Dresses by Decade

Dresses 1900-1950

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Nina Mayfield Judah, 1904. Dress.

Nina Mayfield Judah, 1904. Dress.
Nina Mayfield Judah, 1904
Nina Mayfield was born in 1880 to Mame and Guildford Mayfield. Nina graduated from high school in 1898 and became a teacher. She married Park Judah on June 23, 1904. Park worked in the millinery business in St. Louis for 54 years. He spent several years with the Levis-Zukoski Mercantile Company, which was touted as “importers and jobbers of millinery and ladiesfurnishing goods…[and] acknowledged leaders in their time.” He later went on to own A & J Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1926. Nina and Park had three children between 1908 and 1911: Virginia, Park W. Jr., and Robert. Park passed away in 1948, followed by Nina 20 years later. Nina Mayfield Judah, 1904. Dress detail.
Nina Mayfield Judah, 1904. Dress detail.

Nina Judah wore this two-piece, off-white silk crepe dechine dress for her wedding in 1904. The dress has a “pouter pigeon” bodice (full in front and puffed over the waist) with a high neck, bertha collar, puffed sleeves, and long, full skirt with train. This dress exemplifies the tightly corseted S-shaped silhouette and protruding monobosom look popular in the early 1900s.

Two-piece off-white silk crepe de chine wedding gown, 1904
Worn by Nina Mayfield Judah
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Judah

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Dorothy Yawitz Roth, 1924. Dress.

Dorothy Yawitz Roth, 1924. Dress.
 Dorothy Yawitz Roth, 1924
Dorothy Yawitz was born December 29, 1899, in Russia. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was just a child. She attended Central High School in St. Louis, and after graduation she worked as a secretary and translator at Rice Stix and Company a wholesale dry goods store located at 10th Street and Washington Avenue. Dorothy married Samuel Roth on December 18, 1924. Samuel leased the floral department at Famous-Barr on Kingshighway. They had three children, Florine, Annette, and Harold. Samuel passed away in 1974, and Dorothy died in 1982.

Dorothy Yawitz Roth wore this nontraditional dress for her wedding in 1924. The dress was purchased for her in France by a buyer from Famous-Barr, where Samuel worked as a florist. The 1920s was a time for youth and simplicity in fashion, and this embroidered sleeveless silk dress epitomizes those qualities. Dorothy’s dress is shorter and simpler than most wedding dresses from the period, but the rule of thumb at this time was the shorter the dress, the longer the veil.

One-piece beige silk flapper-style beaded and embroidered wedding gown, 1924
Worn by Dorothy Yawitz Roth
Gift of Ms. Florine Sorkin

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Frances Jeannette Herdlinger Woodhouse, 1935. Suit.

Frances Jeannette Herdlinger Woodhouse, 1935. Suit.
Frances Jeannette Herdlinger Woodhouse, 1935
Frances Jeannette Herdlinger was born April 24, 1909. She was raised in the Episcopal Church but was a freethinker. Frances met John Woodhouse at Kansas City Junior College, and both went on to the University of Missouri at Columbia. She graduated from the university in 1929 with a degree in chemistry, while John graduated in 1931 with a degree in business administration.

Frances taught high school chemistry for a year before going to work in a food chemistry laboratory at Mars Candy Company in Chicago. Because of the Great Depression, she was lucky to have a job. At the time there was social pressure (in some cases, institutional policy) that married women should not work. Frances and John decided to marry out of town, where her co-workers would not hear of the wedding. They took a train to St. Louis, then a bus to Columbia for their June 1, 1935, wedding. On their return to Chicago, Frances resumed work, leaving her wedding ring at home, where it was stolen by a burglar.

Frances worked at Mars until 1940, when she left to have the first of her three children. Frances did not hold a paying job while raising children, but she was active as a volunteer at the Stephenson County Historical Society and on the Freeport Public Library board, both for decades. Frances later became a teacher for homebound students, which evolved into a classroom for pregnant students. She taught all subjects. John died in 1994 and Frances in 2004. Frances Jeannette Herdlinger Woodhouse, 1935. Suit detail.

Frances Jeannette Herdlinger Woodhouse, 1935. Suit detail.

Frances Herdlinger wore this two-piece black silk suit for her wedding to John Woodhouse. Wearing a simple suit or dress was somewhat common during the Depression years, and as Frances and John were married quickly and quietly, a formal gown would have been difficult to obtain. The fitted jacket covers a silk skirt with attached multicolored blouse. Like women in previous decades, Frances continued to wear her wedding suit for other occasions.

Two-piece black and floral wedding dress, 1935
Worn by Frances Herdlinger Woodhouse
Courtesy of Anne Woodhouse

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