According to Type: December 1937 Styles for Four Kinds of Figure

Just when you think you’re starting to understand the styles of a certain period, surprises come along.

Dresses According to Type. Butterick Fashion News, December 1937.

Dresses According to Type. Butterick Fashion News, December 1937.

These four dress patterns were presented as appropriate for four different types of figure — and different ages. Can you tell which is which? The bodies illustrated don’t help much.

One is “For the Smart Matron,” one is “For Junior Miss Figures,” one is “For Shorter Women of Larger Hip,” and one is “For Misses 5 feet 4 inches and under.” Try matching the description to the dress without being able to see the face and hair: dec 1937 BFn numbered no faces 500

Does it help to know that this dress, from the same issue, is a “Junior Miss frock?”

Companion-Butterick pattern 7633, for Junionr Miss sizes 12 -20 or bust measurements 30" to 38". December 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7633, for Junior Miss, sizes 12 -20 or bust measurements 30″ to 38″. Butterick Fashion News, December 1937.

Not very youthful, is it?

Answers

The fact that the two figures on the left are in active poses while those on the right are standing still is a big hint. Those are styles for larger and older women. Here are the descriptions, from left to right in the main illustration.

Butterick 7643, for Misses 5'4" and under, sizes 12 to 20, and bust 30 to 40". Dec. 1937.

Butterick pattern 7643, for Misses 5’4″ and under, sizes 12 to 20, and bust 30 to 40″. Dec. 1937.

Butterick pattern 7620 for junior miss figures, sizes 12 -20, or bust 30 to 38."

Butterick pattern 7620 for Junior Miss figures, sizes 12 -20, or bust 30 to 38.”

Butterick pattern 7647 for Shorter Women of Larger Hip. Bust sizes 34 to 48."

Butterick pattern 7647 for Shorter Women of Larger Hip. Bust sizes 34 to 50.”

Butterick pattern 7645 for the Smart Matron, bust 34 to 48."

Butterick pattern 7645 “for the Smart Matron — a draped dress with slim skirt.” Bust 34 to 48.”

I think the Smart Matron has the profile of Barbara Stanwyck. She certainly does not look like a woman with a 48″ bust, with waist and hips to match . . . . Readers of The Lost Art of Dress may recall that draped bodices and skirts were only considered appropriate for women in their 30s or older, women “of a certain age” and level of sophistication.

Back views, 7643, 7620, 7647, 7645.

Back views, 7643, 7620, 7647, 7645.

The woman of larger hip (7647) would probably benefit from a center back seam in her skirt to match the one in front.

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6 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

6 responses to “According to Type: December 1937 Styles for Four Kinds of Figure

  1. No. I completely failed to get that one right. In fact the dress with the deep V neck is for a pear shaped woman, whereas I would have picked this for someone with a large bust. I am not sure what a “matron” is – is she a woman with grown up children? The dress is pretty nice, but I would match this dress with an hour glass figure, but not a heavy one. I imagine in it made in black or a deep velvet. The Misses dress is the only one I picked out, mainly because the swingy skirt looks youthful, with a high necked top. I imagine this in deep red velvet.

  2. After reading a ton of advertisements, I can tell you that a “matron” in the twenties and thirties was simply a married woman (or a woman old enough to be married.) There were “young matrons” and “older matrons.” The word didn’t have the negative connotation that it does today. And I must say that I guessed the dress for the shorter woman with wider hip (aka older) from the expression on her face. However, I agree that the style doesn’t make a lot of sense. It actually looks like a dress for someone with big breasts.

    • Thank you for clarifying “matron.” Yes, the dress for “wider hip” does seem to emphasize the bust. Perhaps the intent is to focus attention on the upper half of the body, but so far the consensus is that it’s not a helpful design for the pear-shaped. Maybe they just meant the pattern would fit a larger hip.

      • Leigh Ann

        As a “shorter woman with larger hip,” I actually think this dress would work very well. The shoulder interest and the deep V neckline would help balance the hips. I expect the pattern was designed with more ease in the hip area as well,

      • I, too, am pear-shaped — narrow shoulders, too. I agree that it’s a
        good idea to attract interest to the upper body and shoulders. I’m
        also a great fan of center seams like the one in the front of this
        skirt — a subtle vertical line to draw the eye to the center, rather
        than the sides.
        Butterick made a line of patterns for wide-hipped women in the 1930s,
        like this one. Lately I’ve been surprised to learn that normal-sized
        1920s patterns from Butterick assumed that the hips would be three
        inches wider than the bust. I’d never guess that from the fashion
        illustrations, though.

  3. its interesting I kind of like matron looks but then I like youthful ones too. I tend to dress all over the place vintage wise

    retro rover

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