1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

'Heaven' or the old-style department store...

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by Noir*Boudoir, Oct 17, 2004.

  1. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    \'Heaven\' or the old-style department store...

    I hope it isn't breaching label forum etiquette to start a new thread concentrating on department stores. I've been inspired to do this for a number of reasons.

    First of all, an interesting VCA thread about department store memories disappeared into the Ebay aether a few months ago and I thought it might be nice to have something longer lasting for everyone to contribute to, with a possible knock-on boost to the labels resource.

    Second, from a UK perspective, although the boutique movement changed the face of the British high street and revitalised the fashion industry, there's also something to be said for looking at the cultural history of the old-style department leviathan. In many regions of Britain, the multi-tiered family name store remained shoppers' dominant showcase for all fashion, new, old and completely institutionalised, well into the 70s (and even, gulp, the 80s).

    Third, I just got my hands on a heap of long-stored purchases from some well-off lady who liked shopping at the premier W1 department stores in the 60s and 70s. Being a total nerd, I photograph the labels before I deal with the garments...

    Lastly, but most influentially, I wanted to quote this passage from a book recommended to all: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (playwright, screenwriter and author of '101 Dalmations'). Written in the 40s in wartime exile in California, it is an intensely nostalgic romance set in early 30s England.

    The two female protagonists, poor sisters Rose and Cassandra, travel to London to collect their Aunt Millicent's wardrobe - a forbidding old woman, she has bequeathed them her forbidding old woman's clothes... They have to go to a luxury department store to collect her furs:

    'The taxi drew up at a wonderful shop - the sort of shop I would never dare to walk through without a reason. We went in by way of the glove and stocking department, but there were things from other departments just dotted about; bottles of scent and a little glass tree with cherries on it and a piece of white branched coral on a sea-green chiffon scarf. Oh, it was an artful place - it must make people who have money want to spend it madly!

    The pale grey carpets were as springy as moss and the air was scented; it smelt a bit like bluebells but richer, deeper.
    "What does it smell of exactly?" I said. And Rose said:

    There was a different scent in the fur department, heavier, and the furs themselves had an exciting smell. There were lots of them lying about on the grey satin sofas; deep brown, silvery. And there was a young, fair mannequin walking about in an ermine cape over a pink gauze dress...'

    {The furs turn out to be bizarre Victorian relics - bear, beaver and sealskin}

    'On the way out, we looked through the archway into the department we had come in by. There was a woman buying pale blue suede gloves. She wore the plainest little black suit, but Rose thought she looked wonderful.
    "That's how we ought to dress," she said.

    We stood there staring at the scent and stockings and things - we saw one woman buy a dozen pairs of silk stockings - until I said:

    "We're like Ab {Abelard, their cat} when he sees birds fly past the window. At any moment we'll let out wistful cat noises."

    Rose said she felt just like that.'

    (plot implications of this scene are profound and the book is highly recommended!)

    And as for the stores - I've got Fortnum and Mason written up and some Lillywhites and Debenham & Freebody labels. I hope this draws a few more out of peoples memories!

  2. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Fortnum & Mason

    The write up is possibly too long (but the company did start in 1707!) so feel free to edit, Lizzie. (Distilled and totally re-written from the extensive history on the company website - the two quotes are direct from the website text)

    I don't have full 'name' garment labels, so I've included two non-clothing sources too, in case those are worth accommodating.

    Trade name with the royal warrant - from a 60s (an educated guess - no hat inside) hatbox.

    From flat, Oriental style embroidered suede pumps - est'd late 60s-early70s.

    From some late 60s/early 70s yellow twill shorts. I think this must be the F & M label specifically designed for their own clothing lines. Below, the same label, with a content label added for a 60s cashmere cardigan with a fur collar.


    I can edit to add photos of the clothing at the bottom once I've got it sorted (and washed), in case that will help too.

    [b]Fortnum & Mason[/b]

    The origins of luxury London department store Fortnum & Mason lie in a business established by William Fortnum in 1707 selling used candles to members of the Royal household, where he was a footman. Continuing to exploit this link with the Palace, Fortnum set up a grocery store in partnership with his landlord, a market vendor named Hugh Mason.

