Category Archives: 1920s-1930s

Morning to Midnight Fashions for June, 1930

Golf outfit illustrated by Leslie Saalburg, June 1930. Delineator masthead.

Before June 2020 is over, let’s relax with some women’s fashions from 90 years ago. Butterick’s Delineator magazine illustrated a range of outfits for sports, resorts, and daily life, for day and night.

The play of pattern on pattern is pretty extreme in this editorial illustration of a golfer:

Should this outfit be taken literally? June 1930.

Another editorial illustration by Saalburg for June 1930.

Those bare-backed beach overalls were real, as shown by Butterick pattern 3184, far left, below. Beach shorts like those on the right could also be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick overalls pattern 3184; center and center right are Butterick shorts 3187 and 3178.

For summer evenings in 1930, Saalburg illustrated couture by Lucien Lelong, Molyneux, Cheruit, and Jean Patou:

French couture evening coats and gowns by Lelong, Molyneux, and Cheruit. Delineator, June, 1930.

This Patou jacket and matching gown was described as a “restaurant ensemble.”

Wealthy women who couldn’t afford a trip to Paris could buy a copy of a different Patou gown from Saks Fifth Avenue:

Detail of a printed chiffon evening gown by Patou at Saks. 1930.

The fishnet gloves were a chic summer accessory for this “lavender chiffon gown printed in delicate rose and green.”

Patou gown from Saks, 1930.

Earlier in the day, soft gowns were worn for formal occasions (e.g., an afternoon wedding or dance).

Left, Butterick afternoon dress 3247; right, tea gown 3279. June 1930.

Everything shown for June 1930 has a natural waist, although sometimes it’s partially hidden by a blouson bodice. Often the bodice continued to a seam far  below the waist, and the bodice was not darted. Only the belt defined the waist. Some of these day dresses show a hint of the old dropped waist and the new natural waist:

Women’s dress patterns from Butterick for June 1930. These 1930 bodices continue to the place where the skirt is attached, with no waist seam.

1920s meets 1930s in these summer dresses.

A belt at the natural waist and a horizontal seam around the low hip. 1930.

The waist is natural, but the bodice is bloused, rather than fitted. June, 1930.

Women who wore larger sizes could find flattering styles, too. These patterns were available up to size 48 bust:

Butterick dress patterns for larger women. 1930. The one on the right has vertical tucks to define the waist.

Here’s a variety of dresses in the usual size range of 32 to 36 (14 to 18) and 38 to 44. Patterns sized by “year,” e.g., “15 to 20 years” used to come in shorter lengths for younger or smaller women. That seems to be changing here.

Butterick dresses for women and teens, 1930. No bare knees to be seen! No. 3278 is at far right. Vertical tucks at far left.

These dresses (below) for younger women show how different 1930 outfits could be. The one on the left has a separate cape, but flutter sleeves became an iconic 1930s look — reappearing in the 1970s.

Left, Butterick 3297 has a cape; right, 3261 has a bolero top. June 1930.

Another little touch that was popular in the Thirties (on sportier outfits) was lacings. The laced look was “nautical” and popular for several years:

Lacings affect the fit of 3256 (left) and lacings appear on the skirt, jacket, and blouse of 3262, at right. June 1930. These three patterns were only available up to bust size 40.

These are “sailor made fashions” from Butterick, featured in 1934.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

And these  laced dresses come from a Berthe Roberts catalog, January 1935.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/sailor-lacing-butterick-6019-delin-jan-1935-and-berth-robert-catalog-1934.jpg

That’s it for June 1930!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Capes, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Women in Trousers

Maternity Corsets

Detail, ad for an H & W maternity corset, Delineator, March 1912. Are they kidding??? No.

Traditionally, fashion rarely made allowances for pregnancy.

Delineator article, April 1912, p. 341.

“New models … have the effect of the uncorseted figure”? Well, not exactly….

Ad for American Lady Corsets, Delineator, March 1912.

That American Lady corset ad above (showing the corset which is under her dress) shows the fashionable figure for 1912 — obviously not a good year to be pregnant if you were a slave to fashion.

Ad for an H & W maternity corset, Delineator, March 1912.

“Gives a trim and stylish figure — without the slightest endangerment to the well-being of either the mother or the child…. Particularly desirable in convalescence or after surgery.”– H&W maternity corset ad, 1912.

My grandmother, born in 1875, was still wearing a long corset like that fashionable “American Lady” when I shared her bedroom in 1950. It was true that women who had grown up wearing corsets did not have well-developed “core” strength — and they certainly couldn’t do sit-ups in one of those corsets! So, they did experience backaches if they tried to go without the support they were used to.

Even when pregnant, they thought they needed a corset. And maybe they did…. I’ve never been pregnant, so reader comments are welcome. You can still buy a stretchy support garment — does it help that aching back?

Lane Bryant (actually, the woman behind the stores was Lena Bryant) was an early — but not the only — company catering to pregnant women in the 1910s.

An ad from Berthe May, January 1914. Delineator. “Allows one to dress as usual and preserve a normal appearance.”

Ad from Lane Bryant, Delineator, April 1914. Lane Bryant specialized in clothing that allowed for an expanding waist.

This 1917 Lane Bryant ad from Ladies’ Home Journal emphasizes that the dress could also be worn after pregnancy. It was “so adapted as to successfully conceal condition.”

There was still a suggestion that pregnancy ought to be concealed — imperceptible — as long as possible.

