On Writing Shorter — and About Shorter Styles

Detail of Camel cigarette ad, Delineator, March 1929.

Detail of Camel cigarette ad, Delineator, March 1929.

“Writing is easy. Editing is hard.” — witness2fashion

I keep trying to write shorter posts, really, I do, but one thing leads to another. I keep finding old images I want to share. Or I start to write about one thing — e.g., transitional hemlines in the late 192o’s  (“Going Down!”) — and realize that I also have images to share of transitional hemlines in the mid- 1920’s (“Going Up!”)  (Which led me to realize how short — in months, not hem length — the fashion era I think of as “the Twenties” really was!)

When I look at a fashion illustration from 1924 or 1925 , I am tempted to cover the bottom of the dress with my finger just to see what it would look like with a shorter, “real twenties” hem. (I did it in a photo program, instead. See the results farther down.)

Two dresses from 1924. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, June (left) and November.

Two dresses from 1924. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, June 1924 (left) and November 1924, right.

Just over one year later, styles had changed, and not only in length.

Butterick patterns for December, 1926. The dresses that were in style in 1924 look very long, indeed.

Butterick patterns for December, 1926. The dresses that were in style in 1924 look very long compared to these “classic” 1920’s fashions.

Since I’m interested in everyday fashions, I can’t help wondering how women on a limited budget coped with rapid fashion change. Of course, when you only own five or six dresses, they do wear out faster…. But many women trying to stay in style without buying a whole new wardrobe must have resorted to taking up hems and remaking dresses.

The styles of 1924 would need some alteration not to look old-fashioned, especially on young women. Did women shorten dresses  like this?

What if this dress from June, 1924, was shortened like this?

What if this dress from June, 1924, was shortened like this?

November 1924 dress, shortened for 1926 or 1927.

November, 1924 dress, shortened (in my computer) for 1926 or 1927. A clever girl would use the old hem fabric to make a hip-level belt, too.

I’ll be writing (at length — sorry!) about hems going up — and hems going down — in future posts. Notice how convenient it was for me to shorten these dresses where they already had a design line? That’s no coincidence…..

Hems had already started down again before 1929. The real problem that fascinates me is how women coped with dresses getting much longer (not such an easy alteration) just when the stock market crashed and unemployment skyrocketed in 1929-1930.

Nevertheless, this photo of a group of women with President Herbert Hoover in 1931 shows that — at least among middle class women — the new hem length was uniform and widely worn.




Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns

15 responses to “On Writing Shorter — and About Shorter Styles

  1. Fascinating! I wonder if women maybe had one good dress that was right in style to wear for a formal event. And certainly a meeting with the president would qualify as a fancy dress up occasion.

    • You’re right; going to meet the President would be an occasion that would justify buying a new outfit. Thoreau advised, “Beware of all occasions that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

  2. D

    Please write long posts…..you are really interesting and set me thinking.


  3. Your digital shortening of the dresses makes me like them so much more! Very interesting!

    btw, I have trouble keeping my blog posts short too. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing as long you have a good balance of text and pictures (which you do!). It just means it more work for you!

  4. Nancy

    Your posts are never too long. I read every word and love it!

  5. Christina

    Alterations to increase dress or skirt lengths included adding a slightly longer bodice which would automatically drop the skirt length (the waist also began to be accentuated by belts and sashes) and the illusion of length by adding fluted drapes, frills and sheer overlays. Deep hems were added to appear as borders and a huge variety of embellishments were used as decorative devices. Lace, scalloped edging, beading, embroidered trim, brocade for example. Handkerchief hemlines and the inventive use of godets created the illusion of length and distracted the eye.

  6. How interesting! The length does make a huge difference in the overall appearance of the dress.

  7. Pingback: Going Up: Rising Hemlines, Border Prints, and Tunics, 1924-1925 | witness2fashion

  8. Joan

    Please leave your blogs as long as you like. They are never too long for me! Thanks for all the interesting info.

  9. Pingback: Wrap Skirt Pattern 1480, 1927 to 1930s | witness2fashion

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