One hundred years ago, the January Delineator offered Butterick patterns, advice for the working girl (and her mother), sketches of Paris couture, and all kinds of advertisements. Enter the time capsule:
These are not what we usually think of when we hear “Twenties’ style,” but the decade was just getting started. Page three began an essay on the dangers awaiting naive young women who went out to work in offices….
It was 100 years ago, but all of this sounds painfully familiar in the 21st century. At least we now acknowledge that saying ‘no” isn’t always enough.
If you had to work as a housemaid, the difficulties might be considerable. This little article about the life of a housemaid in England shows that even Delineator was shocked by their working conditions:
Back to fashion: These Butterick patterns for misses (age 14 to 19, in most cases) show a hint of what women wore in the later 1920s:
Dresses for grown women also offered some styles without exaggerated hips:
The bare arms of evening dresses, even for girls in their teens, surprised me. For more “very bare” gowns from 1920, click here.
What did women do about underarm hair?
A prized gift in 1920 was a “Spanish comb,” often made from celluloid, “the first synthetic plastic material.“ In this ad, a celebrity endorsing fingernail powder (yes, nails were buffed to a shine by most women) wears a Spanish comb:
You could order your camisoles, nightgowns, bloomers, and combinations from Dove and other companies.
WW I had made knitting more popular than ever; this is an ad for Fleischer yarns:
The obsession with boyish figures has not yet appeared.
Well into the Twenties, women shaved their own soap flakes from bar soap, so this was a modern convenience product.
Also convenient: Rubber shoe covers.
Later in the 1920s, the B.F.Goodrich rubber company introduced a winter shoe cover with a slide fastener closing, giving us the word “Zipper.”
Mothers could find ads for maternity corsets in 1920:
And safety pins had been around for over a century:
It was appropriate that a magazine designed to sell sewing patterns should have ads for sewing machines.This ad should hold a special interest for all us who love Daphne DuMaurier’s novel Rebecca. In a scene often described as the most un-romantic marriage proposal ever, Maxim de Winter includes the information that “I prefer Eno’s.”
(Let’s hope it wasn’t the Washington Monument in this ad that attracted his attention.)
To see the marriage proposal scene from the excellent (and faithful) 1979 TV adaptation of Rebecca, starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett, click here.
**** I am irresistibly reminded of the limerick about “the young lady of Kent/ who said that she knew what it meant/ when men asked her to dine/ over cocktails and wine….” Perhaps her mother had explained it to her after reading the article in Delineator.
7 responses to “A Visit to January 1920, from Delineator Magazine”
Happy new year!
And to you!
I still sew on a treadle machine, having learned on one in the 50s when I was a child and taught by my grandma. I switched to electric in my teens, but went back to the treadle after a few years. It does everything I need to do. I was not aware of that Rebecca adaption, somehow Jeremy Brett will always be Sherlock Holmes to me, but I see the same mannerisms, which worked very well for Mr. Holmes.
bonnie in Provence
The ability to control every stitch, slow as you need to go for finicky sewing, was a treat! But I’m glad to have my electric for long, fast seams….
Happy New Year, and thank you for this post and the clip! “Holmes” was quite dashing in that scene, wasn’t he? I’d wondered what his other roles might have included, but not enough to look it up. So thank you for that especially. 😘
I’m a fan of his Holmes, too. Brett had a fairly distinguished career on stage, especially in Shakespeare. Back in the 1960s, Olivier recruited him for the acting company which became Britain’s National Theatre, Not bad for a boy who was born tongue-tied and didn’t have the surgery to correct it until he was about 17 years old. After that, Hamlet, Berowne, Orlando, and a Bassanio (Merchant of Venice) that surprised the critics. Vocally, he’s my favorite Macbeth…. And that TV Rebecca is so much better than the movie with Joan Fontaine. Last time I saw that in a movie theatre, I had to resist throwing a shoe at her! But Joanna David has no self-pity — and Anna Massey showed what she could do as a villain! One critic mentioned that this Max de Winter made him realize something obvious when the book was written, but never spelled out: given his age and social class, de WInter must have been an officer in WW I. Oh — Brett’s in another great adaptation of a novel I love: The Good Soldier. Look for it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA0PjehNE9Q
I feel like this is one of the few times in history when the fashionable silhouette (and illustrations of it too!) was realistic towards an actual, physical woman’s body…