The Cost of a 1926 Spring Wardrobe

While doing some research on this amazing early 1920s cocoon coat (label from Mme. Najla Mogabgab) we recently added to the shop, I ran across this fascinating New York Sun article from 1926.  In it, Mme. Mogabgab proposed that a husband should expect to spend at least $6,000 for his wife's Spring wardrobe.  These prices are definitely a far cry from the prices we see in the Sear's Catalog from the same periods!
1920s Mme Mogabgab Flapper Cocoon Coat

"Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 19 (U.P.). - Husbands must prepare to spend at least $6,000 for clothes for the wife this spring if they would have them appear 'smartly dressed,' according to the dictates of aristocratic Palm Beach.  Mlle. Najla Mogabgab, a Paris modiste, who is here to see that the American society woman stick to the French style decrees, made the estimate, and then said $15,000 or more probably would be near the proper amount to spend for a woman's spring wardrobe.
In the first place, the 'smartly dressed' woman should appear in at least twenty-one different dresses during a week, three a day, she pointed out.
There should be at least seven morning gowns, each costing from $75 to $200.  Two piece crepe de chine and fille in pink and Monaco blue are the most correct for the spring season, Mlle. Mogabgab said.  Love nest green is also a good color.
The afternoon dresses, more elaborate, range from $150 to $300 each, and the well dressed woman should have seven, one for each day of the week.
Printed chiffons and flower patterns are correct for afternoon gowns.
Seven evening gowns each costing from $200 to $1000 should also be added to the list of expenses for the wife's spring wardrobe, Mlle. Mogabgab said.
Gold and silver patterns, very elaborate, are demanded for the proper evening dress, she said.  Taffeta bouffants are also popular.
The most fetching evening wrap is a Bianchi brocaded silk affair as colorful as Joseph's coat and decorated with ostrich feathers.  Such an evening wrap may be had for $1000.
Colored linen shoes of brilliant hues to match the gowns, large hats and French nude colored stockings complete the style requirements, although it would be well to have several suits of beach pajamas for bathing and a number of brocaded shawls for evening wear, it was said."

What does that mean in today's dollars (accounting for inflation)?
...from an astounding $79,000 to almost $200,000! 

Here are some ads from Mme. Mogabgab's shops found in The Smart Set magazine, 1911

And what did her Edwardian era shop in Palm Beach look like?


  1. What a wonderful blog post and so very interesting! Thank you for taking the time out to put all this remarkable history together. I'm very amazed at the amount of money they are speaking about. It is crazy to think about spending at least! $80,000 on a spring wardrobe. But, the grand thing is that we are lucky to marvel in all the details and buy some of these rare gems today at reasonable prices. Wonderful coat!

    1. Thanks Joanna! It really is amazing (and shocking) to think what "the smart set" was spending on clothing. The disparity in clothing that exists today has always been around (Channel vs. Forever21 for example).

  2. Mlle. Najla Mogabgab must have had a very exclusive clientele!

    1. Considering that her shops were in NYC, Palm Beach, Hot Springs, Lake Placid, etc (i.e. all of the VERY posh resort areas of the 10s/20s), I'd definitely say her clientele was extremely exclusive - the very wealthiest. I can only imagine how much fun it would have been to shop in her stores with all of the imported Parisian and "Oriental" goodies.


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