Monday, 16 November 2009

What could you buy for 6d in 1934?

Well perhaps not buy outright, since 6d is your deposit on "a delightful Spring Frock in Fashion's latest style," and you would in fact be obliged to make fortnightly payments of 1/6 (1 shilling and 6 pence) until the balance of 12/11 was reached.

Oh, and there's 6d for postage too.

But you do get a free pair of black patent leather shoes, so its looking more like a bargain. J.A. Davis was one of a number of mail order clothing companies advertising in the issue of Picturegoer magazine (June 2nd, 1934) that this ad appeared in, and it was certainly the cheapest.

Corot, of 33 Old Bond Street, London, was the dearest. It offered two models: "miss innocence," a pure silk crepe de chine frock for 3½ guineas cash or 10/6 monthly (a guinea was one pound and one shilling - 21 shillings - the 'posh' pound!), and "fresh as the morning," a linen sun frock with matching cape for 2½ guineas cash or 7/6 monthly.

Doing some sums - "miss innocence" is effectively 73s 6d and nearly six times the price of J.A. Davis' frock (with its rather less romantic title of "model 12").

This disparity in prices points to the wide readership of Picturegoer magazine, although even Corot would not have been considered a 'high end' clothing retailer at the time. Prestigious department stores were offering couture copy model gowns for up to 25 guineas, which gives some perspective on the market.

There's lots to pick over here - I always enjoy the fortuitous abbreviation of 'artificial' into 'art' when referring to synthetic fabrics, which makes them sound much more prestigious and appealing.

And I am always brought up short by the colour options listed, with the quite customary use of a derogatory racial term for shades of brown. Nobody would have turned a hair at that term in those days, and within my memory I recall seeing coloured pencils being labelled the same way.

If I'm ever lured by the warm appeal of cosy nostalgia - "things were so much better in the old days, you could leave your door unlocked, kids had respect for their elders" and all that nonsense - that's something to bring me right back down to earth with a bump.

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