Kansas City’s fabulous and forgotten fashion district

Petticoat Lane was once the most fashionable street in Kansas City.

KCtoday_PetticoatLane

Postcard of Christmas crowns and decorations at 11th Street and Walnut along Petticoat Lane, 1962.

Photo via Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

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Petticoat Lane.

Long-time Kansas Citians may remember the name. Others might just know the bus stop.

The modern-day stretch of 11th Street between Main and Grand resembles the rest of downtown — skyscrapers housing office space and apartments galore — but it holds a glamorous history.

The inconspicuous street was once home to Kansas City’s premier shopping and fashion district, long before big-box malls and the Country Club Plaza stole its thunder.

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No one is sure why it’s named Petticoat Lane, but I bet it was a pretty good place to find a petticoat back in the day.

Photo via Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

Stroll down memory lane

In 1889, construction began on KC’s first department store, Emery, Bird, Thayer & Co. (EBT). It was a six-story mega-storefront on 11th Street featuring the turn-of-the-century’s most fashionable shopping experiences:

  • 403 windows
  • 485 decorative columns
  • 10,000 feet of counter space
  • Ladies reception parlor
  • Grand staircase
  • Three elevators
  • Tea room
  • Pneumatic tube cash system
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Harzfeld’s had a nationally marketed line of clothing named Petticoat Lane, and claims its founder, Siegmund Harzfeld, coined the name.

Photo via Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

Soon, other stores started popping up on this small stretch of street. The Parisian Cloak Company, later known as Harzfeld’s, opened in 1891 to sell the finest ready-made women’s and children’s clothing. Hallmark also got its department store start here in 1916, creating modern-day wrapping paper.

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The RideKC bus stop on Petticoat Lane across from the old Harzfeld’s building.

Photo via Michael Wells

Season’s end at Petticoat Lane

Glitz and glamour proved no match for convenience as shoppers were lured south by shorter drives and easier parking. The Country Club Plaza’s boom in the 1940s and the arrival of suburban shopping malls in the 50s were the final nails in the coffin for Petticoat Lane. EBT closed in 1968, Herzfeld’s closed in 1984 + commercial office buildings and parking lots took over the once bustling home of Kansas City fashion.

Nowadays, the history of Petticoat Lane lives on in the Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collection, where you can find photographs and more from this special moment in Kansas City’s retail legacy.

Do you have memories of the former iteration of Petticoat Lane? Let us know and we might feature you in a future article.

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