded to K. Darnell.

Hi, everyone. I've been doing some genealogy research, and I've just discovered that my great-grandfather, a tailor, listed "Shalleck" as his employer on his draft card in 1918 and "Milgrim Brothers" as his employer on his draft card in 1942. There aren't many web sites that list both names, and I'm happy to have learned here about the "merger" of Herman and Estelle. Does anyone here have any records or photographs from either of the old companies? Or, dare I ask, is anyone here old enough to have known Solomon Sheklin? Warm regards, Ron Sheklin

Actually the Milgrim store in 57th street was started by Herman Milgrim. He married the designer Estelle Shalleck my grandparents in the early 1920's. Estelle had her own women's fashion shop on 57th. They had a son Charles Milgrim, who married Sally Milgrim (not the designer you speak of). The designer Sally Milgrim may have been one of the designers at the Milgrim's store which started in the late teens. Herman passed away in 1956 and Estelle in 1981. I'm very surprised that I cannot find any reference to either of my grandparents. I have an invitation to the White House from the Roosevelts to my grandparents - who were their tailors.

I was wondering if you have any information about Jacques Milgrim. He married Gertrude and I am trying to find out if his Gertrude was my grandmother's twin sister. She was a model and we know that she had a lot of furs and clothing. Her husband did something with a department store, and they lived in Manhattan. Gertrude would have been divorced and may have been Gertrude Fredey before marrying. She was born in Massachusetts, Nov 1899 and died of breast cancer in NY about 1961. Would you happen to know if Jacques was the same Milgrim family and if Gertrude may be the relative I am searching? I would appreciate knowing if I may be going in the wrong direction.

Thank you for any help you can send my way!!!

J Edgar

Sorry Johanna, Just checking in this site after many years, I know not of Jacques or Gertrude Milgrim..

This message has been forwarded to Johnna.

JWA has forwarded your message. We are always happy to bring people together.

Hello!

I would be interested in speaking with you about your family history. If interested, please contact me at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester, Michigan.

Thank you! Meredith

She was my grandfather's sister. He was Murray Knobel.

As part of the large Knobel family, am working on a family tree including the Knobels. Can u tell me who your parents were.. I have Murray;s info but don;t know where u beliong. Thx

Hi Stuart. Ira Knobel is my grandfather. Murray was his brother and thus my great Uncle. Sally Milgrim is my great aunt. Phyllis Knobel is my mother. My contact points are on http://LindaSherman.me

I am the grandson of Ida Goldstein , cousin to Sallly, How far can u go back in the Knobel family tree? I have a giant photo of Robert Knobel,s bar mitzva in 1927. Do u know the name?

Hi Jeff. Would love to be in touch. Just google me or click on my profile here and you'll find a plethora of contact pages to reach me through.

I wrote u an email

Thank you for using the contact me page on ItsDifferent4Girls Jeff. Responded to you by email.

JWA has forwarded your message. We are always happy to bring people together.

I recently attended a lecture given by Meredith Long, curator of Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, MI.

She told us that Matilda Dodge Wilson, owner of the estate owned several dresses designed by Sally Milgrim. She also commented that she would like to find a relative of Sally Milgrim. There was some discussion as to which department stores Sally actually owned. Sally did design Eleanor Roosevelt's dress for her husband's Presidential Inauguration. It is in the Smithsonian.

It seems highly likely that Sally also would have been invited to the White House.

I am sending your comment to Meredith Long.

Nancy Pacitto Quester and Social historian.

Sally Milgrim was my grandmothers sister. I am aware of the lineage of the shops. I'd be happy to provide historical facts.

My grandmother, Ida Schul Goldstein, was a cousin to Sally and your grandmother,. As I,ve been working on the family history for years, Can u tell me the names of her Sally, s siblings and Philllips father,s name, I have a giant photo of Robert Knobel,s bar mitzva in 1927, Do u know the name?

My Great Grandmother was Sophie Milgrim. Do you know if she was related. Her family owned dept. stores in New York. Thank you for Your help. Sue Gramacy (Gustin)

JWA has forwarded your request for more information to R. Milgrim. We hope that you have a fruitful discussion about the Milgrim family. JWA is always happy to bring people together.

Hello! I would be very interested in speaking with you about your family and Sally Milgrim. Please contact me at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester, Michigan if you are interested.

Thank you! Meredith

Having relayed information between the two people who posted about the Milgrim family, we are glad our pages could link you together!

How to cite this page

Vafakos, Jennifer. "Sally Milgrim." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 28, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/milgrim-sally>.

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

listen now

Sign Up for JWA eNews

 

Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs