1940s Fashion Letterheads

Six years ago I ran across the correspondence of a clothing sales representative, most of which was rejection letters from firms with which he was seeking a position. I wrote about the letters at the time, but in looking through them recently I was really struck by several new thoughts.

Many of the letterhead illustrations included facsimiles of the labels the companies used. These could be useful not only in helping to date a garment, but also in identifying the maker of a certain label. In the case above, Miss Modern Playtogs, Ethel Lou Creations, and Nina Lou Frocks were all made by the Alton Garment Company of St. Louis, a fact that would be lost if not for documentation such as the letters.

Another important lesson from these letters is how widespread the manufacturing of clothing was in the United States. Fashion history tends to focus on New York (and no doubt, the fashion industry there was very important), with an occasional nod to the California and Florida sportswear makers, the junior dress industry of St. Louis, and the woolen manufacturers of the North and Northwest.

We are reminded that Dallas was another center for sportswear, and that Cleveland had a large knitwear industry. Not only was Saint Louis a center for junior wear, so was Kansas City. And I couldn’t help but notice how many different clothing manufacturing companies were located in Boston.

It’s interesting how the logos and fonts used by some companies looked old-fashioned for the late 1940s…

while others were definitely looking toward the 1950s.

The California companies were more likely to use “California lifestyle” imagery in their logos.

Companies that made clothing for children and teens were more likely to use images of dresses.

Teen and junior lines were more likely to use quirky fonts and design.

And whatever happened to the word frock?


Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Curiosities

9 responses to “1940s Fashion Letterheads

  1. Jacq Staubs

    T he same “thing” that has happened to American retail / merchandising.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps young women took a look at the lady on that label and said “Ahhhh! No frocks ever again!”


  3. Great deductions! How fortunate you saved the collection.


  4. Those letters are a good source for fashion history research – you had a great idea 🙂
    I wonder whether any archives or museums keep such type of documents / records at all?


  5. I’ve noticed the same thing going through Women’s Wear Daily–just how many different lines were produced by the same company and how widespread the production was. Your research is more colorful, though. How wonderful that these beautiful letters are stored in BAM (Bramlett Archive and Museum.)


  6. O.k., now I’m starting to get interested in fashion history. I don’t have time for this! I’ll just keep enjoying your blog for now. Thanks so much! And, I too wonder how we lost such a sweet word. Perhaps it was dropped when another similar sounding ugly slang word became so popular.


  7. I love, love, love this post! I’m a sucker for a good font and illustration!


  8. Frock is still widely used in my part of the world. A quick google search for the word shows that Australia is the home of frocks at the moment.


  9. Wow. A trove on theme and in one place. It occurs to me that I have a similar collection of rejection letters from west coast magazines. Many of which are quite dead. I’ll have to go dig that up, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t this stunning.


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