When Casual Corner Was Cool – 1973

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.

15 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Shopping

15 responses to “When Casual Corner Was Cool – 1973

  1. jacq staubs

    HOW MUCH FUN IS THIS!!! Absolutely wonderful! YES Casual Corner was everywhere! Including Washington DC . Remember the vendors too! They were a great store. The platform shoes – even for guys- were difficult to get used to. The bell bottoms w cuffs! Big chunky belted sweater coats – again even for guys. The “UNISEX” merchandising was so great. The “Lib” movement loved it. The hair styles were “Unisex” as well! THANKS for some wonderful warm memories – during such dark days! XO,Jacq

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  2. jacq staubs

    PS! I really miss the Factory Outlet Stores! Nothing better – the new ones are ( to me ) just another shop!

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  3. So interesting, love your attention to detail and dates.

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  4. I am trying to remember WHY the fake peasant/Biba/pseudovintage (when real could be had for a song) look was such a phenomenon. And it LASTED (GunneSax were still spendy in 1979, I have a photo right here of a group of my friends at a college dance, and one of us had a REAL one and the rest of us wearing knockoffs or homemade (me)). Before we all get too sentimental, remember these pants and tops were made out of double knit poly, and they snagged and pilled and reeked of whatever you sat next to. Hmmmm, cigarettes. And yet, at a craft show this fall, one woman was selling out of her ‘authentic DBK retro themed dresses’. 1/4″ seam topstitching and all. I think when times are hard (and the economy stank around here) people long for what they consider to be a simpler time. Nixon looks so liberal now…..

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  5. Ruth Lutz Whitten

    I LOVED CASUAL CORNER!!!!! I relished the calendars they put out each year and recorded my diary of outfits on them so I would never wear the same outfit to school on the same day of the week for two weeks in a row. The real reason I loved it though was because I had talked my mother into a buying me a burlap tote bag with a poodle appliqué on it. Our store did not have the color to match my pet which was gray but the manager assured us he could get it from the Memphis store the next week. Two days later I received a package in the mail which contained the tote bag along with a note from the manager saying he wanted me to have the bag ASAP so he had opened a charge account for us. My father did not believe in charge accounts but I was elated!!! As a side note I did not abuse the account but it surely gave this young teen a boost to know I had access to everything in that wonderful store!!! P.S. I know I still have the calendars with my notes written on them!!!!

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  6. I think it might date a little later because of the long skirts. At least where I was, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, micro minis so short we had to wear a coat all day to class because we couldn’t bend over were big until 1974 or 1795 when the hemlines dropped to midi length seemingly overnight.

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  7. Goodymcgoodface

    I spent a good deal of the 70s in Casual Corner waiting for my eldest sister to buy clothes. I had an interest in what she bought knowing I would get them eventually.

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  8. Casual Corner! Thanks for the memories. This was the budget Paraphernalia, where I could get those pants and cache-coeur tops, and the quality was decent. (Remember when hems were finished with bias tape?) Then they went all flower-sprigs and by 1970 I was not into the Villager look. Now I am 70 and I still linger over Mexican-embroidered blouses and those palazzo pants.

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  9. I remember a rust canvas jacket I bought at Casual Corner. It had a corduroy collar, but it wasn’t like those barn jackets in outdoorsy catalogs. I wore it forever. Where is it now?

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  10. I probably passed you in Casual Corner at McAllister Square in Greenville in the early 70’s. I loved the place and my family lived 15 minutes away!

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  11. Mim

    That’s such a cool catalogue. I love 70s retro styles, all that 30s and 40s influence, much more than the more ‘modern’ stuff.

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  12. I still have this booklet and have saved it since October 1973. It was the night after I had told my father about a knit color blocked sweater I had seen in the window the day before. It had elbow length butterfly sleeves and was a smock type knit of primary colors. It cost $11 and my father took me back to the store the next night and he bought it for me. I wore it to my 15th birthday party that month. After college, I shopped at Casual Corner for work clothes. I remember purchasing a faux-leather satchel handbag in burgandy for work. It had a top zipper and two outside zippered pockets. I thought it was terribly chic. I also bought a hat, scarf, and glove set there and a few other things. It was all over my budget for the most part. Hit or Miss was another big store in Massachusetts for young women. But I bought most of my work clothes at the Dizzy Dame, which was cheaper with great quality. The department stores were out of the question until I went to work in the city.

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