Winter Wardrobes for Women, October 1933

I showed one, low-backed evening gown from a 1933 article about Butterick’s “Wardrobe for Young Married Women” and Michele asked to see the rest of the article. When I looked for it, I discovered that the same issue of The Delineator magazine recommended winter wardrobes for The Business Girl, The Clubwoman, and The High School Girl, too. So, for comparison, here are the suggested fashions. I found a few surprises, and, as the highway signs say, “Wide shoulder ahead.”

Butterick’s Wardrobe for Young Married Women, 1933

Part of Butterick's recommended wardrobe for a young married woman. An evening wrap and an evenig dress were also included. Delineator, October, 1933.

Part of Butterick’s recommended wardrobe for Young Married Women. An evening wrap and an evening dress were also included. Delineator, October, 1933, p. 69.

Evening clothes for young married women, 1933. Wrap #5338 and Gown #5321, Butterick patterns.

Evening clothes for young married women, 1933. Wrap #5338 and Gown #5321, Butterick patterns.

1933 oct p 69 wardrobe for young married woman 5338 evening wrap text

1933 oct p 69 wardrobe for young married woman 5321 evening gown text

Day dress 5315 and coat 5336, recommended for young married women. Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, Oct., pg 69.

Day dress 5315 and coat 5336, recommended for young married women. Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, Oct., pg 69.

1933 oct p 69 wardrobe for young married woman 5315 text

1933 oct p 69 wardrobe for young married woman 5336 text

Clothes for a yung married woman. Butterick patterns 5313 and 5311, Oct. 1933 Delineator.

Clothes for a young married woman. Butterick patterns 5313  (afternoon dress) and 5311 (dinner dress), Oct. 1933 Delineator.

1933 oct p 69 wardrobe for young married woman 5313 text

1933 oct p 69 wardrobe for young married woman 5311 btm text

The “organ pipe” sleeves of No. 5311 and the “loop shoulders” of No. 5315 are among many odd sleeve and shoulder treatments from 1933, when wider shoulders for women were just finding their way into fashion.

Butterick’s Wardrobe for the Smart Business Girl, 1933

Four outfits for the "Smart Business Girl;" Butterick patterns 5339, 5346, 5341, and 5325. Oct. 1933, Delineator, page 68.

Four outfits for the “Smart Business Girl;” Butterick patterns 5339, 5346, 5341, and 5325. Oct. 1933, Delineator, page 68. There are two additional items.

Butterick pattern 5337 for the "Smart Business Girl." Delineator, October 1933.

Butterick pattern 5337 for the “Smart Business Girl.” Delineator, October 1933.

Detachable and interchangeable collars were very popular in the nineteen thirties.

Coat for the "Smart Business Girl," Butterick pattern 5344, Delineator magazine, October 1933.

Coat for the “Smart Business Girl,” Butterick pattern 5344, Delineator magazine, October 1933. The sleeves are widened with a detail resembling fish fins.

Butterick patterns 5339 and 5346 for the "Smart Business Girl. Delneator, Oct. 1933/

Butterick patterns 5339 and 5346 for the “Smart Business Girl.” Delineator, Oct. 1933.

1933 oct p 68 business girl wardrobe 5339 5346 text 400

No. 5339 has a “rim shoulder,” and No. 5346, a double-sided satin dress which goes from office to date, also has a rather experimental shoulder, perhaps inspired by the Elizabethans. This Elizabethan jerkin, at the Metropolitan museum, shows what I mean.

An afternoon dress (Butterick 5341) and an evening dress (5325) for the "Smart Business Girl," Delineator, Oc.t 1933.

A velvet dress (Butterick 5341) and an evening dress (5325) for the “Smart Business Girl,” Delineator, October 1933.

1933 oct p 68 business girl wardrobe 5341 5325 400 text btm

The evening gown (No. 5325) is the new “mermaid silhouette;” both dresses are designed to make the shoulders look wider. The pointy diagonal accent on No. 5341 was seen in many variations. Click here for Joan Crawford in an extreme version, 1933.

Butterick’s Wardrobe of Patterns for the Smart Clubwoman, 1933.

Members of women’s clubs did not merely play bridge and socialize; in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century they were very much involved in improving their communities. “Women’s clubs founded kindergartens, settlement houses, school-lunch programs, health clinics, museums, and parks” according to this article about the Audubon Society.

Clubwoman” was also Butterick’s euphemism for women who were older and not especially slender. (Lane Byrant catalogs called them “stout.”)

"Winter Wardrobe for the Smart Club Woman." Butterick patterns 5329. 5353, 5290, and 5350, from Delineator, page 71. October 1933.

“Winter Wardrobe for the Smart Clubwoman.” Butterick patterns 5329, 5353, 5290, and 5350, from Delineator, page 71. October 1933.

The Delineator also suggested a Spring and Summer wardrobe for “clubwomen;” click here to read about it.

Outfits for "Club Women," Butterick patterns 5329 and 5353, October 1933.

Outfits for “Clubwomen,” Butterick patterns 5329 and 5353, October 1933. Available up to 48″ bust.

1933 oct p 71 wardrobe clubwoman 5329 text

1933 oct p 71 wardrobe clubwoman 5353 text

A coat (Butterick 5290) and a dress (5350) for mature women. Delineator, October 1933.

A coat (Butterick 5290) and an afternoon dress (5350) for mature women. Delineator, October 1933. For sizes up to 52 inch bust.

1933 oct p 71 wardrobe clubwoman coat 5290 text

1933 oct p 71 wardrobe clubwomanafternoon dress 5350 text

The coat, like all the others, is enhanced with fur; in this case, the “mushroom collar” adds width to the shoulders, and the cut of the back is flattering to wide hips. These two patterns were available up to a bust measurement of 52 inches.

Butterick’s Winter Wardrobe for the High School Girl, 1933

Butterick patterns 5335, 5331, 5340, and 5333, recommended for High School Girls in Oct. 1933, Delineator, p. 70.

Butterick patterns 5335, 5331, 5340, and 5333, recommended for High School Girls in Oct. 1933, Delineator, p. 70.

Just when I think I’m getting a feel for a period, something like this makes my jaw drop. People had to grow up fast in the Depression, but what ever happened to wearing a simple skirt and sweater? These are not “going away to an Ivy League college” clothes; the text says “High School Girl.” Surely dressing like this was cost-prohibitive for most. And, if schoolgirls dressed like this, how could you tell them from adults?

Dresses for High School Girls, Butterick patterns 5335 and 5331, October 1933 Delineator, p. 70.

Dresses for High School Girls, Butterick patterns 5335 and 5331, October 1933 Delineator, p. 70.

1933 oct p 70 wardrobe plan for high school 5335 5331 text

“Flaming red faille taffeta” and “Low in back.” Not the “pretty in pink” innocent look. The school dress (5331) surprises me because it is so memorable — you couldn’t wear a dress like that every day without everyone noticing that you only have one school dress. All four of these styles for high school girls have the new, very wide shoulders and/or puffy sleeves. And they are designed for relatively small sizes.

A coat (Butterick 5340) and a dress (pattern 5333) for high school. Delineator, October 1933. p. 70.

A coat (Butterick 5340) and a red velveteen date dress (pattern 5333) for high school girls. Delineator, October 1933. p. 70.

1933 oct p 70 wardrobe plan for high school text 5340 5333 btm

No. 5333 has unusual off-center “clips” [ buttons (?)] “front and back.”

The hem lengths for the young married woman and the smart business girl are noticeably longer than those for the high school girl and the clubwoman.

Young MArried Women and Smart Business GIrls are shown with longer hemlines than High School Girls and Older (Club) Women. Oct. 1933 Delineator.

Young Married Women and Smart Business Girls are shown with longer hemlines than High School Girls and Older (Club) Women. Oct. 1933 Delineator.

This could be because schoolgirls and older women were assumed to be shorter than young adult women. “Sizes 12 to 20” still referred to the old practice of selling young (and/or small) women’s dresses by age rather than by size. Click here for “Size 16 Years: What Does That Mean?” The patterns for older (club) women may say “Sizes 14 to 20,” but that does not equate to bust measurements 34″ to 52″! “Sizes 14 to 20” means “14 to twenty years of age,” and those patterns had different proportions than, and were made in addition to, patterns sold by bust measurement.

