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 exploded." 

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.” 

more articles by  Roberta Beach Jacobson

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