Today I’ve followed an interesting path, in search of information about the Melbourne fashion label Acorn Gowns.
It all started with this dressing gown: I have a thing for dressing gowns and what could be better than a crimson satin quilted one? This is one of two in my collection, the second one was featured in my book “Love Vintage” and is of a similar age. This one was made by Acorn Gowns for Melbourne department store Treadways.
I’ve seen quite a few nice dressing gowns from Acorn so I did a little googling and found a few things about them.
The earliest information I could find was a trademark registration in 1939, for the word “Glamora”, under “Class 25: Underwear, dressing gowns, blouses, costumes, frocks, hosiery, millinery, and other articles of women’s and children’s wearing apparel”. It’s not uncommon for trademarks to cover a wide range of products, to deter competitors but the Glamora name doesn’t seem to have been used much as I couldn’t find any garments under the name.
Then in 1948 there’s a second trademark registration, this time for Acorn and again for Class 25 but this time the list of garments covered is more limited (the category must have changed in the interim) “Outerwear, underwear, sleeping garments and dressing gowns” and these are the types of fashion that I’ve found on my travels. Especially dressing gowns and nightgowns.
Here’s an advert from the Adelaide Courier Mail for an Acorn dressing gown available from McWhirter’s shop in 1949:
The text reads “Soft Flannel Gown, Delightfully cosy Acorn Gown in soft flannel. Long scolloped (sic) collar and pocket trimmed fine cord. Generous wrap over. Silk girdle [plaited sash]. Rose, red, saxe, SW, W, OS, XOS” followed by pricing. “Saxe” is a light blue colour, with a hint of grey.
So my satin dressing gown with the Acorn label is likely to be around ’48 – they could have been trading under the name prior to applying for the trademark.
I also have a second Acorn dressing gown, a summer version that is deadstock and has little grub roses embroidered on the quilted collar – and this one features a different label suggesting it’s more modern than the satin one, although it could just be different because Treadways designed the other one.
This one is also more of a housecoat, as I can see someone wearing this around the house to do her chores. It has nice, deep pockets.
In 1951 “Acorn Gowns Ltd” registered as a public company, along with its subsidiaries Gowners Pty Ltd and A&G Services so from here, data is published annually in newspapers – so I can tell you that the following year sales were up 47% “despite difficult trading conditions”.
I found job ads for a “typiste/model” in ’51 and a stenographer in ’52 at the Collingwood factory located at 37 Wellington St Collingwood. The stenographer job included “free lunch, morning and afternoon tea” suggesting there was an onsite canteen. I know this location well because it’s close to where Circa’s stockroom used to be in Langridge St and it’s one of the larger buildings in this neighbourhood.
In 1954 stock and overheads were reduced to increase profits and in 1958 they closed their annexe in Ringwood and consolidated all production at Collingwood, expanding into a building next door. Sales were up 5%.
Things didn’t go so well for Acorn in ’59 though, with an increased demand for inferior products and synthetic fabrics. They had to sell their woollen dressing gowns for less money to remain competitive and then they entered into an agreement with a well known American company for current fashion trends and production methods. I wonder which one?
Like many local fashion companies at this time, business continued to deteriorate and in 1961 Acorn reported a loss. Two years later they wrote off the loss but by 1966 were in profit for the third year in a row and paid dividends to the investors for the first time since ’58/59.
Detailed records of Acorn Gowns Ltd can be found at the National Library of Australia, who have copies of financial reports from 1966-1967 and the University of Melbourne archives hold a collection of newspaper articles and annual reports on Acorn, from the JB Were Collection.
Here’s a label from late ’60s nightgown with matching peignoir – note the two sizing systems: the old alpha system is XSSW and the new, numeric system is a size 10. These sizes are equivalent to a modern size 6.
Acorn Gowns Ltd was deregistered in ’79, when the name was changed to Acorn Securities Limited which then changed again in 1990 to Indonesian Diamond Corporation Ltd. IDC was removed in 1996.
Not surprisingly, I can’t find anything to suggest that Acorn Securities or IDC manufactured fashion, although there is a post-script: Acorn Gowns were respondents to a court dispute in 1980. I wonder what that was about? Ah, the internet, full of information but rarely the full story.
Thank you, Acorn for the beautiful dressing gowns. I’ll be keeping my eye out for this label.