Category Archives: 1930s-1940s

Day and Night in Vogue Patterns, 1937

“Make These and Have Something to Wear: Vogue Designs for Busy Days and Crowded Nights”

“Vogue Designs for Busy Days.” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1937, page 30. November 1937.

Vogue Designs “for Crowded Nights.” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1937, page 31.

This two-page spread in the Ladies’ Home Journal (LHJ) featured nine Vogue patterns. Here they are in detail:

Vogue two-piece dress pattern 7508 (in “copper”) and dress 7511 in black trimmed with grosgrain ribbons in “flower colors” to “trim the deep-lapped seam from neck to hem.” November 1937, LHJ. Shoulders are getting broader.

Vogue 7508, at left,  is “fitted to bring out natural curves;” Vogue 7511 has a “Victorian” collar and bands of grosgrain trim around the hem, too.

Vogue 7510. November 1937; LHJ. “An opportunity… if you’ve never sewn before, for it’s ‘Easy to Make.’ The skirt is in four gores, and you may use tiny buttons down the front in place of a slide fastener.”

Vogue 7510 has a zipper front and is worn with two (!) belts. Zippers made the change from sportswear to more formal clothing in 1936-1937.

This high-cut collar is also seen on the “copper” colored two piece dress, No. 7508.

Vogue dress 7509, in red, and 7512, in blue. In spite of the zigzag look at the hem and cuffs, 7512 is not a knitted dress. LHJ, Nov. 1937, p. 30. No, 7509 was available for large women, up to a bust of 46 inches.

Details of Vogue 7509 and 7512, from 1937. No. 7509 has a “soft, shirred plastron front”  and amazing sleeves. It is worn with matching dress clips. No. 7512 is “of a new violet-blue crepe with tiny wavy pleating worked right into the fabric. You can make the saw-tooth trimming on your sewing machine. Don’t you think the new-length sleeves are young?”

Alternate views of Vogue 7508, 7511, 7510, 7509, and 7512. LHJ, Nov. 1937.

On the facing page, four Vogue patterns for evening were illustrated:

Slinky satin evening gowns without a center front seam show what can be done with a bias cut and a flat tummy. Vogue 7506, in white, and Vogue 7505, in two shades of green.

“If you can enter a room regally, princess dress 7506 is for you!” This is not what is usually meant by “princess dress.” But she is wearing a tiara….

“The apparent lack of a seam down the front is not a mistake; there is one right down the center in back. We just couldn’t bear desecrating the lovely backward sweep with mere seams. The twisted shoulder straps, that are part of the dress front, drop to the waistline in back. We suggest platinum satin with mink or kolinsky banding.”

(A little digression: Kolinsky is a very expensive fur. High quality watercolor brushes are still made from it; Winsor & Newton will sell you a size 10 Kolinsky brush for $499. Movie plug:  In the 1937 comedy, Easy Living, the life of a hard-working young woman is transformed when an angry millionaire throws his wife’s Kolinsky fur coat out the window. Since our heroine doesn’t know what” Kolinsky” is, she wears the coat, not realizing it’s worth $55,000 — in Depression Era dollars! To her surprise, people start treating her differently because they think she is rich — or immoral….  Easy-to-relate-to Jean Arthur is the star. )

Vogue 7507 has a twisted tie on its bolero jacket. The glittering shoulder straps on the dress can be rhinestoned or sequinned. LHJ, Nov. 1937.

Both the bias cut and the twisted fabrics in those two Vogue evening gowns show the influence of Madeleine Vionnet.

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A bias evening gown with twisted and tied jacket by Madeleine Vionnet, 1935. Photo: Metropolitan Museum.

Left, Vogue 7507, with a sheer, deep pink cover-up. Top tight, Vogue evening gown 7504. LHJ, 1937.

“Coronation pink” refers to he coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England and the United Kingdom in May of 1937. They were the parents of Queen Elizabeth II. “Shocking pink” was introduced by Elsa Schiaparelli, also in 1937.

Alternate views of Vogue 7506, 7505, 7507 and 7504. LHJ, November 1937. Backs were cut to the waist on the gowns at left.

Are you inspired to start sewing your New Year’s gown?

Note:  These patterns were featured in November, so women would have been making and wearing them in 1938 and 1939 — or later. By mid-1939, the hems on the day dresses would have looked much too long.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, July, 1939.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, page 3. July 1939.

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

Paris Fashion Shoes, 1936

“Exquisite — Flattering” Paris Fashion Shoes. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936. Black suede side tie shoe, with a very high heel.

I hadn’t encountered any other ads for Paris Fashion Shoes, and the very high heels and relatively low prices in the ad intrigued me.

Paris Fashion Shoes, center of ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936. Top, a brown or black square-toe sandal.

Paris Fashion Shoes cost just $3 to $4 in 1936. Bottom of ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936, p. 111. This high heeled “butterfly” tongue step-in was available in “black, wine, or green suede” or in “black or blue kid” — quite a range of choices and sizes.

(Oh, for the days when shoes were available in a such a variety of widths. I still miss AA heels on B width shoes.)

A high-heeled “Foot Rest” shoe from Krippendorf promised comfort, for “$6.95 to $7.95” or more. Ad from WHC, October 1936.

I was curious about the Paris Fashion brand, and found that it was only one of many lines made by the Wohl Shoe Company. Wohl owned forty-six trademarks. A 1941 booklet celebrating the history of the Wohl Shoe Company was recently offered on eBay. In 1941, Wohl produced lines called Jacqueline, Natural Poise Arch Shoes, Connie, and Paris Fashion Fifth Avenue Shoes. Click here.  

A selection of shoe ads from Woman’s Home Companion, also from 1936, shows that Paris Fashion Shoes were relatively low-priced, compared to other brands. You can tell from the names of the companies, however, that these ads were aimed at women who wanted shoe comfort as well as style.

“According to the Table of Shoe Hotness, any brand that promises comfort will add 10 years to one’s WEA (Wearer’s Estimated Age.)” – Columnist Leah Garchik, writing in the Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Enna Jettick shoes cost $5 to $6 in 1936. Ad from WHC, April 1936.

This Enna Jettick shoe ad from April 1936 featured 27 year old Hollywood star Helen Twelvetrees wearing Enna Jettick shoes. (Ener-Getic! Get it?) Enna Jetticks were aimed at older women. Many other brands promised both comfort and style.

Red Cross shoe ad, WHC, April 1936. (Great swing coat! You could have worn that suit in the 1950’s.)

These Red Cross shoes cost about $6.50 a pair. Ad from WHC, October 1936. Red Cross shoes were supposed to “exercise your feet and legs back to shapeliness with every step you take.”

I remember similar claims for shoes in the 1970’s.

However much they promised comfort, these 1936 shoes are not necessarily “old lady” shoe styles.

This Butterick-Companion holiday frock pattern (7155) was drawn on a youthful model and illustrated with fashion accessories: shoes, bags, and gloves. WHC, December 1936.

Fashionable shoes and purses  for December 1936. Gray or Claret were suggested. WHC, p. 69. These shoes also appeared in WHC ads.

Apparently advertisers supplied shoes to the magazine for use in fashion layouts. Nothing new about that!

This Walk-Over “Cabana” model, from a October 1936 ad [inset], was available in gray suede and a range of other colors: black, green, brown, and blue.

December fashion illustration and [inset] October ad for Red Cross Shoes. WHC.

Other seasonal colors were advertised :

There is no price range on this ad for high-heeled Queen Quality shoes. WHC, March 1936. This ad is aimed at brides and “every other girl with a flair for fashion.” These styles were available in blue, and probably in a range of other color

Ads for Selby Arch Preserver shoes are interesting because they always show three women of different ages striding along in chic outfits. Ad from WHC, November 1936.

Queen Quality shoe ad, WHC, November 1936. The Bengal, right, looks rather middle-aged to me, but the Lanett pump, top left, has a very high heel.

These Walk-Over shoes from October 1936 range from casual and sporty (top left) to citified. Top left has a stacked leather heel. Prices $7.50 to $8.50, in a wide range of colors, including “Araby green.”

The top-stitched Walk-Over shoe at top right looks a lot like the gray shoe featured in that December fashion illustration.

