At the onset of the stock market crash in October 1929, the fashion industry’s number crunchers stayed positive, focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. But they had no idea how long a tunnel it was.
“No Drastic Business Effect Seen in Stock Market Break” read one headline in WWD on Oct. 25, the day after Black Thursday, when the market first dipped. The other equally large cover headline that day was “Vionnet Endorses Color for Spring, Accenting Reds.” But even though coverage of the crash was spotty, WWD’s reporters managed to present differing opinions. They noted that, though the apparel trades and resident buying offices were optimistic, Paul Mazur, a partner at Lehman Brothers, warned that retail buying would quickly slump with stocks.
When Black Tuesday rolled around on Oct. 29, the market had lost $30 billion and the situation was obviously critical. WWD’s headlines on Oct. 30 read, “Thinks America Will Be Aided By Market Drop.” But again, a closer look showed a balanced approach. The article began with a quote from New York University’s Dr. Marcus Nadler: “I think America is going through such a financial crisis as has never occurred before in the world’s history.…It affects hundreds of millions of people not only on this continent, but throughout the civilized world.”
By 1933, several banks had closed, retail stores were no longer accepting personal checks and people couldn’t withdraw their savings. As Franklin D. Roosevelt was rolling out his first New Deal that March, WWD kept a finger on the world’s financial pulse. A page one feature called “Banking Situation at a Glance” and other financial article teasers — which shared cover space with stories such as “100 Men in Skirts March to Shame Women in Trousers” — ran through FDR’s first week in office.