May 21, 2011

Bright and cheerful summer dresses from 1948

Day 141 of Vintage 365


Once long ago in a time before incessant text messaging, countless Real Housewives shows (you know, back in those days when more housewives actually lived up to their names and looked after their homes and families instead of starting cat fights for living), and Starbucks locations on every corner, a department store chain by the name of Eatons presided over Canada from coast to shining coast.

For a time Eaton's (the official name of which was the T. Eaton Co. Limited) was the largest department store chain in this country, with a history stretching all the way back to its humble Toronto roots in 1869.

During the many decades Eatons called Canada home, it was as commonplace and beloved as Sears (perhaps even more so in some parts of the country), and it produced many fine, wonderfully image rich catalogues over the years (before the chain went bankrupt around the start of the 21st century, that is).

It's from one such vintage catalogue, specifically the summer 1948 edition, that today's image originally hailed. On this bright, lively page we see three young women sporting dress styles that were popular that season.

Each one in markedly distinct from the other, and yet they all share in common similar traits, too, such as mid-calf length hems, short sleeves and vibrant colours.


The cotton candy pink and black dress on the left hand side telegraphs a charmingly peasant/ethnic vibe. The two piece skirt and matching blouse combo in the centre (worn by a young woman that I can't help but think resembles the modern day comedian Sarah Silverman a tad) is somewhat more formal (I could so easily imagine a young mom popping over to the weekly PTA meeting in it), yet still very summery and playful (thanks to that vivid daffodil yellow shade).

And last but not least, the third dress, with it's square shoulders and distinctive black bow at the collar, is a riot of pretty rainbow colours that instantly bring to mind a traveling carnival.

Each of these looks came it at under $6.00 and would have been relatively affordable options for Canadian women of 1948. I find something to like in all three dresses, yet I think that the chevron patterned "Gibson Girl" frock on the right, bursting with feel-good candy colours, that is my personal favourite.

While sadly Eatons department stores are no longer a part of the Canadian landscape, thanks to terrific vintage images like this catalogue page (which comes by way of Old Catalogs on Flickr) memories of this classic retailer, and a delightful dose of 1940s summertime wardrobe inspiration alike, can live on for vintage fashion lovers to draw oodles of sartorial inspiration from.


  1. ooohh! Love these! Especially the striped one!

  2. Wow, these are absolutely gorgeous - I'd be happy to wear any of those - in fact I'd have them all in my wardrobe thanks.

  3. Thanks for sharing this awesome vintage ad! I love their outfits and shoes, and how they would be in style today, especially the wedges! The peasant style dress is my fav!!!!!

  4. This photo, and your article put such a big smile on my face. I secretly wish I could wear dresses like this every day :)
    ~ Jill @ 'Just Dream, Jelly Bean!'

  5. Gorgeous gorgeous dresses. Love the shape of the pink and black one. x

  6. I can remember looking at both the Eatons and Sears Catalouge and I know my my mom preferred Eatons over Sears. It was sad and shocking when they closed because if it could happen to them then no one was safe.
    I'm finding myself still in a yellow mood. But I'd take all those dresses if offered.

    1. I prefered Eatons as well. It was such a sad day for our great nation when the last one shuttered their doors (dito for Woodwards, which I really liked visiting when I was a little girl). I've heard recently that Sears may be in trouble and debating shutting some of their locations down, too, though that was word of mouth, so please don't quote me there. Hopefully not. We'll only have The Bay and big box chains left as far as anything even remotely resembling a department store goes if they do.

      ♥ Jessica