I've been a little bit obsessed with these Nina Leen images of "1940s St. Louis college girls" ever since they popped up on the internets a couple weeks ago. I first saw some of them on the Honey Kennedy blog, and couldn't help but be drawn in by these fresh-faced gals with flowers in their hair and amazing dresses. Not to mention--St. Louis! That's where my people come from, and where I was born. I wanted to know more about these photos, but information was scarce. I didn't have any luck until I searched the Life magazine archives (a separate beast from the Life photo archives). There I ran across this brief article in an October 1944 issue of the magazine.
I saw immediately that the few photos in this article were very similar to the Nina Leen photos in the Life archives, and seemed to come from the very same shoot. The article is about Washington University students who act as a review board for R. Lowenbaum Manufacturing Co., a St. Louis-based junior dress maker (Minx Modes was one of their labels). Apparently Washington University had a dress design program--no doubt to work as a feeder for the burgeoning St. Louis juniors dress industry, which many of my relations worked in, in one manner or another--and these lucky students got to have a say in which dresses were made. The article identifies the women standing on the right as the dress designer.
This dress--which I think is totally cute--is judged "too plain" by the board. Interesting tidbit that plainer dresses "go over best in the East"--because the girls in the large eastern cities are more sophisticated?
The ladies dig the ruffles on this dress.
Most of the Leen photo don't appear in this short article, but you can see lots more in the Life photo archives. Here are a few more shots I loved; be sure to check out the archives to see more.