Harford Frocks AdvertisementIn the world of fashion, good ideas travel fast, and when ready-to-wear fashion and bored housewives combined with businesses willing to adapt their selling styles, it became a recipe for success. Fashion Frocks (and its division Harford Frocks) was one of the companies in the early decades of the twentieth century who springboarded off the idea of using women who buy a product to sell the same product to other women of their acquaintance.
A Nelly Don Dress ShopWhen Ellen “Nell” Quinlan - the woman behind the creations of the Handy Dandy Apron and subsequent Nelly Don fashion empire - married Paul Frances Donnelly in June of 1906 in Parsons, Kansas, the young couple had no idea what kind of drama awaited them. But let me just say...it was definitely the kind of drama you’d scoff about as “simply too much to be believed” if you had watched it on TV!Nell Donnelly ReedWe’ll start out with Nell, who had the archetypally famous rags-to-riches sort of life.
Like most human endeavors, the fashion world has had its fair share of twists and mysteries. Some of these can be marked up to accidents in reporting or to confusion fed by too many whispered rumors.
When well-known Chicago-area modiste Kathryn Vrooman held the grand opening of her remodeled “fairyland ballroom” shop at 1023-25 Lake Street in Oak Park, Illinois, on March 12, 1936, it was perceived by the community as an avant-garde and unusually modern addition to the shopping district. On its facade it had a completely glass-and-metal framed front window design, side-access glass door, and black vitrolite moldings with “Vrooman” etched in glass and silver relief. While these all-glass storefronts are commonplace today, it was extraordianry for 1936.
In the early years of the twentieth century, three women - Englishwoman Mary Jane (Hill) Fraser, Virginian Emmadean (Hanger) Ogle, and Connecticut-born teacher Julia M. Patten - were responsible for building the foundation of what was to become the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Ogle Gown Company.A 1910s Ogle Gown Ensemble, from the Label Archive.Mary, born in England around 1860 and the wife of Robert A. Fraser, moved to Colorado Springs with her husband around 1894.
An exhibit at Kent State University Museum.Shannon Rodgers - the world-famous designer for Jerry Silverman - planted a lot of seeds in his native Ohio when he left his significant private wealth and incredible costume collections to Kent State University. But that’s not surprising, given he was the great nephew of Jonathan Chapman, better known to the world as Johnny Appleseed.Shannon RodgersRodgers grew up in Newcomerstown, Ohio, and studied design in Cleveland before heading to New York City to ply his trade.
Clothing for the Emancipated Man collection by La Mendola at Hess's Department Store, 1968.If you were a fashion-forward tourist in Rome in the 1960’s, a must-stop was the La Mendola Boutique at the the top of the Spanish Steps at 16 Piazza della Trinita dei Monti.At La Mendola you didn’t purchase off the rack so much as design your own. The shop was a “try on everything” sort of establishment; when you found something that fitted you to a T, you were whisked into the back of the shop amidst an astounding array of Italian fabrics.
A great number of the world's problems arise from the inability to resist temptation, and the fashion industry certainly isn’t immune to this larger truth. Consider the case of fashion magnate Albert Nipon, who rose to fame and fortune through his ultrafeminine designs and chic, smart dresses. He seemed to have it all - a spotless reputation, effortless success, and a wildly prosperous company. And then he lost it all.Pearl & Albert NiponJust like Al Capone in the 1930’s, Nipon’s downfall came after a clash with the Internal Revenue Service.
The Titanic moored off County Down coast, 1912. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the design house of Farquharson & Wheelock was well-known to society ladies as creators of stylish and elegant gowns. Scottish sisters Jesse Davison (Carmichael) Farquharson and Margaret Graham (Carmichael) Wheelock had founded the house together in 1906.