L is for Leser

    Tina Leser was born Christina Wetherill Shillard-Smith on December 12, 1910 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    As a child Tina traveled with her family around the world to faraway places such as Asia and Africa.
    She studied art, design, painting and sculpture at university in Philadelphia and Paris.
    In 1931 she married Curtin Leser from whom she took the name under which she designed.
    They divorced in 1936 and Tina eventually remarried James Howley in 1948.
    Tina opened her first store in Hawaii in 1935 where she sold well made clothing that utilized local Hawaiian and imported Filipino fabrics.
    In 1941 she moved to New York and opened her own company.
    It wasn't until 1943 when she joined the Edwin H. Foreman sportswear firm that she started to make a mark in the fashion world.
    Leser was known for her playsuits and resortwear.
    Her clothing was influenced by many different locales around the world such as China, Guatemala, Hawaii, India, Japan, Mexico and Thailand.
    In 1953 Tina left the Foreman sportswear firm and started her own company again.
    She designed swimwear for Gabor Swimsuits for awhile.
    Tina closed her business in 1964 but, opened it again in 1966.
    Tina permanently closed her business in 1982.
    Tina Leser passed away in 1986.

Red and white gingham beach cover-up from the late 1940's
This beach cover-up is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection

1950's swimsuit with crisscross floral fabric detailed chest and white pleated skirt.
Measurements are 30" Chest, 26" Waist and 35" Hips
You can "Buy It Now" for $225- over at The Cats Pajamas Vintage on eBay.

Unique 1940's sari style dress done in plaid fabric.
This dress has an attached shawl that is designed to drape over the shoulder.
Vintage Size 10
For purchase information please refer to MarilynGlass.com


Retro Attic

That beach cover reminds me of a table cloth my mom has!

-Yes, the fabric definitely has the look of a table cloth that you would find at a picnic or Italian restaurant. But, it is still incredibly cute none the less! -Lulu

Anne Dodge

Tina Leser was my cousin. As a child, I visited her and Jim every Thanksgiving for many years, at their unique estate called "The Barn" in Sands Point NY. She was a fun and unique person, with a flair for the unusual. She always wore Gardenia perfume, the scent of her favorite flower. My mother modeled for her, and we painted designs on fabric during the early 60's, while she was designing "Tinabells", which were simple A- line shift dresses. She was a personal friend of Joan Crawford, who gave her her beloved pet poodle "Georgie" as a gift. I am pleased to have found several sites that are devoted to her talents, and to see that some of her designs are preserved and displayed in Museums.

Thank you so much for sharing your memories of your talented cousin with us!

Penny Hartzell

What happened to Tina's daughter Georgina? Was she Curtin Leser's child?

Dave Speace

My mother sewed and modeled for Tina Leser... and I have been trying to find one of the magazine ads with her picture... around 1950. I remember seeing one of the ads in a Sunday supplement magazine, which I think was called Rotogravure or something like that. I was wondering if you had any tear sheets of Tina Leser ads? Thanks, Dave


I had a showing at the Georgine Shillard Smith Gallery in Belair, Florida of some of my Batiks and she saw the exhibition and flew me and another artist to New York to stay with her on Long Island and work with her on ideas for some new designs. We then lived in the servants quarters of the estate and painted fabrics in the gallery area. She was a unique and interesting lady. What ever happened to Georgina? We would ride to the New York Studio with Jim driving his beige Mercedes all over the road and hanging on for dear life. While we were there Tina asked us to please take Dragon, their Irish Setter. She felt he needed a new home...always worried about Georgina's reaction to that. Hope she forgave us! He was very loved!! I guess he was to big and excitable to stay inside with her little pooches that would have cans of baby shrimp brought to them for a snack with Tina's hot tea. I wish I had been more mature at the time and had made more of the time spent with Tina and her family but for a 22 year old from S.C. it was an experience of a lifetime. The converted Barn was neat...is it still in the family? I can only remember one bad experience and that was the evening they had cow tongue for dinner! That was a tough one for me to fake...each to their own but being from the South I was taught good manners and politely endured but managed to plan an outing for the next planned tongue dinner. Funny stuff and memories still linger after 35 years! Would love to know of links or books to read about Tina, her career, family etc. It was fun to read the comments from her cousin.

