Sepia Saturday 388: Fifth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.
In the last post, I introduced my Stoutner ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Among them was family fashionista John H. Stoutner — a ladies garment professional who had the most potential to influence the clothing style of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence.
I knew little about my grandmother’s Uncle John growing up — just that he owned a “millinery shop,” according to my mother.
Born in 1870, Uncle John embarked on his career at a time when women still wore extravagant hats, so this explanation made sense.
Later I inherited a spectacular photo of his Gloversville shop (above) and sure enough, there was the profusion of ladies hats — some behind cases and others decoratively placed on the selling floor.
Stoutner & Van Arnam’s Smart Shop
From the Stoutner family photo, I knew that Uncle John had a business partner, Crosby Van Arnam. I wondered whether newspaper research might tell me more — and I was pleased to discover several advertisements for their shop.
The one posted here, from the March 22, 1915 issue of the Gloversville-Johnstown Morning Herald, advertises the millinery portion of their store.
However, other Smart Shop ads on the same page featured clothing and outerwear, indicating they ran a full-service operation.
Uncle John and Crosby placed the ads to coincide with Gloversville’s Spring Style Show, giving the address of their shop as 13 West Fulton St. A Google search for a street view of this address reveals a row of charming row of storefronts right around the corner from Main Street.
Looking good a wholesale prices
In the days before big-box stores, having an uncle in the fashion business meant my grandmother Liz and her siblings could be looking good at wholesale prices — and look good they did!
Here are the Stoutner siblings in a circa 1916 outdoor photo, each fashionably dressed. My grandmother Liz, at right, is nearly 11 years old and growing into a young lady.
Her outfit is hard to make out, but it appears to be a sailor-necked blouse with a tie and a matching skirt. White stockings and stylish ankle-strap shoes complete her look — and for the first time she is wearing what would become her signature collar-style necklace.
Next to her, Aunt Margaret is precious at age 2 1/2 with her long hair, little white dress, striped socks and black patent leather shoes. Rounding out the group. Uncle Andy, 7, sports an outfit that echoes my grandmother’s — with the variation of a low-slung belt and black stockings and shoes.
Did Uncle John play a part in dressing the family? Hard to know for sure. But I suspect his garment industry expertise was looked to by his relatives — and may have influenced my grandmother Liz in a stylish direction.
Up next: A bit more on family fashionista Uncle John H. Stoutner. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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