Sears called its Christmas catalog the “Wish Book.” It, along with other oversized glossy catalogs, came to American households every year heralding the Christmas buying season and giving children plenty of images to fantasize over.
Studying them is a remembered rite of passage. In the days before gender neutrality, girls’ thoughts turned to Mrs. Beasley Dolls and Easy Bake Ovens, while boys dreamed of Red Ryder BB guns and Lionel trains. The clothing pages were annoyance you had to flip through to get to toy nirvana. If the clothes were thought of at all, it was with certain trepidation that some well meaning relative might linger on one of those pages and buy something practical, like a snow suit.
What was unknown to us was that mysterious mechanism called puberty that would somehow transform neckties, briar pipes and pheasant-phestooned highball glasses into desirable Christmas gifts. With that in mind, I was a little surprised that the Sears catalogs were not as toy-centric as I remember. And on that note we present the Sears “Wish Book” of 1964. (Continue)
The above image, which comes from a 1928 Kuppenheimer catalog, ties in with themes explored in our recent rise and fall essay: namely town and country, or city and campus.
In it the three-button undarted suit is presented as “authentically designed” for the university man, while the postgraduate “Young Executive” model is a tapered two-button option.
These two different suit styles, offered by the same manufacturer, predate by several decades what Richard Press has said about the Ivy heyday, when J. Press’ two-button models were sold almost exclusively at the New York store, where they represented 40 percent of sales.
So while three-button jackets were associated with both city and campus, two-button models were associated with city only, reinforcing that the lasting influence of the Ivy League Look is the campus side of the genre. — CC
If you’ve got a thing for WASPy mid-century gals in loafers and knee socks, check out the tumblr Vintage Seven Sisters. While many of the images are from the 19th century, some depict modern girls audacious (or foolish) enough to be photographed while smoking.
Anybody recognize the album cover? — CC
In our recent rise and fall essay, you may have noticed that one of the differences between Ivy’s prewar golden age and postwar silver age is that hats used to be worn on campus. But in 1965, after President Kennedy supposedly dealt the hat the coup de grace, the only hats you see in “Take Ivy” are on the working stiffs of Madison Avenue.
You probably didn’t notice, however, that Tuesday was National Hat Day. I only know because the Headwear Association sent me a press release. (Continue)
Once the Ivy League Look gained popularity during the silver age of the ’50s, Main Street clothiers used the term as an advertising buzzword. Needless to say, Brooks Brothers and J. Press never had to resort to the term, and in fact dismissed the term “Ivy League” with mild scorn, as they’ve always done with every popular term applied to their clothing.
This Taylor-Made shoe ad lays it on pretty thick. As if the term “Ivy League” didn’t carry enough weight, the copywriter further drives the point home with “aristocracy” and “patrician.”
The ad dates from 1955, well before the world was turned upside-down in the late ’60s, when it became cooler to identify with the peasantry than the aristocracy.
But Taylor-Made knew how to play to both sides. This 1953 ad shows it could appeal to radicals in penny loafers. Vive la revolution. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
If you hold a mirror up to your computer screen, you’ll see that the gent being measured for a jacket is at the venerable clothier Chipp, as seen in this illustration from the company’s 1965 catalog.
Ivy Style asked Paul Winston, son of the Chipp founders, for any insight on the drawing. Here’s what he had to say:
The drawing was done by Al Herman, who was a top fashion illustrator of the period. The fitter pictured was Bob DiFalco, who was our designer and fitter. Back then all the ads and catalogs featured line drawings, not pictures of products and models wearing clothing.
That was what Chipp looked like before we bought the building. It was a walk-up with a narrow flight of stairs, which was negotiated by the Kennedys, Watsons, and Cyrus Vance to drop a few names.
In the background you see the wall of cloth. No swatch books; customers were shown bolts of cloth.
Paul is still making suits in Midtown Manhattan under the name Winston Clothiers. He also recently received a batch of grenadine ties which he now has in a dozen colors and sells for a very modest tariff. For more info, give him a ring at (212) 687-0850. — CC