Lane Bryant maternity corset ad, Delineator, February 1917. “Makes the change imperceptible.”

Maternity corset from the Ferris Waist Co., May 1910. Ferris specialized in corsets made without very much boning — they used more flexible cording instead.

Ad from May, 1914, featuring a maternity corset.

Ferris maternity corset from 1920. Delineator March 1920.

This H & W maternity corset from 1920 promised a “stylish appearance” and “safety for the little one.”

This H & W maternity corset from 1920 shows a more realistic image than the H & W corset from 1912:

H & W maternity corset ad, 1912.

In 1924, you could buy a Butterick pattern and make your own maternity belt / abdominal supporter.

Butterick pattern 5342 for a maternity belt. Delineator, July 1924.

In 1927, Vogue magazine was recommending these:

A bust binder brassiere and maternity corsets shown in Vogue, Oct. 1927.

The Sears, Roebuck catalog for 1930 showed several maternity corsets — in keeping with 1920’s styles — and, yes, a supportive “breast binder.”

A maternity corset and a maternity girdle from Sears, Spring 1930.

Elastic maternity/nursing breast binder and “accouchement band” for post-delivery abdominal support. From Sears, Spring 1930.

They were still around in 1938:

Sears, Roebuck catalog, Fall 1938. Cotton knit binders for breasts and abdomen.

Maternity corsets from Sears, Fall 1938.

In a 1935 article called “Heir Apparent,” Vogue explained the choices in maternity undergarments; by then, corsets were only recommended for women who “habitually” wore girdles or who had weak abdominal muscles.

Advice from Vogue magazine, November 1935.

Maternity corsets from Sears, Spring 1940.

Corsets for abdominal support were also sold for women whose jobs required heavy work — “war work” for many women in factories and munitions plants.

In 1945, Sears was still selling posture supports for women working in “house, farm, or factory.” Sears catalog, Spring 1945. But these are not maternity belts.

Support belts for working women. Sears, Spring 1945.

I didn’t find many maternity corsets in Sears catalogs after 1945 — but perhaps I didn’t look hard enough. Or perhaps in the Post-War baby boom, women no longer felt they had to hide their condition from public view.

Simplicity 4979, 1954. No mention of maternity use on this pattern.

Simplicity 2562, maternity tops from 1958.

Simplicity maternity tops from 1958.

McCall’s 4936, maternity tops, skirt, pants and shorts, 1959.

Quite a change from this “maternity skirt” from 1907:

Maternity skirt ad, 1907.

 

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Filed under 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Maternity clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Recommended Reading: Seeing Through Clothes, by Anne Hollander

NOTE: This post is illustrated with many drawings and paintings of nude figures. If you would be offended, Please Stop Reading NOW!

I put off writing about this very influential book (first published in 1978) because I don’t currently have a copy. I kept buying Seeing Through Clothes in paperback and giving it away to friends! (And my public library is currently closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.) (For a range of other opinions and reviews of Seeing Through Clothes, click here.)

Artist drawing a model while using a grid. By Albrecht Durer, via Wikimedia. From a book published in 1538.

For costume (and art) historians, Hollander’s book is fascinating because one of her chief topics is the difficulty of ever “seeing” a person or image without screening what we see through our own cultural bias. To some extent, we automatically “correct” a human face or body as we draw it, to conform to our learned ideas of beauty. We usually realize that “fashion figures” — and especially editorial drawings — are exaggerated. But even “realistic” drawings of human beings can be influenced by current fashions.

About Life Drawing
My own two bits: Remember, we don’t just see with our eyes; we see with our brains. The lens of the eye turns the image upside down; our brains turn the image right side up, and also interpret what we’re looking at. For example, many years ago a small part of my retina was damaged. The eye doctor assured me that my brain would be able to “fill in” the tiny blank near the center of vision in my right eye — and after a few weeks, it did. It’s like a computer program deducing from other clues what “belongs” in the blank spot.
If my brain does something that complex without my being aware of it, imagine how powerfully our learned, cultural conceptions of beauty (or normalcy) may be re-interpreting what we see.

Sketch from a Life Drawing class. I didn’t intend to generalize her face as if I were making a fashion sketch, but that’s what I did.

I have also spent many hours in “life study” art classes, so I do know something about the process of drawing or painting the human body from a live model. David Hockney has pointed out that we are always drawing from memory; we look at the model, and then we have to look at the paper when we make our marks: a few seconds looking, a few seconds drawing; repeat; repeat; repeat…. Yes, artists do practice “blind drawing,” i.e., looking at the model without looking at the drawing they are making. This practice teaches them to match the speed of their pencil moving across the paper to the speed of their eye traveling along the object. It’s hard, especially since our glance normally skips rapidly from place to place. But few artists do all their drawing by this method. In practice, we look; we draw the tiny bit we remember; repeat.

The apparently pregnant belly and wide hips of the woman at left (drawn by Durer, 1493) echoes the fashion silhouette of the 1400s, painted by Van Eyck. (1434.)

Since I can’t share the images from Hollander’s book, I’ll fill in with a few of my own — and “Thank you!” to all the museums now making paintings available online! (For images not in public domain, I linked to them, so please do follow the links.)

Hollander uses many paintings from Western culture to support her thesis. Nudes are especially interesting, because — once she points it out — we can see that artists working from a live model will unconsciously adjust the figure to reflect the silhouette of current fashions. Waists become as narrow as if the model were wearing a corset. This painting from the 1840s reminds me that the full skirt (below a tiny waist) covered big bottoms and hips. (Plumpness was admired, to some extent.)

