The “suspender skirt” — called the “Pretty Peggy Skirt” in the Fall 1925 Sears catalog — was available in several Butterick patterns for women and girls during 1925. I hate to keep mentioning Downton Abbey, but I remembered seeing suspender skirts in Delineator magazine because Lady Edith recently appeared wearing one. (She was photographed mostly from the waist up, so I can’t be absolutely certain, but it looked like she was wearing a dark suspender skirt with a white blouse in the brief scene where she told Tom that she intended to leave Downton Abbey without talking to anyone.)
It’s a rather strange fashion, and was sometimes described as a skirt, and sometimes as a dress. In America today, we’d be inclined to call it a “jumper,” meaning a sleeveless dress designed to be worn over a blouse. (“Jumper” is one of those words, like “braces” and “vest,” which mean a completely different piece of clothing in the U.K.) Sometimes, as above, it was scooped to above the natural waist, but some versions appear to be open so low that the blouse wrinkles.
Designers had already shown one-piece dresses with a curved contrasting “bib,” one of many ploys for adding a vertical element, or a contrasting element near the face, to mid-1920’s fashions.
The suspender skirt, however, was a skirt with wide shoulder straps — often bias bound — and a low, curved front, worn over a separate blouse. Patterns were available for women, teens ( called “misses”) and girls. In adult sizes, patterns for the blouse and skirt were sold separately, sometimes with a matching jacket or vest pattern, too. Suspender skirts for girls, however, included the blouse pattern — probably because child-sized patterns used less paper.
Many of the suspender skirts were shown over blouse pattern 5903, which has a smocked neckline and “folk” embroidery.
In 1925, dresses were often shown with a decorative handkerchief hanging out of the pocket, like most of these.
In this version, the coat is lined with the plaid wool used for the skirt. The blouse, Butterick 5498, first appeared in 1924.
The pattern descriptions for skirts #5997 and #5979 appear below.
Suspender skirt #5979, on the right above, was also illustrated in red, with a sleeveless jacket and contrast binding:
The vocabulary was not always used precisely; the outfit on the left, below, was called a “suspender skirt” and blouse, but the one on the right was described as a “dress” and blouse. They are shown with two versions of the same blouse, #5508, from 1924.
Another thing worth noting, for the light it sheds on pattern production: all but one of the suspender skirts have exactly the same back.
Personally, I suspect that the reason why this style only appeared for a short time was that it’s a bad design; with the back scoop as low as the front scoop, the straps would fall off your shoulder every time you reached down, especially when you were sitting. Only #5997 solves the problem with a higher scoop in back than in front. If you make a suspender skirt, copy this back.
11 responses to “Suspender Skirts, 1925”
Fascinating! I have never liked jumpers–somehow the blouse under the shoulders felt uncomfortable. Now here’s another reason to avoid them–the straps falling off.
I agree that the straps would fall off the shoulders. There was a brief fashion for “suspenders” in the early 70s, and I made the mistake of making a pair of shorts with them. Seems like I ended up cutting the darned things off.
When I did a search for “suspender skirts,” I was surprised at how many patterns from the 1940s through 1970s showed up. I remember a hated gray wool pleated skirt I had to wear in first grade; it had gray wool suspenders that crossed in the back — necessary to hold the skirt up, because at age five I had no hips! Those were the days . . . .
It will be interesting to see if these jumpers ever come back in fashion! Great post!
I’ve never seen this style so well referenced. Thank you. I think pinafore would be the English term. When I was costuming in the UK I don’t think I ever came across an example. I know you referenced Lady Edith and she could very well have worn this style but did it originate in Paris or was it an American “invention? ” I’d love to see a reference.
I don’t think the British would have called it a “suspender” skirt —
since they use ‘braces’ to hold up their trousers. My examples came from Butterick’s Delineator; Butterick sold patterns in France and England, but not necessarily the same ones — I only have access to the American edition. I also found a similar skirt for sale in the Sears Catalog for Fall 1925 and a pattern for one in the Sears catalog for 1926. So — all that connected it to Edith is a brief waist-up shot in a brief scene. (I don’t record Downtown Abbey, so all I have to go on is that the black and white outfit she was wearing triggered a memory. And I know how unreliable that can be!) As I remember it, her white blouse was wrinkling near the waist, just as in some of the Butterick illustrations. I haven’t had a chance to search for “pinafore skirts.” I’ll do another post, because I just figured out how to print an image from the Sears catalogs at ancestry.com.
I don’t think the British would have called it a “suspender” skirt — since they use ‘braces’ to hold up their trousers. My examples came from Butterick’s Delineator’; Butterick sold patterns in France and England, but not necessarily the same ones — I only have access to the American edition. I also found a similar skirt for sale in the Sears Catalog for Fall 1925 and a pattern for one in the Sears catalog for 1926. So — all I have for Edith is a brief waist-up shot in a brief scene. (I don’t tape Downtown Abbey, so all I have to go on is that the black and white outfit she was wearing triggered a memory. And I know how unreliable that can be! As I remember it, her white blouse was wrinkling near the waist, just as in some of the Butterick illustrations. I haven’t had a chance to search for “pinafore skirts.” I’ll do another post, because I just figured out how to print an image from the Sears catalogs. I found the Sears example — the “Pretty Peggy Skirt” — in the catalog at ancestry.com, but I can’t figure out how to convert the images to jpg. A search for “Pretty Peggy” led to song lyrics, a kind of doll, and — so far — no other skirts. A “Peggy” skirt was also popular in the 1950s — in England, it looks like a full skirt — no suspenders. American Age Fashion wrote about the fact that ancestry.com has purchased the rights to the complete Sears catalog collection and is putting them online — you need an ancestry.com subscription to see them ($19.99 per month) — but ancestry.com has a free two weeks trial offer if you want to check it out. The Sears link is in ancestry.com, under “search” > card catalog > collections > newspapers and publications > periodicals and magazines > Historic Catalogs of Sears Roebuck and Co. Once there, you can search by keywords, year (exact or plus/minus 1 year, etc.) You can print a zoomed image of the page — ther’s a tiny, olive green printer icon next to the facebook icon.
I agree “suspender skirts” would not likely have been a British term. I have never come across suspender skirts. Pinafore dresses exist. Cunnington refers to the term “suspenders” being used in the 19th century to hold up a sailor’s trousers. It is not clear why braces replaced suspenders in Britain and why suspenders is used in North America. And then there are sock suspenders. Another story.
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