I’m out of posting inspiration for the time (or, more accurately, I’ve got lots of inspiration, but I’m out of the mindset that allows me to sit down and pursue an involved research idea), so I’m turning to the catalogue stash for blogging material again.
Up today: two pages from the Standard Mail Order Co ‘Spring Styles for 1915’ catalogue.
The Standard Mail Order Co was an American mail order company that operated in the 1900s-1910s. They sold men’s, women’s and children’s clothes, hats and shoes, as well as a range of toiletries, trimmings for hats and clothes, and a few other small personal items.
As far as I can tell, it had no relationship the Standard Pattern Company, which put out the Designer Magazine at the same time.
Based on other mail order catalogues in my collection, Standard was low-midrange. Their pricing is slightly higher than Sears (the ultimate budget mail order catalogue), but significantly lower than Bella Hesse & Co, the creme de la creme of mail order fashion magazines.
The priciest frock in the Standard Catalogue is the silk number in the lower right corner of the front cover at $11.50. There is also has a whole page of $1 wash frocks (dresses that could be washed at home without the dyes bleeding), which are only about US$25 in modern money. In comparison, my Autumn/Winter 1914/15 Belle Hesse has at least three frocks costing over $20 (about $500 in 2020!), and none less than $5.
Because Standard was a small low-midrange catalogue, they couldn’t afford fancy artwork for their front cover, and their front page doubles a sale page, featuring four of their most tempting frocks.
I always play “which garment from this page would I buy” when I go through catalogues (fess up, who else does this?!) and my choice for this page is easy: I’d definitely go for the wool serge dress in the top right corner.
I love the tailored look, tuxedo revers and the standing collar. The only tricky bit would be choosing the colour. I love the sand its shown in, but I’m already sand coloured: I can’t wear it all over. I look great in black, but it’s so boring, I always end up buying blue, so I try to avoid that. Dark green, or wine are awfully tempting! What do you think?
One thing of interesting things in this catalogue are the amount of designs that are described as being based on another era.
The pricey silk taffeta number shown in palest grey (also available in black, navy blue, dark green, and dark Copenhagen [blue]) is described as a ‘Colonial’ design. I presume the colonial element is the standing ruff collar, which evokes a Regency/1820s ruff (they are only off by 30-50 years…).
The next page features the lavender voile floral frock in the lower right corner, which ’embodies all the charm and grace of the “Crinoline” fashions.’
I struggled to pick my favourite from this page. I love the pink floral (very affordably priced at $1.98!), but I’ve never quite reconciled myself to the mid-hip design-line on so many 1915 dresses. In fact, 1915 is the only year in the 1910s I don’t love: I just feel that so many styles are an awkward transition between the sleeker lines of 1914, and the fullness of 1916.
Note the reference to ‘business disturbances’ – this is due to WWI. Although America wouldn’t enter the war for another 2 and a bit years, they were economic repercussions, and access to some goods was limited, which drove up the prices.
The tub silk (‘tub’ means it’s washable at home) dress in black floral is rather lovely. Three layers of tiers with horizontal and then vertical stripes is a lot, and the ruched sash and Elizabethan collar (note that historicism!) are…not to my taste. But at least the collar is detachable! And I’m rather fond of the hat and shoes.
Here’s a close up of the fabrics on the two top dresses. The florals over stripes motif of the black is SO typical of the mid teens. It’s a type of pattern I wish we saw more of in modern silks and cottons.
I’m very torn on the silk faille poplin dress. It’s so close to elegant, but yet there’s something really off about it to me. Is it the cummerbund waistband? The embroidery? The ruched panel on the lower skirt? It feels like it should be beautiful, but just isn’t. What do you think?
The hat is trés chic though, and I bet it would look smashing on me.
Which are your favourites?