Monthly Archives: December 2015

Happy New Year

Friends in the Snow, February 1931.

Three women in the snow, photo processed in February, 1931.

May your days be merry and bright, in 2016 and always.

(The women are my mother (in front,) her sister Dorothy (often called Dot), and my mother’s childhood friend, Ollie Cornelius.  Reminder:  label and date your photos while somebody still knows the names!)

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, Sportswear, vintage photographs

Maids’ Uniforms

Housemaid receiveing orders from her mistress via the new in-house telephone. Bell Telephone ad from Better Homes and Gardens, 1930.

Housemaid receiving orders from her mistress via the new in-house telephone. Bell Telephone ad from Better Homes and Gardens, 1930. “

p9 bell telephoneTEXT desk maid uniform ad BHG 193066

“Conversations with your cook or maid can be so conveniently carried on by telephone from your bedroom or your living-room . . . without so much as one unnecessary step.” 1930.

Maid's daytime uniform from B. Altman, probably latter half of 20th c.

Maid’s daytime uniform from B. Altman, probably latter half of 20th c.

For theatrical costumers, pictures of maid’s uniforms are as interesting — and probably more useful — than pictures of couture. Here is a sampling of maids’ uniforms from 20th century magazine ads, followed by a couple of vintage uniforms sold by department stores. Some of them follow the Victorian tradition of gray, print, and/or colored uniforms for day wear, and black uniforms for afternoon and evening, when the maid was more likely to be seen by dinner guests. These ads are in chronological order, but the most noticeable changes are variations in hem length, which can’t always be seen in the ads.

In the boudoir; lady's maid, Oct. 1917; Ladies' Home Journal.

In the boudoir; a lady’s maid laces her high-top shoe. Oct. 1917; Ladies’ Home Journal. The maid’s cap, with streamers, is very old-fashioned — almost an 18th c. mopcap, and her dress is satin, like many day dresses of the WW I era.

Ad for O Cedar furniture polish, June 1924. Delineator.

Ad for O-Cedar furniture polish, June 1924. Delineator. She’s not wearing a cap.

Even in Victorian times, maids rolled up their sleeves and bared their arms for hard scrubbing and other daytime chores. However, maids usually saved their good, black uniforms for waiting at table and evening duties, when they rolled down the sleeves to the wrists. [In many households, maids were given a break around four o’clock, so they could rest a bit, and change uniforms.]

Maid serving dinner to a husband and wife, Nov. 1924. Ad for laxatives. Delineator.

Housemaid serving dinner to a husband and wife, Nov. 1924. Ad for laxatives. Delineator.

In January of 1925, the illustrator of this ad for laundry soap imagined a princess and her ladies’ maid examining the lace on an evening wrap.

Ladies' Maid and princess, soap Ad, 1925. Delineator.

Ladies’ Maid and princess, soap Ad, 1925. Delineator.

In the twenties, maids’ caps have become just a ribbon headband trimmed with ruffles, more symbolic than useful.

Butterick illustration for its embroidery page. Maid setting the table, Feb. 1929. Delineator.

Butterick illustration for Delineator’s embroidery page. Maid setting the table, Feb. 1929. Note her below-the-waist apron.

The difficulty of tying and keeping a half-apron’s waist at the 1920’s hip level can be seen in all of these 1920’s illustrations, including the one just above. But maids were never supposed to rival the chic of their employers; in 1866, this maid was in trouble for leaving off her full crinoline, just as her “ladies” did.

“I understood they was a goin’ out,” [of fashion] explains the maid, whose hairstyle also mimics the style of her “betters.”

In 1929, this maid is wearing a light colored uniform -- and no apron or cap -- while discussing the laundry with her mistress. Fels Naptha Soap ad; Delineator, June 1929.

In 1929, this maid is wearing a light colored uniform — and no apron or cap — while discussing the laundry with her mistress. Note the maid’s chic short skirt. Fels Naptha Soap ad; Delineator, June 1929.

After the Crash: these 1931 illustrations are from an article on how to “Be Your Own Maid.” [The article explained the importance of keeping your closets and dresser drawers tidy.]

After the Crash: Illustrations for the article "Be Your Own Maid." November, 1931. The maid wears a print dress. Delineator.

November, 1931. The maid seems to be wearing  a print day dress, with different collars and aprons. This is not the lady of the house; notice her maid’s cap. Delineator.

This story illustration from 1934 shows a woman lounging (the caption suggests that she is “in a delicate condition,”) while her maid keeps busy while acting as her confidant. In this story, the maid, Karen, is the heroine.

Lady and maid, Delineator, Jan. 1934. Story illustration by Baumgartner.

Lady and maid, Delineator, Jan. 1934. Story illustration by Baumgartner.

“Ruth said, ‘Shall I have a son, Karen?’  Karen smiled. ‘Does it greatly matter?’ ”

[Digression:  Karen is probably a Scandinavian immigrant. In 1948, Loretta Young won an Oscar for playing a Swedish-American farmer’s daughter who works as a servant.]

Maids' or waitresses' uniforms from the Berth Roberts catalog, Summer 1934.

J 40 & J 41:  Maids’ or waitresses’ uniforms from the Berth Robert catalog, Summer 1934.

berth roberts catalog text p 21 waitress maid housedress879

The sheer lawn apron is for maids, not waitresses. It creates “that trim, precise look all well dressed maids desire.” The straps forming a “V” were seen in the illustration from 1924, and in the thirties, and still seen on the much later vintage uniform from Altman’s, shown in detail later in this post.

The maids (or housewives) in this Baking Soda ad are wearing aprons and dresses like the Berth Robert models:

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda ad, 1937.

Maids in an Arm and Hammer Baking Soda ad, 1937.

It’s not always easy to tell a servant in striped dress and white apron from a homeowner in the same work clothes, but housewives usually wore colored or embroidered aprons:

Woman washing dishes with Chipso dish soap, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Woman washing dishes with Chipso dish soap, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

[Remembered Summers wrote about pink sinks and other 1920’s-1930’s kitchen innovations here.]

The wealthy woman in the article illustrated here suffered physical illness until she consulted a psychologist. Her long-suffering maid is alarmingly thin, but elegantly dressed in a rickrack-trimmed apron set. At least the illustrator avoided the most common 1930’s racist imagery; this maid is neither plump nor grinning:  she’s an individual.

"A constant state of indecision made her seek escape in seclusion. " Illustration for mental health article, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1937.

“A constant state of indecision made her seek escape in seclusion. ” Illustration for mental health article, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1937.

Two Vintage Maid’s Uniforms

Maid's uniforms sold in department stores.

Maid’s uniforms sold in department stores. Both have natural waists and sheer accessories. A waitress uniform would use more sturdy, opaque apron and collar fabrics.

There’s a Bloomingdale’s label in one of these uniforms, and a B. Altman label in the other.  I had no idea that top department stores did such a thorough job of supplying their customers’ every need! (And I hope the employers footed the bill for the uniforms.)

Bonne Maid uniform from Bloomingdale's. Date unknown.

“Bonne Maid” uniform from Bloomingdale’s. Date unknown. The apron would have had stripes matching the sheer collar and cuffs.

“Bonne” is the French word for a maid, as well as the feminine form of “good,” so the company name is a pun.

Gray maid's uniform from B. Altman.

A gray Balta brand maid’s uniform from B. Altman.

Gray Balta Maid's Uniform without apron. It has a side button closing.

Gray Balta maid’s uniform shown without its apron. It has a side button closing at the waist.

I wrote about a 1930’s waitress uniform which also had a front placket, a waistband, and buttoned to the side. The cut of the dress itself is very similar to this much later one.

Details, Balta brand maid's uniform.

Details and label, Balta brand maid’s uniform.

The workmanship is good, as seen in the mitred collar and cuffs. The dress fabric has a synthetic sheen, possibly a cotton/rayon acetate blend, which places it later in the 20th century. The apron and trim is polyester organza.

An identical gray Balta brand uniform, new, in a Bergdorf Goodman box, can be seen here. Apparently the Balta brand was carried by more than one upscale department store.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Robes from the Thirties

Housecoats, Ladies Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

Housecoats, Robes, and Negligees. Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

In January of 1936, The Ladies Home Journal suggested that its readers lounge about during their leisure hours in lavish house-coats, and showed these in full color photographs — just then coming into use in women’s magazines.

Two "House Coats" for loungewear, Jadies' Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

Two “House Coats” for lounging at home, Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

LHJ text jan 1934

" A lovely wine-red stain thing which she wears for dinner, and the evening, if she's not going out." Ladies' Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

” A lovely wine-red satin thing which she wears for dinner, and the evening, if she’s not going out.” Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

"When she has a dinner party she steals the show ...." Ladies' Home Companion, Jan. 1936.

“When she has a dinner party she steals the show ….” Ladies’ Home Companion, Jan. 1936.

Butterick No. 5921, Two-Colored Robe

Those house-coats are all very well for fantasy (and for those with large dry-cleaning budgets,) but I’d rather recover from the holiday rush in a warm and flattering robe like this one:

Robe in two tones. Butterick pattern 5921; Woman's Home Companion, December 1934.

Robe in two tones. Butterick pattern 5921; Woman’s Home Companion, December 1934.

Butterick pattern #5921 was featured as a Christmas gift suggestion in December, 1934. The light colored sleeves and dark center panel — broadening the shoulders, narrowing the hips — are flattering to most figures,  and I don’t know why someone doesn’t copy this idea today. You can see the original pattern, with a monochromatic option, at  the Vintage Pattern Wikia: Click here.

After the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning and the parties and the caroling and the freezing outdoors — I hope you get a chance to put your feet up, and contemplate a new year. Happy Holidays.

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Filed under 1930s, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage patterns

Dressed for the Snow, circa 1930

Ollie in the snow, February, 1931. Notice her mannish tie and jodhpurs, and that great knit scarf.

Ollie in the snow, February, 1931. Notice her mannish tie and jodhpurs, and that great knit scarf and patterned socks.

I’m combining these nineteen thirties’ vintage photos of friends enjoying the snow with my annual reminder that the holiday season, with gatherings of far-flung friends and relations, is the perfect time to spend an hour going through old photos with your oldest (and young) friends and relatives. It’s a time to remember those who are gone, celebrate their good times, laugh over the fashions we wore, and — while you’re at it — to put dates and names and comments on the backs of the photos with a pencil or acid-free pen!

My mother in Yosemite, 1930. "Finally enticed the big fellow with sugar lump -- got my fingers nipped."

My mother in Yosemite, 1930. “Finally enticed the big fellow with sugar lump — got my fingers nipped.”

This picture was taken before my parents were married, and long before I was born. My mother died when I was eight, but I get to know her a little better when she ‘speaks’ through old photographs.

And, of course, I love looking at the clothes!

Sisters, about 1930. Both have dressed for the snow in wool jodhpurs, boots, shirts, neckties, wool caps, and matching, brushed wool sweaters in different colors.

Sisters, about 1930. Both have dressed for the snow in wool jodhpurs, wool socks, boots, shirts, neckties, knit wool caps, and matching, brushed wool sweaters in different colors.

I know that those jodhpurs were made of heavy, tightly woven wool twill, with many hard-to-fasten buttons down the leg, because my mother still had hers in the 1950s, and I wore them. The twill was so tight that they were almost waterproof.

Weekends in the Snow

In the nineteen twenties and thirties, the automobile — and the train — made it possible for office workers like my aunt and my mother to take weekend trips to “the snow.” Snow almost never falls near San Francisco [just three times in the last century,] but the Sierra mountains were only a few hours away. These photos show groups of friends and co-workers, on trips to Truckee, Tahoe and Yosemite between 1929 and 1931. (If the picture had a processing date on the back, that is the date given, although photos were not always developed the month they were taken! You waited until the whole roll of film was used, which could be weeks later.)

"This sled meets train and takes you to [Tahoe] Tavern. Horses have bells on them, and everybody sings Jingle Bells." 1930.

“This sled meets train and takes you to [Tahoe] Tavern. Horses have bells on them, and everybody sings Jingle Bells.” Written on back of photo. 1930.

[You can still take Amtrak from the San Francisco Bay Area through Truckee and the Lake Tahoe Area, to Reno and points East. It’s a great alternative to driving in the snow, and you can fully enjoy the scenery — and spare a thought for the thousands of Chinese immigrants who built that awe-inspiring railroad through the Sierra Mountains.]

This postcard shows the Tahoe Tavern in 1930; my mother wrote “our room” pointing to a window fringed with icicles at lower right.

Postcard of Tahoe Tavern mailed in 1930.

Postcard of Tahoe Tavern mailed in 1930.

Tourists watching a dogsled race in Tahoe, dated February 1931.

Tourists watching a dogsled race in Tahoe, dated February 1931.

Most of the spectators are dressed for the city, not for skiing.  Tahoe was an easy weekend getaway by train in the nineteen twenties and thirties. You could make a few snowballs, have dinner and drinks with friends, and be home the next day.

These photos of my family and their friends show that some people “went to the snow” often enough to justify buying an appropriate outfit, but others just wore what they already had, like “Dip,” in his office slacks and hat (and round tortoise shell frames, like Harold Lloyd.)

"Dip" and Ollie, Feb. 1931.

“Dip” and Ollie, Feb. 1931.

In this photo. . .

Jonnie and Ollie, February 1931. Ollie looks warm. Jonnie looks cold.

Jonnie and Ollie, February 1931. Ollie looks warm. Jonnie looks cold.

. . .we can see that Ollie is wearing a late 1920’s suit jacket — with nifty double patch pockets — over a sweater and shirt, with tweedy golf knickers, and a different wool scarf. It’s possible that the knickers and jacket were a set; you could buy three matching pieces — jacket, skirt, and knickers — in the 1920’s. Jonnie, on the other hand, looks like he’s wearing his normal, mild-climate work clothes. Brrrr.

My Uncle Holt sometimes dressed for a weekend in the snow as if he were heading for the the golf course:

Is he dressed for snow or golf? 1929 to 1931.

Is he dressed for snow or golf? 1929 to 1931.

He was a bit of a dandy — a soldier who had his uniforms tailored for him — and here he looks like a silent-film movie director:

Holt in a suede jacket, March 1931.

Holt in a suede jacket, March 1931.

Here, Holt is sandwiched between his wife and sister-in-law; you can see that the two women have matching striped sweaters. My aunt had several 1930’s pieces in her cedar chest — including wool socks –with a color scheme of cream, burnt orange, and dark olive green; I wouldn’t be surprised if those were the colors on her sweater.

Dot, Holt, and Toots. Circa 1930.

Dot, Holt, and Toots. Circa 1930.

I love Dot’s three-color checkerboard socks. In this photo, we can really see how shaggy those brushed wool sweaters were:

A shaggy brushed wool knit sweater; photo from 1929 to 1931.

A shaggy brushed wool knit sweater; photo from 1929 to 1931.

Notice that ties were de rigueur.

Jonnie and Ollie, Feb. 1931. Neckties required.

Jonnie and Ollie, Feb. 1931. Neckties required.

Len, Ollie, Holt, Toots, Charles, and Jonnie. March 1931.

Len, Ollie, Holt, Toots, Charles, and Jonnie. March 1931.

In our T-shirt world, the idea of skiing or sledding in a necktie is bizarre. But it wasn’t always so.

"Dot" at Tahoe, around 1930. Starting in the early 20th century, American women wore jodhpurs and neckties to celebrate freedom that was previously only for males.

“Dot” at Tahoe, around 1930. Starting in the early 20th century, American women wore jodhpurs and neckties to celebrate freedom of movement that was previously only for males.

Charles, Dot, Toots, Ollie, and Holt. Circa 1930.

Charles, Dot, Toots, Ollie, and Holt. Circa 1930 – 1931.

Now, dig out some of your “Mystery photos” to share with your family and friends before the new year gets busy.

(P.S. That tiny “Oliver Hardy” moustache was always ill-advised on my tall, thin father (at left); he told me he shaved it off in a hurry once he saw “that Hitler fellow” wearing one. Whew.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Hosiery & Stockings, Menswear, Shoes, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Museum Online: The Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg

Found via Two Nerdy History Girls:  The Online Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg.

18th c. dress in the Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg. Please do not copy.

18th c. dress #1975-340 in the Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg. Please do not copy.

Williamsburg, Virginia, may be strongly associated with the American colonial era, but the museum has clothing from the 1600’s through the Victorian Era. Now, a sizeable portion of its collections has been photographed and put online.

The Online Collection gives us a chance to sample the Museum’s holdings without buying a plane ticket. The online collection is searchable: Click here:  http://emuseum.history.org/  You’ll find clothing and accessories, including shoes, fans, and children’s clothes; paintings, ceramics, silver and pewter; there are also quilts, furniture, “household necessaries,” etc.  — quite a treasure trove.

The online Costume Collection contains photos of 385 items — with excellent enlargements and alternate views in the Costume Collection, and the Costume Accessories Collection online shows 444 items: hats, shoes, gloves, buttons…. When you visit the site, you can enlarge the images to see details more clearly.

This man’s three piece suit from the colonial period has a vest with attached linen sleeves:

Man's suit, 18th c. from the Costume collection at Colonial Williamsburg, online. Please do not copy.

Man’s suit, 18th c. from the online Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg. Search for # 1994-1862. Please do not copy. The breeches lace up the back, so their size is adjustable.

This child’s plaid Victorian dress can be seen more closely; search for # 1997-158.

Child's plaid Victorian dress, #1997-158 at Colonial Williamsburg. Please do not copy this image.

Child’s plaid Victorian dress, #1997-158 at Colonial Williamsburg. Please do not copy this image.

The Museum also has stays (a corset) for a child, circa 1740-1760. Search for #1964-405.

This roller printed dress is from the 1830’s:

Roller printed dress circa 1830s. Online Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg. Please do not copy this image.

Roller printed dress circa 1830s. # 1972-126. Online Costume Collection at Colonial Williamsburg. Please do not copy this image.

And this 1880’s bustle dress is # 1998-240.

1880's bustle dress, #1998-240, Colonial Williamsburg Costume Collection online. Please do not copy this image

1880’s bustle dress, #1998-240, Colonial Williamsburg Costume Collection online. Please do not copy this image

To see the collection, or any of these items in more detail, go to Costume Collection and search by the number.

Don’t forget to visit the Costume Accessories, like this pair of embroidered gloves dated 1630-1650.

Mid 17th c. gloves, # 1974-1101, in the Costume Accessories Collection at Colonial Williamsburg, online. Please do not copy this image.

Mid-17th c. gloves, # 1974-1101, in the Costume Accessories Collection at Colonial Williamsburg, online. Please do not copy this image.

 

 

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s-1830s, 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, Children's Vintage styles, Corsets, Costumes for the 17th Century, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Early Victorian fashions, Exhibitions & Museums, Menswear, Resources for Costumers, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925

"Can You Afford to Marry?" asks this article from Delineator magazine, September 1925, p. 21.

“Can You Afford to Marry?” asks this article from Delineator magazine, September 1925, p. 21.

In September of 1925, as part of an ongoing series on budgets, Delineator’s Home Economist asked, “Can You Afford to Marry?” in an article titled “When George and Mary Wish to Marry,” by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose. This article suggested a budget for two people, living without any luxuries, but “in comfort and decency:”

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925. This assumes a minimum weekly salary of about $35.00.

Caution: “There is nothing as dangerous as a man who has only read one book.” — Molly Ivins in a radio interview.

Obviously, no serious scholar would base economic deductions on just one source — in this case, a series of articles in a woman’s magazine — The Delineator — published by Butterick. The Butterick Publishing Company emphasized fashions adapted from Paris couture, aimed at an aspiring middle-class reader. (The public areas of its Manhattan office building were decorated in 1903 by Louis Comfort Tiffany)  Consider those facts while reading this article. I’ll share what I have. (Since Delineator was a large format magazine, I broke the long article up into smaller paragraphs in a separate post, for legibility. Click here to read the original article in full.)

Although I was most interested in the clothing budget for a man and woman in 1925, we need to look at the suggested food budget to get an idea of the general standard of living for “comfort and decency,” as envisioned in this article. The authors offered several possibilities. (Later, they did the same for the clothing budget.)

Story illustration from Delineator, April 1929.

Story illustration from Delineator, April 1929.

Food Budget for Two People, 1925:  $30 per month

“What must Mary and George spend for food? To provide a dietary that will give the greatest measure of health and protection from food, not less than eighty cents a day is necessary for raw food materials for two grown persons.”

A) 80 cents per day?  “This small amount spent for right foods means a wholesome diet, but a monotonous, uninteresting and unvaried one. It restricts eating to eating to live.

B) $1.00 to $1.10 per day?  “For two adults with knowledge and skill [this] will buy raw food materials for a simple, plain diet with a few spots of interest.”

C) $1.50 per day? “A dollar and a half per day for raw food materials for two adults will permit some food luxuries….”

D) $2.00 per day? “Two dollars a day, skillfully spent, will provide materials for food luxuries, as well as necessities.”

Conclusion? $30 per month on food for two people.  “To furnish anything like an appealing, and at the same time adequate diet, …these young people should count on not less than fifty cents a day apiece or a dollar a day or thirty dollars a month to buy the raw food materials.”

This lets us know that their total budget of $150 per month, or $1800 per year, is not based on a high standard of living. It is, in the opinion of Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, barely above subsistence level. It also implies that all meals will be prepared at home from raw materials.

From an ad for a Butterick cookbook, June 1925. Delineator magazine

From an ad for a Butterick cookbook, June 1925. Delineator magazine

Clothing Budget for Two People, 1925:  $360 per year

“What shall Mary and George spend for clothes? Nowhere can we find any satisfactory basis for agreement on a clothing standard. All we can do is to summarize the budgets we have had given to us by various friends who are maintaining a fair to good appearance on modest incomes.”

Story illustration by Joseph M. Clement, Delineator, Nov. 1924.

Story illustration by Joseph M. Clement, Delineator, Nov. 1924.

A) $150 per year for Mary’s clothing and $125 for George? With $275 per year, “Mary, if skillful, may maintain the wardrobe decently but meagerly for a hundred and fifty dollars for herself and a hundred twenty-five dollars for George.”

B) $200 per year for Mary and $150 for George? ($350 per year) “With two hundred dollars for herself and one hundred fifty for George, plus her skill in making, making over, and repair, the two may be simply but attractively clothed.”

C) $300 for Mary and $225 for George? ($525 for a married couple) “With three hundred dollars for Mary and two hundred twenty-five dollars for George, they may begin to rise into the well-dressed class; but this amount still means a very modest wardrobe for each.

Conclusion? $360 per year for clothing one man and one woman.  “To maintain a standard of clothes which will give them not only comfort but reasonable satisfaction in looking well, it is hardly safe to plan on less than two hundred dollars for Mary and one hundred fifty dollars for George. If Mary can not sew, they must count on spending very much more than this. Exceptions to this allowance may be made in warm climates, where the cost of clothing may be reduced.”

Sewing. From Delineator, July 1926.

Sewing. From Delineator, July 1926.

Note that the husband’s wardrobe is always less expensive than the wife’s. A white collar businessman could wear the same suit to the office, day after day. He would need a winter coat and a raincoat, a tuxedo, a summer suit and a winter suit, perhaps a blazer and white flannel trousers, at least two hats, and shirts, ties, shoes, etc. His wife’s wardrobe would be driven by four, rather than two, seasons — and would go out of style faster. If he was a rising young businessman, she would need to attend social occasions with him, and look “attractively clothed.”

Of course, Butterick’s Delineator magazine had a vested interest in encouraging home sewing:

Ad for Butterick Patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1924.

Ad for Butterick Patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1924.

In 1925, you could get a treadle sewing machine from Sears for $33, or a portable electric for $43. Singer invented the installment plan, because a sewing machine cost at least a week’s salary (two weeks’ salary for a woman.)

Other appliance sales followed suit:

Hoover vacuum ad, Delineator, Nov. 1925.

Hoover vacuum ad, Delineator, Nov. 1925. “$6.25 down! — that was all I paid to have my Hoover delivered….By the end of the month I had more than enough to meet the small payment.”

Grocery Shopping. Story illustration by S. george Phillips, Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Grocery Shopping. Story illustration by S. George Phillips, Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Apparently the Delineator’s economists assume that “Mary” will have a full time job just looking after herself and George — grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and sewing; some women worked outside the home, however, until they started a family; the wife’s salary would help a couple build up a “nest egg.” The home economists definitely assume that the couple must plan for children, and consequently their expenses for “shelter,” “furnishings,” and “operating” will be the biggest portion (43%) of their income.

Build-your-own-house kits. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens, 1930.

Build-your-own-house kits. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens, 1930. Land and labor extra.

Housing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925

From $1800 a year, $780 is budgeted for Shelter, Furnishings, and Operating Expenses.

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Twenty percent of their income will be spent on Food, and another 20% on Clothing. “Shelter, Furnishings, and Operating expenses” are all part of home ownership. This article assumed that the couple will have at least two children eventually, so they would need either a larger apartment than a single person would, or a house of their own. The cost of transportation to and from work (a used car, if necessary) was included under Shelter; Operating expenses included utilities, home and yard upkeep, property taxes, home insurance, cooking and heating fuel, as well as cleaning supplies and appliances, laundry, and “services.”

Ad for Lorain Gas Stove. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Ad for Lorain Gas Stove. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

In 1925, utility expenses included ice delivery, for the “ice box” refrigerator, and a telephone.

A telephone in two rooms. Ad, Better Homes and Gardens, July 1930.

A telephone in two rooms. Ad, Better Homes and Gardens, July 1930. “There are few places where a telephone is needed more than in the kitchen …. Calls can be placed or answered without getting too far from an active and temperamental oven.”

A married couple would either send their laundry out or, perhaps, buy a new “washing machine.”

Article about purchasing a washing machine. Delineator, Aug. 1926.

Article about purchasing a washing machine. Delineator, Aug. 1926.

Washing machines, Delineator, August 1926.

Washing machines, Delineator, August 1926. The woman on the left is filling hers with a hose, and it drains into a hole in the floor. The machine on the right is even more primitive. No wonder many “sent out” their household laundry.

Clothes for a Married Woman versus a Single Working Woman.

What really interested me was how the clothing budget for a married woman,  given in the 1925 article, compared with the clothing budget for a single, working woman from the previous year. In 1924, the Delineator economists allowed a yearly clothing budget of $3.00 a week, about $156 per year,  for a woman earning $18 per week.

Living on $18 per week in 1924. Clothing, cleaning, laundry expenses. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 19.

Living on $18 per week in 1924. Clothing, cleaning, laundry expenses. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 19.

To read the post comparing a woman’s dress budget from 1924 with one from 1936, click here. Both articles agree that a woman should plan to spend between $150 and $200 dollars per year on clothes in 1925. If a single woman’s laundry and cleaning expenses are added to her clothing purchases, her clothing expenditure totals about $200 for the year.

“Mary, if skillful, may maintain the wardrobe decently but meagerly for a hundred and fifty dollars for herself … “With two hundred dollars for herself and one hundred fifty for George, plus her skill in making, making over, and repair, the two may be simply but attractively clothed.”

Butterick patterns, Delineator, Oct. 1925.

Butterick patterns, Delineator, Oct. 1925. By 1927, Mary would need to be shortening or remaking these dresses.

At the end of “When George and Mary Wish to Marry,” the writers acknowledged that many families live on a much smaller amount of money than the $1800 in their “comfort and decency” minimum budget:

“…Hundreds of thousands of families in this country are living on smaller incomes than this…. They have faced and adjusted themselves to the sacrifices which must be made where money is too scarce to provide the amount of comfort we have described as reasonable.”

And, in 1929-1930, the Great Depression put a sudden end to the optimism — and salaries —  of the nineteen twenties.

"Income cut in half... food prices rising... and six hungry mouths to feed." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, 1934

“Income cut in half… food prices rising… and six hungry mouths to feed.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, 1934.

For anyone wishing to read the entire budget article from 1925, which breaks down other expenses, including the cost of having children, it can be found here.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Menswear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers

Full Text of Article Titled “When George and Mary Wish to Marry,” by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose. Delineator, September 1925.

Minimum budget for a married couple as suggested by the Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Minimum budget for a married couple as suggested by the Delineator, Sept. 1925.

This is a just supplement to the information I used in “Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925.” You will probably want to read that post first. (And maybe not read this one at all….) As I mentioned there,

Obviously, no serious scholar would base economic deductions on just one source — in this case, a series of articles in a woman’s magazine — The Delineator — published by Butterick. The Butterick Publishing Company emphasized fashions adapted from Paris couture, aimed at an aspiring middle-class reader. (The public areas of its Manhattan office building were decorated in 1903 by Louis Comfort Tiffany)  Consider those facts while reading this article.

Since Delineator was a large format magazine, I’ll have to break the long article, “When George and Mary Wish to Marry,” by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, into smaller paragraphs for legibility. The article can be found in Delineator, p. 21, Sept. 1925.

George and Mary would not be eating many restaurant meals on the Delineator's budget for a married couple. Illustration from another story. April 1929.

George and Mary would not be eating many restaurant meals on the Delineator’s budget for a married couple. Illustration from another story. April 1929.

p 21 left column A top budget p 21 sept 1925 delineator

B p 21 left column budget p 21 sept 1925

D p 21 center column bottom budget p 21 sept 1925

E right column p 21 top budget p 21 sept 1925

F p 21 rt column bot tombudget p 21 sept 1925

G top left p 53 budget contd sept 1925 delineator

H p 53 left column middle delin Sept 1925 budget

I p 53 left columnlower middle budget contd 2 sept 1925

J p 53 left column lower middle budget contd 2 sept 1925

K p 53 left column bottom budget contd 2 sept 1925

L p 53 top rt column budget contd sept 1925

M p 53 rt colum top center budget contd sept 1925

N p 53 rt column lower middle budget contd sept 1925

O p 53 rt column center budget contd sept 1925 4

P p 53 rt column lower top budget contd sept 1925 4

Q end p 53 rt column budget contd sept 1925 4

Butterick sewing patterns, Delineator, January 1924, p. 43.

Butterick sewing patterns, Delineator, January 1924, p. 43.

I wrote about this article, with an emphasis on the clothing and food budgets, in “Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925, ” which I published immediately after this one. Click here to read it.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Uniforms and Work Clothes