April 9, 2017

Cataloging Catalogs: More from Montgomery Ward Spring Summer 1943

Welcome to the second installment of what will now become a series, cataloging catalogs-- AKA I photograph/scan old mail order catalogs before the paper literally falls apart and share the pages with all of you! While I was planning to post all of the fashion pages from the first catalog I bought, Montgomery Ward spring summer 1943, I now have acquired two more catalogs! Both are again Montgomery Wards, this time spring summer 1949, and fall winter 1947/48 :) So while I already had a ton of images of 1940s fashion to share, now I have three times that original amount!

When the other two catalogs arrived looking much nicer and cleaner than the first, it made me realize just how bad the catalog from 1943 had deteriorated in comparison. The cover had already come off the front, several of the pages were near falling out, many had corners torn or eaten (?!) away, and strangely the pages were almost dirty? Like after handling the catalog and turning the pages my hands were grey with dust/dirt/ink. I also had been having a hard time determining how to digitize the pages, I had first tried merely photographing them at a high resolution, but I'd have much rather been scanning them. So I did something rather rash and well...I cut the binding off and separated all of the pages so they could be scanned flat individually. I know, I know! It's a bit sacrilege, cutting apart this wonderful catalog that had made it 74 years intact, but it was in bad shape already and I wanted to make sure the fashion pages were archived. I understand if you disagree with what I did, and I certainly won't be doing the same to the other two catalogs I have as they are in much better shape, but sometimes tough decisions just need to be made!

So scanning each page individually in two halves (as my scanner isn't large enough) meant I had to piece each page together in photoshop. Which is why, though I wanted to put up this post on Friday naively thinking the scanning and piecing wouldn't take long, I am instead posting this on Sunday! It may be time consuming work, but I still think it's worth it! These pages are such an amazing resource <3

So today I have another dozen or so pages for you all to peruse. As usual the images are huge so feel free to save them and zoom in on the details and text!

Here on page 26 we have some little summer sets that I was so happy so see as I have made a few similar sets in cotton before! Most are in a fabric described as linen-weave rayon and cotton, which I assume is a rayon cotton blend made to look like linen. The three in the top image come in linen green, natural, red or linen brown, while the suit on the bottom comes in royal blue, brown, or red and in either striped or check. As usual I'd like one of each please, but that goes for every page!

How perfectly safari ready is dress G above? (top far right). Notice the woven belts here, and there seems to be lots of decorative top stitching too! These are all dream dresses for me, I'll have to copy one and make it up this summer!

Gorgeous dresses, and wonderful details like the flower shaped buttons on the first dress and subtle gold jewelry being worn. The dress in the lower right would be perfect for a make-do and mend copy with the two fabrics used together. Great for stash busting today, it would be easy to use left over fabric from other projects together in a similar way! I really hope you all view these images larger and zoom in on the details, they are super inspiring as a reproduction seamstress!

The first dress here comes in beige, and again would be perfect for my more safari fashion leanings in summer. More things to note here are the contrasting thin leather belts proving one needn't always make a matching belt with covered buckle for every dress, and good thing too as the cost of those kits adds up fast these days!

I love the simple to make self fabric bow belt on the first dress here! Another good design for left over fabric from other projects in the lovely striped number in the top right. Notice the pockets on the middle dress in the top row too, they seem to be shirred! The endless varieties of the shirtwaist dress are reminding me that I don't have a single one, and I should probably fix that! 

Another page in color! Check out the size of those white buttons on the first suit! The styling here is nice and matched with the suits paired with coordinating hats and gloves. I'd like the brown beret style hat from the suit of the right thanks :)

And more color on the reverse! "Peony red...as subtle and as wonderful as the flowers in your garden this summer. Wonderful alone, as the special Dress to brighten your Beau's home-on-leave hours. Wonderful beneath the princess coat, to complete your spring ensemble." Well, the copy writer obviously thought this dress was wonderful.

More sets! "Bright little tulips on a short-jacketed collarless suit for your relaxation time, when you want to look your prettiest. Bright stitched bands curve across jacket front, match separate dickey, Young dirndl skirt so right for a junior figure. Fine linen-weave rayon and cotton." 

I'll take dress D please, love the high square neckline with lace, and the lace on the pockets too! 

That first dress! (view F) So cute, goodness. It may be for juniors but I still want it for myself. The long dresses make me wonder if girls had the both-show-up-to-the-dance-in-the-same-dress issue already in 1943!

View A. "Checked Rayon Jersey Casual...so young, so cool, so wearable. Without a wrinkle, it will see you through many a big moment....dates, teas, bridges. Stitched high neckline buttons to the waist in back. Fullness between pockets gives skirt the new peg top look. Has a contrasting grosgrain belt. Colors: Navy, Black or Brown checks--each with white." I'll take the navy thanks! I'd like view D too in that pretty floral <3

 The center dress above has a belt "studded and felt appliqued for winning casual". View F is actually two pieces, and I love how the print is used as an accent. It would be the prefect design for a vintage novelty print remnant piece! The polka dot suit in the bottom right is super cute too! Luckily these juniors fashions are sophisticated enough for modern women of today too :)

That's all for today! I'll get back to scanning and we will pick up again soon with more lovely juniors fashions! I hope you enjoy seeing these pages, I feel like each is a treasure trove of information, but then again I am a total nerd about these things so my enthusiasm may be a bit higher than average ;)


  1. The wonderful page is smarvelous in my opinion as well. The bows/buttons on the blue dress are so pretty! :)

    1. I'd love that blue dress, solid color dresses are so good to have!

  2. Utterly gorgeous! I applaud your dilligent cataloguing. Sounds like it was a sensible decision to cut the binding x

  3. It sounds as though taking off the binding and scanning the pages was the best way to preserve that particular catalogue.

    1. It was already pretty fragile so I didn't feel too bad, but I couldn't do it to the nice ones!

  4. These are fabulous. I like the grey suit with the red and green embroidery and the furlough dress with the embroidery at the waist line. Great ideas!


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