Category Archives: 1930s-1940s

More Fashions from McCall, July 1938

It’s such a pleasure to see full-color pattern illustrations; here are some more.

McCall coat pattern 9809, McCall dresses 9807 and 9815. McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

Surprisingly, the gold colored garment on the left is a coat for summer; it could be made with longer sleeves for other seasons.

McCall coat pattern 9808, from 1938. It has a “petal neckline.” Available in sizes 12 – 18 and 36 to 42.

McCall dress pattern 9807 from 1938. A dress “anyone can wear,” it was available in sizes 12-18, and 36 to 46.

McCall pattern 9815 from 1938. These floral striped fabrics were very popular that year. Available in sizes 12 through 20 years, but not in woman’s sizes.

For more stripes and flowers from 1938, click here.

Dresses to make your waist look smaller. McCall 9792, 9790, 9791, from McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

McCall dress pattern 9792 from 1938. It was only available in young women’s sizes 12 to 20.

McCall dress pattern 9790 is described as a new kind of  princess line, shaped with tucks instead of princess seams. 1938. Sizes 12 to 20.

McCall pattern 9791 looks like a dress and bolero jacket, but it is really a dress made from two fabrics. 1938. Sizes 12 to 20.

Three dresses intended for average and larger women appeared together, at left:

McCall dress patterns available up to size 46: 9817, 9805, 9789; right, 9795. McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

As usual, they were not illustrated on a different body type than the dresses for younger or smaller women, and these 1938 styles do not seem especially matronly. They were not only for larger sizes.

McCall dress pattern 9817 was available in sizes 12 – 18 and 36 to 46. 1938. I would think this dress was more slenderizing than the pink “hourglass” one (No. 9790) above.

McCall dress pattern 9805 was available in sizes12 to 18 and 36 to 46. 1938.

McCall dress pattern 9795 was available in the normal range of sizes, 12 to 18 and 36 to 42. 1938.

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

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.

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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.

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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

Sized to Height Patterns from Butterick, 1948

The July 1948, cover of Butterick Fashion News was still introducing a new product: "Special" patterns for shorter women.

The July 1948, cover of Butterick Fashion News was still introducing a new product: “Special” patterns for shorter women.

I happen to have a group of Butterick Fashion News Flyers from 1948. For several months, “Sized to Height” patterns, or “Special Patterns,” were featured as an innovation which still needed some explanation. The February issue explained the concept several times.

Front cover of Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. The suit on the left, No. 4422, was available in short and average patterns.

Front cover of Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. The suit on the left, No. 4422, was available in both short and standard pattern sizes.

I don’t have a complete, consecutive run — just February, March, July and August of 1948 — but this “Special Patterns” or “Sized to Height” box appears on all four covers. (What I Found has a copy from 1947; that cover also mentions “shorter length” patterns.)

Special patterns for shorter women information box. Cover of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948.

Special patterns for shorter women, information box. Cover of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948.

Further explanation and examples appeared on facing pages 2 and 3.

Pages 2 & 3 featured patterns which could be ordered in sizes for women under 5' 5". BFN, Feb. 1948.

Pages 2 & 3 featured patterns which could be ordered in sizes for women under 5′ 5″. BFN, Feb. 1948.

If the pattern was available in both standard and shorter sizes, customers could order the shorter one by putting an “S” after the pattern number.

Page 3, BFN, Feb. 1948. These patterns for shorter women were described on page 2.

Page 3, BFN, Feb. 1948. These patterns for shorter women were described on (facing) page 2.

Here is the explanatory text from the top of page 2:

Text from top of page 2, BFN Feb. 1948.

Text from top of page 2, BFN Feb. 1948. “Special length … patterns are one inch shorter from neckline to waistline.”

Short pattern purchasing information, bottom of page 2, BFN, Feb. 1948.

Short pattern purchasing information, bottom of page 2, BFN, Feb. 1948.

Special Length patterns were shortened from the waist up, and were not aimed at stout or older women. (If the skirts were also proportionally shortened, Butterick didn’t mention it here.) Some of these patterns were illustrated twice in the same issue, once with the number followed by “S” and once as standard sized patterns. Starred numbers were available in both versions.

Butterick 4424 pattern for a suit with fitted jacket, available in average or short versions. Feb. 1948.

Butterick 4424 pattern for a suit with fitted jacket, available in standard  or short versions. Feb. 1948.

Butterick 4422; its hip-widening peplum shows "New Look" influence.

Butterick 4422; its hip-widening peplum shows “New Look” influence. Feb. 1948.

Both pink dresses are pattern 4419, in Average and shorter sizes.

More “New Look” influence. Both pink dresses are pattern 4419, in standard and shorter sizes. (The model looks long-waisted in both illustrations.) Center, Butterick 4431; perhaps its complex bodice design made it unsuitable for a shorter version.

I don’t know why dresses for larger women, like those on page six, below, were only aimed at women over 5′ 5″ in 1948.

Dresses for mature or large women, available to size 46. (The gray one was available up to size 50.) Shorter versions of these patterns were not mentioned. Feb. 1948.

Dresses for mature or large women, available to size 46. (The gray one was available up to size 50.) Shorter versions of these patterns were apparently not available. Feb. 1948.

It’s a mystery to me why a pattern company like Butterick did not always capitalize on the fact that many women — especially mature women — are both short and “stout.” You would think that women who are not standard sizes would be a perfect niche market for specially sized sewing patterns, but that isn’t the case here.  (Lynn at American Age Fashion has written about the development of “half-size” dresses and patterns several times.)

Butterick did sell such patterns earlier.  In the nineteen thirties,  Butterick had issued some patterns for “shorter women with larger hips.” In her History of the Paper Pattern Industry, Joy Spanabel Emery shows Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7586, from 1937; it is a “Frock for Shorter Women of Larger Hip.” See it at the Commercial Pattern Archive by clicking here. Another from BFN in 1937 was Butterick 7647, the gray dress shown below: dec 1937 BFn numbered no faces 500

Another pattern for Shorter Women of Larger Hip (No. 8014) was shown in the BFN for August 1938. I don’t have a complete run of Butterick Fashion News, but the idea of patterns for shorter women with larger hips appeared at least as early as February, 1933 (Butterick 4883.) See “Clothes for Clubwomen.” 

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/1933-feb-p-77-text-4883-shorter-figure-large.jpg?w=500

I find them as late as Feb. 1940 (Butterick 8790) in my very limited collection.

I haven’t found that phrase in my 1948 flyers, however.

Some of the 1948 dresses on page 7 came in either standard or “special” versions; the text at the bottom of the page taught  customers how to order:

Page 7, Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948.

Page 7, Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. A Star next to the number meant that the pattern could be ordered in short or standard versions.

Text, bottom of page 7. BFN Feb. 1948.

Text, bottom of page 7. BFN Feb. 1948.

Perhaps the “S” stood for “Special,” but I suspect that customers thought it meant “Short.”

In July, 1948, Butterick used the word “Petite” to describe these patterns. The expression may well have appeared earlier, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it applied to Butterick patterns — so far. It’s definitely an improvement over “Special.” Too bad they didn’t think of it in time to indicate these patterns with a “P” instead of an “S.”

Butte4rick Patterns for "Petite" women, Butterick News Flyer, July 1948.

Butterick Patterns for “Petite” women, Butterick News Flyer, July 1948.

Incidentally, it seems incredible to me that for decades Butterick assumed its average customer was 5′ 5″ or over, even in the nineteen twenties, when some of the most glamorous women in Hollywood were tiny:  Gloria Swanson was 5′ 1″. Clara Bow was 5′ 3 1/2″. “Little Mary” Pickford was just over five feet. Louise Brooks? 5′ 2″. Pola Negri? Five feet exactly. Greta Garbo was considered tall — and criticized for her wide hips and big feet — at five foot seven and a half. In the 1920’s Butterick patterns for “small women” were literally small — maximum bust about 37″ — when the normal pattern run fit sizes up to 44″ bust, with some patterns available up to size 52.

There is a great essay (with charts) about pattern sizing here; a chart from a very flawed government study shows that the average American woman was 5′ 3″ in 1937.

After World War II, more statistics were available and led to more specialized pattern sizing. The excellent Midvale Cottage blog (which I just discovered) says that Butterick introduced half sizes (for women under 5′ 5″ who were shorter-waisted and larger in the waist and hip) in 1949. Click here for her history of 1940’s pattern sizing.

I’ll share  more fashions from 1948 in later posts. [As often happens, when I started this post, I didn’t remember Butterick’s Shorter/Larger patterns from the 1930’s — even though I had mentioned them in other posts. As a result of proofreading and checking facts, this post kept getting longer…. Caution:  my sample of Butterick flyers is hardly conclusive for real scholarship — Just full of interesting things to share.]

