Category Archives: World War I

Female Impersonator Julian Eltinge Recommends Red Cross Shoes, 1912

Ad for Red Cross Shoes, Delineator, April 1912. Julian Eltinge was at the height of his stardom playing “The Fascinating Widow.”

One rule of the costume shop is “Never Assume.” Nevertheless, this 1912 ad for Red Cross Shoes for women surprised me. In it, a female impersonator explains why he prefers Red Cross brand ladies’ shoes.

Julian Eltinge, an actor equally convincing in male and female roles.

Julian Eltinge was a very successful female impersonator — starting in vaudeville, performing in the U.S. and England, having a Broadway theater named after him by a grateful producer, and becoming a silent movie star, the fourth of the “Famous-Players-Lasky”  group.  (The other three were Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin. (Yes, Eltinge was that famous!) A quick change artist, he often played both the male and the female leads in the same show or movie, as he did in his greatest theatrical success, The Fascinating Widow.

Julian Eltinge as “The Fascinating Widow,” 1911-1912. Photo courtesy of NY Public Library, via Wikimedia.

Eltinge as himself, and in the wedding scene of “The Fascinating Widow.”

On stage and in movies,  Eltinge’s character was often a man who disguises himself as a woman in order to expose a criminal or right a wrong. This allowed the audience to be “in on the joke.” However, Eltinge’s female characters were not parodies of women; he played them quite sympathetically, without much exaggeration (considering that they were comedies….) Women were his devoted fans. He even had his own magazine for women, giving beauty advice.

That makes his appearance in this ad for women’s shoes a little less surprising.

If Red Cross shoes could make a man’s feet look smaller…. imagine what they would do for women!

In 1912, women were often proud of having tiny feet. (They sometimes insisted on wearing shoes too small for them, which caused a lot of painful foot problems as time went by….) So, what better way to show that Red Cross Shoes would make your feet look smaller than by having a man who wears women’s shoes prove it?

Text of Red Cross Shoe ad featuring Julian Eltinge.

“The most important reason is the fact that I can wear a much smaller shoe in the Red Cross than any other… Perfectly comfortable, wearing even a smaller size than one my size would naturally wear.”

Top right: the Red Cross shoe was flexible.

So was Julian Eltinge…. A master of the quick change. Hooray for him and Red Cross Shoes!

You can find several YouTube compilations of Julian Eltinge photos; click here for one.

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Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s, Number 1: Jenny (Part 1)

Evening dress by Jenny (Jeanne Adele Bernard Sacerdote) as sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Some leading designers of the nineteen twenties have names that still sell fashion. Chanel comes to mind. Others were famous before and after the Twenties, like the House of Worth. Having a successful perfume brand helps: “Joy,” by Patou is still available. This is the first in a series about once-famous 1920s designers who are no longer well known.

Jenny (born Jeanne Adele Bernard, later Jenny Sacerdote) was ranked with those big names in the Twenties, but is not as well known today. I’ll be sharing a few of her designs, with links to help you find others.

These are merely a few of the designs by Jenny that were sketched for Delineator, *** and I do not have photos from every year between 1917 and 1930. Her ability to adjust to changes in fashion is admirable.  Born in 1868, she became famous in her fifties, showing 300 pieces in her collection of 1918.

Two sketches of couture by Jenny (Jenny Adele Bernard Sacerdote ) shows her ability to move with the times. Delineator, 1917 and 1927.

Left, a gown with a “tonneau” or “barrel” skirt — a fashion innovation from 1917. Right, a bare, narrow, fringed and beaded evening gown from 1927.

Jenny in 1917

Jenny was already being copied in 1915. The V&A collection has several color sketches of Jenny designs. London dressmaker Elizabeth Handley Seymour sketched hundreds of French couture gowns and coats which she was prepared to duplicate for her customers. She included this coat by Jenny, this evening gown, and this elegant afternoon or evening gown.

Jenny was such a “star” in 1917 that even her underwear collections were featured in “Reports from Paris.” She’s notable for her use of bright colors and print fabrics (!) in her lingerie:

This frothy undergarment was “sulphur-yellow ‘gaze’ trimmed with lace.” Delineator, August 1917.

On Jenny’s pink satin knickers, cream yellow lace is outlined with little roses or ‘cocardes’ [sic] of satin ribbon:

Doucet was a very well-established design house; Jenny is treated as his equal. Delineator, August 1917. Note the ribbon straps.

Print fabric lingerie by Jenny, 1917. Sketched for Delineator.

Jenny used “Flowered muslin in a quite indescribable design of white flowers outlined with pink on a blue background” for her pleated chemise, 1917. I remember how new and exciting print underwear was in the 1960s!

This pink chiffon Jenny dressing gown would have been called a “combing jacket” in an earlier era. (See “Peignoir.”)

A dressing gown by Jenny in Delineator, July 1917: “ruched pink chiffon over a pink satin skirt.”

Other Jenny designs from 1917 show that she had a sense of humor. She named this dress, amply trimmed with fur, “My hairy one.”

Jenny called this model “Mon Poilu” –“my hairy one.” Sketched for Delineator, December 1917.

However, her velvet skating dress seems a little impractical:

Jenny described this as a skating dress. Delineator sketch, December 1917. The tassels would be flying!

The coat below is actually sleeveless, worn over a matching gray silk dress. The geometric trim is stitching in green thread.

Short sleeveless coat over matching gray silk dress, green stitching. Jenny, sketched for Delineator, September 1917.

In June, 1917, Delineator showed a page full of couture designs which featured the new “barrel” silhouette. This was one from Jenny. Page 56.

Delineator claimed the barrel silhouette was chiefly the influence of Jeanne Paquin:

The barrel or tonneau skirt, sketched by Paquin’s own artist. Delineator, March 1917, p 56.

They look better to me when the model is sitting down.

Jenny created this dress for 1917. Delineator, March, p. 56. “Blue serge dress with eight box plaits over each shoulder. The square line at the neck appears in many of the new dresses.”

Left, a design by Jenny — in black satin under white chiffon embroidered with flowers — appears next to a design from the House of Worth. Delineator, March 1917.

I’m sure you could find many more Jenny designs: try searching for Delineator at Hathi Trust; select Journal, then choose a year, and search within the volumes you find. 1922 for example…

*** Note:  Butterick Publishing Company had offices in Paris, giving their pattern makers a chance to follow the very latest trends, which were reported on several times a year, often illustrated by Soulie. All the illustrations I’ll use in this “Less Familiar Designers” series come from Delineator‘s coverage. Caveat:  Pattern companies could sometimes buy couture items and copy them, but designers were not happy to be copied without any payment, so sketch artists attending fashion shows had to be quick and furtive, and sometimes had to work from memory. Read Fashion is Spinach, by Elizabeth Hawes for a sketcher’s real inside story.

Next: Jenny in the 1920s.

Tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

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In the Swim, 1914

Three bathing suits for women, Delineator, May 1914.

Three “bathing-suits” for women and one for a girl were featured in Butterick’s Delineator, May 1914. They were illustrated and described again in June, 1914.

Part of page 75, Delineator, June 1914. Headdresses/caps were included in the patterns.

In May, the text was arranged around the illustrations, which means I will have to cut and paste to fit descriptions into a 500 dpi format.  I will use the shorter descriptions from June, and put the longer ones at the bottom of the post for anyone who’s interested.

Top of page 36, Delineator, May 1914. The center bathing suit had a “peg-top” skirt.

It’s entertaining to see how the “peg-top” fashion in dresses has been translated into a bathing-suit, however impractical!

A draped, peg-top skirt, very narrow at the bottom. The silhouette was said to resemble a child’s spinning top.

Butterick bathing-suit pattern 6894, Delineator, May 1914. The skirt has a “pannier effect.” The recommended fabric was silk, not wool.

Butterick 6891 from May 1914, Delineator. Tunic tops over longer skirts were a fashion in dresses, here echoed in bathing suit.

Butterick bathing-suit 6891, alternate views; the sleeveless-topped knickerbockers would be worn under any version of the overdress. Headdress included in pattern.

Butterick 6891 description, Delineator, June 1914. “Raglan shoulders;” “knickerbockers attached to an underbody and a cap complete the costume.” In sizes from 32 to 44 inch bust.

Butterick 6912, bathing suit from May 1914. Delineator, p. 36.

Brilliantine was a lustrous fabric in 1914; later it was the name of a men’s hair dressing lotion that gave that “patent leather” shine.

Description of pattern 6912, June 1914. Delineator. “The two-piece skirt shows the peg-top silhouette which is gained by having the top wider than the lower edge. Knickerbockers attached to an underbody are worn with this costume.

It’s notable that the under garment for bathing suits was called “bloomers” in 1910, but is called “knickerbockers” for women’s bathing suits in 1914.

A bathing suit for girls was also shown in May 1914: (Its under layer is still called “bloomers.”)

Left, a romper suit. Center and right: two views of Butterick 6860 bathing-suit for girls, May 1914.

Butterick bathing-suit for girls aged 2 to 14, Delineator, June 1914. Page 75.

“Body and bloomers are in one, and the two-piece skirt need not be used if one wishes a simple swimming suit …. The bloomers may be straight or gathered at the knee with or without a frill.”

It’s interesting that girls (2 to 14) could wear this suit without a skirt — so they could actually swim. See the boys’ and men’s bathing suits from 1910.

These bathing suits would be worn with a “cap to match the suit, stockings of medium weight and canvas bathing shoes…. It is advisable to wear a close-fitting rubber cap under the bathing-cap.”

This rubber bathing cap was advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. Sadly, rubber degrades in storage, so vintage rubber caps are hard to find. Ad for Faultless Rubber Co.

These “In the Swim” posts were inspired by The Vintage Traveler’s bathing suit timeline. For In the Swim, 1910, click here. EDIT: Links added 4/4/19.

Full Bathing Suit Descriptions from Delineator, May 1914.

For those who want every detail, here are the longer bathing-suit descriptions which appeared in the May, 1914, issue of Delineator.

Butterick 6891 from May 1914, Delineator.

Text for Butterick 6891 from Delineator, May 1914.

Butterick 6894 from May 1914.

Text for Butterick 6894, Delineator, May 1914.

Butterick bathing-suit 6912 from May, 1914.

 

 

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April 1914: Pygmalion Costumes and Stories

Most people know the play Pygmalion in its musical comedy version, My Fair Lady.

From the jacket of Huggett’s book, The Truth About Pygmalion. Left, Sir Herbert Beerbom Tree as Henry Higgins; Right, Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Eliza Doolittle.

George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion first opened in London in April, 1914. There are lots of photos of this production and of the original costumes.

1914 photos of Mrs. Pat as Eliza Doolittle. She was wearing the costume on the right (in Act III) when Eliza shocked London by uttering the phrase, “not bloody likely!”

Contemporary cartoons show Eliza wearing a feathered hat more like this one with that printed suit from Act III. Delineator, January 1914

Shaw directed the play himself; the stars were Herbert Beerbohm Tree (a successful actor-producer who owned the theatre where Pygmalion opened,) and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, known as “Mrs. Pat” (or, to Shaw, who was attracted to her, “Stella.”) A very entertaining account of this production is The Truth About Pygmalion, by Richard Huggett. Three massive egos were at work; at 49, the leading lady was much too old to be playing young Eliza Doolittle, which led to insecurity and bad temper; as Henry Higgins, Beerbom Tree hadn’t mastered his lines, so he pinned notes to the backs of furniture all over the set; and since both Shaw and Mrs. Pat were famous wits, the pre-production discussions and rehearsals were rather amusing [if you weren’t involved!] This 2004 article cites some of the backstage details (but does not mention Huggett’s book.) For example, Tree (and audiences ever since) expected a romantic ending for Eliza and Higgins. Shaw, writer and director, was adamant that his play did not end that way.

As Samantha Ellis wrote in The Guardian: ‘…Shaw returned for the play’s 100th performance, but was horrified to find that Tree had changed the ending; Higgins now threw Eliza a bouquet as the curtain fell, presaging their marriage. Now that [Shaw’s] affair with Campbell was over, the romantic ending was particularly galling. “My ending makes money; you ought to be grateful,” scrawled Tree. “Your ending is damnable; you ought to be shot,” snarled Shaw.’ ***

At a time when Shaw and Tree were barely speaking, Shaw sent him a long letter filled with directorial suggestions. Tree wrote, “I will not go so far as to say that all people who write letters of more than eight pages are mad, but it is a curious fact that all madmen write letters of more than eight pages.”  Tree was not a bystander in the battle of wits.

Act III, making small-talk: Eliza (carefully pronouncing her ‘aitches’) is telling Mrs. Eynesford-Hill (left) and her daughter (right) about her suspicions that her gin-drinking aunt was “done in.”

In 2014, a century after that first night, the Guardian newspaper ran a 100th anniversary article showing photos from many productions. Click here. This photo is from the original 1914 production; it’s interesting because Shaw specified that Eliza is wearing a Japanese kimono when her father comes to call. (He’s actually hoping to extort money from Professor Higgins.) Her appearance in a kimono leads her father to assume that she is Higgins’ mistress. The shocking, undressed, quality of Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s luxurious  brocade costume is not obvious from the script:

Shaw wrote:

[(Doolittle) hurries to the door, anxious to get away with his booty. When he opens it he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady in a simple blue cotton kimono printed cunningly with small white jasmine blossoms. Mrs. Pearce is with her. He gets out of her way deferentially and apologizes]. Beg pardon, miss.

THE JAPANESE LADY. Garn! Don’t you know your own daughter?

DOOLITTLE [exclaiming] Bly me! it’s Eliza!

The photo shows that Mrs. Pat’s costume was not quite the prim cotton kimono which Shaw described!

Two original color sketches for Mrs. Pat’s Eliza Doolittle costumes are in the collection of the V&A museum. They were made by/designed by Elizabeth Handley Seymour. Click here for a color sketch of that Act III [yellow] suit, and here for Eliza’s Act V costume, adapted from a design by Poiret.) 

Photographs of Eliza’s first “flower girl” costume could be purchased by fans; this is a costume from later in the play.

Eliza’s evening gown is suggested in this sketch:

Eliza, in evening dress, throws a slipper at Higgins. In rehearsal, Mrs. Pat accidentally hit him. Tree had forgotten she would throw a slipper at him, and burst into tears.

Butterick evening costume made from waist (bodice) 6688 and skirt 6689. Delineator, Feb. 1914.

If you are interested in the long relationship between Shaw and Mrs. Pat, a “two-hander” play called Dear Liar, by Jerome Kilty, is based upon the letters exchanged by George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Pat at the time when he was in love with her, and for decades after.  (She had surprised him painfully by getting married to someone else two nights before Pygmalion opened.)  There is a good review of a 1981 Hallmark TV production here.

There are many anecdotes about Mrs. Pat; when she was young, beautiful, and at the height of her success, a playwright who wanted her to appear in his next production made the mistake of insisting that he read his entire script aloud to her. He had not lost all the traces of his Cockney accent. Mrs Pat listened for over two hours. When he finished and asked her opinion of the play, she said, “It’s very long… even without the ‘aitches.’ ”

When she was old and broke, she was devoted to her pet dogs, which she carried everywhere with her. When one of them left a mess on the floor of a taxi, she assumed her most impressive demeanor and said, in a voice that had once thrilled thousands, “It was me!

Sexually liberated, she is credited with saying (about a notorious divorce case,) “It doesn’t matter what you do [in the bedroom] as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”  When asked why she married George Cornwallis-West in 1914, she said, “He’s six foot four — and everything in proportion.” There is plenty of entertaining reading about Shaw, Beerbom Tree, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell.

Eliza Doolittle sold bunches of violets, like this one. Delineator, 1914.

Many people only know the musical adaptation of this play, My Fair Lady by Lerner and Lowe, which was made into a movie with famous costume designs by Cecil Beaton. Beaton was inspired by the “black Ascot” of 1910, when all of high society wore black or white in mourning for King Edward VII. (This also allowed Beaton to avoid the wide-hipped gowns of 1914.) In fact, Shaw finished his original script of Pygmalion in 1911, so setting the play (or musical) a few years earlier than 1914 is perfectly logical. In 1914 it had to look fashionably up-to-date. That’s not a problem any more!

In case you are costuming either the straight play or musical version, I’ll share some inspiration from 1914, although you may prefer the styles of 1910…. It’s up to you (and the director….)

Two outfits from January, 1914. Butterick patterns from Delineator.

One of Mrs. Pat’s Pygmalion costumes had a dark mid-section rather like this one:

The dark “sash” at the waist would flatter a portly figure like Mrs. Pat’s. Butterick coat 667 with skirt 6664, February 1914.

A range of styles from March 1914; National Catalog. (The skirt on the green one? Arrrrgh!)

Below are real fashion photos from 1914. They may make you think twice about those 1914 silhouettes….

French couture fashions in Delineator, April 1914.

Dresses from 1910 are curvy — but perhaps a little stodgy…. On the other hand, those 1910 white lingerie dresses would be quite a transformation for Eliza.

Left, a lingerie dress. Butterick princess gowns “appropriate for dressy wear.” Delineator, January 1910.

1910 gowns and a suit from the National Cloak Co. catalog.

The two on the left could be Mrs. Eynesford-Hill and her daughter. Mrs. Higgins also has to show mature elegance. Butterick patterns, 1910.

In the 1992 production at London’s National Theatre (RNT,) Mrs. Higgins wore a marvelous, artsy teagown that epitomized the “Liberty” fashion reform/Arts and Crafts look (– the equivalent of being a “hippie” in the 1880s.) It made perfect sense that she could have accidentally raised a self-centered man-child like Henry Higgins. (Designer: William Dudley.) As Higgins, Alan Howard flew into tantrums like an overgrown 2-year-old. Very funny. Sadly, I can’t find that photo today.

Perhaps it’s just her pose that looks so self-assured. January 1910. Eliza could wear that skirt with a simple blouse in Act II.

This lace-trimmed ensemble is from a fabric ad: Himalaya cloth from Butterfield & Co. February 1910. Is that Eliza’s facial expression — asserting her independence — from Act V?

*** Once a play opens, the director moves on to other jobs and the stage manager is left to make sure every audience sees the same play that opening night critics saw. Probably my favorite story about the propensity of actors to “improve” the production as time goes by is: After a few weeks, the director returned to watch the play, standing quietly behind the audience. The leading man had expanded his role considerably. At intermission he received a telegram from the director: “Am watching the play from the back of the house STOP Wish you were here.”

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Random Images, Random Thoughts….

Alice Eating Watermelon, 1929. Watercolor painting by S. Grote. The watermelon eater is my Great Aunt  Alice.

I’m feeling grouchy today. I was getting tired of 1930’s boleros, so I dropped into my 1914 photo files for a bit of a change. Wrong choice!

A bolero pattern, Butterick 6627; Delineator, January 1914.

Butterick bolero 6747, Delineator, March 1914.

Bolero pattern 6821, Butterick’s Delineator magazine, April 1914.

Butterick waist pattern 6862 imitates a bolero. Delineator, May 1914.

No. 6862 could even be adapted for evening.

Obviously, 1914, with its high-waisted fashions, was not the year to get away from boleros!

So, what follows isn’t about fashion history — but what’s the point of a blog if I can’t just blather occasionally? 🙂

Butterick 6686 looks like a tied bolero in front. February 1914.

I Am Tired of Seeing Icy Landscape Photos

Every time I turn on my laptop, Bing gives me a different photograph screensaver, and asks if I like it or not. I realize that Bing is probably using my responses to improve their AI algorithms, but I’m also conducting a little experiment with them: How long will it take their AI to catch on? It would definitely be simpler if Bing just asked me what kind of photos I prefer. Multiple choice, perhaps…. (Villages, yes. Hummingbirds, yes. Deserts, yes. Ancient artifacts? yes. Landscapes that make me want to get up and put on a sweater? No.) Yes, I could buy or create my own screensavers, but where would the challenge be?

My experiment is to always reject icy-cold landscapes with jagged rocks and distant mountain climbers, and to always like images of animals and flowers. I deliberately liked a toucan, and a field of tulips in bloom — that ought to be a pretty broad hint that I prefer intense colors. But no, they keep sending me isolated hikers in glacial terrain. Brrrrr. And not enough birds and animals for me to really express my preference. So my experiment goes slowly. (I do realize I’m in a minority when it comes to landscapes — but Bing invites me to express a preference….)

A Rose for Georgia, from a series of watercolors in homage to women artists, by S. Grote.  I love O’Keefe’s face and that wise, humorous expression.

Blue Landscapes Make Me Blue

A fascinating — and depressing — survey, if you know an artist who is trying to sell paintings, is the work of artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, who made a statistical study of the best loved (vs. least wanted) paintings, nation by nation. The winners, hands down, were “blue landscapes.” You know, a landscape with blue skies and blue water…. Maybe with some mountains, a few clouds…. Personally, I always prefer a hike through wooded, rolling hills that ends at the village teashop or pub or bistro. Wildflowers are appreciated.  If I spot a fox that isn’t roadkill, or lambs wagging their tails and frolicking, or hear a cuckoo, it makes my day. But far-off people standing on a precarious cliff, overlooking a raging river far below — not so enjoyable for an acrophobe who had to approach the rim of the Grand Canyon on her butt…. inching forward.

Bobby Hargen in his cowboy outfit, circa 1920s.

Hitting the Target:

The general incompetence of online advertising does intrigue me. A few years ago my husband leased an electric car — over my objections to its limited range. But he got a great deal — about $118 per month. The week after he signed the lease, the very dealership he signed it with began sending him almost daily emails offering the same car for $98 a month.  That is no way to create a satisfied customer.

Delineator cover, April 1914, detail.

I bought a very satisfactory charger for household batteries from Office Depot — online. For many weeks thereafter, I got emails offering to sell me exactly the charger I had bought.  Of course, I didn’t need one; I had already bought one! The thing is, I really needed more rechargeable batteries — AA , AAA, etc. Somehow the idea of selling me related items — accessories, if you will — never occurred to them. (I hunted the batteries down at Home Depot, instead.)

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic….

I do love a pair of teal blue eyeglass frames I got online — but, really how often am I likely to buy frames for prescription glasses? Once every two years. So, cool it, Cool Frames!

And why did Microsoft Solitaire spend weeks sending me Spanish language ads for anemic looking American beers? I never bought any beer online — in any language!

Delineator Cover, detail, March 1920.

The artist of this cover seems to be C (or E?) Deane.

Signature on Delineator cover, March 1920. The last name is Deane.

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Not What We Think of When We Say “Twenties’ Fashions:” 1920

A couture evening dress by Parisian designer Georgette, illustrated in Delineator, February 1920, p. 111.

It would be convenient if fashions changed only when a new decade began — boring, but convenient when assigning dates to fashion history. But that’s not how it worked.
When invited to a “twenties’ ” costume party, not many women would show up dressed like this:

Left, Butterick waist 2056 with skirt 2046; right, dress 2100. Delineator, January 1920, p. 76.

Butterick 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Front views, Delineator, p. 113.

Butterick dresses 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Alternate views. From the rear, 2366 really exaggerates hip width.

Of course, twentieth century fashion was always in transition; these dresses from 1920 are still showing the influence of the big-hipped styles of the 1914-1918 war era.

Two outfits from April 1917. Left, a “tonneau” or barrel skirt (Butterick skirt 9064); right, a skirt with protruding pockets rather like 1920 dress No. 2336, above.

The odd skirt on this 1920 dress echoes a style detail carried over from 1917. Butterick 2272, April 1920.

Butterick 8929, from February 1917. The skirt hangs from widely spaced cartridge pleats, also called “French gathering.”

A dress on the cover of Delineator magazine, April, 1920. Cartridge pleats again — but these are near the natural waist. They seem to be secured with buttons.

This rear view, from an advertisement for satin, is jaw-dropping:

Illustration from an ad for satin fabrics; Delineator, April 1920. It suggests the (attempted) return of the bustle.

Well… that is not the direction that 1920’s fashion eventually took!

To be honest,  I’ve been deliberately showing dresses that don’t fit our preconception of “the Twenties.” In fact, we can see the seeds of later nineteen twenties’ style in both of these dresses:

Gradual change in fashion: the waist is getting lower in 1920; the bodice extends to the hip; and the familiar late Twenties’ dropped waist is seen in the low attachment of both skirts.

This is transitional fashion: there is a dropped waist (where the skirts are attached) and a more or less natural waist, where the dress is belted in.

Often, fashions leaning toward the past and fashions prefiguring the future were shown side by side.

Two patterns illustrated on page 152, Delineator, April 1920. Left, Butterick 2278 has a long bodice and looks more “twenties”; right, 2239 has the wide-hipped, peg top look of the previous decade.

[Thanks to Sophia for explaining that “pegged-top” “refers to the child’s spinning toy ‘pegtop’ which is narrower at the bottom than the top like the skirts.”]

Butterick patterns 2060 and 2097, Delineator, January 1920.

If a woman got rid of the belt and shortened No. 2060, she could have worn it for several years in the Twenties:

These dresses from 1925 are not too different from 1920’s No. 2060. One has a similar bodice; one has a similar skirt.

The truth is that twentieth century fashion usually changed incrementally [which is why the rapid change from 1929 to 1930 is so extraordinary.]

Three Butterick patterns from February 1920. One of them looks more “Twenties” than the others.

All the following dresses are from early 1920:

Two patterns from Spring of 1920.

Butterick patterns from June, 1920. Waist 2383, skirt 2336, and dress 2371.

The long, lean look was also worn:

Butterick 2351 from May 1920. Delineator, p. 152.

But it’s probably the sporty, youthful quality of this summer dress that gives me that “Twenties'” feeling.

Butterick dress 2410 from Delineator, June 1920.

I have to remind myself that all these 1920 dresses would have been seen at the same time — and probably for several years.

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Poiret and Tunic Dresses, 1914

Paul Poiret’s “Sorbet” gown. Illustrated by Georges Lepape, September 1913. Image from Irene Lewisohn Collection, Metropolitan Museum.

I saw Poiret’s famous “Sorbet” gown at the V & A years ago.  It’s sometimes referred to as “the lampshade dress,” because of the rigid bottom of the tunic.

I expected to laugh; instead, I haven’t found a picture that does it justice. It’s ridiculous. It’s impractical. And it’s couture: what doesn’t show in the photos I’ve found is that the stylized roses are made from thousands of subtly glittering beads. The silk has the soft gleam of quality. It is lovely.

Perhaps because this is clearly a “wear it once” dress (except for the version without a boned tunic,) it has survived in at least three public collections (V & A, Chicago History Museum,  & FIT. ) And, being couture — custom made for every client —  each rendition is slightly different. Sometimes only the skirt is different (one version has harem pants;) in one, the tunic falls softly instead of being rigid; in the collection at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the dark parts are not black, but mauve (or raspberry sorbet?)

Randy Bigham has written a fascinating essay comparing the three versions.

I called “Sorbet” a “wear it once” dress because it would make a grand entrance, be highly memorable, and also be highly impractical. How would the wearer sit at a dinner table, or travel to a party in a carriage or car? How would she dance in it, since the hoop would pop up in the back as soon as her partner embraced her? [Imagine it flipping around during a tango!]

Butterick pattern 6639 seems to be influenced by Poiret’s “Sorbet” gown, which has black fur at the rigid hem of the tunic in the V&A version. Delineator, January 1914.

The New Flaring Tunics, Delineator, March 1914. In 1914, a “tunic” was an overskirt.

But …. Poiret caught the spirit of the times, even if he didn’t create the tunic fad; by 1914 his dress was influencing Butterick patterns and being imitated elsewhere. I found it in advertisements, too — usually a sign that a style has penetrated the common culture.

Ad for McCallum Hosiery, Delineator, March 1914.

A suit with a flaring tunic and wide sash is seen in an ad for American Woolen, March 1914, Delineator.

This ad for Suesine silk fabric uses Butterick 6639, with the hoop-like tunic.

A flaring tunic dress goes dancing in this ad for Kleinert’s Dress Shields. April 1914; Delineator.

Tunic Dress Patterns from 1914

An outfit with the tunic look might be a dress, or a skirt and “waist” combination.  [A “waist” was a blouse or separate bodice.] The flared part of the tunic might be part of the blouse/waist) …

Waist 6639. Butterick pattern from January 1914. Delineator.

… Or it might be part of the skirt:

Butterick skirt pattern 6719, March 1914. Delineator.

Butterick waist 6718 with skirt 6719. The flared tunic is part of the skirt. Note the fur or velvet border at right, which makes the hem stand out more.

Wearing the tunic over an elaborately draped skirt increased bulk over the hips — and narrowing at the ankles exaggerated it.

Tunic dress; Butterick pattern 6779 from April 1914 has optional ruffles to help the tunic’s hem stand out a bit. Delineator.

Alternate and back views of Butterick tunic dress 6779; 1914.

These are many one-piece tunic dresses, rather than waist and skirt combinations:

Tunic dresses for women to size 44 bust; Delineator, April 1914.

Alternate views of tunic dress 6820, April 1914.

Alternate views of tunic dress 6832, April 1914. Seeing it without the tunic tells us more about how it was made.

A group of hip-widening fashions from April, 1914. Delineator. The one in color is a waist & skirt combination. [Fun hat!]

Butterick waist 6791 with skirt 6733. The tunic is part of the skirt; waist 6791 is not long at all.

Other views of Butterick waist 6791. From 1914.

However, tunic outfit 6797 is a dress:

Butterick dress 6797, April 1914. In the illustration at left, the diagonal closing is barely noticeable.

To my eyes, accustomed to slender, athletic bodies, the fashions of the World War I period are hard to understand, since they add the appearance of many pounds around the hips. [Poiret also took credit for the 1908 “hobble skirt,” still affecting fashion in 1914.]

“What Your Girl Will Want for Easter” 1914: Wide hips and narrow hems. These are styles for teens age 14 to 19. Did teen girls really want to look like they had big, low-slung bottoms? Well…”fashion.”

With dresses like those, you’d hardly need this corset….

Nubone corset ad, March 1914, Delineator.

The tunic styles were for recommended for women (including larger sizes) and for teens:

Butterick 6684 was for teens aged 14 to 19. February, 1914.

Butterick 6651 for teens 14 to 19 and small women. This one has fur trim.

That headdress deserves a closer look:

Lace, fur, chiffon, flowers, and a rather exotic jeweled headdress. January 1914.

For large women, this modified tunic with more vertical lines was recommended.

Left, Butterick 6809 “For Matronly Figures; New styles that are becoming to them.” Delineator, June 1914.

Buttrick 6809 was not a true tunic; this back view is much more slenderizing. “Matronly figures” went up to size 46 bust. Note the ( ) shaped silhouette.

The tunics and draped skirts that increased hip width were apparently popular, but women did have other choices:

Left, a tunic-style outfit made from waist 6627 and skirt 6613; right, distinctly un-fussy shirtwaist 6619 with slim, tailored skirt 6620. Both of these skirts were described as “peg-top.” January 1914.

(I’m still not clear on what “peg-top” actually meant — but now I know where to look….)

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with this long post!

The tunic look from Delineator, May 1914.

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