    Members of the Fortnum family were still in service in the Royal household in the late 18th century. This association and family connections with the burgeoning East India Company helped to steer the Fortnum and Mason business in Piccadilly towards catering for both the local aristocracy and far flung British colonial and military establishments.

    Although Fortnum and Mason’s started out as grocers, their specialism as campaign provisioners led to a larger role in the infrastructure of the empire. The store catered to every material need of the gentleman planning his departure to govern in exotic climes, providing a wide range of campaign and sporting equipment and clothing. Locally, the company could provide an entire hospitality service for the grandest occasion, including food, flowers, tables, ‘chefs, butlers and footmen’.

    Dedicated departments retailing ladies’ and children’s fashion appeared only after the store was rebuilt in the early 1920s. Fortnum and Mason stocked some own label luxury attire (including shoe ranges) but also focused on showcasing both new and established high end designers (in the ‘70s, they were ‘the first to stock Zandra Rhodes and Salvatore Ferragamo’). Although Fortnum and Mason remain most famous for their sumptiously stocked special occasion food hampers, their Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Fashions departments still exist and their labels can be found in a variety of high end vintage ready-to-wear clothing.
  3. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    over on this side of the ocean, there are a lot of items that were produced by in house designers or outsourced, etc, where the only label is the department store or the boutique.

    There are so many obscure labels that were perhaps the cornerstone of a neighborhood or even a whole city at one time, but have really been lost to time. I find the subject interesting....esp since i have so many of these that we may never know about.

    that's why i like this group...who knows how a pair of shoes i bought from someone in washington actually started out in a shop in L.A, and there could be someone from acrossed the country or around the world that could completely fill me in!

    I had a bunch of jewelry from a lady who worked at a dept store for over 50 years! the days of being in the same place are such a departure from today

  4. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Exactly, Chris - Harvey Nichols have set up a gorgeously glitzy Northern flagship store in Leeds. But the department store experience I remember there is the formica-table-top-filled cafe reached via an elevator proceeding floor by floor to the roof in 'Schofield's'. Now demolished and rebuilt mostly as a mall.

    Talking of HN, here's a label that may or may not be on the resource (one of them is fuzzy):

    From a late 50s or early 60s sleeveless wiggle dress also carrying the Jean Allen label.

    And there's lots more info for Debenham and Freebody, which I'll post in a couple of minutes, when I've sieved through it a little.

    From a 50s (or perhaps early 60s) pencil skirt.
  5. I am so excited!!! and I will have to read that book! Will be back with some posts! Thank you!
  6. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Wonderful stuff, Lin!
  7. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Thanks Lizzie!

    Here's the Debenham's info; also far too long, but I wanted to include all this info initially, at least for interest (perhaps to be cut down for the resource).

    The company website is profoundly unhelpful, as if they've undergone corporate amnesia. Compare to Fortnum and Mason and you see the divergence of the store that kept it's exclusivity (and its high-brow history) to itself, and the ambitious propagator of country-wide goods, who has had to compete with the world and his dog since the late 60s.

    (n.b. the present entry has ‘Debenham’s and Freebody’ which wasn’t technically used – this might be altered either to ‘Debenham’s’ the present name, or ‘Debenham & Freebody’ the label most frequently found on vintage stuff).

    I've got a great 1935 gown ad, which I can scan and add here when I've got a little more time.

    Sources a good overall summary in an online article for the ‘Commercial Overprint Society of Great Britain’ vol.1 no.9 March 1 2004 (??) by Bill Waggoner – completely re-written here.
    Other sources: parallel summary info at www.debenham.org.uk a genealogy website.

    Both of these draw on a book I haven't seen: "Fine Silks and Oak Counters", a history of Debenham's, by Maurice Corina, published by Hutchinson Benham in 1978 (a company history published in 1909 is also referred to by the genealogical website) and Guardian articles of Thursday, October 26, 2000 and November 20th, 1999.

    Debenham & Freebody, also known as Debenham and Clark and (since ?c.1980? to the present day) Debenham’s.

