Canadian Fashion Connection – Du-Rite dresses

Du-Rite hanging tag, 1950s

The Du-Rite dress company was one of the more prolific Canadian ready-to-wear fashion manufacturers of the 1950s and 1960s.

Max Gladstone was born in 1899 and immigrated to Canada in 1926. His future wife, Tillie Cohen, worked in a dress factory and it was she who taught Max how to sew. The couple soon owned a dress shop on College Street, sewing custom orders in the back room. When the Canadian clothing industry expanded after World War II, especially in Toronto, Max and his brother-in-law Joe Cohen founded the Du-Rite dress factory. Stylish, affordable LBD’s (Little Black Dresses) and dressy daywear were the specialty of Du-Rite.

I have not found a date for when the company opened, but Max’s grandson Jonathan Gladstone, recalls they closed their business in about 1972 (see comment below).

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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13 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Du-Rite dresses

  1. Jonathan Gladstone says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    As you might guess from my name, Max and Tillie Gladstone were my father’s parents. Max (born Mordka ben-Nachum Gladsztajn) actually immigrated to Canada in 1926. Tillie was born Tybel Tsipaniuk, not Cohen – her sister Tsipura (Sylvia) was Joe’s wife. The Tsipaniuks (later Zippans and Zippins) immigrated a little earlier.

    I’m not sure exactly when Joe and Max started the company, but I’m pretty sure my Zaide Max retired in 1972; I suspect Uncle Joe retired about the same time. If you’re interested I can do some checking and give you some more details. Max and Joe are both long gone by now, of course, but their children – my father and his cousins – are still alive and able to answer questions.

    Jonathan Gladstone.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for the additional information. It was difficult piecing together what I could, so you filled in some blanks.The more information you supply, the better!


    • OmaIngrid says:

      And now ! My daughter bought a du-Rite dress for my granddaughter (14) in Value Village in Owen Sound,ON.
      And she is THRILLED!
      First thing my grand daughter said to me”oma it is so beautifully made!”
      So it will be treasured all over again!

  2. danny mann says:

    oK I just stumbled across this blog while doing a Google search for du-rite dress company.

    I have in my possession a letter opener with a green handle, with the inscription du-rite dress company on one side, and on the other side 431 Richmond St. W., Toronto WA. 2305-6. (WAlnut what is the telephone exchange in that area of downtown before
    Ma Bell switched to all number exchanges around 1960).

    I am not sure whether my father may have bought a dress for my mother from this company back in the 40s or 50s in Toronto…

    Or, whether my grandfather Charles Libman may have done business with this company.

    The latter seems more likely as my grandfather owned a store called
    Darlings lady wear. at one point i think he had two stores on college street
    and then later opened a store in downtown Peterborough.

    so it’s possible that my late father may have acquired the letter opener from his dads effects when he passed away.

    I’m not sure if any of the above is of any interest to you or any of your readers but since I found your information somewhat interesting I figured I’d share mine with you.

    • Jonathan says:

      Du-rite was only a manufacturer not a retailer, so your grandfather probably carried Du-rite dresses in his shop and received the letter opener as a gift from the Du-rite salesman. Letter openers and shoe-horns seem to have been popular give-aways – they lasted longer than business cards!

  3. Blooming says:

    Hello Jonathan, i am an avid thrift store shopper; years ago i found a black sequence pencil dress with the label “an original Du-Rite dress Toronto” and it has another label that says “Merle’s” Hamilton Canada… i can’t fit into anymore (but i intend to) i love this dress but could not find any information on it. can you help me with this please…i am from and live in the Bahamas….. and love history of all sorts.


    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Blooming;
      I don’t know any more than what I wrote on the blog about Du-rite. Although I do know the descendants of the owners are collecting examples of the clothing for their own archives. Merle’s was a women’s clothing store in Hamilton that was around into the 80s, I think. Sorry I can’t help more!

  4. Franca di valerio says:

    Hi I have a dress set for the archives if they are interested. I think it is from the early 60’s.

  5. Terry Schacht says:

    Hi Jonathan

    I am Max Gladstones granddaughter, I have about five Du-Rite dresses, as well as dress dummies and things from the factory. Give me a shout, if you are putting things together for display I may be able to supply some items from the factory! I would love to see what you have so far.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Terry; Thanks for letting me know. You have more than we do! I think we only have two Du-Rite dresses in the collection. The Toronto Historical Board may have more. I know they were putting more attention into acquiring Toronto area designers/manufacturers of clothing. Jonathan

    • Jonathan Gladstone says:

      I remember those dummies from Zaide’s basement!

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