Monthly Archives: November 2017

Twenties’ Styles for Burn-Out Velvet

Vintage Twenties’ dress in champagne-colored silk velvet chiffon (burn-out velvet.) Private collection.

Some people call this “cut velvet“; it’s also called “burn-out,” “voided,”or “devoure” (with an accent aigue on the final e: dev’-00r-ay.)  The places where there is no velvet pile can be sheer, like chiffon; or satin-y, as in this bustle-era cape or mantle (the leaves are plush velvet, and the spaces between feel like heavy satin:)

Victorian dolman cape made to fit over a bustle dress. Cut (voided) velvet/satin brocade with silk chenille fringe. Private collection.

Back view, vintage twenties’ cut velvet and chiffon evening or afternoon dress. The top looks lighter because the skirt lining has been lost.

A close-up shows damage to the vintage chiffon back drapery and the burn-out silk, but you can see how sheer and chiffon-like the burnt-out areas are. A silk or rayon lining in the sale color as the velvet makes the subtle effect seen at left.

I don’t have a really good photo of this twenties’ fabric, but, if I were trying to reproduce this dress, I would visit Thai Silks.  Currently, you can find convincing period fabrics like this one for $25 to $28 per yard. Multi-colored, printed burn-out velvets will make a glamorous Twenties’ dress, and work best with a very simple dress pattern: easy elegance. Thai Silk is also a good source for silk charmeuse, silk satin, crepe de chine, etc.

On this store-bought twenties’ vintage dress, designs in velvet form a border on sheer black chiffon.

Butterick 2125; suggested fabrics were satin, metal cloth, or lace, but rayon silk velvet would also look like this. Delineator, September 1928.

I don’t usually recommend businesses on this blog, but as a theatrical costumer — twenty years ago — I used to love the company called Thai Silks. I was close enough to shop there in person, but you can order (one yard minimum!) online. The online catalog is downloadable, and they will mail you a swatch or two before you commit to a purchase. Burn-out velvet (very 1920’s) is currently about $25 per yard. If you like Britex, you might love Thai Silks.

Butterick patterns for velvet dresses, Delineator, November 1928, p. 118. The printed velvet second from left is Butterick 1785, for sizes 34 to 48. Second from right is Butterick 2232. The print velvet on No. 2232 looks much like this one.  These velvet dresses are for afternoon wear.

Note: the “hand” of real silk or rayon/silk velvet is nothing like the stiff “decorator” velvet sold in many fabric chain stores. Thai Silks sells many rayon/silk blends, so asking for a swatch allows you to “feel” if it will behave properly for your pattern. Rayon and silk are both authentic 1920’s fabrics.

About rayon/silk velvet: one of the first synthetic fabrics, rayon is cellulose based, like cotton and linen. Silk, like wool, is protein based. Chemicals that make it possible to dissolve the protein (silk) and leave the cellulose (rayon) intact make it possible to create burn-out effects. (I’m working from memory here, so if you need more information, please look for a more knowledgeable source on devoure silk!)

These print dresses from Delineator, November 1928, could be made from printed velvet if you use silk velvet or a soft rayon/silk blend. Butterick 2335 and 2299. (Maybe this one?)

Printed silks in patterns suitable for the 1920’s (including “necktie silk”) are still being made, if you shop carefully.

It’s important to remember that the labor (or time) spent making a dress is almost always more “expensive” than the fabric. Three or four yards of quality silk or silk velvet fabric (under $100 total) will result in a dress worth hundreds of dollars, and putting all that work into a polyester dress will never give the same result. Luckily, the more interesting your fabric, the less complex your dress style should be, so that the fabric, not the trim, is the real star. [Be aware that stitching velvet requires careful pinning and basting, and practice.]

Two views of Butterick 1118, from Delineator, November 1926.

Delineator suggested transparent “night blue” velvet for this evening gown. White or plum or another color of velvet would be just as lovely. So would many other silks.

The Exotic Silks company offers basically the same products as Thai Silks, and offers a large sample set of velvet swatches for $12 (2017 price.) However, Exotic Silks is a wholesaler; (minimum order for silk is 15 yards and for velvet is 28 yards.) Thai Silks has a one yard minimum and will send you swatches of the fabrics you really are interested in; you can phone them. Thai Silks also offers several sets of swatches, $12 and up. (I believe Exotic Silks and Thai Silks are two branches of the same store, wholesale and retail.)

P.S. Here is the store label from this 1880’s cape; today, fabric similar to this is often sold as upholstery velvet:

1880’s dolman cape, front view. The “sleeves” are held in place with internal ties; this is a cape, not a jacket with fitted sleeves.

Label from bustle-era cape: “L.F.W. Arend & Co., Importers & Mfturers, Chicago.”

Click here for a Pinterest page full of late Victorian mantles like this.




Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Costumes for the 19th century, Dresses, evening and afternoon clothes, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Day and Night in Vogue Patterns, 1937

“Make These and Have Something to Wear: Vogue Designs for Busy Days and Crowded Nights”

“Vogue Designs for Busy Days.” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1937, page 30. November 1937.

Vogue Designs “for Crowded Nights.” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1937, page 31.

This two-page spread in the Ladies’ Home Journal (LHJ) featured nine Vogue patterns. Here they are in detail:

Vogue two-piece dress pattern 7508 (in “copper”) and dress 7511 in black trimmed with grosgrain ribbons in “flower colors” to “trim the deep-lapped seam from neck to hem.” November 1937, LHJ. Shoulders are getting broader.

Vogue 7508, at left,  is “fitted to bring out natural curves;” Vogue 7511 has a “Victorian” collar and bands of grosgrain trim around the hem, too.

Vogue 7510. November 1937; LHJ. “An opportunity… if you’ve never sewn before, for it’s ‘Easy to Make.’ The skirt is in four gores, and you may use tiny buttons down the front in place of a slide fastener.”

Vogue 7510 has a zipper front and is worn with two (!) belts. Zippers made the change from sportswear to more formal clothing in 1936-1937.

This high-cut collar is also seen on the “copper” colored two piece dress, No. 7508.

Vogue dress 7509, in red, and 7512, in blue. In spite of the zigzag look at the hem and cuffs, 7512 is not a knitted dress. LHJ, Nov. 1937, p. 30. No, 7509 was available for large women, up to a bust of 46 inches.

Details of Vogue 7509 and 7512, from 1937. No. 7509 has a “soft, shirred plastron front”  and amazing sleeves. It is worn with matching dress clips. No. 7512 is “of a new violet-blue crepe with tiny wavy pleating worked right into the fabric. You can make the saw-tooth trimming on your sewing machine. Don’t you think the new-length sleeves are young?”

Alternate views of Vogue 7508, 7511, 7510, 7509, and 7512. LHJ, Nov. 1937.

On the facing page, four Vogue patterns for evening were illustrated:

Slinky satin evening gowns without a center front seam show what can be done with a bias cut and a flat tummy. Vogue 7506, in white, and Vogue 7505, in two shades of green.

“If you can enter a room regally, princess dress 7506 is for you!” This is not what is usually meant by “princess dress.” But she is wearing a tiara….

“The apparent lack of a seam down the front is not a mistake; there is one right down the center in back. We just couldn’t bear desecrating the lovely backward sweep with mere seams. The twisted shoulder straps, that are part of the dress front, drop to the waistline in back. We suggest platinum satin with mink or kolinsky banding.”

(A little digression: Kolinsky is a very expensive fur. High quality watercolor brushes are still made from it; Winsor & Newton will sell you a size 10 Kolinsky brush for $499. Movie plug:  In the 1937 comedy, Easy Living, the life of a hard-working young woman is transformed when an angry millionaire throws his wife’s Kolinsky fur coat out the window. Since our heroine doesn’t know what” Kolinsky” is, she wears the coat, not realizing it’s worth $55,000 — in Depression Era dollars! To her surprise, people start treating her differently because they think she is rich — or immoral….  Easy-to-relate-to Jean Arthur is the star. )

Vogue 7507 has a twisted tie on its bolero jacket. The glittering shoulder straps on the dress can be rhinestoned or sequinned. LHJ, Nov. 1937.

Both the bias cut and the twisted fabrics in those two Vogue evening gowns show the influence of Madeleine Vionnet.

A bias evening gown with twisted and tied jacket by Madeleine Vionnet, 1935. Photo: Metropolitan Museum.

Left, Vogue 7507, with a sheer, deep pink cover-up. Top tight, Vogue evening gown 7504. LHJ, 1937.

“Coronation pink” refers to he coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England and the United Kingdom in May of 1937. They were the parents of Queen Elizabeth II. “Shocking pink” was introduced by Elsa Schiaparelli, also in 1937.

Alternate views of Vogue 7506, 7505, 7507 and 7504. LHJ, November 1937. Backs were cut to the waist on the gowns at left.

Are you inspired to start sewing your New Year’s gown?

Note:  These patterns were featured in November, so women would have been making and wearing them in 1938 and 1939 — or later. By mid-1939, the hems on the day dresses would have looked much too long.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, July, 1939.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, page 3. July 1939.


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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

Just Because It Made Me Laugh

From an ad for Nature’s Remedy tablets, Delineator, January 1935.

I try to resist reading all the ads in Delineator — I still have hundreds of copies to go. But sometimes an ad that has nothing to do with fashion catches my eye — Like this constipated bride.

So did this one …

Ad from Delineator, March 1937. Courtesy Remembered Summers.

… especially when I realized it was from the American Frog Canning Company. Things got so bad during the Depression that my father even tried panning for gold. But he didn’t invest in this scheme for getting canned frog legs on the dinner table in every American home.

Sorry I don’t have a photo of the complete Nature’s Remedy ad, just this much:




Filed under Uncategorized

High Hats, 1937

A high beret by Agnes was featured in this illustration for Woman’s Home Companion, October 1937. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys. [That’s a lot of eye makeup!]

The next month, Woman’s Home Companion offered this hat pattern, No. 7361:

Detail, “Height in Your Hat,” Butterick-Companion [?] pattern 7631, November 1937. WHC. Three hat styles in one pattern for 25 cents.

A style that combines height with a beret front and a driving cap back, pattern 7631, WHC, Nov. 1937.  This one is closest in spirit to the more extreme couture hat designed by Agnes.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, bags, Gloves, handbags, Hats, Purses, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Dresses with Bows, December 1928

A bow at the hip, a bow on the shoulder, or both: Two Butterick dresses from December 1928. Delineator. The one at left even has bows at the wrist.

I confess, the dress at upper right is one of my favorites from the Twenties. Bows, and variations on bows, enhanced many dresses in 1928; here are a few from December of 1928. (Ninety-nine [CORRECTION: 89] years ago. [Thanks, Jacqueline!]  Let’s start with some bow variations:

Butterick 2373 has sections joined by fagoting, a detail attributed to Vionnet. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

It’s not a bow, but this tie appears to be part of the neckline, and is echoed on the back of the dress, as if a narrow scarf were part of the neckline.

Two panels of a vintage dress joined by fagoting. 1920s. For more on Vionnet and fagoting, click here.

Butterick 2373, front and back views. December, 1928, Delineator. That long back tie helps narrow the rear view of hips.

Butterick 2378 has the snugly draped hips of 1928, with the interesting not-exactly-a-bow insertion at the shoulder creating a slenderizing vertical line, and four bows — two at the hips and two at the wrists. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30. If you look closely, you can see a side seam bust dart.