12 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Vintage patterns

12 responses to “Winter Wardrobes for Women, October 1933

  1. I love this blog, even though I am not an expert on fashion. I’m not old enough to remember the 1930’s but my mother was born in 1906, and I have many photos of her and other family members from that period, and while the clothes are somewhat related to the ones in this article, they were nowhere near as detailed, fancy or extreme! My family were middle class, and my mother and her sister were working women (secretarial type work) in the 1930’s aod of course beyond, and they wore much simpler clothing. So here is my question: Did very many people outside the upper classes and celebrities wear these “over the top” outfits?
    bonnie in provence

    • We have a lot in common — my mother was born in 1904, and worked as a secretary in the 1920s and 1930s in the U.S.. She and my father were working class, not middle class. Until I was born in the 40s, they had two incomes, unlike families with children, and they dressed up to go out dancing on the weekends — he owned a tuxedo; she made some of her evening gowns. The Delineator magazine was aimed at middle class women — Butterick patterns were just one step down from Vogue, (patterns from other companies were much cheaper) and I suspect that many were used by professional dressmakers for private clients, rather than by women who sewed them for themselves. Fashion magazines offer a dream of life that view of us ever experience. However, pattern companies can’t get too far from clothes that many women want to wear. Butterick had offices in London and Paris and, until the 1930s, wrote often about French couturiers — and sometimes made illegal copies of their designs. I also remember that people did not own many clothes — one “good dress,” one evening dress, one or two dresses for the office, and warmer clothes for the winter.The closets in our house were very small — not much bigger than an armoire.

      • Yes I had forgotten about proffesional seamstresses and dressmakers. They were not uncommon then, and were even affordable. One of my mother’s aunts was very poor, a “spinster” left with no money, and she fortunately was an excellent dressmaker, she made underwear and slips even. It was quite modern to have two working members of a couple, although my grandmother did once the children were old enough to be on their own, which was the 1930s. She was a “shopper” for the FDR government agencies that regulated what businesses could charge for certain items. I had also forgotten that people had fewer clothes — I have lived in several early 20th century houses, with very small closets, they were big enough!
        bonnie

  2. Fascinating, as always. I was interested to see that Butterick did not assume that all young married women were slim. Some of the patterns had a bust size up to 40. But that is nothing compared to the club women, who could have a bust size up to 52. You could look long and hard for a pattern company offering such a range of sizes today.

    • I was really surprised to find that in the1920’s, most Butterick patterns went up to size 44 bust. When I sewed for myself in the 1960’s, I always felt huge because the largest patterns for young women stopped at a 38″ bust. (My sewing life improved when I discovered that Vogue instructed you to measure your overbust and buy patterns by that measurement if the waist and hips fit — which worked for my narrow shoulders and back. It turned out that I was a Vogue size 14 with a size 18 bust. Finally my clothes fit properly!)

  3. Nancy Nichols

    Those Clubwomens numbers 5350 and 5329 I just love. I could make those and wear them today, to my secretarial job! Interesting how the “stout” women’s illustrations hardly show any stoutness (plus ca change), but they at least look a teeny bit more realistic than the young marrieds with their impossibly long legs! I think the shoulder width was an effort to draw the eye away from those very slinky hip lines, which I can’t imagine too many women looking comfortably stylish in. (My mom had the figure for them, but she said she always felt bottom heavy — go figure — she was 5’5″ and 110 lbs!)
    Thanks so much for this posting. I agree, they look much too dressy for the average woman to wear. We do forget, tho, that it was an era when women didn’t wear pants much, even casually.
    All the best,
    Nancy N

  4. Michele

    Thank you so much for posting this! (I was unable to reply right away & now look forward to catching up on all the newer posts as well!)
    I am fascinated by wardrobe lists because they give a unique insight into the lives women lived at a particular time in history, but my surprise takeaway from this collection was the SLEEVES – so much fascinating detail – where has it gone?! I’m now envisioning a resurgence of complicated but not restrictive sleeve construction and look forward to including it in some of my own designs.
    (I am not sure if I love or am just confused by the slightly strange fur “cuff” on Butterick 5290, which is reminiscent of a curious ferret curling around the forearm, but it is very interesting, and I definitely love the collar.)

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