00s | 90s

9 Facts About dELiA*s You Can't Order In A Catalog

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Was there anything more exciting than getting your dELiA*s catalog and carefully flipping through each page to find the perfect outfit?

The hottest catalog of the 90s, dELiA*s sent out over 55 million copies each year across the United States. It wasn't until 2014 that the 90s clothing company filed for bankruptcy, 20 years after it first debuted.

In honor of the most fashionable catalog in history, here are some facts about dELiA*s you may not have known.

1. The Opposite Sex

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Despite being notoriously good at picking out women's fashion trends, dELiA*s was founded by two male Yale graduates, Stephen Kahn and Christopher Edgar.

“I was interested in being more creative,” Kahn said in 1998. “And I wanted to make a lot of money.”

Kahn provided $100,000 of his own money, while his father provided another $100,000.

2. Roving Markets

Death and Taxes Magazine

When dELiA*s first started out, they were marketing their styles towards college-aged women. Business wasn't booming, so Kahn took out ads for the catalog in a few magazines to see what worked. That's when their niche started to become apparent.

“We got a huge response from high school kids,” Kahn said. “So basically the market found us.”

The customer based expanded to include 10 to 24-year-olds, hoping to give girls who live in smaller towns the opportunity to get big-city looks.

“We felt that this group was not well served,” Edgar said in 1997. “There wasn’t a recognition of these kids as real consumers.”

3. MTV-esque

Mental Floss

Selling the catalog to investors proved to be a little difficult, so CFO Evan Guillemin used an interesting tactic. He told investors that their magazine was like MTV.

“We told them to think of us as a ‘channel’ through which you can program different types of apparel brands,”Guillemin said. “We, like MTV, stay constant … but we’ll provide them with a constantly changing assortment of designs and brands.”

Clearly, it worked.

4. Quit Your Day Job

Charlene Benson

Charlene Benson, the creative director for dELiA*s, also worked as the art director of Mademoiselle magazine as her day job. She produced dELiA*s at nights before moving over full-time.

“I did all of the things that I didn’t get to do at Mademoiselle—choose the pictures where the girls were making faces, and have kind of more chaotic layouts, and just have a certain kind of fun and a certain kind of real girl-ness that I always missed working at a Condé Nast fashion magazine,” she said.

5. The Name Game

The name dELiA*s has always been a source of great mystery, with no one really knowing where it came from. But, according to photo producer Jim Trzaska, Delia was a fictional girl they looked to for inspiration.

“[Delia] was supposed to be a girl’s girl who loved hanging out with her friends above all else, and dressed for herself rather than to attract boys," he said. "That naturally set the tone at the photo shoots as well.”

As for the unconventional style of the headline, it came naturally.

“We really liked that mixed up and down type,” Benson says. “Sassy had kind of done something like that [before dELiA*s] and we really liked it. But because I was such a bad typist a lot of times my typing would kind of look like that, so it was like, ‘This feels right.’”

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