Bates Fabrics and Fashion

A few weeks ago I got an email from a new reader here, Diana.  After exchanging a few back and forth she mentioned that she had worked for Bates Fabrics in the late 1940s . She had trained for a career in radio, and after college she worked doing women’s programs for a station in Maine.

Bates, which was at the time most famous for their bedspreads and home fashions fabrics, hired Diana as part of an effort to expand more into fashion fabrics.  Bates had famous designers do clothes using their fabrics, and Diana’s job was to travel around the northeastern US summer resort hotels presenting fashion shows utilizing these clothes.  She got some of her friends to model the fashions while she did commentary.

Here you see Diana at the microphone, describing a gown made of Bates fabric.  The model is Hazel, Diana’s sister-in-law.

Another photo from one of the fashion shows.  Isn’t it interesting how the audience sat around under the sun umbrellas?

Diana pointed out that while the young women had a wonderful time, she’s not sure that the campaign was very successful.  I do know that at least some of the clothes were produced for the market, including the Louella Ballerino for Jantzen swim suits in the 1946 ad at the top.  I thought it was really interesting that one of the women involved, Diana’s friend Cricket, sent her the same ad as an example of the clothes included in this campaign.  Below is another example.


Filed under Designers, First Person Stories

25 responses to “Bates Fabrics and Fashion

  1. Wow! Amazing! What a great story! Wonderful pictures!


  2. I agree, this WAS an interesting article. Thanks much.
    I hope Diana is now one of your blog members….(if she is?… a Welcome greeting to Diana),,,I am sure she could reply with interesting mentions about the fashion industry you write about, Lizzie.


  3. Lillace Christianson

    Oh, to have been at one of those shows! Swoon!


  4. Fascinating! I LOVE that fabric featured in the ad!


  5. Are the photos showing upside-down for anyone?


  6. Wonderful to learn from Diana of her role in marketing Bates fabric… Were any of the “northeastern summer resorts” in the Catskills, I wonder?

    That Louella Ballerino swimsuit–and the fabric it’s made from–are to die for!


  7. Julie Eilber

    Would love to get my hands on the fabric in the first photo.


  8. Wow, it is amazing how many great stories you have and the connections you have made through blogging! Diana’s dress in that second picture looks positively dreamy. I am always hoping some Kiwis will get in contact with me after finding my blog through googling vintage NZ labels, which is where the majority of my traffic comes from, and give me some info about the companies or the people involved in them!

    You might be interested to read a story from my friend Zoe about a connection she has made through blogging.


    • Zoe’s story is incredible. Thanks so much for sharing it.

      I’ve found that most of the contacts I’ve made through the blog are because I’ve posted something and the person found it through google. It’s usually a family member of a designer or company and they are curious about what is online about the family business. I love hearing from such people!


  9. Wow! How wonderful! And I have always adored that swimsuit!


  10. How wonderful! Such a great story and I would love to be sitting underneath one of those sun umbrellas watching the gorgeous fashions parade around me.


  11. Great post. I love the casual feel of the fashion show. Makes it seem more fun and less stuffy. Those bathing suits are fabulous!! I am going to try to make one like them for next summer.


  12. Lizzie, you are so amazing! Although the book might be dying, I would pay a lot to have your research on American companies and American design collected together under one cover.


  13. What a cool story! Love these photos–and Diana’s dress is lovely, as well as the models’!


  14. Fashion Witness

    Whenever I get frustrated with the internet, a blog like this reminds me of the way people with common interests can connect and share history that would otherwise be lost. Thank you! and thanks to Diana and your other fascinating correspondents!


  15. The fashions shows may be casual in nature but there beautifully dignified (rather than today’s with electro music, graphics, and angry models). Would love to know the locations in the northeast as I live in New England. How sweet Diana looks describing SIL Hazel’s dress.


  16. Christina

    Really nice post. Pics 2 and 3 were showing upside-down on my ipad but not on my PC.


  17. Nora Currie

    Hi! I really love your blog and your amazing vintage fashion! I also have an iPad and pictures 2 and 3 are upside down on my device. I just wanted to let you know! Love your blog!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.