The 1947 packet for a Harford Frocks saleswoman contained something for almost everyone in the family, from young children upwards. There were school clothes for girls and boys, outfits designed for teenagers, and even a few things for the man in the house.
Dresses came in junior, misses, and women’s sizes. Over a dozen in the folder were aimed at younger and older women alike, like the rayon jersey dress above. These came in misses sizes starting at 14 or 16 and went up to a bust size of 42 or even larger.
Half that number came only in women’s sizes. Not only did these outfits accommodate larger busts, but the styling was generally more conservative. Two clues indicate that the dress above was meant for the older set. First it came in polka dots, a favorite pattern for older women. Second, it already had a built in lace collar.
Just four outfits came in half sizes, a category often marketed to older women.
Since Harford saleswomen were not professionally trained, how did they know what size to recommend? The packet included a handy “dress size dial,” where the seller could enter bust and hip measurements to get the corresponding size. The instruction sheet added the following caveat: “When the customer’s measurements ARE NOT OF STANDARD PROPORTIONS, you must set the window on the measurements WHICH COVER HER LARGEST MEASUREMENT…Such a customer MUST BE INFORMED THAT ALTERATIONS ARE NECESSARY AND THAT SHE SHOULD BE PREPARED TO MAKE THEM.”
I’ve always felt that warnings written in capital letters are a sign that things are bound to go wrong.