Since we just featured William H. Block’s personal abode yesterday (in the first of 31 days of “preservation denied”), it seemed an appropriate time to feature a couple more gorgeous adverts from our friend, Thomas Brown (thank you again!)

Who knew that Adrian had designs for sale at Block’s? Wow! If you weren’t aware, Adrian was a famous costume designer for hundreds of films in the 1930’s and 1940’s and is one of my favorite designers– anywhere in the world, anytime. How amazing to find an Indianapolis connection to the person who designed the famous “Ruby Slippers” and the rest of the “Wizard of Oz” costumes! Adrian also worked regularly with famed beauties, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, in addition to numerous other stars of the time.


Does dull green translate to olive green, do you think? And where would an Indianapolis woman of this era have worn this gown? The symphony was not yet installed on the Circle, you know…  

…Love the cartoon drawing of the monument in this advert as well.


This outfit immediately conjures visions of Garbo, if just for the hat. Ever seen Ninotchka? And again, one wonders: where would the Indianapolis woman of this time have worn this number? To the office, the new secretary for a well-known company president? hmmm…

Adrian designed the wardrobe for the film, The Women- noted for the beautiful ladies gowns. You may also easily connect the 1980s fashion trend, and its recent reincarnation, of “enlarged shoulders” to Adrian as well. It was he who innovated Joan Crawford’s signature ‘enlarged shoulders look,’ which she wore to great effect.

It would be fantastic to see a current designer who can match the quality and figure flattery so ably accomplished by designers such as Adrian…

From time to time, you might even get your hands on an Adrian garment. My favorite site to stroll the creme de la creme of vintage finery is –last I checked, they do have at least one Adrian on offer

Please share your thoughts!

5 responses to “Ladies Lounge: William H. Block Co. & The Wizard of Oz?”

  1. Nancy says:

    Here’s another twist on Wm H Block Co and Oz….I have an old framed floral print that I bought at a yard sale back in the 90’s in Sedan, Kansas. The backing they used on the frame is on very brittle brown paper with Wm H Block Co written in silver marker. Sedan is a small town, but every year they have a Yellow Brick Road Festival honoring Dorothy’s hometown in Kansas. I was just looking up the name on back of my framed print to find out if there was a Wm H Block Co somewhere…..Google brought up your website. Weird huh? So I just had to leave a comment about that! Small world. Thanks, Nancy

  2. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Thanks so much for the comment, Nancy. What a wonderful story of connection! You again prove my theory that we are all so much more closely related than we are aware of on a daily basis. Block’s was one of Indianapolis’ main department stores–started in the late 19th century here.

  3. barbara bennett says:

    I loved having lunch or a sundae in the fifties in Block’s exquisite luncheon room. I don’t recall if it had a special name. It was so chic, with almost a nightclub vibe, that it would be totally enchanting today. It had small tables, I believe with intimate little lights. Lots of chrome and black with a balance of light and shadow. I thought of it as deco; turns out it was moderne. I find it astonishing that the building was designed and built so early in the century.

    Funny that Wasson’s building was moderne but not as iconic and pretty traditional on the inside. It had a ho-hum lunch counter in the basement, not unlike Macy’s NYC in 1999,

  4. Shauna Stevens says:

    I just purchased a pair of beautiful end tables. On the bottom of one was a sales tag from Wm H. Blocks Co. I was trying to find some information out about these tables and found your website. I am still searching for some info…

  5. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Shauna, I’m not sure where you are located, but William H. Block & Company was one of the finer retailers of Indianapolis for most of the 20th century. They sold furniture, clothes and everything in-between!

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