Great Aunt Cora: From Victorian to 1930s

Left, my Great Aunt Alice; right, her older sister, Cora. Early 1900s. The unexpected bow in Cora’s hair may be an early indication of her un-stodgy fashion sense.

As I try to sort family photos, I am also trying to sort out their stories. At dinner last night, my husband gave me a strange look and said, “It’s hard to realize that you knew people born in 1875.” Well, I only knew them insofar as a child can know an adult, but I have vivid memories of my Aunt Alice in her seventies, still witty and clever. I wish I had known her older sisters, Cora and Laura.

Cora was the eldest, born in 1867.

Cora Barton as a child. She was born in California in 1867, the eldest child of five.

When you think of the rapid change of Euro-American fashions in the 20th century (and before) it is extraordinary how often women had to adapt to new ideas — in clothing, and in concepts of modesty and propriety.

Cora and Laura came into their teens in the era of outrageous 1880’s bustles. As the daughters of a Methodist Episcopal minister, they didn’t have a big budget, and it must have been important to look “respectable.” Here, they are reclining informally with a friend at a photographer’s studio:

Cora and Laura Barton with their friend Alice Mason. Probably late 1880s.

In 1920, she sent this old portrait photo of herself to her niece Dorothy, nicknamed “Sister” or “Sis” because she came along after two brothers. The back says, “To Sister, from Aunt Cora, July 1, 1920,” but the hair style is much earlier.

Cora as a young woman; there is a pretty jeweled comb or hairpin in her bun. Her strong profile is one way I can distinguish her from her sister Laura, but it’s not always easy.

At the time of her marriage, the local newspaper reported that she had “had charge of the city library” for a number of  years. (Did they confuse her with her sister Laura, or did one replace the other as librarian?)

Cora — who became Mrs. William McGarvey in 1896 — sitting on a porch hammock; probably early 1900’s.

She is wearing a shirtwaist with a collar that could accommodate a mannish, detachable stiff collar. They often appear on turn-of-the-century American women drawn by Charles Dana Gibson.

And she looks very sad.

Cora Barton McGarvey in a shirtwaist blouse. I don’t have the expertise to date it precisely. This is one of the few pictures in which she looks like the eldest of the three sisters.

I can’t say that her marriage was an unhappy one, but, as you will see, widowhood seemed to suit her. In the 1900 census, her two adult sisters were living at the same address as the McGarveys. William McGarvey, accountant, was listed as head of household, Cora as wife, and her sisters Laura and Alice as “servants.” There was one male “servant” or farmworker, and no mention of children. Cora’s husband died in 1918.

In the 1920 census, Cora was a widow, Laura was the city librarian, and Alice was a clerk at the county courthouse. Laura was listed as head of household, and her sisters were listed her as “partners.”

At 54, Cora, top left, looks quite fresh and modern in her checked dress in this photo from 1921. Her youngest sister, Alice, is holding their baby nephew. Do Cora and Laura (in sweater) have cropped hair? It’s more likely that they have just cut bangs.

From this point on, Cora wears glasses — and not “old lady” wire-rimmed glasses — “modern-in-the-twenties” horn rims.

Cora eating watermelon on a road-trip vacation, 1920s.

Here’s another photo from the same vacation:

My mother, center, flanked by, on the left, her Aunt Alice (born in 1875) and right, her Aunt Cora, (born in 1867) climbing a hillside on their trip to Catalina Island, 1920’s. They don’t look at all like the stereotyped older women in 1920’s advertising or movies — no long skirts, no dark dresses, no lace collars. (However, their skirts are not as short as their 20-something niece’s.)

A reminder of the drastic changes in fashion they experienced —

Here are Cora and Alice as they looked in their thirties:

The Barton sisters wearing the “pouter pigeon” look of the S-Bend era, probably before 1910.

And here they are in their fifties:

Left, Alice (b. 1875;) center, their sister-in-law, also born in 1875; and right, Cora, born in 1867. These “late Victorian” women have all adopted short skirts and bobbed hair during the 1920’s.

And they kept right on wearing up-to-date clothing. Here, they have even adopted sleeveless dresses — these women who grew up wearing high collars, long sleeves, and floor length skirts.

Cora, an unidentified man, and Alice, in the 1930’s.

They looked like they were having a good time on that vacation with my mother….

Cora, on the left, enjoying watermelon from a roadside stand, 1920’s. Cora almost seems to be flirting with the camera. My mother is on the right.

I liked Cora’s playful pose so much that I tried to paint her:

“Watermelon Stop No. 2”

I wish I’d known her.

Cora, a sister-in-law, Laura, and Alice dressed as hoboes; note the little brown jug in Cora’s hand. Probably before 1910.

P.S. If the story of fashion for older women interests you, be sure to visit the American Age Fashion blog.





Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Hairstyles, Late Victorian fashions, vintage photographs

Also Very Thirties: Great Big Collars

Butterick dress 5391 from March 1934 has a great big collar with matching cuffs. Delineator magazine.

A while ago I posted a collection of fashions that featured over-sized bows, which were “Very Thirties.” Today’s featured nineteen thirties’ look is Great Big Collars.

Great big collars didn’t necessarily have that “Puritan” look, but many of them did.

Butterick 5688 from Delineator, May 1934.

Butterick 5870 claimed to be based on a design by Lanvin. (I wouldn’t care to sit for long on all those big, big buttons….) Left, illustration from Delineator, September 1934, Right, photo of the pattern constructed, from Delineator, August 1934.

Digression EDIT 3/18/18: In response to a question from Christina, I looked for more information on these two images, and found that, in August, the dress design was supposedly from Lanvin, and in September, it was attributed to augustabernard:

From Butterick’s Delineator magazine, August 1934, p. 62. “Jeanne Lanvin’s button-down-the-back dress….”

Pattern description of Butterick 5870 from Delineator, September 1934. This time, the design is supposedly inspired by augustabernard. I guess that answers the question I posed back in 2014: When Is a Designer Pattern Not a Designer Pattern?

End of Digression.

Photography was just beginning to be used in the less expensive fashion magazines. I love seeing the “fashion ideal” alongside the fashion reality. What an awkward pose that model has had to take!

The illustration on the left seems to show a double collar, which was definitely a fashion “thing.”

Versions of Butterick collar pattern 5952, Delineator, November 1934.

Collars and scarves could change the look of a dress for the office; Delineator, November 1934.

Butterick dress pattern 5854 has a double collar and “don’t order soup while wearing these” cuffs. September 1934. Photo by Arthur O’Neill.

Butterick dress pattern 4564 has a soft, sheer double collar. June 1932.

Butterick dress 5785 from Delineator, July 1934. This sheer double collar is probably a stiff organdy — which would be crushed by a winter coat.

Butterick dress 5854 has a double collar and double cuffs. Delineator, August 1934.

These collars would make any woman look like the perfect secretary or executive assistant.

Some collars could also be changed from one dress to another, which helped to make a small number of dresses look like a more extensive wardrobe. This was practical fashion for the Great Depression. [For other examples of changeable collars, see One Good Dress in the 1930s,  or   More Button-On Collars.]

Here are some Great Big Collars I have shown before, but these are clearer images:

A great big double or triple-layered collar, Butterick 4797, was featured in an article about “new life for old clothes.” Very timely, in December of 1932.

Another version of Butterick collar pattern 4797 from Dec. 1932.

A new collar was cheaper than a new dress, and several collars could make one dress seem like a larger wardrobe — this was during the massive unemployment of the Great Depression, after all.

This V shaped collar has a high neckline to cover whatever “antiquated” neckline was already on your dress or sweater. Delineator, December 1932.

This similar V-shaped collar was part of the dress:

This vintage dress with a great big collar reminds us that black and white images don’t always give a true idea of what was being worn.

Butterick dresses from November 1934. Delineator. One has a great big collar; one has a great big bow (two, actually.)

Not all great big collars were so attention-getting. These dresses were recommended for the college girl:

September 1931: a dress for college. Butterick 4058 has barely a trace of 1920’s fashion. Delineator.

Butterick 5812, another double-breasted dress for college, from August 1934.

Sometimes crisp and business-like, a big collar could also be soft:

This big collar is an important part of the dress’ asymmetrical design. Butterick 4564 from June 1932.

Butterick 4558 from June 1932 also has a surplice closing. Delineator.

This big collar appeared on an evening dress for women over forty:

Butterick 5924 — “smartness at forty’ =– uses its large, cape-like collar to camouflage upper arms. Delineator, November 1934.

Big collars were not just for grown-ups:

Butterick girls’ dress pattern 4416 from April 1932. Delineator.

And, remember, big collars did not have to be white:

A woman in a big, checked collar visits her butcher. [Prime rib was probably not on everyone’s menu in 1934.] Delineator.

