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Cloak and Suit: 1912

Cloak and Suit: 1912

Detroit circa 1912. "Elliott, Taylor & Woolfenden -- cloak and suit." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Woodward's downtown store, Vancouver, BC

I love the photo of one of the old elevators and wish I could find more. Early on I remember the 3 older elevators encased in a floor to ceiling glass wall on the main and second floors, so you could see the old cages going up and down. I loved riding on these old elevators, watching the gloved operators opening the gates and doors manually and level them at each floor. There was usually a director on the main floor using castanets to signal a full elevator to leave.

Where was this?

The reason I became quite curious is because the church window across the street seemed awfully familiar, so I did some digging and revealed that the window was from the Woodward Avenue Baptist Church, built in 1886 and demolished in the 1980s.

This was confirmed when I did a search for the store itself and found an excerpt from a book on Google, which confirms the building in this photo was built two years earlier at the corners of Woodward and Henry, an area which is now at the very fringe of Downtown Detroit. This spot was exactly across the street from Woodward Avenue Baptist Church, which also sat at the corners of Woodward and Henry (now Winder St. on the east side of Woodward).

My particular interest in this? I lived for the entire decade of the 00s in a condo built on the spot where the Baptist church sat.

I gots to answer

If you look at the bottom of the light-colored dress you will see that she is on a stand, therefore a mannequin. It's amazing that these mannequins look more life-like than what we have today. I can't figure out the chair. Maybe an early Transformers?

I gots to ask

Looking at the model in the foreground in the light colored dress, is she a floor walker displaying one of the dresses? The reason I ask, her left hand is blurred, thus moving. So she's not a mannequin methinks. The dress appears to have a price tag hanging from the belt like the display mannequins so she wouldn't be clientele.

[Note that the rest of her, as well as everything else in that portion of the negative, is also blurred. Apparently an optical aberration of the camera lens.]

What is the Ghostly presence lower left?

The flash powder?

[This was exposed by available light; flash wasn't used.]

So how did you try these clothes on?

Were there little booths in the back you could disappear into? (I imagine you would need more than a little assistance to get some of these outfits on and off) or did the ladies of 100 years ago take these clothes home and try them on there? (I must say, I haven't a clue) And I do hope someone colorizes this amazing shot!

First Ladies

This image reminds me of the photos of the First Ladies' gowns exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1912 (same year). The mannequins are posed similarly and, while the faces were painted and hair fashions added, the faces were all the same.

Obsessed with cabinets

I am trying to "see" what is in the tall, glass-fronted case. They look like "trimmed hats." It looks like they sold untrimmed hats on the tables, and had examples of the fully trimmed hats in the cabinets. Wonderful!

After Holiday Sale

Where's all the "50% Off This Rack!" signs?


The torsos on the display cases caught my eye. And what's with the hats? The hats were the rage for so long, I suppose, that 100 different styles were stocked. Amazing days.

Going Down

The two round globes on the extreme right are up and down lights for the elevators. I remember Hudson's in downtown Detroit when it had 24 manually operated elevators. Vancouver, B.C., department stores had operators until the 1970s. Here is one in the Woodward's downtown store. These elevators had manually operated doors and sliding gates. The starter manned an information booth, and dispatched the elevators with a CLACK-CLACK of castanets.

Pretty swanky

Love, love, love this photo!

At the far right of the photo

We see the two light globes of the elevator to indicate the direction of its travel, something by which my brother and I were always fascinated as children when visiting similar early 1900s buildings here in San Diego.

Anniversary gift

Today marks my four-year anniversary as a Shorpyite, and I couldn't have asked for a better photo to celebrate with. There's something incredibly creepy about the mannequins just standing around on the sales floor. Fortunately, merchandising artists eventually learned to corral mannequins and perch them on display stands so they can't grope unsuspecting customers.


It looks like the 'rose window' of that church is 5 feet away from the store. Well, there goes the side yard. It is interesting how stores have evolved; when have you seen windows in a department store these days? Look at that waste of possible display area.

BTW, I also noted that the windows are operable and only have a standard locking device to 'lock' them. Another big change from today's fully alarmed shops and such.

The Chair

Maybe it was to assist in standing, it couldn't have been easy to do with fifteen layers of clothing on.

One gold thimble

This looks like the 9th floor set for the "After Hours" Twilight Zone episode.

Question and comment

Anyone know the reason for the unusual chair? And it seems this department store was across the street from a church.

Let me get my corset.

That rack of dresses! As a devotee of vintage clothing, it is just killing me that I can't step into this photograph and go browsing.

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