California Stylist: A Trade Magazine for the West Coast Garment Industry

California Stylist, October 1964

California Stylist, October 1964

The California garment industry began expanding in leaps and bounds in the 1930s, and the magazine California Stylist (1937-1971) was there to document the process. I first discovered it while doing research in the Irene Saltern archive, which contained issues that featured her work. It is now extremely rare; according to World Cat, only the Los Angeles County Museum Library contains a near full run of the journal. It was able to find three issues from 1964 on ebay, but they were pricey.

Featuring only women’s clothing California Stylist was one of four periodicals put out by California Fashion Publications. (There was another one for menswear). Despite the California title, the journal also covered other West Coast production areas, like Portland Oregon. Filled with advertisements by garment manufacturers and fabric producers, it also had features on current fashion. The intended audience appears to have been department store and boutique buyers.

The October 1964 issue featured suits. I was drawn to the older looking woman on the cover, with her extreme make up and odd hat. (Is it just me, or does that look like a fancy shower cap?) Writers were eager to emphasize that a California suit was different than those made elsewhere: “A way of life called forth a particular styling effort, and the California suit was born. Characteristically slim and elegant, pacing so many new trends, relying on color and lightweight fabrics and fresh new ideas, this concept has an identifiable look wherever it travels in the world.” (88) In the fourteen page feature on suits, I was surprised by the dressed up look of the models. Over half of them wore hats (although no more shower caps); all but one wore gloves.

CalStylistPantSuit64But one thing really caught by eye, an ad by Oscar Beverly Hills featuring a “tailored slack suit for street wear.” Wouldn’t you say that this was a predecessor of the pant suit? I would love to know if it caught on.


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7 Responses to California Stylist: A Trade Magazine for the West Coast Garment Industry

  1. Rhoda K says:

    I still like those styles better than today’s “new looks”, most of which aren’t 😉

  2. Carol B says:

    What I find interesting is the price on these suits. That was a lot of money in 1964! I’d like to know what that comes out to in today’s dollars. We are so used to clothes being cheap these days.

    • americanagefashionco says:

      You are right, Carol! I went to the historical currency conversion site and discovered that the pants suit would cost $1283 today, the skirt suit $1200. Not nothing, but you could easily pay that much today in the high priced section of a good department store. Still today it would be for a very well known brand. I looked around for Oscar Beverly Hills and found nothing.

  3. julieeilber says:

    Don’t you think that California look influenced US casual style via TV and movies from that era? I have some California Couture mail order patterns from the 60s by costume designers like Jean Louis. They’re typically mod or boho dresses. I think the 60s surfer look turned us all into slobs…

    • Lynn says:

      Yes, Julie, I do think that California casual had a profound influence on US fashion. That’s why I was surprised by most of the suits in this issue. They didn’t look all that casual to me, unless you count lime green as casual.

  4. I just love California Stylist. I have a few copies from the early 1950s, and one from 1970, all bought ten or so years ago. They were a great help when working on the VFG’s Label Resource. I’m thinking the slack suit was just a bit ahead of its time!

  5. Susan says:

    That high-priced “slack suit for street wear” is a surprise. In 1964 we weren’t allowed to cross campus in slacks; I spent a lot of time wearing a trenchcoat over my trousers. In spring, 1970, I was working for a large bank in San Francisco; women employees were still not allowed to wear trousers, even as part of a suit. The first woman to wear a pants suit on the floor of the U.S. Congress was apparently Rep. Charlotte Reid: she wore a suit with a very long jacket on the last day of the session in 1969. The news article and a photo can be found at

    Her coat was as long as some mini-skirts, so, if refused entrance to a restaurant for wearing trousers, like Marlene Dietrich, I suppose Rep. Reid could have dropped the trousers and worn the jacket as a dress — but I doubt that, as an elected official, she would have!

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