In the early decades of the 20th century, a remarkable phenomenon was revolutionizing American life. Mail-order catalogs, distributed by such firms as Sears, Roebuck and Company, were becoming familiar purveyors of merchandise ranging from stylish fashions for men, women and children to useful products and decorative accessories for the home.
For this volume, devoted to everyday clothing of the era, JoAnne Olian, Curator Emeritus of the Costume Collection at the Museum of the City of New York, has selected hundreds of fashion illustrations originally published in Sears catalogs between 1909 and 1920. Focusing on ready-to-wear apparel for women and children, the detailed illustrations display a wide variety of generally conservative articles of clothing. For the ladies, there are elegant dresses of taffeta, satin and crepe de chine for special occasions, lace-trimmed shirtwaists (forerunners of the modern blouse), everyday dresses of wool, two-piece serge suits and charming hats trimmed with silk ribbons, feathers and velvet. Outfits for children include — among other items — a variety of attractive suits for little boys in popular Russian and nautical styles, casual clothes, rain gear and more. Also shown is a representative selection of men’s wear: suits, coats, slacks, sportswear and other attire. Original captions accompany each item, providing information on material, size and price. An authentic record of what Americans were wearing during a decade of tremendous change, this vintage fashion parade will appeal not only to nostalgia lovers and Americana enthusiasts, but collectors, designers and fashion historians.