Vintage Sewing

Montgomery Ward catalogue dating

November 23, 2012
Montgomery Ward dresses

Hello fellow sewists,
I hope you’re all having (or about to have) a wonderful Friday!

I have a mystery that I’d love your help on.

I have become the very happy and fortunate guardian/owner of a Montgomery Ward catalogue. A dear friend’s mother has sent it to me here in Melbourne all the way from Arizona and I’m so lucky!

There are more than 1,010 pages, but unfortunately I’m missing the front cover, the first five pages and the back cover and not-sure-how-many of the last pages… they also haven’t printed a date anywhere that I’ve found as yet.

The closest I’ve come to a clue is the middle of the catalogue lists the shipping rates from Chicago and it mentions the War Revenue act, which the internet tells me came in during 1917… so it’s later than that!

Montgomery Ward dresses
Montgomery Ward dresses

Anyone want to hazard a guess?

Living in Australia, this is the first I’ve heard of Montgomery Ward, but a little internet searching – and a careful look through these fragile pages – and I’m hooked! The harnesses, saddles and other horse gear alone runs from page 985 to… who knows! It goes beyond the 1,010 pages I have!

Montgomery Ward ladies suits
Montgomery Ward ladies suits

It is a fragile – and huge! – old thing and I’d love to be able to put a more accurate date than “after 1917″… anyone??

Montgomery Ward coats
Montgomery Ward coats
  1. I’d guess mid-20s from the design lines? (and short hairstyles!)
    For dating the catalogue, it would be a year or two after those design themes came up in couture?
    But what a find! I clicked and zoomed in on those pics! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. I would say that it was from 1923-1925, because the lines changed a bit from the illustrations as the decade wore on. Check out the Fashion Eras website, too.

  3. I would say some time in the late teens for sure. You can still see Poirot influence in the cocoon coat in the last image.
    It’s that tricky period between the end of WWI and the twenties, but I bet it is from 1917-1918, no later. Especially with the end of WWI being in 1918, and the mention of the War Revenue Act.
    Other clues- the tiered parts of the blue dress in the first image read late teens. Also, the illustration style is still very much of that period, the length of the hemlines still very much to ankle and the placement of the waist seams.

  4. Tesia is on it. I would add that I think it’s probably the Fall/Winter 1917-18 catalog. It’s obviously not summer (wool serge and fur!) and by summer 1918 waists were starting to broaden even more, there was a gathered bulkiness coming in above the waist that’s absent here, and the smooth tapered skirt was being replaced with more volume. Compare the slight differences between your images and the ones in this Summer 1918 Pictorial Review pattern catalog:

    Further than that, although there were revenue acts in 1916 and 1918, only the 1917 act was referred to as the War Revenue Act.

  5. This clothing would have been for the average American Family…I know people in rural areas could not get to stores so ordered from Sears and Montgomery Wards..I would say the dresses were not past 1925..Great find.

    Matilda’s girl

  6. I also agree with Jessamyn. Waistlines dropped around 1922-23, according to most sources. Montgomery Ward (as I remember) was always a bit conservative/behind with current fashion. (When I was a girl, we called it “Monkey Ward” for fun!) …compare with Delineator pics from 1918:

  7. Try contacting one of the reference librarians at the library at…I recognize that second image as one from a catalog that’s in their collection, but I don’t recall what the exact date was.

  8. Thank you so much everyone,
    I knew this was the right place to come for help!
    After having a look at some of the links you have provided, I’m definitely leaning towards the late teens.
    I’ll post any updates or new information I come across, here on We Sew Retro.
    Thanks again – Denise

  9. I have a Ward’s catalogue from 1936. It is so much fun to look through; it really gives you an idea of what everyday life was like back then. New fangled electric irons, or even irons powered by…gasoline! Ladie’s foundations made with genuine rubber!
    An old catalogue like this could make a great Christmas gift!

  10. AHA! More narrowing down – one of the listings for the books has “coming November 1, 1919” – so we are looking at most likely 1919!!
    Tesia, Jessamyn – nice one!!

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