Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Skinny -- Montaldo's

Montaldo's was a staple of high quality shopping in North Carolina -- or so I hear.  And it's evident to me, in the pieces we find, that Montaldo's was all about quality and style.  I wanted to know more, but...there's not much out there.

I found out on the Vintage Fashion Guild site, here, that Montaldo's was a specialty ladies' shop, started in 1919.  Lillian Montaldo, with her sister Nelle, opened the stores, with locations throughout North Carolina (Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem), Virginia (Richmond), Ohio (Columbus and Cincinnati), Colorado (Denver and Colorado Springs), Missouri (St. Louis), and Oklahoma (Bartlesville).  They were known for their excellent service and quality.

And that's about all I could find.  

Until I found this short article here, that has more information. But it also has conflicting information.  This article states that Lillian founded the first store with her husband, Raymond, in Kasas in 1918.  In 1923, they opened the second location in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Below is a photo of the Winston location, followed by a short article in the Winston-Salem Journal, dated September 21, 1923.  


The Latest to be Seen of Fifth Avenue   
 and Broadway Shown Here


  Nothing Better in City than Montaldo

With the coming to Winston-Salem of  Montaldo’s perhaps as
never before 5th Avenue for the ultra-fashionable, was
brought to North Carolina.  Not only users of the highest priced
gowns and hats, but a complete line of all styles in medium
priced apparel is carried.  In fact the stock consists of a well
selected variety of ladies ready-to-wear and millinery.

Miss Lillian Montaldo, senior member of the firm, has an office
on 5th Avenue in New York, where she buys not only for her
own stores but for a great number of stores in the middle
west.  Miss Montaldo makes frequent trips to Winston-Salem
and keeps in close personal touch with the desires of her
North Carolina customers and keeps the Winston-Salem store
informed at all times of the very latest styles.  Almost every day
the store receives shipments of the newest patterns and latest
styles in ladies’ ready-to-wear.

With their spacious and attractive show rooms they are well
prepared to advantageously serve the most fastidious.

(Winston-Salem Journal, September 21, 1923)

Lillian Montaldo brought ready-to-wear clothing to areas that didn't have access to it.  Prior to her stores opening, women used patterns -- either making their clothing themselves or hiring a dressmaker.  If you were wealthy, you would travel to larger cities, like New York, for your wardrobe.  She worked out of her office on 5th Avenue in NYC, ordering the newest, freshest fashions for her stores.  This article, by Betsy L. Hendrix, quotes Lillian's nephew, Jack Montaldo:  "She was a dynamic, demanding, and no-nonsense woman.  She had to be."  Lillian's success was during a time when women struggled to have equal footing with men -- Hendrix states it was a "fierce business".
1946 Architectural plans for Montaldo's in Charlotte, North Carolina

And Montaldo was fierce.  She advertised in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, as well as other prestigious fashion periodicals.  She wanted her store to be right at the top with other high end retailers.  And to reward that fierceness, she was awarded "Woman of the Year" in 1967 by the fashion industry. 

Whatever is exceptional in quality and design must be offered to Montaldo’s customers.”
Lillian Montaldo 

Lillian died at the age of 95.  The Montaldo's chain closed in 1995.

Montaldo's, Durham, NC

We have a couple of pieces in our Etsy shop that were sold at Montaldo's.  First, below is a heavy silk and wool blend dress from the 1960s.  It looks so simple, but details reveal quality -- the back zipper is offset and hidden within a seam, pockets are hidden in the front seams, and the lining is hot pink.  Available here. Second, is a lustrous green velvet hat with a hot pink velvet rose.  The overall design and quality is top notch -- down to the beautiful sheen of the velvet and straight, even stitching on the brim.  Available here.


  1. Hello! I just bought two antique doors that I was told came from Montaldo's when it was torn down. I was wondering if you could confirm that they did indeed come from the store? I can send a photo.

  2. Hello, my late aunt worked at Montaldo's for many, many years as a salesperson. Everything sold there was absolutely as fine as anything you could buy anywhere in the world. I can remember visiting her with my mother on occasion when I was young. When I was in college, I carried a $25,000 fur to a customer of her's in Raleigh.

  3. Hi--I worked at Montaldos' Denver, CO store, the Marina Square store (in what is now known as Greenwood Village, CO) and sometimes at the smaller boutique-y store at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs,CO, doing stock work. I sold shoes, worked in the Juniors Dept and in the "marking room" (stock room)in the Denver store's basement. I was,able to buy some lovely clothes, my bridesmaids' dresses,and wonderful shoes. One of my favorite "colleagues" was a wonderful lady, the late Muriel Yoelin.

    1. Omg funny I remember Nancy gala
      And Bridget martin

  4. Please pardon my punctuation errors, above. My keyboard is too small!

  5. I have 2 beautiful dress boxes from my grandmother that have the Montaldo's name, from Columbus, Ohio. They are from the 1929-30 period, black with spiffy black/white stripes around the edges.the top bears a young woman's image. Would you be interested in seeing a picture & possibly buying them?

  6. I was an assistant buyer of Couture Evening Wear 1985-1987. At the time we were at 1465 Broadway. It was a great time in Fashion. I went to Oscar, Blass, Roehm,
    Trigere showrooms weekly. An excellent learning experience for me. From there qent to Bonwit Teller and then sales for other Couture Houses.

  7. I have a richard warren label with montaldo's label and (found it kind of funny) made in the USA label... crushed black velvet jacket/crystals rhinestones along the hem...and drop waist skirt...with a inner lining tulle. I thought when I bought it at the estate sale it was just too pretty to be worn at any office... I searched the internet for a comparable set...nothing comes close.
    I am trying to price it, for sale and I have no clue...any ideas?

  8. I worked for Lillian (Montaldo) and Raymond Doop in the late 70's. One day I asked Lillian how she started her business, her eyes lit up and she told me the story. She got a summer job as a intern in 1916 out of high school with a Department store. She was asked to travel to Milan for a spring season apparel procurement as a assistant. Her job was that of a gopher and sales writer as her employers selected which garments they wanted for the spring season. Her opinion was not wanted or asked for on the trip but she saw some outfits that caught her eye . Unbeknownst to her boss she placed a $3500 for those outfits on the order sheet, that's close to $75,000 in today's money. A month or so later when she was back in the states the bill for the order came in and it was discovered what Lillian had done , she got fired on the spot. The Department store had no recourse but to pay for the order and hope they could recoup their money. Lilian had been terminated in disgrace and Black Balled from the US fashion industry, forever. It caused quite the stir in that community. Well about a week after the Spring season started Lillian was contacted by that department store that sacked her. They wanted to hire her back with a nice salary. Her outfits were the hit of the season and they had sold out in less than a week. Lillian respectfully declined their offer and set out on her own. She became a trail blazer for women. With the financial help of her uncle and with the assistance of her sister Nell she started Montaldo's. Her success story is what dreams are made of, she took a chance on herself and it paid off. At the pinnacle of her career Montaldo's had a store in NYC next to Bergdorf Goodman. Raymond and Lilian had a Penthouse in the New Yorker in Central Park. Later in life they moved to Morris NJ at Homewood Farms where they renovated a barn into a house and raised sheep, chickens and a few cows. They were wonderful people. Lillian's story stuck with me and has served me well in my lifetime.