I bought some counter catalogs at an estate sale, and found, tucked inside, two copies of Prevue, a newsprint pattern flyer, for August 1939. One featured Du Barry patterns, and the other showed Simplicity patterns for the same month.
I already had the Butterick Fashion News for September 1939, so it was fun comparing the styles from three companies. (Incidentally, DuBarry patterns were made by Simplicity, specifically for sale at Woolworth stores. The designs were not the same. Woolworth wanted to offer a ten cent pattern, at a time when Simplicity patterns sold for fifteen to twenty-five cents. Patterns with the Simplicity name were sold at Woolworth’s competitors, like S.S. Kresge and Sears and Roebuck. Source: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery, pp 119 – 122.)
The Sheer Black Dress from Du Barry
In the Fall of 1939, patterns for the sheer black dress were being offered by all three companies, DuBarry, Simplicity, and Butterick. This dress, from the cover of the Du Barry Fashions Prevue, was also pictured in a violet print and as a sheer afternoon frock:
The length is just below the knee:
“Choose this sheer afternoon frock for sheer flattery. Sizes 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42. Slide Fastener for side placket 9″.”
Simplicity’s Sheer Black Dresses, August 1939
Simplicity showed two different patterns made up as day dresses or as sheer afternoon frocks:
Patterns 3139 and 3150 were shown under the caption “Slenderizing Dresses.” Style 3139 came in sizes for bust 32″ to 44.” Style 3150 came in young women’s sizes 12 to 20; the largest bust measurement available was only 40 inches. However, sizes 12 to 20 were generally for a shorter woman than the sizes sold by bust measurement. Both patterns came with either long or short sleeves. Pattern 3139 is shown in a sheer print fabric, which might be either black or navy — the flyer doesn’t mention color. It has a slenderizing line of buttons down the front from neckline to hem. The other (3150) has that clever, slenderizing bow — not too wide — at the center of the waist, plus a V-neck. It’s amazing how sophisticated it looks without the ruffled trim.
Companion-Butterick’s Sheer Black Dress for September, 1939
“Companion-Butterick 8556: Sheer stark black — smart and as new as tomorrow’s newspapers. Soft surplice forms a belt in back. . . . Sizes 12 to 20, 30 to 44.”
That unusual bodice detail — the “surplice” — appears in Butterick pattern number 8557, too:
However, the surplice drape appears to be topstitched when the dress is not sheer, and the back treatment is different on this dress:
For more about Companion-Butterick patterns, click here.
8 responses to “Sheer Black Dresses, Fall 1939”
Such a significant year. One of the first books in my fashion history collection was related to 1939-1945. The outbreak of war had a huge impact on western fashion and I often wonder how trends would have developed if war had never started.
Was that book Julian Robinson’s Fashion in the Forties, by any chance? I’ve been thinking about that, too. I need to really read the clothing & fabric rationing regulations from England & US. Fashion in the Forties shows hints of the “New Look” in Paris in the early forties — especially emphasis on hips. He uses lots of British photos, and you can really see the impact of fabric limitation.
There was also a time during the Napoleonic Wars when English women no longer had access to French Fashion Dolls and fashion plates — and fashions diverged for a few years. I saw an exhibit in England over thirty years ago, and haven’t read about it since then! I guess it’s time to go looking.
Yes it was that little book. Still a very good reference.
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