Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s: Jenny (Part 2)

Red and white tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

Jenny in the 1920s

Jeanne Adele Bernard (married name, Jeanne Sacerdote) worked as “Jenny” — an oddly British sounding name. (There were other designers in Paris named Bernard.)  The name “Jenny” became as well known as “Georgette” or “Lucile.” She had been hugely successful in the late 1910s, and she adapted to the 1920s just as well.

Afternoon gown by Jenny, photographed by O’Doye for Delineator February 1924.

Do check out this luxurious evening coat by Jenny, sold by Carolynforbestextiles.com. Amazing 1920’s colors. Simple — but dazzling — is this mid-twenties dress from Jenny:

Evening dress by Jenny, 1925 to 1928; courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

The Peabody Essex Museum has a superb Jenny evening dress circa 1926, more elaborate that the one above and photographed on a mannequin. Click here.

Jenny combined both ivory and black lace with black satin and a beaded belt on this very feminine gown, sketched for Delineator, April 1924.

What struck Delineator’s editors was the full sleeves,  “which have been neither seen nor heard of for evening for several seasons.”

Ivory lace tops the off-the-shoulder bodice [how did that work?] and peeks out from below the black lace skirt. Bare arms were standard on evening dress in 1924.

This sleeveless Jenny design from 1926 has the low armholes and bare arms expected in formal evening gowns.

Jenny’s ruffled evening frock in pink taffeta trimmed with turquoise ribbons; matching cape trimmed in turquoise ribbon and feathers. Sketch in Delineator, July 1924.

In 1924, Jenny was not afraid of the play of patterned fabrics and severely geometric details:

A three piece suit from Jenny; the cashmere printed crepe de Chine “blouse” is a tunic almost reaching the hem of the coat, which is shorter than the long gray skirt. In Delineator, April 1924.

Jenny suit, 1924. The applied trim is bands of self-fabric. See the book Classic French Fashions.

This Jenny ensemble puts a 7/8 length beige coat over a beige, rose, and green plaid dress. The plaid also trim the coat. Delineator, July 1924.

When the very narrow “tubular” silhouette came in, Jenny was ready:

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September, 1924.

In 1925, one of Jenny’s designs was this coat and dress ensemble. Her hems were rising rapidly, but she went against the tide with this very high collar, and a dress trimmed with tiny gold buttons.

Jenny puts this green velvet coat over a dress of rose-beige crepe de Chine, trimmed with hundreds of little gold buttons. Delineator, September, 1925.

1926 shows Jenny still among the top-ranked couturiers:

Three couture ensembles from Delineator, June 1926. Jenny shows a short flared coat over a “just to the knees” dress.

Earlier in the 1920s skirts tended to be straight in back; now these are flared all the way around.

Jenny again catches the mode: a bloused top. Sketched for Delineator, September 1926.

A very bare evening dress with a flared skirt. It was orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls. Jenny design, sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Evening dresses by Jenny and Chanel, Sketched for Delineator, February 1927.

There are a lot of 1960s’ and 70s’ “Twenties” costume dresses out there, covered with tiers of fringe, but this is what beaded fringe looked like in the hands of a couturier like Jenny; on a pink dress, a deeper pink “fringe of crystal beads that touch it with rosy frost.”

Beaded fringe in geometric patterns on an Art Deco evening dress by Jenny, Delineator, February 1927.

Top of beaded dress, Jenny, 1927. I like the way beaded fringe partly covers the deep V neckline — it’s subtly sexy.

I’m not as impressed by every one of her 1927 creations, although closer study usually reveals a little extra creativity. (Remember these are just a tiny fraction of her output.)

Left, Jenny, for evening; right Vionnet day dress. From Delineator, August 1927.

This black and white (?) satin dress comes with a heavily sequinned black chiffon bolero. Jenny in Delineator, October 1927.

Her more tailored coats and suits really are wonderful, with many subtle touches.

One-button suit by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator, June 1927.  The button suggests “a high waistline,” the style of the 1930s, which was just starting to appear.

Lovely lines and pocket detail on the left; astrakhan (unborn lamb) is used on the collar and — unexpectedly — on the back skirt of the coat at right. [Photo distorted by the curvature of the page.]

Her very flared, collarless 1927 coat is a fore-runner of 1940s’ and fifties’ styles.

If you can ignore the scarf, this is a coat decades ahead of its time, from the “Swing” of its flare to the curved seams running into the pocket; note the curved detailing on the cuff. Illustrated for Delineator, May 1927.

It’s quite a change from the tubular coats she made in 1924! Just three years had passed.

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September 1924.

In 1928, Delineator was still enchanted with Jenny’s flower-printed underwear, which she had been showing since 1917, or possibly earlier.

Poppy printed chemise by Jenny, in Delineator, April 1928.

In 1929, Jenny was showing asymmetrical fashions. These are dramatic and unusual.

These 1929 gowns from Jenny play with asymmetry and two-toned color schemes. Delineator‘s Paris report, November 1929.

The short satin gown is very unusual. I wish we could see all around it.

Where does the dark begin? Where does it end? What happens in the back? I don’t know.

By this time, Jenny was in her sixties. She continued making up-to-date gowns in the 1930s. Thanks to Elizabeth Handley Seymour’s desire to make and sell copies to her London clients, the V&A museum has a color sketch of a slinky, broad-shouldered Jenny gown, 1936.

Jenny was one of the couture houses that did not re-open after closing during World War II. For a time line of Jenny’s life, click here.

For French fashion illustrations of Jenny modes, visit the wonderful blog A la Recherche des Modes Perdues [lost] et Oublies [forgotten]. There is a search box and a language translator option.

[Added on 4/21/19] And one for the road: A Jenny evening dress with a complex  skirt and a high, cross-over front. It was Reseda green crepe Romain; the long ties in back gave a flattering rear view, or could be worn with one tie brought to the front.

500 jenny GH 1929 april pg 69 Jenny evening crossed front

Gown by Jenny, from Good Housekeeping, April, 1929, page 69.

The poor image quality is what happened when many magazines were converted to microfilm to save library space.

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8 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Slips and Petticoats, Sportswear, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

8 responses to “Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s: Jenny (Part 2)

  1. Fascinating! Thanks for drawing our attention to this now forgotten designer. One wonders why some disappear while others remain in the discussion. Maybe you will revive Jenny!

    • WW II was the end of many French fashion houses; they just never re-opened. On the other hand, American designers began to gain traction during the war, because French couture wasn’t the main topic of our fashion magazines. In England, many years ago, I wandered into a small exhibit of clothing from the Napoleonic era, when British women couldn’t get French fashion dolls or pictures because of the embargo. Apparently, the Empire waist began dropping in Britain while remaining high in Europe, — and I have never found that info again! I was literally out walking in the countryside when I wandered into a little museum! Perhaps if I re-read my letters and journals? Someday….

  2. Wow! So many beautiful outfits. I especially love the three piece suit and the beaded fringe.

    I assume that Jenny fashion was expensive? Were there knock-offs, then, for the more average consumer? I have a character in the novel I’m writing who would love to wear these fashions!

    • Jenny sold couture in Paris, not department store fashions, although there were a few high end places in New York (and perhaps elsewhere), like Hattie Carnegie and Mary Walls, that specialized in selling copies with permission. In fact, manufacturers stole designs (knock-offs) and got them into the stores really fast! Fashion Is Spinach, by Elizabeth Hawes, is the first-hand account of an American girl who went to Paris in the 1920s and worked as a sketch artist. She tells all about the ways that designs were copied (secretly). If you are looking for inspiration, she is inspiring: she later became one of the first truly American high fashion designers, and her clothes were shown along with Schiaparelli and Bonnie Cashin in museum shows. The Met Museum has good photos of her 1930s’ American work.

  3. Thank you for this. I loved the beaded dress from the V&A when I saw it in Patterns of Fashion, and I always wondered who Jenny actually was.

    • Thank you! I no longer have my Janet Arnold books, and I didn’t remember that she studied a dress by Jenny! I just added another image to the post — I found it while looking up another designer for this series: Louiseboulanger (that’s what it says on her labels, because there were other “Boulangers” designing in Paris in the 1920s)

  4. Duy Khang Nguyen

    Thanks for this design

    I have my very own design of this version coat for checkboard dress

    What do you think ?

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