Mary Cummings Eudy: Success during the decline of Custom-Made Apparel
By the 1920s, custom-made dresses were being replaced by high quality ready-to-wear clothing made by machines, which could be purchased at a fraction of the cost charged by dressmakers. Ready-to-wear clothing gave women the option to choose among a variety of fabrics, styles, and colors and to judge which dress was most individually flattering – a range of choice dressmakers could not provide.
Nonetheless, some dressmakers managed to continue to operate successfully in this changing environment. Mary Cummings Eudy, a divorcee with a young son to support, opened her design studio in 1914. Though Eudy lacked formal business training, Mary Cummings, Inc. thrived for nearly 25 years and employed as many as 400 women as sales representatives, seamstresses, dressmakers, and designers. Her brand relied on personalized service, a tailored fit, and an aura of exclusivity, setting the business apart from assembly-line garments available in department stores. Eudy’s most famous client was Sara Delano Roosevelt, who ordered several dresses, scarves and bags from her in 1937 and 1938. Mrs. Roosevelt wore one of the dresses to her son’s presidential inauguration.