Monthly Archives: December 2016

Vintage Ornament: Symbol of Endings and Beginnings

cover of The Delineator, December, 1931My parents were married in 1933, a year and a half after this 1931 Delineator cover appeared,  but the ornaments I’m writing about, which belonged to them, may be even older.

Two vintage ornaments, probably 1920s or 1930s

Two vintage glass ornaments, probably 1920’s or 1930’s.

They are probably Czech, or, at least made in Europe, which explains why Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, bears little resemblance to the fat, jolly Santa invented for American advertising campaigns.

American Santa Claus in a 1936 ad for General Electric refrigerators. Ladies Home Journal, January 1936.

American Santa Claus in a 1936 ad for General Electric refrigerators. Ladies Home Journal, January 1936.

Every year, fewer of my very old ornaments survive, and many are attached to memories, like the cheap plastic raindeer which my mother turned into “Rudolph” with a dab of her deep alizarin red nail polish… and a miniature lamp ornament, bought for my first apartment… musical instruments, for my musical husband… a metal toy saxophone (also from my parents) which makes noise. (Happy New Year! T-o-o-o-o-o-t!)

Jazz age toy saxophone.

Jazz-age metal toy saxophone. I remember the the cone-shaped ornaments from the 1940’s or fifties. The “Hope” ornament was made by a friend.

I “toot” this horn when hanging it and taking it down every year — my favorite part of Christmas decorating, since I find our misguided season of materialism very depressing. Once, in an attempt to conquer my seasonal gloom, months ahead I started making ornaments (some to keep, some to give) from carefully blown and decorated egg shells. A few have survived for over forty years.

A swag of ornaments made or bought over 80 years.

A swag of ornaments made, bought, or inherited over a period of 80 years. Some of these ornaments are considerably older than I am.

But my favorite decoration is this bizarre red-faced and slightly sinister ornament.

Vintage glass ornament janus

Vintage glass ornament: Janus.

It was only a few years ago that I recognized him for what he is: the Roman god Janus, the tw0-faced god.

500-janus-ornament-two-faces

Janus can look ahead and look behind at the same time. He faces the past, and he faces the future. He is the god of endings and of beginnings, who gives his name to the month of January. 500-janus-battered-sideOne of his faces has not aged well: it has lost most of its paint, which is appropriate, since it represents the old year.

Many modern Christmas traditions incorporate elements of the old pagan festivals (including the practice of bringing evergreens into the house, be it a whole tree or “the holly and the ivy.”) (The lyrics of that carol use those pagan symbols of “life in the dead of winter” to foreshadow Christ’s sacrifice, neatly blending two belief systems.)

Did my parents recognize Janus? I doubt it — it took me 50 years, even with the benefit of four years of Latin in high school! I suspect that they bought an inexpensive box of twelve ornaments when they moved into their first home  (which my father and my uncles built with their own hands.) The newlyweds didn’t have a lot of money. But I’m glad I still have this little ornament reminding me to look back to the past, while facing the future.

My mother feeding deer in Yosemite, circa 1931.

My mother feeding deer in Yosemite, circa 1931. Notice her very shaggy brushed wool sweater.

This is my annual reminder to get names and dates on your family photos while there are still people around who remember those faces and events. My mother wrote “got my fingers nipped” on the back of this one. She died before I ever saw this photo. Label your photos now.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Remembering Costume Designer Willa Kim

Years ago, I was lucky to be a “fly on the wall” when Willa Kim was in town, designing dance costumes. I didn’t deal with her directly, but I watched her interacting with the costume shop, and I heard stories….

Willa Kim was so completely focused on her work that her age (80-ish) seemed irrelevant — except when you remembered that she won her first Tony award for Costume Design when she was in her sixties and her second, for Will Rogers Follies, in 1991 — ten years later. She was completely professional, she was funny, she loved dance and theatre and the people who worked there, and she really knew her stuff. (I heard that, when a lighting designer tried putting intense red light on dance costumes that were white, red and green, the metaphorical fur flew. Red light makes green appear black, and white appear red, which would have destroyed her designs; although petite, Willa could be very assertive when necessary!)

