Not too long ago I purchased about a dozen Fashion Frocks cards from the estate of a woman who sold their dresses in Michigan. These wonderful bits of fashion history were used by women who sold dresses door to door or held buying events in their homes, similar to Tupperware parties. They include drawings, descriptions, and small swatches of fabric—in this case 100% acetate “magic crepe.” As an added bonus, the seller’s hand written notes appear on many of the cards, along with promotional materials from the head office. “You are bound to be welcome wherever you call, and orders will come fast and easy,” exhorted one hot pink flier addressed to “Fashion Counselors.”
According to the flier, there was also a magazine that went out to sellers called the Voice of Fashion, not included in my bundle. If it is written in the same peppy style as the advertising copy, it would be a fun read. This particular dress has the following write up: “Notice the admiring glances following that slim blond down the street? You’ll experience the same sense of admiration while enjoying the sylph slimness of the Magic Crepe sheath.”
Despite the reference to slim (and probably young) blondes, this particular dress came only in half sizes, a size range commonly associated with older women. Compared to standard sizes, this size range added inches to the waist, bust, and chest. The differential between bust, waist and hip was smaller, reflecting figures that were no longer a pronounced hour glass shape. This model was offered up to size 24½, accommodating a woman with a 48 inch bust, a 44 inch waist and 49 inch hips.
It’s interesting that the ad copy does not hint at the fact that the dress is probably targeted at those who were no longer young and slim. It does not promise the illusion of slimness, but rather “sylph slimness” itself. And with its belt and darts, the dress designers seemed determined to create some version of an hour glass shape, even for those who didn’t fit into standard sizes.