VINTAGE FASHION

The Best-Dressed Pitchwoman

Posted on March 29 2017

The remarkable collection of Ronald Amey suits and dresses that recently became available at Marlene Wetherall all belonged to television actress and pitchwoman Julia Meade.

 

Julia Meade, on February 21, 1975, wearing a Ronald Amey dress now available from Marlene Wetherell. 

 

Born Julia Kunz, she took her mother’s maiden name when she moved to New York following graduation from Yale University Drama School in 1948. While auditioning for the stage her good looks helped her start modeling for Conover, becoming a television pitchwoman in the nascent stages of that new medium. The elegant public face for brands looking for widespread exposure, her first big client was Lincoln in 1953the cultural historian Karal Ann Marling later wrote, “Lincoln made her a celebrity, if not a star, the object of intense viewer interest” From 1953 to 1962 Meade was seen weekly all across the nation on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to her being described as “America's first household name.” Along with Lincoln she extolled the virtues of a number of random products in her role as Sullivan’s “favorite salesgirl.” Her fame was such that she told Life magazine in 1960: “Fans don’t tear my clothes off or try to take a lock of my hair home to Junior. They stop me in the street mostly just to say helloand that testifies that I can do something well. That’s all I ever wanted.” From 1969 to 1971 Meade hosted a syndicated program, Ask Julia Meade, where she acted as an agony aunt responding to viewer’s letters; this was followed by another syndicated show, Julia Meade and Friends, in the mid-1970s. In addition, she acted in a few films including Pillow Talk (1959) and Tammy Tell Me True (1961). In 1952, Julia married the artist O. Worsham Rudd Jr.; they had two daughters. Until her death on May 16, 2016, Meade lived in a glamorous Fifth Avenue apartment.

 

Julia Meade photographed by Yael Joel for Life, 1960.

 

Eartha Kitt, Julia Meade and Ed Sullivan during rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show in March 1960. Photo by Yael Joel.

 

During her up-to-five-minute-long live commercials she wore modestly cut evening dresses with immaculate hair and makeupelegant yet not threatening for the viewer at home. She described this as her “well-groomed invisibility”, though off air she could be seen all over New York driving a flamingo pink Lincoln Premier convertible. Though her on screen apparel in the 50s and early 60s veered toward the pretty and classic, her later on air and personal style was much more eclecticgraphic patterns, oversized bows and lapels, quirky skirt suits, and voluminous ruffles all populated her closet in the late 60s and 70s. As Meade had earned $150,000 a year throughout her tenure at Ed Sullivan she was able to afford the best—and for her that meant amassing a collection of completely unique garments by Ronald Amey. Meade’s choice of a designer described as a “fashion independent, free wheeler, maverick” illustrates also her own personality: joyful, strong and game for a laugh.

Below are three images of Julia Meade likely wearing outfits by Ronald Amey:
 

For more on Amey, read here.

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