Bib or Plastron Fronts on 1920s’ Dresses

Three dresses with bib or plastron fronts, from Delineator, July 1926.

Costume designers know that for most stage actors it’s a good idea to choose designs that draw attention to the face. (It’s much easier to hear the dialog when you can see the actor’s lips moving….) The contrasting color of bib front dresses is one flattering 1920s’ trick for drawing the eye up from the hip width and toward the face and upper body.

Center, a lavender dress with white bib front. Butterick 6962 from August 1926. (Notice the “tricks” used on the other dresses to lead our eyes up from the hip toward the face.)

The “gilet” or “plastron” or “bosom” front is a style that was shown on Butterick patterns in 1925 and 1926. I call them “bib fronts” because they remind me of the stiff, starched bib front on men’s formal shirts:

This man’s shirt has a starched white plastron front which would be decorated with a row of gold, onyx, mother of pearl, or even diamond studs. The real buttons, where the shirt opened, were in back.

That particular shirt would have been worn with stiff detachable collar and a tuxedo or white tie and tails.

This report of Paris fashions from 1926 calls it a “bosom, gilet, or plastron front.”

A Paris fashion report in Delineator, April 1926, touts the “bosom, gilet or plastron front” for women’s wear. I call it a bib front.

It offers some strong vertical lines to counteract the horizontal line at the hip.

There are plenty of vertical lines on these dresses from June 1925. A plastron front (at left) often had a row of buttons, as well.

In the same Paris fashion report, Delineator showed this dress:

On this dress supposedly from Paris, a row of embroidery follows the same lines as a long necklace, creating a “gilet outline.”

Butterick copied that dress quite literally, if it wasn’t actually invented by Butterick:

Right, Butterick pattern 6737; April 1926.

But the plastron front really was a designer fashion; this design is by Agnes Haver (Mme. Agnes).

A series of curved lines outlines this gilet and evoke the lines of long necklaces. Couture from the house of Mme. Havet.

Another (similar) mid-Twenties’ style was the suspender skirt, which was worn over a separate blouse.

Butterick called these either dresses or suspender skirts, but the pattern numbers make it clear that the blouse was bought separately.

It’s not always easy to decide which: suspender skirt or bosom front dress.

These Butterick patterns from July 1925  look like suspender skirts, but were described as “dresses” without a separate blouse.

They do have a shorter “bib” area.  Some plastrons were rectangular, instead of rounded at the bottom:

A squarish white plastron brightens a house dress (and distracts from its resemblance to a sack-with-a-hip-belt.) July 1925.

This white gilet has a long button placket adding to its vertical look. May 1926.

Other shapes were possible:

The plastron/bib/gilet at right is pointed at the bottom. April 1926.

Teen fashions from July 1926.

One of the reasons the “bib” look ought to be in our 1920’s fashion vocabulary is its versatility. I like the crisp look of a white plastron, but it could be made in a contrasting color, or in a print fabric, or even in stripes, with the dress and plastron stripes going in different directions.

Center, a plastron and collar in a coordinating lighter green color. April 1926.

A striped skirt and matching plastron. June 1926.

Right, fun with stripes, February 1925.

A girl’s bib dress plays with horizontal and vertical stripes. May 1926.

Another use of pleats and stripes on a woman’s bib dress, May 1926.

Left, plaid adds interest to the gilet and the sleeves (and the matching coat lining.)

A colorful plastron on a teen style. October 1925. Many buttons on that sleeve!

More plastron/gilet/bosom variations. April 1926.

A gilet or bosom front could also be quite sophisticated, with the use of a more luxurious fabric:

The bib in a dressy incarnation, from Delineator, November 1926. The rear view at right shows an inventive skirt design whose angles echo the gilet/bib shape.

Or you can enjoy/adapt the basic shirt bib or “bosom” version:

Dresses for girls, August 1926. School and party wear. (Within a year, women would be wearing dresses almost this short!)

 

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Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, evening and afternoon clothes, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Shirts for men

Morning to Midnight Fashions for June, 1930

Golf outfit illustrated by Leslie Saalburg, June 1930. Delineator masthead.

Before June 2020 is over, let’s relax with some women’s fashions from 90 years ago. Butterick’s Delineator magazine illustrated a range of outfits for sports, resorts, and daily life, for day and night.

The play of pattern on pattern is pretty extreme in this editorial illustration of a golfer:

Should this outfit be taken literally? June 1930.

Another editorial illustration by Saalburg for June 1930.

Those bare-backed beach overalls were real, as shown by Butterick pattern 3184, far left, below. Beach shorts like those on the right could also be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick overalls pattern 3184; center and center right are Butterick shorts 3187 and 3178.

For summer evenings in 1930, Saalburg illustrated couture by Lucien Lelong, Molyneux, Cheruit, and Jean Patou:

French couture evening coats and gowns by Lelong, Molyneux, and Cheruit. Delineator, June, 1930.

This Patou jacket and matching gown was described as a “restaurant ensemble.”

Wealthy women who couldn’t afford a trip to Paris could buy a copy of a different Patou gown from Saks Fifth Avenue:

Detail of a printed chiffon evening gown by Patou at Saks. 1930.

The fishnet gloves were a chic summer accessory for this “lavender chiffon gown printed in delicate rose and green.”

Patou gown from Saks, 1930.

Earlier in the day, soft gowns were worn for formal occasions (e.g., an afternoon wedding or dance).

Left, Butterick afternoon dress 3247; right, tea gown 3279. June 1930.

Everything shown for June 1930 has a natural waist, although sometimes it’s partially hidden by a blouson bodice. Often the bodice continued to a seam far  below the waist, and the bodice was not darted. Only the belt defined the waist. Some of these day dresses show a hint of the old dropped waist and the new natural waist:

Women’s dress patterns from Butterick for June 1930. These 1930 bodices continue to the place where the skirt is attached, with no waist seam.

1920s meets 1930s in these summer dresses.

A belt at the natural waist and a horizontal seam around the low hip. 1930.

The waist is natural, but the bodice is bloused, rather than fitted. June, 1930.

Women who wore larger sizes could find flattering styles, too. These patterns were available up to size 48 bust:

Butterick dress patterns for larger women. 1930. The one on the right has vertical tucks to define the waist.

Here’s a variety of dresses in the usual size range of 32 to 36 (14 to 18) and 38 to 44. Patterns sized by “year,” e.g., “15 to 20 years” used to come in shorter lengths for younger or smaller women. That seems to be changing here.

Butterick dresses for women and teens, 1930. No bare knees to be seen! No. 3278 is at far right. Vertical tucks at far left.

These dresses (below) for younger women show how different 1930 outfits could be. The one on the left has a separate cape, but flutter sleeves became an iconic 1930s look — reappearing in the 1970s.

Left, Butterick 3297 has a cape; right, 3261 has a bolero top. June 1930.

Another little touch that was popular in the Thirties (on sportier outfits) was lacings. The laced look was “nautical” and popular for several years:

Lacings affect the fit of 3256 (left) and lacings appear on the skirt, jacket, and blouse of 3262, at right. June 1930. These three patterns were only available up to bust size 40.

These are “sailor made fashions” from Butterick, featured in 1934.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

And these  laced dresses come from a Berthe Roberts catalog, January 1935.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/sailor-lacing-butterick-6019-delin-jan-1935-and-berth-robert-catalog-1934.jpg

That’s it for June 1930!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Capes, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Women in Trousers

When Will America Fulfill Its Promise?

“Let America Be America Again”

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free….

“I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!” — Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

I first encountered this poem (click here for the complete text) in a textbook when I was teaching American Literature. It has always moved me, that last line. His hope, his courage and tenacity, his determination that American principles — which could and should be a light to the world — will someday be reality for all of us.

Langston Hughes is also famous for this poem:

I, Too

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.” — Langston Hughes

I think “Let America Be America Again” was the first poem that got me thinking about the difference between immigrants who came here voluntarily — inspired by the dream of equality, and the hope that their own hard work would build a better life for their children — and the very different “America” of those who were torn from their families, shipped here in chains, sold into slavery, and even denied the right to think, “I can bear this because my children will have a better life.”

The children of the enslaved were taken from their arms and sold into slavery.

In all the long list of injustices and cruelty “the darker brother” and sister have endured, think of that difference between black lives and all the rest of us.

Their children were sold. No matter how difficult the lives of other immigrants to America may have been, the “American Dream” was different for those who came here by choice. Black families were torn apart, and few were reunited after Emancipation. How can we ever make reparation for that crime?

So I keep thinking of Langston Hughes. If he could keep faith with the Dream, the rest of us have no excuse. We ought to be ashamed. Why is equality still only a dream? It’s time to repeat — and act on — his words:

“And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!”

[Yes, the children of native and aboriginal peoples have been taken from them, too. Another injustice with long-lasting effects.]

 

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Maternity Corsets

Detail, ad for an H & W maternity corset, Delineator, March 1912. Are they kidding??? No.

Traditionally, fashion rarely made allowances for pregnancy.

Delineator article, April 1912, p. 341.

“New models … have the effect of the uncorseted figure”? Well, not exactly….

Ad for American Lady Corsets, Delineator, March 1912.

That American Lady corset ad above (showing the corset which is under her dress) shows the fashionable figure for 1912 — obviously not a good year to be pregnant if you were a slave to fashion.

Ad for an H & W maternity corset, Delineator, March 1912.

“Gives a trim and stylish figure — without the slightest endangerment to the well-being of either the mother or the child…. Particularly desirable in convalescence or after surgery.”– H&W maternity corset ad, 1912.

My grandmother, born in 1875, was still wearing a long corset like that fashionable “American Lady” when I shared her bedroom in 1950. It was true that women who had grown up wearing corsets did not have well-developed “core” strength — and they certainly couldn’t do sit-ups in one of those corsets! So, they did experience backaches if they tried to go without the support they were used to.

Even when pregnant, they thought they needed a corset. And maybe they did…. I’ve never been pregnant, so reader comments are welcome. You can still buy a stretchy support garment — does it help that aching back?

Lane Bryant (actually, the woman behind the stores was Lena Bryant) was an early — but not the only — company catering to pregnant women in the 1910s.

An ad from Berthe May, January 1914. Delineator. “Allows one to dress as usual and preserve a normal appearance.”

Ad from Lane Bryant, Delineator, April 1914. Lane Bryant specialized in clothing that allowed for an expanding waist.

This 1917 Lane Bryant ad from Ladies’ Home Journal emphasizes that the dress could also be worn after pregnancy. It was “so adapted as to successfully conceal condition.”

There was still a suggestion that pregnancy ought to be concealed — imperceptible — as long as possible.

Lane Bryant maternity corset ad, Delineator, February 1917. “Makes the change imperceptible.”

Maternity corset from the Ferris Waist Co., May 1910. Ferris specialized in corsets made without very much boning — they used more flexible cording instead.

Ad from May, 1914, featuring a maternity corset.

Ferris maternity corset from 1920. Delineator March 1920.

This H & W maternity corset from 1920 promised a “stylish appearance” and “safety for the little one.”

This H & W maternity corset from 1920 shows a more realistic image than the H & W corset from 1912:

H & W maternity corset ad, 1912.

In 1924, you could buy a Butterick pattern and make your own maternity belt / abdominal supporter.

Butterick pattern 5342 for a maternity belt. Delineator, July 1924.

In 1927, Vogue magazine was recommending these:

A bust binder brassiere and maternity corsets shown in Vogue, Oct. 1927.

The Sears, Roebuck catalog for 1930 showed several maternity corsets — in keeping with 1920’s styles — and, yes, a supportive “breast binder.”

A maternity corset and a maternity girdle from Sears, Spring 1930.

Elastic maternity/nursing breast binder and “accouchement band” for post-delivery abdominal support. From Sears, Spring 1930.

They were still around in 1938:

Sears, Roebuck catalog, Fall 1938. Cotton knit binders for breasts and abdomen.

Maternity corsets from Sears, Fall 1938.

In a 1935 article called “Heir Apparent,” Vogue explained the choices in maternity undergarments; by then, corsets were only recommended for women who “habitually” wore girdles or who had weak abdominal muscles.

Advice from Vogue magazine, November 1935.

Maternity corsets from Sears, Spring 1940.

Corsets for abdominal support were also sold for women whose jobs required heavy work — “war work” for many women in factories and munitions plants.

In 1945, Sears was still selling posture supports for women working in “house, farm, or factory.” Sears catalog, Spring 1945. But these are not maternity belts.

Support belts for working women. Sears, Spring 1945.

I didn’t find many maternity corsets in Sears catalogs after 1945 — but perhaps I didn’t look hard enough. Or perhaps in the Post-War baby boom, women no longer felt they had to hide their condition from public view.

Simplicity 4979, 1954. No mention of maternity use on this pattern.

Simplicity 2562, maternity tops from 1958.

Simplicity maternity tops from 1958.

McCall’s 4936, maternity tops, skirt, pants and shorts, 1959.

Quite a change from this “maternity skirt” from 1907:

Maternity skirt ad, 1907.

 

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Filed under 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Maternity clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

The Family Portrait: My Genealogy Rabbit Hole No. 1

Normally, I would post this rather personal essay on my other blog, Remembered  Summers.  My interest in old photos had largely to do with dating them, since dated pictures of ordinary people’s clothing are important to fashion research. That’s how I fell into genealogy research. Caution: This one is long, personal, and sad.

“I was just trying to….” You know where that leads online: you start looking for a simple answer that will “close the file” on an unidentified photo or a distant relative you don’t really care about — and months later you emerge, a wiser but sadder family historian.

Seriously, I can’t say I am happier for the things I am learning. Today, I’m writing about a photo that took many weeks — spread over several years — to identify.

My Mystery Photo: Family photo with one person (at right) missing

I had a satisfying moment this week: my detective work was confirmed when I found a duplicate of my mystery photo in a historical collection online! It was an “unidentified family group” — and I was able to tell them who those people were. Finding it was especially gratifying because the copy in the San Mateo County Historical Society’s possession was complete, while mine had one person cut out of it.

But identifying that photo — with one person scissored out of it — couldn’t be done without also discovering why my mother, and my grandmother, and my aunt never talked about those relatives. It wasn’t a story you would tell a child; it is a story that makes me sad.

My great-grandmother, Catherine (or Katherine or Katharine) Kiernan (or Kernan) Lipp. Photo circa 1870s. She was born in New York City in 1852.

I wrote some time ago about “meeting” my maternal great-grandmother when my Aunt Dorothy identified her photo for me.

Dorothy seemed surprised — almost shocked — that I didn’t know who this woman was: “That’s grandmother Lipp!” she cried.

