• Jack Delano/Library of Congress
  • “Miss Selma Barbour, manager of the Cecilian Specialty Hat Shop, 454 East 47th Street.”

For her book Chicago’s Fashion History: 1865-1945, local writer Mary Beth Klatt collected hundreds of photos from sources including her own family, high schools, the Library of Congress, and the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society, allowing the images of regular working folks, rather than society ladies, to drive the story. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that, as a milliner herself, she found a lot of images of hats—including many small millinery shops on the south side run by women. “It was quite a big industry,” she says. “You could just see the pride all these women had in these shops.”

It was a time when people tended to stick to stores in their neighborhoods for the sartorial necessities.”Marshall Field’s and going downtown was reserved for something special,” says Klatt. “People really took pride in their clothes . . . .you’d see a lot of Sunday outfits, since people tended to take photos more on special occasions.”

For her next book, she hopes to continue the story, perhaps focusing on the influence of Marshall Field’s in the 50s and touching on designers who got their start in Chicago, although most found fame elsewhere. “Halston got started here doing hats and left. Lots of people got their feet wet here but didn’t really stick around.”

Klatt will sign copies of the book on Friday, September 24, from 5:30 to 8 at Knit 1 Chicago, 3823 N. Lincoln.