Loss of a PSA Legend

Passing of a PSA Legend, Jane Vandermade

Jane Vandermade created and directed the Pittsburgh Symphony Association’s Fashion Gala for 25 years, raising millions for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.   

In remembrance of Jane, we are including the feature below,

Obituary: Jane Culp Vandermade / Fashion director at Joseph Horne Co. spearheaded Symphony Gala

Jane Vandermade, a longtime fashion director at the Joseph Horne Co. and the first female vice president at the now-closed department store, died Wednesday at her home at Providence Point, Scott.
She was 92.
The cause of death was complications from a brain tumor, said Jacqueline Rossi of Mt. Lebanon, a former employee of Horne’s who Ms. Vandermade considered to be her honorary goddaughter.
During a career that spanned 45 years, Ms. Vandermade traveled regularly to New York, Paris, Milan and other global fashion capitals to meet designers, view the spring and fall collections, and recommend which colors, styles and brands should be carried by Horne’s.
She became friendly with the industry’s top names including Bill Blass, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Carolyne Roehm — many of whom she brought in as featured designers for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Fashion Gala, an annual fundraiser she created and oversaw for 25 years.
Ms. Vandermade was born in Schellsburg, Bedford County, an only child who left the small town to attend Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) as a theater major with a focus on costume economics.
After graduating in 1947, she joined Horne’s as a fashion assistant at its flagship store at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street, Downtown.
She became the fashion director in 1960 and was named a store vice president in 1975.
At Horne’s, a department store known for its carriage trade with the city’s wealthiest families, Ms. Vandermade “fought her way to the top,” said Ms. Rossi.
“There was no such thing as a woman executive back then,” said Ms. Rossi who worked for Ms. Vandermade in the 1980s. “There was a good ol’ boys club that was all men and you knew your place.”
Ms. Vandermade gained respect at the retailer because of her success producing the annual fashion gala and because she was driven and determined, said Ms. Rossi.
The first gala, staged in 1965 at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, sold 700 tickets.
It later moved to Heinz Hall, Downtown, where it grew to include multiple fashion shows in one day that featured Broadway-type sets, music and lighting.
The event was considered the kickoff to the fall fashion season and drew more than 5,000 patrons annually, said Ms. Rossi.
“She did not want a family,” said Ms. Rossi. “She just wanted a career and that was very rare back then.”
In 1951, Ms. Vandermade married Richard Vandermade, an international sales manager for the Carborundum Co.
“Early on they decided they didn’t want children,” Ms. Rossi said of the couple. “He supported her growth in her fashion world and she supported him in his business.”
They lived in Mt. Lebanon until moving to the Providence Point retirement community in 2009.
Mr. Vandermade died in 2010.
Ms. Vandermade retired from Horne’s in 1992. Two years later the store was sold to Federated Department Stores which merged it with its Lazarus division.
As a boss, Ms. Vandermade “knew what she wanted and took no prisoners,” said Ms. Rossi.
Always impeccably dressed, she expected her staff to do the same and left photos on their desks to advise them how they should wear their hair.
“She loved short, chic hair and told the models at Horne’s how to do their hair — or they wouldn’t be modeling for us,” said Ms. Rossi.
She was blunt about her views on style trends, too.
At a fashion preview in New York in 1990 where collections featured super-short, tight skirts and glitzy dresses, she told Pittsburgh Press fashion editor Barbara Cloud, “So much for the working woman’s friend. I think designers have lost their minds.”
In a 2000 column published in the Post-Gazette, she told Ms. Cloud, “The sweatsuit is the worst thing ever to happen to fashion.”
In 2010, she was among the first inductees into the Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame.
Up until she died, she retained her sense of style, said Ms. Rossi.
When her illness made it difficult for her to communicate, she would point to clothes and accessories and insist they be coordinated — including the color of her eyeglasses, said Ms. Rossi.
After her husband died, Ms. Vandermade organized a group of single, divorced and widowed women at Providence Point who met biweekly for cocktails, snacks and a movie.
There was a board of directors and officers.
“Everything was a production with Jane,” said Ms. Rossi. “She ran it like she ran things at Joseph Horne’s.”
At Ms. Vandermade’s request, there will be no visitation and interment is private.

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.