    This traditional British department store originated in a draper’s business founded in 1778 at 44 Wigmore Street, north of Oxford Street in London. In 1813, a partnership between William Debenham and Thomas Clark made the store known as ‘Clark and Debenham’ (some report an extension of the store on the other side of the street known as ‘Debenham and Clark’). After Mr. Clark’s retirement, William was joined in the business by his son (also William) and Wm. Junior’s brother-in-law, Clement Freebody, hence ‘Debenham, Son and Freebody’ in 1851. Under the new generation of management, after William Sr.’s retirement, the business became ‘Debenham and Freebody’ in 1863.

    The original London draper's shop, which was transformed into a fully-fledged department store in 1905, became the first of over 60 nationwide stores. In 1935, Debenham and Freebody advertised their fashionable model gowns under the tagline: ‘Distinction in Dress at Moderate Cost’ (illustrating a cloqué chiffon gown at 10 and a half guineas).

    The original family assocations dissipated after the listing of the company on the London Stock Exchange in 1928. In the 1970s or early '80s, ‘Freebody’ was dropped from the store's title, and the chain adopted the holding company name of ‘Debenhams Ltd.’ that had been in use since its expansion in the 1910s.

    This development has given rise to some folklore about the store’s history. Recent newspaper stories allege that the business was founded by Freebody who, feeling the inadequacy of a single surname, added ‘Debenham’ after the Suffolk village (in some versions, his birthplace). The ironic punchline to this tale is that when the marketing men renamed the chain in the 20th century, they jettisoned ‘Freebody’ and kept the allegedly meaningless ‘Debenham’. The original source of these stories is unclear.

    Debenham’s was acquired by the Burton Group of clothing stores in 1985, a development that substantially affected the store's garment lines and marketing. In 1998 Debenham’s became an independent company again, with 106 stores across the UK stocking mid-range, own-label products alongside brand-name concession spots.


    And some Lilliywhite's labels. I know very little about Lillywhite's, apart from its present location on Lower Regent Street/Piccadilly Circus (the original location, I think), that it has always specialised in sports and leisure wear, and that it was founded in 1863 (a newcomer!)

    From what I can only think are some 50s-60s Prince of Wales check tweed lady's golfing or (?) lightweight shooting(?) trousers:

    And an I-don't-know-what? bright plaid Irish-made woollen shirt, ? 60s-70s.

    That's all folks! (for now).

    N.B. From looking at some old ads, I've revised the steps given for the name change. The 1978 book, when I see it, should give some small concrete changes too. I think this is all roughly right, though. I've also just found the Debenham Freebody fur dept may have been quite prominent/well regarded - a chinchilla fur hat from D & F appears on the cover of British Vogue, 1964.
  8. camelbackcat

    camelbackcat Alumni

    This is such a wonderful idea!!! I've long been totally intrigued by the Department Store labels. For example, in Phoenix, if I find a Goldwaters' label (now defunct) I always buy the item because they were a very high-end quality store. But, a person who lives elsewhere, would never know that.
    I've always been intrigued,as well, with the "unheralded" designers...those who produced great clothes (often for the custom shops at department stores outside of NY and LA ) and are barely known.
    I have a storehouse of labels that I can contribute when the whole MIL crisis is over. I'm so glad that someone is launching this project. It's one of my pet projects (that I always meant to get around to but never did)
  9. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Hi Joey! I'm glad this chimes with what you'd been hoarding already - I certainly got the sense from the VCA thread that an awful lot of knowledge and memories were bubbling under the surface about local department stores. I look forward to seeing yours (and best of luck with your crisis in the meantime).

    I happened to check another shirt in this lot, and as a result noticed that the info on Simpsons probably needed updating. I never set foot in it as a clothing store, but as a wonderfully streamlined and plush bookshop since 1999, it certainly makes me want to spend money madly!

    At least Waterstones are memory-conscious enough to preserve the building's link with its founders (along with a lot of the fittings). From a blog 'blowblog' mentioning the author's memories of the old Simpson's:


    And here's the shirt - I don't know whether this justifies a separate entry under 'Simpson', but it does illustrate that not everything from this store will have the recognizable DAKS brandname on it.

    From a 60s? cotton gingham shirt.

    And the write up - completely re-written from various online sources, including the weblog above, various tourist summaries, a blurb about a university building designed by the store's architect, and a local government guide to 'Hackney Walks'(!)

