A Dress Trimmed with Zippers, 1928

Dresses from Butterick patterns, December 1928

Dresses from Butterick patterns, December 1928

There’s something very unusual about the dress on the right.

Talon Zipper Advertisement, March 1929

Advertisement for Talon Slide Fasteners, March 1929

Advertisement for Talon Slide Fasteners, March 1929

This full-page advertisement for Talon slide-fasteners, made by the Hookless Fastener Company, appeared in Delineator magazine in March, 1929. (They were not called zippers, yet, because in 1929 a “Zipper” was a trademarked rain boot made by the B. F. Goodrich rubber company.)

Slide fasteners had been used in clothing, money belts, sleeping bags, etc. by the military in World War I, and in some men’s sportswear after the war, but they were not yet associated with women’s clothing. Many references will tell you that Elsa Schiaparelli pioneered the use of zippers in womens’ clothing in the 1930s, but in fact, she was not the first or the only designer who used them. [She does deserve credit for pioneering the use of colored plastic zippers, and for generating the most publicity about zippers being used in women’s wear in the mid-thirties.] 1929 march talon zipper ad color btm text 500dpi

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

From 1924 to 1927, the Hookless Fastener Company had been selling seventy per cent of its output to B.F. Goodrich to use in ‘Zippers.’

Then, suddenly, the novelty wore off (or the market was saturated), and Hookless was forced to find other markets, and other uses for its products. Hence, this campaign to introduce slide fasteners to home stitchers.

We take zippers so much for granted now that this ad bears close examination:

Top of Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, 1929

Top of Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, 1929

How to Find a Zipper

The mid section of the advertisement shows women what the display case — “Talon Cabinet” — at the fabric store will look like:1929 march talon zipper ad color middle too

. . . and what a zipper in a package looks like, too.1929 march talon zipper ad color close of pkgs

The women shopping for zippers are wearing dresses that close with zippers. 1929 march talon zipper ad name on slide

1929 march talon zipper ad color middle tooThe fine print in this ad is what sent me pouring through old Delineators: “Frock illustrated can be made with Butterick Pattern No. 2365. Note the Talon Slide-Fasteners used as a smart style feature.”

Here it is, featured in the December 1928 issue of Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

Butterick patterns 2251 & 2365, December 1928

Butterick patterns 2377 & 2365, December 1928

Butterick Pattern No. 2365, a Dress with Zippers, 1928

1928 dec #2365 dress with zippers bigger

#2365: “A two-piece frock adds the metal trimming touch of slide fasteners that deftly close the turn back collar, pockets, and cuffs of the slip-over blouse. There is a narrow belt, and the one-piece straight skirt is plaited [i.e., pleated] in front and plain in back. The frock is designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and 36 to 48 [bust measurement.]”

Of course, it’s impossible to know if any home stitchers actually made pattern #2365 in 1929. Zippers were relatively expensive — probably why the ad mentions that they will outlast the garments they’re put into — and this pattern uses six of them. The design does reinforce the message that Talon slide fasteners come in “10 lengths and 6 colors of tape.” And, as in many Schiaparelli designs of the 1930s, there is no attempt to conceal the zippers; they are used as trim as much as for convenience.

The same issue of Delineator  (March 1929) featured a line-for-line copy of an ensemble by Madeleine Vionnet which also uses zippers. But that deserves an entire post to itself!

Two good sources for information on the history of the device we now know as the zipper are Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, by Robert Friedel, and The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski.

Three Dresses from Butterick, December 1928

The white dress next to the zipper dress is so attractive I feel obliged to give more information about it, and about the one on the far left.

Three Butterick Patterns from Delineator, December 1928, page 34

Three Butterick Patterns from Delineator, December 1928, page 34

The white dress, # 2377 : “Bow knot trimming of selvage border at the V neck, close sleeves, and belt are extraordinarily smart. A skirt in front has pairs of plaits while the back is one piece, with tucks at the neck. The frock is especially good for borders. It is designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and for sizes 36 to 44 [bust measurement.]

The dress on the left, # 2251: “A tailored frock of light-weight wool or flannel to start the day has the new starched collar and cuffs. It is cut in one piece and trimmed with two smart pockets, tie and belt, and may be made without the inserted plaits in front, if you wish to use a heavier material. Designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years); and for sizes 36 to 44 [bust measurement.]


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

9 responses to “A Dress Trimmed with Zippers, 1928

  1. I’m sure this is the earliest use of zippers on a dress that I’ve ever seen. And six of them to boot!

    I recently bought a dress that I’m sure is late 20s, but that has a side zipper. I’ve really not gotten into a close exam of it, but I assumed the zipper was added at a later date. Thanks for letting me know that’s not necessarily so.

    Those dresses with the bows are very Schiaparelli, no?

    • As you said, there are 6 zippers on this dress, and they are more decorative than practical — only the tight sleeves really need them, if the neckline is worn open. I see patterns that call for side closings in the twenties, but, like you, I assumed they used snaps originally. Talon ran a series of ads around 1937 making women self-conscious about possible “gap-osis” between snaps, so I bet a lot of snap closings in early 30s dresses were changed to zip closings at that time — but you’re probably right to suspect that your 20s dress may have gotten its zip much later, as a vintage garment. (Does it help that the 1929 zippers were only available in a very limited range of colors?)
      There is a photo of a green, black and gold brocade evening dress by Schiaparelli in High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, by Jan Glier Reeder, that has gold-tone “industrial” zippers at the wrists and in the side seam, but it’s dated 1933-1935, when tighter-fitting bodices required some kind of closings, which the pull-over dresses of the 1920s didn’t need.
      So — this Talon ad and Butterick pattern are proof that a home stitcher had access to zippers in Fall of 1928, and that “Schiap” was an “early adopter” rather than “the first.” But “One swallow doesn’t make a summer” — I will be posting another Butterick pattern from the late 20s that uses zippers in a “culotte” blouse. I was going to try to get better pictures, but I think I’ll just go with the photos I took months ago. I was pretty excited when I discovered them!
      And, yes, “Schiap” wore her knit sweater with a bow design in 1927 according to Emma Baxter-Wright’s book. I aways thought the knit bow was a humorous take on all the outfits that had real, 3-D bows. I’ve just started to appreciate how really influential she was because of seeing how often the magazines claim their patterns are “Schiaparelli-type.”

  2. I’d love to see the instructions on how to insert the “side fastener.” Even with zipper feet and elaborate instructions, it is still my least favorite sewing task.

    • Dear Lynn, Did you find a typo that said “side fastener” instead of “slide fastener?” If so, I apologize. Many dresses from the 1930s on do have zippers in the side seam, and yes, they are a pain because they are not symmetrical — the lap on one side is bigger. I just checked my favorite, clearly illustrated guide: The Costume Technician’s Handbook, by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey. The instructions for inserting a lapped zipper include a really helpful suggestion: “It’s easier to hide a zipper when you’ve left a 1″ seam allowance on the zipper opening; plan ahead for this when making the pattern.” (It’s also easier to insert almost any zipper if you do it before sewing the final side seam, so the garment can be opened flat.) Of course, these hints aren’t much help if you are replacing the zipper in a vintage garment! And the illustration doesn’t show one of those special side-seam zippers that’s closed at both ends….

  3. Pingback: Was Vionnet the First Couturier to Use a Zipper? Spring 1929 | witness2fashion

  4. Pingback: Patou’s Evening Gowns for Short and Tall, 1936 | witness2fashion

  5. Pingback: Du Barry Fashions, August 1939 | witness2fashion

  6. Pingback: “Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1) | witness2fashion

  7. Pingback: “Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2 | witness2fashion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.