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.