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Sears Made to Order catalog Fall & Winter 1939-1940

Discussion in 'Suits' started by Tango Yankee, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. I picked up this catalog on Ebay a while back and finally got around to scanning it in. It's in great shape--came complete with a measuring tape, fabric swatches, and inserts in the form of a letter to the customer and directions on how to measure.

    It has the typical line drawings and sketches of the era. One I find a bit odd, but I guess it was several drawings put together. It has three men, one sitting, in a group. The odd thing is that one of the men standing has a rifle in the crook of his arm! It seems out of place.

    Unfortunately, in uploading files to Photobucket I can't get a size that would make the lettering legible here without the photo being huge. Instead I'll post a couple of teaser pages and a link to the album holding the catalog. You'll be able to read them and to download legible copies if you like.

    I hope that some of you find this catalog useful when it comes to determining what you want in a vintage-like suit! If you do use it when ordering suits made please let us know (and show us) the results. Someday when ordering a new suit won't involve as much by way of material I'll do the same. :D

    I'll put the measuring instructions in a separate thread. And now, without further ado...

    The front cover:


    Page 4


    Page 5


    Page 10


    To see the full catalog go to the album by clicking on this sentence. If you find you need a guest password use "flounger".


  2. kpreed

    kpreed Guest

    Thank You.

    Some great stuff! Thanks for all the work. :eusa_clap
  3. Dinerman

    Dinerman Super Moderator Bartender

    I'll take a whitney with a sport back, cuffs, patch pocket, with youthful wide trousers in gray plaid
  4. Michael10

    Michael10 New in Town

    Made to order catalog

    Very cool. Please post more if you have them.
  5. Terrific post and resource! Thanks for posting! :eusa_clap
  6. Wow, I like the how you get a free top coat with the suit! Man, those were the days.
  7. Re-read that carefully, Stovall. :)
  8. I meant to say:

    Wow, I like the how you get a free top coat sample book with the suit! Man, those were the days.

    Oh well.:eusa_doh:
  9. Thanks for posting this Tangoo Yankee. There is a lot to be gleaned from these pages.

    Check out the sleeves with cuffs! You do not see that jazzy feature too often. I was just holding an orphaned suit jacket last week with a turned back cuff. It was not 40s but a couple of decades later.
  10. Great catalogue! Thnaks for posting those images Tango!

    As for the guy with the shotgun, well, just look at the fabric of those suits. Clearly those guys are the gangsters, see? lol Just like every time I wear a pinstripe suit, people think I'm a gangster! [huh] lol
  11. Tango, that is an awesome find. Truly fantastic.

    Can we see a clearer picture of the "12 Sears features"? I'm curious.
  12. I'm glad the catalog has been useful! Unfortunately, it's the only one I have so far. If I get any more I'll post them.

    Jerekson, hopefully this will be a bit clearer:


  13. skyvue

    skyvue Call Me a Cab

    For convenience's sake, I've converted Tango Yankee's individual files into a single PDF file (it's a 4.2 mb download). You can grab it here, if you're so inclined.

  14. I just read this and laughed.
    It is funny how the three men are standing around just holding a rifle casually. not today. people would be running .
  15. I love these old catalogs not just for the fashion, but for the sociological and economic data that can be gathered from them too! For example, according to the 1940 U.S. Census, the median annual income for males was $956. In other words, these $24.95 suits from Sears represented approximately 2.61% of a middle income man's annual pay. Expressing this percentage as a dollar amount of the comparable metric for 2010, we arrive at a figure of $869 . . . which is not a cheap suit by today's standards.
  16. YETI

    YETI A-List Customer

    ^^If there was a tailor who could replicate any one of those suits, I'd pay him $870 no prob.
  17. MisterGrey

    MisterGrey Practically Family

    The post about dollar amounts raises a question: How many suits did the average man own, and for how long did he use them? It's possible that 2.6% represents an important multi-year investment perhaps more akin to a modern car payment than a wardrobe item.
  18. A couple of suits I say.
    2 everyday one
    a sports suit
    and the sunday suit

    Am I in the ballpark?
  19. Not surprising, as they certainly didn't skimp on the build quality (as seen in the picture above).
  20. It's funny you say that because, when I returned $869 as a answer, I was surprised because this is almost exactly what I paid for a Hong Kong made-to-measure suit in 2011!

    Suits were most definitely considered big multi-year purchase in that period. Advertisements of the era typically emphasis "a good value" (read: quality exceeding what's expected at that price point), longevity, and "good styling" (read: not a faddish cut that will look dated when the next temporary fad comes along). That said, I don't think suits were akin to purchasing a new car, but rather would be a periodic purchase, made as needed. Then, as now, buying a new car typically involved monthly payment and was very significant purchase. For comparison, the MSRP for the entry level 1940 Ford coupe was $599 - 660, depending on options. That's about 60-70% of the median annual pay for a American man in 1940.

    I don't think you're far off, but it would be somewhat dependent on man's profession, class, and region.

    The "black Sunday suit" (or Sunday best as it's often called), was really a garment of the less affluent. A working class man, for example, might own a wardrobe of laborer's garments and only a single "black Sunday suit" for church, weddings, funerals, etc. As the 20th century progressed, in the U.S., such suits were supplanted by suits more typical colors, but in Europe and the U.K., this was less the case. That is why black vintage suits are so much more common in Europe than they are in the U.S.

    A man of the middle classes, but still of modest financial means, would probably own about what you said, except a tuxedo (or dinner suit, if you like) would usually take the place of the "Sunday best" suit. Interestingly, in Emily Post's 1922 etiquette tome, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, she recommends that young men with limited means purchase tuxedos, rather than tails, since a tux is more versatile than a full dress rig.

    I think for the same reason, in the 30s, the so-called "semi-sport" suit became quite popular. Such suits could be worn in the country or in the city and not look out of place in either setting.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013

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