Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mary Lester Fabrics - part 4

It's interesting to look back on the history of Mary Lester Fabrics and see how it rose and fell with the popularity of polyester double knit.  Or was double knit the last hurrah of yard goods... the last years when most women all had sewing machines... the last of the days when sewing was a Home Ec requirement for teenage girls in school...?
Here is an ad from 1970.  Polyester double knit was definitely ALL the rage - the miracle wash and wear fabric that never needed ironing great for everything from pantsuits to wedding dresses. 
Mary Lester had ambitious plans as evidenced in this 1969 ad from the Milwaukee Journal (Let's not even talk about the humor of the legality of an ad asking specifically for a "man" -- a "young" man and seeking full details of "marital status"... hmmm... more than sewing has changed since 1969).

The Capitol Court store closed in the early 80s.

My mom and I ended up with our own pattern cabinets.  She was offered a job at the Northridge store and actually tried it for a short time, but it just wasn't the same.  Pretty soon the whole chain closed down.  To quote Eugene Lewandowski, Mary Lester General Manager, in a 1977 Journal article, "The piece goods industry lost direction during a decade where greed overshadowed common sense and rapid fire retail expansion was as rational as Christmas in July."
I don't think we Mary Lester clerks realized any of this back in the day.  We just kept showing up for work, planning new outfits, and cutting fabric for customers... and occasionally chasing a thief or listening to a mallway serenade.


  1. You didn't list that there once was a Mary Lester store on Buffalo st.

  2. No kidding??? Tell me more! That was before my time or my mother's. Do you know when they were located there? Did you know someone who worked there? I'd love to know more.


Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet-
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

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