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April 12, 2014

Oneonta reveled in spring 'Dress Up Week' in 1919

The Daily Star

---- — Here is a downtown Oneonta promotion that hasn’t been tried recently — Dress Up Week. I’m not suggesting it be resurrected, as I’m doubtful the response would be the same as it was in April 1919. If in doubt of my doubtfulness, just do some “people watching” and their attire downtown or at the mall in the next week or so.

Readers of the Oneonta Star opened their newspapers on Monday morning, April 7, to read, “Dress Up Week has at last arrived and its coming finds Oneonta merchants well prepared for the event with the plans perfected which should make the week very interesting and attractive for shoppers.

“There is no mystery about the Dress Up idea. Most people have the Dress Up instinct and will always dress to the best of their financial and intellectual ability, while there are others who do not appreciate the value of good appearance and the influence that clothing have upon character and success.”

The theme week began on Monday at 6:45 p.m., when the Oneonta City Band gave a concert “to entertain the throng until the hour of 7 arrives when the curtains will be raised and the window display exposed to public inspection.”

The Star reported the next morning that the throng truly did gather downtown, and fortunately for the promoters, “The weather was balmy and springlike and made one’s thoughts naturally turn to spring merchandise and while there were threatening clouds in the southwest with some flashes of lightning the crowd seemed not deterred in the least from witnessing the exhibition.” Some of the larger stores had live models displaying gowns and dress suits.

Oddly enough, the stores didn’t actually open for business that night. It was just a warm up for Tuesday night, when the same participating stores held open houses for further displays, but “No goods are to be sold this evening,” it was reported. Once again, there was an excellent turnout of visitors.

Wednesday and Thursday nights featured a “Style Show,” held at The Oneonta Theatre, in connection with their regular shows.

“Interest in the event was so keen that shortly after 7 o’clock, when the doors of the theatre were opened, the orchestra circle and the first balcony were filled and not long after the gallery, so that before 7:20 o’clock, the time announced, standing room was at a premium and to the very end the room was crowded to the doors, while hundreds went away unable to gain admission.” It turned out to be a good thing that there was another show on Thursday night, which was also well attended. The theater changed their movie both nights. On Wednesday, they showed Fatty Arbuckle’s latest comedy, “Camping Out,” while on Thursday “The Girl Dodger,” starring Charles Ray was featured.

In addition to the fashion displays at the theater, the audience was entertained by solo vocalists, the Elks Glee Club, and “Ward’s Diamond Girl,” representing Eugene Leigh Ward’s store, “who came in for a goodly share of approbation and justly so, for it was a feature that could not fail to arouse admiration on the part of all.”

The recent Oneonta celebration of local men returning from World War I was still on the minds of many, so one performer truly brought the house down, although not on the program schedule.

Theater manager Addison presented “the last, but not the least, dressed by Uncle Sam. There then appeared Earl Chapman, recently a member of the 105th Field artillery, battery E, with the regulation uniform, spick and span. If applause had indicated the prize winner it would probably have gone to Mr. Chapman.”

After all this entertainment and flash in downtown Oneonta, it seemed there was only one thing left to do, according to the Star of Friday, April 11.

“While the special features for Dress Up Week and the Style Show are over, the event is by no means closed and the opportunity is still open for all to keep the dress up idea in mind and prepare for a joyful and happy Easter by buying new attire for that occasion.” There were eight shopping days left, as Easter Sunday fell on April 20, 1919.

On Monday: New off-campus housing near SUNY Oneonta was proposed in 1973.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at