Fashion Conscious in Colorado

People’s fascination (and let’s be fair, women’s in particular) with clothing style has been around for millennia.  However, publications devoted to style have only been around since the eighteenth century. It was of course in Paris, France that the first fashion publication came to be. Le Cabinet des Modes’ first issue was published in 1785.  Similar publications soon appeared in Britain, Italy and Germany.

Here in the United States, Godey’s Lady Book[footnote]“Revive Fashions of the Far Past.” Aspen Daily Times, May 16, 1930. CHNC[/footnote] can claim being the first widely popular magazine devoted to fashion. They began their circulation in 1830 through 1878. It was a truly unique magazine for its time. A woman named Sarah Joseph Hale was the editor from 1837-1877 and became quite the fashion influencer. She also increased the circulation from 40,000 to 150,000 in just two years. She managed to have three issues that were written entirely by women during her tenure. The magazine included short stories and illustrations, but what really made it unique was its color illustrations of fashion, which was a very expensive process, costing into the thousands. Thus the magazine cost $3, a substantial sum when most magazines and newspapers cost just pennies.

They were not alone, however. In the 19th century there was an explosion of fashion publications, mainly due to mechanization and industrialization of both print and “ready wear” clothes. This advancement in technology also helped create a middle class, as well as increased literacy among the masses. While magazines were indeed popular, newspapers began to add their own fashion columns in the 1840s. In addition to the Associated Press, which in the 19th century was primarily an east coast conglomeration, there was the Western Newspaper Union (WNU) out of Iowa. They supplied standardized, pre-printed news to more than 12,000 newspapers in the western part of the United States. By the 1880s, one of their factories was located here in Denver. Fashion columns were part of the standardized news they offered, and many Colorado newspapers at the time subscribed to their service. The primary woman reporter on the scene for fashion news through WNU, was Julia Bottomley.[footnote]“Box Pleats One Favored Fashion.” Aspen Daily Times, May 9, 1930. CHNC[/footnote]

Bottomley appears to have started writing columns  in Colorado newspapers beginning in 1908.[footnote]“New York Modes.” Colorado Transcript, August 20, 1908. CHNC[/footnote]  She was a prominent fashion columnist[footnote]“New Courier Special Feature for Ladies.” Fort Collins Courier, July 28, 1919. CHNC[/footnote] until 1930, with the exception of 1917-1918 and 1920-1922 when she dropped out of the scene. Bottomley was also a noted hat maker or milliner, [footnote]“Hats for the Year.” Yuma Pioneer, December 24, 1909. CHNC[/footnote]  and even published a book on the subject in 1914. In her first few years of writing the columns, she focused primarily on hats[footnote]“Hats for Matrons.” Moffat County Courier, December 28, 1911. CHNC[/footnote]  and hairstyles[footnote]“Styles in Coiffures.” Salida Record, September 8, 1911. CHNC[/footnote] not only for women, but also for young girls.[footnote]“Hats to Match Frocks: The Dressy Bathing Suit.” Aspen Daily Times, August 5, 1927. CHNC[/footnote]  By 1912 her repertoire of fashionable items began to include under garments such as girdles and lingerie,[footnote]“Filmy Lingerie Fashion’s Edict for the Season.” Fairplay Flume, October 17, 1913. CHNC[/footnote] sleepwear, accessories[footnote]“Coat and Handbag of Tweed.” Craig Courier, September 26, 1928. CHNC[/footnote]  and coats. These sometimes reflected new fashions for new modes of transportation, such as “aeroplanes”[footnote]“Dress Up-to-Date.” Routt County Courier, June 16, 1910. CHNC[/footnote] and cars.[footnote]“The Lady and the Car.” Colorado Transcript, September 14. 1911. CHNC[/footnote]

Not only did Bottomley write about fashion for the person, but also fashion for the home,[footnote]“Decorative Things for the Home.” Aspen Daily Times, January 24, 1930. CHNC[/footnote]  including how to make homemade gifts for Christmas.[footnote]“Christmas Presents You Can Make.” Routt County Sentinel, November 21, 1919. CHNC[/footnote]  Bottomley was very fashion forward[footnote]“Draped Millinery in Fashion.” Aspen Daily Times, November 22, 1929. CHNC[/footnote]  and well informed of the trends hitting Paris, often speaking on the new “modes”.[footnote]“Maintaining the Successful Modes.” Wray Rattler, April 6, 1916. CHNC[/footnote] By the mid-1920s, this included bathing suits,[footnote]“Unusually Wide Range in Selection of Bathing Suits.” Fort Collins Courier, July 14, 1923. CHNC[/footnote]  as well as jackets, pj’s and bloomers[footnote]“Bloomers Insure Stylish Silhouette.” Fairplay Flume, September 10, 1926. CHNC[/footnote]  for women. She often highlighted different types of fabrics, such as lace,[footnote]“Lace on Everything.”Routt County Sentinel, September 27, 1912. CHNC[/footnote]  velvet,[footnote]“Transparent Velvet Stylish; Back-views Tax the Stylist.”Eagle Valley Enterprise, October 24, 1930. CHNC[/footnote]  knits,  and embroidered fabrics. Very occasionally, she targeted men[footnote]“Christmas Gifts for Men and Women.”Salida Record, November 14, 1913. CHNC[/footnote]  or boys[footnote]“Party Togs for the Youngest Set.” Wray Rattler, August 26, 1915. CHNC[/footnote] and even handmade pillows for the pets.[footnote]“‘Pillow Pets’ Easy to Make.” Aspen Daily Times, May 3, 1929. CHNC[/footnote]  

After 1930,  she disappeared from the fashion columns in the Colorado Historic Newspapers. Regardless, many Colorado women of the first quarter of the 20th century were influenced by her current Parisian insights into fashion, even here in the wilds of the West.

Our collection of newspapers includes so many wonderful fashion items[footnote]“Everyone Now Wearing the Breakfast Cap.” Wray Rattler, January 29, 1914. CHNC[/footnote]  and are highlighted on our Facebook page every Friday.