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Vintage Ornament: Symbol of Endings and Beginnings

cover of The Delineator, December, 1931My parents were married in 1933, a year and a half after this 1931 Delineator cover appeared,  but the ornaments I’m writing about, which belonged to them, may be even older.

Two vintage ornaments, probably 1920s or 1930s

Two vintage glass ornaments, probably 1920’s or 1930’s.

They are probably Czech, or, at least made in Europe, which explains why Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, bears little resemblance to the fat, jolly Santa invented for American advertising campaigns.

American Santa Claus in a 1936 ad for General Electric refrigerators. Ladies Home Journal, January 1936.

American Santa Claus in a 1936 ad for General Electric refrigerators. Ladies Home Journal, January 1936.

Every year, fewer of my very old ornaments survive, and many are attached to memories, like the cheap plastic raindeer which my mother turned into “Rudolph” with a dab of her deep alizarin red nail polish… and a miniature lamp ornament, bought for my first apartment… musical instruments, for my musical husband… a metal toy saxophone (also from my parents) which makes noise. (Happy New Year! T-o-o-o-o-o-t!)

Jazz age toy saxophone.

Jazz-age metal toy saxophone. I remember the the cone-shaped ornaments from the 1940’s or fifties. The “Hope” ornament was made by a friend.

I “toot” this horn when hanging it and taking it down every year — my favorite part of Christmas decorating, since I find our misguided season of materialism very depressing. Once, in an attempt to conquer my seasonal gloom, months ahead I started making ornaments (some to keep, some to give) from carefully blown and decorated egg shells. A few have survived for over forty years.

A swag of ornaments made or bought over 80 years.

A swag of ornaments made, bought, or inherited over a period of 80 years. Some of these ornaments are considerably older than I am.

But my favorite decoration is this bizarre red-faced and slightly sinister ornament.

Vintage glass ornament janus

Vintage glass ornament: Janus.

It was only a few years ago that I recognized him for what he is: the Roman god Janus, the tw0-faced god.

500-janus-ornament-two-faces

Janus can look ahead and look behind at the same time. He faces the past, and he faces the future. He is the god of endings and of beginnings, who gives his name to the month of January. 500-janus-battered-sideOne of his faces has not aged well: it has lost most of its paint, which is appropriate, since it represents the old year.

Many modern Christmas traditions incorporate elements of the old pagan festivals (including the practice of bringing evergreens into the house, be it a whole tree or “the holly and the ivy.”) (The lyrics of that carol use those pagan symbols of “life in the dead of winter” to foreshadow Christ’s sacrifice, neatly blending two belief systems.)

Did my parents recognize Janus? I doubt it — it took me 50 years, even with the benefit of four years of Latin in high school! I suspect that they bought an inexpensive box of twelve ornaments when they moved into their first home  (which my father and my uncles built with their own hands.) The newlyweds didn’t have a lot of money. But I’m glad I still have this little ornament reminding me to look back to the past, while facing the future.

My mother feeding deer in Yosemite, circa 1931.

My mother feeding deer in Yosemite, circa 1931. Notice her very shaggy brushed wool sweater.

This is my annual reminder to get names and dates on your family photos while there are still people around who remember those faces and events. My mother wrote “got my fingers nipped” on the back of this one. She died before I ever saw this photo. Label your photos now.

 

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

Sock Suspenders: Garters for Men

Ad for men's stocking garters made by Hickok, Esquire, August 1934.

Ad for men’s stocking garters made by Hickok, Esquire, August 1934.

This garter ad is from 1917:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/1917-jan-p-30-boston-garter-for-men-ad.jpg?w=500

Knitted stockings have been around for centuries. (Queen Elizabeth I liked the silk stockings she was given as a Christmas gift in 1561.) The Bata Shoe museum has a lovely pair of embroidered stockings for a lady which date to the early 1700s. But until the invention of Lastex elastic thread, around 1931, stockings tended to fall down without a garter or suspender to hold them up. (Men’s socks with “elastic ribbed tops” were available before that, although it’s not always easy to tell if the word “elastic” means “stretchy” or “made with latex/rubber.”)

Ad for Esquire silk stockings for men, Esquire magazine, June 1934.

Ad for Esquire Hose silk stockings for men, Esquire magazine, June 1934. These pure-silk-top hose would stay up better with a garter.

Before Lastex, exasperated mothers would yell, “Pull up your socks!” — sometimes, just to get their offspring to stop whatever else they were doing.Boy's patterns, Delineator, July 1917. Two of these children have sagging socks.
When an impeccably dressed gentleman undressed, however elegant his clothing, he eventually revealed his stocking garters. I’ve rarely seen a full illustration of a man wearing underwear, socks, and garters — perhaps because the result is faintly comical.

Men's underwear in an ad for Celanese, a plant-based synthetic fiber. 1934.

Men’s underwear in an ad for Celanese, a plant-based synthetic fiber. 1934.

I was surprised that men’s garters came in a riot of colors.

Men's stocking garters. Detail of Esquire illustration, March 1934.

Men’s stocking garters. Detail of Esquire illustration, March 1934.

Stocking garters for the college man. Esquire, March 1934.

Stocking garters for the college man. Esquire, March 1934. Illustration by Hurd.

Esquire, March 1934.

Esquire, March 1934. [Ripley’s Believe It or Not was a popular newspaper feature.]

A glimpse of stocking was a good thing, but a glimpse of hairy shins was not.

Socks were always on display when a man crossed his legs. Esquire, July 1934. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Socks were always on display when a man crossed his legs. Esquire, July 1934. Illustration by L. Fellows.

The well-dressed businessman wore sock garters to keep his socks from falling down around his ankles, or revealing skin when he sat with his legs crossed.

Distinguished suits for men, February 1934. Accessories include stocking garters, a pocket square, and men's jewelry. Esquire magazine illustration by Oxner.

Distinguished suits for men, February 1934. Accessories include stocking garters, a pocket square, a cuff link,  and a gold collar pin. Esquire magazine illustration by Oxner.

Some stocking garters had one fastener, in center front, but others had a garter on either side of the shin.

Men's sock garters from Sears catalog, circa 1930.

Men’s sock garters from Sears catalog, circa 1930. “Come in the color combinations men prefer.” “Neatly boxed,” because garters were a useful gift.

Ad for Paris Men's Garters. This ad appeared in the January issue, which was on news stands in time for Christmas shopping. Esquire, Jan. 1934

Ad for Paris Men’s Garters. This ad appeared in the January issue, which was on news stands in time for Christmas shopping. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Judging from the men’s magazines and pin-up illustrations of my teen years, many men enjoy looking at a woman who is wearing a garter belt and stockings. I personally can’t imagine getting a similar erotic charge from the sight of a man wearing stocking garters — even in brilliant blue:

Hickok garters, 1934 ad. Esquire.

Hickok garters, 1934 ad. Esquire.

Fortunately for costumers, you can still buy sock garters — there are plenty listed on Amazon.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Hosiery, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings

Dual (or Triple) Purpose Apron, 1949

This is a rather peculiar multi-purpose pattern: an apron that could be used as an evening cape….

McCall Pattern 1509 for an apron, or a cape, or ....

McCall Pattern 1509 for an apron, or a cape, or ….

“And that’s not all!” as they say in those ads on TV at two in the morning. McCall 1509 could also be an overskirt, made to match your dress material, or in lace, organdy or taffeta,  and trimmed with velvet, beads or sequins:

McCall pattern 1509, the "glamour tunic apron," first appeared in 1949. Images from McCall needlework catalog, Nov. 1950.

McCall pattern 1509, the “glamor tunic apron,” first appeared in 1949. Images from McCall needlework catalog, Nov. 1950.

McCall 1509.

McCall 1509. “The new costume stretcher. It changes day dresses into date dresses…. Glamorize your dresses with the new tunic apron! It’s smart to match fabric to your dress material. Wear this style tied at front, back, on the side…. Note slenderizing effect.”

If you wore the glamor tunic over a mid-calf sheath dress, you would have two looks without having to make two dresses.

Maybe it was the words “costume stretcher,” but when I saw this pattern, I remembered a fascinating item which Joy Spanabel Emery featured in her book, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry. Butterick pattern B4408, from 1948, was a set of “Yoke, Flares, and Flounces for Skirts.”  The purpose of the pattern was “to lengthen skirts.” Click here to see it. I wonder if this McCall Apron/Tunic pattern was ever used the same way?

The black version, with velvet and bead trimmed pockets, would allow you to lengthen the skirt of the dress under it.

The black version, with velvet and bead trimmed pockets, would allow you to lengthen the skirt of the dress under it by adding fabric between the waist and the hip, and would work with almost any black sheath dress.

Why Would You Want to Do That?

During the years of the Second World War, America was “cut off” from French couture.

In England and America, regulations controlled the amount of fabric in garments.

Dior’s “New Look,” introduced in 1947,  was in part a reaction to years of fabric shortages, fabric rationing and war-time clothing restrictions.

The "Bar Suit" from Christian Dior's "Corolle" collection, 1947.

The “Bar Suit” from Christian Dior’s “Corolle” collection, 1947. American magazines called this “the new look.”

Julian Robinson’s Fashion in the Forties (which has a British slant) makes it clear that many aspects of the New Look — tiny waists, widened hips, flowing drapery and longer hemlines — were under way before the war, but fabric rationing and “utility” clothing kept women in short skirts and other late thirties’ styles until the war ended.

Slim Two-Piece patterns from a Butterick store flyer, October 1943. Patterns 2734 and 2725 have skirts that stop just below the kneecap/

Slim Two-Piece patterns from a Butterick store flyer, October 1943. Patterns 2734 and 2725 have skirts that stop at mid-kneecap, and use about three yards of fabric for the whole outfit.

Joy Spanabel Emery concisely summarized American clothing restrictions:

“In 1942, the War Production Board (WPB) issued Regulation L-85, specifying restrictions for every item of women’s clothing. The regulation essentially froze the fashion silhouette. It limited the use of natural fibers, limited full skirts to a seventy-two-inch circumference, and banned knife pleats and patch pockets (part of a ‘no fabric over fabric’ rule.) Pattern companies responded patriotically. For example, Simplicity announced ‘patterns with few pieces, made from 3 yards or less….’ ” — A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, page 136.

As in the 1929 – 1932 period, in the post-war years 1947 -1949 the fashionable skirt length dropped precipitously.

Simplicity store flyer, April 1948. Long, full skirts were a luxury after wartime scrimping.

Simplicity store flyer, April 1948. Long, full skirts were a luxury after wartime scrimping.

And, although it’s easy to make a skirt shorter by taking up the hem, it’s very difficult to make a skirt several inches longer without an obvious “patched” look. You can add a contrast band or ruffle to a full, gathered skirt and make the result look deliberate, but the dresses and skirts of the war years were made close to the body, in an effort to avoid wasting materials.

So — how could a woman on a limited budget get from this silhouette …

Left, two suits from 1943; right, a suit from May 1944. Butterick 2746, ad from Vogue, and Butterick 2979.

Left, two suits from 1943; right, a suit from May 1944. Butterick 2746, ready to wear ad from Vogue, and Butterick 2979.

… to this one?

Three Butterick suits from 1949. Butterick Pattern Flyer, Nov. 1949.

Three Butterick suits from 1949. Butterick Pattern Flyer, Nov. 1949.

It takes a while for fashions to change, since only a few people adopt a drastically new silhouette at first. But eventually, if successful, the new styles displace the older ones in the stores. By the late nineteen forties, dresses that could be made with less than three yards of material looked shockingly short.

War-time dress patterns: you could make aany of thers dresses in an average size (16) with three yards of fabric or less. Butterick 2721, 2735, 2600, and 2611;store flyer, Oct. 1943.

War-time dress patterns: you could make any of these dresses in an average size (16) with three yards of fabric or less. Butterick 2721, 2735, 2600, and 2611; store flyer, Oct. 1943.

For women used to making their clothes last for years, (and remaking them) and especially for women on a limited budget, patterns like B4408 — which offered a way to lengthen skirts from waist to hip instead of by letting down the hem — must have seemed like a very good idea (if you still had a well-defined waist).

Butterick 4408 circa 1948 from an image on Pinterest

Detail of Butterick B4408 circa 1948 from an image on Pinterest; ( I couldn’t find it at its source.)

The idea was to remove the original waistband or bodice, let out the waist-to-hip darts (if any,) and insert a new piece in the skirt  — which would be concealed by a peplum, as in B and C. Fortunately, a peplum was often part of the New Look, which exaggerated the width of the hips in order to make waists look smaller. Notice the peplum at top right in this Dior image from 1948 (from Life magazine.) I’m looking at the McCall multi-purpose apron pattern with this in mind.

McCall 1509 tunic apron used as a peplum would allow you to lengthen your old cocktail dress.

McCall 1509 tunic apron used as a peplum would allow you to lengthen your old cocktail dress.

What a cocktail dress from May 1944, might look like when lengthened with the addition of a peplum to hide a pieced skirt.

What a cocktail dress from May 1944, might look like when lengthened with the addition of a peplum to hide a pieced skirt. New hairstyle optional….

Of course I’m just speculating — which is always fun….

 

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Accessory Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns