Beeline Fashion and Fun
by Roberta Beach Jacobson
Beatrice F. Birginal (known as Bee) had a knack for mixing-and-matching
clothes and she and her husband H. Edison Birginal were savvy enough to turn
her skills into a fashion empire. After he was discharged from the military
following World War II, the couple settled in Chicago. They used his G.I.
loan to start up a business.
He sold hosiery items door-to-door. They expanded the merchandise to include
moderately priced sportswear, which he termed Bee's line of clothing. The
name stuck. In 1948, Beeline Fashions hooked up with independent contractors
and gave them the fashions to sell at home parties.
Bee served not only as the clothing buyer, but was the catalog typist and
designer (simple mimeographed hand drawings) for the family business. According to son Gary Birginal, "In the late
1950s and 1960s, women didn't have opportunities to work outside the home. Beeline Fashions
provided them with a chance to work part time one or two nights a week, and the business
The popular home parties were termed style shows. Beeline Fashions expanded
rapidly during the 1960s and peaked in 1979 with 20,000 independent contractors (known as stylists). I knew the line
well, having sold Beeline Fashions myself.
Although I never set any sales records, I was a stylist in
suburban Illinois. I'd set up my clothing rack in living rooms, pass out the
catalogs and let the ladies try on whatever they pleased. In the days before
computers, we networked in person.
Unfortunately, the company was bought out and is now defunct. Bee's fashion
secret was uniquely simple. "You could buy three or four pieces and get five
or six outfits, her son explained. It was about getting more for your
dollar through color coordination.
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