Some 1930’s Evening Gowns, and What to Wear Under Them

Evening gowns from Companion-Butterick patterns 7073 ans 7083. Woman's Home Companion, November 1936.

Evening gowns from Companion-Butterick patterns #7073 and #7083. Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936.

Although they were available in both women’s and misses’ [teens’] sizes, the illustration shows these patterns from 1936 being worn by sophisticated women. Fashion Editor Ethel Holland Little recommends “this pale pink satin or the dusty blue jacquard crepe [only] if they are becoming. If not, you can go in for tomato red or emerald green or again keep to black or a dark grape color.”

Text accompanying Companion-Butterick patterns 7073 & 7083, WHC Nov. 1936.

Text accompanying Companion-Butterick patterns 7073 & 7083, WHC Nov. 1936.

I love the braided neckline on #7073, and the slenderizing vertical lines on #7083, which also shows a glittering Art Deco belt buckle with matching dress clips.

Details of Patterns #7073 and #7083, Nov. 1936.

Details of Patterns #7073 and #7083, Nov. 1936.

Number 7083 has a matching jacket; both show low, bare backs accented with a row of tiny buttons.

Alternate views of Companion-Butterick #7073 and #7083, 1936.

Alternate views of Companion-Butterick patterns #7073 and #7083, 1936.

Women with perfect figures might wear these gowns with just a smoothing “Softie” girdle, but those who were not as young and firm as they used to be had quite a selection of foundation garments to choose from. This “Flexees” foundation ad was frank about its target customer in 1937:

Ad for Flexees foundation garment, Woman's Home Com[anion, Dec. 1937.

“Years from your Waistline, Inches from your Age.” Ad for Flexees foundation garments, Woman’s Home Companion, Dec. 1937.

“Nowadays a woman’s as young as her figure, and FLEXEES is her greatest rejuvenator. The extra inches that come with years . . . the years suggested by extra inches . . .both surrender to FLEXEES. And it’s a permanent surrender, because FLEXEES patented bias panels . . . Twin and Super Control . . . teach your body to retain the lovely lines in which they mold it. At your favorite store — Girdles, $3.50 to $15 — Combinations, $5 to $35. “

[In 1936, a female college graduate could expect to earn about $20 per week. Click here. Foundation garments from Sears were much less expensive. (Click here for examples.)

These two back-baring gowns are from 1934:

Butterick pattern 5531, Feb. 1934, The Delineator magazine.

Butterick evening gown pattern #5531, Feb. 1934, from The Delineator magazine.

Butterick pattern #5745, June 1934, The Delineator magazine.

Butterick evening gown pattern #5745, June 1934, from The Delineator magazine.

This nearly backless Gossard foundation garment was advertised in The Delineator in April of 1932:

Gossard "Simplicity Junior" foundation garment ad; Delineator, April 1932.

Gossard “Simplicity Junior” foundation garment ad; The Delineator, April 1932.

"Simplicity Junior" from Gossard, April 1932 advertisement.

“Simplicity Junior” foundation garment from Gossard, April 1932 advertisement.

“If you are slim . . .  regardless of your age . . . you can have a debutante’s figure. This silken under-fashion molds your figure without the aid of a single bone. The clever brassiere part gives a pointed outline to the bust, and the back is low enough for your most daring gown. . . .”

The following ad for Flexees — a boneless corset probably knitted from the new rubber called Lastex — appeared in Woman’s Home Companion just one month after these dress patterns.

Evening gowns from Companion-Butterick patterns 7073 ans 7083. Woman's Home Companion, November 1936.

Evening gowns from Companion-Butterick patterns 7073 & 7083. Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936.

Flexees ad, Woman's Home Companion, Dec. 1936.

Flexees ad, Woman’s Home Companion, Dec. 1936.

“Flexees — the modern corset. Twin-Control for the average figure — Super-Control for the full figure. At all good stores.”

Of course, not even a low-backed “modern corset” could be worn under this spectacular sequinned gown, also from 1936:

A sequin covered gown with "back interest" from April, 1936. Woman's Home Companion.

A sequin-covered gown with “back interest” from April, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion.

This photo is from an ad for Listerine mouthwash. I suspect that any woman who could wear this dress on the red carpet today, would wear it! That’s what I call a classic.

4 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Foundation Garments, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs

4 responses to “Some 1930’s Evening Gowns, and What to Wear Under Them

  1. I’ve read that the back was the erogenous zone of the thirties. These dresses are evidence.

  2. D

    Erogenous zones ??!! Yes, I’m sure you are right about bare backs. From what I understand all parts of the female body have been erogenous at some time and some part of the world. Desmond Morris has written some books on this subject….and I’ve forgotten what he said!

    It’s always dangerous to analyze fashions too deeply, but I think the bare back was popular because….
    …it showed that the wearer was modern because you could not wear a real corset with a bare back. This sent all kinds of messages about women’s liberty etc.

    …When dancing the man’s hand would be on BARE FLESH – horror of horrors. Not many years before this time a man’s hand would be resting on the strong female defenses of coutil and boning of the corset. We should not underestimate the shocking nature of this.

    D

  3. Those dresses look gorgeous! I’d love to have a go at making something like that, but it seems so hard to get those fully backless slips/corsets now (at least, it is here).

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