In fact, although I knew how famous she was, and had looked her up in Pecktal’s Costume Design: Techniques of Modern Masters, I learned a lot from reading her obituaries, because Willa Kim lived in the present — being much more interested in her current projects than in past glories. In 2003, Willa did a half-hour interview for the Women in Theater Project — in which she explains how she came to be the first costumer to make dance costumes out of Lycra stretch fabric, among other things. Click here to watch the interview, via Playbill magazine online. (And watch her reaction when asked about lighting design….)

Click here for her full obituary, as printed in The Seattle Times. She said her costume designs for the opera Turandot, at Santa Fe Opera (2005,) were the most interesting of her career. You can see a slide show of those, plus her deliciously witty design sketches for other projects, by clicking here, where there is a slide show from a curated exhibit honoring her work.

The book Designs of Willa Kim is available through Amazon.

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Filed under A Costumers' Bookshelf, Exhibitions & Museums, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Uncategorized

Wishing You Serenity (with an Illustration by Helen Dryden)

Cover, Delineator Magazine, November 1926. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

Cover image, Delineator Magazine, November 1926. Illustration by Helen Dryden. [The cover shows damage near the model’s left eye.]

Far from being a giddy flapper, this young woman looks thoughtful, but serene.

Born in 1887, artist Helen Dryden began working for Vogue in 1913, but it’s clear that she was a “pioneer” twentieth-century working woman, always in tune with her times.

The Vintage Traveler posted this Vogue Christmas cover from 1917, also by Helen Dryden, and several of her stylized  Art Deco illustrations for Aberfoyle textiles, from 1928. A search for “Helen Dryden illustrator” images will lead you to many examples of her work.

Dryden was a very prolific illustrator, painting dozens of covers for Vogue and for Delineator magazine, and also working as a costume designer on Broadway.

Helen Dryden Cover illustration by Helen Dryden, Delineator magazine, July 1929.

Helen Dryden, cover illustration, Delineator magazine, July 1929.

Born in the previous century, she adjusted brilliantly to the aesthetics of the nineteen-teens, twenties, and thirties. Cover of Delineator magazine, September 1928. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

In addition to working in fashion illustration, she was active in industrial design. As a designer/illustrator for Studebaker automobiles, she was reportedly paid $100,000 per year. Her name featured prominently in Studebaker ads.

An advertisement for the 1937 State President proclaims, “Glorified inside and outside by the genius of Helen Dryden’s styling, the State President belongs in the upper brackets of fine car luxury from its tiny fender lamps to its chromium strip running boards and its costly custom pillow type upholstery.” — Ed Heys, writing in Hemmings Classic Car.

You can read all of Ed Hey’s excellent article, “Helen Dryden, Pioneering Gatecrasher of the Boys-Only Industrial Design Club,” by clicking here. There is a slide show of Dryden and her work for Studebaker.

Dryden also designed everything from textiles, to Art Deco bathroom faucets, to a battery operated candlestick/lamp, while doing industrial design for the Dura company.  Click here for those extraordinary faucets.

Art Contrarian’s blog post about Dryden gives an idea of how well she adapted her style to the times. If you’re hungry for more Dryden images, the Art Admirer blog has some beauties.

I think that lovely young woman in the black fur coat looks both serene and intelligent — and inspiring.

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Hemline Interest, 1949 and 1951

The long skirts introduced in 1947 were looking too long by January of 1951. Compare this cranberry red coat dress, from November 1949 . . .

Coat-dress, Butterick pattern 5070, cover of Butterick Fashion News, November 1949.

Coat-dress, Butterick pattern 5070, cover of Butterick Fashion News, November 1949.

. . . with this fitted black coat from December, 1951.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, BFN flyer December, 1951.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, BFN flyer December, 1951.

The “One Yard Skirt,” Butterick 5087 from 1949 (below, left) was on the back cover of the November Butterick Fashion News flyer, and other skirts featured in that issue were as long, or longer.

Skirts from Butterick, November 1949. Left, the One Yard Skirt (5085), with skirt 5084 and suit 5083.

Skirts from Butterick, November 1949. Left, the One Yard Skirt (5085), with skirt 5084 and suit 5083. Notice the man-tailored front fly on No. 5085.

Below mid-calf skirts from Butterick, November 1949. Butterick patterns 4701 (a few months older), 5069, and 5078.

Below mid-calf skirts from Butterick Fashion News, November 1949. Butterick skirt patterns 4701 (first issued several months earlier), 5069, and 5078.

Fourteen months later, Butterick showed these dresses with the title “Hemline Interest.”

Butterick dresses with "hemline interest," page 4, January 1951.

Butterick dresses with “hemline interest,” page 4, January 1951. The hemline has risen.

Dresses with "hemline interest, page 5. BFN Jan. 1951.

More dresses with hemline interest and neckline interest, page 5. BFN Jan. 1951. These dresses were for women, not teens.

There has certainly been a subtle change in proportions.

Dresses from Butterick, January 1951. Patterns 5559 (versions A and C) and 5564.

Dresses from Butterick, January 1951. Patterns 5559 (versions A, in red, and C, in black) and pattern 5564 (in gray). Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Other things that caught my eye are the hip-widening [or waist-narrowing] details on dress 5559 C (the bow) and 5564 (the full gathers below its fitted yoke.)

Suit 5083 has a “lumberjack top;” its waist-length jacket, tight around the waist, was often called an “Eisenhower” jacket in the fifties.

This two-piece outfit from Butterick, No. 5083, has a "lumberjack top." Nov. 1949 flyer.

This two-piece outfit from Butterick, No. 5083, has a “lumberjack top.” Nov. 1949 flyer.

And the black, “bell-skirted” flared coat from December 1951 was designed to fit over very full skirts like these, held out by crinoline petticoats:

"Bell-skirte4d" dresses for the holidays, December 1951. Butterick Fashion News.

“Bell-skirted” dresses for the holidays, December 1951. Butterick Fashion News, page 13. Left, No. 5941; right, two views of Butterick dress and redingote, No. 5942.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, BFN flyer December, 1951.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, for a “bell-skirted, fitted coat… intended for your crinoline-petticoated dresses.” BFN flyer December, 1951.

Often, a nylon crinoline would be built into a store-bought dress. Pattern companies depend on following trends, so shorter skirts must have been “in the air” before December of 1951. What-I-Found posted images from a Simplicity flyer, dated August 1950, here.

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, Vintage patterns

Fringe Fashions, December 1918

Old copies of Delineator magazine always have surprises that catch my eye.

December fashions, Delineator, 1918, top of p. 64

December fashions, Delineator magazine, 1918, top of p. 64. Butterick patterns 1276, 1260, 1255, and 1243.

Parts of the December 1918 issue were probably ready to print before the Armistice was announced on November 11, and the magazine contains many references to World War I.

Butterick doll clothing for a soldier, 402, and a sailor, 403. Delineator, December 1918.

Butterick doll clothing: “boy doll’s military suit,” pattern 402, and “boy doll’s sailor suit,” 403. Delineator, December 1918. This woman’s “one-piece dress” pattern was available up to size 44.

text-patterns-1276-402-403-1918-dec-p-65-dec-1918-btm-text

But the “theme” of the month seems to be fringe. Here is the bottom of the same page:

Butterick patterns for women, December 1918. Two are fringed, and the gold dress is trimmed with black monkey fur. Delineator, p. 64.

Butterick patterns for women, 1283, 1294, and 1305. December 1918. Two are fringed, and the gold dress is trimmed with black monkey fur. Delineator, p. 64.

Pattern descriptions for Butterick 1283, 1294 and 1305, December 1918. Delineator.

Pattern descriptions for Butterick 1283, 1294 and 1305, December 1918. Delineator.

Fringe could be light-weight, like chenille, or made from heavier silk or cotton. I have encountered monkey fur coats in costume storage. [Eeeeeek. Just as unpleasant as having the paw fall off a vintage fox fur stole.]

More fashions with fringe appeared on page 63:

The blue dress is fringed; the other is trimmed with fur. Delineator, Dec. 1918,. p 63

The blue dress (1278) is trimmed with fringe; the other outfit (blouse 1259 and skirt 1105) is trimmed with fur and decorative buttons. Delineator, Dec. 1918, p 63. Two different muff patterns were illustrated, 1190 and 9517.

