Philipsborn’s Catalog, Spring and Summer, 1925

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.

Click the photos to enlarge

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.


Filed under Sportswear, Viewpoint, Vintage Clothing

15 responses to “Philipsborn’s Catalog, Spring and Summer, 1925

  1. What a joy to find such wonderful fashion illustrations, and in colour too. Thanks so much for sharing Lizzie. These are fabulous! 🙂


  2. Those illustrations are just gorgeous. And the clothes are really stylish and elegant with some beautiful designer details. And look at those fabrics they used…silk, flannel, Spanish lace and tweeds. Makes today’s mail order catalogues stuffed full of PU and polyester look a bit tawdry


  3. What is it about crazy paving and foxgloves in 1920’s (and early 1930’s) illustration! Love this image!


  4. I have several Sears Catalogs and Spiegel Catalogs….. 1940 or so….but they are NO WHERE as enjoyable to view as your 1925 catalog. I love it

    How wonderful the cover is (it would be wonderful.. framed). Let me know if you ever run across another .. seriously. The page with the long coats was my favorite. Thanks so much for sharing, Liz.


  5. What a great find! I wonder if those “Castle Queen” blouses were named after Irene Castle.


  6. Ahhhhhhh! These illustrations are so lovely,and yes–those sweaters. Magnificent. Some of my favorite photos of my paternal grandmother are of her wearing knickers in the 1920s.


  7. I love this catalog because you can see the actual colors and patterns that were popular during this time (if you aren’t lucky enough to see one of these dresses in person :)). Some of them look so contemporary to me, it’s amazing how much fashion has changed, but stayed the same in some ways too.


  8. Christina

    Lovely catalogue and sweet cover illustration. There was a huge interest in gardening in the 1920’s – Colonial Revival mixed with an earlier Arts & Crafts landscaping. People were bringing back ideas from their travels and incorporating garden designs.


  9. What a treasure! The clothing really was so detailed and beautiful back then. That zig zag sweater in the lower left corner of the sweater page is so modern and would love to have a pair of those X vamp shoes on the lower page too.


  10. Lillace Christianson

    Oh, my! The long coats and hats are just wonderful! And the sportswear is just too fun for words!


  11. Ultrawoman

    I wish I had a time machine! I would buy one of everything in that catalog! And all natural fibers as well!


  12. Gail Ann Thompson

    Brilliant!! For years, 1939 was my favorite fashion year. It’s recently been eclipsed by 1925! I love it and this Old Doll (62) would wear everything on this page in 2014 and be happy about it!


  13. Sandra A. Thomas-Swann

    I remember Phillipsborn clothing store in Washington DC area when I was a teenager in late 6O’s and the early 70′ . I was working in the Summer Youth Program has a Health Aide at The Southwest Health Clinic. Located In Washington DC . I was excited on paydays ,
    My sister Sheila and I would catch the Bus downtown to Shop at Phillipsborn . WHAT HAPPEN TO PHILLIPSBORN STORE


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