Label it

1920s paper price label for textiles


Is there anything nicer than a paper card price label? Especially one so directly associated with buying textiles. And so nicely decorated. And with its string still attached. And with the word ‘Ells.’ on it.

It may occur to some (many) people to question what there is to be excited about here. For me this rectangle of card is a tangible glimpse into a part of retailing since turned into barcoded stickers. It is an example of retail design straight out of one of those plain trade books on how to design showcards and labels. Books aimed, perhaps, at adult learners training in an evening class in the 1920s. It is the sort of everyday jobbing printing job that must have kept many a press rolling. Its appearance raised above the generic by slicking on gold toned ink.

The word Ell has always had such a nice ring to it. It was generally held to be the measurement of a man’s arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Despite the possible inaccuracies that might result, I would quite like to be served and sold fabric like that. The word Metres is a lot older than I had thought too. Again subject to differing lengths until a metric standard metre was agreed in 1889.

I have often been the recipient of gifts of bits of this kind of nonsense. They make me happy. My brain takes a whimsical hop skip and a jump from this funny little bit of ephemera to shelves with bolts of Manchester cottons on them, behind long mahogany counters for to show off said fabrics. And the shopkeeper labeling up end of roll remnants (another nice word). Then neatly writing out this label and pinning it to a corner, ready for some keen eyed seamstress to bag as a bargain.


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