    Simpson of Piccadilly

    The tradition of Simpson garment retail began with the establishment of a bespoke tailoring company in Whitechapel, east central London, by Simeon Simpson in 1894. The association of Simpson’s with the trademark ‘DAKS’ (combining ‘Slacks’ and ‘Dad’) only began in c.1934, when Simeon’s son, Alec Simpson, took over the company and created the new brand name for an innovative ready-to-wear tailored menswear range. Alec also invented and patented a new ‘self-supporting’ waistband and added womenswear to his clothing range, particularly the popular adapted men's slacks. He vastly raised and developed the company's profile through advertising (sponsoring sporting events) and creating a prominent new retail outlet.

    In 1936 Alec Simpson had a beautifully appointed, modernist six-storey department store, designed by Joseph Emberton and Lazlo Moholy-Nagly, built on Piccadilly in the West End. At about the same time, Simpson took over a splendid Art Deco factory in east London to be the manufacturing centre of his new ready-to-wear and DAKS lines. The factory was expanded and manufacturing was extended to Larkhall, Scotland.

    Simpson’s became known as one of the premier Piccadilly retail outlets for quality ready-to-wear tailoring, sports and travelwear and designer clothing, with exceptional after-sales service (for repairs and alterations). In the late 60s, a hip DAKS range was designed by Eric Stemp. It gained royal warrants from the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen and the Prince of Wales in 1956, 1962 and 1983. A distinctive tweed check traditionally used by the company was registered as characteristic of the DAKS trademark in 1984.

    The company decided to abandon its historic home in favour of updating its image and concentrating on the DAKS brand; in 1999 the Simpson building became instead a glamorous flagship store for Waterstones the booksellers. The Hackney factory was vacated in 1981; Simpson's Larkhall operation finally closed in 2001 with heavy job losses.

    ‘Simpson Piccadilly’ is still a current brand name, but is subsidiary to the higher profile DAKS name (for which the Simpson company has also been renamed), under which smaller luxury outlets are still developed around the world. The modern DAKS flagship store was opened on Bond Street in 2000.


    Just revised this after finding the DAKS website - which does have an extensive history, but a somewhat confusing one, since it does seem to fudge over some of the dates and developments... There's a fantastic range of advertising images (including drawings by Hoff) from the company's history, though. www.daks.com
  10. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    I am going to see what any of my family members have in their closets still when I go back to visit them (you never know!) as they shopped at the local dept. stores a lot over the years.

    What about if we grouped US dept. stores by city like you are...maybe even if we know nothing about them...it might spark a memory by association for someone...all the NYC ones...all the LA..Pittsburgh....etc.....

    This is fascinating!
  11. What a fabulous idea!!

    I really need to get busy and post my labels. Shame on me!

  12. alonesolo

    alonesolo Guest

    this is great and I love reading about the dept store I capture the castle sounds wonderful. Will have to try and find it. I love the older books.

    When I was younger we had a few in town. one that I remember that I loved Was Tuttle and Rockwell. You could go upstairs and there was a hat and a coat dept. The hat dept had vanities set up where you could sit and try on the hat. It was a massive area ( well of course I remember this being little) and there were pretty couches and chairs set randomly around.
  13. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Yup, if we get into loads of local histories!
    I've only researched the most high profile London stores, but from what I've seen about other lost dept. stores I've known about, there are reams of shop-girls' memories of 50s dress-fittings and so on - each significant experience of the grand home-town palace...

    I came on just to add the fact that I've noticed (doh!) that Harvey Nichols was actually owned by Debenhams Ltd. (the Debenham & Freebody exchange listed company) from 1919 onwards, and along with them was bought by Burton group (but owned by another conglomerate from 1991).

    I don't know if this has any implications for the supply side of garments etc. since HN remained pretty relentlessly upmarket all that time, whereas Debenhams became the multiple-branch middle-market presence.

    Curious though!
  14. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    So interesting! I've taken a lot of this information for the label resource, but could use additional information on Harvey Nichols, if any one has any.

  15. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Lizzie, I've got more on Harvey Nichols - cd try blending it with the original text if that helps.

    I also bought myself a copy of 'Fine Silks & Oak Counters' which turns out to have loads of info about lots of other dept stores as well as Debenhams (because the company owned so many other companies, including the rather posh Marshall & Snelgrove and Swan & Edgar).

    Some great pics - I'll add some after my next big scanning session.

    in the meantime, I just wanted to add this. A turn of the century notice to Debenhams shop assistants:

    <p align="center"><b><font size="+1">
    To Shop Assistants</p></font size><p align="center">
    <i>at 6.0 a.m. until 9.0 p.m. all the year round.</i>
    STORE must be swept, counter, base shelves and showcases dusted. Lamps trimmed, filled and chimney cleaned, pens made, doors and windows opened.

    <i>A PAIL of water and scuttle of coal must be brought in by each clerk before breakfast, if there is time to do so and attend customers who call.
    <b>Any employee who is in the habit of<br>

    will surely give his employer reason to be suspicious of his INTEGRITY and alround HONESTY

    Each employee must pay not less than ONE GUINEA per year to the Church, and attend Sunday School every Sunday.
    <b></i><font size="+1">MEN</font size> are given one evening a week for courting purposes and two if they go to prayer meetings regularly.</b>

    <i>After 14 hours work, spare time should be devoted to reading good literature.</p></i>
  16. Aphrodite_Nymphia

    Aphrodite_Nymphia Registered Guest

    Ohhh this thread has got me so excited! Lin, you were talking about the family name department store being a fixture in many regions of the UK until the 1980's, but here in Northern Ireland and indeed Ireland as a whole that is still the case!! Largely due to all the trouble there has been here we haven't seen the influx of the big name stores, like Top Shop etc. until the last five or six years as they didn't want to risk the financial loss of being blown up every other week! As such family name department stores have survived and continue to thrive all over the country.

    In the town I am from we presently have three family owned department stores, Houstons, S.D. Kells and McMurray's. Mc'Murray's mind you isn't as big a store as it used to be, following a car bomb in 1998 a huge crack developed down the middle of it and it had to be knocked down. Now it is mainly a fabric store and a saddlery, which were the mainstays of its business anyway. It is still staffed by a fabulous group of older ladies though who look strangely out of place in their new, modern, surroundings. It was sad to see it go at the time too because before it was knocked down it was very old fashioned inside. Right up until 1998 it didn't have an electric till, everything was noted down in a book instead! The old lady who owned it still lived in an adjoining property at the back.

    Just down the road from where I live in Dromore, however, there is still a shop just like this called Small and Co., in fact it is even more old fashioned. My mother talks about it being old fashioned when she was a child in the 1960's and it hasn't changed since! You can find all sorts of things in there too that you just can't find anywhere else...except perhaps vintage stores.

    Houstons is the biggest department store in the town and it used to have two stores, one on the corner on either side of the street. The men's deparment was on the right and the ladies department was on the left. Today only the store on the left remains. The mens department closed last year and the property is now rented out to Etam. Although they no longer stock mens clothing the remaining store still stocks all sorts of things from an extensive lingere and hoisery department, a hat department, a coat department, to a furnishings department and a baby department (full of cots and prams etc). It is still the biggest store in the town.

    The next biggest store is S.D. Kells, which up until recently was O'Hare and Co., belonging to the O'Hare family this was originally a ladies department store that specialised in furs. It was bought by S.D. Kells a couple of years ago although O'Hares retain a store in Belfast. S.D. Kells has a number of similar department stores all over Northern Ireland, but started life as a drapers shop in Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh in 1928. I found a history of it here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/fermanagh/sd_kells.shtml

    This particular store is famous in these parts for the 'oddment sale' it has at the end of every season. In the past this meant all the things from decades past that had never been sold would be dragged out to 'have another crack at it' i.e. try to be sold. I used to joke about it, when I really should have been in there snapping all those things up!

    I am not sure if any of these stores ever had clothing with the own label, but I am sure I could find out and get some pictures of the stores in the past from the local historical society.

