One Coat, Five Dresses: Wardrobe for March, 1936

Companion-Butterick patterns and fashion advice, page 72, Woman's Home Companion for March 1936.

Companion-Butterick patterns and fashion advice, page 72, Woman’s Home Companion for March 1936.

Planning your wardrobe around your coat (assuming you have only one winter coat) has been good budget and fashion advice for a long time. In the Great Depression, it was fair to assume that most women had only one or two coats, period. And they were expected to last for at least two years. Click here for a 1936 clothing budget. However, The Woman’s Home Companion brightened its readers’ spirits by assuring them that they would be wearing the latest styles from Paris under that coat.

A choice of print dresses to wear with your coat. Companion-Butterick pattens from Woman's Home Companion, page 73, March 1936.

A choice of print dresses to wear with your coat. Companion-Butterick pattens from Woman’s Home Companion, page 73, March 1936.

The advice was to make one dress that matched the coat exactly, another in a contrasting color from the same pattern, and one in a print fabric.

Companion Butterick patterns for a dress, 6649, and a coat, 6655. WHC, March 1936, p. 72.

Companion Butterick patterns for a dress, 6649, and a coat, 6655. WHC, March 1936, p. 72.

The coat is Companion-Butterick Pattern 6655, available in bust sizes 30 through 46 inches.

WHC 1936 mar p 72 500 coat 6655 text

Dress No. 6649 was illustrated in two versions, one in a lively color, like the wine red shown above . . .

WHC 1936 mar p 72 500 two dresses 6649 text

. . . and another version of the same pattern in fabric to match the coat.

Companion Butterick dress pattern 6649, WHC, March 1936, page 72.

Companion Butterick dress pattern 6649, WHC, March 1936, page 72.

Companion-Butterick patterns often advised that you could save time and money by making two or three versions of the same pattern. Here are two bodice variations on No. 6649.

Companion -Butterick pattrn 6649 made in two different versions. March 1936.

Companion -Butterick pattern 6649 made in two different versions. March 1936.

Those square armholes are interesting, and the pockets are also sharply geometrical. The pattern envelope shows the version on the right, but without dress clips at the neckline.

Prints for Spring, 1936

Woman's Home Companion, March 1936.

Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936.

“Prints are as certain to come back with spring as the swallows. All the Paris dressmakers who stress spring clothes are using prints in quantity.” Quite a list of French couturiers are cited as inspiration: Mainbocher, Schiaparelli, Molyneux, Chanel, and Lelong.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6632, MArch 1936. WHC, p. 73.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6632, March 1936. WHC, p. 73.

Companion-Butterick patterns 6642 and 6638. WHC, p. 73, March 1936.

Companion-Butterick patterns 6642 and 6638. WHC, p. 73, March 1936.

WHC 1936 mar p 73 500 prints text 6642 6638

Printed Dresses for Sprint, 1936. Woman's Home Companion, p. 73, March 1936.

Printed Dresses for Spring, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 73, March 1936.

Here’s a pattern envelope for #6642, left.

Butterick and The Woman’s Home Companion

The Butterick  Publishing Company suddenly discontinued its own magazine, The Delineator, in Spring of 1937, but there was already an agreement in place with The Woman’s Home Companion to feature Companion-Butterick patterns in every issue. They debuted in this March, 1936, issue of WHC.  Companion-Butterick patterns usually stressed versatility:  several slightly differing dresses could be made from one pattern. The Delineator had always emphasized Butterick’s “Paris” connection; you can see traces of that attitude in this article by “Paris Fashion Correspondent” Marjorie Howard. The Woman’s Home Companion aimed a little lower on the economic scale, and acknowledged that its readers had to make their money go a long way during the Depression.

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7 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

7 responses to “One Coat, Five Dresses: Wardrobe for March, 1936

  1. i love the elegance of the 30s illustrations (sadly I dont believe the styles suit me)- i looked at the clothing budget link – interesting that shoe repairs were 25% of the shoe allowance for the year as proportionately i think that remains the same. I get my shoes repaired and re-heeled/soled once a year and although its what I prefer, it always feels relatively expensive (25 euro for a pair of boots) by comparison to fast fashion shoes and boots, so i can see why some people choose the false economy of one-size-fits-all synthetic cheap shoes over a better quality produce.

    • That’s really interesting! I’m only now becoming aware of the “disposable” cheap clothing binge, after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. My husband, who is hard to fit, bought his first pair of Mephisto shoes over 10 years ago. We were dismayed that they cost $250 — a lot of money for us. But he has them resoled and refurbished as needed; he has several pairs, so a pair lasts about 8 years. The cost of quality, averaged over the years of wear, is quite reasonable!

  2. Nancy N

    Wow, that blue flowered print is soooo Carole Lombard! I’m sorry delineator ceased production. I always loved their illustrations and descriptions. Seeing those square armholes reminds me I have a pattern (Vogue) from the 1970s with those. I should dig it out and make it!!
    Thanks for the great posts–always look forward to reading them!
    Nancy N

  3. I love your attention to cost and budgets. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know out what the fabric prices were?

    • I think I have some articles where the cost of making the patterns — with fabric & trim — is given. Probably from the thirties — I’ll have to look for some examples. I wish I had found a “college girl’s budget” article from the 1920s. I still have a lot of Delineators to read at the library!

      • The Sears catalogs include fabrics, but it’s impossible to gauge the quality of fabric without touching it and feeling the “hand” of the material. Judging from the dresses I see in stores at the mall, the number of buyers who can recognize good and bad quality is not high.

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