If you are looking for a piece with such a rich and vibrant history. This amazing 1950’s Watumull’s cheongsam is the piece for your wardrobe. The piece is made of silk and has depections of a fire bird with what looks like love heards in it’s tail feathers.
The brand Watmull’s was started by Jhamandas Watumull, originally from Hyderabad, Sindh (in what became Pakistan), the son of a brick contractor, was one of the first people of Indian descent to come to Hawai‘i.
Jhamandas left his home as a young boy of 14 to earn a living and help his disabled father. His mother sold her jewelry to buy his passage to the Philippines.
Jhamandas stayed with an older brother and worked in Manila’s textile mills. He opened a small import shop in Manila that specialized in imports from the Orient with his partner Rochiram Dharamdas. The shop attracted American troops stationed in the Philippines and business was good.
In 1913, when the troops were withdrawn from the Philippines and moved to Hawai‘i, the two partners decided to follow them and explore business opportunities.
A year later, Dharamdas opened a branch of ‘Dharamdas and Watumulls’ on Hotel Street in Honolulu. Unfortunately, two years later, Dharamdas died of cholera and the store became Jhamandas’ responsibility.
Unable to leave the Manila business for long, he decided to send his younger brother, Gobindram (GJ), to take care of the Honolulu store, which was renamed ‘East India Store’.
GJ settled in Hawaii and, in 1922, married Ellen Jensen, an American music teacher. Ellen’s sister, Elsie Jensen, traveled to Hawaii in 1928 to visit her. Elsie then started working at Watumull’s East India Store as a window display designer.
Watumull’s later commissioned Elsie to create hand-painted floral designs on silk for interior decoration. Her clothing designs would come later. (Honolulu).
The initial years in Hawaii were difficult and trying. As the first Indian businessmen in Hawaii, they faced many setbacks, discrimination and daunting immigration laws, including denial of citizenship to GJ although he was married to an American. His wife, Ellen, lost her American citizenship because she had married a British East Indian subject.
As time passed, the East India Store flourished, selling raw silk goods and ‘aloha shirts’ on the island, turning into a major department store, before eventually opening additional branch stores in Waikiki and the downtown Honolulu area.
In 1954, there were a total of eight Watumull stores. Rejecting a consultant’s advice to change the “tourist-oriented” names of his stores like Leilani Gift Shop and focus on mainland-type goods, they opened more “tourist-oriented’ stores.
During the next 20 years, the number of stores increased to 29 and included East India Stores, Aloha Fashions, Malihini Gifts and Leilani Gift Shops.
The business became among the top 250 businesses of Hawai‘i. Over time, the Watumull stores have all closed down; one remains at the Ala Moana Center.
The Watumull family also set up several local philanthropic and educational institutions, including the Rama Watumull Fund, the J. Watumull Estate, and the Watumull Foundation.
Information found from the this wonderful blog
The dress opens with a metal talon side zip – which indicates the piece is true to the 1950’s please see this link for more information and has frog closures on the neckline. Re the dry cleaners labels, dry cleaners actually became popular in the 1950’s so hence maybe the tag.