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From the Cataloger’s Desk: Fashions of the Hour

June 12, 2020

Before the building closed in March, I cataloged a very unique printed item: Fashions of the Hour, by Janaléne, Inc. I hate to admit it, but this album sat on a shelf in my office for quite some time. It required original cataloging, and because it was so different from anything I had cataloged before, I needed to build up the courage to tackle it. Once I did, it quickly became one of my all-time favorites, and I knew I had to share it with you.

Based on what little information is available, Janaléne started in the 1920s, and its head office was located at 546 South Meridian St., Indianapolis. In the album, it is described as “a pioneer in the business of selling dresses direct to the home,” and its goal was to make “style at a saving” available to all women everywhere.

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Their Direct to Customer Plan was fairly straightforward. Sales representatives collected cash deposits for orders and submitted them to Janaléne. Janaléne then shipped the merchandise directly to customers and collected the balance due. Representatives kept the deposits, which constituted their earnings. According to a 1924 magazine advertisement I came across, Janaléne offered “an excellent income for your spare time” and “very large profits if you devote your entire time to the work.” Not a bad gig!

This particular album showcases fashions for the 1937 Spring/Summer season, all of which were created in the Janaléne Designing Studios and approved by the Jury of Fashion (each member being a leader in his/her field – i.e. designer, fashion creator, merchandising expert, etc.). A dated style symbol shown beneath each illustration guaranteed “the very latest and best style ideas gleaned from the most exclusive fashion centers of the world.” I’m no expert, but that sounds pretty impressive to me.

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Most of the album is dedicated to women’s clothing; however, it also includes sections for girls, boys and men. Clearly, Janaléne had a lot to offer its customers, as there was something for everyone. The illustrations are wonderfully vibrant, and best of all, fabric swatches accompany each style. I’m sure this made the at-home shopping experience even better for customers. It certainly made the cataloging experience fun for me!

I can’t do this album justice in a blog post, so I encourage you to see it in person once we reopen to the public (currently scheduled for July 7). Whether you’re a fashionista or not, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. The styles are classic, the descriptions are charming, and the overall presentation is impressive. For more information, please see the catalog record here.

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Lindsay Borman is the cataloger of Printed Collections at the Indiana Historical Society. Her claim to fame: she can name all of the U.S. presidents ... in order!

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