Hilda Glasgow’s works revived with ‘The White Cabinet’

Liz Glasgow holds up one of her mother's drawings. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Liz Glasgow holds up one of her mother’s drawings. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Back in the mid-20th century, before photography became the norm in fashion and advertising, Hilda Glasgow would sketch glamorous women wearing the styles of the day for department store ads and magazine spreads.

Despite the skill it demanded or the sense of time and style the images evoke, her work was considered just a commercial commodity at the time.

“In her day, because photography didn’t reproduce well, they advertised clothing through fashion illustration. It wasn’t considered fine art at all,” her only child, Liz Glasgow, said during a recent interview at the Greenport home she shares with her husband, Jim Nemeth.

But now, Ms. Glasgow has given her mother’s artwork a second life, showcasing the pen-and-ink drawings of tall, waif-like women and their meticulous ensembles through her business, “The White Cabinet.”

The drawings are available on note cards, prints, coloring books, stencils and stamps through TheWhiteCabinet.com and are sold at shops like The Times Vintage in Greenport and Phoebe & Belle in Cutchogue.

“We had this white metal cabinet filled with her drawings in the art room. When she moved, it came to my place,” Ms. Glasgow said. “I thought ‘God, I bet people would really love her drawings.’ ”

Liz Glasgow, a real estate photographer, launched her business in 2010 after the housing industry continued to slump following the recession. She began gathering up the drawings stored in her mother’s old white supply cabinet (hence the business’s name); other original prints had been given to friends over the years.

“I was obsessed with it,” she said. “It became so much fun.”

Hilda Glasgow at age 87. (Credit: Courtesy of The White Cabinet)

Hilda Glasgow at age 87. (Credit: Courtesy of The White Cabinet)

She recalled a childhood filled with fashion models traipsing through her family’s Upper East Side apartment. There they would stand, draped in elegant apparel, while she looked on as her mother recreated their look on the page.

“I remember them coming and posing for her distinctly,” she said.

The younger Ms. Glasgow gave the women in the sketches popular mid-century names, like the red cigarette pants-wearing Rita and the leopard-clad Angie.

“They’re named after movie stars or my friends and relatives,” Ms. Glasgow said.

Unsure of how the note cards and prints might be received, she began by running an ad for her new company in the New York Observer in 2011.

A clue to the popularity of and demand for the unique vintage prints came when she received her second order: fashion designer Michael Kors purchased a print featuring the fur coat-wearing “Collette.”

“I thought that was cool,” Ms. Glasgow said.

Born in 1913, Hilda Glasgow graduated from Pratt Institute in 1933. She began sketching for Vogue in the 1930s at a rate of $10 a drawing, which was a sizable sum during the Great Depression. She married painter Bernard Glasgow in 1938, but Liz wasn’t born until 1958.

“She was the breadwinner,” Ms. Glasgow said. “My mom was kind of a woman ahead of her time.”

Her father later worked at the ad agency Lennen & Newell.

“He was the original ‘mad man,’” she said, referring to the popular television show about Madison Avenue ad agencies.

The comparison between Hilda Glasgow’s drawings and the AMC drama set in the ’60s — known for its period fashions — is irresistible.

In fact, “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant once tweeted an endorsement of her work.

A print of a 1960 Hilda Glasgow design. (Credit: Courtesy of The White Cabinet)

A print of a 1960 Hilda Glasgow design. (Credit: Courtesy of The White Cabinet)

After a long and varied career that included a mail order needlepoint business and a foray into jewelry making, Hilda Glasgow moved in 1997 to a retirement community, where she lived out the rest of her years.

She died in 2004 at the age of 90. Ms. Glasgow said her parents would find her mother’s posthumous success ironic given that it was her father who was considered the fine artist of the two. His modernist paintings have been on display at Papillon Gallery in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years.

“I think she’d be really pleased with what it’s become,” Ms. Glasgow said. “She’s my very silent partner. It makes me feel like she is still with me.”

vchinese@timesreview.com