Nelly Don and her fabulous dresses
I recently bought a load of vintage stock that had 8 1950s nelly Don Day dresses. I did a little research on the gal behind Nelly Don and found out that she had a very interesting life.
Born Ellen Howard Quinlan to Irish immagrant parents in Kansas, she was the 12th of 13 children. Nicknamed Nell, she learned how to sew and repair her hand-me-down clothing at an early age. After getting married, she began to make dresses for herself and family and friends. In 1916, a local dry goods store began ordering her dresses and this was how her business began. Her business was very successful and in the 1930s her factory was making 5000 dresses a day!
Nell was married but had a relationship with James A. Reed, a U.S. Senator from Missouri, who was also married. At one point, she went to Europe to 'adopt' a baby, but in reality she was pregnant with Reed's baby and went there to hide out and give birth to the baby.
In the 1930s Nell was kidnapped and held for ransom. James Reed enlisted the help of gangsters to find her! He threatened to expose the mob boss if they didn't help find her.
Nelly Don was one of the most successful dress manufacturers in the world. She lived to be 102 years old!
Check out A Stitch in Time - a documentray about Nelly Don.
The Kansas City Library has some great old photos of the factory workers at Nelly Don -like this one on the left
Here are a few of the Nelly Dons currently (but going quickly) for sale at Dandelion Vintage