Very Bare Backs, 1930s

I happened across this Ladies’ Home Journal cover for February, 1936, and thought it was worth sharing.

Cover, Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Cover, Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

This low-backed dress from 1933 has similar fabric flower trim:

Butterick 5424, a low backed evening dress trimmed with flowers. Delineator Dec. 1922.

Butterick 5424, a low backed evening dress trimmed with flowers. Delineator Dec. 1933.

Like the magazine cover, this bare backed evening gown was featured in the February, 1933, Ladies’ Home Journal: [CORRECTION: Both are from February 1936.]

Dinner suit and evening dress for a cruise, LHJ, Feb. 1936.

Dinner suit and evening dress for a cruise, LHJ, Feb. 1936.

The nearly backless gown is made of “a vivid flower print on black silk.”

This low-backed gown was featured in a “Wardrobe for the Young Married Woman,”

Butterick 5321, a low backed gown suitable for the young married woman. Delineator, Oct. 1933.

Butterick 5321, a low-backed evening gown suitable for the young married woman. Delineator, Oct. 1933. “Slithery, slinky white satin with a deep, deep decolletage in back.”

However, the college girl might also wear a low-backed gown:

A low backed evening gown for an

A low-backed evening gown for an “undergraduate.” Butterick pattern 6011, Delineator, January 1935.

They were not just for evening wear:

Butterick sundress pattern 5766, Delineator, July 1934.

Butterick sundress pattern 5766, Delineator, July 1934. Yes, she’s playing tennis.

Low-backed gowns were used to get the reader’s attention in advertisements, too.

A backless gown in an ad for mouthwash, Delineator, April 1934.

A backless gown in an ad for mouthwash or toothpaste, Delineator, April 1934.

Low-backed, sequinned gown in an ad for Listerine mouthwash. Woman's Home Companion, April, 1936.

Low-backed, sequinned gown in an ad for Listerine mouthwash. Woman’s Home Companion, April, 1936.

This ad is selling hand lotion:

Ad for lotion, low-backed evening gown. Woman;s Home Companion, April 1936.

Ad for lotion, featuring a low-backed evening gown. Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936.

Shelvador refrigerator ad, with a party guest visiting the kitchen in her back-less evening gown.

Shelvador refrigerator ad, with a party guest visiting the kitchen in her backless evening gown. July, 1936. Delineator.

This was from a series of ads where elegantly dressed guests visited the kitchen to “ooooh and ahhhhh” over the refrigerator. (To be fair, refrigerators were not that common; on the other hand, this seems like “bad form” — bragging.) The men are in white tie.

Low-backed evening gowns also sold Kellogg’s Bran flakes:

Constance Cummings in an ad for Kellogg's Bran. June, 1934. Delineator.

Actress Constance Cummings in an ad for Kellogg’s All-Bran. June, 1934. Delineator.

Kellogg's bran ad, June 1934.

Kellogg’s All-Bran ad, June 1934. “To look well in the new gowns, many of us must reduce.”

This lovely green [velvet?] dress is selling (green) Palmolive soap:

Evening gown in a Palmolive soap ad, Delineator, February 1933.

Evening gown in a Palmolive soap ad, Delineator, February 1933.

It’s less surprising that bare-backed ladies in evening dress were also used to sell Fashion classes . . .

An Ad for Woodbury College, Woman's Home Companion, Dec. 1937.

An Ad for Woodbury College, Woman’s Home Companion, Dec. 1937. “Earn Good Money as a Costume Designer.”

And pattern catalogs:

Butterick catalog cover, Oct. 1933.

Butterick catalog cover, Oct. 1933.

Of course, there were also ads for undergarments that would allow you to wear backless evening gowns. This Gossard foundation really does allow the wearer’s back to be bare all the way to the waist:

Ad for a backless foundation garment. Delineator, April 1932.

Ad for a Gossard backless foundation garment. Delineator, April 1932.

Gossard backless and boneless foundation garment. Advertisement, in Delineator. April 1932.

Gossard backless and boneless foundation garment. Advertisement in Delineator; April 1932.

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8 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Foundation Garments, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs

8 responses to “Very Bare Backs, 1930s

  1. Wow, I knew that low backs were in style in the thirties, but I had no idea that you would find them in Corn Flakes ads!

  2. What fascinating and terrific information! I am delighted I signed up for witness2fashion. Thank you!

  3. Michele

    What a great article! While not usually a fan of everyday 1930s fashion, I do particularly like the evening and leisure dresses with that super-low back, and just as I was wondering what would have been worn for bust support, you covered that too! I am fascinated by an ad company conceiving of a formal party that would end up admiring the refrigerator, but have decided to imagine that it was one of those dreamed-of louche events where guests drifted into the kitchen at 3 a.m. to raid the fridge, pouring champagne over the blancmange and picking at the remains of the lobster…
    I also want to be the love-struck girl in green velvet – so beautifully turned out just to yearn!
    Is there a chance of delving further into the “Wardrobe for Young Married Women”? I always love wardrobe plans from all eras, and have some interesting (but sadly, not illustrated) ones from 1910 that first piqued my interest in this area many years ago. Thanks again for your fascinating articles!

    • “Louche”– what a great word for it! I do remember a movie (Easy Living, 1937) in which the heroine is puzzled by a “gas refrigerator” in a luxury hotel suite. I have photographed all the fashion articles from the 1933 Delineator magazines, so I’ll try to prioritize the “Young Married Woman” advice. Advice for large sized women was also a regular feature.

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