Monthly Archives: September 2017

Lux for Laundry Ads 1930s

A little social history: A relatively new idea appears in this ad, which I showed last week.

The young woman who says she hates men just needed some advice on how to attract them. Lux laundry soap ad, August 1934.

Here, a friend advises her to wash her underwear after each wearing.

Lux laundry soap advised women to wash their underwear after each wearing. This implies a generally higher standard of living — and assumes more than one set of underclothes, since drying time was unpredictable.

In Victorian England, poor women had to put their children to bed for a day in order to wash their clothes. The family huddled under a blanket while the only clothing they possessed was washed and dried. My uncle Bert, born around 1899, behaved like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian bachelor farmers;” believing that a bath “opened the pores” to harmful germs, he would have remained unwashed, wearing the same set of long underwear from fall until spring, if my parents had not required regular bathing and fresh clothes as a condition of his living with us in the 1960’s.

Our twentieth century American sensitivity to personal odors was developed by ad campaigns like this one.

Ad for Lux laundry soap. March 1933. In this case, “It” is not sex appeal but the smell of unwashed underwear.

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1933. “Perhaps she thinks she doesn’t perspire. But we all do, even though we don’t feel sticky. Frequently over a quart a day, doctors say…. Second day underthings are never safe.”

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1932. “Underthings absorb perspiration. Avoid offending….”

Text from Lux ad, March 1932. “I don’t see how she can be so careless about her underthings … wear them so long without a change.”

“She bathes every day, but she wears her girdle a whole week” without washing it. Lux ad, Nov. 1936, Woman’s Home Companion.

Lux ad, WHC, Nov. 1936. She is wearing the relatively new two-way stretch girdle, made possible by Lastex. “Cake-soap rubbing” is a reference to traditional laundry products like Naptha soap, which came in bar form.

Making women feel insecure about their breath worked wonders for Listerine….

Halitosis ruined her entire evening; she has tears in her eyes. Ad for Listerine, Feb. 1924.

That ad campaign was still going strong ten years later:

Listerine “halitosis” ad, February 1934. “Mostly boys in this picture, but the moral is for girls…. Get rid of halitosis with Listerine.” (The man at right is offering money to any fellow willing to cut in and release him from this dancing partner.)

Why shouldn’t a similar ad campaign work for laundry soap?

Ad for Lux laundry soap, McCall’s magazine, July 1938. The story in comic book format: It’s really unpleasant to be near her, so her friends want the window open; her husband isn’t glad to see her….

“I’m so unhappy. Harry doesn’t love me as he used to….” He wonders, “Why isn’t she the dainty girl she used to be?”Lux ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Having taught women to wash their undies, including girdles, it’s time for them to wash their dresses more often, too. “If she’d LUX her dress the way she does her undies, she wouldn’t offend.”

Progress.

(Incidentally, someone could make a study of the use of the word “dainty” in such ads.)

 

 

 

Advertisements

9 Comments

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

Some (Surprising) Smocked Vintage Garments

This vintage blouse uses hand smocking to control fullness at the shoulders, waist, and sleeves. Probably before 1920’s.

I’ve already shared some 1940’s patterns for smocked blouses, but I keep finding more examples of smocking.

Butterick smocked blouse pattern 4456, Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1948.

It’s very similar to this pattern from McCall:

McCall smocked blouse pattern 1136 from 1944.

But those forties’ blouses have a peasant influence; they are based on smocked ethnic clothing.

An embroidered ethnic blouse with smocked neckline.

An ethnic peasant blouse with hand-smocked neckline and wrists.

An ethnic flavor was also very popular in the nineteen twenties.

This earlier blouse, however, bares little resemblance to “peasant” styles.

Vintage smocked blouse made of sheer fabric with woven stripes.

The collar covers much of the smocking across the shoulders. So-called “Armistice” blouses are usually short-wasted in back.

I flipped the collar up to show the hand smocking on the back of this blouse. It seems a shame to hide all that work!

I had forgotten about this vintage blouse — it is probably from the “teens.” It uses the stripes woven into the fabric as the grid for smocking, and uses smocking instead of machine-stitched tucks to control the fullness at shoulders, sleeves, and waist.

Detail of smocked shoulder.

The back waist is elegant, although the blouse would look better after ironing. (But smocking makes ironing more difficult.)

The sleeves have a smocked area near the wrist, creating a modest frill.

Smocking in the wrist area. There is a narrow dark stripe in the fabric next to each tightly woven white stripe.

I believe this is called honeycomb smocking:

McCall smocking pattern 441, from 1936.

Using striped fabric as a base for smocking produces interesting effects; this image from A-Z of Smocking, by Sue Gardner, shows how the stripes become part of the grid:

Striped fabric can be smocked in ways the either preserve the stripe, as here, or turn them into a “solid” color. Both effects are pictured in the book A-Z of Smocking, reviewed below. Image reproduced for purpose of review example only. Do NOT copy.

I found another — to me, unexpected — use of smocking on a black silk apron from an era when most older women were almost perpetually in mourning.

A black silk apron with a smocked bib. It’s shown over an unrelated turn-of-the-century blouse.

Perhaps this apron was worn for nothing more taxing than a little hand sewing — or pouring tea.

About the A-Z of Smocking, by Sue Gardner:

Cover of A-Z of Smocking, 2016 edition, by Sue Gardner.

I was fascinated by the many smocking patterns I found in 1940’s McCall catalogs, so I wanted to learn more about this old technique for fabric modification. If you want to find beautifully illustrated, step-by-step smocking instructions, this book couldn’t be clearer. If you are a beginner with an interest in the history of smocking, this may not be quite what you are looking for.

The text can be this brief because the illustrations are so informative and well organized.  Photo from A-Z of Smocking for purpose of review. Do Not Copy.

There is a whole series of A-Z books from Search Press. It’s my fault that I assumed “A-Z” meant “from beginning to end;” instead, it means that the book is organized in alphabetical order, so a lavishly illustrated section on “Honeycomb” smocking comes before an equally fine section on “Trellis” smocking. And an advanced technique, like smocking with Beads, appears before the basic stitches, because it begins with “B.”

On the other hand, because the book is illustrated with step-by-step photos instead of line drawings, it couldn’t be clearer:

A typical section from A-Z of Smocking will have at least two pages of careful and very clear instructional photos like this for every technique covered. Do Not Copy Image.

It even explained (and illustrated the steps to using) a machine that gathers the fabric for you. But the topics I was looking for — about the history of smocking, why it was used for work clothes, which stitches were stretchable and used for the wrist area, for example, were hard to find.

This is the entire passage about Traditional Smocking. No illustrations. A-Z of Smocking is not a history book. Do Not Copy This Image.

Some of the oldest smocking techniques — sometimes called English smocking from its use on shepherd’s smocks — depend on first gathering the fabric with several rows of identically spaced stitches, and then stabilizing them with the decorative smocking stitches. When I read that, in combination with seeing the many stitching examples, I realized that a smocking grid looks a lot like the grid used for cartridge pleating, which had been used to gather fabric in garments for centuries.

Illustration from the section on cartridge pleating in The Costume Technician’s Handbook, by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey. Do Not Copy Image.

If you’ve examined mid-nineteenth century dresses, or made Renaissance costumes, this technique for gathering fabrics evenly and stitching them to armholes, yokes, or waists will be very familiar.

Attaching cartridge pleated fabric — e.g., a skirt — to a waistband. From The Costume Technician’s Handbook. Do Not Copy Image.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/close-v005-cf-detail-500.jpg?w=500&h=382

Cartridge pleats produce tightly controlled gathers in this 19th century fan-fronted dress.

Typical cartridge pleated skirt, stitched to bodice binding. Inside of dress showing extra fabric at CF. You can also see that the front opening is boned.

Typical cartridge pleated skirt, stitched to bodice binding. Inside of dress showing extra fabric at CF. You can also see that the front opening is boned.

For me, this links two very useful books: The Costume Technician’s Handbook, which I cannot recommend frequently enough (the techniques are not limited to costumes,) and the A-Z of Smocking, which I would eagerly buy if I had a practical (rather than academic) interest in smocking.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, Late Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Shirts and Blouses, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, World War I

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.

 

4 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Fingernail Polish Ads from 1917 to 1937

Fingernail polish in an illustration from 1931.  The tips and “half moons” remain white. This was the fashion during the 1920’s and the 1930’s. Delineator, November 1931. The artist was Dhynevor Rhys.

By 1931, the liquid product we call “nail polish” was widely available, but there was an earlier way to shine your fingernails: nail polish powder. It persisted into the 1920’s.

