Monthly Archives: January 2016

Watching But Not Enjoying: Downton Abbey & Mercy Street

I’m still watching one of these shows because of the costumes; I stopped watching the other because of the costumes. Prepare for nits to be picked.

Dinner party, Jan. 1924 Delneator.

Informal dinner party, Jan. 1924, Delineator. We know it’s informal, because the men are wearing tuxedos — aka “black tie.”

I’ve mentioned before that I watch Downton Abbey more from a sense of duty than with enthusiasm. There are many fine actors, and some beautiful clothes. But the more recent scripts make me empathize with the TV critic who said he’d watch the final season only to be sure they nailed the coffin shut.

Illustration by Dynevor Rhys, Feb. 1932. Delineator. Dinner.

Illustration by Dynevor Rhys, Feb. 1932. Delineator. Dining in emeralds.

I even watched a “making of” program in which the actors mentioned the instruction they get about period manners, posture, etc. — including the instruction that ladies wore opera-length gloves while eating dinner. I found that hard to swallow.

Dinner party, Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Formal dinner party, Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936. White tie on male guests, black vest on the butler.

Imagine my delight when I read “Miss Manners” in the SF Chronicle on Monday, January 25! (The article first appeared in the Washington Post in 2013.)
After explaining the proper use of British titles as applied to Diana, Princess of Wales (incorrectly called “Princess Diana,”) Miss Manners went on to explain that the daughters of the Earl of Grantham, on Downton Abbey, are given the courtesy title of “Lady,” but they are commoners and “could, if the series lasts long enough, stand for election to the House of Commons.”  Miss Manners added:

“No, that is not a spoiler. Miss Manners has no idea what is happening to these characters. She tuned out when she saw them wearing their gloves to dinner in their own house.”

Hostess with maids, Dec. 1937, Woman's Home Companion.

Hostess with maids, Dec. 1937, Woman’s Home Companion. The dinner is formal; the hostess is in evening dress and the young man is wearing white tie and tails.

If you don’t read Miss Manners, author of many delightful etiquette  books, I should explain that she won my heart decades ago, when a reader inquired, “What do you say when introduced to a gay couple?” Miss Manners replied that [as with all introductions] you say “How do you do?”

There’s a long interview with Miss Manners (the pen name of Judith Martin) at Smithsonian.com. It’s worth putting up with all the ads to see her response to claims of rudeness in Washington, D.C.

“I was born in Washington, and I’m not rude. You’re talking about people that you sent here. You’re talking about people you voted for and you sent to Washington. So if you have complaints, and when people do, they often say to me, well what can we do about it? I said the answer there is something called an election. That’s something you can do about it.”

Why Mercy Street Is Not My Cup of Costume Tea

Young ladies in a fashion plate from the Casey Collection, dated 1862.

Young women in a fashion plate from the Casey Collection, dated 1862. Frilly or simple, the clothes are supposed to fit like this. (Costumers often insert a gusset under the arms so a modern actor can do whatever the director asks….)

I stopped watching mid-way through episode two of Mercy Street. There was only one character I cared about, and the writing seemed almost as formulaic as Downton Abbey’s. But I might have stuck with it, if the women’s costumes fit better. I found them really distracting. [Notes in brackets like this mean I’m trying to be more reasonable….]

Mercy Street women's costumes, from an article in Alexandria Times.

Mercy Street women’s costumes, from an article in Alexandria Times.

I seriously wondered if the actress playing the nurse from the north (left, above) was a last-minute cast replacement, because some of her clothes were so obviously too big for her. (The solid grayish bodice she wears about 1 minute into this clip distracted me every time it came on screen.) Her real vintage jacket was baggy in back, too. I searched a bit online, and found the costume designer saying that her best source of research was a book of Civil War era photographs that had been colorized. Colorized? Ahem: why turn a primary source  into a secondary source? [Thinking that over, I realize it may have been the photo collection itself — which one could try to imagine without the color — that was the attraction. I hope.]

I also found an interview with a woman who had been hired to make a corset for the series — the original plan was for a spoon-busk corset, so it’s a good thing she noticed that an 1870’s corset would not be quite “the thing” for the early 1860’s.

Considering the really good, carefully researched corset patterns — and built corsets — that have been available for a very long time and are now easy to find online, what were the TV people thinking?

An elegant young woman in a dress that is very tight over the corset.

An elegant young woman in a dress that is very tight over the corset and bust. The shoulders and neckline fit perfectly. (Sorry: I can’t find the link to this photo marked Sharlot Hall Museum Archives.)

I am not a Civil War era historian or specialist, but I’ve seen enough period photographs (like Joan Severa’s books ) and real dresses to know that they were more often too tight than too loose.   This woman’s dress fits. Most of her bodice wrinkles are at the armscye. True, many poorer people were forced to wear second-hand clothing, which would excuse a poor fit, as would going without a corset [or food] or wearing the wrong corset, but the Mercy Street characters whose dresses wrinkled in the wrong places were middle class. (Unless, of course, that widowed baroness has a very interesting backstory of poverty which will be slowly revealed….)

I do like the suggestion of a soldier’s hashmarks on this authoritative woman’s dress [good design choice!], but the dress doesn’t quite fit the actress. [Perhaps it means the character has lost weight, which would be reasonable. I am trying to be sympathetic.]

Too loose in back (the dress), too low in front (the corseted bust, not the dress. Mercy Street. Photo fron Alexandria Times

The dress is too loose in back; the bust is too low in front. A British nurse on Mercy Street. Photo from Alexandria Times.

Here’s the thing about bust darts: in general, they are not supposed to continue up over the point of the bust. (Princess seams excepted.) These costumes look poorly fitted to me. Click here to get an enlarged view. I admit that some dresses on mannequins at the Metropolitan Museum do seem to have very long, over the bust, darts. Click here.

[EDIT added 2/2/16: I admit I was working from memory, because I long ago de-accessioned my copies of Norah Waugh and Janet Arnold, et al. I have seen more photos of 1860’s bodices with very long bust darts this week –but the bodices still fit smoothly over the bust.]

1863 dress in collection of Metropolitan Museum.

1863 dress in collection of Metropolitan Museum. It appears that some of the trim has been lost.

It may have something to do with the mannequin’s bust not bulging high above a corset as a woman’s bust often does. The shoulders and neck of this particular mannequin are not the same as those of the original wearer, either. Some wrinkles would have been hidden by her detachable lace collar, now lost.

As a costumer, I really do know what it’s like to struggle with an inadequate budget, and time constraints. I, too, have been forced to use a stiff, poly-blend modern fabric because we couldn’t afford real handkerchief linen or cotton lawn or pure wool or silk. But good cutting and some adjustment of your design can minimize the disaster. I’m thinking of the way-too-puffy yoke on this cream-colored costume. [OK, I do acknowledge the “Good? Fast? Cheap?” problem we always have.]

I realize I’m being hyper-critical; was I constantly thinking about how to make the dresses fit better because the script didn’t hold my interest? Or did I really get so distracted by the fit of costumes on important characters that I couldn’t “lose myself” in the show? Maybe someone who has extensively researched the 1860’s, and built more civil war era dresses than I have, can change my mind. I do love links to research. [This “whine train” has pulled into the station and I’m stepping off. Will go back to watching the 1971 Elizabeth I TV series starring Glenda Jackson to refresh my palate. ]

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, Corsets, Costumes for the 19th century, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Timing Fashions, from The Rag Race by Bernard Roshko

Wine red velvet suit with beige fox fur trim, Paquin, in Delineator magazine, Dec. 1926.

Wine red velvet suit with beige fox fur trim, by Paquin, in Delineator magazine, Dec. 1926.

I’ve just started reading Bernard Roshko’s book, The Rag Race, about the “Rag Trade” (the garment industry), published in 1963. His chapter about timing the release of fashions made me think.

“The calendar is no help; the temperature is what counts…. One fall season, for example, fur-trimmed suits were a high-fashion item. But the warm weather held on, dissuading women from buying them. Then wintry weather came in with a rush, so that women skipped the suits and bought dresses to wear under their coats.” — Roshko, p. 80.

Wine red coat made from a Vogue pattern, featured in Elegance, 1962-62 issue. Photo by Horst.

Wine red coat made from a Vogue pattern, featured in Elegance, 1962-63 issue. Photo by Horst.

My first thought reading Roshko was, “when was the last time I saw a woman wearing a wool suit?” — especially one that is fur-trimmed? I live in San Francisco, where some women do dress up, but we’ve just had a mild, dry fall season. In fact, our year-round temperature is moderate — rarely reaching freezing or staying above 70 degrees for long. It’s good weather for wearing suits, but I haven’t bought a suit in years.

Woman's suit pattern with two skirt options, No. 7928, Butterick Fashion News, Oct. 1956.

Woman’s suit pattern with two skirt options, No. 7928, Butterick Fashion News, Oct. 1956.

However, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, even a woman in her early twenties could wear a suit to church, to meetings, to restaurants, to concerts and plays, and while clothes shopping. (The suit guaranteed that you were wearing appropriate underwear and shoes for just about anything you tried on.)

Butterick coat patterns Nos. 7924 and 7923, Oct. 1956.

“Top Choice for Coat Weather:” Butterick coat patterns Nos. 7924 and 7923, Oct. 1956. The “clutch coat” with push-up sleeves (7929) was a very popular style, available in stores at many prices.

This clutch coat pattern also showed a button-up version. Click here.

My second thought has to do with the extreme weather events which are becoming more frequent. As I write, on January 22, the radio tells me that New York City is expecting 24 inches of snow. Roshko says that winter clothes had to be in the stores by September (“By Columbus Day, the stores hold sales on winter coats,”) because spring fashions and resort wear replaced them on the racks in February. Sometimes, by the time a woman needed a warm winter coat, it was too late to buy one.

Vogue coat featured in Elegance, 1962-63 issue.

Vogue coat featured in Elegance, 1962-63 issue. A slim-fitting dress worked best under such coats. A navy coat was a sensible choice, because it would not look out of place in Spring, while a burgundy or brown coat would.

Spring was a difficult season for sellers. Store buyers complained that “Spring can last three months or only three days;” if hot weather arrived early, women reached into their closets for last year’s summer dresses, and the “new Spring Fashions” — dresses in pastel wool or linen — were never purchased at all. I’m glad I’m not in the rag trade, especially this year.

Butterick Fashion News, October 1956

Roshko also mentions that a fall or winter dress that sold well would often be manufactured again, in a different fabric, for spring or summer. That might be just as true of these sewing patterns, which were featured in October of 1956:

Butterick dress pattern 7953. It could be made as a sheath or with a full skirt. BFN Oct. 1956.

Butterick dress pattern 7953. It could be made as a sheath or with a full skirt. BFN Oct. 1956. “Bateau neckline.”

It’s easy to imagine the sheath version in pale blue for Spring. Navy blue was also considered a Spring color.

Butterick No. 7847 could be a buisnesslike dressy sheath or a party dress, made with fly-away panels.

Butterick No. 7847 could be either a businesslike dressy sheath or a party dress, made with fly-away panels. The cinched waist that was introduced with the New Look was still fashionable in 1956.

Good heavens! Does that model actually have thighs? These are dresses for a mature woman, although teen styles in the 50’s were very like women’s styles. The “party” version would usually have been worn with a large necklace. The pattern envelope shows it in a summery, short-sleeved turquoise version, too.

Butterick pattern 7814 is a coat-dress, buttoning all the way down the front.

Butterick pattern 7814 is a coat-dress, buttoning all the way down the front.

Plaid, with a velvet collar, this dress is very autumnal. Getting a winter coat over it wouldn’t be easy, though. Made in navy linen, the pattern could be used in Spring. A white collar and cuffs would make it look quite different. According to Roshko, prudent manfacturers kept a stock of neutral color, medium weight fabrics — gray, black, light gray — which could be made up from the previous season’s dress patterns when the season was “slack” and the newest Paris styles had not yet been copied. The pattern envelope shows coat-dress No. 7814 in black faille with rhinestone buttons for afternoon or evening, and in a pinkish short-sleeved version for Spring or Summer.

Butterick 7812 dress pattern from October, 1956.

Butterick 7812 spectator dress pattern from October, 1956.

“A trim spectator [dress] gains new interest from its novelty plaid, its turn-around accents. . . .  the contrast collar, the back dipping belt, the fan shaped walking pleat.” From the front, this sporty dress is very simple; it’s the bold plaid that makes it a dress for Autumn. The pattern envelope shows it in summery green or pink versions.

Butterick 7927 is a sporty suit or separates. Oct. 1956.

Butterick 7927 is a sporty suit or separates. Oct. 1956. The jacket can be worn belted or “straight.”

A thrifty woman would make two skirts in colors coordinated with the colors in the plaid jacket, but it would be difficult to wear a coat over this jacket, which makes its season brief. You wouldn’t want to wear it to a football game on a snowy day. But you could always use the skirt pattern again. Click here for pattern envelope with jacket unbelted.

Butterick pattern 7892, Oct. 1956.

Butterick pattern 7892, Oct. 1956. Basic dress with optional capelet and vestee.

Shown in tweed wool for fall and winter, No. 7892 looks like it would work as a suit for church or shopping, and the eight-gored dress really is a “basic” that could be worn under coats and completely transformed by making it in different fabrics. The bow at the neck is part of a vestee [something like a dickey] worn under the dress. In Spring or Summer, you wouldn’t need it, as shown on the pattern envelope.

Butterick 7931, Oct. 1956. The shawl is completel separate and optional. The sleeveless dress is shown as a jumper worn over a sweater.

Butterick 7931, Oct. 1956. The shawl is completely separate and optional. The sleeveless dress (a “sheath-jumper”) is shown as a jumper worn over a sweater.

This Fall version of the sheath-jumper is made in plaid, with a matching shawl, but a look at the alternate view shows a dress that would be pretty in pastel linen or even in black, so it’s a multi-season pattern. Like dress maufacturers, pattern companies want their designs to continue over several seasons.

My personal favorite is this plaid jumper.

Butterick pattern 7930, a jumper.

Butterick pattern 7930, a jumper. It can be worn without a sweater under it, so this pattern might be made as a pretty summer dress, too.

Jumper-dress patterns are tricky — some of them have larger-than-normal armholes, to allow for the thickness of the blouse or sweater worn underneath. But this one says “alone it’s terrific.” In a pretty cotton, this could go to patio parties all summer. However, wearing that many crinolines to school would not be a good idea; you wouldn’t fit in your chair-desk.

 

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Sportswear, Vintage patterns

Queen Maud’s Tiny Waist

Maud, Queen of Denmark, in her Coronation regalian, 1906. Photo from National Library of Norway, via Wikipedia.

Maud, Queen of Denmark, in her coronation regalia, 1906. Photo from National Library of Norway, via Wikipedia.

Was anyone’s waist really that tiny? When I see photographs of Victorian-era celebrities with “impossibly” tiny corseted waists, I usually assume — and can sometimes tell — that the photos have been doctored. (Yes, vintage movie studio glamour photos are often visibly altered, too, if you know where to look. Instead of using a computer, photographers used paint.)

But one night this week I happened on two YouTube videos which showed many, many photographs of the English Princess Maud of Wales, later Queen Maud of Norway. She was the daughter of King Edward VII and his beautiful wife, Queen Alexandra, whom she resembles. The videos show many photos of Maud’s exceptionally tiny waist.
Here is Princess Maud with her husband Carl, later King Haakon.

Queen Maud and King Haakon of Norway. She is dressed for cycling.

Queen Maud and King Haakon of Norway. They are dressed for a day in the country. 1890’s.

It’s tempting to think the photograph has been altered, but . . . .

This video shows them riding bicycles; she seems to be wearing the same jacket. (If the video goes too fast for you to see the outfit, you can pause it and back it up.)

Here, they are riding horseback.

The link will continue to the end of the video, but I recommend starting at the beginning of the five minute video photo compilation by Lost Splendour , which is my favorite, showing a wonderful range of fashions; Princess Maude was born in 1869, so she was a teen in the 1880’s, married in the 1890’s, became a mother in 1903, and remained chic and up-to-date in middle age. And there are too many images to deny that her corseted waist really was that small.

Maude lived till 1938; I wonder whether she felt annoyance or relief at the fashions of the 1920’s? Here she is in the 1920’s. (There is a second picture of her, a few seconds later, in a striped twenties dress, with her dog on her lap.)

A second video compilation about Princess Maud, with some different images (but not such a clear look at her fashions,)  by adena539, can be found here.

 

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Costumes for the 19th century, Late Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs

Online Collections: Creators Studios, 1950’s to 1970’s

1957 dress with piping trim from Creator Studios collection at NYPL

1957 outfit with piping trim from Creators Studios collection at NYPL. “Sports Separates;” is this a two-piece outfit? There are no seams or darts shown on the top, so the company that bought the design would have to figure out how to make it.

A while ago, I wrote about The New York Public Library’s Digital Collection of design sketches from the Andre Studio, which included sketches of couture from the 1930’s, along with many designs generated for sale to clothing manufacturers in the U.S.  You can read about that collection of designs, the Andre collection from the 1930’s, here.]

1960's design from Creator Studios; A three piece outfit.

1960’s design from Creators Studios; a three piece outfit in solid and tweed knit — sleeveless top, jacket, and miniskirt. Colored tights and low-heeled shoes were very popular accessories n the sixties.

The archives at NYPL include another studio that generated sketches for the use of clothing manufacturers — Creators Studios [no apostrophe] — active from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Over a thousand Creators Studios sketches from the 1950’s and 1960’s have been digitized and can be viewed at

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/creators-studios-fashion-illustrations#/?tab=about

Full skirted plaid dress design from Creator Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Full skirted plaid dress design from Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Creators Studios Costume Sketches from the 1950’s and 1960’s

“This is a collection of 8425 fashion design drawings produced by Creators Studios, a New York City Seventh Avenue fashion business that marketed ready-to-wear designs to clothing manufacturers across the country on a subscription basis, beginning in 1957 and throughout the 1960s and 1970s.” If you go to the site’s Navigation page, you can select sketches to view by decade or by “eveningwear” or “1960’s youth”. Click here.

A design for a bouffant "Bubble dress" by Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

A design for a bouffant “Bubble dress” by Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Dresses like this bubble dress had crinolines built in, between the inner, tightly fitted layer, and the full outer layer. They took up a lot of room in closets and on sales racks, and, once crushed, never really looked the same….

"Suit with zipper front and double breasted effect." 1963. Creators Studios at NYPL Digital Collections.

“Suit with zipper front and double breasted effect.” 1963. Creators Studios at NYPL Digital Collections. Not surprisingly, that hat style was called a “flower pot.”

These are clothes intended to be mass-produced, with variations, so the collection should be of interest to vintage collectors; it can be sorted by “date created.” (It sorts with the most recent dates first, however, so you may prefer to use the Navigation page.) As a way to skim through a decade getting a general look, collections like these are very useful. It’s also interesting to see how the style of drawing changed between the fifties and the the late sixties.

Sketch of a plaid sheath dress, Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Sketch of a plaid “bib” dress, Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

About ten years later, the attitudes, the fashions, and the illustration style have all changed.

Sketch of a plaid dress design from Creators Studios, late 1960's. NYPL Digital Collections.

Sketch of a checked dress from Creators Studios, late 1960’s. NYPL Digital Collections. This design would have been suitable for knit fabrics.

This evening design from the 1960’s shows manufacturers two options:  the same dress in cocktail or full length.

1960's evening dress in two lengths, from Creator's Studios. NYPL Digital Collections.

1960’s evening dress in two lengths, from Creator’s Studios. NYPL Digital Collections. “Beaded embroidery and grosgrain trim on Peau de Soie.”

It’s easy to imagine this dress adapted to several price ranges, depending on materials, including a cheap taffeta version for the bridal trade. Manufacturers could make their own style variations, too — omitting the long sleeves, or using less expensive lace without beaded embroidery, for instance.

Many of the earlier sketches are signed by designer Howard Steel. He was one of the company’s three original creators.

Cocktail dress designed by Howard Steel of Creators' Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Cocktail dress designed by Howard Steel of Creators’ Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Although this bodice would have to be seamed or darted to fit this tightly, it’s left to the manufacturer to figure out where the seams go. The more seams, the higher the cost of manufacture. At the lower end of the market, you’d expect a skimpier skirt, too.

Many of the finished sketches were done by Rose Cohen, working from rough design sketches by Steel or the other “creators” who were copying original designs.

This coat and cocktail dress ensemble from the sixties looks very chic to me — the company’s designers were able to change with the times. In fact, that halter dress could have been worn just about any time in the last fifty years!

Sixties' black ottoman dress and coat, for Creator Studios.

Nineteen sixties’ black ottoman silk & faille dress and 7/8 length coat, for Creator Studios. NYPL Collections.

This 1960’s fabric and leather dress with a zip front would have been out of my price range (I couldn’t afford leather cleaning!) but seems inspired by Bonnie Cashin’s combination of those materials.

1960s zip front dress with leather trim. From Creators Studios, via NYPL Digital Collections.

1960s zip front dress with leather trim. From Creators Studios, via NYPL Digital Collections.

I settled for a similar style, probably from Joseph Magnin, in heavy unbleached cotton, with dark brown stitching and a big, brown, center front zipper; I wore it with dark brown tights in 1968 or 69. (My dress didn’t have a button at the neck — just a big zipper pull. My boss called it my “Emma Peel dress.” I was completely covered neck to wrist; it hadn’t occurred to me that men would think it was sexy.)

NOTE: please do not copy or republish these images; their copyright belongs to the New York Public Library and they have been made low resolution as required by NYPL.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Resources for Costumers, Uncategorized, Zippers

Tangee Lipstick & Maybelline Mascara: A Pre-teen’s Makeup in the Fifties

Full page Tangee ad, Vogue, 1943.

Full page Tangee lipstick ad, Vogue, August 1943.

Tangee for the lips: This advertisement for Tangee color-changing lipstick is from Vogue’s college issue – August 15, 1943. You can see the patriotic “Buy Bonds” text at right.

Tangee Natural lipstick, right, and Tangee Theatrical, left. Vogue, Aug. 1943.

Tangee Natural lipstick, right, and Tangee Theatrical Red, left. Vogue, Aug. 1943.

“Orange in the stick, it changes to produce your own most becoming shade of blush-rose.” Body heat transformed the translucent orange Tangee Natural lipstick to a light salmon pink when I tested it on the back of my hand.

My First Cosmetic: Tangee

Tangee was the “entry level drug” of cosmetics for me and my friends, growing up in the 1950’s. In the late fifties, lipstick colors were often a frankly artificial red, but Tangee’s promise to adjust to your own lip color and give your lips a natural – but enhanced – hue, meant that I could justify “Tangee Natural” to my father. Rubbed on my hand, it was light pink and almost transparent; I could say, “See, it’s hardly any color at all!” (On your lips, it became darker.)

In this ad, the tube of Tangee lipstick looks completely colorless. Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1937.

In this ad, the tube of Tangee lipstick looks completely colorless. Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1937.

My friends’ parents also gave their grudging approval for us – aged 13 or so – to wear “natural” Tangee. You could even get away with wearing it to a Catholic girl’s school – usually — if you blotted it…. I don’t know why I wanted to wear lipstick, except that my friends wanted to do it. I wasn’t interested in boys — but applying lipstick was one of those things that adult women did. (Like smoking cigarettes….)

Ad Detail, Revlon red lipstick, 1962-63.

Ad Detail for “Fire and Ice”,  a vivid red lipstick from Revlon, Elegance magazine, 1962-63.

This series of Revlon ads targeted grown women, not teens.

Dime Store Makeup in the Fifties

Tangee color changing lipstick ad, Delineator, No. 1934.

Tangee color-changing lipstick ad, Delineator, Nov. 1934.

We didn’t have a Woolworth’s Five and Dime store, so we bought our Tangee at the local Ben Franklin Variety Store. It wasn’t an expensive brand; perhaps Tangee still came in both small and large sizes.  In 1958, young teenagers (Junior High age) didn’t usually wear any other makeup. We did eventually move on to mascara in high school; Maybelline, then as now, was available in drugstores and affordable even on a very small allowance.

Top of Maybelline Mascara ad, Delineator, Feb. 1924.

Top of Maybelline Mascara ad, Delineator, Feb. 1924.

However, I have no memory of Maybelline in a liquid form.

Detail from Maybelline ad, 1929.

Detail from Maybelline ad, 1929. Waterproof liquid Mascara at right.

The Maybelline I knew came in a very small, red plastic case, with a sliding lid,  and inside was a tray of hard black or brown mascara and a small brush with one row of black bristles. I regret to say that everyone I knew, including my mother, used spit, not tap water, to activate the mascara. (Don’t! Very bad idea!)

Detail, Ad for Maybellline Mascara. Vogue, August 1943.

Detail, Ad for Maybellline Mascara. Vogue, August 1943.

Maybelline Mascara: A Family Tradition
The Maybelline product and packaging were familiar to me from my early childhood, because my mother had used it for her entire adult life. This ad is from a 1943 magazine. . .

Maybelline Mascara ad, Vogue, Aug. 1943.

Maybelline Mascara ad, Vogue, Aug. 1943.

. . . and this is from a 1924 magazine:

Maybelline Mascara Ad, Delineator, May 1924.

Maybelline Mascara Ad, Delineator, May 1924.

Maybelline Mascara was an old friend to my mother, a would-be “glamor girl” in the 1920’s.

Woman in makeup, circa 1929,

My mother. Office worker in makeup, circa 1929. In addition to applying mascara to her lashes, she has powdered over her natural lip line and created a dark red “cupid’s bow” or “beestung” lips. She’s obviously not a fan of subtle Tangee lipstick!

Maybelline also made eyebrow pencils, of course, but young teenagers I knew in the 1950’s did not use them to line their eyelids, at least not until we were in high school, and usually not while attending classes before 1960 or so. We tried to be subtle. The nuns had sharp eyes. So did our parents.

Dime Store Daze

Ad for Revlon lipstick, Elegance magazine, 1962-63 issue.

Ad for Revlon lipstick, Elegance magazine, 1962-63 issue.

I don’t think I knew there were any other manufacturers of eye makeup products until the 1960’s! The magazine ads for Revlon’s Fire & Ice lipstick (above) were memorable, but aimed at grown women. When I spoke of mascara, I said “Maybelline.”
As a working class kid in the late 1950’s, shopping for cosmetics at a department store never occurred to me. For one thing, the only department store in town was Montgomery Ward, (which we, and the adults we knew, always referred to as “Monkey Ward’s.”) I associated Ward’s with January White Sales and my uncle’s overalls, but not with cosmetics. And for another, we had very little pocket money, so we did our furtive Tangee shopping at the “Ben Frank’s.”

White Lipstick and Black Eyeliner: The Sixties.
Once our parents got used to the sight of us in our Tangee lipstick, it was time to move on to a relatively light colored Revlon lipstick called “Persian Melon.” (It was more coral than red.) Then came the mid-1960’s – the Beatles, Mary Quant in Vidal Sassoon Haircuts, the Mod Look, supermodels Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy, the glorification of all things British – and Yardley (of London!) cosmetics, which targeted the new youth market with white lipstick, tons of eye makeup, and eyeshadows in a rainbow of colors.  But I still bought Maybelline mascara in a little red box.

Mom and Dad Get the Last Laugh

"Make up your lips for kisses!" Tangee lipstick ad, 1934

“Make up your lips for kisses!” Tangee lipstick ad, 1934

We 12-year-olds thought that Tangee was a secret passed down to teen girls from their older sisters. I didn’t know until recently that our parents knew all about Tangee cosmetics:  Tangee had been around since the early 1920’s, and advertised heavily in women’s magazines in the 1930’s. According to an excellent history from the Collecting Vintage Compacts website, Tangee was the best selling lipstick in America in 1940! (That site has many vintage Tangee ads in color, too.)

Here are some black and white Tangee ads from the 1930’s, when my parents got married. Sometimes the ads were pitched to women who were still worried that wearing obvious makeup would make them look “fast.” There must have been plenty of women in small-town America whose menfolk disapproved of cosmetics (at least, on their own wives and daughters….)

Tangee ad, Delineator, March 1934.

“Wins man who said: ‘I want unpainted kisses.’ ” Tangee ad, Delineator, March 1934.

Tangee ad, Delineator, March 1934.

Tangee ad, Delineator, March 1934. “It was her own brother who guessed what was wrong … and told her the truth: … Men don’t like paint.”

For some small-town women, there was the problem of competing with younger women for the available bachelors:

Tangee lipstick ad, May 1934. "They caller her 'Old Maid...' She's Mrs. Now!"

Tangee lipstick ad, May 1934. “They called her ‘Old Maid…’ She’s Mrs. Now!”

Text of Tangee ad, May 1934.

Text of Tangee ad, May 1934. “Like all fastidious women, she refused to look painted. But for a while, she made the mistake of using no lipstick… with the result that her lips were colorless, old-maidish.”

Even conservative older women wanted to look more youthful — although the wife of a small-town mayor or local businessman couldn’t risk scandal by looking like a “painted woman.”

"For lips that never look old." Tangee lipstick ad, March 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

“For lips that never look old.” Tangee lipstick ad, March 1937. Woman’s Home Companion. “Watch the blush-rose shade of youth appear.” “Tangee isn’t paint and cannot give you a ‘painted look.’ “

Tangee lipstick ads from 1934, left, and 1937, right.

Tangee lipstick ads from 1934, left, and 1937, right. “Simply emphasize the natural color in your lips!” Notice that the lipstick appears colorless in this ad, although the model’s lips look fashionably dark.

Eventually Tangee branched out into more vividly colored products. Tangee Natural lipstick is still available – with delightful testimonials – from Vermont Country Store.  If you wonder how lipstick was made, Glamourdaze reprinted a story,”Inside the Tangee Lipstick Factory,” from 1947, when 190 million individual tubes of lipstick  — from all brands — were sold!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Makeup & Lipstick, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

Vogue Designer Suits, April 1966

I came across this Vogue Pattern Fashion News flyer for April, 1966, which interested me because that was the time in my life when I started really paying attention to clothes. I was twenty, a Senior in college, and finally realizing that I was going to be judged by the way I dressed, so I ought to study up and try to pass for middle class. [I was a blue-collar kid aspiring to a white-collar life.]

Vogue designer suit pattern by Nina Ricci, No. 1581. Vogue pattern flyer, April 1966.

Vogue designer suit pattern by Ricci, No. 1581. Vogue pattern flyer, April 1966.

Vogue patterns had a reputation for being very difficult compared to McCall’s. This was true of Vogue designer patterns, because they called for couture stitching techniques, which they described in detail. You could learn a lot from Vogue patterns, but they were not for the lazy or hurried stitcher. One of my roommates became a legend in the dormitory for making a three-piece Vogue designer suit which was rumored to have 69 pieces. [Not 69 pattern pieces.] When she finished cutting it out, the pieces did cover all three beds in our room! I never ventured beyond making Vogue dresses, but I recognized these 1966 suit styles immediately.

When I named this blog “witness to fashion,” I was thinking of the information that only people who witnessed an era of fashion can supply:  Who would wear this? What would it say about the wearer? Models are usually very young women, but would a twenty-year old really wear this outfit? By 1967, we had all heard the saying “Never trust anyone over thirty.” This was an era when young people and mature people really did dress differently.

Ricci Suit, Vogue 1581, April 1966

Vogue No. 1581, a suit by Nina Ricci, April 1966.

Vogue No. 1581, a suit by Ricci, April 1966.

If I met a woman wearing this suit, I would have known that she was middle or upper middle class, prosperous, and able to afford more than one good suit. [This one is very sporty because of the large plaid.] A woman in her twenties might very well wear this suit, but, to me, it is not especially youthful; it’s more “classic.” It’s chic, not matronly, but I can easily picture women from 25 to 65 wearing this suit. If made in a solid-color wool, it would be more versatile. Nevertheless, the suggestion of a navy pea-coat — the double breasted, rather long jacket — makes it look informal: a suit to wear shopping, not for afternoon cocktails or a funeral.

Vogue 1581 by Ricci, without the plaid. In red, or a dark color, it would look more dressy.

Vogue 1581 by Ricci, as it would look — more urbane — without the plaid.  Dated 1966.

In red, or a dark color, it looks more dressy. (Click here.) You might make the simple blouse in several colors to get more wear out of the suit.

bk cover 1966 apr 1581 ricci text

Note: Nina Ricci retired from the House of Ricci in 1954, and  Jules-François Crahay became its chief designer.

Vogue Designer Suits by Guy Laroche and Pedro Rodriguez, April 1966

Vogue designer suits featured in April 1966. No. 1580, by Guy Laroche, and No. 1583, by Rodriguez.

Vogue designer suits featured in April 1966. No. 1580, by Guy Laroche, and No. 1583, by Rodriguez. I think a very young woman would have been be more likely to choose No. 1583.

Both of these suits, on page 2 of the Vogue store flyer, are accented with top-stitching.  The patterns include interesting blouses, to be worn outside the skirt, overlapping the skirt’s waist. This produced a “dress” look, especially when made from the same wool or linen as the skirt. [It was also chic to make the blouse in silk shantung the same color as the suit.]

The reason these suits look more youthful to me than #1581 is that the jackets reach only to the high hip — a style that worked well with late sixties’ skirts, which were getting shorter. The little bow at the neck of #1580 seems fussy to me — again, I could imagine an older woman wearing this suit; however, I wouldn’t call it “dowdy.” No. 1583 is more what a young woman might wear: the skirt has a “contour” waist, with no waistband — which was a youthful fashion, the opposite of the cinched-in waists of the 1950’s and early 60’s. The envelope shows it in pink, — very young looking. Young — and rich.

966 apr p 2 suit text1580 1583

The sleeveless blouse of the Ricci suit (No. 1581) has shoulders which extend out to the point of the shoulder, but the Rodriguez blouse bares the shoulder — another look I associate with youthful women, like Audrey Hepburn.