Speaking of dresses for secretaries: I can never resist a plug for the pre-Code movie Baby Face.

Movie Recommendation: Baby Face, 1933
If you watch the movie Baby Face, from 1933, you’ll see Barbara Stanwyck in many variations of the simple dress with accessories, as she literally sleeps her way to the top. This is a Pre-Code picture, a lot more frank about sex than movies were 20 years later! (In some versions, it begins with this teenaged girl’s father clearly prostituting her to the patrons of his dive bar.) Armed with determination, cynicism, and a series of ‘secretary’ dresses, she works her way to the penthouse suite – and a much more glamorous wardrobe.




Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Dresses, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Fun in the Snow, 1921

A group of office workers from the Southern Pacific Railroad headquarters in San Francisco on a weekend trip to the snow; taken in Truckee, California, February, 1921. That’s the base of the Donner Party monument behind them.

I’ve spent many hours of the past two weeks scanning and sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge accumulation of photographs. It’s taking even longer than I expected because, thanks to modern computer technology, I can now see details that would only have been visible with a magnifying glass a few years ago. I end up trying to revive faded or underexposed prints that were tiny to begin with, and saving faces and clothing details. Also, I am trying to put names to as many faces as possible. So, while I am time-traveling through thousands of images, I will share a few “postcards from a time-traveler.”

Dot Barton (my Aunt Dorothy,) with Jen, Spurr, and Dot Robinson at Truckee, 1921.

Dot B. is wearing a very hairy sweater, and she’s borrowed a huge Tam-o-Shanter from her friend Dottie Biggs.

Dottie Biggs and Dorothy Barton in Truckee, 1921.

It was only by enlarging this section of the photo that I saw the shawl and huge tam on the woman standing behind them.

The woman in the middle is Dottie Biggs, wearing a long, thick sweater. 1921.

Dot Barton and Lloyd Muller in 1921. She is wearing the full-legged knickers that many women wore for sports. Her sweater is not too different from those of 1917. He’s wearing his cloth cap turned backwards…. like a baseball cap in the nineties.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson in 1922.

My Aunt Dorothy, nicknamed Dot, worked in an office with Dot Robertson, Dot Robinson, and Dottie Biggs. It must have been a relief when Adeline and Gladys were hired!

For those who live where snow is a normal event, I should explain that it only snows in San Francisco a couple of times per century.  Some people “go to the snow” on the mountainous eastern side of the state every winter — just to see snow. It seems odd today to think a sweater would be enough protection when the snow is falling, but that’s what all these women are wearing, along with knickers or riding pants.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson face the cold in sweaters and wool twill riding pants. 1921.

Dot Barton’s long sweater has pockets big enough to hold her gloves. She has probably laced gaiters over her legs, with turned-down socks.

Dottie Biggs in a sweater vest over a dark shirt, plus a long, thick sweater. And that wonderful hat…. 1921.

I can’t get enough of that Tam-O-Shanter — and her attitude.

A giant Tam-o-Shanter — very chic in the late teens and early twenties. Notice that she’s wearing earrings and … is that lipstick?

It’s lovely to see the fun they had — almost a hundred years ago.

Why did they want to sit on the roof? Probably because it was there.  Donner Lake, 1921.

Because these young people worked for the SP railroad, they probably took advantage of cheap tickets for weekends at Russian River (in the summer) and at Truckee or Lake Tahoe in the winter. The train from San Francisco through the Sierra Nevada mountains still goes through Truckee on its way to Reno, Nevada and points east.

The “gang” from the SP office may be thinking of some liquid refreshment….  Especially that guy wearing just a shirt and bow tie over his sweater. Sadly for them, Prohibition went into effect in January of 1920. But the sign on the rock was still there in 1921.


Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Hats, Makeup & Lipstick, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Two Piece Dresses from 1926

Two-piece dresses from Butterick, Delineator, February 1926. These are for teens and small women.

Iin 1926, as far as Butterick patterns were concerned, a dress could be either one piece or a separate top and matching skirt. In fact, some one-piece dresses were made to look like they were two-piece!

The dress on the right, Butterick 6575, has a deep band near the hip (with buttons), simulating the look of a separate blouse and skirt.

“Many slip over one-piece frocks give the effect of a two-piece costume….” Delineator magazine, February 1926.

