One of the things I bought at the Charlotte Vintage Market was a 1925 catalog from mail order clothing company, Philipsborn’s. Unlike the larger and much more famous Chicago mail order company Sears and Roebuck, Philipsborn’s sold only clothing, accessories, and fabrics. I haven’t been able to uncover much about the company, but it appears to have published its first catalog in 1892. My 1925 catalog is the newest I located, so I’m guessing it did not survive much longer in business.
We all love designer fashions, but a mail order catalog that was targeted toward the middle class is a better indication of what people were actually wearing than Vogue magazines of the period. The dresses above are a good example. 1925 is known as the year the skirts reached just below the knee, but most of the dresses in this catalog are considerably longer.
But the trends are in evidence as well. The green coat shows the “ethnic” embroidery that was so popular in the 1920s. The white coat on the right shows the “sporty” look that was gaining popularity.
In the 1920s, the concept of ready-made clothing was still relatively new. According to Sandra Ley in her book, Fashion for Everyone: The Story of Ready-to-Wear 1870’s – 1970’s, very little ready-made clothing for women was made until 1891, when waists, or blouses, became popular. By the 1920s, the variety of clothing available ready-made must have seemed amazing to people who were used to either making their own clothing or having a dressmaker or tailor do it.
As more and more people had the time and the means for leisure, sportswear began to be offered for sale.
This “smart tweed knicker suit” was also available with a skirt instead of the knickers. Knickers were gaining acceptance for outdoor wear, but I’m sure that not all women would have been comfortable wearing them.
Still, they were available in a variety of fabrics, though colors were pretty much limited to tan, khaki, and brown.
The only women’s trousers in the catalog were in the form of pajamas.
Knitwear sweaters had moved away from being strictly for sports by the middle 1920s. I’m always envious whenever I see a page of sweaters like these in old catalogs. Older sweaters for women are very hard to find. I suspect the moths loved them.
And finally, some sports shoes.