There I was, scouring the racks of a dusty Salvation Army for the umpteenth time, when to what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a smart little double breasted dress with impeccable 1950s tailoring. I was even more excited to behold the label — “Private Secretary” by Kay Windsor. One of the original 1954 designs! I stuffed it greedily into my cart.
Allow me to elaborate. I am a huge fan of 1950s television. And from 1953 to 1957, CBS broadcast a show called “Private Secretary”, starring Ann Sothern as a devoted secretary to a talent agent. In 1954, the show partnered with with Kay Windsor Frocks to produce a line of Private Secretary dresses. The dresses were advertised in newspapers and departments stores as being “chosen especially for you by Ann Sothern.”
The line was dubbed “The Look Career Girls Love,” and was very popular with young women who wanted to invest in smart, stylish work-wear. Two other Private Secretary franchises included a line of skirts and sportswear by Ernest Donath, and an eyewear collection by Flairspecs. Ann’s wearing glasses on the show had made them a popular fashion statement of their own for the well-dressed woman.
In 1955 the “Private Secretary” line evolved into “Secretary-of-the-month”, presumably as the partnership with the TV show ended. Under the new name, contests were held where participants could win a free Kay Windsor wardrobe — one dress for every month of the year. What a score!
Kay Windsor was bought in 1971 by Vanity Fair, who eventually discontinued the line in 1982.