American women had been reading about the active wartime roles of women in France and Germany since 1914. Here, a few months after the U.S. entered the first World War, softly feminine (although thick-waisted) styles appear beside clothes that look like uniforms.
During World War I, patterns for pseudo-military uniforms appeared for women who wanted to wear them while volunteering for war-related charities. (The Red Cross and other agencies soon prescribed their own — official — uniforms, with strict regulations about wearing them. Click here.) I’ll show these dresses and their descriptions in detail later in this post; first, here is the second full color fashion page from this issue of Delineator:
Some of these outfits are one-piece dresses, but often what looks like a dress turns out to be a blouse (sometimes called a “waist”) pattern with a separate skirt pattern. That allowed a great deal of customization, and I always enjoy seeing illustrations of the same skirt with several tops, or vice versa.
Starting at top left of the first color plate:
“It has the popular wide collar and large pockets…. A very good design for misses [i.e., teens] as well as women.”
What makes this a “Russian Blouse?” I have no idea. Research project for somebody….
” ‘Who goes there?’ The answer — a new suit with smart military cape and pockets receives a salute from Fashion. . . . The cape is removable. . . The suit is a splendid design for misses [i.e., ages 15 to 20] as well as women.” This same skirt, No. 9311, was also shown with the long, dotted blouse No. 9311.
The pattern descriptions page included two more contrasting styles, a loose embroidered dress beside another version of the piped coat with military pockets and insignia:
This is the same military-influenced coat, No. 9324, that was shown above in a tan, caped version.
“It is a splendid model for the woman who wants something newer and more picturesque than the severely tailored suit.” [Top it with a Rough Riders hat?]
The one-piece dress above, No. 9326, has big, triangular, embroidered pockets something like this one, shown in color:
It’s interesting that the blue dress, No. 9323, is described as appealing “to the woman who does not care for the one-piece frocks.” But it is a one-piece frock, with several sleeve variations. The checked dress, No. 9331, has a more complicated cut than you would think from the color illustration. This issue of Delineator had a separate article about gingham dresses.
This blue and tan dress is worn with an exaggerated military cap; Butterick also sold embroidery transfers for military insignia like the one on this dress’s sleeve.
“The attractive military lines . . . military pockets and collar . . . maintain the martial spirit. . . . It is pretty for a young girl. . . . Sizes 32 to 44 inches bust measure.”
Two more black and white illustrations appeared with the descriptions of the color images on page 43.
Both are waist and skirt combinations, and both outfits use the same skirt pattern, No. 9316. When the folds are buttoned together, as on the left, it is called an “envelope effect.”
It’s possible that the Delineator magazine was especially militaristic, but this coat ad from the Ladies’ Home Journal also shows a military influence on women’s ready-to-wear:
7 responses to “Butterick Fashions for August, 1917”
These are so cute!! I wish we still dressed like this!! Thanks for these wonderful articles. Sincerely, Debra
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I don’t think that the Delineator was especially militaristic–I’ve seen similar styles in Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. But I am fascinated by that supposedly “Russian” style. As far as I know, things described as Russian usually had embroidery.
Thanks for confirming that. All the women’s magazines printed official instructions from various government agencies, too, as well as official instructions for volunteers, from the Red Cross, etc. Authentic, approved uniforms were described in later 1917 issues, but Butterick and Ladies Home Journal rushed in with their own ideas first –= probably because of the long lead time for illustrated magazines.
Pocket! Pockets Everywhere! Buttons! Buttons everywhere!
So interesting. In 1917, in the early days of the USA’s involvement in the war, Good Housekeeping ran an article that told women to expect military influences in fashion for the duration. It was a very interesting time in fashion.
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