Category Archives: evening and afternoon clothes

A Wedding Party in the 1920s

The bride and groom sit informally on the grass in front of a home, surrounded by a group of young men and women in late-1920’s clothing. (It does look like the bride was trying to avoid grass stains on her light dress.)

While sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge collection of photos, I found these charming pictures of an informal wedding in the nineteen twenties. The skirt lengths suggest 1927-28 to me.

Happy faces (for the most part) and real-people hairstyles and clothing from the late 1920s. Left side of group photo. The men’s hair looks natural, not slick or oily.

More wedding guests, this time from the right side of the photo.

Although my aunt knew a great many women called “Dot,” — and she herself was called Dot — I haven’t been able to match “Dot the Bride” to any other photos, so I can’t find her last name, or date her wedding exactly.

Dot Richardson and Dot Robinson, on an office outing to Monte Rio, California, circa 1921.

Dot was the usual nickname for women called Dorothy.

There’s a good chance that like my aunt, the bride or her groom and most of the wedding guests worked at the Southern Pacific Railroad Headquarters in San Francisco. They all seem to be in their twenties or thirties.

Dot and her husband. I love his pocket square. Like the bride, many of the female guests are wearing their Marcelle-waved hair loose, longish, and full. Dot wears dark lipstick, too.

The bride and groom have a sense of humor, judging by the toy bulldog on a leash in the foreground.

Her pale, short dress, worn with almost opaque white silk stockings, has a lace “bolero” jacket and lace flounces. Her feet are swollen; brides don’t get to sit down much at weddings. [When their feet hurt, people used to say, “My dogs are barking.”]

Here the newlyweds pose with the honeymoon car, decorated with a “Just Married” sign and several big, tin cans to make noise as they drive away.

Their friends have tied several cans tied to the bumper to ensure that everyone notices the “Just Married” sign on newlyweds car as it clatters down the road.

Her huge corsage must mean “Maid of Honor.” She wears a light coat over a knee-baring print silk dress; big bows trim her shoes. As sometimes happens with informal weddings, not everyone got the “not too casual” message. (Yes, I mean you, Mister Sweater and No Necktie.) His boutonniere says he’s part of the wedding party.

Even this guest caught in the background wears a dress with a graceful, curving pleated flounce:

I wish we could see more of this dress on a Bette Midler look-alike….

Whether she’s gaining a son or a daughter, this mother looks happy.

The mother of the bride (or groom) looks very up-to-date in her short dress, worn with dark stockings and low shoes. The bride’s dress appears to be waistless, possibly a princess style with a bow and drape at her left side.

The white-haired lady’s dress has a V-shaped lace insert in the bodice, and a two-tiered skirt that just covers her knees. She hasn’t bobbed her hair, however.

I hope this bunch of pleasant-looking young people had very happy lives, and many equally pleasant celebrations.

It’s easy to imagine enjoying their company.



Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, Dresses, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Makeup & Lipstick, Menswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Wedding Clothes

Women’s Fashions for February, 1927

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1927, page 22. Illustrations by M. Lages.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1927, page 25.

These patterns for spring of 1927 show quite a variety of looks, from a graded-color “compose” dress to peasant-look embroidery. There is a bolero dress, plus two shirred dresses, and a really striking coat — simple in style, but dramatic when made in a jazzy fabric.

Butterick’s “informal” coat 1254 looks fabulous in this material. Note the tie belt, which seems to run under the pocket.

The dresses on these pages are very different, but all twelve illustrations show variations on one (rather sloppy) hat style.

Butterick 1300, 1264, and 1270, Delineator, February 1927, p. 22. 1264 has the bolero look — but the bolero only hangs loose in back.

The sheer Georgette vestee — or dickey– is detachable. The bodice tabs extend into belt carriers in back.

Butterick 1270 is a “frock that looks like a coat.” I could use a bit more construction information on that one….

Pages 23 and 24 showed four more outfits, including this graded dress and a dress-and-jacket combination.

Butterick graded-color dress 1282 is monogrammed, a style attributed to Patou, and suggests a jacket — an illusion. Dress 1298 combines with a real jacket, Butterick 1229, to create a suit. Delineator, Feb. 1927, page 23

As is often the case, the back of the outfit is much plainer than the front.

Butterick dresses 1278 and 1253, Delineator, Feb. 1927, p. 24. No. 1278 has a dark band on the skirt and at the bottom of the sleeves. (The dress at the right seems to me to be a bit of a hodge-podge….)

The following fashions are from page 25:

A woman in a shirred dress (Butterick 1238) leads a woman in a tiered, graded-color dress (Butterick 1280.) Delineator, February 1927, page 25. No. 1238 could be made sleeveless for evening, and was available in large sizes.

Details of Butterick 1238 and 1280. No. 1238 is shirred in a semicircular pattern at the closure. The sleeves and belt of No. 1280 repeat the color progression of the skirt tiers.

Butterick 1268 has a lighter yoke and sleeves, and darker banding. Butterick 1276 has sheer, embroidered “peasant” sleeves. Delineator, Feb. 1927, p. 25.

What to wear under these clothes? A light, boneless corselet like this one minimized the wearer’s curves:

A light foundation garment made by Gossard. Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1927.

And don’t forget to dye your stockings to match your dress….

Ad for Putnam Dyes, Delineator, February 1927, p. 121.


1 Comment

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Corselettes, evening and afternoon clothes, Foundation Garments, Hats, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Palm Beach Resort Wear by Lelong, January 1928

Two couture tennis dresses by Lucien Lelong, January 1928. Imagine the background in green, and the coat on the right in tucked scarlet crepella. Wow.

Lelong discusses color in the first part of this article on resort wear for America’s brighter sunlight. Delineator, top of page 32, January 1928. It’s a pity that the Delineator ran this article in black and white!

Couturier Lucien Lelong explained to the Delineator magazine how his resort wear for Palm Beach differed from the colors he would have used for French clients.

Colors for Palm Beach: “vied with the parrot and the bougainvillea flower” because the “sub-tropical sunshine … subdues the strongest colors.”

For evening he suggested lighter shades:  greens, grays, coral, pink, amber, ivory, and black and white.

Two evening gowns by Lelong, January 1928. Left, black with rhinestone bands; right, mauve pink chiffon.

His bathing costumes for Palm Beach are colorful in greens and blues:

Left, Lelong uses “green jersey banded with darker green and worn under a sponge cloth coat of string beige.” Right, “blue and white printed crepe de Chine with chartreuse bands and beach coat.”  Both have “tunic tops and shorts.” January, 1928.

For daytime, Lelong’s dress shows the graded colors popular in 1927-28. Costumes using blocks of colors were called “compose” [with an accent aigu on the e : kom-poh-zay.]

Left: Lelong’s blue two-piece sports frock with bands of graded colors. Right, a three piece ensemble in two shades of blue. January 1928 resort wear.

Let’s not forget those sleeveless tennis frocks by this extraordinary French designer:

Two sleeveless and collarless tennis frocks, plus a scarlet coat of tucked crepella. Lelong resort collection, January 1928. Delineator. Illustration by Muriel Lages.

“Design grows more and more simple in appearance, tho [sic] inner cuts are complicated. And of course, all these models, as is usual with me, induce slenderness in the appearance of their wearers. That sums it up.”– Lucien Lelong on his resort collection, in Delineator, January 1928.

When I called Lelong “extraordinary,” I wasn’t exaggerating. As head of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture during the German Occupation of Paris, Lelong managed to thwart the Germans’ plan to move the center of couture to Berlin. You can read “The Man Who Saved Paris” by clicking here.

Further reading:  The Encyclopedia of Fashion has a bibliography of books about Lelong. Click here.




Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bathing Suits, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

Bare Shoulders, December 1933

Butterick 5437, December 1933. Delineator.

Back in the nineteen nineties Donna Karan realized that, as women age, some become reluctant to bare their necks, or their upper arms, or their chests. Yet, for women, formal evening dress usually requires some bare skin. Karan cleverly exposed the shoulders! Shoulders rarely get wrinkled or flabby, and their skin never sags.

Click here for the “cold shoulders” dress as worn by then First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1993. Versions were also worn by Barbra Streisand and Liza Minelli.

Those Karan bare shoulders are back now: click here.  In 2017 they have worked their way into Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and even children’s clothing. But Donna Karan wasn’t the first to show bare shoulders, by sixty — or ninety — years.

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60. [“Cold shoulders” is not the 1930’s description.]

Film designer Howard Greer created a bare-shouldered dress for Katherine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, 1933.

Katharine Hepburn’s bare-shouldered dress, designed by Howard Greer for the film Christopher Strong, was available as a Butterick “starred” pattern in May, 1933. Delineator.

Butterick 5156 was a faithful copy of this 1933 movie costume.

In the 1930’s, patterns that had bare shoulders — or slit sleeves that revealed bare upper arms — were available. Butterick 5437 and Butterick 4944.

Right, Butterick evening dress pattern 5530. On the left, Butterick 5518. From 1934; Delineator.

From 1935, this gown for a young woman echoes the evening gowns of an earlier era.

Butterick 6061 from February 1935.  The text says,”Borrowed from another century, the robe de style is today’s evening news.”

However, the bodice evokes this Edwardian evening style:

Evening gown from the House of Worth, 1906-1908. Metropolitan Museum Collection.

The fitted hips of  the 1935 version bears no resemblance to the “robe de style” popularized by Jeanne Lanvin in the 1920’s. [Fashion writing…. as imprecise in 1935 as it is today.]

Robe de Style, Jeanne Lanvin, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It’s hard to see any resemblance between this gown and Butterick 6061.

The bare shoulders of Butterick 6061 can be seen in 2017: click here.

More about this 1933 nightie:

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60.

The same article, about lingerie, showed a rather extreme velvet negligee:

Butterick negligee pattern 5413, December 1933. Delineator. [The play, which opened in 1932, as described in The Harvard Crimson as “one long bedroom scene.”]

It’s more fun than getting pajamas for Christmas.

Although I wouldn’t say no to these:

Lounging pajamas from 1933. Butterick 5410. [And, yes, in the 1960’s my college dorm still turned off the heat late at night.]



Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns from the movies

Shoe Wardrobe, December 1927

Opera contralto Kathleen Howard, shown with some of the shoes that make up her wardrobe. Delineator, December 1927, p. 25.

In “The What and Why of My Shoe Wardrobe,” opera singer (and multi-talented actor/writer) Kathleen Howard shared her thoughts about the shoes and slippers she found necessary for private and public life. (She owned a lot more than nine pairs of shoes!)

Howard’s shoes illustrated by Dynevor Rhys. December 1927.

The illustration was also noteworthy for the bracelets she is shown wearing:

Text describing nine pairs of shoes, plus a view of Howard’s stacked bracelets. December 1929.

This is the 1920’s shoe I found most amazing:

“White satin sandal with strass (rhinestones) and seed pearls,” by Aubert. December, 1927.

Fashion advice from Kathleen Howard, Delineator, December 1927.

Kathleen Howard’s other shoes, from top left:

Bedroom slipper (mule) from Dec. 1927. “Rose and silver brocade mule with silver heel and rose ostrich [feathers.]”

The laughing mask shoe at lower right ( T ) was attributed to Netch et Bernard by Delineator in October, 1928. Shoe R is a mule with wooden sole, like “sabot” mules by Perugia as described by Howard.

Click here to see Perugia mask shoes and other gorgeous Twenties’ shoes.

Some of Howard’s other “slippers” are pictured later.

White kid sandal, Dec. 1927. “A white kid sandal with yellow bands, heel, and tie ribbons” by Greco. (The original images were too small to enlarge well. The bands and heel are yellow lizard. )

“To wear with white clothes in the south there are oxfords of white lizard, the cleanest looking-things imaginable. Lizard has a peculiar neatness about it, caused, I suppose, by the tiny pattern of the poor little beast’s skin, which makes it most appealing. To wear with Southern clothes, Greco shows sandals in white kid trimmed with yellow or blue.” — Kathleen Howard

Slipper, 1927. “A scarlet, green, blue, or brown morocco boudoir slipper….” ” To wear with my house pajamas in the evening, … comforts for my tired extremities.”

Opera pump, 1927. “A black patent leather opera pump with cut-steel buckle.” “No shoe wardrobe is complete without patent leather so-called opera pumps.”

Slipper in dark blue kid, 1927. “Ducerf-Scavini slipper in dark blue kid with suede trimming and an enamel buckle.”

Patent leather, 1927. Two-strap “Ducerf-Scavini shoe of black perforated patent leather.”

Boudoir slipper, 1927. “Hellstern‘s hyacinth and silver brocade slipper with silver trimming and diamond and sapphire buckle.” “A pretty pair of brocade… to go with my prettiest negligee.”

I find the word” slipper” confusing. Howard says she wears some of these high-heeled slippers with her negligee, so they are bedroom/boudoir slippers. But perhaps “slipper” also refers to fabric dancing shoes, like this blue satin sandal with gold kid trim, or that jewelled, ankle strap, white satin shoe?

“A dark blue satin sandal with gold kid” trimming, by Greco. December, 1927.

Satin shoe, 1927. “White satin sandal with strass (rhinestones) and seed pearls,” by Aubert.

Not pictured were Ms. Howard’s golf shoes. It looks like she did not treat herself to that pair of alligator golf shoes by Perugia:

Wow, What a Woman!

In 1928, as her singing career wound down, Kathleen Howard (b. 1884?) started working as a fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar; she also wrote for the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies’ Home Journal. (In 1918 she had written Confessions of an Opera Singer.) Several years after this 1927 Delineator article was published, Howard began another new career in the movies, most notably as a brilliant foil for W. C. Fields in several comedies, including It’s a Gift (1934) and Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935.) has written a delightful appreciation of the versatile Ms. Howard. Click here to read it.


1 Comment

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Shoes, Vintage Accessories

Twenties’ Styles for Burn-Out Velvet

Vintage Twenties’ dress in champagne-colored silk velvet chiffon (burn-out velvet.) Private collection.

Some people call this “cut velvet“; it’s also called “burn-out,” “voided,”or “devoure” (with an accent aigue on the final e: dev’-00r-ay.)  The places where there is no velvet pile can be sheer, like chiffon; or satin-y, as in this bustle-era cape or mantle (the leaves are plush velvet, and the spaces between feel like heavy satin:)

Victorian dolman cape made to fit over a bustle dress. Cut (voided) velvet/satin brocade with silk chenille fringe. Private collection.

Back view, vintage twenties’ cut velvet and chiffon evening or afternoon dress. The top looks lighter because the skirt lining has been lost.

A close-up shows damage to the vintage chiffon back drapery and the burn-out silk, but you can see how sheer and chiffon-like the burnt-out areas are. A silk or rayon lining in the sale color as the velvet makes the subtle effect seen at left.

I don’t have a really good photo of this twenties’ fabric, but, if I were trying to reproduce this dress, I would visit Thai Silks.  Currently, you can find convincing period fabrics like this one for $25 to $28 per yard. Multi-colored, printed burn-out velvets will make a glamorous Twenties’ dress, and work best with a very simple dress pattern: easy elegance. Thai Silk is also a good source for silk charmeuse, silk satin, crepe de chine, etc.

On this store-bought twenties’ vintage dress, designs in velvet form a border on sheer black chiffon.

Butterick 2125; suggested fabrics were satin, metal cloth, or lace, but rayon silk velvet would also look like this. Delineator, September 1928.

I don’t usually recommend businesses on this blog, but as a theatrical costumer — twenty years ago — I used to love the company called Thai Silks. I was close enough to shop there in person, but you can order (one yard minimum!) online. The online catalog is downloadable, and they will mail you a swatch or two before you commit to a purchase. Burn-out velvet (very 1920’s) is currently about $25 per yard. If you like Britex, you might love Thai Silks.

Butterick patterns for velvet dresses, Delineator, November 1928, p. 118. The printed velvet second from left is Butterick 1785, for sizes 34 to 48. Second from right is Butterick 2232. The print velvet on No. 2232 looks much like this one.  These velvet dresses are for afternoon wear.

Note: the “hand” of real silk or rayon/silk velvet is nothing like the stiff “decorator” velvet sold in many fabric chain stores. Thai Silks sells many rayon/silk blends, so asking for a swatch allows you to “feel” if it will behave properly for your pattern. Rayon and silk are both authentic 1920’s fabrics.

About rayon/silk velvet: one of the first synthetic fabrics, rayon is cellulose based, like cotton and linen. Silk, like wool, is protein based. Chemicals that make it possible to dissolve the protein (silk) and leave the cellulose (rayon) intact make it possible to create burn-out effects. (I’m working from memory here, so if you need more information, please look for a more knowledgeable source on devoure silk!)

These print dresses from Delineator, November 1928, could be made from printed velvet if you use silk velvet or a soft rayon/silk blend. Butterick 2335 and 2299. (Maybe this one?)

Printed silks in patterns suitable for the 1920’s (including “necktie silk”) are still being made, if you shop carefully.

It’s important to remember that the labor (or time) spent making a dress is almost always more “expensive” than the fabric. Three or four yards of quality silk or silk velvet fabric (under $100 total) will result in a dress worth hundreds of dollars, and putting all that work into a polyester dress will never give the same result. Luckily, the more interesting your fabric, the less complex your dress style should be, so that the fabric, not the trim, is the real star. [Be aware that stitching velvet requires careful pinning and basting, and practice.]

Two views of Butterick 1118, from Delineator, November 1926.

Delineator suggested transparent “night blue” velvet for this evening gown. White or plum or another color of velvet would be just as lovely. So would many other silks.

The Exotic Silks company offers basically the same products as Thai Silks, and offers a large sample set of velvet swatches for $12 (2017 price.) However, Exotic Silks is a wholesaler; (minimum order for silk is 15 yards and for velvet is 28 yards.) Thai Silks has a one yard minimum and will send you swatches of the fabrics you really are interested in; you can phone them. Thai Silks also offers several sets of swatches, $12 and up. (I believe Exotic Silks and Thai Silks are two branches of the same store, wholesale and retail.)

P.S. Here is the store label from this 1880’s cape; today, fabric similar to this is often sold as upholstery velvet:

1880’s dolman cape, front view. The “sleeves” are held in place with internal ties; this is a cape, not a jacket with fitted sleeves.

Label from bustle-era cape: “L.F.W. Arend & Co., Importers & Mfturers, Chicago.”

Click here for a Pinterest page full of late Victorian mantles like this.




Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Costumes for the 19th century, Dresses, evening and afternoon clothes, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Dresses with Bows, December 1928

A bow at the hip, a bow on the shoulder, or both: Two Butterick dresses from December 1928. Delineator. The one at left even has bows at the wrist.

I confess, the dress at upper right is one of my favorites from the Twenties. Bows, and variations on bows, enhanced many dresses in 1928; here are a few from December of 1928. (Ninety-nine [CORRECTION: 89] years ago. [Thanks, Jacqueline!]  Let’s start with some bow variations:

Butterick 2373 has sections joined by fagoting, a detail attributed to Vionnet. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

It’s not a bow, but this tie appears to be part of the neckline, and is echoed on the back of the dress, as if a narrow scarf were part of the neckline.

Two panels of a vintage dress joined by fagoting. 1920s. For more on Vionnet and fagoting, click here.

Butterick 2373, front and back views. December, 1928, Delineator. That long back tie helps narrow the rear view of hips.

Butterick 2378 has the snugly draped hips of 1928, with the interesting not-exactly-a-bow insertion at the shoulder creating a slenderizing vertical line, and four bows — two at the hips and two at the wrists. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30. If you look closely, you can see a side seam bust dart.

Front and back views of Butterick 2378. The “handkerchief girdle” is attributed to both Molyneux and the design team of Martial et Armand. Delineator, Dec . 1928, p. 30.

I like this dress so much that I wondered what it would look like on a more realistic figure. Imagine it in silk jersey:

Illustration of Butterick 2378 manipulated to appear on a more naturalistic figure. It still looks good to me!

Most Butterick patterns from the 1920’s were sized from bust 32″ up to a 44″ bust measure — that would be a modern pattern size 22, a reminder that not all women in the Twenties had “boyish” figures.  The next dress has a soft drape, rather than a bow, but it’s recommended for older (and larger) women, so I though it worth sharing:

Butterick 2381 has an interesting yoke and skirt, but no bows. Delineator, Dec. 1928, page 30. It was recommended for “the older woman.” Notice the gathers at the shoulder, which would provide some fullness over the bust.

Front and back views of Butterick 2381, which was available up to size 48″ bust (and proportionately larger hips.) Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

The vertical drapery and skirt panels in front would be flattering to a larger figure. The back view, with two horizontal hip bands? Probably not becoming to 52″ hips. Maybe it could use the clever, long, back tie from Butterick 2373.

This dress, which has a metallic (lame) bodice and velvet skirt, could be worn by misses 15 to 18 as well as women up to size 44″ bust.

Butterick 2346, a formal afternoon frock, has a tiered skirt with hip accent, and a big shoulder bow matching the skirt fabric. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

Front and back views of Butterick 2346. Delineator, December, 1928, p. 30. I wish I could find another description of this pattern, because it was common for a very formal day dress like this to also have a sleeveless version for evening wear.

Two Formal Frocks from Delineator, December 1928. Butterick patterns 2379 and 2287.

Bows at the shoulder on evening frocks, December 1928.

Butterick 2359 has velvet bows at shoulder and hip, but it does not have the tight hip girdle seen in these other 1928 fashions.

The diagonal hip bow is appliqued to the dress and can be tied to fit the hips tightly. In back, it forms a band. The back of the dress is cut in one piece; the front panel dips well below the hemline.

Front and back views of Butterick 2359, from December 1928. Delineator, p. 31. [When I think about how I would make this dress, with the weight of the hip bow and the stress that tying it tightly would put on the crepe fabric where the velvet gaps in front…. The inside of this dress might need some engineering to make it stay bloused this perfectly when worn by an actor.**]

Illustrations are by M. Lages.

Perhaps too much of a good thing, Butterick 2312 has three bows in a line from shoulder to hip. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 28. This is a dinner dress for young or small women.

The hem is longer in back than in front — it has “the backward dipping flounce that marks the new mode.” The dress has the curve: the flounce is “straight.” It attaches to an upward curve in front and a downward curve in back. The shoulder bow ends in a long streamer.

Front and back views of Butterick 2312 from Dec. 1928.

** Unlike models, actors have to sit down and get up and move like normal people.  Costumers use the term “actor-proofing,” not as an insult to actors, but because it’s our job to prevent the costume from becoming a problem for the actor wearing it. “Mark Antony” shouldn’t have to worry about his toga falling off his shoulder — it took years of training for a Roman gentleman to master toga-wearing. Directors are always asking actors to do things that can’t be done in restrictive period clothing; it’s the costumers’ job to make the clothing look authentic but allow such movement 8 times a week, month after month. 1920’s two-piece dresses often suspended the skirt from an unseen bodice top (like a modern camisole.) That meant the skirt could hang straight from the shoulders, without being shaped to a waistband. If you want a blouson to stay bloused, you can attach it to that “skirt” so the blousing can’t slip down unevenly.




Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes