My local Public Broadcasting Station has shown Downton Abbey Revisited so many times in the past few weeks that I suspect a new season is about to begin. I realize they’re somewhere in the 1920s by now — I lost interest many episodes ago — but I still have some lovely color images of 1917 fashions from the American fashion magazine Delineator to share. [Back and alternate views — sometimes surprising — may be found at the bottom of the post.]
Starting at the top of the page:
Butterick patterns 9375, 9363, 9326
A “waist” is what we call a blouse. Waist and skirt patterns were commonly sold separately, but often made up of matching fabrics and called a “frock.” Butterick suggested that either of the outfits below could also be made in navy or dark blue serge; the dress on the right was suitable for “serge, gabardine, checks and stripes” and would also be “pretty in marine blue, smoke gray, beige, soft green or claret color.” Note the red pocket lining and stitching. Parallel rows of decorative topstitching made a popular trim in 1917. (Click here and scroll to the bottom of that post for a photo.) That’s quite a lovely jeweled belt — very Arts & Crafts, like this set of hairpins.
Butterick 9369, 9316, 9384
The French blue Georgette top (below, no. 9369) with matching midnight blue satin skirt (9316) is worn for afternoon or tea — tea dances were popular — but for “general wear fine serge or gabardine with a satin; [sic] silk crepe or chiffon cloth body and sleeve would be good-looking and useful.” Pullover dress 9384 is shown made of “mustard color broadcloth. The soft sleeve shown here is cut with a pointed outline that ends with a fascinating bell tassel of dark blue to match the deep indigo satin of the collar and cord sash. . . . One piece frocks are worn in navy, beige, Burgundy, dust color, prune or brown.”
Skirt 9316 is illustrated in two versions, with the “tonneau” skirt [below left] arranged “in four soft loops that are especially effective in the satin surfaced silk;” it can also be made as the “envelope” skirt [right] with the folds overlapped and apparently stitched or buttoned together — and trimmed with a tassel.The Tonneau Skirt, 1917
It must have taken a merchandising genius to persuade women that they wanted their hips to look like a “tonneau,” the French word for “barrel.” Nevertheless, they did; here is a photo of a California girl proudly showing off her new dress:
The “envelope” version of pattern 9316 (in light blue ) appeared at the bottom of the page, with this wine colored dress, No. 9381:
1917 was a good year for interesting hats, upswept hairstyles . . .
. . . novelty sleeves, plenty of buttons, tassels galore, and beautifully embroidered dresses. Butterick sold embroidery transfers and also the pattern for the handbag, at left, No. 10625.
Butterick patterns 9373, 9073, 9340, 9360
The salmon-colored top and skirt outfit below has a white satin collar, and the buttons are also satin-covered. “Deep patch pockets are embroidered in red and stitched in black.” [!] The blouse can be cut in a shorter length. For afternoon wear, the outfit should be made in satin; “serge, gabardine, wool jersey, stripes or checks make a useful morning and street costume during early Autumn.” [The alternate view of the Russian blouse — at the botttom of this post — looks very different.]
Above right: “Russian green and beige are the colors, soft silk and Georgette crepe the materials that make a frock of distinction for afternoon wear, teas and luncheons. . . . The two-piece skirt can be made with trimming pieces on the hips that give a graceful draped effect. [See the back view, further down.] It has a very soft, pretty silhouette and is made with a moderate amount of fullness.”
Butterick patterns 9350 and 9251
“In this frock of blue a draped front in bodice effect has a pointed closing fastened by a single big button. . . . The front of the waist forms a sash at the sides and ties over the back giving an attractive peplum impression. [Scroll down for a back view.] The two-piece skirt is arranged with drapery at the sides and gives the popular narrow lower edge and yet is not at all extreme. For evening wear there is a separate train that is very smart and graceful…. For general wear the serge frock is effective in dark blue, mastic, gray, dull red, brown, or prune color.” It could also be made as an afternoon frock in satin, charmeuse, crepe de Chine or crepe meteor “for receptions, tea, or matinee wear.” It’s not hard to imagine an evening version of this skirt, with a long train trailing after those tasseled side-poufs.
Back versions of three of these outfits were also fully illustrated:
Back (or alternate) views of Dress 9384 (the mustard one), waist 9340 with skirt 9360 (the green striped one), and 9381 (the Burgundy dress with sleeve tassels and front emboidery.) Apparently the woman on the left is not looking over her shoulder to ask, “Does this dress make my butt look big?” That was a “given” in most 1917 fashions. The alternate version of 9340 – 9360 [center] is very different from the “Russian green” striped version we saw before.
Other alternate and back views for the dresses in this post:
10 responses to “1917 Fashions Revisited”
Wow, I learned a lot here, including the official definition of “frock.” Here I thought it was just a fancy British expression for dress. And the tonneau skirt trend is fascinating. How amazing that you have photographs to document real women wearing them!
Only those two — I was surprised that I remembered where to find them! I keep thinking, “Wow, there was an era when saddlebag thighs were actually in style (or at least, not a problem). Too bad I missed it.”
I love these articles. Are these patterns available today?
Vintage patterns do show up on Ebay and other sites, but ones this old
are rare. There are people who specialize in recreated vintage
patterns — including Past Patterns, one of the oldest historical
replica companies. The Vintage Pattern Lending Library has some
patterns for 1917 https://vpll.3dcartstores.com/1910–1919_c_38.html
I am curious about the “frock” reference here. The historic usage I believe comes from Middle English from the French and is Germanic in origin. This is such an interesting period in fashion. Great examples.
One book I love is an anthology of articles from Vanity Fair magazine from the 1920s and 1930s. I always thought comic writers like Robert Benchley called women’s dresses “frocks” as a sort of patronizing joke, but now I find that women’s magazines used the term in their fashon coverage in the teens and twenties, and possibly earlier. Come to think of it, a “frock coat” implies even earlier use. Sometimes fashion vocabulary evolves to mean something different — as “a pair of bodies” — meaning a corset — evolved to “bodice”, meaning the top of a dress. Maybe some enterprising fashon student will do the research to write a “frock” paper.
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what kind of sleeve is this design
The pattern description (on page 50, Delineator, September 1917) for this illustration does not give a name for this sleeve. It is only described as a “full sleeve” which “flares above a deep cuff. You will have to do more research without my help.