1936 Dress Pattern for Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter

Companion Butterick pattern 7079, a "triad" pattern in three versions for three different ages. Woman's Home Companion, November 1936, p. 82.

Companion Butterick pattern 7079, a pattern with three versions for three different ages. Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936, p. 82.

In the depths of the Great Depression, The Woman’s Home Companion offered Companion-Butterick patterns. Sometimes they were called “Triad” patterns, and were selected for their economy and efficiency: “Buy one pattern, make three dresses” was the theme. This makes sense, if all three are the same size. But in 1936 and 1937, the magazine suggested one pattern which offered options to suit women of three different ages. It’s an odd idea, but tells us a little bit about how older women were expected to dress differently from their daughters.

Grandmother and Mother in versions of Companion Butterick pattern 7079. Nov. 1936.

Grandmother and Mother in versions of Companion Butterick pattern 7079. Nov. 1936.

“This pattern is designed for any age — from sixteen to sixty — on the distaff side of the family. For grandmother, who may have the flattery of V lines at the neck, we suggest grape colored [double sided] crepe, set off with a matching velvet beret [described elsewhere as “dignified”] and wide-strap shoes in black kid and gabardine.

“For mother, who can go in for sleeves slightly full at top, sheer brown wool touched with dull gold plus a toque made of the dress material [she seems to be wearing the pillbox, instead] and high-built shoes in brown suede with calf.” [A pattern for their hats was also featured in this issue.]

Pattern 7079 for women of sixty, forty, and sixteen. 1936.

Pattern 7079 for women from sixty to sixteen. 1936.

“For daughter, who will like those pocket flaps, very dull black for everything except the lacquer red quill on the toque, the lacquer red belt and the shiny patent trimming on the calf shoes. (Note the hat patterns on another page.)”

"7079 Dress. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44 [inch] bust measure." Companion Butterick, Nov. 1936.

“7079 Dress. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44 [inch] bust measure.” Companion Butterick, Nov. 1936. Those two little bust darts are interesting.

Daughter (age sixteen) wearing #7079, with pockets, big buttons, and a shiny red belt.

Daughter (age sixteen) wearing #7079, with pockets, big buttons, and a shiny red belt. 1936.

Presumably, only the young and slender will want horizontal pockets making their hips look wider (are they practical– i.e., real– pockets? The article doesn’t say.) The bright, contrasting belt is also only flattering to a slender waist and hips, although all three dresses have belts; grandma’s is the least conspicuous:

whc 1936 nov p 82 page 500 triad 7079 belts three generations

Sleeves that create the broad-shouldered look — popular since the Joan Crawford movie Letty Lynton, in 1932 — are for the mother and daughter, but not for conservative grandma, aged “sixty.” Surprisingly, black is suggested for the young woman, but is perhaps too severe — or too much like mourning attire — to be advised for the older ladies. And all three are wearing fashionable, sturdy, mid-thirties shoes, guaranteed to make legs look shorter and ankles — except very thin ones, as drawn by Ernst — look thicker.

Shoes, 1936. Illustration by Ernst.

Shoes, 1936. Illustration by Ernst.

But I do love those big, triangular 1930’s buttons!

Back views 7079; big 1930's buttons. 1936

Back views of pattern #7079; big 1930’s buttons. 1936. There is no center back opening; side openings under the left arm were commonly used.

All three hats — a pillbox, a beret, and a toque — could be made from pattern 7080. Making hats for “sixty to sixteen” from one pattern makes more sense than buying one pattern to make dresses for three different women, when you think about it.

Companion Butterick hat pattern 7080. WHC, Nov. 1936.

Companion Butterick hat pattern No. 7080. WHC, Nov. 1936.

whc 1936 nov p 81 hats 7080 descript

A new hat gives a lift to the spirits…. If you have never tried [to make a hat] here is a good pattern to begin on.”

Companion Butterick hat pattern 7080, 1936.

Companion Butterick hat pattern 7080, 1936.

The toque really is about as simple as a hat can be: a truncated cone with just one seam. The pillbox is made from strips of 2 1/2 inch wide velvet ribbon. (Linings and hat bands are not mentioned in the description, but could be expected on the pattern envelope.)

To read more about Companion-Butterick “Triad patterns,” click here.

8 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hats, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

8 responses to “1936 Dress Pattern for Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter

  1. Well, of course I love this post–three generation clothing! It is interesting to see how the little details were supposed to code age appropriateness, A v neck for the older woman–I will have to follow that clue. Sad to hear that only the young woman got to wear those outstanding buttons. Like you, I also noticed the reversal of expected color codes. While older women were often advised to wear purple, usually in three generation set ups the younger women are in lighter colors. Thanks so much for this! Lots of ideas to consider.

  2. RLC

    This is fascinating. I’m always intrigued in the ways we code age through clothing. I never would have guessed that the purple costume was for the older woman, though once the details were pointed out it make some sense. I had heard of triad patterns before, but I’ve never seen one where “age” was the defining factor for the three dresses. I suppose the idea was that a mother or a grandmother could sew a dress for herself and one for her daughter.

  3. Do you think these ever got used by the three generations, or was it just a marketing exercise to show one classic dress in three variations in the hope of selling to the widest range of buyers?

  4. Love ALL your recent posts, Dear One, just haven’t been on-line to comment.
    xx

    • Thank you for the encouraging words. I’ve been working on a couple of articles about clothing costs in the 1920s — hope they won’t be too dry….

      • They’ll probably leave us wishing we were living then, along with all that fabulous clothing! (But trying not to remember the fractions of pennies women generally earned then, if they got paid at all…)

  5. Ooh, now I really want some big triangular buttons! They look great and would also be quite practical.

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