In the 1970s, the New York Times wrote an article about my grandfather, Murray Meisner. They called him “the man who dressed New York.” Through the 70s and part of the 80s, his eponymous womenswear company was known for its practical dresses. They were sold at J.C. Penny’s and Sears to secretaries and other working women. One denim dress he designed became so popular that he had to move all the company’s manufacturing to China to keep up with the demand – that was a really big deal back then.
One day, sometime in 2003, I was bored at work and I Googled my grandfather. I found a few of his dresses for sale on eBay, Etsy, and an online vintage boutique. I started buying the ones I could imagine wearing. That began my Murray Meisner dress collection.
I have six now. When I told my grandfather I was collecting his dresses, he thought it was hysterical. “You’re doing what? Your grandmother would have a heart attack if she knew,” he told me. My grandmother had been one of those New York women who lived on the Upper East Side and didn’t work. She’d never consider wearing one of her husband’s dresses. She wore almost exclusively Chanel. And every Saturday she’d walk up and down Fifth Avenue window-shopping. I guess you could say she was sort of snobby, but there was more to her than that.
In 2004, I started my own company, which required a more professional look. I had to go from dressing like a kid to dressing like an adult. And so strangely, I found myself – as thousands of women had decades before me – slipping into Murray Meisner originals to head to the office.
Jill Meisner is a creative public relations professional living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. She just returned to New York after living, biking and hiking in Portland for three years.