We all remember Casual Corner, don’t we? Twenty years ago it was the blandest of all the boring shops at your local shopping mall. But if you are old enough, you can remember when Casual Corner was young and hip.
I can remember very clearly the Casual Corner at McAllister Square Mall in Greenville, South Carolina. When I was a kid we drove down to Greenville occasionally to outlet shop and to visit cousins. By the early 70s we added McAllister Square to the mix. Shopping malls were a new thing, and Asheville didn’t even have one yet, so all your modern shopping happened on trips to Greenville or Atlanta.
Casual Corner was first on my list of places to browse. I can recall buying only one item in all the years I loved the store because most of what they carried was over my budget. But once they were having a really great sale, and I bought a printed sheer cotton blouse, with purple and pink romantically entwined flowers. I could have made this myself, but it was a big treat having a blouse from my favorite place of sewing inspiration. I wore it until it fell apart.
By the time Casual Corner closed in 2005, it was more of a store for career women. Most of the inventory was their own brand of goods. But in the 1970s Casual Corner carried lots of brands that are remembered fondly by girls of the Seventies – Whiting and Davis bags, Organically Grown, Levi Strauss, Sweet Baby Jane, and Happy Legs were just a few of them.
I was pretty happy to run across this catalog from the 1970s on eBay. It’s just the sort of whimsy I associated with Casual Corner. There is no date anywhere, but from the beginning I was convinced this was from 1973, the year I started college. More on that later. First, the clothes…
I’m not going to make many comments about each page, as these clothes pretty much sum up what young women and girls wanted to wear in 1973. It was all about nostalgia and if you don’t see the 1940s in these designs, then look again. From the platform shoes to the puffed shoulders, 1973 was all about the idea of the 1940s.
Were the pants legs really that wide? Well, no, but we thought they were, especially as they swished around the tall platforms, making us look six inches taller.
There was also a bit of a cartoon vibe to 1973. And this was before smoking became such a touchy subject. I wouldn’t have blinked at the smoking image on this “wrappy satin top with angel sleeves.”
Here’s more 1940s in the form of a turban, mixed with a bit of a 1920s biplane.
Wrap sweaters were also very big, and stayed in style for the next few years. I made my own, having access to great chunky knit fabric in the knitting mills’ outlet stores.
Here’s another reference to smoking, and the Camel logo is also a bit of a 40s throwback. We all thought people who smoked Camels had to be WWII vets.
My heart skipped a beat when I read the description of the cardigan at the bottom of the page. It’s the 1970s sweater of my dreams.
I really enjoy the tourist sweater too, with scintillating strips and city names (New York, Miami, San Francisco) knitted in lurex.
Could that be the start of the leisure suit? And that sweater at bottom? I had similar ones in every color. We loved the Fair Isle look.
When I got to this page I knew I had an image to confirm the dating of the catalog. The Charlie Chaplin bag was made by Whiting & Davis, and the story goes that this bag and others that featured silent screen stars had to be pulled from production due to copyright infringement. Because of that, the bags are pretty rare today, plus the fact that they cost $20, which was a lot of money then.
I knew I had an image of this bag in a 1970s Seventeen magazine, but rather than head to the magazine stacks, I took the shortcut of an internet search. What I found was surprising. Several websites dated this bag to 1976. The more I looked and read, the more I realized this is a case of information being copied and re-copied from the same original source.
All that sent me to the magazines stacks – the place I should have gone to in the first place. I started with 1973, and there was the photo I needed, in the November, 1973 issue of Seventeen. This confirms that my catalog is indeed from 1973.
As for the 1976 date, the only way that could be true is if Whiting & Davis re-released the bag that year. I tend to think not, but I’m open to being corrected.