Companion-Butterick 8459, a shirtwaist dress, appeared on the cover of Butterick Fashion News, July 1939.
It was featured on the back cover, too, and several other “shirtwaist” dresses appeared in this flyer. The 1939 shirtwaist could be casual or dressy.
If the text didn’t describe this as a “beautifully detailed shirtwaist dress,” I wouldn’t have classified it that way. Companion-Butterick 8459, July 1939.
Companion-Butterick 8459 does not button down the front, and the bodice is not a separate piece. Clever darts created the shape of this easy to make, pull-over style.
Companion-Butterick 8459, from back cover of BFN flyer, July 1939. A zipper in the side seam would allow you to pull the narrow waist over your shoulders.
Butterick 8459 used only four pattern pieces. Back cover, BFN flyer, July 1939.
Butterick shirtwaist dress 8479 uses pocket flaps as belt carriers. July, 1939. [Note the seamed stockings in the back view.]
Butterick 8466 combines a shirtwaist dress with a coordinating jacket. BFN, July 1939.
This dressy shirtwaist is Butterick 8497. BFN, p. 9, July 1939.
Are these shirtwaist dresses? That’s not how they are described. BFN, p. 4, July 1939.
Center is Butterick 8493:
Right, Companion-Butterick 8483. BFN, July 1939.
Companion-Butterick 8493: “For spectator sports, wear this dress with brisk pleats in the skirt, and a pocket individualized with embroidery.” Sizes 12 to 20, 30 to 44.
I love this two- (or three-) toned dress with a zipper that runs all the way down the front.
Butterick 8470 has a zipper running from neckline to hem, but it isn’t a housedress.
[For more about the popularization of zippers in women’s clothing during the 1930s, read “Zip” Part 1 and/or Part 2. ]
Even fancier is this print dress made from “sheer” fabric:
Butterick 8486 looks like a shirtwaist to me — its bodice opens with buttons to the waist
The shirtwaist dresses that were a staple of my college wardrobe in 1962 were constructed like this; they buttoned down the front, usually to a concealed placket below the waist. (This 1939 version probably has a zipper opening in the side seam.)
Obviously, I can’t define “shirtwaist dress” from the way the Butterick Fashion News flyers use the term…. But I still appreciate their convenience and versatility.
4 responses to “Shirtwaist Dresses, 1939”
I never thought that the shorter skirts we associate with the 1940s were already coming into vogue in 1939.
They do look quite short!
Somehow I thought a shirtwaist needed buttons, but obviously not in Butterick’s definition. I guess it would be a dress that had its closures in the middle front, usually (but not always) with a collar.
I, too, expect a shirtwaist dress (or blouse, as in the 1910s) to have a button-front closing. But some of the “shirt-waist dresses” from that 1939 Butterick Fashion News don’t even have a center front opening that reaches the waist. Fashion reporting — inconsistent even before Vreeland ran Vogue! I found two articles of interest and neither says that buttons define the shirtwaist: This one is well-illustrated, and the other mentions a big “shirtwaist” article in Life magazine.