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Rita Reher (? - ?)

Rita Reher was not related to the Van Riper Hopper family by blood, or by marriage. However, Rita holds the unique distinction of being the last woman to have lived in the Van-Riper Hopper House while it was still a private residence—having bought the property with her husband, William, around 1940. According to the 1940 United States census, Rita was a waitress for a restaurant she and William owned in Troy Hills. She and William renovated the Van Riper Hopper House throughout the 1940s and 1950s—introducing modern amenities such as electricity, plumbing, and heating to the otherwise little-changed farmhouse. Our ca. 1935 afternoon dress, chosen to represent her, was made a few years before Rita and William called the Van Riper Hopper House their home.

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Even at the height of the Great Depression, women still sought to emulate the fashionable styles coming out of New York, Paris, and—with the dawn of cinema—Hollywood. The period between 1930 and 1931 effectively spelled the end of the tubular, “boyish” silhouette of the decade prior, in favor of a more “feminine” appearance. Dresses again began to hug the wearer’s curves, with the waistline returning to a more “natural” position on the body. Broad shoulders, as well as flared sleeves and skirts were other popular design elements. The emphasis of simple, slender lines was further accentuated by the practice of cutting fabric along the bias (at a 45-degree angle against its weave), creating graceful drapes that highlighted the wearer’s figure. Paired with bright, bold fabric patterns, the total effect was a silhouette “freely fluid with an air of frailty," as McCalls advertised in 1934.  

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Sheer floral fabrics created a stunning visual effect when cut along the bias, as these July 1934 summer styles show.

Our multi-colored L.A. Schulman dress would’ve been the perfect choice for Rita to wear at an afternoon social function. Made of lightweight georgette, the dress drapes beautifully from the waist to the floor. A black dress slip is worn underneath to provide contrast and modesty against the sheer overlayer. Fabric pads sewn in at the shoulders help shape them into the fashionable broad, squared style. A pair of pumps, gloves, and a hat would’ve topped off the look.

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