Back to those $3 to $4 Paris Fashion Shoes: They were really inexpensive compared to shoes advertised in Woman’s Home Companion at the same time.

Red Cross Shoes cost $6.50 to $6.85 in November 1936.  That’s more than 50% to 100% higher than Paris Fashion Shoes. (A couple of these styles look rather graceful compared to others from 1936.)

These Foot Saver shoes cost as much as $12.75 in October, 1936. WHC. [Are those sequins?]

According to Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936, a working woman with a college education could expect to earn $18 per week. She was expected to need four pairs of shoes per year, at $3 a pair. Maybe she bought Paris Fashion Shoes!

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, bags, Gloves, handbags, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shoes, Vintage Accessories

Smocking for Girls and Boys, Forties’ and Fifties’ Patterns, Part 1

McCall 692, a smocked dresses for toddlers, dates to 1939, but this image is from a 1946 catalog. It was in the needlework catalog for November 1950, too, eleven years after it was issued.

Smocking was a part of traditional dress long before it became associated with clothes for children. However, as a way of expressing devotion through hand sewing, smocking patterns like these remained popular: most of these patterns were featured in the McCall Needlework catalogs year after year.

McCall 692 is one of the few patterns that mentions the pleasure to be had from smocking: “Fascinating to do and very attractive….”

Very loose, full dresses with smocked yokes were made for young children in the 1920’s, too:

Butterick smocked dresses 1963 and 1955, Delineator, April 1928. “Handwork is the only trimming in good taste for very small frocks even when they will be worn to dancing school.”

This pattern is from 1936 –and was still for sale in  1950.

McCall smocked dress pattern 442, for very young children. It appeared in 1936 and was still in catalogs for 1946 and 1950 — perhaps longer.

Smocks for toddlers were often loose, but smocked dresses for older girls followed the lines of adult fashion in the nineteen twenties and in the nineteen forties:

At top left, a young girl is in a pale blue dress smocked with blue thread; right, an older girl’s smocked dress has a 1920’s hip band in red and black. Delineator, July 1925.

Butterick smocking pattern 16046 is used at the yoke, wrists, and low waistline of a girl’s dress from 1929. “This is the first time a  modernistic design has appeared in smocking.” — Delineator, June 1929.

McCall 786, a smocked dress for toddlers, dates to 1940, but was in the catalogs for at least ten years after that.

Honeycomb is one of the oldest smocking techniques, with many variations.

McCall 705, originally from 1940, shows a more fitted smocked dress — a style I remember from the 1950s.

McCall 705 was suitable for a “sub-teen” — up to age 10 — in the 1940s.

Also suitable for schoolgirls was this dress using honeycomb smocking — I believe this is one of the stitches that has some horizontal stretch. It gives interesting effects when worked on stripes or checks.

McCall 857, early 1940s. “For little girls, omit the waistline smocking, if desired….”

Detail of McCall 857. “Schoolgirl simplicity.”  For sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, 12.

McCall 878 for toddlers, from 1941. In the catalog for May, 1950.

McCall 1125 smocked dress for girls, 1944. Image from May, 1946. For ages 2, 4, 6.

McCall 1164, a smocked dress for toddlers, circa 1945. The sunbonnet was still a common feature of girls’ clothing.

Another toddler dress with smocked yoke and loose fit: McCall 1189, from 1945, still in the needlework catalog for Nov. 1950. “Smocking and small clothes just naturally ‘belong.’ “

McCall 1175 for school-age girls. 1945. “Send her off to school with a shining face and a smocked two-piecer…. The button-on skirt is pleated back and front.” Sizes 4, 6, 8, 10.

Detail of McCall 1175.

Boys — very young boys — could wear smocked outfits, too.

McCall 1195, a smocked suit for young boys from 1945 (Image from Dec. 1946.) Buttoning shorts or a skirt to a young child’s blouse (at ages when the tummy is about the same size as the hips) was seen in the 1920’s, too. For sizes 6 months to 3 years.

Mid-forties’ dresses for girls old enough to attend school were fitted at the waist. This horizontal yoke echoes the wartime wide shouldered-look for women.

McCall 1234 for girls, image from 1946. A “school-ager’s classic” for ages/sizes 6 through 12.

McCall’s 1270, image from 1946 catalog. Note the shoulder-widening yokes and puffed sleeves.

A similar style was offered for younger girls:

McCall 1308 for toddlers and “nursery-school age” girls, 1946.

McCall 1350, a smocked dress for girls, with a fitted bodice, a yoke, and puffy sleeves. Ages/sizes 2 through 8.

Detail of elaborate smocking on McCall 1350. Image from May, 1950.

A doting parent or grandmother could even smock a coat for her toddler — or a blouse, or a combination sunsuit/pinafore.

McCall 1311 is smocked coat for a toddler, 1946-1950.

McCall 1259 is a smocked blouse for toddlers, from the catalog for December 1946, also in Nov. 1950.

This “sunsuit” could also be made as a pinafore to wear over a dress. McCall 1245, from 1946. It includes patterns for panties and a sunbonnet.

I confess that I am charmed by the illustrations, as well as the smocking. More about smocked dresses for girls, and smocking patterns, in Part 2.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Vintage patterns

Peasant Blouses, 1940’s to 1950’s

McCall pattern 1254 for a Mexican-influenced embroidered peasant blouse. Circa 1945, illustrated in May 1950 needlework catalog.

When full, puffy sleeves returned to fashion in the late 1930’s, the “peasant blouse” reappeared. This Hollywood pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive for a peasant blouse is from 1938.

A “Tyrolean ski suit” available in stores in January, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 55.

A “yodeler” type hat. December 1937, WHC. Note “the gay embroidery on the mittens.”

A “Yodel Apron” featured in July, 1937. WHC. “Go very Swiss-peasant….”

“Tyrolean” hats, ski clothes, and embroidery were briefly popular in the late thirties, until WW II tainted anything German or Austrian for U.S. consumers.

“The Peasant Note is Popular:” A “Swedish” embroidered headscarf, a “Carnaval” apron (over a peasant style blouse), and a “Tyrolean” knitting bag. Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937.

Wool embroidery decorated this Companion-Butterick Triad pattern for schoolgirls.

Left, yarn embroidery adds “Peasant” chic to Butterick pattern 7589 for girls 8 to 15. WHC, October 1937.

The difficulties of travel during the Second World War led many Americans to seek sunshine and a complete change of scene in Mexico, resulting in a fashion influence which lasted for several years after the war. I have already written about Mexican embroidered jackets

McCall "Mexican" coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

…and “Russian” blouses.  A Mexican blouse pattern, McCall 990, at CoPA, dates to 1942.

McCall peasant blouse pattern 1385, from a 1950 Needlework catalog, has “heavily Mexican” embroidery.

Some peasant blouses incorporated smocking and embroidery:

McCall “fiesta-mood” peasant blouse pattern 1317, from about 1947. The illustration is from a 1950 catalog.

The smocking resembles the pattern on this blouse:

McCall pattern 1221 for a smocked blouse. This image is from the Dec. 1946 catalog, but the pattern dates to 1945.

This smocking pattern, 1315, was featured in the same issue as the “fiesta-mood” blouse, pattern 1317 :

McCall smocking pattern 1315. Circa 1947.

Detail of McCall 1315.

Detail, McCall 1315.

For those who were willing to embroider a blouse, but not to smock it, McCall 1386 offered the option of shirring the blouse and applying very fine rickrack to imitate smocking.

McCall 1386, a peasant blouse that could be smocked… or not.

Detail of rickrack on McCall Mexican blouse pattern 1386. Circa 1947.

We tend to think of 1947 dominated by Dior’s New Look, but comfortable, unstuctured casual clothing was still popular in the pattern books.

Smocking continued to be associated with high-end clothing for girls. So did the peasant look:

McCall 1255, circa 1945, is a smocked and cross-stitched peasant dress for a little girl. “The cross-stitch is optional but very “peasanty.’ “

I went looking for a forties’ photo of my mother in a peasant blouse and found a “twofer:”  She’s wearing a peasant blouse and skirt, and I am wearing a smocked dress!

American woman in a simple peasant blouse and skirt, with toddler in a smocked dress. Circa 1947.

Although this 1950’s pattern for children is not “peasanty,” it can be smocked.

 

Artists’ smocks for girls and boys. McCall 1402, illustrated in May 1950. [I could live in that blue outfit, in a grown-up size!]

In fact, McCall 1402 actually is a smock — a painter’s smock — which reminds us that embroidered smocks were originally worn for work by shepherds and country folks — peasants.

A group of country gossips. Punch cartoon from The Way to Wear’em.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Companion-Butterick Pattern for Short Misses, May 1937

Three very different dresses “for Short Misses” from one “Triad” pattern, Companion-Butterick 7361. Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937. [These women do not look short….]

The Woman’s Home Companion often featured “Triad” patterns, which promised three styles from one Butterick pattern. This one, Companion-Butterick 7361, is unusual in that the styles are so very different from each other. The flattering center-pleat skirt is shown with and without top stitching, in crisp or soft fabric, but it’s recognizably the same pattern piece. The bodices, however, have very little in common.

Left, Companion-Butterick 7361 in a sleeveless version with tied shoulders and a sharply angled front.

The armhole seems to echo the pointed front. Bows at the shoulders are repeated in the belt. There is a small, angled bust dart at the side, but most of the bust fullness is supplied by fabric gathered at the shoulders. The “sunback” opening is square.

Back and alternate views of Butterick 7361, a “Triad dress for Misses 5 feet 4 inches or under.” WHC, May 1937. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 inch bust measure.”

A zip-front version of Butterick 7361 has top stitched pleats and a crisp white collar to match its white zipper and belt buckle. WHC, May 1937. The editors called this a shirtwaist, but suggested “you can twist pearls over the shirt collar of the print.”

In 1937, zippers on relatively dressy dresses were a new idea. (And zippers were not always available in a wide range of colors.) This dress is not active sportswear, nor is it a housedress or work uniform. The small white clutch purse hints that this could be worn shopping, or out to lunch. In this version of Butterick 7361, the bust fullness is controlled by two parallel tucks at each shoulder. Tiny (false?) pockets with tabs have white buttons to match the buttons on the puffy sleeves.

The third version of this dress is definitely the most formal.

A formal afternoon dress version of 7361 is illustrated with a sheer over-layer, which could have long sleeves. WHC, May 1937.

In this version, the bodice has a shaped waist with the fullness softly gathered to it. The shoulder area is shirred. The modestly V-necked collar is trimmed with artificial flowers, and the belt has become a sheer sash tied in a big bow.

Text explaining Companion-Butterick 7361, Womans’ Home Companion, May 1937, p. 83.

Sometimes WHC illustrators drew shoes supplied by their advertisers, but I can’t find an exact match from this issue.

Air Step shoes ad, with prices, WHC, May 1937. The high heeled sandal on the right is very similar to the black shoes shown with the afternoon dress version of 7361.

From an ad for “Cabana” shoes by Walk-Over, WHC, May 1937.

Cabana shoes from Walk-Over, from an ad in WHC, May 1937. Perforated shoes for summer. The “Ardwyn” style was patented.

I tend to think of white, perforated shoes as “old lady” shoes, probably because my grandmother still wore them in the 1950’s. But the two-tone “Caribee,” above right, right does not have wide, low, “old lady” heels.

A store-bought, zip-front, print dress similar to Butterick 7361 is worn with stack-heeled white shoes by the model in this ad for Air Step shoes. WHC, May 1937.

For casual shoes, Keds (United States Rubber Co.) made many attractive cloth shoes in the 1930’s.

Ad for Kedettes cloth shoes for summer; WHC, May 1937. They were available in a wide variety of colors and styles. Prices $1.29 to $2.29.

This similar “Kedettes moccasin,” in white and navy, is from 1938:

Bottom of page, Kedettes shoe ad, McCall's, July 1938.

I love those striped soles!

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Uncategorized, Vintage patterns, Zippers

Smocked Blouses for Women, Late 1940’s

McCall pattern 1221 for a smocked blouse. This image is from the Dec. 1946 catalog, but the pattern dates to 1945.

“One smocked blouse leads to  another….”

After showing smocked dresses from the 1920’s for both women and children, I remembered that I have three vintage McCall Needlework catalogs. I found them, along with several used patterns, at an estate sale just down the block from my house. The woman who lived there had made this blouse pattern, McCall 1221, at least three times, in three different sizes. I like to think she made matching blouses for her daughters; perhaps she made one for herself, too. What a nice family photo that would have made.

She had other used patterns for smocking, as well, so I’m guessing she enjoyed this craft, and was good at it.

McCall smocking transfer 441 first appeared in 1936. It was still in the Needlework Catalog in November of 1950, and probably later than that.

This illustration gives you an idea of one basic smocking technique. It has many, many variations.

McCall 441, description from the December 1946 Needlework Catalog.

McCall smocking transfer 131 first appeared around 1934. It was in my catalogs for 1946 and 1950, too.

Smocking was long a sign of quality (or of doting parents and grandparents) in children’s clothing. Click here for a child’s smocked dress from 1934. Click here for a child’s smocked Simplicity pattern from 1981. But there have been decades when smocking was also worn by grown women.

The Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island has McCall smocking transfer 1910, dated to 1931.  It also has a smocked blouse pattern from Butterick, dated 1948. As a way of controlling and decorating gathers, smocking appears on several McCall patterns for women from the late 1940’s.

McCall blouse pattern 1187 included an embroidery transfer for smocking (a grid-like pattern of dots) and smocking instructions. Image from Dec. 1946 catalog.

“Smocking is always good style…. Work it in some of the new color combinations, purple on green or lime, for instance.” (Yes, that’s the color combination illustrated on the right.)

McCall smocked blouse pattern 1136. Image from Deember 1946 catalog.

(I’ll be showing more “peasant styles” in another post.)

McCall smocked blouse pattern 1197, originally issued in 1945. It included a “smocking lesson.”

Details and description of smocking pattern 1197. “Peasant-style smocking, strongly influenced by Russia. It has real old-world charm.”

Russia was allied with Britain and the U.S. in the defeat of Nazi Germany, and suffered terrible losses. In 1945, America was not yet in the grip of anti-communist hysteria, so Russian-style embroidery was admired.

This smocked bed jacket appeared in 1944. This image is from the 1946 McCall needlework catalog, but it’s also in the catalog for November 1950, six years later.

Description of McCall pattern 1133, Needlework Catalog for December 1946.

Once people started watching TV in their bedrooms, you’d think bed jackets would have made a comeback. They’re not just for people who are served breakfast in bed.

Once I started looking, I found about thirty smocking patterns — for the embroidery transfers or for clothing — just from those three McCall catalogs. I’ll concentrate on children’s patterns in other posts. And I’ve requested a book about smocking from my local library:  A-Z of Smocking edited by Sue Gardner, published in 2016.

To get an idea of the range of designs that can be created using smocking techniques, visit this Pinterest page. 

Katafalk, a WordPress blogger, has a clearly illustrated demonstration of one kind of smocking. Click here.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Vintage patterns

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2

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Ad for Talon Slide-Fasteners, Delineator magazine, March 1929. Butterick, which published Delineator, also sold dress pattern 2365, which used several zippers. It is the dress being worn by the woman shopper in the Talon ad. Talon zip “colors are black, white, two tones of gray and two of brown.”

While poking around in 1930’s Sears catalogs (via Ancestry.com), I was curious about two things:

  1. After 1935-36 season, when French fashion houses began showing zippers in “dressy” clothing, as opposed to sportswear and work clothes, how long did it take for the fashion to be accepted in the mass market?  I don’t mean in exclusive stores which copied couture, but in low-cost clothing for ordinary women, like those who shopped from the Sears catalog.
  2. I have a theory that the heavy weight zippers which were used successfully in jackets, work clothing, and canvas mailbags in the late twenties and early thirties (See Zip, Part 1) were simply too heavy and stiff to use in the light-weight dress fabrics of the twenties and thirties. Was there a noticeable change in the sizes and qualities of zippers available to home dressmakers in the late 1930s?

Note: All images identified as coming from Sears Catalogs are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC.  Do not copy them.

A little review: Slide fasteners, soon called zippers in the U.S., were found in sportswear and children’s clothing before they appeared in more formal clothing.