Tiny waist, wide hips. Fashion plate from Casey Collection, dated May 1840.

Busts sometimes become impossibly high — again reflecting the influence of the corset. (We might quibble that wearing a corset from childhood on will deform the body somewhat, but not in defiance of gravity!) Nude hips may also become wider or narrower as fashion dictates.

Dress dated 1747, from Metropolitan Museum collection. The corset pushes the bust up, flattens the bottom of the breasts, and elongates the waist.

The torso may be lengthened to match an 18th century fashion silhouette, as in this painting. Note the distance between the high breasts and the waist. In the two “Graces” at the sides, the lower body, hidden by 18th century skirts, is not nearly as slender as the upper torso. Also, take a good look at the breast of the woman at left. It might as well be corseted.

Detail of The Three Graces by Carl van Loo, dated 1765. Public domain in US et al, via wikimedia.

Legs may be longer, shoulders may droop, depending on the ideal “beauty” of the era. There are fashions in faces, too. Full, natural eyebrows go in and out of fashion. Mouths are sometimes exaggeratedly full (as now) or tiny and heart shaped, as in the early Victorian period or the 1920s.

Tiny, “Cupid’s Bow” lips, from a Kleenex ad, 1925.

My mother with “Cupid’s Bow” lips. 1920s.

Once wearing makeup became respectable, women could alter their natural lip shape and eyebrows. Even the fashion in faces is subject to change.

All this influence of fashion on drawing is important for costume historians, because we only have about 190 years of photographs for research. Before that, everything we see in historical research was filtered through an artist’s eyes. [And the cost of being painted means we mostly see rich people. There’s a problem with accuracy there, too: if the portrait does not show the sitter as he or she wants to be seen, the consequences for the painter of kings and queens and dictators can be more serious than just not getting paid!]

Contemporary image of the Queen of the Eglinton Tournament, 1839. Click here to see it larger.

One especially obvious era when secondary sources cannot be trusted is the Early Victorian period. There was a great interest in the Middle Ages because of the very popular novels of Sir Walter Scott, especially Ivanhoe, set in the reign of Richard Lionheart. The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 was an excuse for members of the upper classes to commission costumes to wear for the re-enacted Tournament and to many costume balls. Many aristocrats had their portraits painted while wearing fancy dress. (Click here for Victoria and Albert in “medieval” dress.)

Detail of 1839 Tournament of Eglinton. Note the Victorian silhouettes, hairstyles, and ruffles. (Not to mention kilts….)

The Queen of the Tournament and her attendants (behind her) wear gowns with the drooping shoulders of 1839.

Evening dress fashion plate; May 1840.

Many “great houses” now open to the public contain portraits which were painted ( or “restored”) in the Victorian period. This portrait of Louisa Anne Berenson was painted in 1859-1860. It’s a Victorian idea of Renaissance dress — not to be mistaken for a primary source in 16th century costume research!

Some 19th century actors strove for authentic costuming, but they didn’t have access to the research materials we have today. And adaptations were made to keep the actor looking attractive to the audience, as defined by contemporary styles. Here is an evening gown from 1824:

1824 fashion plate from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum.

The high waist and long, relatively narrow skirt with a decorative band around the bottom influenced the following costume illustration for a Tudor queen; in 1828, Sara Siddons (who retired in 1812) was illustrated in the role of  Queen Catherine, wife of Henry VIII, in Shakespeare’s play.

Mrs. Siddons as Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, divorced by Henry VIII circa 1529.

Portraits of Catherine made during her lifetime do not show a high waistline, even through she was rather portly.

Costumes for the theatre sometimes show bizarre adaptation to fashions: to conform to Victorian notions of modesty, Mrs. Charles Kean wore a hoop or crinoline under her “Roman” costumes! Here she is playing Lady Macbeth in 1858. ( The historic Macbeth died in 1057. No crinolines!) **

Mrs. Charles Kean plays Lady Macbeth opposite her husband, Charles Kean. The Keans were proud of their historic accuracy…. 1858; public domain image.

Click here for a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots painted in her lifetime; this is how she was portrayed in 1885.

If Dover’s Historic Costume in Pictures sometimes looks a little “off” to you, consider that its plates were drawn between 1861 and 1890.

** The subject of costumes for Shakespeare’s plays is long and complex. After all, “Contemporary dress” can mean “contemporary with the date when the play was written, [Macbeth circa 1606]” or “contemporary with the date when the play is set, [Macbeth circa 1050]” or even “contemporary as in ‘right now.’ ”  [modern dress.]”  I gave a lecture on how Shakespeare’s plays were costumed over four centuries for a meeting of the Costume Society in Ashland, Oregon, many years ago. If I am ever able to convert my slides into digital form, I may post it here, someday!

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Filed under 1800s-1830s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 16th century, Costumes for the 18th Century, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade

Another Look at April 1926

Delineator, page 27, April 1926. Butterick patterns for women.

I was getting ready to revisit some Delineator pattern illustrations from April 1926 when I decided that, because that was a time of glorious full-color illustrations, perhaps I should show some images from a three-year-old post again. Plus a few more….

At left, Butterick dress pattern 6686; at right, Butterick dress pattern 6737, shown decorated with Butterick embroidery transfer 10430. Delineator, April 1926, page 27.

The red dress is more complicated than it looks, with that curving torso recalling medieval sideless gowns and a section of pleats at each side of the overskirt.

Butterick patterns for women, Delineator, April 1926, top of page 27. Butterick 6692, 6704, and 6739.

I can’t help noticing that “spring colors” (or summer colors) were different in 1926.

Butterick fashions for April 1926.

Navy and white (or pale gray) is still a spring combination, but that two-tone green seems more autumnal to me.

A slightly spicy tan or gold makes this Spring box-jacket and skirt ensemble. Delineator, April 1926.

Clothes for children are colorful, too:

This print dress for young teens catches my eye. The tweedy outfit doesn’t shout “Spring! or Summer” to me.

Older teens might wear a print with black ground:

Butterick pattern 6650, shown in a black print fabric; Butterick cape coat 6769 over dress 6719; and another border print, Butterick 6683, in light and dark muted green. April 1926.

Butterick dress patterns for young women, April 1926; Delineator page 29. Butterick 6711 and 6728. Notice the bust dart at right.

A wide band with a tight fit around the low hip is seen in the print dress above and in the greenish dress below:

Left, Butterick dress pattern 6716 is embroidered with Butterick transfer pattern 10378. It could be worked in beads or in shiny thread. Right, Butterick 6715. Im trying to picture that dress on a normally proportioned body….Hmmmm.

The shawl worn with the white evening dress is not the usual, embroidered “Spanish shawl” but a very colorful hand-painted one. A similar shawl appeared in this 1927 advertisement for Ivory soap flakes.

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.

This “Aztec” pattern 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.

April 1926 was a time for low, snug hip bands, often tied with a huge bow.

Butterick pattern 6743 is very snug around the hips. Delineator, April 1926, p. 27.

A bride tied up in a big, big bow. Butterick 6711, April 1926.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s

Early Thirties’ Hats & Patterns

This big-brimmed hat was shown on the cover of Delineator, August 1930. Illustrated by Dynevor Rhys. It may be based on Butterick pattern 3816, shown later in this post.

The transition from 1920s to 1930s was more gradual in hats than in dresses. The cloche was still around, but tiny hats and huge hats were also featured.

Five different hat styles appeared on the same page in Delineator, August 1930.

Above, Hat B is a familiar cloche, Hat C clings very tightly to the head, Hats A and D have wide brims, and Hat E is cut away in front, with most of the brim at sides and back.

You would expect these wide brims in summer; August 1930.

By summer of 1930, the natural waist is everywhere.

Delineator cover for June 1930. Detail.

I find 1930 hats with a pleated brim very attractive:

Left, a medium-width pleated brim. August 1930.

Another pleated brim from August 1930.

Wide-brimmed hats were especially seen with afternoon dresses:

A long, formal afternoon dress is topped with a very wide brim. August 1930. You can imagine this woman is a guest at a wedding.

Another afternoon ensemble; Delineator cover, June 1930.

This socialite was photographed in an afternoon dress by Paquin and a Reboux hat with unusual brim. Delineator, August 1930. Click here for another asymmetrical Reboux hat dated 1928.

However, wide brims were also worn for sun protection with casual dresses and even pajamas:

Fashion editorial illustrations; Delineator, May 1930.

Detail from a Delineator cover, February 1931. Thanks to Lynn at Americanagefashion.com for this image! [Thong shoes!]

Butterick offered this versatile hat pattern in 1931.

Butterick pattern 3816 for hats with and without a brim. Delineator, April 1931.

The one second from left doesn’t have a brim, just a “binding.”

Butterick hat patttern 3816; back view of two versions.

This pattern is also in the collection of the Commercial Pattern Archive.

Butterick 3816 image from pattern envelope. CoPA.

The version at lower left resembles the hat featured on the August 1930 Delineator cover.

Very similar to Butterick 3816, but with added trim inside and outside the hat.

The shapes of the pattern pieces for Butterick 3816, courtesy of CoPA.

Once you create a log-in for the Commercial Pattern Archive, you have free access to this and other patterns.

McCall hat pattern 1879 from 1931. CoPA archive.

Pattern pieces for McCall 1879, a hat from 1931.

This beautiful hat from the CoPA collection dates back to 1924:

McCall pattern 1362 envelope illustration, courtesy of Commercial Pattern Archive.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to copy those flowers and add them to a purchased straw hat!

A big hat was still appropriate for summer in 1933:

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, Women in Trousers

Scalloped Button Tabs, Early 1930s

Scallop-shaped button tabs from 1930. Sometimes they are bound with bias tape. The ones on the left may be topstitched, instead.

Sometimes a minor fashion detail will catch my eye as I browse through photos. I don’t think this one was a major fashion trend, but it does show up enough for me to make quite a collection of examples. Scalloped hems had been seen in the 1920s, but these button tabs seem to be a 1929  – 1931 feature. They are shown on women and children.

Scalloped button tabs on a woman’s tunic and a girl’s dress. Butterick patterns, 1930.

Sometimes they appear on skirts.

Scalloped button tabs on suit skirts. 1930 and 1931.

Sometimes they are bound with bias fabric contrasting with the dress; sometimes they are lined but not outlined. See above. (And sometimes it’s had to tell which from the illustrations….)

Scallops are a theme on the collar and button tabs of this dress from October 1930.

I think the dark outline of the scallops is not bias binding, but the artist’s attempt to show a shadow. The tabs on the skirt hold a pleat in place. They probably don’t unbutton.

