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Chicago Millinery History: Marshall Field’s State Street-Part 2 April 13, 2013

In Part 1 on the topic of Marshall Field’s State Street store there was attention given to the Visitor Center of the now Macy’s and their nod to history.

For women of elegance and means the highlight of the store was the 28 Shop.

The author of “State Street: One Brick at a Time”, by Robert Ledermann, takes us into the opening of the shop on September 30, 1941. A gala affair was held, including outdoor searchlights, ala Hollywood movie openings. A butler announced arrivals, who had been sent engraved invitations. 500 invitations were sent. It is likely not too many women chose to skip this event. A new hat, and ensemble would have been needed for such a public affair.

The name 28 Shop is derived from the private entrance at 28 Washington, with direct elevator access to the 6th floor area. Both Mr. Ledermann, and Gayle Soucek in her book “Field’s: The Store That Built the City” discuss the design by Joseph Platt, who also designed the set for Gone With the Wind, a movie of no little fame. The large room had 28 dressing rooms with decor that could only be considered opulent. A favorite part of the description is of lace covered ceilings in some of the rooms. Lunch could also be served, again another way to keep the customer happy, and potentially shopping…for hats.

A look at the entrance to the 28 Shop on April 10, 2013 gives us a modern day glimpse at the glamor inside. There is also a framed vintage photo of the salon in the early days. Below the photo are two comfortable chairs. One might expect those are for the men who patiently wait, even today, as women enter the world of high fashion.

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The look of current fashion greets the potential customer in a most modern setting.

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One who is on a mission of millinery tho is hard pressed to find any. The vintage photos on the wall shall have to do.

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And finally we find the one photo of a woman being fitted with a 1940s style tilt hat!

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Credit is due to the current designer for having the insight to acknowledge that millinery purchases were as important as the rest of the ensemble. Sadly there were no current hats on display in the department. Could one hope they had all been purchased and not yet replaced? Several display cases with handbags and other accessories were scattered through the area. It seems something must be done to bring back the hat. Here are a few photos of wonderful items that beg for just the right hat.

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What hat in this store should be paired with this strong statement classic look jacket? I imagine another trip is needed to the first floor to see what is in stock. This writer is not a stylist, but could certainly suggest, if only there is a glimpse of hope to bring back the hat, into the famed 28 Shop on State Street.

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Chicago Millinery History: Marshall Field’s State Street-Part 1

State Street Marshall Fields and Millinery

On the usual journey to document all millinery history of Chicago it is imperative to find out about one of the greatest retailers in Chicago and the details of millinery.

Recent period television shows of Downtown Abby, with wonderful millinery fashions,  harken back to the days when on this side of the pond the Marshall Field store is well established. It is a current PBS series, though, Mr. Selfridge, which takes precedence in my mind. Mr. Harry Selfridge, in the program, has come from Chicago. His life is lavish and full of intrigue. His beginnings in Chicago are little known. It is important we look a bit of what is known of his role in Chicago, particularly in his employment at Marshall Field’s. He moves along on a successful course to create the best store in London.

A fine historian, Gayle Soucek has written “Marshall Field’s:The Store That Helped Build Chicago”, published in 2010 by The History Press. http://www.amazon.com/Marshall-Fields-Store-Helped-Chicago/dp/1596298545/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365789701&sr=1-1&keywords=marshall+fields+the+store+that+helped+build+chicago This book is also available in the Visitor Center display of books, which makes a trip to the store even more enjoyable than ordering online.

Ms. Soucek was a graduate of the School of the Art Institute, and worked for the store. Her accounts of Selfridge give us some insight into a man with big ideas. While in Chicago “Mile a Minute Harry” rose over the course of 20 years from stockboy at $10/month to wholesale salesman on the road, to eventually head of retail.  He is credited with adding the tea room, which was an additional way to keep customers in the store. Keeping customers longer meant greater opportunity to sell them more…hats.

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Above is the seventh floor Visitor Center of the former Marshall Field’s State Street store, now known as Macy’s.

A pillar of employees lost in service.

A pillar of employees lost in service.

The area is dedicated to honoring the legacy of Field’s with wall decor of historic photos, and a brass plate of the names of employees with 50 yrs service. There are pillars of brass plates of names inscribed of employees lost in World War One, and World War Two.

The brass plate of Employees with 50 yrs service

The brass plate of Employees with 50 yrs service

Panels with the dark green color knows in all things Fields for decades feature a bit of background, and historic photographs.

Panel of photos entitled Field's Firsts

Panel of photos entitled Field’s Firsts

Panel of photos entitled Looking Good

Panel of photos entitled Looking Good

Panel of photos entitled Bon Apetite!

Panel of photos entitled Bon Apetite!

Panel of photos entitled From Stockboys to Presidents

Panel of photos entitled From Stockboys to Presidents

Panel of photos entitled Marshall Field: A Retail Legend

Panel of photos entitled Marshall Field: A Retail Legend

In the panel of Field’s Firsts there is a photo of a window display in 1892. Tho the fashion is elegant a close up shows the lone hat.

Fields Firsts photo from 1892 of store Window Display featuring fashions

Fields Firsts photo from 1892 of store Window Display featuring fashions

Another historical writer, Robert Ledermann,with a background in retail and the credit field, has explored Marshall Field’s in his book “State Street: One Brick at a Time”, published in 2011, by History Press.http://www.amazon.com/State-Street-Brick-History-Press/dp/1609492943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365880014&sr=1-1&keywords=State+Street

Mr. Ledermann adds this gem of information, ” Field himself first went to France to buy Paris bonnets and personally directed their shipment to Chicago so that the ladies of the city might receive then in their original hatboxes.” It is not hard to imagine the thrill the customer must have had to see the creation in the original packaging. I am not aware of how long that practice may have continued, but it was certainly well received, and again set apart The Store as the place for fine millinery, fresh from the designers abroad. To have any of those hats would be a thrill today, and if it were still with the box, just divine.

Stop back for Part 2, coming soon, on the most elegant and elite fashion spot in the Marshall Field store, the 28 Shop. Both Ms. Soucek and Mr. Ledermann give us more to think about in the world of fashion. Of course there are photos of the 28 Shop from the April 10, 2013 visit as well.