From an ad for Cutex nail powder and polishes, Delineator, November 1924.

Back in the 1940s, my mother still had her old celluloid dresser set, (not as nice as that one!) which included — in addition to a hair brush and a mirror — a button hook, a hair receiver, a container for collar studs, a file, and a nail buffer. She showed me, once, how to put the polish, which came in a small jar, on my bare fingernails and then buff them to a soft shine with a chamois nail buffer.

Using a nail buffer; illustration from an article on nail care, Delineator, July 1924, p. 37.

Buffing your nails was supposed to improve circulation; it gave them a temporary rosy glow. (Pink fingertips go back a long way; Homer describes the dawn as “rosy fingered.”)

“Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and polished marble that stood in front of his house. [Odyssey]”  Thanks to Gary Corby.

In 1917, this is what nail polish could look like:

From an ad for Cutex nail polish, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

Cutex Nail Polish ad, 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

The range of Cutex products in a sampler set from 1917 included “the ideal cuticle remover,” an emery board for shaping the nails, an orange stick for cleaning under nails and pushing back the cuticle, a ball of cotton, nail white, “polishing paste pink” and a bar [or is it a box?] of polish.

Cutex manicure products, 1917. This sampler kit “sent for 14 cents” includes two forms of polish, nail white, cuticle remover, “Cuticle Comfort” moisturizer, and basic tools.  Ad from LHJ, October 1917.

There is an excellent history of the Cutex company, which was founded by Northam Warren, complete with product descriptions and early advertising: click here.

This Cutex cuticle remover ad from October 1917 explains how to use it by soaking cotton in the Cutex and applying it to the cuticle with an orange stick. (The thimble-like object is the cork bottle stopper.)

The Cutex company’s initial product was a liquid for softening and minimizing cuticles without cutting them:  Cuticle-“X,”  became the “Cutex” brand.

Cutex Cuticle Remover ad, October 1917; Ladies’ Home Journal. “Discard forever your manicure scissors!”

After removing the cuticle and buffing your nails to a rosy shine, you could finish by whitening the tips of your nails:

Applying Cutex nail white, from a 1917 advertisement. “A touch of Cutex Nail White underneath the nails leaves them immaculate — snowy white.” Later,  Nail White came in a tube, making it easier to apply. This is an ancestor of the “French Manicure” popular at the end of the 2oth century.

In 1917  — and into the 1920’s — the ideal was an almond-shaped nail with a distinct half-moon at the base and white tips:

The twenties’ ideal was almond nails with white half moons and tips; from an ad for Cutex, November 1927; Delineator. Colored polish was not applied to the tip or the base of the nail.

Half moons and lovely oval fingernails. Cutex ad, April 1928. Delineator. The “ideal nail shape” changed to sharply pointed nails in the nineteen thirties, but the half moons and tips remained white.

According to several sources, clear liquid nail polish was available in 1916, and Cutex sold a clear liquid polish, tinted “natural” pink, after 1920, but in this Cutex ad from 1924, Cutex Liquid Polish which “lasts a whole week” is just one option among the older buffing products like powder polish, cake polish, and paste polish.

An introductory set:  Cutex powder polish and liquid polish plus cuticle remover and cuticle cream. Ad in Delineator, October 1924. Full sizes cost 35 cents each.

Throughout the nineteen twenties, liquid polish gained popularity.

The “sophisticated Parisienne” applies Cutex Liquid Nail Polish in this ad from November, 1926. Delineator. The brush is now part of the bottle cap.

Cutex packaging was changing, too.

A sample of Cutex liquid nail polish in a bottle with separate brush. Ad from November 1926. “In two shades, “Natural or the New Deep Rose.” A bottle of nail polish remover was included.

By 1928, Cutex ad campaigns featured celebrities like Anita Loos.

Anita Loos appeared in an ad for Cutex liquid nail polish in 1928.

Illustrator and industrial designer Helen Dryden praised liquid Cutex nail polish.

Fashion Illustrator Helen Dryden illustrated many magazine covers for Delineator. Cutex ad, 1928.

So did this “lady explorer” (Osa Johnson) on a zebra….

Cutex ad, January 1929, Delineator. Cutex liquid nail polish was advertised as nail protection in the late 1920’s.

Also in the late twenties, Cutex packaging took on an Art Deco look:

Cutex Liquid Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover. January 1929 advertisement. This introductory offer included both for 6 cents, but normal sized bottles cost 35 cents each.

Incredibly, it seems that liquid nail polish was sold in the 1910’s before nail polish remover appeared, but in this 1929 introductory package, they are offered together.

The ideal fingernail was not overly long in the 1920s — and nail polish did not cover the “half-moon” or the tips of the nails. Cutex ad, Delineator, June 1928.

Elegant hands wear colored nail polish on a Delineator cover, February 1932. Dynevor Rhys illustration.

As liquid nail polish became available in a range of bright colors, Cutex had to convince women to wear them. There was an ad campaign stressing that respectable socialites and debutantes wore colored nail polish. Presumably, conservative women thought red nails were the sign of a scarlet woman, and had to be persuaded otherwise.

Do 1932 debutantes choose tinted nails or natural? Cutex ad, Delineator, February 1932. “The popular girl of 1932 is way past losing sleep over whether to wear her nails bright or pale.”

Debutantes were encouraged to wear colored nail polish — and sharply pointed nails. Cutex ad, Delineator, February 1932. Applying polish to just part of the nail is definitely more difficult than painting the entire nail, but fashion is rarely practical….

Pointed nails shaped like claws appeared in the early 1930’s.

The picture of innocence? Strawberry soda and very sharp fingernails painted to match. Delineator cover, July 1933. Dynevor Rhys illustration.

If respectable women were going to have bright red fingernails, they needed to be taught how to coordinate their nail polish with their clothing.

Three highly respectable socialites wear brightly colored nail polish. From left, ruby red nails with a black outfit, rose nails with a green dress and silver fox fur, and coral nails with a beige dress. Cutex ad, February 1933, Delineator.

Tinted or natural colored nail polish? It depended on what you were wearing. Cutex ad, February 1932. “Wear Cardinal with black velvet — Natural with brocaded [metallic] lame — and Coral to accent white satin.”

A larger range of colors was available:

Cutex advertised six nail polish colors in February 1933. Delineator. A woman had to have several choices so she wouldn’t “commit Atrocities” with clashing colors. “If there’s any dress in your closet that hasn’t its special shade of polish to snap it up, go get it!” That should increase sales….

There was also price competition:

Ad for Glazo liquid nail polish, Delineator, February 1934. At 25 cents, Glazo was much cheaper than 35 cent Cutex, which made it easier to own several colors.

From an ad for Glazo nail polish, Delineator, February 1934. “Six authentic shades. Natural, Shell, Flame, Geranium, Crimson, Mandarin Red, Colorless.”

Women also needed more nail polish in the nineteen thirties, because they were encouraged to paint their toenails, too.

A “manicure” included matching polished toenails in this beauty advice article from July 1934. Delineator, p. 37. The new, open-toed sandals for day or evening showed off twinkling toes.

In the thirties, open-toed shoes came out of the bedroom and on to the dance floor. These high-heeled evening sandals , trimmed with gold, were featured in 1934:

Right, evening sandals, June 1934, Delineator.

The sandals pictured below are for daytime wear, but not necessarily on the beach.

Fashion article in Delineator, June 1934. Sandals to show “your tanned feet and tinted toe-nails.”

Daytime sandals described in Delineator fashion article, June 1934.

EXTRAS:  You can still buy a nail buffer and polishing cream at Vermont Country Store.

There is a History of Cutex with color ads at the Chronically Vintage blog, and an authoritative history of Cutex with color ads and images of products 1920, etc. at the Northam Warren (Cutex) site.

7 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, World War I

A Mystery Corset: 1820’s ?

NOTE: I thought this post was published on Sept. 16, 2017; I even received helpful  comments and updated it — but it’s not listed as published on my dashboard — so, forgive me if you received two notifications on it. Mysterious, indeed. I added links and categories in October, 2017.

This corset is stiffened by many rows of parallel channels. A busk can be inserted in the center. Parallel rows of diagonal cording flatten the midriff, which, to me,  suggests a date after the 1810s.

When I first saw this corset in a collection that was being readied for sale, I was fascinated by its beauty and its fine state of preservation. At first, I couldn’t believe it was not a reproduction.

Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I took a few quick photos and sought advice, but the collection was sold before I realized that I needed more pictures. I can’t even find detailed notes — just the letter I wrote asking for advice — so apparently I never had a chance to return to this garment, or to photograph several other intriguing corsets.

Back detail of the corset near shoulder.

I believe it was completely hand stitched with shiny brown thread. The stitching is so regular that it looks, at first, like it was done by a machine; however, I believe it is perfectly spaced back-stitching, with visible starts, stops, and knots on the inside of the corset. [Update: it is not back-stitched; Cynthia Baxter suggested that is was stitched with a running stitch, and then stitched on the opposite side with running stitches using the same holes. I have seen this technique used by shoemakers and leather workers, so it makes sense for a corset.]

Inside of the corset. An occasional thread knot implies hand stitching.

The state of the fabric, except for a few spots, was remarkable — if it is as old as I think it is (before 1840.)  It could have been collected anywhere.

Channel stitching, detail of right midriff front. The busk channel is at right of photo.

Detail of front of corset.  The midriff area is stitched from below the bust to just below the natural waist. I think the channels hold cording.  I do wish I’d had time  to photograph the inside!

The corset has a dropped shoulder in the back, tiny close-fitting bound armholes, and an extended shoulder line.

In general, the collection did not include many items of this rarity and quality. However, the collection did include a fine 18th century man’s vest, as well as this dress, from early in the 1800’s.

An early 19th century dress from the same collection as the mystery corset. The chemise under it is unrelated.

Empire dress, early 1800’s, with wool embroidery at hem in three shades of brown.

The corset worn under a dress like this created a very high bust, but a woman’s waist and hips didn’t need to be re-shaped.

Back to the mystery corset: I only took one photo of the back, with a gigantic, modern black lace obscuring the eyelets.

Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed.

Were the holes hand worked or were they metal grommets?  In my ignorance, grommets would have been a red flag to me; if there were metal grommets, I would have assumed that the corset was a reproduction or had been altered to be worn in modern times. But — I would have been mistaken. This English corset from the Museum at FIT is dated 1815. It has metal grommets down the back.

I looked online for Regency Era reproduction patterns; I didn’t find any pattern for this corset. A yahoo search turns up several images of Regency Era corsets. Click here.

There’s a nice overview of early 19th century corsets at Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion. Click here.

A Regency style corset made by sidneyeileen.com has similarities to our mystery corset.

A corset (1830 to 1840) in the Los Angeles County Museum has a similar high waisted (but not Empire) silhouette.

This corded corset, with a channel for a front busk, is at the Metropolitan Museum: it is described as 1820’s. The waist is a little above the wearer’s natural waist. The front straps are spaced as far apart as possible.

Corset from the 1820’s in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

corset met 1815 to 1825

I was going to leave it at that, but couldn’t resist trying to relate the shape of the corset to the clothing that would have been worn over it.

All the following fashion plates are from the online Casey Collection of Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Museum.

1800 fashion plate from Ladies’ Museum, in the Casey Collection. The early 1800’s corset pushes the breasts up to a rather unnatural position, high on the chest.

The neckline of our corset is too high for these fashions — and it does not push the breasts up this high.

Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.

Early in the 1800’s, the Empire waist was very high and the dress was often gathered in the front. The fullness moved to the back a few years later, which would call for a smoother midriff area. By 1811, the waist was moving lower:

April 1811, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblee, Casey Collection. A ball dress.

However, not every woman immediately adopted the lower waist, as this mourning evening dress from 1818 shows:

Evening dress for a woman in mourning, 1818. From British Ladies’ Magazine, December 1818. in Casey Collection.

The mourning dress and the Parisian evening dress below might have been seen at the same ball, although one has a much lower waist.

A high bust and a descending waist line, from La Belle Assemblee, January 1820.

These dresses from 1822 show a high bust with a lower, fitted waist, which is still above the natural waistline.

1822: a plate from the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, October 1822. Casey Collection. The shape of the midriff is becoming important, no longer concealed by fullness in the dress.

Bodices from La Belle Assemblee, December 1822. Casey Collection. The trend for wider shoulders and a narrow below-the-bust area is beginning. Belts accent the waist, which is still higher than nature designed.

Fashion plates from 1825 show higher necklines and lower waists, with a widening (and highly decorated) hem.

January 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames. Casey Collection.

February 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames, Casey Collection. The silhouette is wider at top and hem, emphasizing a tiny waist.

November 1825, Ladies’ Magazine. Casey Collection.

By 1829, a tiny waist, rather than a high, full bust, is the focus of fashion:

September 1829, La Belle Assemblee. Casey Collection.

April 1830, La Mode. Sleeves are enormous, the shoulder is widened and extended over the upper arm; a woman is wider everywhere — except her waist. Casey Collection.

So:  where does our mystery corset belong?

High neckline, relatively natural bust, flat midriff, slightly dropped shoulders.

Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed. Notice the line of the shoulders.

I can imagine it being worn under this dress — but that’s only my guess.

Dress from the late 1820’s; Metropolitan Museum.

 

9 Comments

Filed under 1800s-1830s, Corsets, Costumes for the 19th century, Foundation Garments, lingerie and underwear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

“Service Suits” for Girls, Boys, and Women in 1917

Military uniform for boys aged 6 to 16. Butterick pattern 8070, August 1917.

“In these times, boys of all ages like to be ready for service.” He is “ready to do ‘his bit.’ “

Butterick pattern 8070 for a boy’s “military suit” from 1917 was part of a trend: “service suits” and military dress for civilians.

Butterick 9334 for girls, September 1917. Delineator. This girl has long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Right, Ladies’ Home Journal “military dress” pattern 1067 for girls 6 to 14, October 1917.

Butterick “military suit” pattern 9365, September 1917. For girls 10 to 15 years old.

Butterick coat pattern 9315 from August, 1917. Delineator. Sized for young girls  and adult women, it was “sometimes called the trench or military coat….” For “active  service.”

“Service suits” and a military dress for women from Butterick patterns, August 1917. Delineator. For more information about these patterns, click here. The blue and tan dress, like the tan suit, has “service pockets.”

Butterick offered so many variations on “Service uniforms” for adult women, I worry that some women spent more time making an outfit to wear while volunteering than they actually spent doing war work.

Three out of four patterns on this page are “uniforms” for civilian women aged 14 to 19. August 1917, Delineator, page 50. “When Johnny comes marching home he will find his sister all turned out in a new military suit.”

The phrases used to describe these outfits use plenty of military jargon.

It’s not surprising that young women heading off to college expected that they would spend time aiding the war effort in some way.

A traveling suit that is also a service suit, for college-bound women. Butterick coat 9324 with skirt 9374. Delineator, Sept. 1917. Pleated “service pockets” came in large, practical sizes and in sizes that were purely “fashion.”

“So many women are doing relief work of all kinds, and they drop into restaurants for tea and luncheons in this type of suit.”

Right, a Butterick military-influenced suit uses coat pattern 9324 with skirt 9309. August 1917.

Left, Ladies’ Home Journal patterns 1059 (jacket) and 1099 (skirt), November 1917. The majority of patterns were less military looking.

The military look was a new fashion option, among more traditionally feminine styles for women. Left, Ladies Home Journal pattern 1061; right, LHJ pattern 1050. October 1917.

Even Chanel showed a service suit:

A service suit designed by Gabrielle Chanel, illustrated in Butterick’s Delineator in October 1917.

That is not to say that women were just playing dress-up. The “women’s magazines” were an important channel of communication for official government notices, from food conservation to Red Cross needs and instructions for volunteers.

Knitting for sailors; a form from Delineator, August 1917. Those who could knit — or learn to knit — were asked to do so; those who couldn’t were asked to donate money to buy wool yarn.

Knit Your Bit for the Navy. Delineator, August 1917.

From a Red Cross article about knitting for servicemen. It appeared in Delineator, November 1917. The Ladies’ Home Journal printed similar articles by the Red Cross so that readers could volunteer to make everything from “comfort kits” to hospital gowns, bandages, and hot water bottle covers.

EDIT 9/10/17: Synchronicity/serendipity brought me this link via Two Nerdy History Girls to a fine article at “Behind Their Lines” about women knitting for the war effort.

The Butterick Publishing Company received such an outpouring of knitting for the troops that it briefly became a problem, before standardization of size and color was imposed.

Sweater pattern 9355 from Butterick, August 1917. It was sized for boys or men. A short time later, the Red Cross issued standardized patterns for the military.

Nevertheless, the patterns for “service uniforms” for children seem to me to be a little silly. (I certainly didn’t wear my Girl Scout uniform every minute I spent earning badges….) On the other hand, now that even young children carry a cell phone to school, some big “service pockets” on school clothes would come in handy!