Brenda, Thank you for sharing your memories with us! -Lulu


Hi! I'm currently writing my master's thesis on Tina Leser. I am in touch with Jim Howley as well as her daughter Georgina (who is well and living in Long Island by the way), but would also love to be in touch with anyone else who would be willing to recount their memories and experiences working with Tina. Please contact me at aprilc[email protected] if you would like to contribute to the project!

Lulu... is it possible to be put in touch with Brenda and Anne Dodge? Thanks!!!!!

Georgine Wetherill Howley Hertzwig

Tina Leser was my mom. How exciting to have found this website and read the blogs that have been posted.

I had the honor to meet April Callahan the other night by chance at a business dinner in Manhattan.We had only communicated by e-mail prior to that - so it truly is a small world and I am so honored to see her tremendous interest in my mother's designing.

Reading Brenda's blog brings back memories for me as I remember my mother giving her my dog - it was difficult for me. I also so remeber Brenda hand painting all the wonderful designs my mother had in that collection.

I see that people have asked if I was Cutrain Leser's child - no I am the daughter of Jim Howley and Tina Leser and I am living on Long Island in Port Washington with my husband and two children. I am amazed to see all the information there is on the internet about my mother - truly amazing. She really was a fashion icon of her times.

I am so glad that you found my blog post! Thanks for sharing your memories and letting us know some facts about yourself! Your mom designed wonderful things! -Lulu

Joan Peterdi

My information is anecdotal, from my husband, artist Gabor Peterdi, who spoke of her often. He had made fabric designs for Tina Leser — under the unusual circumstance of 'complete freedom' to do what he wanted. He was was good friends with Tina and her mother, visited often, taught in Clearwater at the then young art center, and there's more! Kindly feel free to contact me at [email protected] for more information.

Hi Joan, That's so cool that your husband designed fabric for Tina Leser! Thanks for sharing! -Lulu

Jill Evarts

When I was in high school in the 70's, I was a tenant at the Howley's property in Sands Point with my family, and have fond memories of the family particularly Georgina. I remember well dinners with the Howley's--particularly shrimp curry with all of the condiments--I was very impressed. I am happy to have stumbled onto this site. If Georgina happens to see this, I send her my best.

Jill, Thank you for sharing your memories! -Lulu

Eileen Cerne

My father drove a truck for thr Railway Express and Tina Leser was on his route. He often made sure items which were rush orders got where they needed to be on time. As tokens of appreciation he was given samples of some of the clothing. As a result my mother was often the best dressed woman at local events. I still have some of these dresses. Many did not have all the finishing that you would normally get on the inside but on the outside they were gorgeous. She owned the spectacular fish dress and I still have a gorgeous black vevet skirt with red brocade flowers which I have found in photos except in the photos it is a dress. Only one of the items I own has the Tina Leser label but they are all gorgeous and even though I will probably never wear them they remain treasured items. There was always great excitement when my father had one of these gorgeous items for my mother. Tina Leser was a revered person in our family.

Thanks so much Eileen for sharing your memories with us! -Lulu

minerva Alcolea

I found this blog by chance looking for hurricane damages in Port Washington where I lived with my parents in 1973. One thing lead to another and found this blog. My parents worked for Tina Leser and James Howley at their house in Sands Point sometime around 1972- 1973. My parents, my brother and my sister lived in the house for some months. I heard many interesting and funny stories about their stay at Tina Leser's house. My sister and my brother played with Georgina, and my father used to drive Georgina to school in the Mercedes. My father used to take care of Dragon,the Irish Setter. I do have a picture of my father with Dragon. It is quite possible that my mother cooked the cow tongue Brenda had for dinner. I am sorry it was a bad experience. My mother is an excellent cook and cows tongue is delicious. An exquisite dish in Spain. I still have some fabrics designed by Tina Leser, and a couple of dresses made with those fabrics, that Tina gave my mother. There are still some Barbie dolls stored in my mother's attic that Gerogina gave to my sister.
It is very interesting to have found this blog which brings me back to a very vague but interesting and crucial part of my life. I never met Tina or James as I arrived from Spain when my parents were no longer living in their house but I have been to their house after as my father continued to do some work there for a while, and I met Georgina once at the King Kullen in Port Washington on Main Street- She was playing and hunging upside down from a railing metal bar outside of the mall when I first saw her and she was very cute. Say hello to Georgina. I am glad to know she is fine.

Minerva, Thank you for sharing your memories with us! -Lulu

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