Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nelly Don....the woman behind vintage ready to wear

Photo borrowed from Viktorya’s Art n Java

When I first started selling vintage clothing, I came across many vintage labels I had never heard of before. Yes, I studied fashion history when I went to college for Fashion Design, but Nelly Don was never a name I studied (or a name I don't remember studying).

According to this site, Nelly Don was one of the most successful American ready to wear designers in the history of American fashion. She was a self made millionaire and her designs were worn many, many women.

Photo borrowed from Crafty Crow Vintage on Etsy

Her father was an Irish immigrant and her mother was the child of Irish immigrants. Nelly Don had 12 siblings (13 children total) and she was the youngest out of 5 girls. She grew up in Parsons, Kansas. She was always given hand me down garments from her sisters to wear and she learned to sew at a very young age.

Photo borrowed from Dandelion Vintage

Nelly married a man named Paul Donnelly when she was 17 years old and attended college at Lindenwood College in St. Charles, MO shortly after. After college, she became a housewife and decided she had no desire to wear the boring old frocks available for women to wear. She started making her own dresses and began giving them away to people she knew. Hey, free advertising, right? According to A Stitch in Time, "In 1916, Peck's Dry Goods Store in Kansas City ordered 18 dozen of Nell's dresses and her business was off and running". This was a true success in the making.

Photo borrowed from Far Out Vintage

Each and every Nelly Don dress I've come in contact with throughout my vintage travels has been well made. They are all very classically styled and could be worn and mistaken for modern day fashions. She was an amazing woman and designer. To find out more about Nelly Don, you can go here.


  1. i always love learning about older designers, i recently found some shoes and thought to myself, these are exquisite! the designer was joseph la rose,
    come to find out he was the jimmy choo in his day, pretty amazing!
    thanks for sharing :)

  2. Goes to show you know quality and have excellent taste girl! Great blog post!!One of my fav designers of the day is Anne Fogarty. I love finding them! Nelly Don is amazing and I am so glad you showcased this designer.