Image for Lenbrook Celebrates Women’s History Month: Doris Hayes

From 50s Fashion Icon to the Georgia Court of Appeals, Lenbrook Women Make History
Many very accomplished women live at Lenbrook. During Women’s History Month, we will share some of their stories and advice.

Ruling the Runways and Business: Atlanta’s Top Model from the 1950s Doris Hayes Turned Modeling Experience into Entrepreneurship

Doris Hayes is a former in-demand fashion model turned entrepreneur who introduced consignment shopping to Atlanta in the 1960s. During her career, she also held merchandising, marketing, and public relations roles, including at Macy’s and Stein Mart.

In 1952, Doris entered a beauty contest. While her competition included both amateur and professional models, she won! Soon, Davison’s department store hired her as one of the first full-time models in Atlanta. When she became a basketball cheerleader at Georgia State University, Doris juggled her class schedule around her modeling work. “We got to select the clothes from the store to model during the tearoom show,” she recalled. “It was the best thing that happened to me because it opened so many doors.”

Doris modeled in Atlanta, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. She also paid attention to the business side of fashion and decided to move into merchandising. She went through the Macy’s Junior Executive Training program and became a buyer. “On one of the trips to New York, a merchandise man asked me to become a buyer for Davison’s shop at Sea Island,” Doris said. “I did that for several years but stopped when I got married and had my daughter.”

Later, Doris was a single mom with a three-year-old and began freelance modeling for stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Leon Frohsin, Neiman Marcus, and Rich’s. The models received a discount on all the clothes they modeled, and she soon realized she had a great business opportunity to sell the clothes.

Doris got to work and ultimately introduced consignment sales to Atlanta! She rented a clubhouse in Sandy Springs and gathered her modeling friends. She assigned them numbers for their clothes, then advertised the fashion clothing sale. Doris and her friends sold all the clothes they offered.

Doris ran these sales for two years and then turned it into a full-time profession. One of which the Atlanta newspapers wrote many stories about. She eventually sold the business to an employee. Once her two-year non-compete expired, she opened another store, then sold it to an associate two years later. Soon after that, she met Jay Stein who had come to Atlanta to open his Stein Mart stores. He asked Doris to do publicity for the stores. She began visiting area country clubs to host fashion shows and told attendees about Stein Mart.

Doris advises others – including her granddaughter who has started three facial studios in Atlanta – to “love what you do. That’s the most important thing because you’ll be happy and always do a good job. It makes you look ahead. You have to keep up with the business that you’re in.”  

She moved to Lenbrook two years ago. “I love it here! I am involved in a program called “Getting to Know Us” where I attend new member meetings, so I get to interview them and tell their stories. Some days I see people I grew up with and went to high school with. It’s a great place to be.”