Tuesday, August 19, 2014

house of charm and distinction

We found these two beautifully illustrated pieces of 1940s sales/marketing for a Grand Rapids clothing company with the fabulous name The House of Charm and Distinction.  They're big--30 3/4" x 22"--and have sales copy for each dress, the sizes and colors available, the type of fabric, pricing, and an area where it appears samples of the color (fabric?) would have been placed.  Each dress is shown in full color against a muted black-and-white background, and each also has a simple line illustration showing a back view of the dress.

There are several references to the war in these pieces, so I'd guess they were produced sometime between 1942 and 1944.

The first poster shows dresses in junior sizes, and the second a mix of juniors' and women's sizes.  You can click the pictures to see them bigger.

The blue dress' skirt has "a wide tuck smack down the center."  Also: "A dress like this is impervious to time and wear; never a day goes by that you won't want to wear it and it carries a most modest price tag."

How cute is the folk dress style jumper on the left?  It is "Tailored as carefully as your kid brother's sportcoat" and is "the prettiest jumper in the world, interestingly priced," which apparently means expensive, since it's the highest priced item on either poster with a $15.95 ceiling price, $7.00-$10.00 more than most of the other dresses.  You'll also notice that this young lady is throwing up the V for Victory symbol (there's a V for Victory pennant and photo of a soldier in the background illustration).

The pink rayon jersey dress on the left also comes in "Airman Blue"--and with "real pockets"!  The cute cotton print on the right: "No more sloppy dressing for the cute little figures.  Today it's snap and contrast for tricking the eye.  Easy-to-wear and easy-to-care-for clothes, priced with young incomes in mind."

The dress on the left is definitely being sold to a patriotic and thrift-minded young lady:  "Clean Cut Classic Ready to Turn In A Gallant Performance on Duty!  No nonsense now--quality casuals are today's darlings.  Each dress must serve many purposes and serve them prettily."

The black rayon crepe on the right has the "festive touch" of a removable yellow flower on the belt.

I love both of these dresses.  The one on the left "has that something that makes gracious allowances if your figure isn't exactly your fortune."  The floral dress has a scalloped button placket.

A couple of cute suits.  "If you are wise you'll have a two-piecer in your wardrobe.  They're chic, versatile, and a great formula for money-stretching."  The suit on the right is priced $7.00 higher than the one on the left.  It's made from shantung and crepe (the left suit is made of spun rayon) and is "a real fashion refreshment in a much uniformed world. . . It's fun, testing your ingenuity in assembling these separates to stretch your war-time wardrobe."  I like the choice of hat, which does indeed make it looks like she's wearing a uniform.

Here's a contrast: an elegant sheer black rayon dress and a girlish cotton dress with ruffled bodice.

"Dame Fashion Finds the Way to Make More of Less Without Sacrifice to Charm. . . That is true because American designers have determined to keep our women looking attractive."  The righthand illustration appears to be a woman of color, which I'm assuming was a rarity at that time.

I wish I knew something about this company.  Grand Rapids was known as a hub of furniture production, not of garment manufacturing.  I haven't found anything on the internet other than an obituary from a woman who used to work at C&D.  Hopefully I'll be able to find something more about them from the library or historical society.



  1. I absolutely love these! And it's great that you were able to date them just from the details included in the drawings and the copy. I have a very similar jumper in my collection. I think it is weird that something so inspired by the part of the world with which we were at war was so popular!

    1. I know, LIzzie--I thought the same thing about the dirndl! There was so much anti-German sentiment at that time. Maybe they saw it as Hungarian, or some other eastern Europe folkloric design...? I'm really hoping to find out more about this company.


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