    I should mention too that it is not just a phenomenon that exists in small towns. I study in Dublin during the week and they still have their fair share of old fashioned department stores, much bigger ones too than in my home town. In particular there is Clerys and Co., on O'Connell Street, which I think was founded in 1941. Although it now houses Karen Millen and stores like that in it it still has its own deparments, my favourite being the one that stocks all sorts of gloves and shawls. I had a notion for white gloves this summer after seeing a picture of Marilyn Monroe dressed as such and this was the first place I turned to. The shop itself is beautiful too with big brass framed glass doors and a huge, sweeping marble staircase leading to the upper floor.

    I also found some interesting stories about the Oxford Street department stores in Tim Moore's ' Do Not Pass Go, From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair'. Apparently the first department store to arrive in Oxford Street was a place named Waring & Gillow in 1906 and it was Gordon Selfridge who coined the phrase "the customer is always right". Selfridges also welcomed women in even if they had no intention of buying with one early advertisement reading, " I was lonley, so I went to the biggest and brightest place I could think of... I went to Selfridges". Gordon Selfridge also has a secret lift installed in the store to ferry "young lady friends" up to his office. My favourite one though is, "in 1906, hearing that his fellow department store proprietor Peter Jones was about to go tits up, old man Lewis ran all the way from Oxford Street to Sloane Square with £20,000 cash in his pocket: a brutal wad-on-the-table, take-it-or-leave-it offer Pete cravenly accepted".

    The book also lists a number of department stores which have been and gone on Oxford street, "C&A [which apparently was acutally Dutch], Waring & Gillow, Bourne & Hollingsworth, Swears & Wells, Marshall & Snelgrove and Lilley & Skinner".

  17. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Emma..that really fascinates me...

    it would make sense...time just sorta stops when things are unstable...there are some things that have really revolutionized things that i think are an improvement on things from the past...but having stores where it seems the whole staff is original from "back in the day"..you just don't find that.

    I have been selling part of a jewelry collection that a lady had and she worked at a dept store for close to 60 years. from teen til retirement. just doesn't happen anymore.

    I also remember you saying on a different thread how the rage for vintage really hasn't touched Ireland the way people embrace it in England or the US. i guess you are on the cutting edge, so to speak :)
  18. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Emma, that's really interesting, thanks for posting this - it's amazing that a couple of decades of economic isolation have prevented that swathe of closures that eliminated most of the distinctive names in mainland Britain (the last distinctive local names in Leeds went c.1985-1992).

    Now that you talked about all those stores, I was desperately trying to remember the name of the splendid one I experienced the January sales in, in Cork 2000 (yup it was that memorable!). Gosh, I felt the thinness of my wallet that January 'cos they had some *beautiful* ready-to-wear designer stuff. However the store as a whole wasn't particularly archaic, since it had been totally refurbished (I remember creamy carpets...). Mind, the plushness of it had somehow bypassed the blandness that infected some of the mid-range dept. stores elsewhere.

    A couple of the other names are familiar, but I don't know 'Swears and Wells' - sounds like a music-hall act!

    I looked it up, 'Brown & Thomas', which took up residence in a purpose-built dept. store building which originally was called 'Cash's'.

    I must get that book you mention, it sounds really amusing, and some names might turn up in passing in it that come in handy for label biogs.

    Those old stores you mention:
    C&A still exists back on the continent, I think - they just closed down all their British stores in the late 90s (my sister used to work for them - I think part of the reason they couldn't keep going here was because the private ownership made them too slow-moving in the end).

    Marshall & Snelgrove, tho' founded independently, was acquired by Debenhams when it was on its expansion spree in the 19-teens. It was a national chain too, and the old Marshall & S. buildings were only renamed Debenhams in the 60s-70s (like a lot of the individual name stores that D's acquired - except for Harvey Nichols, which always kept it's separate identity).

    If you think of anything more, post it!
  19. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Talking of which, I spotted this Marshall & Snelgrove label shown with a lovely 40s gown offered by crinoline girl on Corsets and Crinolines (I think you signed the permission thread, Lei, so I hope it's OK to lift it).

    <img src="http://www.vc-mall.com/mall/182/marshallsnelgrove40slabel.jpg">

    <b>Marshall & Snelgrove</b> were garment and textile retailers of distinction in London and elsewhere for over a hundred years. John Snelgrove set up his first business in 1838. In 1848 he was joined in partnership by James Marshall who already maintained a drapery business in Yorkshire, and in Vere Street, London (first Marshall & Wilson, then Marshall, Wilson and Stinton)

    They quickly became a highly regarded business and a palatial new premises, occupying 334-348 Oxford Street ( bought in 1851) was completed in three years, by 1878 (although the Vere Street branch was maintained for some time). Marshall and Snelgrove cultivated an air of exclusivity by maintaining an on-site couturier work room to supplement their ready-to-wear lines. A prestigious place as apprentice in the store could only be secured with a deposit of 60 guineas.

    One of the founder's sons, James C. Marshall, expanded the business by opening branches across the North and North Midlands of England (Scarborough, Harrogate, Birmingham, Manchester, Southport, Leicester, Leeds, York, Sheffield and Bradford).

    The first world war hit the firm badly. It was supported through emergency measures from 1916, and in 1919
    merged with Debenhams (q.v.). Ownership of Marshall and Snelgrove continued to mean more in prestige than money to Debenhams for the next thirty years.

    Some branches were closed in the 1960s and the old Victorian flagship block was demolished and rebuilt. The calculated strengthening of the brand name of the parent company meant that all Marshall and Snelgrove stores became 'Debenhams' in 1973.

    culled from online sources + 'Fine Silks and Oak Counters', which may be worth adding to the bibliography.

    From 'The Sales, A Woman's view of the Position' January 4th 1921. <i>By a Lady Correspondent</i>

    'Turning into Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove's one catches again the real breathlessness of the sale atmosphere. There is such a number of departments that unless one comes with some preconceived notions, one is lost amid the bewildering variety of temptations. But yesterday most of the shoppers must have had their minds made up, for apart from the furs and silks, one found the greater congestion round the tea-gowns, the blouses and the sports coats - a name that covers a quite extraordinary series of wraps available for almost all outdoor occasions. There was a briskness, too, in the departments for blankets and household linens, suggestive of the desire of the housewife to replenish those linen cupboards which have been rather neglected during years of war {again, this is in 1921}, and of the high prices that war brings.

    12/15 adding a scan of a M&S advert from 1881. I'm not sure what's happened to this building.

    <img src="http://www.vc-mall.com/mall/182/marshallsnelgrove.jpg" alt="worth waiting for">
  20. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    Oh... the Harvey Nicks write up I've been promising... Jonathan's posted a new label, so that's galvanised me into action. Also I'm hoping a well-tailored woollen knee-length jacket with what looks like an 80s HN label will still be there when I go back to the thrift tomorrow...

    Jonathan's label c. (what did he say, 1930s?)

    My label, from late 50s poss c.1960 Jean Allen dress:


    <b>Harvey Nichols</b> began as a linen shop opened by Benjamin Harvey in 1813 in Lowndes Terrace, on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street in south west central London. Benjamin Harvey bequeathed his business to his daughter Elizabeth in 1820, on the condition that the business’s present silk buyer, Colonel Nichols, was taken on as a partner. This partnership gradually widened the store’s stock to include Oriental textiles and furnishings; Harvey Nichols’ carpets were particularly in demand.

    The business flourished in this newly fashionable location, near the original Crystal Palace, which housed the Great Exhibition in 1851. The present splendid premises were opened in the 1880s and extended in 1932. In 1914, a Harvey Nichols advertisement in the Times boasted that their ‘tailor-made suits and mantles are made under the supervision of an expert Viennese cutter and fitter. Perfect style and fit guaranteed.’ But like several other venerable luxury stores in west London, supply difficulties hit their profits during WWI, and they merged with Debenhams Ltd. (q.v.) in 1919.

    Harvey Nichols retained its unique and exclusive character, which has been exploited and amplified by new owners since 1991 (they were listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1996 and large premises, their first regional branches, were opened in Leeds and Edinburgh in 1996 and 2002 respectively). From its own-label tailoring to high-end designer concessions of all varieties, Harvey Nichols has maintained its reputation as purveyor of luxury goods and garments to moneyed gentlefolk (both established and aspiring) everywhere for well over a hundred years.

    sources = HN website + extra details from 'Fine Silks & Oak Counters' Maurice Corina.

Share This Page