The pattern on the right, Butterick 6637, is another dress pretending to be a skirt and blouse. Notice the line of stitching that marks a deep tuck at the hip.

Left: one-piece dress 6533 pretends to be a two-piece. Both these dresses make good use of use border prints.

Real two-piece dresses were available for all ages, from pre-teen to adult.

On the right, Butterick two-piece dress pattern 6582. The separate skirt has a lively flare. (6605 is a one-piece dress.)

“The circular skirt is attached to an underbody.” The underbody (also called a “camisole body or yoke”) was one of the tricks of making a Twenties’ skirt and top work well together. I’m going to re-show the two outfits that started this post so you can compare them easily with two very similar skirt patterns that have underbodies:

Two-piece dresses from Butterick, Delineator, February 1926. Left, Butterick 6545; right, Butterick 6562. For misses 15 to 20 and small women.

If you could see through their blouses, you’d see that the skirts have no waistband. They hang from the shoulders, like this:

Butterick skirt patterns 6601 and 6658, also from the February issue of Delineator.

The circular skirt (6588) “may be worn under blouses or as a slip under frocks.” It’s for ladies 35 to 52 inch hip –quite large.

Alternate views of Butterick skirts 6601 and 6588 show a “hanging from the waist” option, with the underbody option shown in dotted lines.

Although some nineteen-twenties’ skirts did have a waistband, the skirt with underbody didn’t need darts or other shaping for a natural waist that might be ten inches smaller than the hips. In fact, the woman aiming for a boyish figure tried to pretend that she had no waist.

Foundation garments (or corselets) designed to minimize the difference between waist and hip. Delineator, February 1926, p. 24.

Obviously, if you turn your figure into a tube shape, any skirt which hangs from your waist will tend to slide down. (And twist around as you sit and walk.) The underbody solved this problem by making the skirt and top move independently of each other. However, as seen above, pattern illustrations did show a waistband option for those who still had a waist….

Alternate views of Butterick skirts 6601 and 6588. Feb. 1926. These are skirt patterns, but 6588 has several lines of stitching at the hem, which would make it stiffer when used as a petticoat.

I’ve been looking for a good underbody illustration for some time. Making a Twenties’ costume this way means that the actors’ clothes will fall neatly into place when they stand after sitting.

Now for some more Twenties’ two-piece dresses:

Butterick 6522 is simple and charming (don’t forget those important long ribbon ties!) Designed for a youthful wearer, 15 or under, the skirt is shorter than for a mature woman — giving it the knee-length proportions that look “right” to modern eyes. The skirt looks much like No. 6601 (and  dress 6545.)

The use of the word “juniors” surprised me.

The dress featured with this girl’s coat is pattern 6582, illustrated in blue above.

You could make this entire outfit from Butterick patterns: Coat 6609, two-piece dress 6582, and hat 5952. February 1926. Butterick also sold the embroidery transfer, No. 10383.

A closer look at that coat and hat:

Butterick coat pattern 6609 with hat embroidered to match.

Butterick two-piece “dress” 6577 uses double-sided, reversible fabric:

Butterick two-piece dress pattern 6577, from February 1926. “The straight skirt, with its inverted plait at each side front and at the center back, is attached to an underbody with a camisole top.” For teens and small women.

Having grown up wearing cotton flannel pajamas, I have to remind myself that flannel can mean wool.

Right, two-piece dress 6597. Left, a simple one-piece dress that uses a border print for impact. February 1926.

Butterick two-piece dress 6581. The stripes are probably a border print. For teens and small women.

“Its straight skirt, attached to an underbody,” has inverted pleats. This particular skirt style keeps reappearing. Dress skirts from the early 1920’s often had all the pleats or fullness in the front, with a perfectly “plain back,” but now the back of the skirt is also pleated or gathered.

Right, the two-piece dress for average-sized women is shown a few inches longer than dresses for under-twenties. These stripes are definitely a border print (See description of its color illustration, below.) Butterick 6608, February 1926, p 32.

The same pattern was illustrated in color on page 29, and without the stripes:

Butterick 6608 from page 29. “The straight skirt, gathered at the front, is attached to an underbody.”

It has a plain back:

Oops: I never supplied the pattern descriptions for these dresses.  Back views of other patterns appear at the end of the post.

Butterick 6545 and 6562 from February 1926. You might not want to include the cutesy animal embroidery, but those decorative pocket hankies appear constantly in fashion illustrations from 1925 and 1926, including several shown in this post.

