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March 11, 2021

“Suse” Sweaters by Susan Dannenberg From the 1940s

These amazing sweaters matching dresses were design by Susan Dannenberg of Los Angeles from the 1940s.

Susan liked sweaters but did not have a sweater figure, knitted some for herself while waiting for a broken leg to mend. She decorated them with bleeding hearts, poodles, flowers and pink elephants with the idea of attracting more attention to the sweater and less to the shape of the wearer.

The scheme worked so well that she made some for her friends, then began selling a few. Some of her best customers were Hollywood women like “Slim” Hawks, Esther Williams, Barbara Stanwyck, and Jennifer Jones.

By now “Suse” (pronounced Susy) sweaters are sold all over the U.S. The sweaters were all handmade, by 20 knitters and three girls who do nothing but cut out the zany appliques. Some are further decorated with beads and splashy fake jewels. The effect is extravagant and so is the price, from $50 to $70 (about $600-$848 today).

“Jezebel” has red bleeding heart pierced by jeweled dagger. This, “Suse’s” most popular pattern, 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.

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

“Roaring lions” is a short-sleeved royal blue sweater with a frieze of white felt lions. Outfit costs $100. “Suse” designs both the sweaters and motifs.

Twelve-inch sunburst of gold-colored felt makes a startling decoration on this “Suse” sweater of thin black wool. The sweater costs $50.

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