As we have seen in a previous Exploring Illustration entry, during the late 1930s and 1940s, Al Parker created a series of cover illustrations for the Ladies Home Journal that featured mother and daughter characters dressed in same type and style of clothing.*
Parker’s mother daughter illustrations encompassed a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities: ice skating, roller skating, swimming, baking, trying on hats, changing a tire, skiing, building snowmen, knitting booties, playing with their new baby boy, celebrating holidays, raking leaves, and sledding. Between the end of 1939 and 1952 there were over 30 such covers created by Parker—and all of them featured the mother and daughter dressed alike. As you can see in the above example, there were mother daughter illustrations that were also used to promote the war effort during WWII.
Al Parker’s cover illustrations spurred the American fashion industry to produce a variety of mother/daughter fashions and dress patterns. (See photos below.) In Harriet Pepin’s 1942 standard, Modern Pattern Design, she mentions that “for the past several years ‘Mother and Daughter’ dresses have successfully sold in stores.”** While researching this topic, one of my favorite finds was a master’s thesis written in 1969, was titled Development of Mother-Daughter Fashions by Adapting Commercial Patterns toward a Master’s Degree from the Department of Clothing, Textiles, and Interior Design at Kansas State University. It was fascinating to read that, “Through personal experiences it has been learned that at times in some young girls lives there is a definite desire to have mother-daughter fashions. Much pleasure is received by both mother and daughter in planning such combinations and there is a great feeling of satisfaction when wearing them.”***
Best of all Parker’s illustrations also spurred some of the cut-out doll fashions worn by McCall’s Magazine’s paper doll character, Betsy McCall and her mother in the series of pages dedicated to her character, clothing, and fictional life. Betsy McCall was first illustrated by the 20th century American illustrator Kay Morrissey.**** Even though McCall’s Magazine had been publishing paper dolls since 1904, Betsy McCall’s popularity exceeded any of their previous paper doll characters. Betsy and her mother, Mrs. McCall, modeled the fashions of the day and as you might have guessed this included mother and daughter fashions. From their first appearance in the June 1951 issue, mother and daughter were portrayed at the beach wear matching swim suits and sundresses, to the last issue of that year, where mother and daughter are provided with matching nighties and quilted robes. Mother/daughter fashions showed up intermittently in the series and in 1957 Betsy McCall’s clothing matches her fictional cousin Linda a couple of times instead of Mrs. McCall. Then in February of 1958 McCall mother and daughter wear matching clothing the last time as they celebrate Valentine’s Day.
It is interesting to see various contemporary fashion photos in newspapers, magazines, and on online shops that again feature mother and daughter wearing matching clothing. The path from Al Parker’s cover illustrations to today’s retro fashion craze elucidates that sometimes illustration spurs fashion; then in turn the fashion may indeed spur illustration; and finally illustration and fashion can re-inspire mothers and daughters to dress alike.
* See, Emma Dent’s essay, “The Ties that Bind and Separate” web published on May 5, 2011, https://www.rockwell-center.org/exploring-illustration/the-ties-that-bind-and-separate/
** Harriet Pepin, Modern Pattern Design: The Complete Guild to the Creation of Patters as a Mean of Designing Smart Wearing Apparel (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1942): chapter 12.
*** Helen Burgess Bortz, Development of Mother-Daughter Fashions by Adapting Commercial Patterns A Master’s Thesis toward a Master’s Degree from the Department of Clothing, Textiles, and Interior Design at Kansas State University, (Manhattan, Kansas: Kansas State University, 1969): p. 5.
**** I cannot confirm life dates or much else about Kay Morrissey, but according to what I can trace on the internet, Morrissey illustrated Betsy McCall until 1955 when Rene Forsyth Ludwig took over until 1958 when Ginnie Hoffman began to illustrate the character.
May 15, 2014
By Joyce K. Schiller, Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, Norman Rockwell Museum