New York Styles, Spring & Summer, 1912

This 1912 catalog is a bit early to be a reference for most of the things in my clothing collection, but after spotting it at a market recently I decided to buy it anyway.  First of all, it was quite cheap.  But more importantly, it is on the cusp of where my collecting starts, around 1915.  It never hurts to know about what came before the eras that interest one most.

I’m unfamiliar with the Greenhut – Siegel Cooper Company of New York, but just from looking at the catalog it appears that they sold nice mid-range clothing, primarily for women, but with a smaller selection for children and men.  A quick internet search was very enlightening.

I learned that Siegel-Cooper was a huge New York City department store, opening in 1896 on Sixth Avenue as part of the famous Ladies Mile shopping area.  In 1904 the business was sold to Joseph Greenhut, but the shopping district was moving uptown, and  Greenhut – Siegel Cooper was never really successful.  The business folded in 1918.  The large building was then appropriated for use as a military hospital.  Over the years the building was converted to loft space, but today it still stands and is again home to retail establishments.

The fashions of 1912 are very different from the WWI era clothing of just a few years later.  It was the era of the narrow-hemmed “hobble skirts”, a fashion hoisted upon the world by Paris designer Paul Poiret.  While the skirts above are not very extreme in the style, you can see how an almost floor-length skirt might need to be a bit fuller in order to actually walk in it.

The dresses on this page are for teen girls and very young women, and so the hems are a bit shorter.

To me, the most striking aspect of these fashions are the hats worn with them.  The “Most Stylish and Becoming Dress Hat” seen above is large enough to do double duty a a bed for a small dog.  I’ve not pictured them, but there were several pages of  “hair goods” which were designed to beef up the wearer’s own hair so the hats would not flop over.  The buyer had to send in a sample of her hair to ensure a proper match.

This was also the era of the lingerie dress.  Dresses offered ranged from $1.98 ($46.94 today) to $12.98 ($307.75).  The more elaborate the dress, the greater the cost.  The third dress from the left was made of embroidered net and was the most expensive lingerie dress in this catalog.

There was a page of bathing suits, some of wool, and others of cotton.  Not seen are the bloomers that were included with each dress.

While there was no mention of sports dresses or skirts, there were illustrations that suggested that certain styles were suitable for tennis and golf.

This great weskit or vest was not offered for sale at all.

There was a page of sweaters for sale.  Note the golf clubs and the tennis racquet.  These sweaters were considered to be a very casual style, suitable for sports and outings.  Today it is nearly impossible to find knitwear from this era.


Filed under Proper Clothing

18 responses to “New York Styles, Spring & Summer, 1912

  1. Fascinating to look through this – thank you, Lizzie! Do so agree with your comment, “It never hurts to know about what came before the eras that interest one most.” That vest could be worn today, but the hat looks more like an oversized lampshade. Delightful find!


  2. Very interesting period – neither here / nor there as far as anything new!? Of all the periods in fashion…no photos in our family albums with head-to-toe shots…the midi look/sailor tops…some of this looks very delicate/lacey and soft and feminine…as you stated,,,what came after was so different…thank you…


  3. Fabulous Lizzie. Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful illustrations and knowledge.

    The “Most Stylish and Becoming Dress Hat” was very interesting to see. I have a photograph of my great grandmother wearing a similar large hat on her wedding day, which would have been around the same time the article was published.


  4. I’ve wondered what caused hats to get so very big during this era; they really are bizarre. Great to see the lingerie dresses, and the knitwear; I’m assuming any samples of the latter would long since have been nibbled by moths – or wrecked in the wash.


    • Maybe it was an attempt to balance the extreme slimness of the skirts? Anyone?

      Yes, the moths surely destroyed a lot of fantastic old sweaters.


      • For the record, hats had already gone large by 1909 – I featured one from the Girl’s Own Paper on my blog a couple of years ago in a feature with lots of textile-related Easter tit-bits:

        Even if we can’t make much sense of why and where this fashion came from, after such big hair and big hats it certainly makes sense that head-coverings subsequently went about as small and slimline as they could go (and hair too) with cloches (and crops). Fashions have a way of swinging from one curious extreme to another, don’t they?

        I’ll have to share some more highlights from this 1909 paper, Lizzie, perhaps on Instagram. There’s some good sportswear-related stuff in there.


  5. The hats! Amazing. I wonder if they wore them in theaters. Sixth picture down on the right – the Napoleon hat! These hats must have been so difficult to wear in bad weather.


  6. What amazes me is that women attempted to play sports in those slim skirts and tight bodices. I love the golfer’s vest, though. These catalogs are treasures.


  7. And don’t forget the corset.


  8. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Lizzie. What gorgeous illustrations!

    About the rare to nonexistent teens knitwear out there (I personally haven’t even seen any in a museum): How would we even know what to look for, to be able to distinguish a teens piece from something a decade or two later? It’s like trying to envision the missing link, before you’ve stumbled on it!


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