Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Defunct Department Stores-Chas A. Stevens



Going through the racks at Thrift America today, I came across an interesting, older suit jacket. Taking it off the hanger to examine closer, I noticed the familiar Stevens label that was once sewn in much of my clothing. I adored Stevens, and when they went out of business in the 80's, it was personally devastating. Sure, I liked Marshall Field's, but if I was headed to State Street, it was to shop at Stevens. I couldn't afford much at Field's.

I didn't bother trying the jacket on-for .99 cents it was coming home with me, and if it won't fit, I'll keep it anyway as a reminder of my youth. Some people remember places, and events by what happened, or where they dined, or the company they had-I remember events and places by what I was wearing. In detail. I don't think that is normal, but it is my normal. So it was, I recalled wearing a black, floor length jersey dress that snapped down the front to do a bit of underage drinking at a somewhat exclusive nightclub I had no business being in. Never mind it was all rather dull once we were in as we were expecting a disco, and got a jazz trio instead. And a piano player between sets. And the drinks were expensive. But we got into a club on Rush Street, and I credit my Chas. A. Stevens dress.


I went on my first date in a purple velour dress from Stevens. My first day of grade four I wore a red plaid trouser and waistcoat set with a white, cowl neck sweater from Stevens. I bought my first navy blue, "interview" suit at Stevens when it was time to look for work. I bought a dark green wool coat that my mother hated, and tried to convince me to get rid of...well, you know where it came from. Those four inch pumps with the faux fur sides that I ruined walking through un-cleared snow that fell whilst we were at a party in someone's basement in Andersonville-those came from Stevens as well. So much of my early life came with that Stevens label attached. So much of my teenage life was spent at parties in people's basements (and in warmer weather, garages) on North side of Chicago. But never mind that kids, the point is that standing there in Thrift America, more than 500 miles from Chicago, I found a bit of evidence that the life I remember living really did exist. In this age of, "it didn't happen if it isn't on the Internet", there was something reassuring in that silly little jacket from Stevens.
The jacket looks very 80's to me, maybe a relic from the last days of the department store?

Don't stare at it too long, you'll get a headache.

7 comments:

pastcaring said...

My first thought was that the jacket looks older, 1970s. It doesn't have the boxy shoulder-padded look so beloved of the 1980s. Though maybe it's late 70s/early 80s, before the power dressing really hit hard...
Anyway, I agree with the sentiment that certain labels take you right back and are filled with memories and associated emotions. I like the idea of you all glammed up in a black jersey maxi, ready for grown-up action, only to find a jazz trio and a pianist! xxx

Jessica Cangiano said...

I'm picking up a 70s vibe from it as well, but there was some definite style overlapping at the end of the 70s/early 80s as disco went out the door and the power suit era was ushered in, so it could very well be from either.

It's a bit amazing, and also a bit sad, juts how many department stores have gone the way of the dinosaur in the last 50 or so years. Here in Canada, only a couple of major chains (outside of the big box retailers) still exist (I have memories of a few, including Eatons and Woodwards closing their doors forever in my lifetime).

♥ Jessica

*PS* Thank you very much for your fantastically fabulous comment on today's outfit post. Hand on my heart, it made me blush and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The wind helped up the drama factor of that hat (the feather usually just perches merrily to the side, not straight up like that), but it's pretty spectacular either way for sure! :)

♥ Jessica

Goody said...

I tried doing a bit of etsy/ebay looking for something similar, but came up empty handed. You do make a good point about the shoulders.

It was one of those "important to the era" nightclubs, so at least I can say I was there.

Goody said...

@Jessica

I think what's throwing me is the print, and that you're right, it is probably earlier. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd have worn in the 70's, but then I was kind of a Pendelton skirt and monogramed cardigan sort of woman at that time. Then, Punk happened. Thank god.

I meant every word too-that was a terrific post from all possible angles.

Thomas Smith said...

I think the jacket is actually mid to late 1960's because of the label, as well as the styling of the jacket. The font is 1960's, especially the "Designers Shop" font. Stevens also changed their logo in the late 1970's so this is definitely an earlier piece. I used to live in a suburb with a Chas. A. Stevens store at our local plaza mall so I am very familiar with this retailer. To this day, I still think that Stevens was one of the best women's clothing retailers. All the women in my family shopped there and my mother's bridal gown also came from Stevens. I have a friend who was the last visual director at Stevens and I am always asking her what it was like working for them although when they closed in 1989, it was a very different store than it was when I was growing up.

Goody said...

@ Thomas Smith

Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge. That is one of the things I love about the internet-someone will eventually be able to answer your questions.

*sigh* it WAS a great store.

Goody said...

@ Thomas Smith

Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge. That is one of the things I love about the internet-someone will eventually be able to answer your questions.

*sigh* it WAS a great store.