A “tailored” wool dress. “Like many this season, it’s a buttoned frock with scallops used smartly.”

I’m not sure how popular bias-bound scalloped button tabs would have been with home stitchers…. It’s relatively easy to make a scalloped edge when it is finished with the garment’s lining, like the hem of this blue dress:

The blue dress on the left has a scalloped hem lined with gray taffeta. Butterick pattern from 1926.

Aprons and cotton dresses often had scalloped hems bound with contrasting bias tape.

Left: A day dress from 1929 has scallops at the waist, the collar, and the hem. The hem appears to be bound with bias tape.

This apron from 1931 uses bias tape for trim and to bind the edges of hem, neckline, armholes and waist ties.

A scalloped apron hem bound with bias tape. 1931.

The curved part of the scallop is easy to bind, but the points where the curves meet take some practice.

Scalloped button tabs appeared in Delineator in November, 1929:

Scalloped button tabs on a blouse and skirt, Butterick 2916. November 1929.

The blouse and skirt on the left, Butterick 2916, was illustrated on two pages of Delineator, November 1929. Note the natural waist (a new fashion) and the  knee-length hems (about to go out of style.)

There are subtle differences, like the color of the attached scarf and the size of the buttons.

Two versions of Butterick 2916. 1929. The blouse tucks into the skirt, which has matching scallops.

Two big scalloped button tabs on Sport dress 3257. June 1930. Bias binding adds a dash of color.

It’s likely that many of these scalloped button tabs were purely decorative, and the dresses opened under the arm, along the side seam.

Scallops showed up on house dresses…

Scalloped button tabs on a cotton wash dress. 1930.

And on suits…

A series of rounded button tabs on this suit are not actually scallops. The text commented on the natural waist of this suit. Butterick 3151, April 1930.

Scallops had long been popular on girls’ clothes.

Dresses for schoolgirls, 1930.

Scalloped button tabs make this simple coat very fancy. October 1930.

The next illustration gives us a combination of scallops and straight lines! Probably artistic license….

One armhole and one side of the neckline have scallops. The buttons have scalloped tabs. Illustration for an article on sportswear, Delineator, May 1930.

Occasionally the button tabs took on an angular, zig-zag quality:

Pointed button tabs instead of curved ones — a little variety. Left, 1930; right, 1929.

This stylish scalloped version comes from December, 1931:

Butterick 4231, Delineator, December 1931.

That’s all, folks!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Seamless Stockings in 1930

Seamed stockings from Sears, Roebuck catalog, 1939.

Every costume design job is an opportunity to do more research, but there are some things that are just part of your general knowledge. For example, when I was hired to costume a college production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, which takes place in 1937, I automatically put the adult female characters in seamed stockings.

I was surprised recently when I came across this image from 1930:

Seamless stockings could be purchased at department stores in 1930! This image is from Delineator, May 1930.

I simply hadn’t come across this information before, so I checked another source: the Sears, Roebuck catalogs. There they were:

“No-Seam” hosiery for women, Sears Roebuck catalog, Fall 1930, p. 171.

No-Seam stockings text, Sears catalog, Fall 1930.

And another source….

From a fashion editorial about accessories, Delineator, September 1930.

There are some typos in the original text, as you can see, but corrected, it says, “I made a new discovery a few days ago — stockings needn’t have seams in order to fit. You may remember the old seamless stockings … which went into Grecian drapery at the ankles after their first contact with soap and water. The new Guildmode hose is knitted in a special way so that it fits just as snugly as a full fashioned stocking. It is dull [matte] and very sheer.”

“Full-fashioned” meant stockings which were shaped like the outline of a leg, curving in at the ankle, and gradually curving out over the calf area.

Before stretchier knits became available, the seam at the back was necessary for a good fit. Full-fashioned stocking illustration from Sears, 1958.

A short history: Knitted stockings have been around for hundreds of years. The simple knitted tube naturally stretched — somewhat — to the shape of the leg, but a seam up the back permitted a closer fit.  As stockings became more sheer (and more visible under short skirts) in the Nineteen Twenties, women became aware of the way the vertical seam up the back created a slenderizing line on their legs.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/hosiery-nov-1928-mar-1929-apr-1929-may-1929.jpg

Gordon Hosiery ads from Delineator, Nov. 1928 through May 1929.

Seams and pointed heels made these stockings flattering. Sears, Fall of 1939.

“Notice how they follow the natural shadows of the ankle — to give you slenderness and grace.”

Skirt hems went down and then up again in the Nineteen Thirties, but seamed stockings were so much a part of normal dress that women couldn’t give up that seam line even when silk or nylon stockings became unavailable during World War II.

There were no nylon or silk stockings available from Sears in 1944 because nylon and silk were needed for the war. Sears catalog index, Spring 1944.

In Spring of 1945, before the War ended,  Sears offered these un-glamourous cotton stockings. Three pairs were guaranteed to last you three months. (I.e., you would have two wearable stockings left.)

But, back to the Thirties:

Chiffon [sheer] and Service Weight stockings from Sears, Fall 1930.

Seamed rayon stockings from Sears, Fall 1930. Rayon, a synthetic fabric based on cellulose, was cheaper than silk.

At the first dress rehearsal of Brighton Beach Memoirs, the director knelt down beside my chair and whispered, “Are those seams on their stockings?” He was clearly delighted. I whispered back, “Well, stockings with seams are too expensive for our budget,** so I taught the actresses to do it the 1940s’ way: we drew ‘seams’ up the backs of their hose with an eyebrow pencil.” (The lines didn’t come out completely when we washed their sheer tights, so they just had to retrace the previous line for the next performance.)

At first, I thought the director was impressed by the seamed stockings because I was much more detail-oriented than my predecessor. Later I realized that anyone who was a teen-aged boy in the 1950s probably feels a certain nostalgia for seamed stockings, which, along with high heels and garter belts, were often seen on pin-up girls.

This 1950s’ stocking ad, shared by Sally Edelstein at Envisioning the American Dream, shows the sex appeal of seamed stockings.

Being allowed to wear high heels (or even kitten heels,) and sheer stockings held up by a garter belt was a rite of passage for girls of my generation. (I think that my first heels and stockings were required for a school field trip to the ballet [or opera?] circa 1958, when I was in 8th or 9th grade.)

Garter belts, seamed stockings, high heels, and a bouffant “crinoline” petticoat in 1958: “Today I am a woman!”

At thirteen, I was finally old enough to ask, “Are my seams straight?”

To return to my costume design for Brighton Beach Memoirs, would this new (to me) information about the existence of seamless stockings*** in 1930 have made any difference? No, because the characters in the play are struggling financially, and because they are not fashionable women. They would have worn inexpensive stockings — probably cotton, rayon, or “service weight.”

Service weight silk stockings were not as sheer as “chiffon” ones. Sears, Fall 1930.

I settled for using sheer tights with added seams because at the time of the production that was the most affordable option. Also, in college productions, most of the actors are younger than the characters they play. The two “mothers” were actually about twenty years old, and the teenaged daughters were also played by twenty year old actresses. Putting the mothers in seamed stockings and the daughters in bobby socks helped to establish an age difference.

More of my own “Garter Belt and Seamed Stockings” Memoirs to come….

** Some very good costume shop supervisors have told me that a seam can be added to inexpensive modern hosiery with an overlock sewing machine, but I haven’t tried it myself.

*** If you need a research topic, note that some of the images make reference to seamless stockings earlier than 1930.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Accessories

Curling Iron Memories

A curling iron like this one was not heated with electricity. Illustration from Delineator, February 1934.

A curled hair style with ringlets over the ears, from 1838. From La Mode, in the Casey Collection.

Novelist and fashion historian Mimi Mathews has written another wonderful post about Victorian women’s hairstyles and beauty products. Click here for her latest, and then follow the links at the bottom of that post for the answer to many other “how did they do that?” questions about beauty and hair styling products from the 1800s.

In 1920, Silmerine hair curling liquid, applied with a toothbrush, was used to set curls in women’s hair.

Ad for Liquid Silmerine hair setting lotion, 1920. It could probably be used to set hair in rag curls.**  The chemicals it contained varied, but some would have been cousins to the Victorian hair preparations Mimi Matthews researched.

The Silmerine ad says that “You’ll never again use the hair destroying heated iron.”

I have personal knowledge of the heated curling irons — sometimes called curling tongs — like the ones below, because my mother used them on me almost daily until I was about eight years old.

An old fashioned curling iron (in three sizes) from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

Ad for the Lorain gas stove, 1926. The stove we had in the 1940s was similar.

This kind of curling iron didn’t plug into an electric outlet; my mother turned up the flames on one burner of the gas stove in our kitchen and stuck the metal part of the tongs into the fire for a while.  (Our curling iron had wooden handles.)  I was sent to the bathroom to bring her several sheets of toilet paper. I sat on a stool in the middle of the kitchen. If the curling iron curled the paper, but did not burn it, it was ready for my hair. (Our toilet paper was not soft and quilted.)

I hated the ordeal of the curling iron, and I hated having to wear a bow in my hair to school every day, too. This picture is probably 1952 or 1953 — and these curls were not in style!

Girls in the combined 2nd & 3rd grade class, Redwood City, CA, 1952-53. Only one (me) with long sausage curls. My best friend, Arleen, wasn’t fussed over; her Mom had 5 daughters to get off to school.

Once I started school and discovered that other girls — like my friend Arleen — did not have long ringlets, this daily ordeal became an ongoing battle. I hated it. But my mother’s idea of how her perfect child should look was unshakeable. We fought, I cried, I begged, but I was only allowed to leave for school once — that I remember — without being curled with that hated hot iron. (I remember skipping with joy, and then feeling the ringlets bounce into their usual shape before I had gone half a block.)

My mother frequently told me, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.”  I doubt that the saying originally referred to curling irons.

[I should make it clear that I wasn’t especially afraid of getting burned, although my squirming must have made it more likely. Getting snarls combed out of my hair was worse, as my mother got increasingly exasperated with me. It was the whole, time-consuming, pointless (to me) process that I hated.  At least I often got out of the house with just a brushing and a barette on the weekends.]

Once, I was allowed to stay overnight with my Uncle Mel and his beautiful wife, Irene. Aunt Irene had naturally bright red hair that fell in waves to below her waist. She coiled her thick braids on top of her head for the office, but one night Uncle Mel brought me to her house just after she had washed her hair. She was sitting on the sofa in a pale blue satin robe, brushing her red hair as it dried. It was so long she could sit on it. She told me about having her hair set with rags when she was a girl my age, and that night she offered to give me rag curl.** In the morning, when she brushed my hair, I was amazed and happy to have curls without any pain! I told my mother about this wonderful way we could stop using the curling iron. She wasn’t impressed — and I was never allowed to stay overnight with Aunt Irene again.

My mother as a teenager, with her own Mary Pickford curls.

Maybe Mary Pickford was to blame for our battles about the curling iron.  And Shirley Temple.

I was an only child, born after twelve years of marriage to parents who were forty years old. My mother had had a long time to dream about the child she hoped for. I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her that her child, and especially her daughter, would not be exactly like her — a perfectible extension of herself. She was always surprised — and saddened or angered — by every sign that I was my father’s daughter, too. I remember her disappointment when she discovered that my skin, even where the sun never touched it, was not as milky white as hers, but halfway between the whiteness of hers and the cream-white of his.  And the lunch when she suddenly exclaimed, “Dammit, Charles! She’s got your mouth!” (instead of her shapely one.)  My mother was so worried that I would take after his family and be taller than the boys in my class, that she lied about my age and enrolled me in first grade instead of kindergarten. I heard her tell a friend that she had decided to do it after driving past a school and seeing my older cousin in the playground with other children: “She looked like a G**-dammed giraffe!”  So instead of being the youngest child in kindergarten, I was (secretly) the youngest child in first grade and in every grade until high school.  It was lucky that reading came easily to me, and I had plenty of experience in being quiet and obedient, so my first teachers never realized that I was so young in other ways.

My mother had been pretty and popular; she loved to dance; so she never noticed that I was bookish and uncoordinated. I certainly never asked to be entered in a Beautiful Baby contest!

“Crowned Supreme Royal Princess Better Baby Show, Dec. 7, 1947.” I hope I didn’t wear the cape and tinsel crown to the contest! (She was sure I’d win.)

I came in second, but she made this outfit and put this picture on her Christmas cards. (The trophy said that I was “99 1/2 % perfect….)

She was certainly proud of me — or, proud of herself for having me. Relatives have told me that she treated me like a doll. She kept me dressed in frilly dresses that she washed and ironed and starched, and changed twice a day. (I got my first pair of jeans when I stayed with her mother, because Uncle Mel said Grandma was too old to cook and clean and look after a child AND do all that extra laundry.) I was completely happy at Grandma’s house. And Grandma didn’t try to turn me into Shirley Temple or Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford shows her famous long curls in this ad for Pompeiian face cream. Delineator, November 1917.

In the 1920s, movie star Mary Pickford played little girls with long curls well into her thirties. Here she is in “Little Annie Rooney” in 1925. Pickford was born in 1892, and was only five feet tall. (She was also a formidable movie producer.) It was big news when she finally bobbed her hair in 1928, partly because she wanted to play an adult role for a change.

She would have been a megastar when my mother was a teenager.  (Pickford made 51 silent movies in 1910 alone!) These pictures of hairstyles for girls from 1917 show the kind of ringlets Pickford wore, probably achieved with a curling iron. Did my mother always dream of having a child who looked like these girls?

Hair styles for girls, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

Hair in ringlets; Ladies Home Journal, November 1917.

Girl with ringlets, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

The disadvantage of curling irons was that you couldn’t curl the hair closest to your scalp — the hot iron would burn you.

My 1920s’ curling iron ringlets, done in the late 1940s.

Ringlets from 1924. Delineator, May 1924.

The Pickford influence can be seen in these fashion illustrations from 1924, when my mother was twenty.

Fashion illustrations of girls, Delineator, February 1924.

Perhaps my mother formed her idea of the perfect little girl back then, although she was forty when she finally had a baby. That’s a long time, but she still had her curling iron and knew how to use it….

My curling iron curls, late 1940s.

By 1933, when my parents were married, there was a new super-star named Shirley Temple, age 5. Shirley was famous for her curls, although hers were shorter than Mary Pickford’s.

Shirley Temple in Rags to Riches, 1933. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shirley Temple could sing. I could sing.   Shirley Temple could tap dance. I suffered through lessons in “Tap, Ballet, and Acrobatics.” Shirley Temple had a full head of curls. Click here for a picture of Shirley Temple in Curly Top (1935.) And I was given a permanent wave as soon as the beautician said I was old enough ….

These curls were the result of a permanent wave, although they needed to be kept in shape with a curling iron.

What I remember about this trip to the beauty parlor was how incredibly heavy the rollers were.

This is what getting a permanent looked like in 1932. The process was similar when I was a child in the late 1940s.

This Nestle home permanent machine had only one curling device. It took “a few” hours!

But the professional Nestle machine could curl a whole head in an hour … or three….

Professional Nestle permanent waving machine, from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

I was fortunate that the home permanent arrived around 1950. The smell was so terrible that my mother once took me to the Saturday matinee show at the movies just to get that smell out of the house! Ah, Peter Pan in 1953! My one happy memory associated with those hated curls.

There were other, much more serious problems poisoning our relationship,  but I sometimes wonder: if my mother had known that she would die when I was nine, would we still have spent morning after morning after morning fighting about my hair?

[Sorry to write such a personal post, but I mention this as something for other mothers to think about….]

** Putting your hair up in rags required some strips of clean cloth four or five inches long. You wrapped your moistened hair around a finger, slid the finger out, put the rag strip through the center of the coil, and tied it. No hairpins were needed. And you didn’t have to sleep on wire rollers, as we did in the 1960s. Sleeping on rollers should have proved that suffering doesn’t guarantee beauty!)

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Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

Pyorrhea and Toothpaste Ads

From an ad for Forhan’s toothpaste, September 1931.

Afraid to smile because of Pyorrhea!

“Four out of five” would be victims of Pyorrhea, warned Forhan’s toothpaste ads. This one is from 1925.

I’m still reading magazines from the 1920s and 1930s. Every time I see a toothpaste ad about Pyorrhea, I think of a story  Ruth Gordon told. She attended a charity gala where the Great Houdini was entertaining the guests. Houdini used to do a magic act where he would “catch a bullet in his teeth.” Before performing the stunt, he would always ask for a volunteer from the audience to come up and look in his mouth, to prove the bullet wasn’t concealed there.
Performing at the charity ball,  Houdini called for a volunteer. A man came up from the audience. When Houdini opened his mouth and asked, “What do you see?” the man said:
“Py-o-rrhea!”
Poor Houdini: With a hundred celebrity guests to choose from, Houdini had selected Groucho Marx to inspect his teeth!

Forham’s ad, warning about pyorrhea. April 1927.

Forhan’s’s toothpaste ad, May 1928.

Just as Listerine ads frightened women into using mouthwash, …

An example of the famous Listerine ad campaign blaming”Halitosis” for unpopularity. This one is from June 1930.

… the discovery that tooth loss was often caused by gum disease, rather than cavities, led to advertisements warning about “pink toothbrush” and pyorrhea.

Forhan’s ad, May 1928.

Top of Forhan’s’s ad, March 1935.

“Pyorrhea is a relentless foe. It destroys clean, healthy-looking teeth. It undermines the gums. It is responsible for more than half the losses of adult teeth in this country.”

Two women wait to see the dentist. 1928 ad.

The good news was that pyorrhea need not cause tooth loss.

Tooth powder ad, April 1925. (My uncle Mel still preferred tooth powder in a can to toothpaste in a tube in the 1950s.)

Forhan’s toothpaste in a tube, May 1928.

A woman in a striking cloche hat gets dental advice in this Forhan’s ad, December 1926.

Forhan’s toothpaste ad, March 1927.

Brush, floss, see your dentist twice a year, and keep smiling!

P.S. I once accidentally ruined a dinner party game: The hostess asked each guest to choose a time period when they would have liked to live, and to say why. I was No. 3, and blurted out the truth: “I’m 65 years old and I still have all my own teeth; I really love hot running water and flush toilets, so I am happy to be alive now!” Loving to read Jane Austen doesn’t mean I want to live like her. (Yes, I do have personal experience with outhouses and no electricity….) And there’s a good reason (in addition to the length of exposure time) why women are usually not smiling in 19th century photos.

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, Hairstyles, Hats and Millinery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

1920s’ Hat Patterns Online at CoPA

Inspiration for your cloche hat trim: McCall 1372 from 1924 at CoPA.

The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) at URI has hat patterns, which makes it a good place for milliners to look for inspiration. McCall 1372 is one of the patterns that doesn’t have an image of the pattern pieces, but you could apply these trim ideas to a purchased hat.

As usual, this hat pattern included more than one style. Notice the simple pleated ribbon cockades on the red hat. Are the centers filled with beads or lace or French knots? Your choice.

If you want to read the suggested fabrics or other details, just log in to the C0mmercial Pattern Archive and search for McCall 1372. (Be sure to chose “any” in the final “collection” category.) Using CoPA is free!

Many of CoPA’s hat patterns do show the original pattern piece shapes.

McCall 1603 shows two different cloche hats.

I used to think cloche hats had to be made by starting with a felt shape, but 1920s’ sewing patterns allowed women to make a cloche without having to own equipment to steam and block the felt.

The black hat on the left has a very simple pattern:

Three pattern pieces plus a ribbon trim. McCall 1603, View 1.

Cloche hats made from 4 to 6 gores were common patterns. This one has an intriguing zigzag in the brim. McCall 1603, view 2. It looks like the darker brown “brim” is just a piece of ribbon tucked under the hat!

One version of Butterick 1800 (view A) looks like a 4 gored hat from the top but really uses an easy one-piece side-and-crown combined.

Notice that the lining is very simple, and does not have to echo the shape of the hat. The same lining is used for variation B of Butterick 1800:

Butterick 1800, version B. A hat from just two pattern pieces!

An experienced milliner would know to add lining and an interior ribbon band in the right size for the head measurement.

McCall used full-color pattern illustrations on their envelopes, which makes them a joy to find. McCall 1604, dated 1927.

Version 1 only shows two gores, but I’m guessing the instructions said “cut two” of each….

It looks to me like there are two front gores and two gores in back, with a seam creating a ridge across the top.

Pattern pieces for two versions of McCall cloche hat No. 1604. The front and back crown shapes are subtly different.

Version 2 is really simple: a circular top, a crown with tall, curved sides that are crushed into folds, and a quirky shaped brim which folds down over one cheek. You could sew on a pair of jeweled buttons if you don’t have a Cartier cliquet pin.

Hats began shrinking in the 1930s; in the “I would never have figured that out!” department, here is a preview of McCall No. 69, a hat pattern from 1932.

McCall hat pattern 69 uses pattern shapes I would never have thought of by myself. Visit CoPA to see this one!

Version C of McCall 69. The pattern, which looks like it is exploding, uses just one, bizarre, piece plus a ribbon headband.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns