Monthly Archives: February 2014

Flappers, Galoshes, and Zippers in the 1920s

Galoshes, 1922, from Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum

Galoshes, 1922, from Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum

There is a widespread belief that the term “flapper” was first applied to young women in the 1920s because of a fad among college girls for wearing their rubber galoshes unfastened (right).

By the late 1920s, two rubber companies were competing for the women’s waterproof boot market, with attractive, tight-fitting fashion boots and shoe covers.

Ad fo Gaytees overshoes, December 1928, Delineator

Ad for Gaytees overshoes, December 1928, Delineator

United States Rubber Company’s Gaytees Overshoes

Gaytees were made by the United States Rubber Company, and came in a range of styles including waterproofed fabric and even simulated reptile.

Gaytees Overshoes Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Overshoes Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees advertised that their rainboots for 1929 had six new features:

New styles! Cross straps, turn-down cuffs, a new pointed back style.

New colors! The new rosy browns and tans; the tannish grays; black.

New Fabrics! Wools, Rayon-and-wool mixtures. All-rubber.

New lasts that fit the new Fall shoes! New heels – four different heights.

Lighter weight in every pair – yet full protection.

Fast color linings!

Gaytees Ad, November 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Ad, November 1928, Delineator

These are “Tailored Overshoes” because they are worn over your normal shoes. “See the style show of 1929 Gaytees at your own shoe store. Then, when you buy your Fall shoes, ask to have them fitted with the Gaytees that match your new Fall costume.”

Gaytees Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Ad, December 1928, Delineator

The text next to Gaytees worn with a chiffon evening gown (right) says, “Fast color linings. Gaytees won’t rub off on the sheerest evening stockings or the lightest colored evening slippers. And the pointed back adds slimness as well as extra spatter protection….

“Your shoeman will be glad to show you the 1929 Gaytees. Let him fit a pair on your slim ankles. See how snugly they hug the new shoe styles; how well they harmonize with your Winter costumes.” Prices “from $2.50 to $6.” Gaytees usually fastened with snap fasteners, but even when they closed with a ‘slide fastener,’ the ads couldn’t call it a ‘zipper’ because of . . . .

B.F. Goodrich Company’s Zippers

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

In 1921, the B.F. Goodrich Company had quietly begun experimenting with rubber boots that closed with slide fasteners from the Hookless Fastener Company. There were problems to overcome, but by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

Goodrich trademarked the word ‘Zipper.’ At first, “Zipper” referred to a brand of overshoe, not to the gizmo that opened and closed it.

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator

The text at left says, “But remember, all overshoes that close with a sliding fastener are not genuine Goodrich Zippers. Look for and find the name Goodrich on the shoe . . . only in this way can you be sure of authentic Goodrich style with the famous Hookless Fastener which cannot rust, stick, loosen or cause trouble. . . . Over fifty thousand stores are now ready to show you the correct new colors of genuine Zippers. . . in either snap or Zipper fastener.” The Goodrich ad doesn’t mention prices, and it’s not in color. Presumably, Gaytees had to try harder.

A New Word Enters the Language: Zipper

Goodrich sold half a million ‘Zippers’ in 1923 and bought a million Hookless Slide Fasteners every year after that until 1927. By the late 1920s, the novelty was wearing off (and three to four million women already had Zippers in their closets, not counting the women who bought Gaytees instead!)

The word ‘Zipper’ may have belonged to the B.F. Goodrich Company, but in common usage, Americans were calling any slide fastener a ‘zipper.’ The Hookless Fastener Company adopted an eagle’s talon as its company trademark in 1928, and changed the company’s name to Talon a decade later (Source: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, by Robert Freidel, page 169.)

Talon Zipper Advertisement from Delineator, March 1929

Talon Zipper Advertisement from Delineator, March 1929



Filed under 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Zippers

A Schiaparelli-type Suit, Pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

Schiaparelli-influenced suit jacket, Butterick # 7819

Schiaparelli-influenced suit jacket, Butterick # 7819

#7819, “The important Schiaparelli-type suit” on the right is decorated with a series of diamond shapes that have a contrast fabric showing through narrow openings. The elongated kite-shaped diamond that bridges the waist may be a practical pocket.

Purple Schiaparelli jacket photographed from Shocking, in collection of  Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Purple Schiaparelli jacket,  in collection of Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, photographed from Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Schiaparelli used many diamond shaped motifs in her Commedia dell’Arte collection of 1939, but this pattern pre-dates that collection.  A purple wool jacket from her winter 1936-37 collection, pictured in Dilys Blum’s Shocking: The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli , p. 97, has oblong areas cut away to reveal a brown velvet underlayer in the pockets. [It really is purple, not blue — a problem with my camera.  I could not find a link to this suit online.] Perhaps the Butterick jacket pattern is a reference to this one, especially if this pattern also has practical pockets. The jacket from # 7819 was featured twice in one issue of Butterick Fashion news; here it is worn open to reveal a Butterick blouse underneath:  schiap influ jacket blue open681

Easier than It Looks

I love the ingenuity of this design.

It appears complex, but if you really look at it, you can figure out how  relatively simple the construction of the diamonds revealing a contrast fabric underlayer actually is. You could apply this idea to almost any jacket pattern.

BFNschap CLOSEinflu suit pockets apr 1938547The jacket front pattern piece has been divided horizontally into four sections. You can see the seam lines where they have been joined together to create a yoke section (A), a yoke-to-bust-point section (B), a bust-point-to-waist section (C), and a waist-to-hip section (D). Section C has a vertical bust dart on each side, which would be stitched before the 4 sections are seamed together. I can’t imagine any reason for dividing the jacket into sections, except to make it easier to reveal the contrast fabric in the diamonds.

A Guess at the Jacket Construction

CAUTION: I have not tried this in fabric – I’m just deducing how it could be done….

After carefully marking the positions of the diamonds on your fabric – probably thread basting, since you would need the markings on both sides of the fabric, you would seam the sections together, A to B, B to C, stopping and backstitching when you reach the horizontal point of the diamond, leaving a gap in the center of the diamond, and resuming the seam at the other point. (The opening would not be a rectangle….) Once you press the seam allowances out of the way, you would baste them into position, put your diamonds of contrast fabric (matching the grain) behind the fashion fabric, baste, check for smoothness, and topstitch along the lines of the diamond. schiap influ jacket close upThen you would topstitch along the folded-back seam allowance, about 1/8 inch from the fold, through all layers. You can see these lines of topstitching in the illustration. (In theory, you could stitch the seam allowances out of the way before applying the diamond backing, but I think this might allow the fashion fabric to gape from stress at the bust-point.)

It’s a nice detail that the lapel is topstitched only where it overlaps the top diamond.

If the below-the-waist diamond is a practical pocket, you would stitch a twill stay-tape to the seam allowance on section D, just beside the fold line, to prevent stretching, and add a thin lining. You would have to topstitch the seam allowance inside the diamond below the waist before applying the contrast backing, so that bottom section of the diamond shape remains open.

A friend suggested that the diamonds and collar are prick-stitched by hand with thread to match the contrast layer. That would certainly be a couture touch, but it’s equally possible that the illustrator was just working within the constraints of a pattern catalog printed on newsprint: big white dashes were the only way to indicate stitch lines.

I repeat, I have not tried this with wool and a sewing machine, but I think it’s a reasonable explanation of why this apparently complicated “Schiaparelli-type” jacket is divided into sections on the Butterick pattern. The famous Butterick Deltor [otherwise known as an instruction sheet] would tell you how to construct it, probably much more clearly than I have done…. I rarely sew for myself any more, but I’m really tempted to try that kite-shaped pocket on a casual jacket — a little bigger, with a zingy color underneath. On a dark fabric, I might even try a different jewel color under every pocket!  Comments and suggestions are welcome.


Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

Late 1930s Hat Styles

Two views of a twisted felt  hat

This twisted and skewered felt hat, from a private collection, has no label, but it seems like the logical (or illogical) result of hat patterns and illustrations from the late 1930s.

Here are three hats shown with couture collections in February, 1936.

Sketches of Paris Couture, Woman's Home Companion, February 1936

Sketches of Paris Couture, Woman’s Home Companion, February 1936

The designers are, left to right, Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Fourteen months later, similar styles were available to home stitchers in a Butterick pattern.

Butterick Hat Pattern #7852: Four Hat Styles

Butterick # 7852, Butterick Fashion News, May 1938

Butterick # 7852, Butterick Fashion News, May 1938

“All in one pattern, you will find the four important hats of the season – the pill-box, the draped turban with height, the drapable, cone-shaped hat, and the brimmed bonnet. Designed for 21 ½ to 23 inches head. 25 Cents.”

Except for the pillbox hat (top left), three have pointed or flattened cone shapes, which had been appearing at least since 1936.

Ad, January 1936, and Pattern Illustration, December 1936, WHC

Ad, January 1936, and Pattern Illustration, December 1936, WHC

Here are several other cone hats, from 1937:

Two Views, Pattern Illustration, Woman's Home Companion, October 1937

Two Views, Pattern Illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, October 1937

The version above is made from black Persian lamb. (Woman’s Home Companion, October of 1937)

1937 may illust pointy hat

This black felt cone hat in the illustration above is from a story in Woman’s Home Companion, May, 1937.

December 1937, Woman's Home Companion

December 1937, Woman’s Home Companion

This green draped hat appeared in a pattern illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937. It looks as though it might be an asymmetrical bow, but it is very similar to the draped cone hat in pattern # 7852, seen from a different angle.two draped cone hats

Finally, the draped and skewered cone hat illustrated on the left, below, from October, 1936, is only a little less extreme than the draped and skewered cone hat we started with:two draped and skewered cone hatsThe one on the right ties behind the head. The one on the left seems to depend on magic… or a thin elastic band.


Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

Ski Suits in the Stores, 1930s

Illustration from Woman's Home Companion, February 1937

Illustration from Woman’s Home Companion, February 1937

While winter sports are in the news — and California finally has some snow in spite of drought conditions — here are two skiing outfits that could be bought in the late 1930s. Both were featured in “Styles in Stores” articles in Woman’s Home Companion magazine.

Woman’s Ski Suit,  January 1936

1936 Ski Suit Featured in January Woman's Home Companion

1936 Ski Suit Featured in January Woman’s Home Companion

Tyrolean styles were quite popular in the late thirties, until World War II and Hitler’s invasion of Austria. The H. W. Capwell store in Oakland, CA, merged with San Francisco’s Emporium store in 1924, but continued to operate separately at the Oakland location.

Woman’s Ski Suit, December 1937

Ski Suit Featured in Woman's Home Companion, December 1937

Ski Suit Featured in Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937

“The ski costume, complete from hat to socks, would delight any girl with winter sports in mind.  Look at the hat. It is the new yodeler type with sun-defying brim.  Examine the jacket and you will see that it is closed with a slide fastener [i. e., what we call a ‘zipper’ — w2f] and has handy diagonal pockets.  Note the slim cut of the trousers, the gay embroidery on the mittens.  These are the important details which lead up to these two main points:  the fact that the material of the trousers, jacket and hat is a water-repellent woolen,  and the fact that you have a choice of two good snow colors, navy with touches of contrasting red, or deep green with gray. John Wanamaker, New York.” — Ethel Holland Little, Fashion Editor, Woman’s Home Companion

The slide fastener had been used in flying suits since World War I, and in men’s sportswear (and women’s rain boots called “Zippers” by B.F. Goodrich Co.), but slide fasteners were not as common in women’s sportswear. However, dresses became more fitted through the waist after 1930, and by 1936 several couturiers were using them. (Charles James made a dress with a long zipper that spiraled around it in 1929! His work was featured in an Exhibition at the Chicago Museum in 2012. Images of his work can be found at this link.)

This post is dedicated to The Vintage Traveler, who writes often and well about the history of women’s sportswear  — and zippers — among other things.


Filed under 1930s, Exhibitions & Museums, Sportswear, Women in Trousers

Chew Gum for Beauty – and Be Polite About It! (Part 3)

Wrigley's gum Curve of Beauty ad 1934 julyA Graceful Cheek Line – Thanks to Chewing Gum

Wrigley’s campaign to convince women that chewing gum twice a day would give them shapely lips and firm up their cheeks lasted several years.  This ad is notable for the “sculptured” hairstyle – and the graceful curve of the cheek which “depends very much upon chewing”  for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Here’s a closeup of that hair; the odd thing is that I have yet to see an ad for hair lacquer or styling products in a 1930s magazine.

