Probably no label appeared in more dresses for decades than that of Jerry Silverman, who died in New York recently. Silverman once described his well-made, well-priced dresses, designed by Shannon Rodgers, as "good taste produced at realistic prices. We're not interested in fads, only in delivering what we promised." Silverman and Rodgers, Silverman's good friend for 37 years, traveled the country meeting customers to find out the clothes women needed, participating in local fashion shows, assisting generously in charity affairs.
Silverman was raised in New York, roomed with Sen. Barry Goldwater at Staunton Military Academy, and got degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School.
He practiced law briefly, but his tilt was to business, clearly the dress business. His father, a real estate executive, wasn't pleased. "It wasn't that he disapproved, but he just did not comprehend how I could think it was more interesting than law," Silverman once recalled. "One day he asked me to give him concrete reasons why I thought this crazy business was so wonderful." Jerry Silverman's answer explained his exuberance for the fashion business:
"Well, Dad, no two days are ever alike; there is something exciting happening every day. We also make an extraordinarily good living out of it. It is necessary for us to attend every social, theatrical and civic affair, dine in the best places to see the clothes . . . Anything that is new or advanced in art, advertising, promotion and presentation we work with first. We meet most of the celebrities in all fields . . . They all have to wear clothes. We have four vacations a year, and must go to Europe at least twice a year."
Silverman's father thought about it a minute and concluded, "Where can my desk go in our office?"
Silverman and Rodgers gave their collection of costumes, paintings, furniture and ceramics, valued at more than $5 million, to Kent State University as the basis for a museum. "They were paying back all of the people outside of New York who supported them over the years," said Stella Blum, former costume curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who is head of this museum project and a professor at Kent State.