Category Archives: 1920s-1930s

Autumn Color for 1928

“The Elegance of Drapery” was the caption for page 28; from left, Butterick patterns 2205, 2178, 2203, and 2207. Delineator magazine, Sept. 1928.

Patterns for women could be intricately cut or relatively simple at the end of 1928. Luxurious, “dressy” fabrics were suggested, and many of these are rather formal afternoon dresses. The text mentions some wrap-around skirts, too.

At the end of summer, clothing that could carry into winter was illustrated. Delineator, September 1928, top of page 29.

In its September issue, Butterick’s Delineator magazine showed some outfits in full color, and others in black and white illustrations enlivened with rust or peachy-tan tones.

“Velvet takes first place among plain and printed fabrics.” Back views of Butterick 2234, 2235, 2201, 2213, 2219, and 2214. Delineator, September 1928, pg. 32.

Velvet — in prints or solid colors — was the theme for these dresses in Delineator, September, 1928. Butterick patterns 2234, 2235, 2201, 2213, 2219, and 2214.

Closer views, from the top:

Left, Butterick 2205; right, 2178. Sept. 1928. The text describes the wrap-around skirt of 2205 as dark red, rather than rust.

The elegance of drapery, Delineator, Sept. 1928. In the early 1920s, skirts often had a straight, simple back, with all the fullness of flounces and godets limited to the front of the garment. “Here they appear at the back as well as the front.”

The elegance of drapery: Butterick 2203 and 2207. Delineator, Sept. 1928. The blue “bolero” dress is made from printed velvet. (Powdering your nose in public — admitting that you wore make-up — had just become acceptable … within limits.)

In the twenties, a “bolero” did not need to be above the waist.

Butterick 2197. Delineator, Sept, 1928, page 29. “Rust brown wool” was recommended for this “street frock.”

Butterick 2188 has a panel running from the skirt, over the shoulder, and around the neck like a scarf. It was available up to 46 inch bust size.

Text describing Butterick 2188, September, 1928. Delineator, p. 29.

This odd style was not unique. A similar “skirt becomes scarf” effect was seen in Butterick 2213:

Butterick 2213 and 2188. 1928.

In fact, 2188 was featured two months in a row. Here it is from August 1928, using a bordered fabric in three shades:

In August, the suitability of this pattern to larger (or older) women was mentioned. Perhaps the straight “line of youth” is why she looks so narrow….

Also from page 29 of the September 1928 issue, this formal dress and coat ensemble would complete a daytime social wardrobe. Butterick 2176 and coat 2149.

Details of Butterick 2176 and 2149. 1928. The dress has a metallic top and a velvet wrap-around skirt. The cut of the skirt is complex, but the bodice and coat are relatively simple.

More patterns for velvet dresses were shown on page 32:

Butterick patterns 2234, 2235, and 2201 were suitable for velvet, a more autumnal fabric than crepe or chiffon. 2235 has a wrap-around skirt.

Patterns 2235 and 2201 were available in larger than average sizes — 48 and 46, respectively.

Velvet was suggested for Butterick 2213, sheer wool or double sided crepe for  2219. Coat 2214 is very simple. Delineator, Sept. 1928, p. 32.

There is an interesting dichotomy between the soft and droopy “draped frocks,” with tiers or panels dipping below the hem, and the more geometric, Deco-influenced ones, appealing to women with different tastes in fashion.

Soft dresses, with bows, tiers of flounces, or panels that dip below the hem. Delineator, September 1928.

Dresses with straight, geometric lines. Same magazine, September, 1928.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Matching Coat and Dress, February 1928

Butterick coat 1881 and dress 1864, Delineator magazine, February 1928.

There is something about the rhythmic curves of this 1928 dress and its coordinating coat that I find very pleasing. The coat is actually more successful from the back than from the front, since the applied trim apparently stops at the side seams without relating to the pattern on the back. Nevertheless, they deserve a closer look.

This illustration’s caption was “Tweed, Broadcloth, and Satin.” 1928.

A little explanation of the contrasting bands on the coat would be helpful. Are they shiny?

The dress was to be made of “two shades of silk crepe, crepe de Chine or crepe Roma, one matching the coat which is to be worn over it, the other is in the harmonizing tone of the fur or lining. Two sides of reversible silk crepe or a printed silk with a harmonizing color would be chic. [That would produce a subtle matte and shiny contrast, both the same color.] The unusual line which marks the joining of the two fabrics is repeated in the band trimming and the skirt is set on across the front and flares at the side…. Designed for sizes 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and 36 to 44.”

