NEW YORK — Sheila Solomon, a 45-year veteran of the innerwear industry, died Friday at the Castle Senior Living Center in Manhattan. Her age could not be learned, but she was believed to be in her late 60s.
The cause of death was lung cancer, according to her niece, Hillary Feldman.
Solomon, who had a fondness for theater and dancing and excelled as a kosher cook, began her career as a teenager interning at Gimbel’s department store, where she worked in accounts payable. She often enjoyed telling friends about the time she came across a file listed as KW that did not correspond to the A-to-Z roster of customers.
“I learned my lesson very quickly,” she said. “I was told it stood for ‘kept women’ and that I should never mention it again. That list was one of the store’s most private and lucrative segments of business in the old days.”
Over the years, Solomon became what many innerwear executives called an “icon” for her community service and commitment to the industry. She served as secretary of the Underfashion Club for five years and as vice president for 10 years, and cochaired the organization’s annual cocktail and dinner gala for the Femmy Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for 15 years.
Solomon also was a board member of the Fashion Crafts Educational Council of the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, where she mentored aspiring lingerie designers. Earlier, she was a director of the Underwear & Negligee Association.
Her career as a sales executive included sleepwear companies Eileen West and Cinema Etoile at Movie Star Inc. She also worked for several independent firms in the Sixties and Seventies, including Fantasy, Dormé and Boutique Industries, where she sold lines such as loungewear by Clovis Ruffin, Mary McFadden and Ralph Lauren. Before her most recent stint at sales firm Soifer Haskin, Solomon served as national sales manager of Priamo Designs, which closed its New York showroom in 2003.
Designer Eileen West said, “Sheila was such a joy to work with — very professional, knowledgeable and creative. All of the retailers loved working with her.”
Roslyn Harte, president of Lances-Harte, said, “Sheila loved children and she was very involved in raising money with the Intimate Apparel Square Club for the pediatric unit of Rusk Institute, and she was also very influential in organizing Hanukkah/Christmas parties and Passover/Easter parties for kids at Rusk who were chronically ill.”
Solomon is survived by a sister, Roberta Wilson.