In addition to keeping your hands warm, a muff often had an interior pocket that functioned as a purse.

Two more fringed day dresses, Dec. 1918. Delineator, p 63.

Two more fringed day dresses, Dec. 1918. Delineator, p 63. Butterick 1253 and waist/blouse 1263 with skirt 9865. No. 1253 is illustrated in satin; waist 1263 is in velvet, worn over a satin skirt.

More fringe from December 1918:

Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator. Dec. 1918, page 65.

Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator. Dec. 1918, page 65. Fringe trims the center two.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, page 71, December 1918.

Fur or fringe trims these Butterick patterns in Delineator, page 71, December 1918.  Women’s dresses No. 1294, 1309, and 1285.

Butterick patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1918, p. 68.

Butterick patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1918, p. 68. The shape of the skirt is determined by the high-waisted, curve-flattening corset of the era.

Fringe hangs from the pockets of a skirt, Delineator, Dec. 1918, p. 68.

Fringe hangs from the pockets of a skirt, Delineator, Dec. 1918, p. 68. Butterick blouse 1306 with skirt 1226. Shirt-waist pattern 1279 with skirt of suit 1101.

In October, Butterick suggested a fringed wedding gown, pattern 1169, shown again in November in a dark, velvet version:

Left, wedding gown 1169, Butterick pattern from October 1918; right, the same pattern in velvet, worn for a formal occasion. (November, 1918.)

Left, wedding gown 1169, Butterick pattern from October 1918; right, the same pattern in velvet, worn for a formal daytime occasion. (November, 1918.)

If you weren’t ready to go wild with fringe, you could carry a subtle fringed handbag instead of a muff.

Winter coats from Butterick December 1918. The woman in the center carries a matching striped muff; the woman on the right carries a fringed handbag. Delineator, December 1918, p. 66.

Winter coats from Butterick December 1918. The woman in the center carries a striped muff (Butterick 1266) to match her coat; the woman on the right carries a fringed handbag (Butterick pattern 10720.) Delineator, December 1918, p. 66.

The coat on the right is a reminder that the “Barrel skirt” or “tonneau” was [to me, inexplicably] in fashion for a while.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, bags, Hairstyles, handbags, Hats, Hosiery, Purses, Vintage patterns, Wedding Clothes, World War I

Fashion Illustration and Fashion Reality, 1948

Butterick 4609, evening gownfrom Butterick Fashion News, back cover, August 1948.

Butterick 4609, evening gown from Butterick Fashion News, August 1948.

I’ve been looking at pattern illustrations from 1948, when Dior’s “new look” was getting women into waist-cinching undergarments, full (sometimes padded) hips, and a long, long silhouette.

Butterick 4610, from Butterick Fashion News, Aug. 1948.

Butterick 4610, from Butterick Fashion News, Aug. 1948. The waist is exceptionally narrow compared to the hips.

Simplicity store flyer, patterns from April 1948.

Simplicity store flyer, patterns from April 1948. Note the waist sizes.

Butterick suit pattern 4600 from August 1948, Butterick store flyer.

Butterick suit pattern 4600 from August 1948, Butterick store flyer.

I love to remind people that fashion illustrations shape women’s expectations (and self-critical self image) of what they should look like. This 1948 Butterick suit pattern was sized for women under 5′ 5″ tall:

Butterick suit pattern 4569 was available in a special version for women under 5' 5" tall.

Butterick suit pattern 4569 was available in a special version for women under 5′ 5″ tall. Store flyer, July 1948.

If suit 4569 seems awfully tall and thin for a petite woman —  it is.

Fashion models used to be 5’7 or so; this photo from the back of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948, shows a probably waist-cinched but otherwise real young woman:

Ad for Butterick, back of Butterick Fashion News, July 1948.

Ad for Butterick, back of Butterick Fashion News, July 1948.

It was hard to judge her head size exactly, since she is looking down, but from crown to heel (or front anklebone) she is six and a half heads high. The illustration of suit 4569 is relatively (well over a foot) taller and much thinner:

Photo and fashion illustration from July 1948. Using here head a a a unit of measurement, the real woman is six and a half heads from crown to heel. The illustration is eight heads high.

Photo and fashion illustration from July 1948. Using her head as a unit of measurement, the real woman is six and a half heads from crown to heel. The illustration is eight heads high — a woman stretched by more than a foot. And compare their waists!

Over the decades, we appear to have selectively chosen fashion models to match fashion illustrations, putting very thin,  5′ 11″ tall women into very high heels, to resemble these old drawings of imaginary human beings.

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, Corsets, Musings, Vintage patterns

Sock Suspenders: Garters for Men

Ad for men's stocking garters made by Hickok, Esquire, August 1934.

Ad for men’s stocking garters made by Hickok, Esquire, August 1934.

This garter ad is from 1917:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/1917-jan-p-30-boston-garter-for-men-ad.jpg?w=500

Knitted stockings have been around for centuries. (Queen Elizabeth I liked the silk stockings she was given as a Christmas gift in 1561.) The Bata Shoe museum has a lovely pair of embroidered stockings for a lady which date to the early 1700s. But until the invention of Lastex elastic thread, around 1931, stockings tended to fall down without a garter or suspender to hold them up. (Men’s socks with “elastic ribbed tops” were available before that, although it’s not always easy to tell if the word “elastic” means “stretchy” or “made with latex/rubber.”)

Ad for Esquire silk stockings for men, Esquire magazine, June 1934.

Ad for Esquire Hose silk stockings for men, Esquire magazine, June 1934. These pure-silk-top hose would stay up better with a garter.

Before Lastex, exasperated mothers would yell, “Pull up your socks!” — sometimes, just to get their offspring to stop whatever else they were doing.Boy's patterns, Delineator, July 1917. Two of these children have sagging socks.
When an impeccably dressed gentleman undressed, however elegant his clothing, he eventually revealed his stocking garters. I’ve rarely seen a full illustration of a man wearing underwear, socks, and garters — perhaps because the result is faintly comical.

Men's underwear in an ad for Celanese, a plant-based synthetic fiber. 1934.

Men’s underwear in an ad for Celanese, a plant-based synthetic fiber. 1934.

I was surprised that men’s garters came in a riot of colors.

Men's stocking garters. Detail of Esquire illustration, March 1934.

Men’s stocking garters. Detail of Esquire illustration, March 1934.

Stocking garters for the college man. Esquire, March 1934.

Stocking garters for the college man. Esquire, March 1934. Illustration by Hurd.

Esquire, March 1934.

Esquire, March 1934. [Ripley’s Believe It or Not was a popular newspaper feature.]

A glimpse of stocking was a good thing, but a glimpse of hairy shins was not.

Socks were always on display when a man crossed his legs. Esquire, July 1934. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Socks were always on display when a man crossed his legs. Esquire, July 1934. Illustration by L. Fellows.

The well-dressed businessman wore sock garters to keep his socks from falling down around his ankles, or revealing skin when he sat with his legs crossed.

Distinguished suits for men, February 1934. Accessories include stocking garters, a pocket square, and men's jewelry. Esquire magazine illustration by Oxner.

Distinguished suits for men, February 1934. Accessories include stocking garters, a pocket square, a cuff link,  and a gold collar pin. Esquire magazine illustration by Oxner.

Some stocking garters had one fastener, in center front, but others had a garter on either side of the shin.

Men's sock garters from Sears catalog, circa 1930.

Men’s sock garters from Sears catalog, circa 1930. “Come in the color combinations men prefer.” “Neatly boxed,” because garters were a useful gift.

Ad for Paris Men's Garters. This ad appeared in the January issue, which was on news stands in time for Christmas shopping. Esquire, Jan. 1934

Ad for Paris Men’s Garters. This ad appeared in the January issue, which was on news stands in time for Christmas shopping. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Judging from the men’s magazines and pin-up illustrations of my teen years, many men enjoy looking at a woman who is wearing a garter belt and stockings. I personally can’t imagine getting a similar erotic charge from the sight of a man wearing stocking garters — even in brilliant blue:

Hickok garters, 1934 ad. Esquire.

Hickok garters, 1934 ad. Esquire.

Fortunately for costumers, you can still buy sock garters — there are plenty listed on Amazon.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Hosiery, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings