Known for her hard hitting reportage about global and national politics, famous journalist Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961) was also interested in clothes. In 1955, she wrote a column called “I Wished They’d Remember Me” in which she lamented the lack of choices for the older and wider woman. It began, “I am on the far side of fifty, near a size 20, and fashion designers are obviously not interested in me. But why not? I see us everywhere.”
She had very specific ideas about what she wanted: evening dresses with sleeves that did not show too much flesh; colors that extended beyond black and navy; dresses with three quarter length sleeves; and skirts that were wide, but not too wide. She also asked for a wider range of choices among coats, suits, and blouses.
Vogue magazine took up the challenge to find Thompson a wardrobe. With a team of fashion scouts, a big budget, and extensive alterations, they found suitable outfits at Bergdorf Goodman, the fancy (and pricey) New York department store. Thompson ended up with one day dress, one five o’clock dress (!?), one dinner dress, one evening dress, one suit, a coat, and two blouses. The total cost was $824, or $7621 today.
Even though she had a queen’s ransom and expert help, she still didn’t get exactly what she wanted. The final collection was filled with black, blues, and purples. Nothing came in her favorite colors of red or green.
With these mixed results, I think we can return to the original conclusion of Thompson’s column: “The American ready-made clothing industry is the best in the world. But I wish they would take a new look at the human female as she is.” How many times does this have to be repeated?