Hair style, July, 1934; Wrigley Gum Ad, from Delineator

Hair style, July, 1934; Wrigley Gum Ad, from Delineator

Sex Sells… Chewing Gum

This ad, on the other hand, is blatantly sexy – although it says it’s about clear skin, resulting from the improved circulation chewing gum will give you.

Wrigley's Double Mint Gum Ad, Delineator, May 1934

Wrigley’s Double Mint Gum Ad, Delineator, May 1934

Text from May 1934 Double Mint ad

Text from May 1934 Double Mint ad

Chewing Gum Is Socially Acceptable!

By 1934, the idea that chewing gum in public was vulgar – “not done” by the upper classes – was giving way to new manners. Delineator magazine helpfully ran an article on the etiquette of gum-chewing.

Chewing Gum Etiquette by Helen Ufford

“Yesterday may have said ‘Chewing gum is taboo’. . . . Now it’s natural – isn’t it? – when the chewing of gum is taken for granted [on airplanes, during sports, etc.] that the margins should broaden and that we should enjoy chewing gum at other times. ”

from Chewing Gum Etiquette by Helen Ufford, February 1936

from Chewing Gum Etiquette by Helen Ufford, Delineator, February 1936, p. 4

(The rules seem very much like those for smoking cigarettes:  ask permission before you smoke, offer the other party a cigarette/stick of gum, say no politely, don’t throw your refuse on the ground, etc.) 1936 feb p 28 chewing gum top left oneNotice the “college girl” look of a sweater worn with a white collar. And pearls are always a classy touch. 1936 feb p 28 chewing gum top ctr“There’s no one around you who doesn’t approve? Well, then you say, ‘Yes, Thank you.’. . . Finished?  Never put gum where another person can see it or touch it.”1936 feb p 28 chewing gum btm center two

“The plane-hostess provides you with a ration of gum, and you chew it, inconspicuously.”  Flying was still not a common experience, and people got dressed up as if for church when traveling by air.

In 1950 I took a flight to Los Angeles with my aunt, in a propeller plane. The passengers were all given sticks of gum – not for pleasure, but because chewing it during takeoff and landing helped to equalize the pressure in your ears. (Gum makes you swallow more often.) Airplanes have better pressurization now that they fly higher, but I still carry gum when I travel – even though my orthodontist forbids it the rest of the time. How nice to know that Delineator’s Etiquette columnist would approve.


Filed under 1930s, 1940s-1950s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Hairstyles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

He Was Only a Bellhop, and She Was an Heiress…

I photographed this illustration because of the color picture of a 1930s bellhop’s uniform, but the caption is just so good I have to share it:

Illustration by John La Gatta, Ladies' Home Journal, January 1936

Illustration by John La Gatta, Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1936

Peter was a bellhop, Jinny an heiress, but...

Peter was a bellhop; Jinny an heiress. But . . . Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936


Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Uniforms and Work Clothes

A Valentine — Be Charming

Woman's Home Companion cover, February 1936

Woman’s Home Companion cover, February 1936

I haven’t been able to find the illustrator’s name. (The writing on the valentine says “Sweetheart.”) I love the way the man, barely visible, is looking at the girl, and the way his dark suit frames her face. She looks too young to have answered this ad from Delineator magazine, 1934:

Be Charming

Ad for a Charm School by Correspondence  Course, 1934

Ad for a Charm School by Correspondence Course, 1934

“Just what impression do you make? Grade yourself with Margery Wilson’s ‘Charm-Test’. This interesting self-analysis chart will be sent on request, with the booklet, ‘The Smart Point of View’ — to acquaint you with the effectiveness of Margery Wilson’s personalized training by correspondence. In your own home, under the sympathetic guidance of this distinguished teacher, you learn exquisite self-expression — how to talk, walk, how to project your personality effectively — to enhance your appeal.  Margery Wilson makes tangible the elusive elements of Charm and gives you poise, conversational ease, charming manners, finish, grace — the smart point of view.”

Margery Wilson is described as “America’s Authority on Charm. Personal advisor to eminent women of society, screen and business.”

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Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture