1931 Evening Dresses: The “Bustle Influence”

“The Bustle Returns, Greatly Changed” proclaimed The Delineator in December, 1931.

cover of The Delineator, December, 1931

Cover of The Delineator, December, 1931  (To my surprise, white artificial trees were available then.)

The wine-colored evening dress on the cover and the evening gowns inside the magazine definitely show a “back interest” that had disappeared during the 1920s.

The trend had been mentioned in the previous month, when the dress on the left, Butterick pattern 4149, was described as having “The 1880 Influence.” [Only a fashion writer could see it. . . .]

Butterick pattern 4149, November 1931. The Delineator.

Butterick pattern 4149, November 1931. The Delineator.

Butterick 4149: “The 1880 Influence: A bow almost as big as the bustles of 1880 marks the period that has influenced this gown. The twisted sash is a smart touch. The deep V décolletage, wide at the shoulders, makes the waistline seem small. Designed for sizes 14 to 18; 32 to 44.”

In fact, the bow in back bears very little resemblance to the bustle dresses of 1884-89:

Bustle evening gown, 1885, from 20,000 Years of Fashion.

Bustle evening gown, 1885, from 20,000 Years of Fashion.

(And this article long preceded Diana Vreeland’s era of fashion writing.) Another sign that the twenties were over is the importance of making “the waistline seem small.”

This dress, also from the November 1931 issue, shows a much more elaborate back:

Butterick dress 4189 and wrap 4156. The Delineator, November 1931.

Butterick dress 4189 and wrap 4156. The Delineator, November 1931.

Butterick 4189, New-Old: “It’s the draped hipline that shows the polonaise origin of this taffeta gown. The drapery rises in back to the waistline where a great bow is posed. The flare sweeps upward too. The smoothly fitted bodice has a deep V décolletage. Designed for 32 to 40 [inch bust.]

“Bustle” Dresses for Evening, December 1931

Butterick patterns 4195 (left) and 4129 (right) December 1931. The Delineator magazine.

Butterick patterns 4195 (left) and 4219 (right) December 1931. The Delineator magazine.

Butterick 4195, Apron Silhouette: “A flare that crosses the front of this frock and rises in back like a frivolous apron, is finished at the waistline by a bow – a diminutive descendant of the bustle. The small sketch shows how the epaulet capes turn into a collar. Designed for 32 to 40 [inches.] Scroll down to the bottom of this page for the “small sketch,” or alternate view.

Butterick 4219, The Bustle Bow: “This charming, dull dark blue lace frock turns its back to show a huge bow of wine-red taffeta – reminiscent of the bustle on grandmama’s ball gown. Across the front the taffeta is applied at an angle. Frock designed for sizes 14 to 20 [years]; 32 to 38″ [bust.] The alternate view of this dress has puffy sleeves. See below.

Although the illustrations are in black and white, the color descriptions — like “dark blue lace” with “wine-red taffeta” or “ivory white and emerald green” are worth noticing.

Butterick patterns 4199 and 4204, December 1931. The Delineator.

Butterick patterns 4199 and 4204, December 1931. The Delineator.

Butterick 4199, A New Twist: “Ivory white and emerald green are twisted into shoulder straps and girdle for this evening gown. The back peplum is one of the things fashion is using to give the effect of a bustle to the newest evening gowns. Designed for sizes 14 to 18 [years]; 32 to 40 [inches.]” Notice the complex cut of the skirt, with long narrow panels that converge and flare. They do the same in front.

Butterick 4204, Strap Back Décolletage: “Much goes on behind the backs of new gowns. This one, simple and molded in front, has the strap décolletage that is so smart, and a chou at the waistline that shows the influence of the bustle. [“Chou” is the French word for cabbage – and also a term of endearment.] Designed for sizes 14 to 20 [years]; 32 to 38″ [bust.] The alternate front view shows 4204 without ruffles, for a much sleeker look.

The gown on the left, below, has a twisted trim similar to No. 4199 and the sash of 4149.

Butterick evening dress patterns 4222 & 4226, December 1931. The Delineator.

Butterick dinner dress patterns 4222 & 4226, December 1931. The Delineator. The one on the right has a velvet and mink jacket.

Butterick 4222, Black and White Satin: “The raison d’être of this black satin dinner dress is its white top that covers the shoulders in little capelets, is twisted at the front, and crosses over to form a sash that ties at the back. Fan shaped flare front and back. Designed for 32 to 40. [Bust]

Butterick 4226, A Bit of a Jacket: “Beige velvet and mink are a combination of great elegance for the dinner gown. The waist-length jacket has a narrow sash crossed over in the front and tied in the back. A yoke of Alençon lace tops the frock. The dress on the right is shown in two versions, evening and mid-calf length. Designed for sizes 14 to 18; 32 to 42.

Alternate views of Butterick pattern 4226. December 1931.

Alternate views of Butterick pattern 4226. December 1931.

Here are alternate views for the patterns featured in the December, 1931 issue:

Alternate views of 4222, 4226, 4218, 4199, 4204, 4195, & 4219

Alternate views of 4222, 4226, 4218, 4199, 4204, 4195, & 4219

Not all of these dresses were pictured & described above. I love the flared godet, front and back,  in number 4222. It’s impossible to see many of these designs without thinking of Vionnet’s influence.

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4 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Vintage patterns

4 responses to “1931 Evening Dresses: The “Bustle Influence”

  1. I saw Vionette’s influence as well. With godets and v shaped inserts, none of these dresses look all that easy to sew.

    • I agree. Butterick was aimed at a middle class market — most towns had “a little dressmaker” or two, whose skills earned them the complex dressmaking jobs. Sidelight: At a lecture on Vionnet I learned that she usually didn’t cut on the bias; when possible she cut on the straight grain and rotated the pieces on the body, so most of her seams were not bias-to-bias. Of course, she also had fabrics specially woven to very large widths, which allowed her to base many evening designs on a quarter-circle, cut on the straight and rotated so the bias hung vertically. Genius.

  2. That Delineator magazine cover is one of my all time favorites!

    I love the ’30s styles with all the geometric seams and godets – I am weird and really enjoy what I call “point sewing”.

  3. Pingback: Formal Frocks for the Holidays, December 1928 | witness2fashion

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