** blogfriend Shay points out in the comments that you can find this book free online
LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[The economics of fashion magazines and advertising]
If advertisers were bright enough to make ads which the public really wanted to read, if Celanese would only print attractive little stories and bright quips on the pages for which it pays, then a fashion magazine could be published which was all ads. Then the business manager wouldn’t forever have to remind the editorial board that if they don’t do something about Lady-Dee corsets, we will lose the advertising.
As it is, Lady-Dee corsets takes a certain number of pages a year, for which they pay some $1500 each, for the purpose of telling the world about what divine corsets they make. At the same time, Lady-Dee corsets expects the editorial department to tell the world what divine corsets they make and do a much better job of it than any advertising agency on earth.
It’s not that the editorial department can’t come through. It is that, sometimes, they don’t just happen to think that Lady-Dee corsets are wonderful. They ignore Lady-Dee corsets, wilfully. The advertising manager comes in. He bangs his fist on the table. He gets results. A photograph of a girl in Lady-Dee corsets and cellophane comes out in the editorial pages. The account is saved….
The thing of it is, what the public sees in the pages of any fashion magazine is not always what is selected for the good of the public but often what is selected for the good of the advertising department.
commentary: See earlier entry for more on Fashion is Spinach, and how I came to read it.
The book is jammed full of financial details: Elizabeth Hawes studied economics at Vassar, and obviously took the subject very seriously. She explains where the money goes on a dress. She looks at the way manufacturers work. She examines specific markets such as handbags. And all this is done in the most entertaining and convincing way possible.
I always enjoy books on the fashion industry, and this is one of the best – as it winds its way through the 30s you feel you understand more about life and about clothes and about Elizabeth Hawes. And you wish she could have made clothes for you. She says clothes must be comfortable and beautiful. She wants you to be able to move in them. She explains why anything bought ready-made is probably not going to fit you properly. She wants to make clothes for everyone.
And in addition to this, she was a feminist, a political and social activist and a strong believer in unions – she later worked herself as a union organizer. She just sounds great: someone with a warm heart and a concern for people.
She was married for a time to the film director Joseph Losey.
One picture is editorial from a magazine in the 30s, via the Clover Vintage tumbler, the other is from a corset advert.