Conventions of Mourning, 1910

“The Conventions of Mourning,” an article by Eleanor Chalmers which appeared in Delineator magazine in March, 1910.

Costumers often need information about etiquette and social conventions for the era they are researching. I’m happy to have found this article from March, 1910. I’ve broken it up into segments for legibility. One of the interesting things it mentions is the difference between mourning customs in England and the United States. This magazine, Delineator, was published in both countries and aimed at a middle class or upper middle class reader in the United States, with regular reports on French couture.

The conventions of mourning are different depending on relationship to the deceased. Notice that these three women probably represent three generations; complete mourning dress for a younger girl was shown on the next page.

These women in mourning are different ages, with the early-middle-aged one at the left, the youngest in the center, and the eldest at right. Perhaps the one on the right is the mother, and the one in the middle is her grown daughter. Their clothes would be black, but have been illustrated in shades of gray so the details are more visible.

“The deepest mourning is that worn by a widow for her husband. A widow should wear deep mourning for a year or eighteen months….”

This woman appears to be wearing the widow’s “Marie Stuart bonnet of black crepe with a ruching of white crepe near the face.”

This appears to be the widow. Her veil is bordered in black and very long. Her hat has a touch of white.

Collars and cuffs for widows. 1910. White organdy was lined with stiff black buckram or crinoline.

[Presumably your ladies’ maid would be responsible for making new organdy collars and cuffs every day!]

“One can wear pearls and diamonds, … but no gold, silver, or colored jewels…. Black furs…. Sable has always been accepted as the equivalent of black.” [Well, that must have been a relief….]

In America, black “bands on the sleeves are only worn by servants or people too poor to afford proper mourning.”

I would not describe this hat as a toque. I defer to wiser writers…..

It’s sometimes not clear whether the word “for” refers to the deceased or to the wearer of mourning. “For a young child may mean “worn by a young child” but the context suggests that a mother is not expected to mourn as long for a young child as for a grown child. [My own great-grandmother had twelve children, but only three survived her.]

Young girls might wear all white mourning instead of all black.

All white, especially for [i.e., on] young girls, is considered full mourning…. A girl of 12 or 14 might wear black for a parent or sibling, but it wasn’t obligatory.

“Black and white mourning is only half mourning; in fact, it is worn so much nowadays by smartly gowned women that it hardly suggests mourning at all.”

“For a brother or sister full mourning is worn for a year…. If mourning is worn at all for a grandparent, it is worn for six months; for an aunt or uncle, three months [unless that relative was acting in loco parentis….]

“Mourning means a withdrawal from society, and no formal entertaining or visiting is done throughout its duration.”

“I have said nothing about mourning [to be worn by] children, as there is a very strong feeling against it in this country…. With men, too, mourning is never emphasized as it is for women.”

So, when the husband dies, the wife mourns for 18 months. When the wife dies, the husband wears black for a year, and a black hatband. “Many American men do not wear mourning at all….” [Of course, the widower is expected to “go into society” looking for a replacement after six months or so….]

Mourning hats and veils, 1910. Delineator, March 1910; pp. 243 & 244. Black fur and diamonds were acceptable, but gold or silver jewelry was not.

 

 

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What’s Going on Here? Tops and Skirts from 1914

Almost the full page image of four outfits from Delineator, April 1914. Four outfits: eight patterns.

This is a follow-up to a post that showed this image without any explanation. In 1914, Delineator was a large format magazine, much bigger than the average computer screen (or modern magazine) so I will have to chop up that image to show details of these outfits. The opposite page gave more information about each one, so I also have line drawings and alternate views to share.

Important fact: Not one of these outfits is a dress. They are all separate tops and skirts.

Butterick pattern numbers for the brown and blue-gray outfits at the top right of the page.

It’s not always easy to figure out whether you’re looking at a dress, a skirt and “waist” [i.e., blouse,] or a “coat” and skirt in these fashions from 1914. Luckily, the old Delineator supplied plenty of alternate views.

Sometimes an alternate view  looks so different from the major illustration that only the pattern number shows that they are variations of the same garment. I’ll start by dissecting the gold-colored suit at top left.

Butterick coat 6790 with skirt 6806. Delineator, April 1914.

Coat 6790 and skirt 6806 look like a suit with a long jacket — that’s an illusion.

First surprise: the jacket only reaches the waist.

Coat 6790 with an alternate view, the lapel buttoned.

Front and back views of coat/jacket 6790.

The skirt includes a long tunic top.

Skirt 6808 with two alternate views.  The skirt, drawn in plaid with a bias cut top and two rows of buttons, looks very different.

Butterick waist 6791 with skirt 6792. April 1914, Delineator.

The height of these hats makes it hard to do justice to the entire outfit at once.

Back and front views of waist 6791. In the color version, the waist is two-toned and has a blue and white collar and “vest.”

Alternate views of waist 6791. This view, made in sheer or print fabric, has a high neckline instead of the V-neck shown in the color illustration.

Skirt 6792 has two tiers over the skirt itself.

Skirt 6792 could also be made in a sporty plaid, with more buttons, too. I wonder: were the tunics always cut on the bias, being based on a circle segment? Was the back always placed on the straight grain?

These skirts must have been very warm, if every layer was lined. The drawing of the waistline on all these skirts shows how the corset of 1914 distorted a woman’s body; the boned front of the corset forced her abdominal area into a straight line, pushing the hips and pelvis back — which caused a sway-backed effect. The waistline of the skirt is therefore higher in the back than in the front — one reason why vintage blouses from the WW I era don’t stay tucked into your skirt in back if you aren’t wearing a 1914 corset!

Ad for the Nu-Bone corset, Delineator, March 1914. You can see how the straight-front corset forces the hips and pelvis back.

This Nu-Life corset is higher in back than in front — just like the skirts’ waistbands.

Waist 6799 with skirt 6800.

Incidentally, George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion — which is the basis for My Fair Lady — opened in London in  1914. For the benefit of costumers, I’m sharing a lot of construction information.

A closer view of waist 6799. It looks very short-waisted.

Like the skirts, the waistline of the “waist” is higher in back than in front.

This skirt is elaborately draped.

Front and back views of skirt 6800.

Skirt 6800 later appeared in a feature about bridal costumes. It is very formal.  [Here, it looks like a cape, but it is a skirt.] The view on the left is the back view; on the right is the front view.

Waist 6823 with skirt 6824. Wide hips were obviously very much in style in 1914 — in spite of those corsets.

Three views of waist 6823. Again, the plaid version looks much less formal. It could be worn with a plain skirt.

Skirt 6824 is elaborately draped in a “pannier effect.” The color image gives the back view.

A skirt like this required a shorter interior lining made of sturdy fabric, which supported the weight of the “bustle.”

Description of the blue-gray waist 6823 and skirt 6824. Delineator, April 1914. A “short four-piece foundation skirt” eliminated the need for a waistband.

The surplice-style waist/blouse was also made with a “French lining” to support and control the fullness. I’ll write about French linings some other day.

Here are written descriptions of the other three outfits (I’ll refer to them by color.)

Gold-colored Butterick coat 6790 with skirt 6806. Delineator, April 1914.

Description for the gold-colored “suit” made by combining coat 6790 with skirt 6806.

This skirt also had a “short four piece foundation skirt.”

In addition to the color illustration, skirt 6806 was shown in a plaid version with a different coat on page 24.

Butterick wine-colored waist 6791 with skirt 6792. April 1914, Delineator.

Description of the wine-colored outfit made from waist 6791 and skirt 6792. “The double tunic and one-piece lower part area attached to a short three-piece foundation skirt in regulation waistline.” [As you can see, these skirts have no obvious waistband.]

Waist 6799 with skirt 6800 apparently in brown silk or taffeta.

Description of brown waist 6799 with skirt 6800. Delineator, April 1914. “A short three-piece foundation skirt is given in regulation waistline.”

I don’t think “regulation” had any legal status — it was just the usual no-visible-waistband technique for making skirts.

I can’t resist ending with closer views of the hats:

She’s wearing a wristwatch.

Whew! long post….

 

 

 

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Snapshots from a Time Traveler

Ta-dah! The big reveal from February 1920. Delineator.

I’m still having fun in the library. This week I traveled to 1914 and 1920, and I couldn’t wait to share a few snapshots.

High life: wearing Butterick patterns in February 1914. Delineator.

“Does this dress make my hips look big enough?” Delineator, June 1920.

Of course, I’m still labeling photos from 1910, too.

A Big Hat from January, 1910. Delineator.

Another Big Hat:

“No, I’m not a fortune teller: why do you ask?” From Delineator, February 1910.

However, I predict your bust will be improved….

Nature’s Rival: You can have a Perfect Bust thanks to the Air-Form Corset Waist. Ad from Delineator, February 1910. [Inflated with what?]

From Big Hats to High Hats:

It can’t have been easy getting out of a cab in one of these — in the hat or the skirt. Delineator, April 1914.

A High Hat from May 1914. Delineator.

“See you real soon….” With lots more images from the colorful past.

Seriously, I’m trying to prioritize color images, because there is simply not enough time to photograph everything that interests me in these old magazines. But it’s not easy!

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Off to College, September 1930

A hat pattern for the well-dressed college girl; Delineator, Sept. 1930, p. 32. The hat, shown in three versions, is Butterick 3434.

What really caught my eye was the absolutely terrific blouse on the right.

This blouse was part of Butterick suit pattern 3415.

Except for its belt, this 1930 blouse looks very Nineteen Twenties. No wonder, because it is part of the transition to Nineteen Thirties’ styles; the cardigan sport suit that goes with it also looks like a Twenties’ outfit …

Butterick’s cardigan sport suit 3415, Sept. 1930. Delineator.

… until you see the length of the skirt:

A year after Patou introduced the longer skirt length and the natural waist, they were taken for granted in these styles for college-aged women. Delineator, Sept. 1930.

The dark leather belt is also worn at the natural waist.

Butterick 3415 and 3421, September 1930.

The frock beside the suit, Butterick 3421, simply bypasses the “low waist/natural waist” question by having a waistless princess line cut, seen often in 1930.

Back and alternate views of suit 3415 and frock 3421. The back of the jacket is shaped with tucks.

Additional fashion advice:

Seamless stockings that fit well were an innovation in 1930. Delineator, Sept. 1930, page 32.

This paragraph about hats appeared on the same page as Butterick hat pattern 3434. Sept. 1930.

Two versions of Butterick hat 3434. The turban at right was knitted.

Butterick 3434 is the “off the forehead” type of hat recommended in the article. These are made of fabric; thrifty women could use scraps from other sewing projects.

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Hot Lips Cigarette Lighter, December 1930

The Hot Lips electric cigarette lighter — perfect for Christmas, 1930. Ad from Delineator, December 1930.

Part of the pleasure of reading vintage magazines is the advertisements I find. This ad ran from the top of the page to the bottom, so I have broken it into segments for legibility.
Here, from 1930, is a Christmas gift you might actually encounter at an antiques fair:

Top of ad. “The liquid, graceful beauty of this sculptured head will enhance your library table.” — It must be a high class item, huh?

Bottom of ad for a Townsend-Wulff, Inc. Hot Lips electric cigarette lighter. Delineator, December 1930, p. 91.

It looks like the button is on the back of her neck, so you just put your hand around her neck to pick her up and turn her on…. “Perfect prize for bridge tournaments and golf tournaments.”

In 1930, ten dollars was not cheap.

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Evening Gowns, October 1930

Delineator cover illustration by Helen Dryden, January 1930.

I’m back! Although my “vacation” at the library was interrupted by some family illness, I did manage to photograph the 18 months of Delineator magazines from July 1929 through December of 1930 — and that was a time of sudden and drastic fashion change. I learned a lot — and will be sharing….

Paris fashions illustrated in August 1929 are recognizably from the Twenties.  Top left, coat by Lanvin; top right, dress by Chanel; bottom left, coat by Lelong; bottom right, autumn frock by Vionnet. Waists are low; hems barely cover the knee.

Three months later a new style was introduced:

Paris fashions illustrated in November 1929. Patou, second from left, took credit for the new silhouette, with longer skirts and belts at the natural waist. The designers are: 10) Molyneux, 11) Patou; 12) Cheruit; and 13) Mary Nowitsky. Delineator, November 1929. Nowitsky also shows a natural waist and a knee-covering hem, but Patou’s is noticeably longer.

Patou’s new silhouette was influencing patterns within a few months:

Two Butterick patterns from April 1930 show the new silhouette: dresses with a natural waist and much longer skirts than in the late 1920s.

Sadly, Butterick’s Delineator magazine was affected by the October 1929 economic crisis, with a decrease of advertisers and the near elimination of color fashion illustrations. However, these 1930 evening gowns were given the full treatment: ours to enjoy.

Evening patterns from Butterick: Left, 2978 has a deep back opening; Center, 2972 has diagonal flounces,; and right, 2976 uses several layers of net, growing gradually more transparent toward the hem. Delineator, January 1930, page 24. All are belted near the natural waist.

Butterick 2978 is a “princess” frock — i.e., it has no waist seam. January 1930. Dresses with these very narrow straps were said to have “camisole” necklines.

Butterick 2972, with a cape over one shoulder, also has a “princess corsage.” January 1930.

Butterick 2976, shown in pastel net instead of black. In this front view of the “princess body,” you can see that there is no waist seam. There are three layers of net, with an opaque layer closest to the body.

The top of the net dress has a very modern “deconstructed” look, as though the net covering the upper chest had been cut from top to bottom and is left hanging free, front and back.

A closer look at the tops of dresses 2978, 2972, and 2976 (black net), which is asymmetrical. (So is the blue one.)

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Costume Shop Stories: An Unexpected Use for Costume Skills

Woman’s Home Companion cover, October 1936.

I wrote some time ago about the ways that costumers can change an actor’s appearance. A few years ago I met an old friend, [let’s call her Daisy] who discovered a wonderful use for this skill. I first met her when she managed the costume shop for me — very well indeed — on productions of West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet which opened on the same weekend and played in rotating repertory. It was quite a challenge for a community college, but thanks to her, everything was done well and on time!

After she semi-retired, “Daisy” sometimes did clothing alterations for private clients. One was a woman who had recovered from cancer, but whose arm and shoulder had been amputated. Clothes shopping was a nightmare for her, because every dress or shirt sagged crookedly without a shoulder to support it.

At first, she hired “Daisy” to alter her clothes to make them hang better. But Daisy had a bright idea. Used to making washable padding that can turn a thin actor into a fat Falstaff, or an athletic man into “Crookback” Richard III, Daisy decided to make a washable pad shaped exactly like the missing part of her client’s shoulder.

She made several prototypes, and ultimately came up with one that made her client’s body look more symmetrical. It was light-weight, washable, and attached to a scoop-necked camisole. The cancer survivor could now buy clothing off the rack and wear it without shoulder alterations.

I am filled with admiration for “Daisy,” who saw a need, filled it (and re-purposed her costuming skills.)

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