Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Seattle Fashion Factoids

Inspired by Bishop Rickel, I'm going to try to post more straight-up Seattle fashion stories on this blog.

First up, travel tales with Helen Igoe.

Photo from Charmed Land Women's Magazine, December 1926

Helen Igoe came to Seattle in 1905, when she was 35 years old. She went to work at the Seattle department store MacDougall-Southwick as a buyer. In 1907 she was part of a historic first for the city. On April 21, 1907 The Seattle Times had this notice:

Miss Gladys Allen and Miss Helen L. Igoe, two of the buyers of the MacDougall & Southwick company will leave Seattle for Europe Tuesday next, sailing from New York City May 4. Purchases will be made at this time for the fall season, as well as for the new store at Second Avenue and Pike Street, which will be opened early next year. 

This firm is the first in Seattle to send their buyers to the European markets, and this action has been found necessary on account of the increasing demand for exclusive merchandise of high quality.

So Helen and her pal Gladys (or bitter rival? I actually don't know anything about Gladys) were the first people from a retail establishment to be sent from Seattle to Europe for the purpose of buying fashion.

In 1910 Helen opens her own shop, and keeps making annual trips to Europe.

A couple decades later, she pops up in the papers for another important travel expedition, this time covered by the New York Times. Turns out Helen was one of the first brave passengers to travel across the country via "Air Rail". This was in 1928, and the concept of flight as a means of passenger transport was still in its infancy. Since a complete all-airline trip across the US wasn't totally feasible, "Air Rail" was the newest, fastest airplane-train combo possible. This is from page 1, New York Times, September 2nd 1928:

Broker First Patron West on Air Rail Route; Seattle Woman Uses It To Catch Ship Here

...Miss Helen Igoe, a Seattle business woman, expects to arrive here tomorrow morning in time to board a liner to Paris. She left Seattle Thursday evening to make a trip to New York, air and rail, in eighty-one hours and forty minutes, thus saving seven hours and twenty minutes over the all-rail schedules.

But Helen wasn't just a lady of the sea, air, and rails. She also enjoyed driving around Seattle in her very own automobile. In fact, as a local icon of style, her taste in vehicles was used to advertise a car company.

Seattle Times, April 6, 1919

While unconfirmed by the historical record, I think it is fair to assume she pimped it out with a gramophone and cruised around blasting the 1919 equivalent of Beyonce. 


  1. Best line "While unconfirmed by the historical record, I think it is fair to assume she pimped it out with a gramophone and cruised around blasting the 1919 equivalent of Beyonce."

  2. You are so generous to share your cutting edge research for free online. We were taught not to share for free in history grad school c. 1989. After all, someone out there might be willing to PAY for this info!

  3. I just found one of her dresses in my friends garage that she inherited from her grandmother in Seattle. It's full length tule and silk in black with what I assume must be hand painted daffodils in yellow. Going to wear it to prom! Tell me if you would want a picture.