Butterick coat 1881 and dress 1864. 1928. The square “buckle” contrasts with the curves and the diamond shape they create.

Alternate view of dress 1864, and Delineator’s accompanying text. “Within the last few years, we have been educated to consider all our costumes as ensembles…. The wardrobe of the smart woman consists of a collection of related frocks, coats, and accessories.” 1928.

Of course, if the coat is monochromatic, it could be worn with other dresses.   The top of the dress echoes the shade of the fur in the illustration (perhaps coffee and cream? blue and gray ?) but the text mentions the option of a monochromatic dress with contrasting surfaces of reversible silk crepe.

These patterns are from September 1927. Both use reversible silk crepe for a matte and shiny contrast.

Butterick patterns from September, 1927 that use two-sided reversible crepe satin. Left, Butterick 1638; Right, Butterick 1612.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Vintage patterns

A Few Favorite Twenties’ Patterns

 

An embroidered coat from Delineator, August 1926.

Today’s post doesn’t have a theme; these are just patterns I find attractive, and they are all from the 1920’s. The coat itself is probably a Butterick pattern, but I don’t have another picture of it. Fullness below the elbow was often seen in 1926 patterns.

A closer view of the coat and the embroidery transfer, Butterick 10464. It seems inspired by Chinese designs. Delineator, August 1926.

Surprise: the coat is made of taffeta! However, the braid could also be applied to a light wool.

It would be an unusual quilting motif.

I’m always attracted to twenties’ styles with a geometric quality. The yellow dress below is complex but not fussy (I’m not big on ruffles or fluttering chiffon) and the top-stitching made me think it might be a light wool fabric (but it’s silk.) The tab of material that passes through the front looks like a designer touch; I like the top-stitched self belt, and the parallel diagonal lines add interest.

The dress shown in yellow is Butterick 2682, from June of 1929.

Another surprise: This is referred to as a tennis dress! (I do hope there was a sleeveless version….) There are pleats in back, too.

I don’t like the dress on the right at all — is its “anchor panel” echoing the styles of the 1300’s? (Click here to see the 1315 tomb brass of Lady Margaret of Cobham.)

The print dress on the right illustrates Butterick pattern 2675, from 1929.

I don’t show enough patterns for children; these are both charming and comfortable. Below, the young lady on the left wears a dress decorated with triangular pockets. The collar has the same [applied?] trim. If the trim is tiny intersecting tucks, it would be a technique favored by Vionnet.  (The capelet was optional.)

Left, Butterick 7017, for girls 8 to 15. Right, Butterick 7021 is decorated with embroidered (and appliqued?) flowers for girls aged 6 to 10. Delineator, August 1926.

For sophisticated ladies, a set of lingerie inspired by Vionnet would be just the thing. Personally, I’d prefer this lounging pajama set!

Suggested Christmas gifts made from Butterick patterns; Delineator, December 1928.

Butterick lounging set 2288. December, 1928.

[Calling the robe a “coolie” coat is now offensive; ku li, referring to men who did hard labor, means “bitter strength.”  My school textbooks showed the final spike being driven into the Central Pacific railroad in 1869, connecting the east and west coasts of the United States, but they didn’t mention the thousands of Chinese laborers whose work made that celebration possible. Then, just thirteen years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. I’m afraid I see a pattern of events here….]

Back to more trivial patterns: Butterick claimed this set of lingerie was inspired by Vionnet. It included a step-in, underpants, and a nightgown.

This step-in with lace inserts is Butterick pattern 2348; from 1928. Step-ins usually buttoned at the crotch.

Butterick 2349, “tap pants”/underpants/drawers/dance pants are part of a set; 1928. The vocabulary for underpants is varied.

This night robe [nightgown] — flows smoothly. Butterick 2350, from 1928.

The text does not say whether the set is cut on the bias, just that it’s made of “geometrical sections”. It’s certain that any of these undies would look good under a sheer negligee.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Accessory Patterns, lingerie, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Summer Patterns from June, 1929

The illustrator gave this dress a lovely, breezy look.

Butterick 2660, made in a dotted border print. Delineator, June 1929

The “new kimono sleeves” were attributed to Chanel in the description of another Butterick pattern:

A not-quite-sleeveless print dress has a matching jacket; it is shown with either a straight hem or one that dips in back. Butterick 2646, Delineator, June 1929.

Sleeveless dresses were usually reserved for evening wear until the late nineteen twenties.

These attractive outfits were described as “resort wear.”

These “resort” outfits are actually skirt and blouse combinations. On the left, Butterick blouse 2643 with skirt pattern 1211. Right, Blouse 2453 with skirt 1529. Delineator, June 1929.

Oddly, no jacket pattern was suggested, although the model has a matching jacket in her hand. The skirt patterns are not new; you can tell from their numbers (1211 and 1529) that they were available in previous years. Both date to 1927.

Another charming suit, in plaid, was truly sleeveless.

Butterick dress 2679 has a surplice line, recommended as slimming — available up to size 48. Suit 2674 has a truly sleeveless dress. Like other patterns from June 1929, a series of tucks creates a little fullness for the bust. Tucks in the back neckline can  be seen in several of these patterns. (Illustration: M. Blynn)

You can see this solid-color version of the suit, with fagoting at the hemline, in the background of the larger illustration.

This resort outfit is not a dress; no jacket pattern was suggested, but the model is holding a jacket.

Another “resort” outfit looks very dressy but is a versatile skirt (Butterick 1859) and blouse (Butterick 2673.) June 1929.

The long button tab on the blouse was echoed in a Butterick dress (below right.)

Butterick 2641, for young and smaller women, is illustrated in a large-scale floral print; Butterick 2687 has a lot of center front interest.The dress on the left is a more conventional twenties’ style — but many of these patterns show experiments with curving hip lines.

A resort wardrobe wouldn’t be complete without sheer, float-y dresses for those formal afternoon teas and tea dances.

Left, Butterick frock 2656; right, Butterick 2661. June, 1929. The pale lace dress shows off the lady’s chic new suntan.

Described as “Grandstand frocks,” the lace afternoon dress on the left is quite formal (Butterick 2672.) The pleated frock on the right is elegant, but also suitable for spectator sports (Butterick 2571.) (Illustrator: Marian Blynn.)

 

Just the thing to wear while drinking champagne and toasting the winner….

Illustrators: Primarily Myrtle Lages and Marian Blynn.

Signed by illustrator Marian Blynn

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/img_7462.jpg?w=500&h=344

Ad for Talon Slide-Fasteners, Delineator magazine, March 1929. Butterick, which published Delineator, also sold dress pattern 2365, which used several zippers. It is the dress being worn by the woman shopper in the Talon ad. Talon zip “colors are black, white, two tones of gray and two of brown.”

While poking around in 1930’s Sears catalogs (via Ancestry.com), I was curious about two things:

  1. After 1935-36 season, when French fashion houses began showing zippers in “dressy” clothing, as opposed to sportswear and work clothes, how long did it take for the fashion to be accepted in the mass market?  I don’t mean in exclusive stores which copied couture, but in low-cost clothing for ordinary women, like those who shopped from the Sears catalog.
  2. I have a theory that the heavy weight zippers which were used successfully in jackets, work clothing, and canvas mailbags in the late twenties and early thirties (See Zip, Part 1) were simply too heavy and stiff to use in the light-weight dress fabrics of the twenties and thirties. Was there a noticeable change in the sizes and qualities of zippers available to home dressmakers in the late 1930s?

Note: All images identified as coming from Sears Catalogs are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC.  Do not copy them.

A little review: Slide fasteners, soon called zippers in the U.S., were found in sportswear and children’s clothing before they appeared in more formal clothing.

These sweatshirts appeared in the Sears catalog for Fall 1937. Some have zip closings at the neck (and one has America’s favorite rodent….)

A Sears “twin set” from Fall 1937 includes a solid color jacket that closes with a separating zipper, and a coordinating striped sweater underneath. ” ‘Zips’ are fashion pets….”

This terrific ski suit has a separating zipper; “zips” on ski wear and children’s snow suits were so customary that the catalog doesn’t even mention this zipper.

Woman’s ski outfit from Sears catalog for Fall 1937.

Work dresses and house dresses also featured zippers in 1937-38:

Snapper and Zip house dresses and housecoats were shown in the Spring of 1938 Sears catalog. This zipped dress was for “housewives, nurses, beauticians, maids . . . the perfect dress to work in.”

A long (and colorful) front zipper appears on this “hostess gown” from Sears, Fall 1937. It is not for street wear, but it is made from rayon crepe, a soft, clinging fabric.

Left, a dress with a zipper neckline, and right, a sporty two-piece with a front zipper. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

Description of Sears two-piece outfit for Spring 1937.

The 1937 outfit in the middle — “with three zips!” — has a zip neck opening and two more zippers as trim on the pockets. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

In the 1938 catalogs, zippers are still appearing on casual, sporty dresses, but also on more dressy outfits. This is a sporty knit zip outfit:

This sporty knit has a long separating zipper as a fashion detail; Sears, Spring 1938. Presumably the zip colors matched the darker fabric.

This dress has one, long, obvious zipper from neckline to just above the hem, and it is definitely not a dress for housework. Sears, Spring 1938. It’s made of washable Shantung rayon. The long vertical line of the zip “gives you that slim, tall silhouette that’s all the rage.”

This “dressy” blouse is made of taffeta — and has a “popular” zipper running right down the front.

Delicate fabric appears in a taffeta zip-front blouse from Sears, Spring 1938.

There is nothing sporty or casual about this 1938 corselet dress with dyed-to-match embroidered sheer sleeve and bodice inserts.

A “Paris inspired” dress from Sears’ Spring 1938 catalog. Where’s the zipper? In the hidden side seam opening. “A Zip placket closing for trim, perfect fit.”

This is another tid-bit of zipper information: in Spring of 1938, the zipper was taking the place of the old snap or hook-and-eye closing hidden in the side seam of a close-fitting dress.

The close fit of this embroidered dress is the result of a hidden “zip placket” in the side seam. Sears, Spring of 1938.

This dress could be ordered in three different fabrics; it has a smooth fit because of its “neat zip placket closing” in the underarm side seam. Sears, Spring 1938. The summer fabrics are soft rayon.

That’s not to say that the Paris influence — using zippers as a design feature — has disappeared.

Three Zips: “This striking dress has decorative zippers in the shoulder seams. Sears, Spring 1938. On “the Newest Zip Dress . . . A zip tops each shoulder  . . . and another zip snugly closes the placket of the new ‘corselet’ waist!”

A center front zipper is a style feature on this embroidered “pebble crepe” ensemble, too:

Embroidered two-piece dress with zipper front. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.  “The Petit Point  . . .  in heavenly colors . . . runs all around hem of flared skirt . . . up the front of the blouse on each side of colored Zip closing.”

Another zipper novelty in the Sears catalog for Spring, 1938, is the Hollywood style of this aqua “corselet” dress:

The novelty of this dress is its “long back Zip.” Sears, Spring of 1938.

If you thought the center back zipper was a tell-tale sign of the 1950s, here’s proof that it can appear earlier.

And, speaking of novelties — Not only a huge variety of zippers, in many lengths, styles, weights and colors appeared by 1939, so did novelty zipper pulls!

Ornamental zipper pulls from Sears, Spring, 1939.

The zip slide fastener on the front of this dress has a “pendant” — an ornamental zipper pull. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.

Ornamental Zip pulls, Sears catalog, Fall, 1939.  “Jitterbug” bead figurines, and “Scottie Dog, Horse or Squirrel hand carved on natural wood.” Also of interest: “Crown’s Iris Zips” made of plastic on matching colored tape, in five lengths and ten colors. Schiaparelli had encouraged the development of these full-color plastic zippers just a few years earlier.

In 1939, Sears offered a truly extensive selection of zippers for all clothing purposes:

Some of the zippers sold by Sears in Spring, 1939. Heavy jacket zips, colored enamel Talon zips…. “French dressmakers are using colored zips for smart costume accent…. Rustproof metal enameled in colors to match cotton tape…. Simple instructions for sewing with each fastener.”

More zippers from Sears, Spring 1939. “Match or contrast the colors in your house dresses, housecoats, sports clothes with colored enamel….”

Crown’s “Iris” colored plastic zip fasteners sold by Sears, Spring 1939. “A smart dress trimming as well as streamline fastening for evening dresses, blouses.”

Special zippers for side-closing dress plackets from Sears, Spring 1939. “Closed at each end– the only zip suitable for smooth “no gap” dress plackets. Gives the dresses you make yourself that smart professional look. Easy to sew in. Colored enamel on matching cotton tape.”

“Mind the Gap”

By 1939 zipper manufacturers (and their ad companies) took some inspiration from Listerine, which used “Halitosis” to sell mouthwash, and from corset manufacturers who convinced women that a curvy backside was “Lordosis,” and created a new, embarrassing condition called “Gap-o-sis,” to describe what happened to dresses that used snaps instead of zippers in their side plackets.

“We moderns don’t wear dresses that have gaposis. Cure plackets that gap with Talon Fasteners.” Gaposis could be avoided by replacing snap-closing plackets with zipper plackets in your dresses. Sears catalog, Spring 1939; top of a page listing zippers for sale.

Because vintage clothing collectors depend on zippers for help in dating garments, EBay has even published a zipper guide for collectors. You might want to compare it with some of these images from the Sears catalog….

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator magazine

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

Mystery Dresses

This vintage dress has been altered and patched. It raises many questions.

The patches on this faded dress hint at a life of hardship. If I had photographed the back, dating it might be possible — but a poor woman might not have had access to current fashions. It’s a mystery to me.

Many collectors are interested in the beauty of vintage dresses. But the woman who collected these dresses saw them as windows into women’s lives. Sadly, neither dress had documentation, so we don’t know anything about the women who made them, wore them, patched them, and tried to make them last a few more months or years. I’m sharing them because such dresses rarely survive to be collected — they end in the rag bag, not a museum. I don’t have the expertise even to date them securely (and how I wish I had had time to take more pictures!) Comments and conjectures about them are very welcome.

A mystery dress circa 1930?

Back of red dotted dress with a puzzling insert at the waist.

Here’s the front again:

Is this a late twenties dress, lengthened as much as possible for the 1930s? Or is it a thirties dress, lengthened and altered for a new wearer?

It is very long, suggesting early 1930s. There’s no fading to mark a previously shorter hem line, but this hem is as skimpy as possible. Was it a hand-me-down from a shorter woman?

A tiny rolled hem.

This dress was home-made, and not by a very accomplished seamstress. Here’s the sheer collar:

The rolled hem on this collar is machine stitched, but quite uneven.

Maintaining even tension around the curve of a soft, sheer material isn’t easy.

Someone who worked on this dress didn’t cut perfectly on grain, so the skirt sags towards its right side. You can see that the vertical pattern of dots on the front of the dress lined up originally. Was there always a waist seam? It doesn’t look like it.

The slightest sag at the waist seam (the dots don’t line up evenly) affects the hang of the skirt. Did this happen originally, or when the wide piece was inserted? Was the front of this dress one piece from shoulder to hem before it was altered?

The pattern of dots isn’t straight because the skirt is off grain at the waist.

There are seams in the back of the dress:

Vertical back seams suggest that the dress always had a waist seam in back — or do they? I’m asking….

Again, this pattern matching is not the work of an experienced dressmaker. On the other hand, I once bought cheap  printed flannel plaid for a nightgown and discovered that it was printed off grain, so it was possible to make perfectly matched seams on one side but not on the other. Maybe it was hard to fold this material for cutting and make the dots line up.

Aside from the question of why this dress has a wide band inserted at the waist, it’s clear that the person doing the alterations had barely enough material for the band — not enough to match the dots and line them up inconspicuously. In fact, the stripes on the dress run vertically and those on the band run horizontally. It’s made from scraps.

Scraps were also needed for alterations to the armholes. Either they tore while the dress was being worn, or they had to be enlarged for a different wearer:

On each side, the armhole was made larger and a patch was placed underneath. The repairs to the sheer ruffle are not symmetrical. Did one side tear?

Presumably there wasn’t enough fabric to match the pattern — or the person making the alternations wasn’t skilled enough to try (these are very large patches, secured with another line of large hand stitches.

I’m not belittling the people who made and altered this dress. I’m suggesting that they did not have the luxury of perfectionism. They had to make do with what they had, and I think that whoever owned this dress, new or second-hand, had to wear it and hold her head high. Poverty limits choices.

Another mystery dress, probably 19th century (?)

The front of a long dress with fitted bodice and many patches.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this dress is that the patches accumulated over time. It appears to be patched with scraps of the original fabric, but the dress, the large patch, and the smaller patch are not faded equally. The fabric is lightweight, so the cream colored bodice lining contributes to the impression of fading there, but not on the sleeves.

How I wish I had had a mannequin available, and the time to photograph the back and the interior structure. The back seams would tell us something about the date when it was made. The waist seems to be cartridge pleated, but, again, I have no photo of the construction. The shoulders don’t look dropped, but it’s hard to tell on a big, padded coat hanger!

The neckline is crudely done, using fabric that matches the band on the skirt.

The hem is very worn, and the fabric at the shoulders is faded and worn through in one place.

It is possible to see two bust darts on the left side of the bodice (on its right, they are hidden by a patch.)

You can see characteristic Victorian bust darts which are not covered by the dark patch.

But the dress is a mystery as to date, especially because, if it was made and worn by a rural woman, she could have been using a much older dress as her only guide. Machine stitched or hand stitched? Or both? I don’t know.

Someone may recognize the fabric, or be able to date the dress from old photographs — for me, it’s a nagging mystery — and I wish I knew about the woman who wore it. To me, the dress says that she was strong and brave while enduring years of hardship.

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Dresses, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing