Bare Shoulders, December 1933

Butterick 5437, December 1933. Delineator.

Back in the nineteen nineties Donna Karan realized that, as women age, some become reluctant to bare their necks, or their upper arms, or their chests. Yet, for women, formal evening dress usually requires some bare skin. Karan cleverly exposed the shoulders! Shoulders rarely get wrinkled or flabby, and their skin never sags.

Click here for the “cold shoulders” dress as worn by then First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1993. Versions were also worn by Barbra Streisand and Liza Minelli.

Those Karan bare shoulders are back now: click here.  In 2017 they have worked their way into Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and even children’s clothing. But Donna Karan wasn’t the first to show bare shoulders, by sixty — or ninety — years.

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60. [“Cold shoulders” is not the 1930’s description.]

Film designer Howard Greer created a bare-shouldered dress for Katherine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, 1933.

Katharine Hepburn’s bare-shouldered dress, designed by Howard Greer for the film Christopher Strong, was available as a Butterick “starred” pattern in May, 1933. Delineator.

Butterick 5156 was a faithful copy of this 1933 movie costume.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/5156-5154-front-and-back-views-may-1933.jpg

In the 1930’s, patterns that had bare shoulders — or slit sleeves that revealed bare upper arms — were available. Butterick 5437 and Butterick 4944.

Right, Butterick evening dress pattern 5530. On the left, Butterick 5518. From 1934; Delineator.

From 1935, this gown for a young woman echoes the evening gowns of an earlier era.

Butterick 6061 from February 1935.  The text says,”Borrowed from another century, the robe de style is today’s evening news.”

However, the bodice evokes this Edwardian evening style:

Evening gown from the House of Worth, 1906-1908. Metropolitan Museum Collection.

The fitted hips of  the 1935 version bears no resemblance to the “robe de style” popularized by Jeanne Lanvin in the 1920’s. [Fashion writing…. as imprecise in 1935 as it is today.]

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/met-lanvin-1926-robe-de-style-62-166-2_front_cp3.jpg

Robe de Style, Jeanne Lanvin, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It’s hard to see any resemblance between this gown and Butterick 6061.

The bare shoulders of Butterick 6061 can be seen in 2017: click here.

More about this 1933 nightie:

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60.

The same article, about lingerie, showed a rather extreme velvet negligee:

Butterick negligee pattern 5413, December 1933. Delineator. [The play, which opened in 1932, as described in The Harvard Crimson as “one long bedroom scene.”]

It’s more fun than getting pajamas for Christmas.

Although I wouldn’t say no to these:

Lounging pajamas from 1933. Butterick 5410. [And, yes, in the 1960’s my college dorm still turned off the heat late at night.]

11 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns from the movies

11 responses to “Bare Shoulders, December 1933

  1. I was just wondering whether I could pull off a strapless dress after 50…

    • I couldn’t pull off a strapless dress when I was under 50! But I should have learned from a plump, 50-ish opera singer who unabashedly wore a skintight red dress to parties: she looked like a woman who was there to dance and have fun — truth in advertising. Sometimes you should just wear what makes you feel happy.

  2. Nice to get the back story on the cold shoulder trend. I’m tired of it already…but I’m sure it will be rediscovered again.

    • I started to get over it when I kept seeing a commercial with a very young girl wearing a bare shouldered dress. It didn’t look like she could wear it while riding a bicycle or jumping rope or enjoying active play. I remember how I hated having to stay still and play indoors when I was dressed up. Even though I loved reading, the minute my mother put me in a taffeta dress with ruffles I suddenly wanted to go out in the yard and dig!

  3. Jenny Frances

    Really interesting post, I for one, love the bare shoulder styles of the 1930s. I actually made my wedding dress from a 1930s sewing pattern – featuring interesting open shoulder details. It is great to see other sewing patterns from that era featuring bare shoulders. When I purchased my sewing pattern I could only find the Katharine Hepburn pattern that also shared this design feature. Here is the post to my wedding dress (just in case you fancy having a little look) https://missjennyfrances.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/my-1930s-wedding-dress/
    Jenny xx

  4. Oh!! That Butterick Starred Katharine Hepburn is available as a reprint at EvaDress on Etsy. I’ve bought it but not yet made it up.

    https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1353664058

  5. Pingback: Blouses from 1931 | witness2fashion

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