Category Archives: 1920s-1930s

The Big Hem Drop: 1929 to 1930

Only one year separates these Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. This is rapid fashion change.

The change in fashion that took place between Fall of 1929 and Spring, 1930 — just a few months — fascinates me. The fact that a completely different fashion silhouette was adopted during a time of economic crisis  — when pennies were being pinched — makes it even more astonishing.

Just to get our eyes adjusted and refresh our memories of 1929 before the change, here are several images of couture and of mainstream Butterick sewing pattern illustrations from July 1929.

French couture sportswear, illustrated by Leslie Saalburg in Delineator, July 1929. Short and un-fussy.

These fashions are unmistakably late 1920s. Note the hem length, which just covers the knees. There is a crisp, geometric quality about many of these outfits.

Couture sportswear illustrated by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, July 1929.

Patterns for home use:

Spectator sportswear; Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. The dress at left is soft and flared, a hint of things to come. The dress at right is crisply geometric. Both are short.

1920’s day dresses, Butterick patterns 2697 and 2707. Delineator, July 1929. Mostly straight lines.

Butterick patterns for sportswear, Delineator, July 1929. Simple, pleated, short.

Whether we look at French couture or home sewing patterns, the silhouette and the length are  definitely “Twenties.”

In the 1929 Fall collections, couturier Jean Patou showed longer skirts — well below the knee — and took credit for changing fashion from the characteristic Twenties’ silhouette to the longer, softer, Thirties’ look. (A few other couturiers also showed longer dresses, but he took the credit for being first.)

French couture fashions sketched for Delineator, November 1929. The large illustration at left is an ensemble by Patou — noticeably longer than the other designers’ hems.

“Paris revolutionizes winter styles.” Compare the hem on the dress by Patou, second from left, with those from Molyneux (left, very “Twenties”) Cheruit (third from left,) and Nowitzky (also “Twenties” in spirit, far right.)

Below is the Fall 1929 version of Chanel’s famous black dress. (In the original, from 1926, hems had not reached their shortest length.)

This variation on Chanel’s famous little black dress — with a slightly different placement of tucks –falls just below the knees in 1929, the season when Patou was pioneering longer dresses.

By Fall of 1929, Chanel’s “little black dress” (a sensation in 1926) is just below the knee. It also has a natural waist.

You may have noticed that waistlines are rising as hems are falling; that’s a topic deserving an entire post, but….

Delineator, October 1929, p. 25. “Higher Waists, Longer Skirts.”

The flared dress at left has a softer, less geometric look, and shirring near the natural waist instead of a horizontal hip line. Delineator, October 1929. This dress seems to be “in the stores” rather than a Butterick pattern.

Between July couture showings and October, 1929: That is how fast commercial manufacturers picked up on the new trend for longer skirts and natural waistlines.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1929.

Delineator (i.e.,Butterick Publishing Co.) had offices in Paris where the latest couture collections were sketched (and copied.) In this case, longer skirts appeared on patterns for sale very quickly. (The process of issuing a pattern took several weeks, and the magazine had a lead time of a month or so, as well.)

When these patterns appeared in April, 1930, nothing was said about their length. Old news!

Dresses for women, up to size 48. Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1930, p. 31. From left, “tiny sleevelet,” “flared sleeves,” “white neckline,” and “short kimono sleeves.”

By April 1930, what was notable about these dresses, to the editors of Delineator, was the variety of their sleeves!

Back views of Butterick 3143, 3179, 3173, and 3180. Delineator, April 1930, p. 31.

Longer styles had been in the news for several months.

Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1930.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1930. Hems have fallen. Waists are in transition.

The most interesting article I found about this change from “Twenties” to “Thirties” was in Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1929, pp. 66 and following.

In “Smart Essentials of the Winter Clothes,” fashion editor Helen Koues wrote:

“They differ from any we have had since the war…. To be sure, last season Patou and a few houses tentatively raised the waistline, and we talked about it and made predictions. But now the normal or above normal waistline is here, and anything remotely resembling a low waist is gone. We have had it a long time, that low waist and short skirt, and it is only fitting and logical that it should make way for some sort of revival. [“Directoire, Victorian, Princess….”] We have worn high waists and long skirts before — both higher and longer. But coming with a greater degree of suddenness than any change of line has come for some years, it is an inconvenient fashion.  What are we going to do with our old clothes? [My emphasis.]

“The new silhouette will be taken up just as fast as the average woman can afford to discard her old wardrobe…. The average woman will replace what she needs to replace with new lines, but she will take longer, because she will wear out at least some of her old clothes.  In three months, however, all over America the tightly fitted gown, the longer skirt, the high waist will have superseded the loose hiplines of another season. and the main reason for the speed of this change is that we are ready for it. We are bored with the old silhouette, for we have had it too long — so long, in fact, that… we were beginning to think that we would wear short skirts and low waists till we die…. The psychological moment has come….

“Skirt lengths are particularly interesting: for sports, three inches below the knee is the right length; for street clothes, four inches below, and for the formal afternoon gown about five inches above the anklebone. Evening, of course, right down to the ground… and probably with as much length in front as back…. These are the average lengths.

“Skirts are slimmer than ever, if that is possible, or at least the effect is slimmer, because with the added length the flare necessarily begins lower down. But the flare is still there in full force….”

Colors for Spring, 1930. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1930. Flares, softness, and a coat that is shorter than the dress.

Koues also noted that the new three-quarter coat, “that strikes the gown just above the knee” was in style, although she did not mention that this, at least, was a break for women who could afford a new dress but not a new winter coat. Koues recommended wearing longer knickers (underwear) in winter to make up for the shorter coat.

Short coats or long jackets, February 1930, Delineator.

Vogue, October 26, 1929 reminded readers “We told you so!”

If you have access to Vogue magazine archives you may enjoy a timeline of Vogue fashion predictions from October 26, 1929. It began, “We told you so! If you are one of the many women who are complaining that the new mode means a completely new wardrobe, that you were caught unawares, we take no responsibility. For two whole years, we have been reiterating and reiterating a warning of the change to come.”

Here are some highlights of Vogue‘s predictions:

JANUARY 1, 1928:  “The Waist-Line Rises as the Skirt Descends…”

JANUARY 13, 1928:  “Skirts ….. Will Be Longer” — “Waist-Lines Will Be Higher” — “Drapery and the Flare Will Be Much in Evidence.”

APRIL 13, 1929:  “What looked young last year looks old this season — all because longer, fuller skirts and higher waist-lines have been used so perfectly that they look right, smart, and becoming.”

JUNE 22, 1929: “The hemline is travelling and so is the waistline. One is going up, and the other is coming down.”

Vogue ended, “Need we say more? Surely, Vogue readers are well prepared.”

This is what designers in Paris were showing in Spring, 1930.

Paris Couture, sketched for Delineator, May 1930. Every one has a long skirt and a natural waist.

I began with several images of patterns and couture from July 1929. Here are some dresses from July 1930, showing how completely the Twenties’ look had been “superseded” by the Thirties — in one year.

The Twenties are over. The Thirties are here. Patterns from Delineator, July 1930.

Naturally, in 1929-1930 some women thought the new long skirts made them look “old” while some thought they looked “youthful;” but that is a story for another day!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Coats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Sportswear, Underthings, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

From Cold Cream to Colds — Ads for Kleenex and Pond’s Tissues

Cold and flu season seems an appropriate time for this bit of time travel.

Kleenex ad from Delineator, April 1925. “Kleenex — The Sanitary Cold Cream Remover.” Cellucotton Products Co.

Kleenex really was a new product, first appearing in 1924: “Kleenex — The Sanitary Cold Cream Remover.”

Among the things I took for granted was that a product whose name is now synonymous with “paper handkerchiefs” was invented for that purpose. Browsing through old magazines taught me that my assumption was wrong!

Online, Mary Bellis wrote about the surprising story of Kleenex tissues here.

Top of a Kleenex tissue ad, Delineator, August 1926.

According to Mimi Matthews’ book  A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, cold cream was applied to the face in the late 19th century as a moisturizer after washing with soap and water. However, since my background is the theatre, I know that after the 1860s, actors and actresses wore oil-based “greasepaint” and needed an oil-based remover: cold cream.

Broadway singing star Helen Morgan was one of the celebrities Kleenex used in their ad campaigns. Delineator, September 1930.

Helen Morgan endorsed Kleenex tissues for removing cold cream and makeup. Detail, ad in Delineator, September 1930.

By the 1920s, many ordinary women who wore powder, rouge, and lipstick had been convinced to clean their faces with “cold cream” instead of soap and water. However, washing a used facecloth with an oily product on it wasn’t convenient. And re-using it day after day without washing it was not very hygienic.

In 1924, cellulose-based Kleenex tissues were introduced as a more sanitary way to wipe off cold cream and makeup:  soft, disposable tissues.

“Two Beauty Crimes” could be avoided by using Kleenex tissues for cold cream removal. Detail of ad in Delineator, August 1926.

Bottom of Kleenex ad, Delineator, August 1926. “One of the most sensational beauty successes in years….”

By using disposable Kleenex tissues, women  avoided the beauty crimes of 1) re-using soiled towels and rubbing” the germs back into the skin,” and 2) using harsh cloth, which “injures delicate skin fabric — causes enlarged pores, skin roughness, etc.”

(I doubt the claims that using Kleenex tissues “lightens a darkish skin several shades or more….[Or] curbs oily skin and nose conditions amazingly.”)

Like any new product, “What it is” and how to use Kleenex tissues had to be explained. Free samples were distributed.

You could still order a free seven-day sample of Kleenex tissues in January, 1927. “Kleenex ‘Kerchiefs mark the only product made solely for the removal of cold cream.”

In 1927, one of those cold cream manufacturers began selling tissues, too.

Pond’s Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream. ad from Delineator, July 1927. Vanishing cream, much lighter than cold cream,  was used as a moisturizer and base for face powder.

Ads for Pond’s cold cream began to include Pond’s Cleansing Tissues — disposable paper for removing the make-up dissolving cold cream.

Pond’s products and tissues in an ad from Delineator, August 1928.

Ads for Pond’s products often showed step by step illustrations. This one is from Delineator, November 1929.

For an excellent history of the Pond’s company, click here.

The battle of the tissues:

From an ad featuring Pond’s Cleansing Tissues, Delineator, May 1930.

Kleenex fought to keep its market by creating colored tissues:

Kleenex Tissues ad, detail; Delineator, June 1930.

Pastel tinted Kleenex tissues came in three colors, plus white:

Kleenex ad, detail; October 1929. This ad introduces the pop-up tissue box, as well as pastel colored tissues.

The tissue colors were “Sea Green,” “Canary Yellow,” and “Flesh Pink.” [This last was probably a pastel tint of orange,  rather than the color of freshly butchered beef….]

Applying tissues to a runny nose was apparently an afterthought — one discovered by users of Kleenex and suggested to the manufacturer. After taking a survey of Kleenex users in 1927, the company began mentioning this alternative use in Kleenex ads.

June 1927: Kleenex used as disposable handkerchief in ad.

According to Mary Bellis, consumers had been writing to the company which made Kleenex Tissues to say they had discovered another use for the Kleenex ‘Kerchief:  they were using them to blow their noses!

“A test was conducted in the Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Ads were run depicting the two main uses of Kleenex: either as a means to remove cold cream or as a disposable handkerchief for blowing noses. The readers were asked to respond. Results showed that 60 percent used Kleenex tissue for blowing their noses. By 1930, Kimberly-Clark had changed the way they advertised Kleenex and sales doubled proving that the customer is always right.” — Mary Bellis

This Kleenex ad from Delineator, August 1928, mentions many new uses for the product.

Kleenex for Handkerchiefs ad, November 1930. “Rapidly replacing handkerchiefs among progressive people….”

Kleenex ad, detail, Delineator, November 1930.

Disposable Kleenex handkerchiefs were advertised for use in schools and offices, to stop the spread of germs. Ad, September 1931.

Pond’s cleansing tissues may have been used the same way, but their ads emphasized cosmetic use — with endorsements from prominent society ladies, not doctors and teachers.

Pond’s Cleansing Tissues in an ad from October 1930.

Kleenex ad from November 1931. Delineator.

I’m not sure what happened to Pond’s tissues. Many other manufacturers sell tissues today. I personally prefer the Safeway brand, but when I feel a sneeze coming, I still say, “I need a Kleenex!”

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

Sophisticated Schoolgirls, 1930

Two schoolgirls wearing Butterick patterns 3117 and 3125, Delineator, March 1930.

These suits are for girls 8 to 15. Today the girls illustrated might be in middle-school — or starting high school — but their clothes could have been worn to the office in the late 1920’s. Yes, it is 1930, so they are actually a bit behind the fashion trend to longer skirts and natural waists. Nevertheless….

A closer view of Butterick 3117 and 3125. 1930.

Well, the button-on skirt would not be worn by a grown-up (very little boys did wear button-on pants.)

But the “tennis dress” frock with its diagonal closing is pretty sophisticated.

Alternate views of 3117 and 3125. Under their jackets, they are sleeveless.

More patterns for girls ages 8 to 15. Delineator, page 36, February 1930.

Coordinated coats and dresses — an ensemble — were chic womens’ wear.

Butterick 3083 and 3127, Delineator, March 1930.

Left, 3083 has the latest cape sleeve, and 3127 has the bound and scalloped front with buttons, also a 1930 adult fashion.

1929 and 1930 marked a fad for very suntanned faces.

It’s hard to imagine eight to thirteen-year old girls wearing these dresses and suits to school today, but the 1930’s were an era when children had to grow up fast.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Sportswear

Proportions: Dresses from January 1926 and 1927

Fashions for teens and small women, January 1926. Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, bottom of page 27.

One year later, young women were wearing their dresses much shorter, and fashions looked more youthful because of a subtle change in proportions.

Day wear for teens (15 to 20) and small women, January 1927. Butterick patterns in Delineator, page 24. I see knees.

When looking at designs from 1926, we need to make allowance for the exaggerated length of the 1926 fashion [illustration] figure.

Here’s the original 1926 image again — tiny heads on very long bodies:

Fashions for teens and small women, January 1926.

To make a point, I altered this image rather crudely to show that the biggest change from 1926 illustrations to 1927 illustrations is in the torso length:

The proportions of the 1926 dresses have been altered near the waist in this image, not at the hem. I just cut and pasted the lower part of the 1926 dresses higher on the body.

Left, original illustration; right, with the lower half of the dress moved higher on the torso. The result is also a more realistic human figure.

1920’s dress patterns had to be altered at the waist, not just at the hem, to make the proportions look “right” — and to match the later 1920’s styles. (Click here for alteration advice from December 1926.)

"We pinned half of the pattern together and put it on . . ."The fact that many late Twenties’ dresses had a horizontal seam at the mid-hip must have made it much easier to restyle 1926 dresses into 1927 dresses!

Conjecture: A thrifty woman could use the bottom of a 1926 dress as the skirt of a 1927 dress:

The skirt portion of a 1926 dress might be cut off below the waist and sewed to a shorter bodice to become the skirt of a shorter 1927 outfit….

Or she might shorten the dress three or four inches at the 1920’s dropped waist level and cover the resulting seam with a belt….

This dress from January 1927 was altered at the waist while still in the pattern stage, but that belt could also cover a dress alteration….

I suspect that, when skirts got shorter in 1927, many “little dressmakers” must have been busy doing simple alterations like these.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns

Vintage Photos for the Holidays

A little girl communicates with her “Paw Pa” through an ear trumpet. Family photo.

“Can you hear me now?”

It’s time for my annual reminder to keep a box of unidentified family photos and an acid-free pen or a pencil at hand for the quiet moments at family gatherings.

Gertrude, Mack, and Nina Holt with their mother “on her 70th birthday” (1938.) They lived in Pulaski, Tennessee, and sent this to their brother Leonard, in the Army in San Francisco. “I sure do wish Leonard was on here and then the 4 children and mother could all be together.”

Any time you gather with your eldest relatives and friends is a good time to chat about the past. Family stories need to be passed down. (Bonus: you won’t have to talk politics….)

If you think you’ve heard all the stories before, consider that now that you are fully adult, seniors may be willing to tell you things they wouldn’t speak of when you were a child:  failed marriages, lost loves, siblings who died young or were never mentioned for some other reason. (I certainly learned some surprising things when I asked as a adult!) Perhaps there is a terrific story behind one of those faces. Besides, sometimes the stories are funny — and just waiting to be told when the time is right.

Today’s photos come from a side of my family I never knew.  My aunt Dorothy’s husband, Leonard H. Holt, died suddenly a short time before I was born.

My uncle Leonard Holt, serving in World War II.

Dorothy, Holt, and Dorothy’s mother. Redwood City, CA, about 1919.

Dorothy is dressed in hiking clothes, and Holt is wearing “civvies” although he served at nearby Camp Fremont, an Army training camp during the First World War.

L. H. Holt standing in front of a Southern Pacific Railway building in San Francisco. Picture dated 1923.

Dorothy did tell me that Holt was very particular about his clothes, and had his army uniforms tailored to fit well. Look at his elegant shoes! After Dorothy died, I found some of Holt’s silk shirts (with white French cuffs and made for a detachable collar) stored in the cedar chest that once held her wedding linens — a “hope chest” as unmarried girls called them. Holt’s shirts were beautiful, in soft pastel colors or stripes that epitomized the Arrow Shirt man’s look.

I think they were married about 1925. In 1930, Holt was still in the Army, and the couple lived on the Presidio, a beautiful Army base in San Francisco.

Dorothy and Holt vacationing in the snow, early 1930s.

In spite of war-time travel restrictions, Holt’s nephew (?) Jody Holt (serving in an Army band at the time) was visited by his sweetheart “Miss Meek” and his mother (?) Sally Holt, in San Francisco. 1945.

Holt died of a heart attack not long after this happy family visit.

Dorothy was so grief-stricken that she had a sort of breakdown, and didn’t speak of him very often, but she kept up a correspondence with his large family, including the Garners (his mother’s family) in Tennessee. In 1975, someone sent her a photo of the old family home on the farm:

“The little old home on the farm, Pulaski, Tenn, Oct. 1975. Mack Holt’s Farm.”

Mack was still alive, and his new home was much larger.

Holt’s brother Mack apparently kept the old family farm, maintaining the tiny old farmhouse, and lived in a newer, larger house — a family success story. There is great information on the back of the photo, including “Mack J. Holt, Murry Drive” & “Leonard’s brother.”

The great thing about photos exchanged by mail is that they are often labeled or signed, including long notes on the back  — a treasure for genealogists.

Many of these children are Leonard and Dorothy’s nieces and nephews. The back of the picture is full of information.

The back of a photo of many Holt family children. It tells us that Holt’s sister Nina had five children, and that his sister Gertrude had children (one called Hickie) and grandchildren. I don’t know who Estelle was, but that’s a trail to follow.

This photo gave me the names of Nina and Gertrude’s husbands: (Oddly, there’s another Mahlon in the family, her uncle….)

“Nina + Howard” and “Gertrude + Mahlon”

This photo is so old that is has cracked, but luckily the faces and their names are intact: “Leonard’ s Father The Holt Boys John & Mahlon Holt.” JH is on the right.

Unfortunately,  not all the pictures mailed from Tennessee are labeled.

All I know about this couple is that they were photographed in Pulaski. Is this the same mustached man who appears far right in the large group photo below?

Perhaps there are folks in Pulaski, Tennessee, who will recognize their ancestors in this large, undated picture. (It’s 7.5 x 9″) I’d be happy to send it to someone who’d treasure it.

Studio photograph of the Holt family of Pulaski, Tennessee. There are no names on the back, but I think I recognize John Holt, standing 2nd from right, from another photograph. (He died in 1904.) I believe one of the young boys is Leonard H. Holt.

The woman seated center in this photograph appears to be wearing a mourning hat and black veil.

Detail of woman in widow’s cap.

Could the man seated in front, with a large mustache, possibly be this mystery man, photographed with both Holt and Dorothy, probably in the 1920s?

Unknown man with very large mustache, standing with Leonard H. Holt, probably at the Presidio in San Francisco, probably 1920s.

Mustached mystery man with Dorothy Barton Holt, probably at the Presidio in San Francisco, and, judging from her clothing, in the 1920s.

I believe this man was a visiting relative — there are many pictures of him. I could easily believe he’s from Tennessee….

[For any genealogist interested in the large group picture — or in any of these people, I believe these are relatives of Leonard H. Holt, born in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee on February 2, 1893 or (probably) 1894. His parents were John Richard Holt (1868-1904) and Metta Ann Garner (1868-1939).  Their other children included Gertrude “Mamie” Holt (1893-1986), Katrina “Nina” Holt (1897 – ?), and McCallum “Mack” Holt (1900-?) My Uncle Holt (his wife never spoke of him by any other name) died of a heart attack while serving in California in 1945. At the time of his death, according to his wife, he held the rank of captain. They were childless. I think he was a Freemason, and Dorothy belonged to the Eastern Star — for those who can search such records. I have many photos of Holt family relatives, and no one to give them to.] You can contact me through witness2fashion@gmail.com

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Musings, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Winter Underwear, 1880s to 1920s

Detail from and ad for Munsingwear knit undergarments, Delineator,  September, 1927.

Frau Buttonbox asked what women wore under those 1920’s dresses in the winter — and how they protected their dresses from sweat and body oils. I have some ads to share!

Just for vocabulary, in the U.S., a one piece knit suit like this was called a “union suit” (proper name) or “long johns” (common name.)

This wool union suit was recommended by dress-reformer Annie Jenness-Miller in 1888.

In 1880’s England, Dr. Jaeger’s theory that wearing wool next to the skin (instead of plant fibers like linen or cotton) was good for health was championed by dress reformers and George Bernard Shaw.

My uncle Bert (like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers”) came from a generation (b. 1899) that believed that a hot bath would “open your pores” to admit disease, so he wore long johns from September to March. My stepmother insisted that he wash them (and himself) from time to time if he wanted to eat dinner with us. Whew!

Women’s union suit from Sears catalog, Fall 1918.
By 1916, skirts were getting shorter, but lace-up boots would have hidden the legs of this underwear. Notice the short sleeves.

Ladies’ shoes from Sears catalog, 1918.

Wool, needed for army uniforms, was hard to get in the U.S. in 1917-1918. Note the overlapping “open” back.

The problem with fashionable clothing is that it is usually the opposite of practical clothing — so women who want to be fashionable usually have to sacrifice some comfort — and common sense.

By the mid-1920s, skirts were reaching the knee, and bare arms were expected with evening dresses and dinner dresses. Nevertheless, many dining rooms (even in mansions) were unheated.

Ad for Forest Mills long underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The union suit on the left could be worn under day dresses. These models look like teens.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/1925-oct-p-27-500-dpi-whole-color-page.jpg?w=398&h=500

Winter clothes for teens and small women, October 1925. Delineator.

Under evening dress, your torso could be warm, but your arms had to be bare.

Combed cotton knit underwear from Sears, 1927 catalog. You could wear a silk or rayon slip over these, under your dress.

Butterick 5755, 5714, 5713, Delineator, January 1925, page 29.

Evening dresses for teens, January 1925.

“It s no longer necessary to shiver through the long winter months in order to be stylishly dressed.”

“Keep your body warm.” Ad for Forest Mills knit underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The ad doesn’t state fiber content, but knits made for a smooth, “no bumps” fit.

“Underwear that will not only absorb perspiration, but will keep your body from being chilled.”

The Forest Mills underwear shown in the photograph is not much different in style from silk underwear (slips, camisole and bloomers) sold by Sears, but knit underwear fit more smoothly.

Silk underwear from Sears catalog, Fall 1927. Silk or rayon bloomers came to just above the knee.

Carter’s, a company that made rayon knit underwear, ran a whole series of ads that showed couture fashions next to pictures of models (in the same poses) wearing Carter’s underwear. I don’t now how warm it was, but it did fit very closely.

Detail of an ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear, Delineator, November 1926. Premet and Poiret were famous Paris Couturiers. That’s a Poiret model above.

Detail of 1927 ad for Carter’s underwear. The model wears Poiret; at right she poses in her Carter’s underwear.

“Poiret’s black and gold gown” and silk cape, pictured in an ad for Carter’s underwear, November 1927. Poiret was very influential in the 1910’s, but falling out of favor by the late 1920’s.

Detail from an ad for Carter’s knit underwear, November 1927. Smooth, one-piece fit.

Right, back view of a one-piece union suit; left, a camisole “vest” and bloomers. Carter’s rayon knit undergarments, ad from 1926.

Premet’s “Vampire” dress, with Carter’s combination underwear to go under it. April, 1928. That dress would have permitted a much warmer undergarment.

The gold and white brocade hostess gown is by Drecoll; the underwear is Carter’s “vest and bloomer” of rayon knit. Ad from May 1927. The House of Worth also participated in this ad campaign.

As to keeping clothes free of perspiration stains and odor, deodorants were available (and ruined the armpits of many a vintage garment….) A solution still used in theatrical costumes, and by those allergic to certain chemicals, is the dress shield.

1910 ad for Kleinert’s dress shields. Delineator.

Ad for OMO dress shields, a rival to Kleinert’s. March 1910, Delineator.

Dress shields were usually safety pinned or basted into place in the armholes of a dress or jacket.

1920 Kleinert’s dress shield ad. You can see that this shield is curved at the top to follow the shape of the bottom of the armhole; it folds over the underarm seam, extending into the dress and into the sleeve.

Costumers sew in snaps so the shields can be changed and washed.  Some women preferred to wear a bra or guimpe-like washable garment which included the shields.

Top of a Kleinert’s dress shield ad, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

The Kleinert’s website (the company is still in business) explains:

“Before The Advent Of Deodorants & Antiperspirants The Dress Shield Was The Way To Protect Your Garments From Sweat & Odor. In 1869 Kleinert’s Invented the Dress & Garment Shield Category Which Is Still In Use Today Protecting Our Clothes & Saving Us From Embarrassing Situations Due To Sweat Stains & Odors. Trust Kleinert’s Quality & History To Keep You Dry Throughout The Day. Choose Below From Our Selection Of Fine Dress Shields.” Kleinerts.com

The shields come in different shapes for differently cut armholes. Now you can get disposable ones — and in a costume emergency I have cut self-adhesive pantiliners to stick in the underarms of a costume.

Bottom of Kleinert’s dress shield ad from March 1937, WHC.

I’ve mentioned this before: actors sweat, and stage actors have to wear their costume(s) for eight performances per week. It’s not good for a wool suit to be dry-cleaned every week; underwear protects the costume, but a changeable shield under each arm keeps the suit from getting wet at all. Undershirts and shirts, etc., are laundered daily — in fact, Equity actors have duplicates supplied so they don’t ever have to put on a shirt that is still damp from the matinee performance. (Ditto for all other items that touch the skin.)

Full page, full-color Kleinert’s ad, March 1924. Delineator.

Unsexy as a dress shield may be, it’s preferable to ruining a $2000 dress or destroying it by too-frequent dry cleaning. Bonus: you can raise your arms and never show a sweat ring.

Camisole and bloomers from Munsingwear ad, September 1927, Delineator.

P.S. [Edited 1/6/2019] Liza D at BVD sent a photo of the Kleinert’s dress shields she found in a vintage garment (Thanks, Liza!) :

Liza D found these used dress shields in a vintage garment. Those ugly stains would have been on the blouse if the woman who wore it hadn’t used these in the underarms. Click here for Liza’s post about it.

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Designer Fashions, February 1928

French designer sportswear, Delineator, February 1928. Illustration by Leslie Saalburg. From left, Chanel, Lelong, Vionnet. The Vionnet is trimmed with applique.

Delineator ran regular features on the latest Paris collections, often sketched by [Pierre] Soulié or Leslie Saalburg. [“Djersakasha is a cashmere jersey that could be woven as a tube, eliminating the need for seams.”]

The February 1928 issue also showed photographs of designer fashions that could be purchased in New York. [A needed reality check after all those 1920s’ fashion illustrations!]

The coat is by Frances Clyne, a top-level dress shop; the evening gowns are couture designed by Louiseboulanger and Chanel. Delineator, February 1928.

The “flesh color” Louiseboulanger gown could be purchased (and custom fitted, of course) from Frances Clyne. The Chanel could be bought at Lord & Taylor. (Note: Chanel was already selling costume jewelry in 1928.)

I can never get used to the “draggle-tail” look of these evening gowns under a coat, but this 1928 photo is proof: “This is the sort of dress for which the coat at left was created.”

This corduroy coat — very casual — is by Patou [Couture corduroy…!]

Corduroy sports coat by French couturier Jean Patou; illustrated in Delineator, February 1928.

“Patou makes a sports coat notable by such details as pale emerald green corduroy, the slot seams, the yoke, the patch pockets, the steel buckled belt, and a glistening black patent leather flower on the left lapel.” It’s cut almost like a shirt. I wonder:  did the black patent leather flower inspire Chanel, or was it the other way around?

This dress by Vionnet is also inspiring. [P.S. I wore dresses with that standing collar in the 1960s. Her influence just goes on.]

Black crepe satin dress with raglan sleeves by Madeleine Vionnet, illustrated in Delineator, February 1928. The hat was designed by Suzanne Talbot.

Thanks to a lecture by Sandra Ericson, I know that the tucks in the bodice fabric would have been done on the straight of grain, and the bodice pattern would then have been placed on the fabric with the center front and back aligned with the bias. Vionnet sometimes used fabrics so wide that they had to be custom woven. We could imitate this bodice by hiding a seam under one of the tucks, if necessary. The original was in crepe satin, but I can imagine it inspiring a modern top with sheer black sleeves….

This white satin evening dress from Lanvin is really typical 1920’s style, with its beaded hip band and simple lines. A cape was often seen on twenties’ patterns, but, being optional, many dresses were made without the cape.

Delineator sketch of a couture gown by Lanvin, Paris, February 1928.

“Lanvin puts a swinging cape on this white satin frock, since the back is so important a part of a dress for dancing. The waistline is banded with feathery embroidery in small silver and white pearl beads.” That center panel would also be lovely for dancing, and, like the Chanel gown, it seems to have a “paste” jewel as an accent. A stack of bangle bracelets was also a chic Twenties’ touch.

The long-established House of Paquin produced this evening gown:

The V-neck on the back of this turquoise couture gown by Paquin is echoed in the hip band and scalloped hemline. The hip band tied in front. Photo from Delineator, February 1928.

[I think a “flesh” or “cafe au lait” lace inset (or slip) can be seen in the low neckline opening.] This couture original was imported by Hattie Carnegie‘s New York store.

According to Lizzie Bramlett, writing at the Vintage Fashion Guild Fashion History site, customers could buy a Paris original from Hattie Carnegie, or buy one of her copies, made in New York.

For sporty, daytime wear, she sold this four-piece tweed wool suit, coat, and pullover outfit designed by Molyneux.

A four-piece couture wool ensemble designed by Molyneux and available from Hattie Carnegie in New York; Delineator, February 1928.

In 1928, “dresses are short for sports.”

Here is a list of other fashion trends, including colors, which appeared on the same page as the Molyneux ensemble and the Paquin gown:

Fashion trends as reported in Delineator magazine, February 1928, page 31.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Capes, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs