NEW YORK — Sophy Curson, founder of two eponymous women’s specialty shops, one of which is a Philadelphia retail institution, died July 17 at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania, said her niece, Susan G. Schwartz. Curson was 100.
She started her business in September 1929, about a month before the stock market crash, on the premise that women of small stature should be able to buy clothes that don’t require extensive alterations. She also was motivated by her father, the owner of a small department store in Philadelphia, who brought her to New York on business trips.
“Even though it was the Depression, she was very determined to start a business,” said Schwartz, who runs the two-unit retailer, along with her son, David.
Curson found it hard to outfit herself because of her 5-foot, three-inch, size-four figure. Schwartz said her aunt coined the term “juniors’” to describe the customer to whom she would cater. Curson stocked her shop with what she called a five to 13 size range, raised waistlines, shortened hems and jacket lengths and developed a slogan that she had patented, “Junior is a size, not an age.” While she used the term juniors’ to characterize a body type, retailers now consider juniors’ as a trendy category for younger customers and affordable prices.
In the early Forties, Curson opened a second shop, at 1508 East Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which operates as a seasonal resort store. The Philadelphia store is at 122 South 19th Street. Curson hadn’t been active in the business for the last 20 years.
Among the collections she sold over were Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, Tina Lesser, Larry Aldrich, Pauline Trigère, Tiktiner, Chester Weinberg, Tiffeau Busch, Donald Brooks, Jean Muir, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Ben Zuckerman and Oscar de la Renta. But she also brought back couture from Paris and had styles replicated into ready-to-wear by Seventh Avenue firms, and sold an assortment priced from better to designer.
“She catered to everyone, whether they were blue bloods or telephone operators, but she had very sophisticated taste,” Schwartz said.
Sophy Curson is survived by two sisters, Pearl Curson Goldner and Rosemond Curson Price, and a brother, Dr. Hubert Curson. A private funeral service was held.