Bois de rose (rosewood) was a popular color introduced in couture; it’s a neutralized, slightly tan, rose pink — hard to photograph!

Back views of dresses for girls 15 or under. 1926. 658s is a girl’s version of 6562, above.

Back views of one-piece dresses pretending to be separates. Delineator, February 1926.


Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Sportswear, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Summer Evening Gowns, 1936

Four Vogue evening patterns, Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

Evening gowns were the topic of two articles in Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936. One featured four Vogue patterns which women could make at home; the other was more inspirational, showing evening dresses and jackets, photographed in color by Edward Steichen.

Evening Gowns from Vogue Patterns, 1936

“We thought of Saturday-night dances and twilight roof-garden dining when we chose these delicious, simple summer evening dresses. Haven’t they the Vogue look about them — in their clear-cut lines,and their new fashion points?” — text from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue 7403, 7369, and 7386. LHJ, July 1936. A corsage doesn’t have to be worn on the shoulder….

“First we must tell you about that luscious blue shade. None other than “bluebonnet blue,” the official fashion color for the Texas Centennial this summer. We suggest one frock in this shade if you can wear it, preferable in marquisette or organdy. ”

The has a lovely, illustrated article about marquisette.

Butterick 7386, in bluebonnet blue, is “low-cut” but has a sheer bolero jacket cover-up. LHJ, July 1936.

“The low-cut dress No. 7386 has long-sleeved bolero jacket, giving the costume real versatility.”

Vogue 7403 has a tunic top. LHJ, July 1936.

“No. 7403, with its new tunic and tiny cap sleeves cut in one with the blouse is shown in flowered marquisette. It is ‘Easy-to-Make.’ You might prefer lace.”

Vogue 7369 is double-breasted all the way down, with the width of the front panel increasing. LHJ, July 1936.

“No. 7369 is double-breasted all the way down, and trimmed with saw-tooth edging, of embroidered organdy here. Any sheer crisp cotton would be nice.” Rickrack used so that only half of it showed was a popular trim in the mid-thirties.

Vogue 7403, 7369, and 7386. LHJ, July 1936.

Vogue 7400 was recommended for those who don’t feel comfortable in sheer chiffon or organdy. This evening gown can be made from cotton or linen. LHJ, July 1936.

“At least one girl in every crowd feels foolish in floating chiffon, or even organdy. For her, a tailored frock like No. 7400, in bird’s-eye pique or printed linen. You can see it’s an ‘Easy-to-Make.’ “

I appreciate the idea that not every woman wants to look soft and delicate.

In the same issue, photographer Edward Steichen was assigned a group of apparently store bought dresses (not credited) on models grouped around a piano. The two-page layout shows the fashion for very large scale prints. In 1936, women’s magazines like Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal were still experimenting with photographs instead of fashion drawings, so this full-color spread was an expensive experiment.

Evening dresses photographed for Ladies’ Home Journal by Edward Steichen. July 1936, page 18. Like Vogue 7385, the one on the left has a matching jacket. The one on the right seems inspired by the early 1800’s — or a nightgown.

Large scale feathers were a popular fabric print, perhaps the influence of Elsa Schiaparelli. The cream colored dress has a sheer top layer. LHJ, July 1936, p. 18.

A large scale floral print dominates this gown in a burgundy/dark green combination that was popular. [I have childhood memories — 1940’s — of many gray- wine-and-dark-green drapery and upholstery fabrics, and a color print that seemed to appear in every motel….] The feature article on evening dresses was called “Midsummer Nocturne,” written by Julia Coburn.

On the facing page were two more large-scale print fabrics and what appears to be red marquisette or silk netting.

Three evening gowns photographed by Edward Steichen for Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936, page 19. The red and the white dresses are very sheer, probably netting or marquisette.

Left, a large-scale floral print on a black ground is spectacular. With such a dramatic fabric, the gown can be very simple. The red gown has a modest layer of sheer marquisette fabric covering a minimalist under layer.  Large horizontal tucks give interest to the skirt. LHJ. July 1936, p. 19.

The combination of a bold, stylized floral design with a sheer white gown is interesting:

A bold linen jacket covers a delicate net dress. LHJ, July 1936, p. 19.

All the sleeves on these two pages are full and puffy at the shoulders — a hint that wide shoulders are  a  coming fashion.

Here is the text written by Julia Coburn to accompany these photographs.

The “white-coated gentlemen” would be wearing summer dinner-jackets:

An off-white, double-breasted dinner jacket worn with tuxedo trousers. Esquire, July 1934.

An off-white dinner jacket was illustrated using cut-outs of the actual fabrics in Esquire, July 1934.

For more about gentlemen’s summer evening dress, click here.


1 Comment

Filed under 1930s, Vintage patterns

A Wedding Party in the 1920s

The bride and groom sit informally on the grass in front of a home, surrounded by a group of young men and women in late-1920’s clothing. (It does look like the bride was trying to avoid grass stains on her light dress.)

While sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge collection of photos, I found these charming pictures of an informal wedding in the nineteen twenties. The skirt lengths suggest 1927-28 to me.

Happy faces (for the most part) and real-people hairstyles and clothing from the late 1920s. Left side of group photo. The men’s hair looks natural, not slick or oily.

More wedding guests, this time from the right side of the photo.

Although my aunt knew a great many women called “Dot,” — and she herself was called Dot — I haven’t been able to match “Dot the Bride” to any other photos, so I can’t find her last name, or date her wedding exactly.

Dot Richardson and Dot Robinson, on an office outing to Monte Rio, California, circa 1921.

Dot was the usual nickname for women called Dorothy.

There’s a good chance that like my aunt, the bride or her groom and most of the wedding guests worked at the Southern Pacific Railroad Headquarters in San Francisco. They all seem to be in their twenties or thirties.

Dot and her husband. I love his pocket square. Like the bride, many of the female guests are wearing their Marcelle-waved hair loose, longish, and full. Dot wears dark lipstick, too.

The bride and groom have a sense of humor, judging by the toy bulldog on a leash in the foreground.

Her pale, short dress, worn with almost opaque white silk stockings, has a lace “bolero” jacket and lace flounces. Her feet are swollen; brides don’t get to sit down much at weddings. [When their feet hurt, people used to say, “My dogs are barking.”]

Here the newlyweds pose with the honeymoon car, decorated with a “Just Married” sign and several big, tin cans to make noise as they drive away.

Their friends have tied several cans tied to the bumper to ensure that everyone notices the “Just Married” sign on newlyweds car as it clatters down the road.

Her huge corsage must mean “Maid of Honor.” She wears a light coat over a knee-baring print silk dress; big bows trim her shoes. As sometimes happens with informal weddings, not everyone got the “not too casual” message. (Yes, I mean you, Mister Sweater and No Necktie.) His boutonniere says he’s part of the wedding party.

Even this guest caught in the background wears a dress with a graceful, curving pleated flounce:

I wish we could see more of this dress on a Bette Midler look-alike….

Whether she’s gaining a son or a daughter, this mother looks happy.

The mother of the bride (or groom) looks very up-to-date in her short dress, worn with dark stockings and low shoes. The bride’s dress appears to be waistless, possibly a princess style with a bow and drape at her left side.

The white-haired lady’s dress has a V-shaped lace insert in the bodice, and a two-tiered skirt that just covers her knees. She hasn’t bobbed her hair, however.

I hope this bunch of pleasant-looking young people had very happy lives, and many equally pleasant celebrations.

It’s easy to imagine enjoying their company.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, Dresses, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Makeup & Lipstick, Menswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Wedding Clothes

Hair Styles from the World War I Era — and Later (Part 2)

Fashion illustration, Delineator, December 1917. That little puff of hair near the cheek was very important. It looked so charming peeking out from under a hat. She still has long hair, piled on her head.

Hats and hair, Delineator illustration, September 1917.

This front and back view shows that the bun on top of her head is supported by a tall comb, and the wispy hair brushed over her ears, like her bangs, has been cut. Delineator, March 1917.

I ended Part 1 of this post with a studio photograph of my mother, taken about 1919, when she was 14 or 15 years old.

My mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, circa 1919. To see the rest of her class, click here. Many of them have long, girlish curls, but she was trying to look grown-up.

She has tried to match the high hairstyles — and those very important puffs of hair over the cheeks — that she saw in fashion images.

But, as this later photo shows,  she actually had long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Photo of my mother about 1920. Her hair is very long, but now she has cut bangs — with or without her parents’ permission.

Silent star Mary Pickford’s long curls were famous. Here she is in an ad for Pompeiian night cream, 1917.

My mother did other things without her parents’ permission, too.

Girls, boys, cars — Uh-oh! At least we get another view of her long, long  hair….

Here we see that she has cut bangs since her graduation photo, but those long curls are rolled up at the side again. Circa 1920. She is smirking because she was posing in her underwear:

This photo from 1920 says “age 16.” Helen’s friend Irene took this picture; then my mother took one of Irene, similarly undressed.

Irene has also cut bangs, and rolled her long hair up to look short at the sides. This photo was dated on the back: April 18, 1920.

Irene models another type of one-piece underwear:

Teenaged girl practicing naughtiness…. 1920. At least this “combination” has thin ribbon straps…. According to census records, Irene was about 15 in 1920.

Some readers have questioned whether my mother really was a “flapper” in the twenties, with the hint of wild behavior that implies. Ummmm….

Other girls in town also tried to achieve fashionable hairdos, and especially those little puffs that caress the cheeks. (During my youth in the 60’s, a curl on the cheek was called a Guiche; it usually curved forward.)

The woman on the right has cut the front part of her hair short, but probably still has long hair in back, like the woman on the left. Sears catalog, Fall 1917.

Left, short hair in front, with a hint of a bun at the back; right, a tall hairdo supported by a fancy comb. Delineator, April 1917.

The “puffs” or guiches on her cheek are clearly cut shorter than the rest of her hair. Delineator, November 1917.

These girls have also cut some of their front hair — although it could be hard to control the results.

Two California girls, circa 1918. It’s not easy to look like a fashion plate, even in these very stylish sweaters.

Below left, my mother’s friend Ollie had a bad hair day, but later managed an up-do:

Ollie with her hair cut short at the sides; in the second photo we can see that the rest of her her hair is still long enough to pile on top of her head. Circa 1918-1920’s.

From Long Hair to Bobbed Hair

It was my aunt Dorothy who told me that my mother and her friend Irene were the first girls in town to have their hair bobbed — a story she only told decades after my mother’s death. [I suspect that Dorothy, a keen photographer,  developed and printed those naughty photos.]

According to my aunt, their mother was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. With less supervision than usual, younger sister Helen and her friend Irene “snuck off” and had their hair bobbed.  When my grandfather saw his daughter with short hair, he he told her she was forbidden to visit her mother in the hospital. He said (and believed,) “The shock would kill her!”

My mother with bobbed (and permanently-waved) hair, probably 1921 or 1922. I think this picture was taken to show her new look, fresh from the hairdresser.

I can date this picture because she is with her little nephew Gerald, born in 1921:

Helen with bobbed hair and her brother’s baby son, probably in 1922. She was 18 or so.

Here she is wearing a Chinese tunic, and extraordinarily pointy shoes:

Bobbed hair, a Chinese costume, and no-those-are-not-clown-shoes. (She wore shoe size 5 1/2.) Early 1920’s.

Obviously, she got a Marcel wave as well as a hair cut:

My mother with her shockingly short (and suddenly curly) hair, about 1922.

Many people thought bobbed hair was a sign that a girl was “fast.”

Training to be a flapper: my mother is showing bobbed hair, rolled stockings, and bare knees. She was about 18 years old, and wearing an “armistice blouse” that was about to go out of style.

I have two other photos of her friend Irene:

Irene has cut bangs, but only pulled one strand down into a curl on her forehead. It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t think her hair has been bobbed yet. About 1921-22.

Here, Irene, aged 18 — with “her first husband” — has a Marcel wave, and a hairstyle more associated with the 1920’s. “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead….”

Irene with chin length hair, a Marcel wave, and a husband; early 1920’s. I suspect that she’s wearing an invisible hair net for a perfectly smooth finish. Irene was probably born in 1905, making this circa 1923.

Third from left, Irene — now married — and wearing a terrific 1920’s skirt. My aunt said, “She was 18 and he was 25.”

While long hair required the kind of hairpins that mountain roads are named after [“hairpin curves,”] bobbed hair needed a different kind of hairpin — the bobbie pin. What a pity for the wonderfully named Hump Hair Pin Company.

An ad for Hump Hairpins, Delineator, March 1917. These pins for long hair were not shaped like traditional hairpins.

Nothing works for long hair like traditional hairpins — although, if you haven’t used them, you may wonder how they could hold anything in place. Humblebee & Me (dot com) has a good demonstration. Click here.

For more about Mary Pickford, and the headlines she made by finally bobbing her hair, click here. Silentology is a delightful film history site.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, vintage photographs, World War I