1 Comment

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

Formal Styles for October, 1926

Afternoon dresses for formal day-time occasions; Butterick 1016 (for “the social butterfly”) came in very large sizes;  7079 is for formal afternoon events, dinners, theater, etc. From Delineator, October 1926.

“1016 — Paris meets the formal demands of Autumn and Winter with frocks suitable for weddings and receptions, for luncheons, tea and bridge. The cut rather than the fabric makes the difference in this mode, for satin crepe, crepe de Chine and crepe meteor are used for simple dresses as well as for the social butterfly shown at the left.  Satin crepe is used for the body and straight skirt and its reverse side for the collar and one-piece slip. The other materials area smart in two shades of the same color or in two harmonizing colors. Georgette and silk voile make charming frocks over matching slips of taffeta or satin…. The collar makes it becoming for women from 36 to 52 bust.” — Delineator, Oct. 1926,  p. 43.

The matte side of the double-sided crepe satin is shown as a lighter color; the shiny side on the lapel, slip and sleeves is shown as a darker color.

Butterick 1016, on the left, was available for women in sizes up to 52 inch bust measure. Pattern no. 7079 came in the standard range of sizes:  32 to 44 inch bust measure. Hems — even for older women — are at the bottom of the knee.

“7079 — One for every wardrobe should be the ruling for the type of one-piece frock illustrated at the right. Its circular frills and smart sleeve make it what the French dressmaker calls a dinner frock. It leads a double life of great usefulness, for it takes care of all afternoon engagements and answers for small, informal dinners, the theater, and nightlife on an ocean  liner. Chanel red — a dark peony color — in Georgette with the flower of ribbon in the same color, silk voile in string beige with the flowers of lemon and silver ribbon, fern-green moire, black Georgette with jade, with almond, with royal blue or flesh are excellent day and night colors. The lower edge measures about 44 inches…. The style is extremely becoming to women from 32 to 44 bust.” — Delineator, Oct. 1926,  p. 43.

This dress is for “informal dinners” or afternoon wear because it has sleeves. Evening gowns had deeper necklines, no sleeves, and deeper-cut armholes than formal day dresses. The ribbon pom-pom at the shoulder is apparently an important part of the dress. A very long necklace creates a flattering vertical line, although this dress does not have a hip band.

Beaded evening gowns were appropriate for very formal wear, and a truly determined woman could make her own:

Butterick frock pattern 1048 could be made to resemble this illustration if you also used Butterick embroidery and beading transfer 10481. Delineator, Oct. 1926. An alternate view shows it with sleeves and a higher neckline.

There is a copy of this pattern in the Commercial Pattern Archive, which shows the neck and sleeve differences. Some readers have commented that Butterick patterns from the 1920’s and 1930’s often seem much too difficult for a woman to make herself. In fact, since they were aimed at upper-middle-class women, many Butterick patterns must have been made by a professional seamstress, “the little dressmaker” who existed in almost every town. In the case of Butterick 1048, with all that hand beading, the customer was asking a lot!

This lace frock, Butterick 1043, is less formal than a beaded frock, but still very elegant, and more versatile. Delineator, Oct. 1926. It has a trailing “wing cascade” and is ornamented with a fake-flower pom-pom, probably of feathers, velvet, or silk chenille. Notice the bangle worn on her upper arm.

Butterick’s dolman evening coat 7084, in metallic brocade, is shown with Butterick evening dress 1041. Delineator, October 1926. In the twenties, bits of dress were often seen peeking out from the coat’s hem.

Right,Butterick evening frock 1041, October 1926, Delineator. The dress seems to be made of metallic moire, with sheer chiffon panels which have picot edges.

Alternate views of coat 7084 and frocks 1041, 1048, and 1043. Butterick patterns from October 1926. Here, 1041 is shown in an afternoon version, with sleeves and higher neckline.

A picot hem can be faked with a ziz-zag stitch. Sew Historically wrote about how picot hems were done in the 1920’s and also provides a tutorial on faking them with a modern sewing machine. [Note: Always allow your reproduction chiffon dress to hang for several days before finalizing its hem. Chiffon on the bias will stretch … a lot! Gee, I wonder if all those irregular, drooping-hem fashions of the twenties were making a virtue out of necessity….]

1 Comment

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Uncategorized, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes