Chicago’s Fashion History

Chicago Fashion History book cover

(Image source: Chicago Fashion History Facebook page)

Mary Beth Klatt’s Chicago’s Fashion History: 1865-1945 is a visual collection of Chicagoans in their work clothes, socializing outfits and relaxation wear. The book is easy-to-read with its numerous pictures and succinct descriptions filled with both fashion notes and their context to history and the social life in Chicago.

“Mary Beth Klatt collected hundreds of photos from sources including her own family, high schools, the Library of Congress, and the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society, allowing the images of regular working folks, rather than society ladies, to drive the story.

It was a time when people tended to stick to stores in their neighborhoods for the sartorial necessities.”Marshall Field’s and going downtown was reserved for something special,” says Klatt. “People really took pride in their clothes . . . .you’d see a lot of Sunday outfits, since people tended to take photos more on special occasions.” Reader, September 2010

Ms. Klatt gives us tidbits of information to peak our interest and swell our Chicago pride, such as:

  • Amelia Earhart fashion label

    (Image source: Huffpost Style)

    Aviator Amelia Earhart was a designer and sold her line of separates at Marshall Field’s in 1934;

  • Hats held an importance as high as dresses. A milliner herself, Ms. Klatt found many millinery images, including many of small millinery shops on the South Side run by women;
  • Although pants were forbidden to be worn by women, one suffragette wore a fitted pair in a Chicago parade; and
  • In 1940, Chicago became known as a fashion incubator when Chicago-born designer Main Rousseau Bocher, who had started a fashion house in Paris, became the wedding dress designer in 1937 for Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.

Several of the image are courtesy of the Rogers Park Historical Society and cites the photographed persons as Logan Square residents. Hmmm, sounds like I need to make a field trip to the Rogers Park Historical Society.

I found this copy at the Chicago Public Library Near North branch, but if your local branch doesn’t have it, I suggest asking if they can request to borrow it to your branch. You may be like me and start sketching necklines from the pictures to adjust into your next construction.

Happy Reading and Happy Sewing!


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