Monthly Archives: September 2014

The “Good Guy” Male Editor of Three Women’s Magazines

World War I patriotic cover of The Ladies' Home Journal, December 1917.

World War I patriotic cover of The Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917, long before John Mack Carter became editor.

I’ve just been reading obituaries of John Mack Carter, the man who, at various times, was the editor of McCall’s magazine (1961 to 1965), Ladies’ Home Journal (1965 to 1974), and Good Housekeeping (1975 to 1994.) [He was not yet born when this Christmas, 1917, cover appeared!]

In March, 1970, a group of feminists “occupied” Carter’s office at The Ladies’ Home Journal and staged a sit-in, demanding better working conditions for women and a change in editorial policy to reflect the realities of women’s lives. (They also wanted him to be replaced by a woman editor. ) Carter, who had already begun running “reported articles about housing costs, medical insurance and other subjects affecting women” when he edited McCall’s, listened to the demonstrators, and made some changes in his thinking and his magazines.

“ ‘Women’s magazines were badly behind the times,’ he told The New York Times in an interview in 1963. ‘They were using baby talk to communicate with their readers. They were failing to keep up with the rising educational levels in this country.’

“Still, on reflection in his later years, after he had become outspoken on issues like sexual harassment and job discrimination, he acknowledged that the turning point in his thinking did not come until the sit-in at Ladies’ Home Journal.

“ ‘There was more discrimination than I thought,’ Hearst (the publisher of Good Housekeeping) quoted him as saying in a biographical sketch. ‘I didn’t push our women readers far enough in their awareness.’ ” — From Carter’s obituary in The New York Times.

Among his many awards and honors, the National Women’s Political Caucus named him one of its “Good Guys” in 1985 for his commitment to the goal of full equality for women.

His obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, a Hearst Newspaper, has an especially charming photo of Carter surrounded by the feminists who “stormed his office and held him hostage for 11 hours.” Yes, some of the ladies wore hats, although no gloves are in evidence. Here is another view of the same sit-in. 

Ann Althouse reported on (and analyzed) the original coverage of the sit-in; read her blog here.

Thanks for listening, Mr. Carter. Rest in Peace.

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Filed under 1960s-1970s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

American Red Cross Service Uniforms, 1917

New Authorized Red Cross Uniforms, September, 1917 Ladies' Home Journal, p. 5.

New Authorized American Red Cross Uniforms, September, 1917 Ladies’ Home Journal, p. 5.

After the U.S. declared war in April of 1917, there was a great outpouring of volunteerism.  Women were eager to support “our boys,” and magazines aimed at female readers were a perfect, pre-existing medium for the government to communicate with millions of households all over the country. Official articles like the ones quoted here appeared in both Butterick’s Delineator and  Ladies’ Home Journal, among others.

Women Wanted to Wear Uniforms, Too

So many women wanted to wear some type of official uniform while doing “war work” that cautions were repeatedly issued.

Official Red Cross policy statement by William Taft, Chair of Central Committee, August 1917 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Official Red Cross policy statement by William Taft, Chair of Central Committee, August 1917 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

The new, authorized Red Cross Corps uniforms (pictured above) were described in September, but the problem of unauthorized used arose again in October:

Ladies Home Journal, October 1917, page 33.

Ladies Home Journal, October 1917, page 33.

Clearly, there were unscrupulous people “raising money for the Red Cross” but not turning over all the proceeds to the charity. “Red Cross Bazaars” had to have prior approval at the local level or use of the name was not permitted. And only members of the Red Cross who had taken a loyalty oath and met other requirements could wear Red Cross uniforms.

There was a difference between being a Corps Member and being a Red Cross Nurse — only women who had completed two years of nursing training, who had an additional two years practical nursing experience, and who were registered nurses in their own state could apply to be a Red Cross Nurse. However, there were many other vital ways for a woman to serve through the Red Cross. Wearing any of these Corps uniforms required a permit.

American Red Cross Supply Corps Uniform & Clerical Corps Uniform, 1917

Red Cross Supply Corps and Clerical Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917. Ladies' Home Journal.

Red Cross Supply Corps and Clerical Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal.

Supply Corps Uniform

Supply Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

Supply Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

“In this division of Red Cross Work the service of the members is to prepare surgical dressings, hospital garments and all other Red Cross supplies. The uniform is a white dress, or a white waist [i.e., blouse] and skirt, with dark blue veil and white shoes. Small Red Cross emblems are worn on the veil and on the left front of the dress. The arm band is dark blue, with a horn of plenty embroidered in white.” [Her scalloped collar gives the impression that she is wearing white clothing she already owned with the uniform head covering and armband.]

Women who wondered why they had to wear a head covering while making bandages and dressings were reminded that this was necessary “for sanitary reasons;” “she must also wear an apron for the same purpose.” lhj 1917 p 33 oct war needs pajamaslhj 1917 p 33 oct war needs surgeon operatingThe Demand for Bandages:  “The Red Cross could send all its available supply to Europe for instant use there and start all over again. . . .Wounded soldiers in France to-day are being bandaged with straw and old newspapers.” — William Howard Taft in Ladies’ Home Journal, August, 1917.

The official Red Cross patterns for making pajamas, surgeon’s gowns, etc., were available from pattern companies, stores, or Red Cross Chapters for 10 cents each.

Clerical Corps Uniform

Supply Corps Uniform of the American Red Cross, September 1917, Ladies' Home Journal.

Clerical Corps Uniform of the American Red Cross, September 1917, Ladies’ Home Journal.

“This service is designed to include the women who do the large amount of clerical work in an active Red Cross Chapter — the volunteer stenographers, bookkeepers, etc.  The uniform consists of a one-piece gray chambray dress, a white, broad collar, white duck hat with yellow band, and white shoes.  The Red Cross emblem is worn on the hat and on the left front of the dress, while the arm band is yellow, with two crossed quill pens embroidered in white.”

By October, the national headquarters of the American Red Cross was receiving 15,000 letters per day. To cope, it was decentralized, with thirteen divisions spread to large cities throughout the U.S.  When you consider that women all over the country were being asked to roll bandages, to make hospital garments and supplies such as sheets and pillowcases, to knit warm scarves, sweaters and socks for servicemen, and to supply 200,000,000 “comfort kits” for soldiers, you can imagine the logistical nightmare of shipping and sorting that had to be done by the Supply Corps and the Clerical Corps.  Shipping companies agreed to deliver packages addressed to the thirteen Red Cross collecting centers for two thirds the usual price, but all shipments from local Red Cross chapters had to have separate notices of shipment mailed, as well.

American Red Cross Refreshment Corps and Motor Corps Uniforms, 1917

Refreshment Corps and Motor Corps Uniforms, AMC, Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Refreshment Corps and Motor Corps Uniforms, AMC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Refreshment Corps Uniform

Refreshment Corps Uniform, AMC, 1917. Ladies' Home Journal.

Refreshment Corps Uniform, AMC, 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal.

“The Corps feeds soldiers passing in troop movement or en route to a hospital, or furnishes lunches in the way of extras to troops in near-by camps. The uniform is a dark blue and white striped chambray dress, long white apron with bib, white duck helmet with dark blue veiling, and tan shoes.  The arm band is dark blue, with a cup embroidered in white. A large Red Cross emblem is worn on the apron bib and a small one on the helmet.”

Presumably because of the dangers of fraternization, “no person under 23 years of age may be a member of the Refreshment Corps.” Also, because attempts had been made “to injure our soldiers through tampering with Red Cross articles,” all foodstuffs had to be prepared in supervised kitchens and “by persons whose devotion to the United States can be vouched for.” (Taft, October 1917.)

Motor Corps Uniform

Motor Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

Motor Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

“All women volunteer drivers for Chapter work are included in this service. Members may or may not furnish their own cars. The uniform is a long gray cloth coat with a tan leather belt, a close-fitting hat of the same material, riding breeches, tan puttees or canvas leggings and tan shoes. The Red Cross emblem is worn on the hat.  The arm band is light green embroidered in white.”

Motor Corps Puttees or Canvas leggings worn with riding breeches.  Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Motor Corps Puttees or Canvas leggings worn with riding breeches. Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Although her riding breeches are modestly covered by the length of the coat, this is a variation on a male chauffeur’s uniform. Most cars were open (and cold) in 1917. Whether or not you supplied your own vehicle for transporting troops, this uniform had to be purchased, not home-made. It cost about $25.

Who Can Wear These Red Cross Uniforms?

lhj 1917 sept p 5 Red cross uniform rule top hallf 500

Text of article announcing the new American Red Cross Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917, Ladies' Home Journal, page 5.

Text of article announcing the new American Red Cross Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917, Ladies’ Home Journal, page 5.

American Red Cross Nurses Uniforms

Alessandra Kelley, who writes the blog Confessions of a Postmodern Pre-Raphaelite, found a 1918 copy of The Red Cross Magazine with pictures and descriptions of the official uniforms for Red Cross nurses at home and serving overseas. She kindly photographed it in detail for the use of historians and re-enactors. Click here for a link to her great post about Nurses Uniforms.

I have also written about the U.S. Food Administration Uniform, 1917.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes

More About Wrap Dresses

Simplicity wrap dress pattern #5449, 1964. Photo: RememberedSummers.

Simplicity wrap dress pattern #5449, 1964. Photo: RememberedSummers.

As often happens, a comment on one post — about the Official Uniform of the Food Administration in 1917 — led me to some new information.  The Vintage Traveler mentioned the “Swirl” dress of the 1940s, which was also a wrap dress, perhaps a direct descendant of the “Hooverette” wrapped apron dress. According to Fuzzie Lizzie, the Swirl dress dates back to 1944. Visit her fascinating and well-illustrated article by clicking here.

That reminded me of other wrap dress patterns — more like house dresses than the “uptown”  Diane von Furstenberg knitted jersey dresses that were ubiquitous in the seventies and are still with us today. There’s no doubt that the wrap dress, which preceded the Herbert Hoover wrapped apron dress, is a style with longevity!

Ladies' Home Journal Apron Pattern #1135, November 1917.

Ladies’ Home Journal Apron Pattern #1135, November 1917.

This wrap-around apron from 1917 closes with buttons, rather than ties. So does the 1952 version below.

Butterick B4790 Retro 1952 Pattern

Butterick B4790 Retro '52 pattern. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Butterick B4790 Retro ’52 pattern. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

This wrap dress, like the “swirl” dresses that preceded it, looks ready to wear out of the house. It has a button fastening, rather than a tie. It’s a long way from the Ethel Mertz look. [Vivian Vance, who played Ethel, was contractually required to look more dowdy than Lucille Ball.]  A copy of a 1952 Butterick pattern, the envelope shows the dress open and laid out flat.

Butterick B4790 unfastened and laid out flat.

Butterick B4790 unfastened and laid out flat.

It looks like the wearer of this wrap dress would be well covered, avoiding a very embarrassing — and ass baring — experience I had with a 1960s back wrap skirt, which blew open while I was walking down a busy commercial street. I didn’t realize what was happening until cars started honking at me. Lesson learned:  never wear a wrap dress that doesn’t wrap all the way to the side on the underlap!

Simplicity Pattern #5449, dated 1964

Photo: RememberedSummers.

Photo: RememberedSummers.

To me, the bias binding on dresses like this one put them more in the “apron” family than in the housedress family. I have strong memories of bias bound dresses at the local dime store. They were usually made of very cheap fabric, heavily sized, and they turned limp and cheap-looking after their first washing. However, Simplicity # 5449 could be made of a good quality cotton fabric, and the envelope says that the “dress front laps to back fastening with tie ends,” so it would cover the wearer completely, fore and aft, even in a high wind.

Construction details of Simplicity #5449. RememberedSummers.

Construction details of Simplicity #5449. RememberedSummers.

Simplicity Pattern #8278, dated 1969

Simplicity pattern 8278 dated 1969. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Simplicity pattern 8278 dated 1969. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

This wrap dress from 1969 couldn’t possibly be mistaken for an apron or a housedress. It can also be made as a tunic and worn over flared trousers. But that’s the only way I would have worn it, because the back of the pattern shows that the front pieces are symmetrical.

Simplicity #8278 pattern back. Photo by RememberedSummers on EBay.

Simplicity #8278 pattern back. Photo by RememberedSummers on EBay.

When you sit down, this kind of wrap dress pulls open and exposes your knees and usually some underwear.  Of course, a good dressmaker could alter the pattern and extend the skirt underlap to the side seam, and tie or button it in place, but I didn’t have that kind of patience or expertise in 1969.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Uncategorized, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Official Uniform: Members of the Food Administration, 1917

Article explaining the need for food conservation in World War I, LHJ, Sept. 1917.

Article explaining the need for food conservation in World War I, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Linda Przybyszewski’s The Lost Art of Dress (after reading several very favorable reviews, including this one from The Vintage Traveler). I had barely started reading the book when I found a paragraph on page 4 about the importance of home economists to the war effort in World War I:

“With the help of the home economists, the US Food Administration recruited some 750,000 women to help teach the rest of America’s women about food conservation . . . .  The recruits got a pin, a badge, and a pattern for an apron. The white apron was named after Herbert Hoover, who was then head of the Food Adminstration. The Hoover apron’s claim to design fame was that it completely wrapped around your dress and protected it from spills, opening in the front with a large overlap. . . .”

“I’ve seen one of those,” I thought. And here it is, from Ladies’ Home Journal, September, 1917.

The Official Badge and Uniform of Members of the Food Administration of the United States, WW I. From an official article in Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

The Official Badge and Uniform of Members of the Food Administration of the United States, WW I. From an official article in Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

“. . . .Since it could overlap in either direction, you could wear it twice as long as a regular apron before it was too filthy to wear. It was practical, and sort of disgusting, but it became a popular design.  Renamed “Hooverettes” or “bungalow aprons,” done up in perky prints with ruffles at the neck and sleeves, they were sold in stores as dresses over the next two decades.” — Linda Przybyszewski, The Lost Art of Dress, p. 4.

Przybyszewski cites an article by Joan Sullivan from Dress 26, “In Pursuit of Legitimacy:  Home Economists and the Hoover Apron in World War I,” which I have not read. It’s available from The Costume Society of America.

I’ll print the picture of the uniform again,  in two sections, so the text and details will be more legible:

lhj 1917 sept p 27 Food uniform top 500 w

lhj 1917 sept p 27 Food uniform btm 500 dpi wIn spite of Dr. Przybyszewski’s description, the official apron was not white, but “of blue chambray.”  The fact that the pieces all “open out flat” for ironing must have been a great point in its favor, like the removeable cuffs.  Notice that “any woman who signs the Hoover pledge is entitled to wear” this uniform. The Hoover Pledge appeared in the August Ladies’ Home Journal and other women’s magazines. lhj 1917 aug woman and war hoover pledgeHere are the rules these women were agreeing to follow: lhj 1917 aug woman and war 500 hoover asks box

Boxes explaining the food conservation rules appeared in many articles in the Ladies' Home Journal. Aug. 1917 .

Wartime illustrations explaining the food conservation rules appeared throughout the Ladies’ Home Journal. Aug. 1917 .

American women had been reading about the sacrifices made by European women during the twenty months that passed before the United States entered the war. The women’s magazines showed pictures of women in uniform in England, of women filling previously male occupations, and American women were eager to do their part. Judging from the fashion illustrations and patterns available, they were also depressingly eager to wear uniforms, or clothing that looked like uniforms, as if one couldn’t volunteer to host a war relief fund-raiser until dressed like a pseudo soldier.

Butterick patterns for women and teens, Delineator, August 1917.

Butterick patterns for women and teens, Delineator, August 1917.

Aprons and House Dresses

A

A “Hoover apron,” 1917.

It’s a little surprising to modern eyes to see this all-covering, sleeved garment described as an apron, but the distinction between aprons and house dresses remained blurry into the 1920s.  The “Hoover apron” was very similar to these 1917 house dresses from Butterick — dresses which preceded the Food Administration uniform:

Butterick House Dress pattern, June 1917.  Delineator.

Butterick House Dress pattern, June 1917. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, January 1917.  From left, a negligee, a house dress, a wrap house dress, and a negligee. From Delineator magazine..

Butterick patterns, January 1917. From left, a negligee, a house dress, a wrap house dress, and a negligee. From Delineator magazine.

However, in the 1920s, aprons that we would call dresses, and which pulled on over the head, appeared equally with sleeveless aprons that primarily covered the front of the body.

Two Butterick aprons, 1924. #5156, left, is dress-like; #5096, right, is recognizably an apron.

Two Butterick aprons, 1924. #5156, left, is dress-like; #5096, right, is recognizably an apron.

[For those who do not remember the house dress, it was a dress — often with pockets — that was easy to launder and was worn while doing housework. Even in the 1940s, no woman with pretensions to the middle class would wear a house dress outside her own yard. In 1917, they were also called “porch dresses.”]

Butterick patterns from February 1924. The flowered garment is called an apron. The wrap dress on the right is a house dress.

Butterick patterns from February 1924. Center:  Apron #5026. Right: House dress #5043.

The floral garment in the center is described as an apron. The wrap dress on the right is a “house dress.” Perhaps some women would have called them Hooverettes?

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, World War I

Very Old Clothes: Fabric and Sandals circa 4000 BC

There is something awe-inspiring about a scrap of fabric woven 6000 years ago.

Fragment of a fringed textile, Eastern Mediterranean, 4500 -3600 BC. From Masters of Fire Exhibit.

Fragment of a fringed textile, Eastern Mediterranean, 4500 -3600 BC. From Masters of Fire Exhibit.

Detail of woven fringed fabric, 4500 to 3600 BC.

Detail of woven fringed fabric, 4500 to 3600 BC.

I am not a weaver, but I was amazed by the thinness of these hand-spun threads and the use of omitted (or drawn?) threads to create a linear pattern. The exhibit also contains a very rare wooden warp beam for a horizontal loom ( it looked less than 18 inches wide) and a “cylindrical stick for a warp-weighted loom;” both looked very small, but nomadic people have to work with portable looms. These people used both vertical and horizontal looms. I wish there had been more explanation about these:

Warp beam for Horizontal Ground Loom and Cylindrical Stick for Warp-Weighted Loom. Masters of Fire exhibit.

Warp Beam for Horizontal Ground Loom and Cylindrical Stick for Warp-Weighted Loom. Masters of Fire exhibit.

Masters of Fire Exhibit

I wasn’t expecting to find textiles in an exhibit called Masters of Fire, which is about Late Chalcolithic (Copper Age meets Stone Age) artifacts found in the region now called Israel. “This exhibition is organized by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.” The museum website reminds us that this fabric was woven centuries before the Egyptian pyramids were built.

Very Old Sandals

Leather sandals from the Cave of the Warrior, 4500 to 3600 BC. Israel Antiquities Authority.

Leather sandals from the Cave of the Warrior, north of  Jerusalem, 4500 to 3600 BC. Israel Antiquities Authority.

“This pair of sandals, made of coarse, light-colored cowhide, was found inside the burial shroud of the person interred, placed one inside the other. Sandals were very rare in the Southern Levant until the Roman period. These examples, preserved only due to the dry climate of the Judean desert, provide evidence of the elevated status of the individual buried at the site.”

I wonder if the soles were worn through by the owner, as appears to be the case with the sole of the sandal on top? As in Roman sandals three or four thousand years later, the leather near the heel has slits through which the cords that tie the sandals to the foot can pass. The slits at the toe are harder to make out, but visible. I wonder if that thing that looks like a button was part of the piece that goes between your big toe and the rest of your toes in a flip-flop? And, if there are archeologists 6000 years from now, what will they make of the shoes worn today by people of  “elevated status?”

Turquoise Necklace from Ze ‘elim

The fine workmanship on the maces and other metallic objects still didn’t prepare me for these incredibly tiny turquoise beads — remember, copper is a soft metal, not like bronze or iron, so I can’t even imagine how the minuscule holes were drilled! These are not a whole lot bigger than modern glass beads.

Detail of turquoise necklace, 4500-3600 BC. Collection of Israel Antiquities Authority.

Detail of turquoise necklace, 4500-3600 BC. Collection of Israel Antiquities Authority.

A graceful necklace older than the Pyramids.

A graceful necklace older than the Pyramids. Click to enlarge.

“Violin Shaped Figurines”

The exhibit includes many tiny figurines drilled to be used as pendants or trim; the same violin shape is repeated in larger figurines. As I moved from case to case, I got a clearer idea of what these figures represented:

Three violin shaped figurines, a few inches tall. From Masters of Fire. 4500 to 3600 BC.

Three violin shaped figurines, a few inches tall. From Masters of Fire exhibit. 4500 to 3600 BC.

 

Large (about the size of a man's hand) violin shaped figure.

Large (about the size of a man’s hand) violin shaped figure.

Decorated Violin shaped figurine. She seems to be wearing a skirt. 4500-3600 BC, Eastern Mediterranean.

Decorated Violin shaped figurine. She seems to be wearing a skirt. 4500-3600 BC, Eastern Mediterranean. Click to enlarge.

This poor little lady has lost an eye, but I’d rather think of her as winking at us.

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Filed under Exhibitions & Museums, Musings, Shoes

My Costumer’s Library: Include Cartoon Collections

Using Period Cartoons for Costume Research

Recommending period cartoons for costume research may seem a little strange, but think about it: A cartoon is only funny if the reader understands the situation and the characters at a glance. Often, the costumes for a TV show, movie, or play have to telegraph their characters in a similar way. This is especially true of minor characters, who appear for only a few minutes.

"A herd of wild Bohemians being rounded up for the opening of a new cafe in Soho, with the idea of creating the right atmosphere." October 1930. From The Way to Wear'em

“A herd of wild Bohemians being rounded up for the opening of a new cafe in Soho, with the idea of creating the right atmosphere.” October 1930. From The Way to Wear’em. Note the facial hair and the hat shapes of these artistic types. You can also see variations in how the waiters in a cafe, not a fine restaurant, were dressed. A Bohemian cafe setting appeared in at least two TV shows I have seen.

NOTE:  All the cartoons shown in this post are for purpose of recommending books; please do not copy or reuse these images.

The cartoonist uses just a few black lines to give us the age, relationships, economic or occupational status, and personalities of the characters. Nevertheless, the reader knows at a glance who is middle-class and who is a hobo, who is pretentious, who is suburban, who is middle-aged, who is a student, who is a senior citizen, who is a bartender and who is a housewife. Of course, the cartoonist plays with stereotypes. But, if you need to know what a deliveryman or a butcher wore in the 1890s, or the clothing differences between a young person and an older person in a previous era, cartoons are a great place to supplement your research.

"Short-sighted old lady at a boardinghouse," September, 1925. From The Way to Wear'em. The long woman at left is conventionally dressed, the young man wears a blazer with white tennis flannels and white or tan shoes. The woman at the right is being mistaken for a young man because of her sports blazer and chic shingled hair.

“Short-sighted old lady at a boardinghouse,” September, 1925. From The Way to Wear’em. The young woman at left is conventionally dressed; the young man wears a blazer with white tennis flannels and white or tan shoes and socks. The old lady wears an unfashionably long skirt and a shawl. The woman at the right is being mistaken for a man because of her sports blazer and chic, shingled hair.

When you read a great many vintage cartoons, you get a much better idea of what was normal for the period and what was shocking. Another cartoon from the 1920s shows a husband horrified by the exceptionally short (late 1928) hem and plunging back of his wife’s evening dress. Evening gowns of the early 1930s were frequently backless, so she is in the forefront of 1929 fashion (although chic evening hems were dropping and uneven by 1929). She is unmistakably feminine, but she, too, has very short shingled hair.

January, 1929, From The Way to Wear'em.

January, 1929, From The Way to Wear’em.

Husband: “I should have thought you’d be ashamed to show your face in such a gown!”

Wife:  “Don’t worry, darling. My face won’t be the chief attraction.”

I can’t help noticing that the husband is wearing a white formal vest with his tuxedo — quite acceptable in the twenties and thirties. There’s a female character in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever (1925) — a vamp and potential home wrecker — who “uses sex as a shrimping net.” Costume design inspiration? See above.

You won’t find many pictures of housemaids, cooks, footmen and errand boys in fashion magazines. You will find them in cartoons:

This servant is being fired for not wearing a crinoline --"I understood they was a goin' out, m'---" July 1866. The Way to Wear'em.

This housemaid — in light-colored calico, since it is daytime — is being fired for not wearing a crinoline. ” I understood they was a goin’ out, m’—” July 1866. The Way to Wear’em.

Just two years earlier, another maid was certainly in danger of being fired for wearing a crinoline at work:

Housemaid, March 1864. from The Way to Wear'em.

Housemaid, March 1864. from The Way to Wear’em.

There are quite a few cartoons about servants’ clothing; servants aping their “betters” were often the subject of humor.

Cartoons about fashion fads can be quite informative (and brighten up a costume history lecture.)

This shows both the crinoline turned inside out and the petticoat worn under it. Notice also the child with basket at left. December 1856. From The Way to Wear'em.

This shows both the structure of a crinoline turned inside out and the petticoat worn under it. Notice also the lower class child with basket at left. December 1856. From The Way to Wear’em. (click to enlarge)

In addition to cartoons that react to new fashions, cartoons show characters from all walks of life. Grocers, butchers, salesmen, policemen, clergymen, housewives and beggars, country folks and city slickers, are all to be found — clearly recognizable — and frequently labeled — in cartoons. You won’t find these characters in the usual fashion history book, but if you are a costume designer, you need to know them:

From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch. Hobo and rural housewife, July 1894. Notice the realistic wear and tear on his clothes, and the woman's sunbonnet.

From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch. Tramp and rural housewife, July 1894. Notice the realistic wear and tear on his clothes and (toeless) shoes, and the woman’s sunbonnet and ankle-length work skirt.

Working class characters, July 1875. From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch.

Working class characters, July 1875. From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch. There is an amazing amount of information in this drawing by George du Maurier, which he described as “seen and heard by the artist.” Look at the man’s battered hat and patched knees, the mud or patches on his downtrodden wife’s hem, & the starving, coatless children — who are nevertheless wearing hats– versus the immaculate (and corseted) housewives on the right.

Sources for Period Cartoons

Two invaluable cartoon collections for British costume are Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841 – 1901, a Dover paperback (available used for under $5), and The Way to Wear’em: 150 Years of Punch on Fashion, by Christina Walkley. Available used or new.

The Way to Wear’em:  150 Years of Punch on Fashion

Title page from The Way to Wear'em, by Christina Walker.

Title page from The Way to Wear’em, by Christina Walkley.

The book gets its title from this 1899 cartoon:wtwem sept 1899 wareham joke 500

Fair Cyclist:  “Is this the way to Wareham?”
Native:  “Yes, Miss, yew seem to me to ha’ got ’em on all right!”

As interesting as the lady’s cycling costume is, a costumer will examine the Dorset countryman’s hat and clothing, as well:

Dorset man, rural England, 1899. Many workiing men tied their (often corduroy) trousers just below the knee.

Dorset man, rural England, 1899. Many working men tied their (often corduroy) trousers just below the knee. From The Way to Wear’em.

What makes this book so useful is that Christina Walkley is a costume historian. She uses the cartoons to explain fashion history, with frequent quotations from period sources, so it contains as much text as illustration: it’s a scholarly work that’s fun to read, with references. Her other works include Ghost in the Looking Glass: The Victorian Seamstress; Dressed to Impress, 1840-1914; and Crinolines and Crimping Irons: Victorian Clothes: How They Were Cleaned and Cared For.

Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841-1901

An urban working man from Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841-1901. Corduroy trousers, tied below the knees, and a suit jacket worn inside out to keep t 'good' side clean.

An urban working man from Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841-1901. In 1888 he wears corduroy trousers, tied below the knees, and a suit jacket worn inside out to keep the ‘good’ side clean. This costermonger’s cap has ear flaps.

Dover’s Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, edited by Stanley Applebaum and Richard Kelly, is large format; you can see the details very well. It treats the cartoons as art works and explains a great deal about the artists, but you may need to do your own research to understand the cartoons completely. For example:

Working class Londoners, Punch, 1899. Hedwin: "Hangelineer! ... What  'ud yer sy  if I told yer as I'd took the shillin'?" Hangelina: "Sy? Why -- 'Halves.' "

Working class Londoners, Punch, 1899.  Hedwin: “Hangelineer! … What ‘ud yer sy if I told yer as I’d took the shillin’?” Hangelina: “Sy? Why — ‘Halves.’ “

The misplaced “H”s in the caption tell us that this working class couple are Cockney Londoners. You may not be familiar with the phrase “to take the shilling” (to enlist). I remember — from books and movies — that coins were sometimes cut in half and worn as tokens by separated friends and lovers, but haven’t found a reference to that custom online.  The man’s clothing includes a cap with tiny brim, collarless shirt and neckerchief, a vest, a suit jacket (probably secondhand), and patched trousers.

Using Cartoons in Addition to Photographs

Obviously cartoons have to be used to supplement — not replace — other primary sources, such as photographs. However, you may find that learning to recognize character types and occupations from cartoons will help you to interpret period photographs. It’s also easier to see the construction details, like seams, in line drawings.

Great Drawings . . . from Punch shows working people in occupational dress, from 1880s policemen (useful for Sherlock Holmes films) to sales clerks and butchers of the Victorian era.

A butcher, 1883, a grocer, 1873, shoe salesmen, 1880. From Great Drawings ... from Punch.

A butcher, 1883, a greengrocer’s shop, 1873, shoe salesmen, 1880. From Great Drawings … from Punch.

Twentieth Century Cartoons

The many Collections of cartoons from the New Yorker show examples of the clothing styles of the 1920s, 50s, 60s, etc. Although they are not as elaborately drawn as Victorian era cartoons, social position is often crucial to New Yorker jokes, so they are helpful in getting a feeling for the decade you are researching. I saw a marvellous production of Merry Wives of Windsor at the RSC in the 1980s; it was set in the 1950s and evoked a world I knew well from the copies of Punch I used to read in my college library in the 1960s. Click here for Falstaff as an ex-RAF type. (The production designer was William Dudley.)

My favorite modern cartoonist, when it comes to clothing, is Dan Piraro, who writes Bizarro. I used to have a batch of his clothing-related cartoons pinned above the ironing table in the costume shop. I love his books.

The cover of Too Bizarro, by Dan Piraro, 1988.

The cover of Too Bizarro, by Dan Piraro, 1988. Please do not copy this image.

When is comes to capturing 20th century characters and occupational dress, Bizarro may be the future researcher’s equivalent of Punch. I pulled just one collection, called Sumo Bizarro (1990), off my shelf and found — in addition to the pirates, cowboys, clowns and other obvious ‘costume’ characters — a TV cameraman, fortune tellers, guys on the make, repairmen, mechanics, short order cooks, used car salesmen, deliverymen, waiters, doctors, executives, the wealthy (with their drivers) and the homeless, people attending a high school reunion, road workers, fast food workers (in a whole line of different uniforms), chefs, tourists, farmers, furniture movers, muggers, pretentious guests at an art gallery, duck hunters, campers, and hardhats. All these characters were described “in shorthand,” so to speak — just the essentials. Someday, Bizarro may be very useful to a costume designer.

Same character, different eras: The sleazy guy in the Bizarro cartoon (1980s) was known as a masher in an earlier day. (Punch, 1856)

Same character, different eras: The sleazy guy, with mustache and lots of hair, in a Bizarro cartoon (1980s) and his counterpart, ogling young ladies, in Punch, 1856. Please do not copy this image.

Fifty years from now, people may be using cartoons to understand clothing and personality types in the twentieth century. (Click here for a group of philosophers from the  New Yorker (2007) — a modern version of those Bohemians from Punch in 1930.)

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Women in Trousers

Two Piece Bathing Suits, 1930s

I was looking for an illustration of men’s swimsuits from the 1930s for a post about Tattoo brand makeup. I found this:

Illustration by Cordrey from Woman's Home Companion, April 1937.

Illustration by Cordrey from Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937.

That woman’s print bathing suit on the right looked familiar — and it was.  I had posted its photograph from an article about cruise wear that appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1936:

Photograph of swimsuits, Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Photograph of swimsuits, Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

Not just the bathing suit, but the pose is very similar. So is the hairstyle. It’s an intriguing insight into how illustrators worked. [Note: The illustration is not from the same magazine as this photo, but this is apparently the reference photo used for the drawing which was made a year later.] To see more fashions from this article about 1936 cruise clothes, click here.  [I remember that a very similar print in the same color was available as a chintz decorator fabric in the 1980s. I made a tablecloth from it. Fashion recycling keeps on happening….]

Technically, I doubt that it’s a two piece swimsuit; the top is probably attached to the waist of the shorts in front, like this white bathing suit from the black and white illustration: WHC april 1937 p 3 nmen bathing suits tans illus Cordrey 500

While searching for the print swimsuit photo, I found some other inspiring red (or pink) and white print bathing suits for 1936 – 37:

Story illustration by a. parker for The Delineator, May 1937.

Story illustration by a. parker for The Delineator, May 1937.

Butterick Early Spring Home Catalog, 1936. From an ad in The Delineator. This is Butterick pattern No. 6586.

Butterick Early Spring Home Catalog, 1936. From an ad in The Delineator. This is Butterick pattern No. 6586.

I also like this two-piece red and white swimsuit decorated with seahorses, issued by McCall’s in 1950:

"No. 1552, the Glamour Mermaid swim- or sun- suit." McCall Needlework Catalogue, May 1950.

“No. 1552, the Glamour Mermaid swim- or sun- suit.” McCall Needlework Catalogue, May 1950.

The skirt-like shorts from 1936 were still around in 1950. There were versions for adults or for little girls. For complete descriptions, see the mother and daughter fashions by clicking here.

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Filed under 1930s, Bathing Suits, Hairstyles, Menswear, Sportswear, Swimsuits