Six “Silver Hair Fashions” for April, 1931
A closer look at Butterick dress patterns # 3812 & 3797 (Top Right and Top Left):
3812 OLD IVORY LACE adds the final touch of distinction to this frock of sheer crêpe. There’s graceful movement in every line of the flared skirt, and the frills at the wrist match the self jabot. Choose this in soft rose if you are slim – if not-so-slim, black. For 40, 4 7/8 yards 39-inch georgette. Designed for 34 to 44. [bust] [I do wish the writers at Butterick Publishing had not repeatedly suggested that black was the only sensible color choice for larger women! How about something really daring – like navy?]
3797 PARIS SAYS GRAY and for the woman with silvery hair, nothing could be more flattering. This afternoon frock with vestee of white georgette has gracefully molded hips and sleeves of three-quarter length. Flared wrapped skirt. For 40, 4 3/4 yards 39-inch silk crêpe; 3/8 yard 39-inch contrast. Designed for 34 to 48.
3806 ONE-REVERS FASHION Every line of this frock is either up-and-down or diagonal, creating the illusion of height and slenderness. Gray tweed would be very smart, with a white piqué collar, white gloves, and a matching tweed hat. . . . Designed for 34 to 52. [inch bust]
3804 IF YOU’RE NOT SLIM This surplice frock with pleats will do amazing things in the way of slenderizing and lending additional height. The pleats are stitched down so that fullness begins just above the knee. Contrasting jabot. . . . Designed for 34 to 48 [inch bust. The “surplice line,” running diagonally across the bodice, was a favorite suggestion for women who wore large sizes in the 1920s, too.]
3814 PLEATS FOR FLATNESS This is the kind of ‘useful frock’ you’ll wear for everything from marketing to motoring and golf. [!] The points on the yoke match the points on the skirt panel, and there are four kick pleats. One-piece back. . . . Designed for 34 to 44 [bust.]
3810 LONG SLIM LINES For anyone inclined to be a bit overweight. The low V neck and diagonal flare of this frock will subtract pounds from the silhouette. Wear it in a print if you like. One-piece from shoulder to hem. . . . Designed for sizes 34 to 52 [inch bust.]
And a Reality Check from Lane Bryant, 1931
Obviously, all six of these dresses for “mature figures” have been illustrated by Butterick as they would appear on an elongated fashion figure, in smallish sizes, even when the pattern is “for anyone inclined to be a bit overweight,” or “not-so-slim.” Numbers 3806 and 3810 go up to size 52, which is several inches larger than a modern Size 24. [I give Butterick credit for realizing — in the 1930s! — that many women make their own clothes because they have hard-to-fit figures.]
This Lane Bryant catalog advertisement — from the February 1931 Delineator — doesn’t mince words: “For Stout Women and Misses.”
The Lane Bryant illustrations give a more realistic idea of how a 1931 dress would look on a woman with 48 inch hips and a good corset. The Lane Bryant styles also have that slenderizing, diagonal “surplice line,” even on the coat.
2 responses to ““Silver Hair Fashions”: Spring Styles for Older (and Larger) Women, 1931”
I love the frankness of some of these vintage ads and editorials. Can you even imagine the word “stout” being used to describe anything other than a beer today?
Although I know that the dresses were offered in a wide range of sizes, from small to very large, the Delineantor only shows them on the slimmest women. That’s the advantage of the Lane Bryant catalog–they do try to show the styles on a larger body.