Front and back views of Butterick 2378. The “handkerchief girdle” is attributed to both Molyneux and the design team of Martial et Armand. Delineator, Dec . 1928, p. 30.

I like this dress so much that I wondered what it would look like on a more realistic figure. Imagine it in silk jersey:

Illustration of Butterick 2378 manipulated to appear on a more naturalistic figure. It still looks good to me!

Most Butterick patterns from the 1920’s were sized from bust 32″ up to a 44″ bust measure — that would be a modern pattern size 22, a reminder that not all women in the Twenties had “boyish” figures.  The next dress has a soft drape, rather than a bow, but it’s recommended for older (and larger) women, so I though it worth sharing:

Butterick 2381 has an interesting yoke and skirt, but no bows. Delineator, Dec. 1928, page 30. It was recommended for “the older woman.” Notice the gathers at the shoulder, which would provide some fullness over the bust.

Front and back views of Butterick 2381, which was available up to size 48″ bust (and proportionately larger hips.) Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

The vertical drapery and skirt panels in front would be flattering to a larger figure. The back view, with two horizontal hip bands? Probably not becoming to 52″ hips. Maybe it could use the clever, long, back tie from Butterick 2373.

This dress, which has a metallic (lame) bodice and velvet skirt, could be worn by misses 15 to 18 as well as women up to size 44″ bust.

Butterick 2346, a formal afternoon frock, has a tiered skirt with hip accent, and a big shoulder bow matching the skirt fabric. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

Front and back views of Butterick 2346. Delineator, December, 1928, p. 30. I wish I could find another description of this pattern, because it was common for a very formal day dress like this to also have a sleeveless version for evening wear.

Two Formal Frocks from Delineator, December 1928. Butterick patterns 2379 and 2287.

Bows at the shoulder on evening frocks, December 1928.

Butterick 2359 has velvet bows at shoulder and hip, but it does not have the tight hip girdle seen in these other 1928 fashions.

The diagonal hip bow is appliqued to the dress and can be tied to fit the hips tightly. In back, it forms a band. The back of the dress is cut in one piece; the front panel dips well below the hemline.

Front and back views of Butterick 2359, from December 1928. Delineator, p. 31. [When I think about how I would make this dress, with the weight of the hip bow and the stress that tying it tightly would put on the crepe fabric where the velvet gaps in front…. The inside of this dress might need some engineering to make it stay bloused this perfectly when worn by an actor.**]

Illustrations are by M. Lages.

Perhaps too much of a good thing, Butterick 2312 has three bows in a line from shoulder to hip. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 28. This is a dinner dress for young or small women.

The hem is longer in back than in front — it has “the backward dipping flounce that marks the new mode.” The dress has the curve: the flounce is “straight.” It attaches to an upward curve in front and a downward curve in back. The shoulder bow ends in a long streamer.

Front and back views of Butterick 2312 from Dec. 1928.

** Unlike models, actors have to sit down and get up and move like normal people.  Costumers use the term “actor-proofing,” not as an insult to actors, but because it’s our job to prevent the costume from becoming a problem for the actor wearing it. “Mark Antony” shouldn’t have to worry about his toga falling off his shoulder — it took years of training for a Roman gentleman to master toga-wearing. Directors are always asking actors to do things that can’t be done in restrictive period clothing; it’s the costumers’ job to make the clothing look authentic but allow such movement 8 times a week, month after month. 1920’s two-piece dresses often suspended the skirt from an unseen bodice top (like a modern camisole.) That meant the skirt could hang straight from the shoulders, without being shaped to a waistband. If you want a blouson to stay bloused, you can attach it to that “skirt” so the blousing can’t slip down unevenly.




Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Paris Fashion Shoes, 1936

“Exquisite — Flattering” Paris Fashion Shoes. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936. Black suede side tie shoe, with a very high heel.

I hadn’t encountered any other ads for Paris Fashion Shoes, and the very high heels and relatively low prices in the ad intrigued me.

Paris Fashion Shoes, center of ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936. Top, a brown or black square-toe sandal.

Paris Fashion Shoes cost just $3 to $4 in 1936. Bottom of ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936, p. 111. This high heeled “butterfly” tongue step-in was available in “black, wine, or green suede” or in “black or blue kid” — quite a range of choices and sizes.

(Oh, for the days when shoes were available in a such a variety of widths. I still miss AA heels on B width shoes.)

A high-heeled “Foot Rest” shoe from Krippendorf promised comfort, for “$6.95 to $7.95” or more. Ad from WHC, October 1936.

I was curious about the Paris Fashion brand, and found that it was only one of many lines made by the Wohl Shoe Company. Wohl owned forty-six trademarks. A 1941 booklet celebrating the history of the Wohl Shoe Company was recently offered on eBay. In 1941, Wohl produced lines called Jacqueline, Natural Poise Arch Shoes, Connie, and Paris Fashion Fifth Avenue Shoes. Click here.  

A selection of shoe ads from Woman’s Home Companion, also from 1936, shows that Paris Fashion Shoes were relatively low-priced, compared to other brands. You can tell from the names of the companies, however, that these ads were aimed at women who wanted shoe comfort as well as style.

“According to the Table of Shoe Hotness, any brand that promises comfort will add 10 years to one’s WEA (Wearer’s Estimated Age.)” – Columnist Leah Garchik, writing in the Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Enna Jettick shoes cost $5 to $6 in 1936. Ad from WHC, April 1936.

This Enna Jettick shoe ad from April 1936 featured 27 year old Hollywood star Helen Twelvetrees wearing Enna Jettick shoes. (Ener-Getic! Get it?) Enna Jetticks were aimed at older women. Many other brands promised both comfort and style.

Red Cross shoe ad, WHC, April 1936. (Great swing coat! You could have worn that suit in the 1950’s.)

These Red Cross shoes cost about $6.50 a pair. Ad from WHC, October 1936. Red Cross shoes were supposed to “exercise your feet and legs back to shapeliness with every step you take.”

I remember similar claims for shoes in the 1970’s.

However much they promised comfort, these 1936 shoes are not necessarily “old lady” shoe styles.

This Butterick-Companion holiday frock pattern (7155) was drawn on a youthful model and illustrated with fashion accessories: shoes, bags, and gloves. WHC, December 1936.

Fashionable shoes and purses  for December 1936. Gray or Claret were suggested. WHC, p. 69. These shoes also appeared in WHC ads.

Apparently advertisers supplied shoes to the magazine for use in fashion layouts. Nothing new about that!

This Walk-Over “Cabana” model, from a October 1936 ad [inset], was available in gray suede and a range of other colors: black, green, brown, and blue.

December fashion illustration and [inset] October ad for Red Cross Shoes. WHC.

Other seasonal colors were advertised :

There is no price range on this ad for high-heeled Queen Quality shoes. WHC, March 1936. This ad is aimed at brides and “every other girl with a flair for fashion.” These styles were available in blue, and probably in a range of other color

Ads for Selby Arch Preserver shoes are interesting because they always show three women of different ages striding along in chic outfits. Ad from WHC, November 1936.

Queen Quality shoe ad, WHC, November 1936. The Bengal, right, looks rather middle-aged to me, but the Lanett pump, top left, has a very high heel.

These Walk-Over shoes from October 1936 range from casual and sporty (top left) to citified. Top left has a stacked leather heel. Prices $7.50 to $8.50, in a wide range of colors, including “Araby green.”

The top-stitched Walk-Over shoe at top right looks a lot like the gray shoe featured in that December fashion illustration.

Back to those $3 to $4 Paris Fashion Shoes: They were really inexpensive compared to shoes advertised in Woman’s Home Companion at the same time.

Red Cross Shoes cost $6.50 to $6.85 in November 1936.  That’s more than 50% to 100% higher than Paris Fashion Shoes. (A couple of these styles look rather graceful compared to others from 1936.)

These Foot Saver shoes cost as much as $12.75 in October, 1936. WHC. [Are those sequins?]

According to Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936, a working woman with a college education could expect to earn $18 per week. She was expected to need four pairs of shoes per year, at $3 a pair. Maybe she bought Paris Fashion Shoes!







Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, bags, Gloves, handbags, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shoes, Vintage Accessories

High Neck or Open Necked Options for Women, 1917

Butterick waists [i.e., blouses] from February 1917, Delineator, p. 51

After 1912, fashion permitted respectable women to expose their necks in the daytime, but not every woman felt comfortable with the change.

Butterick waists [blouses) from August 1917 occasionally included a high-necked one. Delineator, p. 47.

A vintage lingerie blouse (or “waist”), probably late 1890’s. That high collar wouldn’t give much relief from the heat in spite of the blouse’s sheer fabric.

These waist (blouse) patterns from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917, all have open necks. In July, a blouse like this must have been wonderfully cool compared to the fashions of the 1890’s.

By 1917, when most blouses had open collars, V-necks, or other necklines that bared the throat and part of the sternum, Butterick patterns often still included an optional high-necked version. That’s my excuse for showing these seven outfits from 1917 in all their colorful glory.

These look like dresses, but they are waist and skirt combinations. Butterick patterns from February 1917. Delineator.

The two at left use chiffon and other sheer fabrics; 8928 has a low draped neckline filled with skin-toned lace.

Butterick waist patterns 8927 and 8919. From 1917. In January, Butterick evening waist 8901 was very similar to 8927, but was shown without a blouse under it.

Butterick waist 8919 with skirt 8928. Delineator, Feb. 1917. The alternate view shows a high-necked variation without the cowl neckline of the color illustration.

Although I’m focusing on blouses, skirt 8928 was also illustrated (twice) with an evening bodice:

Skirt 8928 with “evening bodice” 8956. Delineator, editorial illustration, Feb. 1917.

Butterick evening coat 8727 shown with a “gown” that is really a blouse (No. 8956) and separate skirt (No. 8928 again.) Delineator, Feb. 1917. [That waist looks shockingly bare to me!]

Butterick waist patterns 8927, 8919, and 8923. February 1917. The designs at left and right have contrast collars and a wrapped “surplice” bodice.

Butterick waist 8927 with skirt 8949. February 1917, Delineator. This one does not offer a high necked version. It is a “jumper model” in the American sense — a sleeveless garment worn over a blouse.

Butterick waist 8923 with skirt 8936. Delineator, February 1917. This blouse waist has a high-necked variation, shown with a dark collar.

A “French lining” fit the body closely and supported draped effects. In this period, as in the 19th century, the closure of the lining did not always line up with the closures on the outer garment, which could be very complex.

These are dresses, not waist and skirt combinations. Delineator, Feb. 1917 page 52. No. 8942 looks like a coat, but it’s a dress.

A closer look at the necklines and the hats. 1917.

Butterick dress pattern 8929, from 1917. It has a tabard (panel) hanging front and back, and unusual “organ-pipe” pleats at the sides of the skirt. “High or open neck could be used.”

Butterick dress pattern 8942, from 1917. The vest front is “equally well adapted to a high or the open throat.” There are at least three sleeve and cuff variations.

Butterick dress 8933, from February 1917, has a surplice (wrapped) bodice. The illustrations show several sleeve variations and a high buttoned neck, worn without the cape collar. [That blue taffeta is beautifully rendered by the illustrator.]

Butterick dress 8947, with skirt and bodice variations, including a high-necked version. 1917. The cross-over belt is very characteristic of 1917. You can see how it ties in the back. “The lower part of the redingote has two different outlines, and it is joined to the long body.”

The hats of 1917 were pretty extreme. [And some were pretty, while some were extreme.]




Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Hairstyles, Shirts and Blouses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, World War I