The Ottumwa Courier

April 18, 2013

When Fashion Ruled


Ottumwa Courier

---- — Over the past 50 years, fashion attitudes have changed, and today Walmart rules. The following is a small reflection on our past.

In a letter dated April 2, 1906, to John T. Brady, Ottumwa’s longtime city engineer, he is solicited for updating his spring wardrobe from the men’s premier clothing brand of Hart, Schaffner & Marx, which assured business success: “About this time of year most men give some thought to the question of clothes .... new suits, light overcoats, raincoat; it pays to be well dressed, and it costs a good deal less than it’s worth.

“Our style book is issued every season to show men who care to know what the correct styles are and to point the way to getting them.

“You may rely on the style book as an accurate and trustworthy guide to men’s fashions; it shows how correct clothes look. The fact that they are Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothes, and hope you will buy them, doesn’t lessen its value as a guide. You can buy any clothes you choose, but if you buy ours you’ll be satisfied.

“Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothes are for sale by Peach and Cresswell, 201 E. Main St., Ottumwa, and we are sure it will be a pleasure to show them to you. Drop in there and say that we asked you to come; you will get a hearty welcome; and if you are not already acquainted there you will find it greatly to your advantage to know such a concern. It’s a good place for you to do business in.

Yours very truly,

Hart, Schaffner & Marx”

Later, a spring 1939 article in the Ottumwa Courier reported from the nation’s fashion capitol what the American woman needs to be well dressed:

“STYLIST CONSIDER BASIC DRESS — New York – The main theme of today’s story is going to be the basic dress. It is the backbone of your wardrobe and it’s awfully important to concentrate on having your lines and style points correct when you go a-hunting this tried and true standby.

“It’s wise to pick a good solid color, preferably in one of the darker shades such as navy, black and brown. Then you can run amuck in accessories and have a variety of costumes by a change in hats, collars and cuffs, gloves, shoes and bag.

“Lucille Ball has selected the year’s oldest and newest favorite. It is a navy blue crepe with white. The box jacket is box pleated all around to match the skirt of the frock. Her white straw sailor hat is banded with a navy blue patent leather band trimmed with a terribly smart little patent leather ‘bird.’ To complete the ensemble she has chosen navy shoes and white accessories.”

None of us today are naive enough to believe Lucy only had one basic dress!

Sue Parrish is a retired museum director and author of the book, “Days Gone By.”