Category Archives: 1920s-1930s

1929 and 1930 Side by Side

Two very similar suit patterns illustrate the big change in fashion between late 1929 and 1930. Both images from Delineator magazines.

I was struck by the similarity — and the difference — between these two Butterick patterns, issued in 1929 and 1930. Both have bolero jackets, which stop above the “waist” of the suit. Both have blouses with a line of buttons down the front, prim collars, deep cuffs, and are accented with frills. Both have a girdle around the hips. Both are shown in print fabrics. Both are worn with cloche hats.

But…. the return to the natural waist has completely changed the proportions that look “right.”

1929 bolero suit with dropped waist: Butterick 2576, Delineator, April 1929.

1930 bolero suit with natural waist: Butterick 3378; Delineator, August 1930.

Side by side again:

Delineator published these illustrations less than a year and a half apart.

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, Dating Butterick Patterns, Hats

Boleros 1930-1931, Part 2

Clothes for college girls, Delineator, September 1930. Center is bolero suit 3412.

In Part 1, I mentioned the 1930 bolero as an option for older women who were not yet completely comfortable with the higher waist and figure-revealing new Thirties’ fashions. However, the bolero jacket (or, in some cases, a dress that gave the illusion of a bolero) was also worn by young women. Not to mention pajamas!

Hostess pajamas with a bolero top — and similar pjs for “little sister” were featured in the Christmas suggestions; Delineator, December 1930.

A “youthful” bolero suit (3562) and an interestingly tucked wrap dress (3548) from Delineator, December 1930.

These patterns came in the full range of normal sizes: ages 14 to 18 (teens and small women) and 32 to 44 inch bust measurement. “Boleros continue, for smart women simply won’t give them up.”

A short, removable bolero is featured in this suit from July, 1930. Butterick 3323.

Another bolero look from July 1930, Butterick 3315 has a false bolero “effect” in front, actually part of the dress.

Left, Butterick 3209 has a long, 1920s’ cardigan jacket, but Butterick 3242, right, has a bolero that reaches just below the waist. The two-tone bodice top creates a long line and draws attention upwards to the face — always a good idea for theatre/opera costumes.

Three different dressy approaches to the jacket ensemble, from May 1930. Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. The bolero tied at the waist (left) appeared in evening ensembles in 1931.

Butterick 3323 has a formal afternoon look to me, but the description suggests that the bolero jacket is considered less formal than the short-sleeved dress beneath. May 1930.

Butterick 3229 is a more formal, lace ensemble, “equally smart at tea or dinner.” The jacket has a sleeveless dress under it. 1930.

A year later, boleros also appeared with more casual wear.

Some of these are cotton day dresses; the two at right have bolero jackets. May, 1931.

Butterick 3784 (left) is a bolero jacket and skirt pattern, with separate blouse. At right, dress 3759 is shown in paisley print with a false bolero jacket. Delineator, April 1931.

Confused? Here are the back views of the real bolero (suit with blouse) and the false bolero (3759, right.)

Even more casual, Butterick 4229 is described as a house dress with removable bolero.

Three house dresses — one with a removable bolero — Butterick 4229. Delineator, December 1931.

Next: Part 3. The bolero used with evening wear.

Part 4: More Boleros from the 1930s. (They kept appearing!)

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s

Bolero Jackets 1930-1931, Part 1

This nearly-timeless jacket came with many pattern variations.

The 1920’s bolero was not always above the waist in length, [click here to see several examples] and this pattern is from the early Thirties.

Alternate views of Butterick bolero pattern 3224. Fronts could be curved or squared (see dotted lines,) open or closed with a bow. Delineator, May 1930.

Delineator, May, 1930, p. 113.

I was initially struck by how modern this “little jacket” looks. If I found it in a thrift store, I would have guessed it was much more recent than 1930. I can imagine it worn with skinny jeans or a knit dress.

Butterick’s Delineator magazine showed many bolero jackets during the transition from low-waisted Twenties’ to natural-waisted Thirties’ dresses. Oddly, the bolero was recommended as a way to camouflage the natural waist for women who felt insecure about showing their figures.

Butterick 3413, September 1930.  “The Reason for Boleros” was that they distracted from the new waist line.

“Designed for [ages] 4 to 18 and for 32 to 44 [inch bust.]” Frankly, any woman whose waist looked like that illustration was probably not too worried about it. However, the design does avoid having a belt at all.

“Boleros and Blousing Are a Great Help.” Boleros were recommended for women self-conscious about the new, defined waist. Delineator, September 1930, p. 104.

Butterick 3409, Delineator, Sept. 1930, p. 105. “The shaped bolero makes it an easy frock to wear….”

Butterick 3435 has a false bolero effect, with the bolero in the back only.

Butterick 3174 (at left) has a bolero over a sleeveless dress, while 3177 (at right) has a matching jacket. Delineator, April 1930.

“The bolero makes the normal waistkine possible for any figure, for it conceals that difficult line at the back. [I didn’t expect that reason!] This bolero is detachable….”

Left, evening dress 3020 has a sheer bolero over a simple princess-line dress; far right, 3074 has a strip of fabric pretending to be a bolero. Delineator, February, 1930.

“Peplums and Boleros Give Youthful Lines.” Butterick 3020 has a “tied, sleeveless bolero” that falls far below the waist in back. Butterick 3074’s “corsage flares partially concealing the narrow belt in front make the high waist-line  more wearable.”

Another “bolero effect:” Butterick 3529 is recommended for a sewing beginner! “The bolero effect is obtained by a stitched-on band” decorating an otherwise simple dress.

Another “not-really-a-bolero-jacket” is part of Butterick dress 3391; “Bolero fronts, bloused back.” Delineator, September 1930, p. 31.

The dress below, with a short bolero, was featured in the same issue of Delineator as the longer, ruffled bolero at the top of this blog post.

Butterick 3006 appears to have a separate, short bolero in front, which may or may not dip below the (new, high) waistline in back. Delineator, January 1930, page 29. The sleeves of the bolero “flare in three-quarter length over those of the frock itself.”

The bolero — real or suggested –remained in fashion through 1931 — more about that later.

MunsingWear pajama ad, Delineator, 1931. The One Piece Bolero Pajama.

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Coats, Nightclothes and Robes

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