In honor of Chicago Styled: Fashioning The Magnificent Mile®, the Museum blog will publish a series of posts highlighting the stores, garments, designers, donors, and urban developments featured in the exhibition.
“The woman who is clever is not a slavish follower of style. She never clings blindly to an arbitrarily prescribed fashion. Individuality is a much more important result to strive for than mere newness.” —Harry H. Blum, Within the Portals
Blum’s Vogue was a specialty department store founded by Harry and Becky Blum in Chicago in 1910. The original store was simply called Blum’s and was located in the Congress Hotel, then home to Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, and other famous theatrical stars of the day. Blum’s quickly became successful, and shortly thereafter the Blums opened a second store, Vogue, a few doors down. While Blum’s sold ready-to-wear clothes, Vogue sold custom-made garments. In 1924, the Blums bought their own building at 624 S. Michigan Avenue and began extensive renovations. Finally, in 1930, they moved to their new premises and combined their two stores into one: Blum’s Vogue. Blum’s Vogue was enormously successful, expanding to several locations in Chicago and eventually nationwide. It wasn’t until 1983 when the last store in the chain finally closed.
In 1923, Blum’s and Vogue released Within the Portals, a promotional booklet written by Harry Blum. It offered a behind-the-scenes look at how garments were either bought or designed, constructed, and sold to the women of Chicago. Moreover, it expounded on the guiding philosophies of the company. Because of this, Within the Portals is a valuable resource documenting retail practices in the early 1920s and provides a glimpse into Chicago’s development into an important location for fashion.
The Vogue shop illustrated in Within the Portals. Chicago History Museum.
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