Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Holeproof Hosiery Bonus Club

Nissly's, as old-timers are well-aware, was a dry goods shop (later a hat shop om the 50s) on 16 N. Washington, the current site of Biggie's restaurant. This ad is from May 19, 1949. I find "It Pays to Make Your Own Garments" notable. That used to be the norm of course, but the fact that they feel the need to remind folks of that suggests to me that making one's own garments was going out of style at this time; I could be wrong.

One thing I have noticed in old dry goods ads is that there are often a plethora of names for various fabrics that are completely foreign to me. At one time, all the nuances of fabrics were lexicalized--each variation was important enough to have its own word. Now, we just buy an off-the-rack shirt or what have you, without necessarily knowing what kind of fabric it is (and there are far fewer fabrics in general today in the general pool of clothes for sale). If I were given samples of organdy, dotted swiss, taffeta, Indian head suiting, White Indian head, and faille, I truly doubt I could label them all correctly. Just the taffeta...maybe. Why is this? It's a curious hemming-down of what used to be a luxuriously wide world of fabrics. Odd.

At any rate, you can see that one of the items available at Nissly's was "Holeproof Hosiery." Dusty D is not sure how one would make as evanescent a thing as hose "holeproof" but I'll take their word for it. At any rate, Nissly's had a hosiery customer loyalty program. They specially printed up coupons that you could save up for free hose. They're beautiful little artifacts, nicely printed. I got to handle them today, wondering which lady of Ypsilanti's past had them in her purse, long ago, as she walked up to Nissly's front door.


Heidi Renée said...

If they had truly been holeproof, it would have rendered the bonus club quite inactive. :)

jml said...

Heading down another Internet rabbit hole, I found this history of Indian Head brand fabric. The company grew from a single New England textile mill to an international conglomerate to...pfft.

cmadler said...

Regarding the timing of the transition from home-sewn to purchased clothing, different articles of clothing went through the transition at different times. Among the first articles of clothing to make this transition were socks and men's shirts, which, by the time of the Civil War, were purchased off the shelf (mass-manufactured) as much or more than they were made at home or tailor-made. More expensive articles of clothing or those which are generally customized more (either to style or to fit) tended to go through this transition later (e.g. men's suits). Sorry, I'm less familiar with the history of women's fashion, but I'd guess that by the late 1940s few people were making any of their own clothes, with the exception of occasional unique items like chidren's Halloween costumes, the mass manufacture of which I think has come relatively recently.

Dusty D said...

Heidi: Aha! Good point! Hmmm.... :)

Dusty D said...

jml: Thank you for your journey into the rabbit hole to bring back fascinating tidbits. I love learning new things like that.

"[The] fabric could not compete with the new post-WWII synthetic fibers and blends."

Huh. The immediate post-war period was such a pivot in American culture. That's also the period when plastics started to enter the consumer stream en masse, and when processed food, supposedly modeled on wartime MREs of the time, started appearing in volume in supermarkets to my knowledge.

Dusty D said...

cmadler: Another fascinating point. It sounds as though we can regard the immediate post-war period as more or less the end of home-made clothes versus off-the-rack items.

After the Depression and the privations of the war...15 years of deprivation--I imagine people were eager to embrace the new plastics, synthetic fabrics, and modern pre-made clothes as symbols of modernity and progress. I need to study this time period more to see if that is an accurate statement, though.