Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring fashions past: the budget, the high-end, and the surreal

In honor of Easter and the fashions it has always entailed--new dresses, hats, and bright colors--we thought we'd showcase some of the catalogs and magazine images from the trove of ephemera that Tom got at an auction last fall to help us get a sense of what the fashionable woman (or man) was wearing in the 1930s and early 1940s.

First, from 1935, a flier featuring a line of Del Ray dresses for Spring, available from Rosenbaum's department store in Elmira, New York.

As the text reads, these styles were designed for the budget shopper, who could "indulge [her] thriftiest instincts by ordering [her] spring Del Ray dresses" for only a dollar and fifty-nine cents each.

I'll take one of each, they're so adorable!  Well, except maybe that mustard-and-green plaid number.  And the stripey thing.  And I'm not sure about the bows on #901.

At the other spectrum is Montaldo's "resort season 1942" selection.  Montaldo's was a very high-end women's dress shop in Columbus, Ohio (and elsewhere around the United States), which was in business from 1919 until the mid-1990s, when the company declared bankruptcy.

The images in this catalog are fabulous--like small portraits in pastel crayon.  And the women all look so stern and sophisticated.

As you can see in the small print, these aren't $1.59 dresses.  Oh no.  Prices range from $29.95 to $79.95, which must have been a fortune in those days.  But of course, if you've got the money to go somewhere for "resort season," then you're probably not worried about the expense of a new wardrobe for the occasion.

I think the image of the woman with the highly coiffed dog, above, is my favorite, but I have to admit that I'm also amused by the following.  An ancestor of Colonel Meow, perhaps?

Cooking on an entirely different planet were the fashions on display at the famous Hollywood party thrown by artist Salvador Dali in 1941.  The images below appeared in the Spring 1942 issue of a magazine called Game and Gossip.

Called "Surrealistic Night in an Enchanted Forest," Dali's party was definitely an outrĂ© fashion event.  Guests were supposed to wear costumes that represented their bad dreams.

Robinson Jeffers wearing a crown of laurels.  Yeah.  That's how weird that party was.  For live-action weirdness, watch this short newsreel about it.

So, there you go: a range of vintage fashion options to choose from for your Easter Sunday best.  I say you just can't go wrong with a unicorn hat.


Beth said...

I don't think we have digitized them, but there is a large collection of fashion sketches from Doris Duke's designer in our collections. They include the sketch plus fabric swatches. Really fun to look at.

Rosemary said...

Wow--having your own designer is a step (or three) above even Montaldo's! I'd love to see those.