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Leavell, Marie (ca. 1906–1952)

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell Biography

Marie Leavell, fashion-store owner, was born around 1906 in Evansville, Indiana. She apparently moved to Dallas in 1920 with her family. She lived in New Jersey after her marriage, then returned to Texas in the late 1920s after her husband's company closed. During the Great Depression Leavell, who had never worked outside of her home, determined to survive the times by selling clothes from her living room in Dallas. At the end of the decade she invested $500 to open her own dress shop, and within a year she had made a net profit of $15,000. A few years later she moved her shop to the exclusive Highland Park area in Dallas. In 1949 she opened a second, larger store in a new Dallas shopping village on Lovers Lane; she eventually closed her Highland Park store. She aimed to provide direct competition to Dallas's best-known couture fashion store, Neiman-Marcus, by providing quality goods and specialized service. She succeeded largely through word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied customers. Leavell promoted her store more than herself; she was rarely photographed, but her name was known throughout the nation's merchandising circles as well as by her devoted customers, many of whom had the luxury of extravagant clothing budgets. Her abilities with her own store enabled her also to become part-owner of a large international fashion store, the Jane Engel Company. Marie Leavell suffocated after an accidental fall in her Dallas home on February 8, 1952. She was survived by one son and one sister. After a service at a local funeral home, her body was cremated. Leavell's son, John, inherited his mother's business. In the 1970s a Marie Leavell men's store opened, and the women's store added several specialty services. Into the 1990s the Marie Leavell store on Lovers Lane continued to be synonymous with exclusive clothing in Dallas and beyond.

Dallas Morning News, February 10, 11, 12, 1952, September 22, 1974. Dallas Times Herald, April 7, 1988.


  • Women
  • Business

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II


  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Leavell, Marie,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 19, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: