Ad Campaign – R.H. Macy & Co., 1924

Women’s Frocks in the Autumn Mode

After writing about the R.H.Macy store in New York, I wanted to show an ad from its early days.  I chose 1924 because so many of us have been noting the 1924 fashions on the latest season of Downton Abbey.

To me the most amazing thing about this ad is the prices.  Don’t be fooled by what seems to be so inexpensive.  As I’ve written before, women in the past expected to pay a higher percentage of their income on a new dress than we do today.  When inflation is taken into consideration, the $44.75 frock becomes $611.60.  And while it is easy to spend $600 on a dress today, most women in the American middle class wouldn’t think of such an extravagance.   And then, as now, Macy’s catered to the middle class.

Note that design A is “a skillfully designed frock for the larger woman.”


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20 responses to “Ad Campaign – R.H. Macy & Co., 1924

  1. I always think it’s a real shame that fashion illustration has fallen so out of favour – everything is photography now. Illustrations can really convey a mood or a style, sometimes far more effectively.


  2. the bathrobe coat-style dress (c)…is such a classic – i love the Abbey 20’s wardrobe transitioning…Mary in particular seems (to me) to carry it off very well….and Cora as well is now appearing tastefully “Maternal” without being dowdy…i think they really look as though they have “stepped out of a time capsule…the designer certainly has had her expertise tested – i think she has won her metals! this was / is not an easy task!


  3. Price comparisons from across the decades really fascinate me. Some ladies, desperate to wear a ‘Horrockses’ frock in the 1950s (just like the Royals did – although I bet theirs were FREE!!!), would manage to save around £7 in ‘old money’ (a months wage). That’s the equivalent of about £200 today. Not cheap by any means, although people were starting to have more disposable income after the rationing of WWII and beyond into the 1950s.


  4. I like dress A a lot! But it doesn’t seem to me that those big horizontal stripes on the bottom would do much for a larger body. This is also a dress with such a distinctive pattern that it could not be styled differently for different events. Dress C, which also was available in a big size range, would have been a better investment.


  5. Lynn took the words right out of my head. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the ways designers tried to add vertical elements to 1920’s dresses. Dress A does have a line of trims running from neckline to hem, but those horizontal stripes? Yipes. Dress C has a “surplice” line and that interesting collar, plus a side front opening — much more like the dresses usually recommended for large sizes in the twenties. Dress B has too much happening in both directions, and, although dress D caught my eye, it’s probably best shown on a sitting model! Great ad — thanks for sharing it!


  6. Wow, I didn’t realize middle class women would have paid that much for a dress! It really makes me rethink my price-range-to-quality ratios I’m comfortable with!


    • Even when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, we expected to pay a larger percentage of our budget on clothing. It’s on;y been in the last 25 years or so that people have come to expect “more for less” clothing-wise.


  7. That is astounding! I had no idea that dresses of that time would have cost as much! But I have never come across an ad of this age that included prices. Very interesting.

    Like most vintage ads, and prices, the cost comes with the source and labor of the garment. This garment would of course have been made in the US, with good materials and made well, and I would think that the cost would have been even with the garment in question.


  8. M. K.

    If the number and size of the closets in my mother-in-law’s house (built in 1924) are anything to go by, middle-class people didn’t have a lot of clothing. Perhaps women would pay these prices because they only bought a new dress once a year–if that often–and every garment was regarded as an investment as it was meant to last for years.


    • You are right about the closets. Almost everyone I know that has bought a pre-1960 house has had to add closets. And I can remember women talking about getting a new dress as if it were a major event. And this was in the 60s!


      • M. K.

        Yes, I can remember my mother and my aunts discussing the purchase of a new dress as a major undertaking. This was in the 60s as well.


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