From October 12-18, Columbus Fashion Week will showcase local design talent. So, we thought it would be a great idea to write a post about a local Columbus designer. H. (Harry) Harold Curmode designed clothes from the 1950s to the 1980s and was known for his small fashion house: ‘the House of Harold.’ He was an untrained hobbyist and never worked for a fashion house or as an apprentice. In spite of this, he showcased his collections in style shows and designed costumes for theater productions. He created original designs and made clothes for nearly 50 clients only two years after his first style show in 1960. Curmode made a name for himself in Columbus fashion and created partnerships with local talent, including Columbus accessories designer Evelyn Engelman (Doni Designs label). He also participated in the local fashion community by taking part in Fashion Designers Foundation of Central Ohio, a group spearheaded by Carol Ross, fashion-merchandising director of the Barbizon School, in 1978.
Curmode was born in Flint, Michigan on July 1, 1928 to Harry Paul and Mae Curmode. The family moved to Kansas and then Columbus, Ohio in 1936 to find work. In 1950, Curmode joined the army. While stationed in Japan, he designed pieces of clothing for his mother and sister. After leaving the army in 1952, he began working at Rockwell International and designed clothing as a hobby. It was only after his marriage to Doris Ann Vaughn, in 1955, that many began to notice Curmode’s designs. Curmode designed and made clothing for his wife, who always received compliments. After attending an event held by the Alpha Mu Chapter of beta Sigma Phi sorority, Curmode encouraged his wife to join the sorority. The outfits Doris Curmode wore at sorority events became increasingly popular, and Curmode’s outfits received attention from a Columbus fashion writer. Eventually Curmode’s friends convinced him that he should venture into the fashion business. With the financial backing from a close friend in Cleveland and two seamstresses who were neighbors of the Curmode family (Mrs. James Popovich and Bernadine Kessler), Curmode set off to create his first collection. It was shown in a style show on August 24, 1960, sponsored by the Alpha Mu chapter. The show was called “Holidays with Harold”, and showcased 25 outfits for fall and winter. The outfits were inspired by important local events, and featured the “Jet Collection” with dresses named after a different type of plane, made to be convenient for travel.
Although Curmode did design several high fashion pieces using materials such as chiffon, lamé, silk, and tulle, he believed in the versatility of clothing and became known for his multiple piece, interchangeable outfits. He worked on the concept of interchangeable outfits nearly ten years before his first collection. Curmode created designs that could go from daywear to nightwear, and made clothing convenient for travel and working women. Although Curmode mostly designed clothing for women, he also experimented with the idea of interchangeable outfits for men. For example, his design for a tuxedo jumpsuit went from nightwear to daywear by removing the dickey and vented skirt. The H. Harold Curmode Photograph Collection shows fashion design change over time and also shows the progression of Curmode’s career up until 1985 when he went into semi-retirement.
The H. Harold Curmode archival collection is available at the Ohio History Center. It includes photographs as well as Curmode’s sketches for his original designs. For more information on the collection visit the Ohio History Connection’s Manuscripts, Audiovisual, and State Archives catalog, or to access information on pieces created by Curmode held at the Ohio History Center visit the Museum Collections Catalog.
Adria Seccareccia, Processing Assistant
“Foot-Loose and Fashion.” Columbus Dispatch, August 14, 1960. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.
“Area Designers Form Group.” Columbus Dispatch, November 9, 1978. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.
“New design Business provides ‘Total Look.” Columbus Dispatch, Monday, November 1965. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.