10/18/2011 01:44 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Vera Neumann: Silk Scarf Designer, Artist (PHOTOS)

If you collect Vera, be prepared for questions.

"You mean Vera Wang?"

"What, Vera Bradley? Doesn't she do that paisley stuff? I thought it was just handbags..."

No, it's Vera Neumann, you say. And then you see a blank look in their eyes. Vera Neumann was a designer who worked between the 40's-90's, creating instantly recognizable scarves and home items that were all signed with her signature...and a ladybug (at least after the 50's). She was an artist, starting out as a fashion illustrator and textile designer, the kind of jobs that ladies in the 40's just seemed lucky enough to have. Can't you just picture her walking down Madison Avenue, sketchbook in hand, wearing a fabulous suit? Or pants? Vera seemed like a pants kinda gal.

During World War II, linen was in short supply, which lead Vera to find alternative materials for her work. And that's when she discovered parachute silk, an affordable material stocked in Army surplus stores. She transferred her artwork to the silk, creating her first batch of scarves. Of course, back then, ladies wore scarves, so success came quickly. (A curtain in her Jack In The Pulpit design would end up in the Truman White House.) Eventually, her work would be seen on tablecloths, aprons, napkins and every possible thing a well-appointed hostess needs. But here's the thing: She made the price points cheap. She did mass before mass was acceptable. She never fell to the persistant (and incorrect) line of thinking that, because someone doesn't have much money, they can't possibly deserve or understand design. (And honestly, this archaic thinking still exists today.)

After a long hiatus, the brand is back. You can find Vera merchandise at Macy's and Anthropologie (it's the We Heart Vera line), but you can still find the real stuff relatively easily at thrift stores.

But until then, here's a look at the amazing career of Vera Neumann.