By Sarah Bennett
If the front is prim but the back is poised to party, you've probably found a classic Lanz Original dress.

If the front is prim but the back is poised to party, you've probably found a classic Lanz Original dress.

Since cotton summer dresses are my vintage raison d’etre, it shouldn’t be surprising that I search out Lanz Originals because such dresses are their strong suit. They’re also great for vintage party dresses, with lots of velvet and heavy wool, although some of their stuff is a little too on-the-nose Mad Men wiggle dress to be modern.

The problems with looking for Lanz, aside from the risk of getting costumey, are that they really start to go downhill in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, with boxy peplum dresses that are less suited for a sexy secretary than a Bat Mitzvah girl from 1986, and that the surviving dresses overall tend to be limited to extremely small sizes. The small size issue is especially true for their dresses from the ‘50s and ‘60s, which is a general rule in vintage overall, but since Lanz dresses have especially small, higher waists, anything about size 8 is nearly impossible to find.

The label also often walks the line between flirty and dowdy, and not just in terms of their ‘80s monstrosities. Many of their summer dresses have cute floral fabrics and high necks that seem Mennonite-modest, but when you turn those dresses around, there’s an open back or a wide, criss-cross strap; they’re like the summer vintage frock equivalent of the mullet, with village business in the front and sexy beach party in the back. Even the dresses that aren’t sexy are still cute; I found a pink Lanz dress with stripes, a belt, and buttons up one side that could make me look like an extra from a high-end production of Our Town but I think the fabric and cut save it from going that far. Other dresses, however, are all business, no party, with lace detailing and long sleeves that make it seem like your business is being an English nanny or finding mourning nightgowns.

Great Lanz finds are rare, but great enough to make it worth sorting through all the Lanz out there that’s lamentable. Prepare to be dazzled, but only after much disappointment.