Wednesday, July 23, 2014

30s Fashion & Laura Ashbrenner

Several months ago, I happened to be in The Dalles, OR with a friend. We were driving out to Maryhill Museum, but stopped there to snoop about in some antique stores. He found a small pile of 30s fashion drawings (not originals, just quality copies), and I snapped em up in a heartbeat.

If it were up to me, I would know every little bit about everything I own. I would know who originally owned a dress, where someone bought something, if they saved up for it, and how they felt about it. I would know what their name was, where they lived, who they married, if they were happy (and then, what was their secret?)

Luckily, the artist who painted these signed her work! And gosh, she sounds like the kind of lady I'd like to ask some questions. Laura Ashbrenner, born 1915. As far as I can tell, is still living in the Dalles. She was married to her husband, Edgar, for 76 years. They both grew up in my hometown of Vancouver, WA before moving to the Dalles. He passed last December - at the age of 105! I'm guessing these ending up in the local antique store as a result of some estate cleaning. Everyone should read this interview with her husband from last year, celebrating his 105th. (There is even a photo of them on their wedding day!) I'll warn you, the article is so adorable it hurts.

A couple were dated - 1935. However, I'd bet money the ones to follow were done at a later time, based on the styles. I want to say '38, but perhaps up to '40.

Aren't they fabulous? I wish I could see more of her work, she kept painting throughout her entire life. And her husband framed most of them (omg.) There are a few of her watercolors on an estate website from a couple years ago, and there is currently one of her pieces up on eBay! So talented.

If by an off chance any of her family sees this - thank you. It's an honor to have ended up with a snippet of your family history, and they will be framed & treasured.



  1. Ummm, that playsuit hat and full length coat combo needs to be in my wardrobe...

  2. What a wonderful find. They're absolutely gorgeous. You are so lucky to have found them. I would snap them up in a heartbeat too if I found something like this, if only [sigh]. I'm sure they'll be something you'll treasure when they're framed and hanging on the wall.

  3. I love all of these! I also agree with the comment above - coat with cropped sleeves and playsuit, get in my wardrobe!

  4. The sketch of the skirt, with the front pleat/placket thingy: loving it. Would be nice to find such a pattern IN MY SIZE. Thanks for this share, Ms. Wood.



  5. These are absolutely wonderful!! I wonder if her work was ever used for pattern or fashion companies? I agree with the others, I need to re-make some of these styles for myself! Thank you for sharing them!

  6. What a great find. I clicked over and read the story, they lead interesting lives. I love how you did all the research, it is a nice tribute and I hope someone in their family see's it. I enjoyed this post so much!

  7. Aww I love these, and the history! Makes it so much more special when you know, doesn't it? :)

  8. This is such a heartwarming, immensely lovely tale. The family historian and blogger (and creative soul, for that matter) in me both/all love it immensely and really do hope that some of her relatives see this and can share even more about Laura with you.

    ♥ Jessica

  9. That was an uplifting article. What a gorgeous story, especially the last-minute wedding with it's myriad of delays.

    Her illustrations are beautiful too, and convey such an impression of style. Just wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

  10. oooh, these paintings are absolutely adorable!!!! thank you so much for sharing ... i have to go back to the interviwe and read it again!

  11. Thanks for your comment on my blogI love your blog and your style. I seriously thought of you in the store when I bought that 40's rayon dress. I probably wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't read your post on By Gum By Golly. So thank you!


  12. Hi Sara, I am Laura's daughter. she will be 100 yrs old Oct 3rd and is living in a nursing home here in The Dalles. She went to Clark College for 1 year and than to Portland Art School. When she graduated she went to work for Black and Associates or Black and Son's Ad Agency (they were located on 1st St. in Portland. Mother did these drawing for the Oregonian and The Oregon Journal. She did ad drawings for Charles F Berg, Meier and Frank, Lipman Wolfe, Lyman's (the furrier), she also did ad drawings for catalogs. She did them in India ink and the grey is a India ink wash. She says that a lady came to see her from New York and told her that she should be working in NY. Instead Mother married my father and moved to Wishram WA
    When I was a little girl I would play with these drawings like paper dolls. Thankfully I didn't cut the up!!
    If you would like more prints I have lots of them. Many of them are on my living room wall and I've sold many prints as well. I also do matting and framing..
    Janet Meader

    1. oh my goodness, absolutely!! My email is, I'd love to get in contact!

    2. Janet, Do you remember any story or details of a picture your mother did of a multicolor garden of flowers and trees with a path winding through? There is a smidgen of pink on the blue sky, with shades of green. White flowers and white tree blossoms look like they are dotted on, creating a textured look. I found it in Portland on vacation, and loved it. It would be great if there was a story to pass along with it. Smiles, Lynne V.

  13. portland! one is moving away the other moves in (janey) .... portland - what a vintage city! next time i visit the states, i know where to find you (simply vintage ;))))))))
    hope you get settled in your new home town quite sooon!!!! (i just checked out you instagram .... wanted to see if your still alive and well).
    xxxx from berlin