In 1936 J.R., with help from his head designer, Dorthy Cox, seized on a new fashion trend and the McMullen-Leavens Company entered into the dressmaking business. Dorthy Cox skillfully guided them to select superior fabric and give attention to little details in this new line that would further the company’s reputation for high quality fashionable garments. It was not long before their dresses graced the pages of fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, not to mention some of the biggest stars of the time. A few years ago the Post Star published an interview with a elderly woman who worked at the factory, fondly recounting the custom clothing they made for celebrities. Today one of the McMullen dresses is in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The dress business was so successful that in 1939 J.R. purchased the “Troy Shirt Makers Guild” label for $1. By 1940 he used this label to distinguish the shirt manufacturing from the dress manufacturing business although both continued to operate out of the same location.
On October 5, 1946, J.R. passed away without a will, leaving the company leaderless. It took two years to settle the estate, at which time it was divided between his heirs. One group took over dressmaking, the other shirt making.