Malcolm Starr: Vintage Designer Glamour April 19 2022
Sometimes, an occasion begs for an outfit with a little glitz and glamour. Being a staunch believer in the virtues of vintage clothing, I think such occasions often call for a classic Malcolm Starr number. Malcolm Starr dresses are known for elaborate beading and—let’s be honest here—sometimes you just need a little beading in your life.
Malcolm Starr, the namesake of the Malcolm Starr line, was young when he was first exposed to the fashion world. His mother was employed as a costume designer and his father, Frank Starr, was a well-known figure in the textile industry who started the Malcom Starr clothing company in New York City in the 1940s.
Malcolm himself took over the business in 1969 when his father died, and operated it until 1976, when he reportedly sold it for some $7 million. In addition to Starr, there are two other names often found on vintage Malcom Starr dresses—Youssef Rizkallah (who was at the company from 1969-1975) and Elinor Simmons (who worked for the company from the 1960s to 2972).
The Malcolm Starr line was one of the first to lease manufacturing facilities in India and China and was well-known for its beading and applique. The elaborate embroideries, beading, and other decorations were often done in one of the manufacturing factories in Hong Kong. Malcolm Starr dresses were often of a simple cut with elaborate three-dimensional beading, usually at the neckline, collar, or bust—or it was a completely beaded sheath, which is a beautiful thing indeed. There would often be a matching coat, a touch I love.
Although the Malcolm Starr line was best known for cocktail and evening wear, they also made formal gowns, day dresses, and coats in a variety of fabrics and styles. The designs ran the range from form-fitting and short to loose and long. There were bold prints and appliques, subtle beading and clear influences from different parts of the world.
In March of 2008, Malcolm Starr passed away at the age of 84 in his home in Connecticut. Here at Rice and Beans Vintage, we are fortunate enough to run into Malcolm Starr pieces from time to time and are proud to offer them to you—because sometimes you just need beading. We’ve got a pale pink dress in stock right now with beautiful starburst beading forming a V from the shoulders and a fantastic 1960s red and white ribbon gown—go on, treat yourself!
written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage