Category Archives: 1920s-1930s

90 Years Ago: Daytime Fashions for April 1927

Two views of a suit from Molyneux, left, and a sporty double-breasted suit from O’Rossen. The Molyneux suit used the same ombre striped fabric for the skirt and to trim the jacket. Delineator magazine, April 1927.

Since time forthe Easter Parade is approaching, lets take a closer look at the hats:

Left, two views of a hat from Molyneux; right, a simpler hat by Reboux. 1927.

Original description of Paris designer suits from Delineator, April 1927, p. 24.

Molyneux was one of the most influential designers of the late twenties. O’Rossen is almost forgotten today.  Another very successful French designer from the 1920’s was Louise Boulanger, whose fashion house was called Louiseboulanger. I may have shown her appliqued coat before — but it’s worth a second look (below right.)

French designer coats illustrated in Delineator, April 1927, p. 25. Left, a coat by Paquin; right, an applique-trimmed coat from Louiseboulanger.

Description of Paris coats from Delineator magazine, April 1927, p. 25.

These coats could be purchased in New York at the shop of Mary Walls. Here is a closer look at those hats:

Left, a hat from Molyneux; right, a hat by Alphonsine trimmed “with a huge taffeta ribbon bow.” 1927. They were available in New York:  the Molyneux from Mary Walls, or the Alphonsine from Saks Fifth Avenue.

If your budget did not run to couture, these Butterick patterns for Spring were also available:

Butterick coat pattern No. 1346, and dress 1386. Delineator April 1927, p. 31. The dress has closely pleated tiers cut in a scallop shape.

Descriptions and back views of Butterick 1346 and 1386, 1927.

The coat lapel is trimmed with a large “flower” made of ribbon. The hat at left is decorated with a cliquet pin. Bar pins, some of them quite large, like the one on the dress, were often shown worn like this, pinned diagonally to the front of a dress which looks too fragile to support it. 1927.

Some early 20th c. bar pins. I have worn these on my lapel or at my throat, but never diagonally on the mid- chest as seen in 1920’s illustrations.

Butterick coat pattern 1387; Frock 1392; two-piece dress pattern 137; and “jumper frock” 1372, Delineator, April 1927, p. 32. The skirt of No. 1372 hung from an under bodice, not a waistband.

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Butterick 1387 and 1392, 1927.

Details of Butterick 1370 and 1372. 1372 has a bow at the neck, partly hidden by her hand..

Butterick patterns 1360, 1408, and sports wear patterns 1396 (spectator sports) and 1378 (active sports, like tennis.) Delineator, April 1927, p. 33.

The rows of parallel top-stitching on No. 1360 is a style of trim that was popular in 1917.

Butterick 1360 and 1408.

The tennis dress below is illustrated with contrasting fabric inside the pleats, which would have flashed when the wearer was in motion. I’ve also seen this in several other twenties’ illustrations.

Butterick 1396 and 1378, from 1927. The monogram shows the influence of Molyneux. That sleeve construction would be rather binding in an active tennis game,  but truly sleeveless styles were still associated with evening dress.

 

Butterick patterns for Teens, April 1927. The one with the black jacket is called the “tomboy suit.” Delineator, April 1927, p. 29.

Alternate views of Butterick teen fashions 1362, 1388, 1344, and 1366. April 1927 Delineator, p. 29.

Butterick styles for teens, 1927. Patterns 1362 and 1388.

Descriptions of Butterick 1362 and 1388.

Details of Butterick’s “tomboy suit,” pattern 1344, and a surplice dress, 1366. Delineator, April 1927.

Descriptions of Butterick patterns 1344 and 1366.

“Size 19 years ” had a 38 inch bust. Size 15 years was proportionately smaller. For more about 1920’s pattern sizing click here.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hats, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

Vintage Fur and Feather Update with Useful Links

Ad for Albrecht fur coats, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Just because a fur coat is 100 years old does not necessarily mean that you can sell it without a permit. And you need to know your bird species if you are selling vintage hats. In fact, you need to know your animal products, from feathers to ivory to crocodile to tortoiseshell, snakes — and more.

I have updated my recent post about a Vintage Store that was raided by California and U.S. Federal agencies last year. The owner is currently facing prosecution. After posting, I found a useful factsheet from the U.S. government. Click here: it is a two page pdf that can be printed and posted for reference.

If you sell or collect vintage clothing, you may not realize that “antique” or vintage status does not exempt all furs, feathers, and other animal products from regulation. Some vintage items made from listed animals can be sold if you have a permit. But for some items made from endangered species, there are no permits and very limited exceptions.

“Some wildlife laws prohibit all sale or purchase of products made from a protected species. Examples include the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which protects more than 1,000 wild birds native to the United States) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” — U.S Fish and Wildlife Service “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.

Here is what the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet says about feathers from endangered and threatened species:

“Taxidermied migratory birds or migratory bird feathers and parts: With some limited exceptions, sale of any type prohibited regardless of age of the specimen. (Exceptions involve limited purchase and sale of certain captive-reared and sport-taken migratory waterfowl.)
Examples: Victorian songbird collections, vintage women’s hats, and feather boas. [My boldface]
Of course, you have to be able to recognize which feathers and furs are on the endangered or threatened list (a very long list, called CITES Appendix 1). Identifying them on vintage clothing is complicated by the very old practice of altering fur and feathers from common domestic species to resemble rare or exotic species. Is that a bald eagle feather [“Sale prohibited regardless of age”]  or a turkey feather that has been doctored to look like one? Could that vintage “jaguar skin” coat really be jaguar [prohibited,] or is it rabbit fur cleverly dyed?
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service says,
“For us to answer your questions accurately, you must be able to tell us the species involved, including the scientific name, if possible.” — “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.
 What kind of “wolf” fur is this? Hint: It’s probably not Manchurian, and definitely not wolf. More like Rin Tin Tin.

Manchurian Wolf Dyed Dog Fur trimmed coat from Sears, 1931.

At least it’s not a member of an endangered Canis Lupus (i.e., wolf) family….

My mother, around 1945. Was she literally “putting on the dog?” (That expression — meaning “dressing to make a display of wealth” — dates to the 19th century.)

Another passage from the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet:

“Grizzly bear, jaguar, or other U.S. species listed as endangered or threatened: No interstate or international sale of any type regardless of age, without a permit. Sale within a State allowed unless prohibited under State law. Examples: Taxidermied specimens, rugs, clothing, and other fur articles.
Sometimes a permit is needed to sell products made from protected species. Trade is regulated by state, federal, and international agencies — so you need to check with all that apply.  Investigators from both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the raid on Cicely Ann Hansen’s vintage clothing store.
If only it were possible to ask “The Bird on Nellie’s Hat” what species it is!
Women's hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Women’s hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917. The mania for egret feathers on hats eventually led to the formation of the Audubon Society, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Read about it here.

In 1905, George Bernard Shaw complained to the management of an opera house about having to sit behind women who wore dead birds on their hats. To read his entertaining letter, click here.

Some Useful Links About Threatened and Endangered Species

Here is an endangered and threatened species list from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s alphabetized by Latin names, but the common names are also given.
Birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include several kinds of egrets; a full endangered and protected birds list can be found by clicking here (common English and scientific names are given.)
Click here for an overview of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) program. Unfortunately, the CITES appendices are in scientific classification format, so look up the scientific name for your problematic animal before visiting CITES. For example, search “Latin name for gray wolf” and you will find it is Canis Lupus. Then you will be able to find out if the animal is on an endangered species list.
But first, before you think of buying or selling, you need to identify what the garment or object is made of. The Vintage Fashion Guild Fur Resource can help you identify furs, crocodile, alligator, etc. The listings will expand if you click on the {…} symbol. Then, checking if you need a permit to sell your garment is up to you.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hats, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Freckles and Freckle Creams, 1920s and Later

Top of an ad for Othine Double Strength Freckle cream, Delineator, May 1925, p 29.

I’ve already written about skin bleaches from the 1920’s and 1930’s. I’ve also collected a number of ads for freckle removers, from several different makers, ranging from 1917 to the 1940’s. They use a standard advertising strategy: First, make women feel self-conscious about something that’s perfectly normal, then sell them something to “fix” it.

“Your freckles ruin your appearance;” ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream, Aug. 1924.

“Are you one of the 14,695,000 folks who wish they could get rid of freckles?” Ad for Othine cream, Redbook magazine, 1949.

Ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream, July 1917. “Freckles are ‘as a cloud before the sun’ hiding your brightness, your beauty.”

Freckles were O.K. on boys, apparently, but not on their sisters.

The freckled face of child actor Mickey Daniels was an asset to his career in the Our Gang Comedies.  Ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream, Sept. 1924. Delineator.

“Your freckles always attract attention, no matter how well you dress.” Stillman’s promised to “dissolve away” freckles and whiten, refine and beautify your skin. “Guaranteed to remove freckles or money refunded.”

Stillman’s ad from Chatelaine, a Canadian magazine, August, 1939. p. 31.

Probably the creepiest anti-freckle ads were for a product called Mercolized Wax. “Better than trying to hide or cover up such disfigurements. Simply apply the wax at bedtime and wash off in the morning. This actually peels off the freckled cuticle, gently, gradually, without harm or inconvenience. Unveils the young, healthy, beautiful skin underneath. Unequaled as a blemish remover and complexion rejuvenator.”

Mercolized Wax seemed to promise to lift the freckles right out of your skin. Ad from 1924.

In that ad, freckles were equated with “disfigurements” and “blemishes” — I began to wonder whether they were talking about blackheads or freckles. Pulling the freckles out of your skin would not be a pleasant or beautifying act.

Astonishingly, Mercolized Wax was was still running ads in 1942!

Mercolized wax ad, Redbook magazine, September 1942. I found this ad via Pro-Quest. “Mercolized Wax Cream flakes off the surface skin in tiny, almost invisible particles, revealing a fairer, fresher, more attractive underskin. Start bleaching skin now.”

At least, by 1942, the ads no longer imply that freckles will be yanked right out of your face; it’s more like a “skin peel.” Use according to directions, indeed.

This 1934 ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream is almost identical to an ad Stillman’s ran in 1924. They even used the same photo. Delineator, June 1934.

Here’s a more lyrical Stillman’s ad from 1921:

Ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream in Vogue magazine, August 15, 1921.

Ad for Othine Freckle Remover, August 1926, Delineator.

“Don’t try to hide your freckles or waste time on lemon juice [used for its acidic bleaching properties] or cucumbers; get an ounce of Othine and remove them.”

Amazingly, both Stillman’s and Othine offered a money-back guarantee. In addition to freckle creams like Stillman’s, Othine, and Mercolized Wax, bleach creams like Golden Peacock were also touted for freckle removal.

1933 ad for Golden Peacock skin bleach, Delineator, Aug. 1933. The “before” photo is very unconvincing!

I’ve been watching a lot of young artists on YouTube lately; I’m happy to see some of them drawing women with freckles. One of my favorites, Minnie Small (aka SemiSkimmedMin.com,) sketched this freckled beauty.  I like the way her freckles are intrinsic to her look. (If you like, you can watch a 3 minute video of this sketch being created. Just click on the image.)

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Vintage Store Raided; Vintage Furs from Endangered Species Confiscated

NOTE: This post was updated on 3/3/17 to include a link to the “Can I Sell It? Factsheet, A Guide to Plant and Wildlife Protection Laws” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In some cases, even the “100 years = an Antique” rule does not apply.

A model wears an exotic fur coat in this ad for Selby Arch Preserver shoes from Woman’s Home Companion, December 1936.

Models wearing clothes trimmed with fur, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936. Ad for Arch Preserver shoes.

Selling vintage furs may be more complicated than you think.

A long-established vintage clothing store in San Francisco was raided in 2016 and about 150 items made from species that are now on the endangered species list, but which were not classified as “endangered” before 1973, were taken. Read the article here.

Butterick patterns for hats and fur collars, Delineator, November 1934. Let’s hope the fur was dyed rabbit, and not a species that has since been declared endangered.

In a follow-up article on March 26, 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle gave the store-owner’s side of the story. “Investigators from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted … a raid on Feb. 25, 2016.” Store owner Cicely Ann Hansen, 68, owner of the Haight Street vintage clothing store Decades of Fashion since 2005, told reporters that she believed it was legal to sell the clothes if they had been made before 1972. “The Endangered Species Act took effect in 1973, so at the time those clothes were made, the animals were not technically ‘endangered,’ as that classification did not yet exist.” Hansen has been charged with nine misdemeanor counts of illegal possession for sale of an endangered species, according to the San Francisco district attorney’s office.

Hansen says she stored much of her personal collection in the basement of the store, and those furs were confiscated, too. Apparently the folks from the Wildlife departments and the SF District Attorney did not accept Hansen’s protest that those items were not for sale, and that the furs she does sell were taken from animals that were killed long before they were declared endangered. (At some point, will the defense call in other fashion historians to date the vintage furs?)  Hansen pointed out that furs make up “a tiny portion — 1 percent — of the store’s business, and she would not have risked the store and the livelihood of her nine employees had she known the laws changed.”

I’m not in favor of wearing fur or feathers from protected species (or from animals raised for slaughter,) but furs and feathers were fashion staples in less enlightened eras. Many aspects of history are disturbing, including fashion history.

Sellers of vintage clothing will need to follow this case through the courts. Will feathered Edwardian hats — which led to the founding of the Audubon Society — be next? Edited 3/30/17: Yes. From the “Can I Sell It?” U.S. government Factsheet:

“Taxidermied migratory birds or migratory bird feathers and parts:
With some limited exceptions, sale of any type prohibited regardless of age of the specimen. (Exceptions
involve limited purchase and sale of certain captive-reared and sport-taken migratory waterfowl.)
Examples: Victorian songbird collections, vintage women’s hats, and feather boas”
[Question: Does “examples” mean “you need to check”, or “Forbidden?”
“Grizzly bear, jaguar, or other U.S. species listed as endangered or threatened:
No interstate or international sale of any type regardless of age, without a permit. Sale within a State allowed unless prohibited under State law
Examples: Taxidermied specimens, rugs, clothing, and other fur articles.”

Ads for Imperial fur coats, 1937; “seal dyed coney” meant that no seals were killed for these coats — but a great many rabbits (coney) were.

You could read about the fur coats being worn in Paris (left, Delineator, 1928) and buy a cheaper American fur coat from Sears Roebuck (1930). The Sears coat was made of muskrats.

There is an interesting chapter on furs, feathers, and the founding of the Audubon society in A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character and the Promise of America, by Jenna Weissman Joselit.

If you are a vintage clothing seller, please read the comments below. If you are not in the United States, or buy and sell internationally, you should find out more about the CITES treaty. See comments below.

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Red and White Print Dresses, Vogue Patterns, 1936

What’s Black and White and Red All Over?

Vogue patterns 7251, 7253, and 7252, from Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936, p. 25.

Vogue patterns 7251, 7253, and 7252, from Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936, p. 25.

Perhaps Valentine’s Day inspired the Ladies’ Home Journal to illustrate these Vogue patterns in black, white and red, back in February, 1936. In the 1930’s, the LHJ didn’t use as much color illustration as the Woman’s Home Companion. When the LHJ stopped selling its own patterns, it began to feature Vogue patterns, just as the WHC had begun selling “Companion-Butterick” patterns in the thirties. (Butterick’s own magazine, Delineator, suddenly ceased to exist in 1937.)
For a while in the twenties, Delineator had abandoned full color illustrations in favor of using black, white, and just one color.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Delineator, May 1927.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Lages, Delineator, May 1927.

(I wonder if Edward Gorey had a stash of 1927 Delineator magazines?) Here are closer views of this illustration:

"French frocks in America." Butterick 1419, Delineator, May 1929. Notice the flashes of red in the pleated skirt.

“French frocks in America.” Butterick 1419, Delineator, May 1929. Notice the flashes of red in the pleated skirt.

Butterick 1417, Delineator, May 1927. If you want to know how those top-stitched pleats were done, click here.

A print scattered with red hearts or leaves. Butterick 1417, Delineator, May 1927. If you want to know how those top-stitched pleats were done, click here.

These Vogue dress illustrations from Ladies’ Home Journal use the same method, but in a less distinctive drawing style. What’s black and white and red all over? These pattern illustrations.

Vogue 7251, illustrated in a foulard print with either a black ground or a red ground. Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Vogue 7251, illustrated in a foulard print with either a dark ground or a red ground. Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936. The alternate view, which appears later in this post, shows a very interesting yoke and shoulder.

Text accompanying Vogue 7251.

Text accompanying Vogue 7251. This dress could be made in dressier versions, using “crinkled satin” or “beige heavy sheer.” a “foulard” design was often used in men’s neckties.

Vogue pattern 7253, for a dress and matching jacket. Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Vogue pattern 7253, for a dress and matching jacket. Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936. The fabric is illustrated with either a pink or dark ground.

Vogue 7253 pattern information. 1936.

Vogue 7253 pattern information. 1936. LHJ suggested that you make the dress  in a floral pattern for a young woman to wear to school, and for a mature woman in sheer navy with tucked sleeves on the jacket.

Alternate views of Vogue 7251, 7253, and 7252. 1935.

Alternate views of Vogue 7251, 7253, and 7252. LHJ, 1936.

Vogue 7252 from Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Vogue 7252 from Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

Pattern description for Vogue 7252, 1936.

Pattern description for Vogue 7252, 1936. “The dress itself is slim and simple. The jacket has shaped lapels and a diminutive peplum…. in bright red and navy.”

You can see the dress without its jacket in the alternate view, above. (And the text reveals a shortcoming of black and white illustrations: the fabric is really red and navy blue.)

Butterick suggested print dresses for February 1936, too; left, a solid sheer; and right, a sheer floral print.

Butterick 6630, shown in sheer fabric, and 6634 in a floral print. Delineator, February 1936, p. 37.

Butterick 6630, shown in sheer dark fabric, and 6634 in a sheer floral print. Delineator, February 1936, p. 37.

Butterick print dresses from 1936. Left, pattern 6668, right pattern 6634. The dress in the middle is Butterick 6605. All from Delineator, Feb. 1936.

Butterick print dresses from 1936. Left, pattern 6668; right, pattern 6634. The dress in the middle is Butterick 6605. All from Delineator, Feb. 1936.

We can get an idea of what 1930’s dresses looked like on a real woman from this photo:

Her husband approves of this red and white print outfit, which the young woman made on ther Singer Home Sewing Machine. Singer ad, Delineator, Feb. 1936.

Her husband approves of this red and white print outfit, which the young woman made on her Singer Home Sewing Machine. Butterick 6593. Singer ad, Delineator, Feb. 1936.

This evening dress, in a large-scale butterfly print, is Butterick 6666.

Butterick 6666, a print fabric covered with large butterflies. Delineator, Feb. 1936.

Butterick 6666, a print fabric covered with large butterflies. Delineator, Feb. 1936. It is trimmed with triangular dress clips, which are jewelry, not buttons.

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Elsa Schiaparelli showed a large-scale butterfly on this bathing suit in 1929 …

A Schiaparelli swimsuit and hooded coverup illustrated in Delineator, July 1929.

A Schiaparelli swimsuit and hooded coverup illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. “White wool bathing suit embroidered in black.”

… and made butterflies even more popular in  1937:

Elsa Schiaparelli butterfly dress, in the Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection.

Elsa Schiaparelli butterfly evening dress, 1937. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection.

I’m all a-flutter! And I seem to have strayed from red and white and black prints.

P.S. In the nineteen fifties, the answer to the children’s riddle “What’s black and white and ‘red’ all over?” was  “A newspaper.”  Gee, I’m feeling old today.

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

How to Do Laundry, 1920’s and Later (Part 2)

"The punishment your clothes get in an ordinary washing is harder on them than all the wear you give them the rest of the week. You can't afford to let the old hard laundry soap wear out any more clothes in the washing." From a Lux ad, Delineator, August 1926.

“The punishment your clothes get in an ordinary washing is harder on them than all the wear you give them the rest of the week. You can’t afford to let the old hard laundry soap wear out any more clothes in the washing.” From a Lux ad, Delineator, August 1926.

Modern Methods of Laundering, article from Delineator magazine, July 1927.

"Modern Methods of Laundering," Delineator, page 40, July 1927.

“Modern Methods of Laundering,” Delineator, page 40, July 1927.

This full-page article described the way to do laundry in 1927, with step-by-step illustrations. I will show the images and text, from number 1 to number 11, with occasional comments or explanations. (Even if you’re hauling your laundry to a laundromat every week, reading this article may make you glad it’s not 1927.)

The horizontal washer used in the “Methods” illustrations is less familiar than this upright “Mangle washing machine,” but the steps would be the same.

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

First, Prepare Your Soap

Laundry soap options in 1927. They included grating your own soap from a bar. Fels Naptha soap, in a big bar, was rubbed on difficult stains and rings around the collar.

Laundry soap options in 1927. They included purchasing flakes, chips, or powder; liquifying your soap ahead of time(right); and (left) grating your own laundry soap from a bar. Fels Naptha soap, which came in a big bar, was rubbed on difficult stains and rings around the collar.

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Hook Up the Hose

Filling the washing machine. There wa wide variety in washing machine styles; this one is cylindrical. 1927.

Filling the washing machine. There was wide variety in washing machine styles; this one is cylindrical. 1927. She is filling it by hand with a hose attached to her sink’s faucet, and presumably has a hot water heater. Earlier washers were filled bucket by bucket, with water heated on the stove.

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Weigh the Clothes

Weighing a load of clothes. The Savage brand washer could handle 10 lbs.

Weighing a load of laundry. The Savage brand wringerless washer could handle ten lbs. With wringer type washers, clothes were constantly being removed from the washer, and others were being added.

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In 1927, too big a load could burn out your motor. White clothes were pre-soaked or pre-washed with borax and soap. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that converts some water molecules to hydrogen peroxide — which is increasingly being used instead of chlorine bleaches.

Adding soap to a 1927 washer.

Adding soap to a 1927 washer. You were supposed to dissolve the soap before putting it in the machine, to be sure it would dissolve completely. Even in the 1950s, laundry soap didn’t always dissolve in cold water.

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Find the Electric Switch (and the Emergency Stop)

This power switch is inconveniently located near the floor. Notice the faucet for draining the washing machine.

This power switch is inconveniently located near the floor. Notice the faucet for draining water out of the washing machine.

500-5-text-switch1927-july-p-40-laundry-step-by-step-page

Another article mentioned the importance of having an easy-to-reach emergency shut-off for the electric wringer. Just the other day I met a woman who remembered getting her braid caught in the wringer when she was a girl. Luckily, she could reach the switch before her head was pulled up against the wringer. Serious injury was possible if you couldn’t reach the wringer switch. Since you used your fingers to guide the laundry into the wringer, you had to pay attention.

Watch It Make Suds

You could not trust the soap to dissolve evenly.

You could not trust the soap to dissolve evenly, and women didn’t trust a soap unless it made lots of suds.

500-6-text-suds1927-july-p-40-laundry-step-by-step-page

Here, you can see the wringer, in profile, next to the woman’s head. Presumably, this control lever is also the safety switch.

Load Washer, Set Alarm Clock

Adding the clothes while the washer is running.

Adding the clothes while the washer is running.

(The wooden rod was also used for moving laundry around in the washer.)

(The wooden rod was also used for moving laundry around in the washer.)

Uh-oh:  the overnight soak or preliminary washing, and the first run through the wringer, apparently had to be done ahead of time.

Before the kitchen timer.... Once the alarm clock was set, the laundress hurried to do other tasks.

1927: Before the kitchen timer or automatic wash cycle…. Once the alarm clock was set, the laundress hurried to do other tasks.

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Make Starch on the Stove

While the machine was washing sturdy fabrics, delicate silks and hosiery awaited hand washing. And liquid starch had to be made. I don’t know what “tinted” means in this context, but fabrics were not always colorfast. And some whites had to be “blued.” This would  also be a chance to lug a heavy basket of wet laundry out to the yard and hang it on the washline with clothes pegs or clothes pins. In Spring and Fall, the wash had to be hung out earlier in the day.

Ad for Quick Starch, WHC, Nov. 1936.

Ad for Quick Elastic Hot Starch, WHC, Nov. 1936. It was “quick” because you didn’t need to cook it — just dissolve it in cold water and then add hot water. Stir.

“It parallels the advance in … automatically heated irons. Practically self-cooking….. Thin it down to give any degree of gloss or delicate “sizing.” Clothes which needed to be starched were dipped in liquid starch while damp, and wrung out  before ironing.

Tending the washing machine, hand-washing delicates, boiling the whites on a low laundry stove. Fels Naptha soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Tending the washing machine (L), hand-washing delicates (C), boiling the whites on a low laundry stove (R.) Fels Naptha soap ad, Delineator, March 1927. Boiling hankies and diapers controlled germs. Boiling long underwear killed lice.

In 2017, I when set my high efficiency, low-water use washing machine, it weighs the load, does the pre-soaking, one or two rinses as desired, and “wrings” out the wash water and the rinse water in a spin cycle — while I leave the room and do something else. In 1927, even with an electric washer — which not everyone had — doing the laundry meant tending the wash constatntly.

Put Through the Wringer

clothes werefished out of the sudsy water and "put through the wringer." In 1950, My grandmother had a special pole, about three feet long, for fishing clothes out of the hot water, or insuring that the load stayed evenly distributed.

Clothes were fished out of the sudsy water and “put through the wringer one at a time.” In 1950, my grandmother had a special wooden pole, about three feet long, for lifting clothes out of the hot water, or insuring that the load stayed evenly distributed.

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Boiling and Blueing

The use of scalding hot water explains the importance of Sanforized, pre-shrunk fabrics in shirts and other clothing.

Ad for Sanforized-Shrunk dresses, Delineator, Sept. 1933.

Ad for Sanforized-Shrunk dresses, Delineator, Sept. 1933. The “Sanforized” process was introduced around 1930.

About blueing:  As explained in RememberedSummers, “Laundry had to be hung out to dry in your yard, in fresh air, which meant that it was exposed to public view. Most back yards contained two tall posts (picture small, square telephone poles) with four or more clotheslines  strung between them from the crossbars…. Of course, in the old days, all of your neighbors hung out laundry on the same day you did (Monday), so there was some competition as to who had the whitest sheets. In the 1940s , my grandmother always put blueing in her final rinse [to get the yellow out.]” (And yes, some “blue-haired old ladies” used it on their hair! Don’t!)

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Ad for Cube Starch, WHC, Nov. 1936.

Ad for Staley’s Gloss Starch Cubes, WHC, Nov. 1936.

Without starch, inexpensive fabrics became limp. If you wanted to keep cottons looking new, you needed to starch them before you ironed them.

But, before you were ready to iron the rest of the laundry, you had to dry it. This is not what I think of when I read the word “dryer:”

A heated cupboard for indoor drying. 1927.

A heated cupboard for indoor drying. 1927.

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Hung Out to Dry

I have never visited a house with a dryer like this, but then, I live in sunny California. Clothes were normally dried out of doors …

Dryig clothing in the air, Borax ad, 1924.

Drying clothing in the air, Borax ad, 1924. A solar and wind powered dryer.

Solar and wind powered drying, the laundry line worked well for at least half of the year. But air drying doesn’t get the wrinkles out of modern permanent press clothing. Some modern planned communities even forbid laundry lines as unsightly.

My Texas-born husband tells me that in really cold weather, laundry will freeze dry — or at least, dry enough to be ironed. Rainy weather meant hanging your laundry to dry in the house — a messy and inconvenient necessity.

I have never known life without a washing machine, or at least a laundromat where I could wash and dry three loads at a time and be home within two hours. In 1927, that could take two days. No wonder many women “sent out” their laundry.

However, we ought to remember that, in the nineteen twenties, many American women were enjoying labor-saving inventions that have still not been introduced in many parts of the world. It’s time to remember how lucky I am.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

How to Do Laundry, 1920’s and Later (Part 1)

"Things to Be Thankful For" in November of 1933: Washing machines. Delineator magazine, p 29.

“Things to Be Thankful For” in November of 1933: Washing machines. Delineator magazine, p. 29.

“Things to be thankful for.” That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read this article from July 1927:

The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering, Delineator, JUly 1927, p. 40 (detail)

The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering, Delineator magazine, July 1927, p. 40 (detail)

I will go through that article, step by step, in the next post (Part 2). First, for those too young to remember why women had “Wash Day Blues,” a little background.

Little Lulu day-of-the-week embroidered towels. McCall Needlework catalog, May 1950.

Little Lulu day-of-the-week embroidered dish towels. McCall Needlework catalog, May 1950. Little Lulu was a newspaper cartoon character.

Monday was Wash Day — even if you were a doll or a cartoon character. Tuesday was ironing day. On Wednesday, you mended clothes and replaced any buttons broken in the wash.

Raggedy Ann day-of-the-week dishtowels; McCall embroidery pattern, May 1950 catalog.

Raggedy Ann day-of-the-week dishtowels; McCall embroidery pattern, May 1950 catalog.

As a child in the 1950’s, I saw my mother and my grandmother doing the laundry with washing machines very much like this one:

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

That means I recognize many of the steps in “Modern Methods of Laundering” (1927) and may be able to explain a bit. I was a working class kid; my parents married in 1933 — and, as a child in 1950, I didn’t realize that my parents and their friends were still using appliances that were twenty years out of date. That roller thing on top of the machine was the “wringer,” two rolls of wood or hard rubber that squeezed excess water out of your clothes — and squeezed random creases into them.

The wringer was also called “the mangle.” See the pressure adjusting lever/screw handle at the top? If you’ve handled vintage clothing that was washable, you have probably noticed a lot of broken buttons on shirts and blouses. Blame the mangle. The mangle was no friend to glass or mother-of-pearl (shell) buttons. It was also a real danger to fingers, hair, and housewives wearing dresses with long ties, scarves, or ribbons at the neck. This picture explains the origin of the expression “to be put through the wringer.”

Woman putting wet clothes into the wringer, June, 1927. Once the soapy water was squeezed out, the clothes were rinsed and put through the wringer again.

Woman putting wet clothes into the wringer (which has an electric motor,) June, 1927. Once the soapy water was squeezed out, the clothes were rinsed and put through the wringer again. Standing in a puddle of water on the floor while operating an electric washer? Not recommended.

My father was very careful never to use naughty language around me, which is probably why this moment made such an impression:  One day when he came home from work, my mother told him that a customer had phoned several times, and that she sounded angry.  My father sighed and said, “She’s got her tit in a wringer about something.” Now, every time I get a mammogram, I remember our old washing machine and think, “tit in a wringer….” It always makes me smile. (Thanks, Dad!)

Woman using a clean pine dowel rod or broom handle to pull clothes out of the hot water before inserting them in the mangle. Fels Naptha Soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Woman using a smooth [pine?] dowel rod or broom handle to pull clothes out of the hot water before inserting them in the mangle. Fels Naptha Soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Another digression: Before I could read, I thought that naptha soap was “Nap, the Soap”  — like “Smokey, the Bear.”

So that we can understand the writers’ enthusiasm for “Modern Methods of Laundering” in 1927, let’s take a look at previous washing machine advice:

From an article on choosing a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

From an article on choosing a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21. Heat the water on the stove, pour it into the washer.

This old-fashioned machine is not electric — to agitate the clothes, I think you rock the tub with that big lever on the side. You heat water on (or in) your stove, carry it to the machine one bucket at a time until the tub is full, rub clothes on the washboard inside the tub to remove stubborn dirt, and drain the dirty water out of the faucet near the bottom into a bucket. Carry bucket to sink or back porch. Dump water. To rinse clothes, repeat the process. Two rinses recommended. (My mother sometimes rinsed the first load, ran it through the wringer, then added soap and my father’s overalls to the still warm rinse water to wash the next load. When you had to fill and drain the tub by hand, this was a time saver.)

Carrying buckets of water and big, heavy baskets full of wet clothing (you took it outside and hung it on a line to dry) was hard work. Notice how muscular this washerwoman looks. (“Laundress” was a more polite job description.)

Washerwoman and housewife, ad for Pepperell sheets, Delineator, Feb. 1925.

Washerwoman and housewife, ad for Pepperell sheets, Delineator, Feb. 1925.

In fact, this household budget for 1924 assumes that no woman who can afford a laundress will wash anything heavier than lingerie and stockings with her own hands. And doing the laundry took the laundress two days.

Suggested budget, Delineator magazine, July 1924.

Suggested budget, Delineator magazine, July 1924. Right after housing and heating costs is the cost of laundry (almost half the rent!) “Flat work” would be large items, heavy when wet, like blankets, sheets and tablecloths, which took time to iron, too.

A more convenient electric washing machine, which you fill with a hose, and which empties into a dedicated drain in the floor of your house. August, 1926.

A more convenient washing machine, which you fill with a hose, and which empties into a dedicated drain in the floor of your house. August, 1926.

By 1933, the better quality washers had a water pump, which allowed the dirty water to be expelled through a hose into a sink or drain — as washers do today.

Washing machines add a water pump for emptying the machine. Delineator, Nov. 1933, p. 29.

Washing machines add a water pump for emptying the machine. Delineator, Nov. 1933, p. 29. “Half the hard work of washing is in handling the water…. The worker should not have to lift it.”

“The services of the washing-machine have replaced the washerwoman, and electric power is replacing woman power for the washing of clothes.” — Delineator, August 1926. That is not to say you could put a load in the washer, walk away,  and get on with other housework.

Selecting a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

Selecting a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

There was quite a variety of machine styles. Some of these seem to have wringers that can be cranked by hand, although the article mentioned the importance of a wringer that can be locked in several positions and which has a “safety release that can be quickly and easily operated” — in case your hair or fingers got caught in the mangle. Also, the electric washing machine motor — usually visible under the machine — “must be protected from water.”

Maytag washing machine ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Maytag washing machine ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

The idea of building a box around the machine to conceal the motor was still a new one. I was surprised to see this 1929 ad for a Savage washing machine, which didn’t need a mangle wringer; it had a spin cycle.

The Savage spin washer did not use a mangle to extract water from clothes. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1929.

The Savage Wringerless washer did not use a mangle to extract water from clothes. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1929. Ten pounds of clothes “from hamper to line in an hour.”

Detail of ad for Savage spin washer, Feb. 1929. Delineator magazine.

Detail of ad for Savage spin washer, Feb. 1929. Delineator magazine. “Empties itself” automatically!

Nevertheless, mangle washing machines continued to be sold. This Thor machine used the motor that ran the wringer to also run a mangle iron — the parts were interchangeable.

Ad for Thor washer with wringer and interchangeable mangle iron. Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1930, p. 53.

Ad for Thor washer with wringer and interchangeable mangle iron. Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1930, p. 53.

"From washer to ironer in 10 seconds." Thor washing machine ad, 1930.

“From washer to ironer in 10 seconds.” Thor mangle washing machine ad, 1930. Doesn’t that look easy?

When there were no “permanent press” fabrics, ironing large, flat items like tablecloths, sheets, pillowcases, and dish towels took a long time. In the fifties, my father bought a rotary iron — second hand — and made a point of using it, although we quickly discovered that ironing shirts, dresses, and other clothing on it took more skill than we had time to master.

Using a mangle iron, Delineator, June 1929. 1929. Getting a large sheet through it was not this easy.

Using a “mangle” or rotary iron, Delineator, June 1929. Getting a large sheet through it was not this easy.

Sitting beside the washing machine to use the mangle iron. Thor ad, 1929.

Sitting beside the washing machine to use the rotary iron, which, like the wringer, pivoted. Thor ad, 1929.

You would certainly have needed to make sure your floor was mopped and dry before putting a sheet through this machine  attached to the washer. At $149.25, the Thor combination would be a sizable investment (some families lived on about $35 per week in 1925). [To read one magazine’s article about the cost of living in 1925, click here.]

On the other hand, a woman (like my mother-in-law) who was willing to take in washing and ironing could supplement the family income.

"Iron on Tuesday" embroidery pattern, McCall Needlecraft catalog, Nov. 1950.

“Iron on Tuesday” embroidery pattern, McCall Needlecraft catalog, Nov. 1950.

If you hired a laundress for two days a week, as recommended, the second day would be devoted to ironing.

Sunbeam electric iron, 1924 ad. The "set" included the iron and a box to store it in.

Sunbeam electric iron, 1924 ad. The “set” included the iron and a box to store it in.

The electric iron was certainly an improvement over the irons my grandmother heated on the stove (she had two or three — one getting warm while another was in use) but you needed to “sprinkle” your clothes to dampen them before ironing — until the steam iron arrived.

A sprayer for dampening ironing. Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1936.

A sprayer for dampening ironing. Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1936. In 1950, my grandmother used a beverage bottle with a purchased cork-and-perforated-metal top — like a big salt shaker, but containing water.

However, by the time this sprayer was featured, a steam iron could also be purchased.

A steam iron, Woman's Home Companion, September 1937.

A “steaming  iron,” as explained by Woman’s Home Companion, September 1937. “You need no wet cloth for pressing woolens and no sprinkling for dry fabrics.”

I will show the entire, step-by-step, illustrated article “The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering,” from 1927, in the next post.

I inherited this Sunbonnet Sue dish towel. She was once part of a set of seven day of the week towels.

I inherited this Sunbonnet Sue dish towel. It was once part of a set of seven day-of-the-week towels. Sue, bent over her wash tub, was appliqued to a bleached flour sack.  I wish I had two dozen!

You can read more about Day of the Week towels and laundry customs at RememberedSummers.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized