Nelly Don was a successful design label of the Donnelly Garment Company, an apparel manufacturing company in Kansas City, Missouri. Mrs. Ellen Quinn Donnelly Reed was a truly self-made American success story, creating and managing one of the largest women’s dress companies in the United States. The Nelly Don label grew into a multi-million dollar company, producing good quality dresses at reasonable prices. “Out in the Mid-west a woman has this big American idea: to use modern factory dressmaking to give the ‘mostest of the bestest for the leastest.’” Locally, Nelly Don garments were offered to the public through Parks Department Store, a long-time retail establishment once located in downtown Columbia.
This exhibition highlighted a variety of modestly-priced yet fashionable Nelly Don styles and the quality workmanship and design details involved in the creation of these ready-made designs. Artifacts on display included those in MHCTC holdings as well as garments belonging to Terence O’Malley, great-nephew of Reed. Also included were company papers and advertisements from the State Historical Society of Missouri – Kansas City. The collaborative exhibit was created for Women’s History Month and was displayed in the State Historical Society of Missouri Art Gallery on the University of Missouri campus.
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