The idea of high fashion on Fremont Street might seem unlikely in the era of souvenir T-shirts and SlotZilla, but Downtown’s most famous road was once home to a variety of department stores and specialty clothing boutiques. None were more exclusive than Fanny’s Dress Shop. For several generations, stylish denizens bought their wardrobes exclusively at Fanny’s under the watchful eye of Fanny Soss, and in later years her son Maury. From prom dresses and cocktail attire to wedding gowns and even furs suitable for an evening out in one of the Strip’s showrooms, Fanny’s dressed the ladies of Las Vegas.
Soss opened her first dress shop on Fifth Street in 1931 and moved to 211 Fremont in 1932. The store was so successful that she later added a branch in the newly opened Flamingo Hotel and Casino in 1947, as well as in the Last Frontier Village. By 1958, another Fanny’s had opened on Las Vegas Boulevard and Desert Inn Road, with the Flamingo and Frontier Village shops closing shortly afterward. As Las Vegas continued to grow and its commercial center spread far beyond Downtown, the flagship location on Fremont closed in 1966, and the building was later replaced with the Four Queens. The last remaining Fanny’s on Las Vegas Boulevard closed in 1979, and Soss died in 1990 at age 106 as Nevada’s oldest resident.
Samplings of window displays include a front view of Fanny’s on Fremont Street with its classic neon signage as it appeared in 1942. This wartime shop window featured patriotic posters and war bond advertisements surrounding a selection from Fanny’s exclusive collection of furs and hats. Another captures the fanciful Fanny’s Valentine’s Day shop window, with flying cupids and fabric hearts serving as the backdrop for a mannequin attired in a classic peignoir set typical of the period.
Su Kim Chung has been immersed in the history of Las Vegas since she began work in the UNLV Libraries Special Collections division in 1999. She is the author of multiple editions of the book Las Vegas Then and Now.