Tag Archives: Marshall Field

Marshall Field & Co, Chicago (aka Macy’s)

When visiting a new place, I’m always interested in the history of fashion retail in that town or city. In so many ways, in Chicago this is epitomized by Marshall Field’s, a long established department store located in the heart of the old shopping district of State Street inside the Loop. To sum up a lot of history, the store that became Marshall Field’s was started in 1852 by Chicago big-wig Potter Palmer. Field became involved in a partnership in the store in 1865.

In 1868 the renamed Field, Leiter, and Co. moved to where the store is now located on State Street. But this is not the same building, which was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As the city rebuilt, so did Field and Leiter. In 1881, Field bought out Leiter, and Marshall Field and Co. was officially born. A series of building additions ensued, and in 1907 the store as it exists today was pretty much finished.

Over time, Marshall Field became a Chicago institution, so much so that in 2005 when the store was bought by Macy’s there was a big protest. Fortunately, much of the interior was left intact so that visitors to the store today can get a good idea of the grandeur in which people shopped in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

The store has two large open areas, and one of them has a favrile glass mosaic vaulted ceiling decorated by Tiffany. It’s worth taking a stroll into the building just to see it.

Today, of course, the shopping experience is just not the same with the bright florescent lighting and the same Macy’s merchandise available across the country. Still, if one uses their imagination…

The Chicago History Museum has a display on Marshall Field & Company, which was a fashion leader in the city.

One block down State Street is the site of another great Chicago department store – Carson, Pirie, Scott. As you can see, today the lower floors are a Target, but the beautiful ironwork in the Louis Sullivan designed building still amazes anyone who takes the time to stop and really look at it.

As I was thinking about the grand old department stores and their disappearance from American retail, I turned to Jan Whitaker’s book on the subject, Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class. Rereading the first few chapters reminded me that while we mourn the demise of stores like Marshall Field and Wanamaker’s and Rich’s, when the department stores took over one hundred or so years ago, people were mourning the loss of the little private owner specialty store. And interestingly enough, it looks like today’s retail beasts – Walmart, Target, Costco, and the like – will soon be at the mercy of Amazon as it moves into the grocery and brick and mortar business. Will we have the same nostalgia for the big box chain store?

As the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

 

11 Comments

Filed under Shopping

1930s Sailor Inspired Pants

It was during the 1930s that women became serious about wearing slacks.  Many had already taken to wearing knickers during the Twenties, and by the end of that decade the pyjama pant had become a popular beach option.  In the Thirties pants moved from the beach and into other casual venues.

This delightful pair was one of my flea market finds.  They aren’t perfect, but for an eighty-year-old garment that received rough wear, they aren’t bad.  I love the double button flap in the front, but check out this great detail in the back:

Just like a real pair of sailor pants, this pair has laces at the waist.  The stitching holds in place a sort of modesty panel.  We couldn’t be allowing a peek of our panties!

The label is great as well, with a horse and equestrienne theme. Marshall Field was the great Chicago department store, having been founded in 1881.

A second label gives a bit more information about the fabric.  It is “sanforized,” a process that helped keep cotton fabrics from shrinking.  It was developed and patented in 1930 by Sanford Cluett, one of the owners of Arrow shirts.  A sanforized tag can be useful in dating a garment, as one having that label cannot predate 1930.

Here’s a close-up of the front flap opening.  The buttons are the originals.  How about that little pocket?

Another nice detail that does not show in my other photos is the white piping down the side seam.

And I love that piping is also on the trim of the little pocket.

In the 1930s, the nautical look was hot, but it was not new.  Seaside outfits that took inspiration from the sailor’s suit dated back to Victorian times, and the inspiration continued through the Edwardian era and the 1920s  in exercise and swimwear.

This 1930s woman did not need to be on the shore in order to enjoy her nautical ensemble.

 

16 Comments

Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Marshall Field Sweater, c. 1927

It  was in the paper today about how many people in Chicago just cannot bring themselves to shop at Macy’s this Christmas.  The demise of the Marshall Field name is just too painful.  I never had the pleasure of shopping at Marshall Field, but as a child I loved the big department stores in Asheville, and the huge Rich’s in downtown Atlanta, and I can see how a store can be so important to a community.  It’s bad enough that the malls across America are all alike, and now the department stores are too.

But there was a time when shopping in a big downtown department store was an event, something to be planned and dressed for.  Department stores held special events that really brought in the holiday shoppers, and these events became treasured traditions.

All these thoughts were brought about by a sweater with, you guessed it, a Marshall Field label.  I’ve had this sweater so long that I cannot tell you where I found it.   I knew it was old, but then I found its first cousin in a 1927 mail order catalogue.  And I’ve seen photos a little older than that with men tennis players wearing similar sweaters.  I just love finding the almost same item in a primary resource!

Posted by Liebemarlene:

That sweater is one of the best I’ve seen. As a Chicagoan I can say that I definitely miss Marshall Fields. It had an old-fashioned feel to it; at least I can still find vintage clothing in the thrift stores with the old Marshall Fields labels in them.

Tuesday, January 9th 2007 @ 11:48 PM


1 Comment

Filed under Shopping, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing