I love the art deco “arrow” trim on the dress at center left, and the asymmetry on the dress at center right (it’s not a suit). Both are chic and probably influenced by Gabrielle Chanel, whose jersey tweed outfits were making news. She was also using pleats in 1925 – 1926.
“Chanel makes her famous sports frock of mixed beige and tobacco wool with a sweater blouse and an inverted plait at the front and back of the skirt which is not excessively narrow.”
In a later outfit, from July, 1926, the same year as the Butterick dress patterns, Chanel uses many pleats:
Butterick’s pattern illustrators also put their models in hats that resemble the ones shown with the Paris fashions.
Their dented and fold-over crowns seem to be inspired by the Phrygian cap which was a symbol of the French revolution. (Liberty, leading the people, wears a Phrygian cap in statues, paintings, and on these French stamps.)
Butterick 1163: “. . . Square neck in front and a tab yoke in back are Paris signing off [on this] frock. The arrangement of plaits in front of the straight skirt, the wide belt . . . and neck-band give the frock an air of individuality. Size 36 requires 2 1/4 yards of wool jersey 54 inches wide. Lower edge, plaits drawn out, 1 3/4 yard. For women sizes 32 to 44 inches bust.” [There are no pleats on the back of the dress. The front pleats seem to be stitched down.]
Butterick 1176: “The smart woman spends most of her life in sports clothes and evening clothes. A frock with the two-piece look in front and a flat, one-piece back, an unusual collar and a tab closing is an excellent style for worsted, wool crepe, or flat crepe. The lower edge is straight. Size 36 requires 2 yards of 54 inch tweed. The frock is suited to women 32 to 44 bust.”
Back when I had a sewing machine that didn’t do buttonholes (it was straight stitch only!) I would have been attracted to this dress because all the closures could be done with snaps.
Adjusting the Fashion Ideal to Reality
I’ve written before about how deceptive fashion illustrations can be (For “Fashion Illustration versus Fashion Reality, 1934” click here.) Just for fun, I drew Butterick 1176 on a more “normal” eight head figure by Jack Hamm:
In the illustration from Jack Hamm’s book Drawing the Head and Figure, which I have modified to show the “heads” as a unit of measurement, there are four “heads” from crown to bottom of the torso and four “heads” from there to the ground. The heel — supporting weight — is at 7 1/2 heads.
A cutter/draper working from the original fashion illustration would have to work from a few fixed points, as I did: the longer lapel comes to about the bust point (scroll down to see); the bottom of the “jacket” probably stops at the top of the thigh, or it will crease when she sits. (The button tabs ought to have been scaled down on my sketch.) I personally believe that costume sketches should be drawn on an eight head figure, so the director and actors — and the costume shop — will have a more truthful idea of what the design will look like on a normal human being. It’s cheaper to solve problems on paper than in fabric.
Without computer generated imagery, an actress will never look like this:
If she’s never seen the impossible ideal, an actress may be willing to look like this:
In fact, since this dress has a long front opening, the sides can be tapered to look less bulky and more flattering. The sleeves can be tighter. A costume shop would probably build this dress with an inner lining that enables the skirt to hang from the shoulders, keeping the blouson in place, rather than depending on the belt to do it. [Tricks of the trade!]
9 responses to “Butterick Pleated Dresses with Hats from 1926”
Love the “Tips and Tricks!” Would apply to real life as well!
Oh, excellent! Even though I know these illustrations are written as an “ideal” and that no one in real life can possibly measure up, I still find myself wanting it, somehow. Seeing it on a “real” model is so helpful! I so wish the illustrators would do this as a matter of course–it would not only train our eyes for reality (and thus avoid disillusionment), but is just as lovely.
I’ve come to realize that what I see as “twenties fashion” comes from around 1926! These are wonderful–especially that arrow.
Beautifully illustrated! And if you look at photos from the era you’ll find that most women looked a lot like your drawing.
Although I love 1920s fashion illustrations, I love how you showed what it would ACTUALLY look like, so great!
And wouldn’t it be great to have 3 or 4 body types, with the sketch of a particular design applied to each, so we could see whether we had a chance of achieving an attractive look?
Another option of keeping the blouson bloused was to create the skirt with a yoke and the top hanging over it.
Thanks for this lovely post!
Thanks. If this impulse strikes in the future, I’ll try to do a better job. I imagine people who make and wear vintage fashions get used to “translating” — no one could believe those drawings of 1930s hips! At least many modern pattern envelopes have photos now (Hooray — we can see what the dress will look like on a very thin woman who’s at least 5′ 9″ !)
“It’s cheaper to solve problems on paper than in fabric”
Yes! Yes, a thousand times yes! I’ve worked with designers who are so particular about the garment looking EXACTLY like the sketch, and others who are surprised when we copy the details as they are drawn. Sketch what you want, and you’re more likely to get it (and actors and directors won’t envision something different)!
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