When I opened up the 1947 sales kit for a Harford Frocks representative, I was astonished. The cards, housed at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, looked exactly like those for Fashion Frocks, a much better known company. After some searching I discovered that this was no accident. The president of Harford, Frocks, Clarence E. Israel, was vice president of Fashion Frocks. Unfortunately I have not been able to discover why two companies were better than one.
Women who signed up with Harford Frocks engaged in direct marketing, selling clothes to friends and neighbors. (Fashion Frocks had exactly the same system.) Harford ads promised that door to door canvassing was not required. The sellers received a packet of cards with dress descriptions and small swatches of fabric. These were shown to prospective customers, and their choices were sent on order forms to the central headquarters in Cincinnati. As you can see in the ad above, Harford promised dresses as well as money in compensation.
There was absolutely no trace of New Look styles in the Spring and Summer Harford collection, surely not surprising since the styles must have been planned well before the unveiling of Dior’s silhouette altering collection. Nonetheless, the very style conscious woman would have found the broad shoulders and short skirts on offer disappointing.
Included in the archive was one copy of The Harford Frocks News. Most companies promise low prices and high quality, but I was very impressed to discover that some of the cotton for their dresses came from one of the country’s premier sources, Hope Skillman Fabrics.
Next time I’ll investigate Harford Frocks offerings for older women.