Vogue Designer Suit Patterns 1576, 1575, and 1582, dated 1966.

On page 3, there are three great sixties’ suits, from Emilio Pucci, Federico Forquet, and the House of Ricci.

Vogue designer suit patterns from Pucci, Forquet, and Ricci. April 1966.

Vogue designer suit patterns from Pucci, Forquet, and Ricci. April 1966.

Notice the jacket length. The Forquet skirt, eased over the tummy instead of darted to fit, was called a “dirndl.” I made A-line dirndl skirts to wear with coordinating tops that just reached the high hip. The suit by Ricci also avoids fitting tightly. As the TV show Mad Men put it, this is “Jackie” versus “Marilyn.” [The “Jackie” type is not so desperate for love that she exposes her body to strangers, unlike the “Marilyn” type.]

Vogue designer patterns 1575, by Forquet, and 1576, by Pucci. April, 1966.

Vogue designer patterns 1575, by Forquet, and 1576, by Pucci. April, 1966. No. 1576 has a double line of topstitching, not solid black trim.

Both of these are jacket and dress combinations. The Forquet dress echoes the shaping of the jacket and suggests an hourglass shape without clinging tightly. It has a shaped, slightly dropped waist.  The Pucci jacket is more sporty and shown with a “helmet” hat that evokes a riding outfit. The models on the envelope look young, not middle aged. Personally, I think jacket No. 1576 would work better with a dress in the darker color of the plaid jacket, but I’m not Pucci! 966 apr p 3 suit 1576 1575 pucci forquet text

Pucci’s stewardess uniforms for Braniff Airlines also had standing collars.

The pattern envelope for No. 1575 shows the [not very attractive] scarf. Click here. Sixties’ suits, like Nos. 1575 and 1581, often were accented with a large costume jewelry pin on the lapel or yoke.

Ricci Suit, Vogue Pattern 1582 from 1966

Vogue designer pattern 1582 by Nina Ricci, April 1966.

Vogue designer pattern 1582 by Ricci, April 1966.

I love this suit. You got a lot for your $3.50 with this pattern:  dress, jacket, and a wrap blouse. It’s elegant; the velvet collar makes it very dressy, and it skims the body — nothing overtly sexy about it. But it screams “self-confidence” and “self-respect.” In my twenties, I didn’t have any reason to wear such a beautiful suit, no matter how much I wanted one. It speaks of afternoon fund-raisers, museums, art galleries, fine restaurants, opera and ballet matinees; possibly cocktails at a hotel bar…. Not days spent working in a bank or teaching high school. Would it look good on a woman in her mid-twenties? Yes. Would it look equally good on a woman in her thirties? Her forties? Her sixties? Yes.

And now for something completely different….

Vogue “Special Design” Suit Pattern 6747

From the same Vogue pattern flyer, a suit without a designer label:

Vogue pattern No. 6747, April 1966.

Vogue suit pattern No. 6747, April 1966.

To my twenty-tear-old eyes, this suit screamed, “Middle aged. Long married. Dull.”

Yes, do “note the little belt at the sides of the jacket” — designed to make a woman with a thick waist look even more shapeless. I must have seen dozens of versions of this outfit made of polyester doubleknit. Even the blouse would make you look round-shouldered and dowager-humped; and those sleeves are the perfect length to make your arms look chubby and your bust look wider.  The width of the skirt’s center panel is a lot less flattering than a single, central pleat would be. You would have to make this suit out of very fine quality wool, indeed, to give the impression of wealth and elegance. Even the pattern envelope, in color, can’t convince me that anyone but a middle-aged woman would want to wear it. It does look better with a straight skirt. The model wearing the black and white version seems to have white hair. (So do I, now. But this is about 1966. The aristocratic “Mrs. Exeter” never had to appear in this pattern!) You can read many entertaining posts about “Mrs. Exeter” at American Age Fashion, What Older Women Wore, 1900 to Now.  

There’s not a hint of Carnaby Street or “the Youthquake” in Vogue 6747.

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

Cutting the Cost of Clothes, March 1917

In March, 1917, before America officially entered World War I, Delineator magazine began a series of articles on the advantages of making your own clothing. I find them interesting because the cost of making up the same pattern(s) in different fabrics is given.

"Cutting the Cost of Slothing," Delineator, pages 54 and 55, March 1917.

“Cutting the Cost of Clothes,” Delineator, pages 54 and 55, March 1917.

Second page of "Cutting the Cost of Clothes" article, Delineator, March 1917.

Second page of “Cutting the Cost of Clothes” article, Delineator, March 1917.

Digression:  Before I show the patterns and their budgets in detail, I can’t ignore that ad for Hump Hair Pins.

Ad for Hump Hair Pins, Delineator, March 1917.

Ad for Hump Hair Pins, Delineator, March 1917. “The Hump Hair Pin Locks the Locks” … “hours after your hair has been dressed.”

Not quite a bobby pin and not quite a traditional hairpin, the Hump Hair Pin seems to be designed for women who are bobbing their hair like Irene Castle, or at least wearing it shorter in front while pinning up the long hair in back.

Hump Hair Pin ad, Delineator, March 1917. "Short Ends never worry the woman who insists on Hump Hair Pins."

Hump Hair Pin ad, Delineator, March 1917. “Short Ends never worry the woman who insists on Hump Hair Pins.”

Cutting the Cost of Clothes, March 1917.

1917 mar p 54 cost of clothes caption

The article by Evelyn Chalmers, “Cutting the Cost of Clothes,” was the first in a series intended to be of “very practical helpfulness to women of average means.” Delineator aimed at the middle and upper-middle class woman; not everyone lived near a department store, but most towns had dressmakers who made clothes from patterns their customers selected. Not every woman who bought a Butterick pattern would sew it herself. However, Butterick Publishing Company had good reasons to stress the cost-saving potential of sewing patterns.

“I am going to show how you can cut the cost of clothes. . . . I am going to show, . . . for instance, how you can have a delightful little suit under fifteen dollars that you couldn’t buy for twenty-five. . . . I am going to help you choose styles that will serve as many purposes as possible so that you will always be correctly dressed without having to go to the expense of a very elaborate and varied wardrobe. It is a question of using your brain, your thrift and your industry in place of money.”– Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator

“The three [suits] I have chosen . . . are simple but not too severe, smart enough to answer all requirements  and yet so conservative that you can use them for traveling, shopping, etc. . . . The suits are smart. They are correct. They are young looking and becoming.”

Costs of Materials for Making Butterick Patterns 9039 and 9019 

“A smart little suit with pinch tucks:”

Butterick Jacket and Skirt, Delineator, March 1917, p. 54.

Butterick Jacket 9039 and Skirt 9019, Delineator, March 1917, p. 54.

Supplies for making this coat and skirt combination ranged from $7.21 to $11.43, depending on the version you made and the materials you chose. March 1917. Delineator.

Costs of making Coat 9039 and Skirt 9019, March 1917. Delineator.

Supplies for making this coat and skirt combination ranged from $7.21 to $11.03, depending on the version you made and the materials you chose.

I am assuming that “flannel” is wool flannel, but it is a facing, so perhaps not. Satin lining material varies from $0.80 to $1.00 per yard. I’m surprised to find that the coat is interlined with cambric (which I associate with handkerchiefs) which can cost either $0.09 or $0.12 per yard. As now, buttons could be cheap ($0.18 per dozen) or a bit fancier ($0.25 per dozen.) Chalmers suggested celluloid buttons.

Detail of jacket No. 9039.

Detail of jacket No. 9039.

Costs of Materials for Making Butterick 8980 and 9040

“A suit with splendid lines:”

Butterick coat pattern 8980 and skirt pattern 9040, March 1917. Delineator, p. 55.

Butterick coat pattern 8980 and skirt pattern 9040, March 1917. Delineator, p. 55.

The jacket has a rather interesting pocket and belt combination. High, and bizarre, hats were popular.

Costs for materials: four different versions of jacket 8980 and skirt 9040. Delineator, March 1917, p. 55.

Costs for materials: four different versions of jacket 8980 and skirt 9040. Delineator, March 1917, p. 55.

The jacket’s collar could be made of velveteen, at $0.75 per yard, or of velvet, at $1.00 to $1.25 per yard.

All three jackets are lined with satin, and interlined with cambric. “For your lining you can get a satin with a cotton back at the price I’ve quoted.”  This outfit’s price ranged from $7.20 to $11.20.

1917 mar p 54 Light Bright

Costs of Materials for Making Butterick 9041 and 9042

Butterick coat 9041 and skirt 9042, March 1917. Delineator, p. 55.

Butterick coat 9041 and skirt 9042, March 1917. Delineator, p. 55. “The new barrel silhouette.”

This is a typical “( “Six or seven inches from the floor is the length accepted by the best  houses here and abroad.”

1917 mar p 54 skirt in illust IIIYou can understand how the 1917 barrel skirt might have tempted women to let their figures spread a little, so that the slim lines of the 1920’s were a bit of a problem for the not-very-young. (See How to Look Thinner in the 1920’s;  Corsets and Corselettes.)

Material costs for four version s of Butterick 9041 and 1942. March 1917. Delineator. p. 55

Material costs for four versions of Butterick 9041 and 1942. March 1917. Delineator. p. 55

This suit (jacket and skirt) could be made as cheaply as $8.27 or from more expensive “serge, gabardine or check” for $13.45, assuming you made it yourself.

All of the patterns call for dress weights, cambric interlining, silk thread, cotton thread, and basting thread.

Chalmers suggested making a satin blouse (with a peplum) in the same color as your skirt, so that it could be worn as a “street dress” when the weather got warmer and you didn’t need a jacket.

Prices for Mail Order Clothing from Delineator Advertisements

The cost of making the suits shown in Eleanor Chalmers’ article do make her point:  “You can have a delightful little suit under fifteen dollars that you couldn’t buy for twenty-five”

In the same month, March 1917, advertisers in her magazine offered two piece suits, something like those above, for as much as $35.00.

Woman's suits from the Bella Hess catalog, Ad, Delineator, March 1917, p. 33.

Women’s suits from the Bella Hess catalog. Ad, Delineator, March 1917, p. 33. Suits, $25.00 and $18.98; Hats for $1.98 and $2.98.

Clothing from the Bedell dress catalog; ad in Delineator, March 1917.

Clothing from the Bedell dress catalog; ad in Delineator, March 1917. A silk dress for $16.98 and a velour coat for $12.98 .

Price range of women's clothing from Bedell catalog, 1917.

Price range of women’s clothing from Bedell catalog, 1917. Suits $8.75 to $35.00; skirts $1.00 to $10.00, Dresses $5.00 to $25.00.

An Easter Dress from the Philipsborn catalog, advertised in Delineator, March 1917.

An Easter Dress from the Philipsborn catalog, advertised in Delineator, March 1917. $4.98. Quite a bargain!

Cost of Living, March 1917

One kind of ad that appeared in Delineator over a long period — decades — was for nursing schools. To give you an idea of a desirable income for a woman:

"Be a Nurse -- Delineator, March 1917.

“Be a Nurse — Earn $15 to $25 per week.” Delineator, March 1917.

This Dodge convertible closed car cost $ 1135.00, F.O.B. Detroit.

Dodge closed car in ad, March 1917, Delineator.

Dodge closed car in ad, Delineator, March 1917.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Hairstyles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, World War I