The Summer Girl at Carson, Pirie, Scott, Circa 1895

For several years I’ve been without a photo scanner. My old flatbed died, and I just could not justify the cost of the new huge boxes that did everything except mop the floor. But then my printer died, and it was time to bite the bullet. So I went to the computer place and was pleasantly surprised that not only had the boxes shrunk to a manageable size, they were also much more affordable. So I’m hoping you will see an improvement in the photographic quality of paper items.

I posted this little (smaller than the scan, actually) brochure on Instagram yesterday, and it was quickly noted that I am showing off a lot of new to my collection brochures. Yes, I have been on the lookout for additions to the sportswear archive, and I hope some more come my way soon.

The Summer Girl would more accurately be described as the New Woman. The brochure is not dated, but my best guess, based on the shape of the sleeves, is 1895.

Inside the folder Carson, Pirie, Scott details all the ingredients for a successful summer look, starting at the head…

and ending at the toes. By today’s standards, this is a lot of clothing for a summer outfit, but this “uniform” of sorts must have felt quite liberating to late Victorian women unused to clothing of such a practical nature.

What really sold me on this piece (besides the bathers on the front) was the concept of the complete outfit. Catalogs are so often an assemblage of bits and pieces, that it’s interesting to see what would have actually constituted an ensemble. Maybe it is because this is how I try to build my own collection. Having a pair of 1920s hiking knickers is not enough. I must also have the hat and blouse and socks and boots.

This is not collecting fashion as “art”. I’m interested in the things women wore and why they wore them. It’s hard to get the whole picture with only half the ensemble. At least that’s what I tell myself as I continue to look for the perfect 1930s beach sandals and the matching bathing suit to go with my favorite 1950s Ceeb swimming cover-up. The search continues!


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing

12 responses to “The Summer Girl at Carson, Pirie, Scott, Circa 1895

  1. Wonderful old ad ! I remember the fashion director and would see buyers at market in New York and at the collections. They were a designer store their always had beautiful fashion illustration style ads. Very rare to hold /maintain that sense of tradition/style for all of those years-since 1895! what else can one say?! That WAS American fashion retail. SAD it’s gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And such prices! I chuckled over the promise of that blouse being color fast!


    • Carol M. Wilson

      I did a quick search for median incomes in 1895 — rough guess, farmers and workers, under $500/yr; professionals ranging into the thousands ($2000 + for a dentist).
      Prices mean nothing unless they are compared to income.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Modern tech” for 1895. I know from fashion history that natural dyes faded upon washing. Wonder what chemicals they were using -I have an old bluing bottle they/my family used before bleach! Yes-the prices! That was expensive for then I would think!? thank you for reply.


  4. I love that it says “(which does not include the young lady)”!
    ~ Megan Joy


  5. Such a great addition to the archive!


  6. Ruth

    Okay, what would you say the meaning of “Persian effects” is in this context? A Paisley style print, maybe? That was a new one to me. And 10 dollars may seem like a lot for an entire outfit back then, but being a thrifty young lady the wearer would have worn the skirt quite a lot paired with other blouses. It would have been considered a base outfit like we have nowadays. Fashion was not as disposable as now and many clothes would have been used until they wore out, especially if the wearer was a young working lady or in college, or even still living at home.The average young woman might have had a couple of skirts and blouses and just varied them with collars, etc. Many women who were in service only had their working dress and a “good ” dress for church or parties.


    • I think they are referring to paisley, which originated in the area of Persia. According to one inflation calculator, $10 in 1895 is about $280 today, so in our get-it-on-sale mentality of today, it seems a bit pricey. But you are correct that the middle class or working person in the past owned fewer clothes and took better care of them

      Liked by 1 person

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