But how could I know? She died over two decades before I was born, and we didn’t have family pictures on the walls in my parents’ house. Dorothy herself died many years ago, but the photo she put a name to has enabled me to recognize Catherine Lipp (the spelling on her tombstone) as she ages in other photos.

Studio carte de visite. Her costume looks late 1860s to early 1870s to me.

Catherine Kiernan Lipp in old age.

Her voluminous skirt with straight waist and fabric pushed toward the back says “later 1860s” to me.

She married William Henry Lipp in the early 1870s, and her first child, William Henry Lipp, Jr., was born in San Francisco in June, 1873.

The photograph of Katherine with a group of her children was taken by photographer James Van Court in Redwood City, California, 27 miles south of San Francisco., where the Lipp family eventually settled.

Catherine with her youngest child, detail, studio photo by James Van Court, Redwood City. Catherine has a comb in her hair, but she was probably too busy — with six children — to do her hair in an elaborate style.

First Clue to the group photo: The name and location of the photo studio is on the back.

Back of Lipp family photo: “James E Van Court, Redwood City”

I found a marvelous book which can be previewed online: Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, A Biographical Dictionary. It said, “Van Court, James Edward (1841–1923) Photographer; active San Francisco 1864–84; Redwood City, Calif., 1884–95.”

That gave me a date range for the picture: “Redwood City, 1884 to 1895.” All I had to do was figure out when Catherine Lipp would have had six children whose ages and genders matched the children in this photograph.  BUT: what about that child who had been scissored out of the picture? The “coffin shape” of the missing piece seemed ominous. And I had learned that one of her sons died by suicide….

First: who was the boy in a grown-up suit (complete with watch chain?)

Her is dressed like a grown man, but he’s barely a teenager.

The number of Lipp family members buried in the Old Union Cemetery in Redwood City is extensive.

Boys born to Catherine Lipp were William Jr. (in 1873,) Charles (in 1888,) and Robert, born in 1901.  Robert was not yet alive between 1884 and 1895, so he’s not in the picture.  Charles would have been only seven by 1895. Therefore, the boy in the suit is William Henry Lipp, Jr. He would have been a grown man (over 20) by 1895, so this picture must have been taken in between 1884 and 1890. Probably closer to 1884.

Another clue is the baby on its mother’s lap: possibly not old enough to sit by itself.  There is another child, a toddler, holding a ball: Two children born less than  30 months apart.

But the clues that that really helped were the girls’ hats! The girl at top right and the girl beside Willie are holding identical wide-brimmed hats.

Two proper little ladies with their matching dark straw hats.

Finally I saw part of the third hat — which must have been in the hand of the missing child: another girl.

A third hat means a third girl!

In 1885, Catherine had 6 living children: William (born June 22, 1873;) Lillian (born July 4, 1875;) Alice (born Jan. 10, 1878;) Maud (born Nov 21, 1879;) Sarah Elizabeth (born Dec. 25, 1882;) and Fannie (born Nov. 10, 1884.) I think Summer or Fall of 1885 is the probable date of this photo.

The missing girlchild is my wonderful grandmother, Lillian! Presumably my mother or my aunt wanted to put a picture of their mother in a locket or separate frame, and cut out her image. The coffin shape that disturbed me was purely an accident.

Trying to verify that the Van Court photo was taken in the studio rather than the Lipp home, last week I scrolled through hundreds of Van Court photos at the San Mateo Historical Society’s online collection. And I found a perfect copy of my photo:

Photo property of San Mateo County Historical Society Museum. I have inquired about purchasing the blogging rights, but COVID closure seems to be causing a delay.

William Henry Lipp, Jr. as a boy. He would have been 12 in 1885.

Alice would have been seven going on eight in Fall of 1885.

Alice Clarissa Lipp, almost 8 years old in Fall, 1885.

Maud Adeline was born in November of 1879.

Maud Adeline Lipp would have been almost six in Fall, 1885.

Sarah Elizabeth Lipp, holding a ball, was born on Christmas day, 1882.

Sarah Elizabeth Lipp was not yet three in Fall of 1885.

Baby Fannie Louisa was born in November 1884.

Baby Fannie Louisa was almost a year old in Fall, 1885.

My grandmother, Lillian, born in 1875, is the one cut out of the picture.

My maternal grandmother, Lillian Lipp Barton. She’s about 10 here.

Why was someone so cavalier about ruining the group photo? Probably because seeing these other children made her sad. Or she never knew them.

My great grandmother changed from this clear-eyed beauty …

Catherine Lipp, about 20 years old.

… to this sad and exhausted woman.

Catherine Lipp in her sixties.

What I didn’t know, until this research, is that the worst thing that can happen to a parent had happened to her. And it happened over and over and over again.

Her two eldest children lived into their seventies. William Henry Lipp, Jr. took over his father’s ice business in 1898, when the older man retired.

William H. Lipp, Jr. with his niece Vera, whom he raised. After 1910.

Oldest girl Lillian, born on the fourth of July 1875, was my wonderful Grandma Barton.

Left, Lillian Lipp Barton in 1949 at my birthday party. She kept house, gardened, attended Whist parties, walked downtown for lunch with friends, baked a pie every Saturday and a cake every Sunday. Her home was a refuge for me — orderly and calm, where no one ever shouted or said cruel things.

But…. Only William and Lillian can be said to have lived happy lives.

Catherine’s family grew quickly. Alice was born in 1878,  followed by another girl, Maud, in 1879.

In October 1881, Catherine’s fifth child was born, but died at 2 weeks, without being named.

Sarah Elizabeth came along in 1882, followed by Fannie in 1884.  Those are the six children in the photograph, which I have dated to late in 1885.

On January 31, 1887, Catherine had twins, Blanche and Mabel.

On October 20th, 1887, Blanche died, and Mabel died seven days later. They were 9 months old.

On January 3, 1888, Sarah Elizabeth died. She had just turned 6.

Sarah Elizabeth circa 1885.

Five days later, on January 8, 1888, Maud died, too. She was 9.

Maud circa 1885.

[Those who don’t appreciate 20th century vaccines and antibiotics should think about how quickly those four little lives were lost — between October 20, 1887  and January 8, 1888.]

In August of that terrible year, Catherine’s next son, Charles Harrison Lipp, was born (Aug. 18, 1888.)

In 1891, a third son, Robert Edward Lipp, was born (April 27, 1891.)

In 1893, Lillian, the eldest girl, aged 18, married my grandfather, Clarkson Bigham Barton (who was usually called Charles.) Eventually four healthy children arrived — the youngest being my mother.

In 1894, Catherine had her last baby, Sarah Frances Lipp (July 8, 1894.)

In 1895, grown son William H. Jr married Barbara Miller; in time they had a baby boy, Everett. The marriage didn’t last. (Barbara remarried in 1904.)

W.H. Lipp, Jr. and his baby son were living with his parents and younger siblings in the 1900 census.

In September, 1900, Catherine’s grandson Everett died of scarlet fever. He was three.

William eventually married again, but had no children.

Catherine’s grief was not over.

Alice Lipp circa 1885.

Daughter Alice grew up and married August Moosbrugger, a Russian emigre who became a naturalized American citizen in 1904. Their daughter Vera had been born in May, 1902. In 1908, suffering from a serious illness and perhaps worried that he would be a burden on his wife and child, August went into a bar where he had formerly worked and shot himself in the head.

Alice struggled to find work, but by the 1910 census Vera was living with her uncle, Will Jr., and his Danish wife, Marie.

Marie and William Lipp, Jr. with his mother, Catherine, and her grand-daughter, Vera Moosbrugger.

Vera’s  mother, Alice Lipp Moosbrugger, died in Agnews State Mental Hospital in 1921.

Alice Lipp circa 1885. Died 1921.

Charles Harrison Lipp committed suicide in 1912. He was almost 25, and recently married.

Robert Edward Lipp worked for his family’s Ice Company.

Robert Lipp driving one of his family’s ice trucks in 1915.

In 1913, his quick thinking and bravery made the news:

San Francisco Call article, Feb. 17, 1913.

It was a shock to find Robert’s WW I draft card; he was exempted from service in 1917 because he was “Insane.”

WW I draft card for Robert E. Lipp. He was a patient at Agnews State Hospital.

Robert Edward died in Agnews State Mental Hospital in 1917. He was 26.

Catherine Lipp’s husband died in 1919. In the 1920 census, there were just three women living in the family home: Catherine (right,) Fannie (left,) and Sarah Frances, (center.)

The last three Lipp women at the family home.

Fannie Louisa was working as an accountant for the family business in the 1920 census.

Probably Fannie Louisa Lipp, photographed with her younger sister and mother.

But she died in Agnews State Mental Hospital in 1923.

Probably Sara Frances Lipp, before 1920. She was born in 1894.

Sarah Elizabeth was admitted to Sonoma State Hospital for “feeble minded children”  in 1921; she died and was buried there in 1928.

Of Catherine’s 12 children, two survived to a healthy old age. Five died in childhood. One committed suicide. Four died in mental hospitals.

And this is where my search gets personal. Discovering this information, which was never mentioned in my family, casts new light on my attempts to know and forgive my own mother. Her death, when I was nine, released me from years of misery. I have never grieved for her, never missed her. I remember her as a bitter, jealous, angry woman who poured her frustration and unhappiness into my ears from the time I understood language. She wanted me to love her, and only her. Everyone knew how much she loved me, how proud she was of her only child, born when she was forty, after twelve years of marriage. Everyone believed she would never hurt me — physically.  She drove me to tears almost every day, cursing, saying awful things about my father — which, I knew, she wanted me to repeat to him. Part of her frustration was that I refused. How could I say I loved only her, when I wasn’t allowed to lie? When I was very young, I once said to my mother, “I love Grandma.” From the shocked look on her face, I knew I must never say that again. Later, on the few occasions when I tried to hint to adults that being alone with her had been torture, they said, “It’s a shame that you never knew her when she was really herself.” I wasn’t sure what that meant.

Now that I know her family history — that many of her aunts and uncles suffered from mental illness — I have to consider that she may have been clinically ill, and unable to control herself. And if that is true, then it should be easier to forgive her…. I’m working on it.

My mother and me, 3rd birthday.

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Part 2: Butterick Fashions in Color, September 1920

Big hats with a varied dress silhouette; Butterick patterns from Delineator, September 1920. These patterns are from page 96.

1920 was a year when fashions were in transition from the wide hipped “tonneau” skirts of the late teens to the narrow silhouette of the later 1920s.

Left, a “tonneau” or barrel skirt (Butterick skirt 9064.)

Traces of this 1917 silhouette could still be seen in 1920:

Left, Butterick 2572 has a slenderizing opening down the front, revealing a colorful panel; right, Butterick 2560 has a side closing and a hipline that foreshadows the later 1920s.

A hat trimmed with monkey fur; fitted sleeves that cover part of the hand. Looking wider at the hip than the shoulder was not unusual. Butterick 2572.

“The broad sash widens the waistline….” The “vestee” revealed in down the middle is as long as the rest of the garment.

This dress would not make a woman’s hips look slender…. Butterick 2560.

(And the fashion for low busts — even on very young women — always makes me ask, “How is that possible?” Bust flatteners were available in 1920. )

Butterick 2582 is another surplice (or side) closing dress. Another “waist widening” sash effect.

Butterick 2580 from September, 1920.

This over dress ends several inches above the underskirt/satin slip.

Like many other dresses in the September issue, a muted coral or spice-brown red is used.

Left, Butterick 2602 is an embroidered dress with an oriental hem.

For autumn, an enormous brown hat is worn with this gold-ish dress.

The “oriental hem” is gathered to an inner lining.

If the bodice was made of a sheer material, the lining might have a “camisole top” with narrow straps instead of a full lining.

Perhaps it’s a good thing to be reminded that there have been eras when no woman ever asked, “Does this dress make my butt look big?”

 

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Butterick Fashions in Color, September 1920 (Part 1)

An unusual style from September 1920. Unfortunately printed off-register, but still interesting.

I feel the need for some color today, so I’m visiting Delineator magazine from September, 1920. As often happens, I’m struck by the 1920s’ color combinations. Not to mention the hats!

Butterick 2584 from September 1920, Delineator, page 96.

I may have shared some of these before — especially the “Oriental Hem” patterns.

Embroidery and fur add to the appeal of these costumes. Delineator, September 1920, page 95. Left, dress 2557 has a blouse effect. The waist is pulled in by elastic.

Right, 2577 has shorter panels over its long skirt. Long necklaces were worn.

A gray hat accents this embroidered dress in an autumnal muted red.

The draped side panels are inserted into the side seam. Butterick 2600 from September 1920.

There were many ways to make these side draperies, called “cascades.”

This long, slim, pleated dress appeals to me. Butterick 2571. The “non button” buttonholes are an odd touch. With the hem raised to just below the knee, this one could still have been worn in the later 1920s.

The same couldn’t be said for the wide-hipped dresses on the same page:

Butterick 2597 was not a style that lasted much longer. September 1920.

These deep pockets were not new in 1920.

Pockets were used to exaggerate the width of women's hips, in French designer fashions and in home sewing patterns. Bothe from Delineator, 1917.

Left, couture; right, home sewing pattern. Both illustrations from Delineator, 1917.

Sheer sleeves and overskirt combine in this afternoon dress.

Butterick 2573 is an afternoon dress. Click here for more Oriental effect [aka “harem”] skirts.

If you want to read entire Delineator magazines from 1920, you’ll find them, digitized by Google, at HathiTrust.org. Click here for volumes 96 and 97.

In Part 2, I’ll show color illustrations from September, 1920, page 96.

More 1920 fashions in color to come! (Yes, I’m afraid that really looks like a monkey fur hat on the left….)

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Recommended Reading: Seeing Through Clothes, by Anne Hollander

NOTE: This post is illustrated with many drawings and paintings of nude figures. If you would be offended, Please Stop Reading NOW!

I put off writing about this very influential book (first published in 1978) because I don’t currently have a copy. I kept buying Seeing Through Clothes in paperback and giving it away to friends! (And my public library is currently closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.) (For a range of other opinions and reviews of Seeing Through Clothes, click here.)

Artist drawing a model while using a grid. By Albrecht Durer, via Wikimedia. From a book published in 1538.

For costume (and art) historians, Hollander’s book is fascinating because one of her chief topics is the difficulty of ever “seeing” a person or image without screening what we see through our own cultural bias. To some extent, we automatically “correct” a human face or body as we draw it, to conform to our learned ideas of beauty. We usually realize that “fashion figures” — and especially editorial drawings — are exaggerated. But even “realistic” drawings of human beings can be influenced by current fashions.

About Life Drawing
My own two bits: Remember, we don’t just see with our eyes; we see with our brains. The lens of the eye turns the image upside down; our brains turn the image right side up, and also interpret what we’re looking at. For example, many years ago a small part of my retina was damaged. The eye doctor assured me that my brain would be able to “fill in” the tiny blank near the center of vision in my right eye — and after a few weeks, it did. It’s like a computer program deducing from other clues what “belongs” in the blank spot.
If my brain does something that complex without my being aware of it, imagine how powerfully our learned, cultural conceptions of beauty (or normalcy) may be re-interpreting what we see.

Sketch from a Life Drawing class. I didn’t intend to generalize her face as if I were making a fashion sketch, but that’s what I did.

I have also spent many hours in “life study” art classes, so I do know something about the process of drawing or painting the human body from a live model. David Hockney has pointed out that we are always drawing from memory; we look at the model, and then we have to look at the paper when we make our marks: a few seconds looking, a few seconds drawing; repeat; repeat; repeat…. Yes, artists do practice “blind drawing,” i.e., looking at the model without looking at the drawing they are making. This practice teaches them to match the speed of their pencil moving across the paper to the speed of their eye traveling along the object. It’s hard, especially since our glance normally skips rapidly from place to place. But few artists do all their drawing by this method. In practice, we look; we draw the tiny bit we remember; repeat.

The apparently pregnant belly and wide hips of the woman at left (drawn by Durer, 1493) echoes the fashion silhouette of the 1400s, painted by Van Eyck. (1434.)

Since I can’t share the images from Hollander’s book, I’ll fill in with a few of my own — and “Thank you!” to all the museums now making paintings available online! (For images not in public domain, I linked to them, so please do follow the links.)

Hollander uses many paintings from Western culture to support her thesis. Nudes are especially interesting, because — once she points it out — we can see that artists working from a live model will unconsciously adjust the figure to reflect the silhouette of current fashions. Waists become as narrow as if the model were wearing a corset. This painting from the 1840s reminds me that the full skirt (below a tiny waist) covered big bottoms and hips. (Plumpness was admired, to some extent.)

Tiny waist, wide hips. Fashion plate from Casey Collection, dated May 1840.

Busts sometimes become impossibly high — again reflecting the influence of the corset. (We might quibble that wearing a corset from childhood on will deform the body somewhat, but not in defiance of gravity!) Nude hips may also become wider or narrower as fashion dictates.

Dress dated 1747, from Metropolitan Museum collection. The corset pushes the bust up, flattens the bottom of the breasts, and elongates the waist.

The torso may be lengthened to match an 18th century fashion silhouette, as in this painting. Note the distance between the high breasts and the waist. In the two “Graces” at the sides, the lower body, hidden by 18th century skirts, is not nearly as slender as the upper torso. Also, take a good look at the breast of the woman at left. It might as well be corseted.

Detail of The Three Graces by Carl van Loo, dated 1765. Public domain in US et al, via wikimedia.

Legs may be longer, shoulders may droop, depending on the ideal “beauty” of the era. There are fashions in faces, too. Full, natural eyebrows go in and out of fashion. Mouths are sometimes exaggeratedly full (as now) or tiny and heart shaped, as in the early Victorian period or the 1920s.

Tiny, “Cupid’s Bow” lips, from a Kleenex ad, 1925.

My mother with “Cupid’s Bow” lips. 1920s.

Once wearing makeup became respectable, women could alter their natural lip shape and eyebrows. Even the fashion in faces is subject to change.

All this influence of fashion on drawing is important for costume historians, because we only have about 190 years of photographs for research. Before that, everything we see in historical research was filtered through an artist’s eyes. [And the cost of being painted means we mostly see rich people. There’s a problem with accuracy there, too: if the portrait does not show the sitter as he or she wants to be seen, the consequences for the painter of kings and queens and dictators can be more serious than just not getting paid!]

Contemporary image of the Queen of the Eglinton Tournament, 1839. Click here to see it larger.

One especially obvious era when secondary sources cannot be trusted is the Early Victorian period. There was a great interest in the Middle Ages because of the very popular novels of Sir Walter Scott, especially Ivanhoe, set in the reign of Richard Lionheart. The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 was an excuse for members of the upper classes to commission costumes to wear for the re-enacted Tournament and to many costume balls. Many aristocrats had their portraits painted while wearing fancy dress. (Click here for Victoria and Albert in “medieval” dress.)

Detail of 1839 Tournament of Eglinton. Note the Victorian silhouettes, hairstyles, and ruffles. (Not to mention kilts….)

The Queen of the Tournament and her attendants (behind her) wear gowns with the drooping shoulders of 1839.

Evening dress fashion plate; May 1840.

Many “great houses” now open to the public contain portraits which were painted ( or “restored”) in the Victorian period. This portrait of Louisa Anne Berenson was painted in 1859-1860. It’s a Victorian idea of Renaissance dress — not to be mistaken for a primary source in 16th century costume research!

Some 19th century actors strove for authentic costuming, but they didn’t have access to the research materials we have today. And adaptations were made to keep the actor looking attractive to the audience, as defined by contemporary styles. Here is an evening gown from 1824:

1824 fashion plate from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum.

The high waist and long, relatively narrow skirt with a decorative band around the bottom influenced the following costume illustration for a Tudor queen; in 1828, Sara Siddons (who retired in 1812) was illustrated in the role of  Queen Catherine, wife of Henry VIII, in Shakespeare’s play.

Mrs. Siddons as Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, divorced by Henry VIII circa 1529.

Portraits of Catherine made during her lifetime do not show a high waistline, even through she was rather portly.

Costumes for the theatre sometimes show bizarre adaptation to fashions: to conform to Victorian notions of modesty, Mrs. Charles Kean wore a hoop or crinoline under her “Roman” costumes! Here she is playing Lady Macbeth in 1858. ( The historic Macbeth died in 1057. No crinolines!) **

Mrs. Charles Kean plays Lady Macbeth opposite her husband, Charles Kean. The Keans were proud of their historic accuracy…. 1858; public domain image.

Click here for a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots painted in her lifetime; this is how she was portrayed in 1885.

If Dover’s Historic Costume in Pictures sometimes looks a little “off” to you, consider that its plates were drawn between 1861 and 1890.

** The subject of costumes for Shakespeare’s plays is long and complex. After all, “Contemporary dress” can mean “contemporary with the date when the play was written, [Macbeth circa 1606]” or “contemporary with the date when the play is set, [Macbeth circa 1050]” or even “contemporary as in ‘right now.’ ”  [modern dress.]”  I gave a lecture on how Shakespeare’s plays were costumed over four centuries for a meeting of the Costume Society in Ashland, Oregon, many years ago. If I am ever able to convert my slides into digital form, I may post it here, someday!

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Pleated Hats, 1920

Fashion illustration from Delineator, Sepember 1920.

I was browsing through my 1920 images, trying to find something bright and colorful — but, as often happens, I got sidetracked.

Apparently, the studio where Butterick pattern illustrations were done had a supply of pleated hats in 1920. Here are a few:

A hat with large pleats, Delineator, February 1920.

A hat gloriously pleated and adorned with roses. March, 1920.

Here’s the blouse worn with the first hat I featured. (This hat also had a flower on the pleats.)

Pleated hat with Butterick blouse 2619. September 1920.

Just to prove these hats existed…

Movie star Bebe Daniels looks world-weary in her pleated hat. February 1920, Delineator.

This one looks like a pleated tam-o-shanter:

Delineator, December 1920.

Big pleats, high fashion expression. Delineator, February 1920. (Look at that hand, too.)

The charm of 100 years ago…. For a refreshing visit to 1920, see Mary Grace McGeehan’s terrific blog, My Life 100 Years Ago.

 

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Another Look at April 1926

Delineator, page 27, April 1926. Butterick patterns for women.

I was getting ready to revisit some Delineator pattern illustrations from April 1926 when I decided that, because that was a time of glorious full-color illustrations, perhaps I should show some images from a three-year-old post again. Plus a few more….

At left, Butterick dress pattern 6686; at right, Butterick dress pattern 6737, shown decorated with Butterick embroidery transfer 10430. Delineator, April 1926, page 27.

The red dress is more complicated than it looks, with that curving torso recalling medieval sideless gowns and a section of pleats at each side of the overskirt.

Butterick patterns for women, Delineator, April 1926, top of page 27. Butterick 6692, 6704, and 6739.

I can’t help noticing that “spring colors” (or summer colors) were different in 1926.

Butterick fashions for April 1926.

Navy and white (or pale gray) is still a spring combination, but that two-tone green seems more autumnal to me.

A slightly spicy tan or gold makes this Spring box-jacket and skirt ensemble. Delineator, April 1926.

Clothes for children are colorful, too:

This print dress for young teens catches my eye. The tweedy outfit doesn’t shout “Spring! or Summer” to me.

Older teens might wear a print with black ground:

Butterick pattern 6650, shown in a black print fabric; Butterick cape coat 6769 over dress 6719; and another border print, Butterick 6683, in light and dark muted green. April 1926.

Butterick dress patterns for young women, April 1926; Delineator page 29. Butterick 6711 and 6728. Notice the bust dart at right.

A wide band with a tight fit around the low hip is seen in the print dress above and in the greenish dress below:

Left, Butterick dress pattern 6716 is embroidered with Butterick transfer pattern 10378. It could be worked in beads or in shiny thread. Right, Butterick 6715. Im trying to picture that dress on a normally proportioned body….Hmmmm.

The shawl worn with the white evening dress is not the usual, embroidered “Spanish shawl” but a very colorful hand-painted one. A similar shawl appeared in this 1927 advertisement for Ivory soap flakes.

This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

This “Aztec” pattern painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

April 1926 was a time for low, snug hip bands, often tied with a huge bow.

Butterick pattern 6743 is very snug around the hips. Delineator, April 1926, p. 27.

A bride tied up in a big, big bow. Butterick 6711, April 1926.

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