Monthly Archives: July 2018

Vacation Needed

Illustration from Delineator, 1925. This rural schoolteacher was tired out.

I’m not quitting — but after more than 500 posts, I do need a vacation!

I started writing witness2fashion in 2013, partly inspired by my discovery of more than 400 bound copies of Butterick’s Delineator magazine in storage at my public library. I was stunned by the color illustrations, and fascinated by the pattern illustrations and the advertisements. Very few of these magazines have been digitized or microfilmed — the latter is a blessing, in a way, because so many color magazines were preserved in black and white and then discarded by libraries during a wave of microfilming that took place just before digitization in full color became possible. That seems incredible, but…. [Recommended reading: Double-Fold: Libraries and the Asssault on Paper, by Nicholson Baker.] 

Hikers. Color illustration from an ad for Ivory Flakes soap, Delineator; October 1928.

Because of my interest in “everyday” fashions and working class clothing, Butterick’s “middle-class,” Paris-oriented Delineator would not have been my first choice — I was hoping to find McCall’s magazines. I used to own a few from the 1930’s, so I know they had color illustrations. But my last inquiries — assisted by a reference librarian — didn’t turn up any actual bound volumes of old McCall’s within 200 miles of me (and I am surrounded by universities!) The Los Angeles public library seems to have some from the 1920’s — but whether they are actual, bound magazines or black and white films, the librarian couldn’t tell me — and I’d have to take a vacation to visit them.

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Delineator cover by Dynevor Rhys, 1933. Who knew green and orange could look so sophisticated?

So, it’s time for me to spend a few weeks visiting the bound periodicals I love so much right here in San Francisco — a working vacation, but overdue.  I particularly want to research and document the sudden transition in styles between 1929 and the early thirties — but if you have a favorite year between 1900 and 1920 I could dip into, I do enjoy a bit of variety! Please use the comments section for suggestions (no promises, but….)

Meanwhile, Oldies but (I Hope) Goodies

Five years ago I found those magazines were full of things that really excited me, so I shared them — not just patterns, but articles and ads about everything from breast flattening corsets to family budgets, and new items like Knee-High stockings (1930s) and paper towels (people had to be taught what to do with them!) If you’re curious about a woman’s clothing budget in 1924 and in 1936, click here. For a family budget in 1925, click here. From the Great Depression year of 1936, I found a budget and related items about “Living on $18 per Week.” Click here.

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I’m hoping that new followers (bless you, every one!) will enjoy getting links and brief introductions to some of those blog posts from the past — so I will post a group of links regularly instead of writing entire new posts for August. I’ll try to group them by topic.

For a start, here are a few posts that highlighted the unexpected color combinations of the 1920’s:

A Lament for Bound Periodicals  (posted in February, 2015)

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A bridal party in shades of orange, 1924. Delineator magazine.

Orange and Blue in the Mid-Twenties  (posted in December 2015)

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/del-1925-feb-orange-and-black.jpg?w=359&h=500

Blue and orange are complementary colors — they make each other look more intense, as in this illustration. Right, orange and black are combined in a young woman’s dress; Delineator, February, 1925.

1920’s Orange and Black: Not Just for Halloween   (from October 2014)

Colorful Fashions for April, 1926  (from April 2017)

This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

The Colorful Past  (from February 2014)

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-nov-ivory-soap-ad-colorful-nightwear.jpg?w=500

And so to bed…. Do you dream in color? I do.

I’ll have many new images to share by September!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

Vintage Kodak Ads and Vintage Photos

Family photo:  Isabel Porter and Dot Barton in car, dated 1919. Isabel is wearing an embroidered dress, but Dot is wearing hiking clothes:  knickers and a middy shirt.

Imagine how dreary costume history in the 20th century would be without photographs — not just posed studio photographs, but the millions of pictures taken of and by ordinary people. Small, simple to operate, “pocket” cameras really did give us a window into the past.

Four teenaged girls from Redwood City, California, pose in a back yard on May 5, 1918. From left, Edith Nicholls, Ruth Cross, Dot and Helen Barton. Edith and Ruth are wearing fashionable dresses; Dot wears her school uniform and Helen adds a sleeveless sweater to hers.

I have written before about the importance of informal snapshots during  World War I, made possible by the development of small, light-weight, portable “pocket” cameras. Click here for that post.

“Snap-shots from Home” enhance morale for soldiers in World War I. Kodak ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917, p. 91.

Soldiers also took photos with the “vest pocket” Kodak and mailed them to the their families and friends.

Kodak was also developing innovative cameras for use at home. This 1917 advertisement is for the Kodak Autographic camera, which allowed you to record when and of whom the picture was taken on the negative: a 1917 time stamp!

Ad for the “Autographic Kodak”, from Delineator magazine, July 1917.

“And to make an authentic, permanent record, on the negative, is a simple and almost instantaneous process with an Autographic Kodak.” 1917.

This ad appeared seven years later, but the “family” focus is the same.

Ad for the Autographic Kodak from Delineator, May 1924.

The Autographic Kodak was still being advertised in 1924, but, sadly, no one in my family seems to have had one — so they wrote on the pictures, sometimes long after they were developed, and not always accurately.

The folks in this group photo are named in ink on the margin of the picture.

Isabel and Dot visit an Aviation School, dated 1919.

Dot in the cockpit and Isabel beside the plane, dated 1920. Was this picture really taken in a different year? Did they take flying lessons? Some women did — quite successfully.

By 1927 you could take your own moving pictures:

Home movies taken with a Cine-Kodak, from an ad in Delineator, March 1927.

From an ad for the Cine-Kodak, Delineator, May 1927. The cost of a camera, plus a “Kodascope C  for projecting,” and a projection screen, was $140. “The price of Cine-Kodak film, amateur standard (16 mm.), in the yellow box, includes finishing.”

My Uncle Mel had a movie camera in the late 1940s, and, as the only toddler in the family, I was filmed so often that when my parents took me to a movie theater for the first time, I watched for several minutes and then began shouting, “Where’s Me? Where’s Me?”

My Uncle Mel as a teenager, with Ruth Cross. Ruth wears a pinafore. WW I era.

How I wish I could watch those family movies today — to see my parents and grandma and aunts and uncles in motion, wearing their ordinary clothes, doing ordinary things….

Family and friends at a party in the early 1930s. I recognize many of these faces, although I was born many years later. The photo is about this small, since it was a contact print.

The McLeods pose for a snapshot. The mother is dressed very differently from her daughters. 1920s.

Three men pose in La Honda, CA, in the 1920s. Yes, people did wear those golf outfits, [matching sweater and socks!] even when not playing golf. 1920s.

In the late 1920’s, pocket cameras were so common that Kodak advertised them in different colors, to match your outfits. Obviously, women were taking a lot of the pictures that we treasure today.

Ad for Vanity Kodaks in colors to match your outfit. Delineator, June 1928.

Top of ad for Vanity Kodaks. 1928.

“Vanity Kodaks come in five lovely colors [“Redbreast, Bluebird, Cockatoo,  Seagull and Jenny Wren”] to harmonize with one’s costume.” 1928 ad.

My Aunt Dot took to photography early. You can see her shadow as she takes this photograph of young Azalia Dellamaggiore in front of the Redwood City courthouse in 1918.

Here Dot and a soldier are photographed by someone else, but Dot has her camera in her hand.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, World War I

Costume Shop Stories: The Muslin

Cartoon by Baumer from The Way to Wear’em. Please do not copy.

It sometimes seems that I am obsessed with styling tricks that help women look more slender than they really are. This is a chronic problem for theatrical designers; it’s true that people sometimes look a few pounds heavier in photos than in real life, and actors have to pay attention to their appearance. It’s a competitive business. In the early 1980’s I worked with a woman who was a costumer at a major motion picture studio. This is one of her stories:

Cartoon (dated 1877) from The Way to Wear’em. Please do not copy.

An actress who had a huge success on Broadway was (very wisely) cast to play the same part in the movie version of the musical. A very famous costume designer was hired. The initial designs were approved, but when the fittings began, they often ended badly.

The actress was nervous, and found fault with every costume. She was convinced they made her look fat. She knew all too well that she was not a conventionally pretty girl by Hollywood’s cookie cutter standards. And she really wanted to be a movie star….

Movie actor paper doll from Delineator, April 1917.

The actress kept rejecting her costumes, and the costume shop was falling behind schedule, while the Academy Award (TM) winning costume designer redesigned and redesigned….

What is a Muslin?

If you’ve never had a custom-made or couturier gown, you may not realize that the first version (called the toile, or muslin) is usually made of unbleached muslin — plain, off-white cotton fabric.
The fit and the design details are easily marked on the muslin — move a seam here, lower the waistline there, make the collar higher or wider, etc. Once the designer is satisfied, the costume shop uses the muslin to make a revised pattern before cutting into the real fabric. Then the white muslin is replaced by the actual costume materials — perhaps in dark blue, or rich brown, or crimson — for the second fitting.

But the nervous star rejected one muslin after another.

“We’re in the Movies Now;” article from Delineator, March 1934.

On stage, an actor is in constant communication with the audience.  The actor is in control of his performance. However, a film actor, unlike a stage actor, has much less control over her performance on screen. The director and the film editor choose what the audience will eventually see.

In the costume shop, however, a star can exercise a little power, and the more anxious he or she is, the more that anxiety sometimes gets displaced to the one area where control seems possible: the costumes. This process is stressful for the shop, but understandable, especially when the actor’s future career may be at stake.

Solution: When the actress left after another unsuccessful fitting, the costume shop supervisor grabbed several rolls of unbleached muslin and had them all dyed dark gray. The shop made a new set of muslins (actually the same designs as the last set) of dark, dark muslin — closer in value to the colors of the actual costumes.

When she saw herself in the mirror, wearing a slenderizing dark color instead of white — the anxious actress approved them all.

Cartoon (1929) from The Way to Wear’em. Please do not copy.

There is no “villain” in this story — just a problem and a solution.

P.S. If you haven’t read Christina Walkley’s wonderful fashion history illustrated by cartoons from Punch, I highly recommend The Way to Wear’em.

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Filed under A Costumers' Bookshelf, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade

Sport Clothes for Travel: January, 1929

What to wear on your Florida vacation; Delineator, January 1929, p. 24. Coat lengths varied, but wearing a coat shorter than your skirt was chic.

When magazines wanted to show summer fashions in winter, they ran a “travel”or “resort” article. The following outfits aren’t especially summery, but they are very attractive, sporty casual looks from 1929.

Right, a matching 3/4 (or 7/8) length coat and striped dress. From an ad for the Butterick pattern catalog. Delineator, Jan. 1929.

“The Seasoned Traveler Wears Sports Clothes.” From Delineator, January 1929, page 28.

People used to travel dressed more formally than they do now, that’s for sure! Even today, a lot depends upon your destination — city or country. These outfits from 1929 are sporty — but they are suitable for dining out, shopping, attending theatre matinees, etc. (In modern times, they would be dressy enough for just about any urban activity, since “sporty” now means “for active sports.”)

“The travel ensemble:” A coat lined to match the trim on the dress. Butterick coat 2385 with dress 2377. Delineator, Jan. 1929, pg. 28.

“The seasoned traveler wears an uncrushable ensemble of straight, three quarter length coat with scarf collar and patch pockets, and a simple, tailored frock with selvedge bow-knots at neck, wrist and waistline, pleated skirt attached across the front, and a one-piece back.”

[I took these photos years ago, before I developed a system for taking photos from bound magazines at the library, so their quality is not what it should be!]

“The selvedge border costume.” Butterick three quarter length coat 2386 with pattern 2423, a blouse and wrap skirt. Jan. 1929, p. 28.

That outfit and the one above use “selvedge borders” as trim. I do wish this was explained in detail.

Butterick jacket/coat 2419 coupled with skirt 1760 creates a classic suit. Jan, 1929, pg 28.

The coat (2419) is double-breasted and has three patch pockets trimmed with one button each. The skirt is box-pleated across the front but plain in the back — pattern 1760 first appeared in 1927.

“The coat frock of wool.” The coat dress, Butterick 2345, has separate white pique collar and cuffs (easy to remove and wash). “The fabric should be tweed, checks, etc.” The  wide belt is leather; there are bust darts at the shoulders to “perfect the fit.” In sizes from 15 years to 48 inch bust. From January 1929.

“The runabout frock.” Butterick 2410 from January 1929, Delineator, pg. 28. “The simplest of the little tailored woolen frocks are button trimmed.” This one-piece dress “has buttons on its new, longer blouse…. A third group of buttons is on the wrap-around skirt that has a wide box plait in front and is one piece and set on a yoke.”

The following page showed more dresses; these were for lighter fabrics than wool.

“The button frock,” Butterick 2421, attributes the use of sets of buttons to Chanel. The frock has a one-piece front that wraps around and is laid in plaits at the last turn of the zig-zag closing.” A matching point trims the sleeve. In sizes 32 to 44 inches. Delineator, January 1929, pg. 29.

Butterick’s “tailored frock” 2382 was shown on page 29 with silk or cotton dresses, but tweed or linen were also options. The collar matches the turn-back cuffs. The cord laced through the center front is very sporty, and the belt carriers are clever. Delineator, January 1929, p. 29.

The groups of four tucks at the shoulders of 2382 remind us that breasts were no longer being flattened.

The following three “Palm Beach” outfits include light coats or jackets; this was January.

“Summer Fashions for Winter” are resort clothes. Delineator, January 1929, pg. 24.

From left:

Butterick 2398 (the sheer coat) and dress 2076. Delineator, January 1929.

The sheer coat is 7/8 length, with a long scarf built into the collar. It’s worn over a printed frock with long sleeves.

A cardigan is worn over a simple top and pleated skirt. Butterick pattern 2392 included all three pieces; the cardigan jacket is not knitted, but made of a woven fabric. Delineator, January 1929.

“The [bias plaid] blouse has a scarf collar, the straight skirt is on a yoke and the open cardigan is belted. The jacket and blouse are in the new slightly longer length.”

“Runabout frock” 2410 also has this longer bodice — a slight change that happened just before the waist returned to its natural position in the 1930’s. As charming as this cardigan outfit is, I doubt that the “bias plaid” fabric would have looked like that when knife pleated!

“The printed ensemble.” Butterick 2390 uses matching fabric for the coat and dress. “The plaited skirt is sewed to the sleeveless body to give a two-piece effect.” January, 1929.

Here’s another 1929 outfit with chevrons and bows down the front:

Center: Butterick blouse 2565 from Delineator, April 1929.

Styling tricks: The chevrons on blouse 2565 point down, and the four bows line up to draw our eyes to the center of the torso, which creates a slenderizing optical illusion. But the two chevrons on 2390 draw our eyes to the sides of the dress, making the figure look broader, and two bows are not enough to create a line. The bows and the chevrons fight for our attention.

Left: Chevrons and bows, 1929. I think blouse 2565 is a better design.

The outfit on the right, Butterick 2359, has a series of horizontal bars which get wider as they approach the hip.  When the jacket is almost closed in front, they would create a long, narrow, vertical center of interest. Without the jacket, they would create a triangle with its base at the widest part of a woman’s body. In an era that valued slim hips, that’s not a good design 🙂

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Sportswear, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories