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This week in history...

Allders targeted more mature customers with a raft of designer tie-ups, topless dresses caused a moral dilemma for retailers, and employers struggled to find jobs for demobilised service men.

5 years ago…

Department store Allders added a raft of designer tie-up ranges, including its first menswear collections, for autumn 04, reported Drapers on August 14, 2004.

Allders chief executive Terry Green said the designers were intended to appeal to 35-plus shoppers.

In menswear, London Fashion Week designer Paul Costelloe launched his debut diffusion line, a semi-casual range called PC by Paul Costelloe, while tailoring brand Mark Westwood unveiled formalwear range MW Collection and a casualwear offer called MW Diffusion.

For women, high street tailoring supplier Amanda Marshall launched Amanda by Amanda Marshall. Several mainstream womenswear brands, including Gerry Weber, were also reintroduced. 

Verdict analyst Richard Hyman said of the move: “Allders’ customer profile is already older so it is sensible not to go for the younger market, but its customer is less affluent and less interested in fashion.”

Allders made a loss of £56m for the year to February 2003.

Also this week, the British Fashion Council and Topshop announced that they would sponsor 15 designers to show at London Fashion Week in September, up from 13 last year.

First-time recipients were Swash, Giles, Ashish and Gardem. Those winning repeat sponsorship included Jonathan Saunders and Bora Aksu.

24 years ago…

The UK’s wet and gloomy summer weather proved to be a boon for rainwear sales, reported the August 17, 1985 issue of Drapers.

Department stores Dickins & Jones and John Lewis said sales were up 100% on the year before, while Harrods said its rainwear sales rose 96% and umbrella sales rocketed 112%.

Allders, Selfridges and Debenhams were also seeing strong sales, while British Home Stores said sales of raincoats were “very good”, with a trench coat style its bestseller.

Marks & Spencer said a £55 trench coat was selling particularly well, and at Dickins & Jones a bright plastic mac, which retailed for £90, was its most popular item.

The Pakamac brand was also reported to have doubled its staff to cope with demand in the wet weather.

Meanwhile, in Menswear magazine this week, a fashion shoot picked out the summer jeans styles and casual tops for spring 86.

The key themes on jeans were a basic styling and quality, with easy fit western jeans a popular choice. On tops, the classic polo shirt was “making a massive comeback to high street fashion”, while a preppy story was also strongly tipped.

45 years ago…

“Shopkeepers should not be called on to make a moral judgment on topless dresses,” reported Drapers on August 15, 1964, quoting the Bradford Chamber of Trade journal.

The topless dress first appeared in fashion shows this year, although any woman who dared to wear one in public risked being prosecuted for indecency.

The Mother’s Union asked housewives to boycott any shop selling the dresses, but the journal responded by saying “it is not the duty of the retailer to decide what people should wear, but to serve the public and deliver the goods”.

A picture story this week highlighted the return of the siren suit in couture collections in Italy and Paris.

Made famous by Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War, the style, now called a jumpsuit, was hailed as a look of the future.

90 years ago…

The difficult task of finding jobs for men demobilised from the army following the First World War was discussed in Drapers on August 16, 1919.

Those who left junior positions in offices, shops or warehouses to enlist in the early days of the war were finding the dilemma most problematic, many of whom had worked their way up to officer status over their five years of service.

Unfortunately, their five years at war had provided them with few of the skills demanded by their new potential employers, according to Drapers and, needing a man’s wage, they were only deemed competent to do “no more than a boy’s work”.

Their high wage demands meant they missed out on the jobs available, and Drapers suggested the discharged men must lower their salary expectations.

Elsewhere, the magazine admired the Peace Day decorations on Palmerston Road in Southsea, Hampshire, put up to celebrate the official end of the First World War, which was marked by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June this year.

The premises of retailer JD Morant was pictured covered in flags and laurel wreaths in the Allies’ colours. 

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