St. Louis based Dorsa Clothing Company produced this silk crepe dress and jacket in the early 1940s. Located at 1007 Washington Avenue, Dorsa was at the forefront of junior dress manufacturing. After the 1920s, a demand arose for dresses that fit more youthful figures. St. Louis makers, often credited with conceiving the first junior dresses, developed a thriving industry, ultimately making the city’s garment district one of the largest in the country. Dorsa’s early junior designs, sketched by Bessie Recht, the head of the Fashion Design department at Washington University, became popular among young women locally and across the United States. The city’s dresses were in such high demand that representatives of upscale New York retailers visited St. Louis twice a year to secure the latest teen styles.
The city’s prolific junior dress production happened at a time when St. Louis rivaled New York in terms of clothes manufacturing. From the late 19th century onward, manufacturers like Doris Dodson, Dolly Dimple, and Mary Muffet lined Washington Avenue and produced ready-made women’s wear, men’s clothing, and shoes. By the late 1940s, local manufacturers had created a 40 million dollar business and shipped to retailers across the country. Over the next decade, the number of producers tripled, primarily because of the desire for junior dresses. This Dorsa dress and jacket survive as a relic of St. Louis’s bustling garment industry and the city’s role in popularizing junior dresses.
Creator: Dorsa Clothing Company
Subject: Manufacturers; Clothing industry
Contributing Institution: University of Missouri, Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection
Region: St. Louis Metro
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