Stretching the Clothing Dollar

Stretching the Clothing Dollar. Household Finance Corporation, 1937.

Although a relic from the 1930s-era American desire to pinch every penny possible, the pamphlet Stretching the Clothing Dollar focuses on the ever-ironic American obsession with fashion, even in the darkest of times. Directed

at Great Depression housewives, this piece’s ingenuity comes largely from the delivery of content. The small, blue pamphlet filled with photos of gorgeous, well-dressed women touts advice like, “[A married woman] may have very little to spend on clothes yet her own self-respect and sometimes her husband’s attentions depend on her resourcefulness in keeping up her appearance” (2). Even though this sort of outdated generalization reinforces too many stereotypes to name, it also offers insightful tidbits about everyday life for women during the Great Depression.

Most usefully, the pamphlet draws attention to simple, fun shopping strategies that were extraordinarily valuable in any household with a thinning budget; for example, the piece first instructs females to peruse with purpose and preemptively create a list of necessities so salesmen could not coerce them into purchasing frivolous items. Even more cleverly, the text mentions that the “secret of interest” in an outfit “is in the combinations of colors achieved in accessories” (10). This imaginative blurb, instead of appearing as a textbook-like pattern for a boring homemade dress, encourages women to use creativity when finances fail them. Despite the simplicity of the pamphlet as a whole, these crucial penny-pinching tactics reveal the remarkable and resilient thriftiness of the Great Depression-era woman.