These sweatshirts appeared in the Sears catalog for Fall 1937. Some have zip closings at the neck (and one has America’s favorite rodent….)

A Sears “twin set” from Fall 1937 includes a solid color jacket that closes with a separating zipper, and a coordinating striped sweater underneath. ” ‘Zips’ are fashion pets….”

This terrific ski suit has a separating zipper; “zips” on ski wear and children’s snow suits were so customary that the catalog doesn’t even mention this zipper.

Woman’s ski outfit from Sears catalog for Fall 1937.

Work dresses and house dresses also featured zippers in 1937-38:

Snapper and Zip house dresses and housecoats were shown in the Spring of 1938 Sears catalog. This zipped dress was for “housewives, nurses, beauticians, maids . . . the perfect dress to work in.”

A long (and colorful) front zipper appears on this “hostess gown” from Sears, Fall 1937. It is not for street wear, but it is made from rayon crepe, a soft, clinging fabric.

Left, a dress with a zipper neckline, and right, a sporty two-piece with a front zipper. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

Description of Sears two-piece outfit for Spring 1937.

The 1937 outfit in the middle — “with three zips!” — has a zip neck opening and two more zippers as trim on the pockets. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

In the 1938 catalogs, zippers are still appearing on casual, sporty dresses, but also on more dressy outfits. This is a sporty knit zip outfit:

This sporty knit has a long separating zipper as a fashion detail; Sears, Spring 1938. Presumably the zip colors matched the darker fabric.

This dress has one, long, obvious zipper from neckline to just above the hem, and it is definitely not a dress for housework. Sears, Spring 1938. It’s made of washable Shantung rayon. The long vertical line of the zip “gives you that slim, tall silhouette that’s all the rage.”

This “dressy” blouse is made of taffeta — and has a “popular” zipper running right down the front.

Delicate fabric appears in a taffeta zip-front blouse from Sears, Spring 1938.

There is nothing sporty or casual about this 1938 corselet dress with dyed-to-match embroidered sheer sleeve and bodice inserts.

A “Paris inspired” dress from Sears’ Spring 1938 catalog. Where’s the zipper? In the hidden side seam opening. “A Zip placket closing for trim, perfect fit.”

This is another tid-bit of zipper information: in Spring of 1938, the zipper was taking the place of the old snap or hook-and-eye closing hidden in the side seam of a close-fitting dress.

The close fit of this embroidered dress is the result of a hidden “zip placket” in the side seam. Sears, Spring of 1938.

This dress could be ordered in three different fabrics; it has a smooth fit because of its “neat zip placket closing” in the underarm side seam. Sears, Spring 1938. The summer fabrics are soft rayon.

That’s not to say that the Paris influence — using zippers as a design feature — has disappeared.

Three Zips: “This striking dress has decorative zippers in the shoulder seams. Sears, Spring 1938. On “the Newest Zip Dress . . . A zip tops each shoulder  . . . and another zip snugly closes the placket of the new ‘corselet’ waist!”

A center front zipper is a style feature on this embroidered “pebble crepe” ensemble, too:

Embroidered two-piece dress with zipper front. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.  “The Petit Point  . . .  in heavenly colors . . . runs all around hem of flared skirt . . . up the front of the blouse on each side of colored Zip closing.”

Another zipper novelty in the Sears catalog for Spring, 1938, is the Hollywood style of this aqua “corselet” dress:

The novelty of this dress is its “long back Zip.” Sears, Spring of 1938.

If you thought the center back zipper was a tell-tale sign of the 1950s, here’s proof that it can appear earlier.

And, speaking of novelties — Not only a huge variety of zippers, in many lengths, styles, weights and colors appeared by 1939, so did novelty zipper pulls!

Ornamental zipper pulls from Sears, Spring, 1939.

The zip slide fastener on the front of this dress has a “pendant” — an ornamental zipper pull. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.

Ornamental Zip pulls, Sears catalog, Fall, 1939.  “Jitterbug” bead figurines, and “Scottie Dog, Horse or Squirrel hand carved on natural wood.” Also of interest: “Crown’s Iris Zips” made of plastic on matching colored tape, in five lengths and ten colors. Schiaparelli had encouraged the development of these full-color plastic zippers just a few years earlier.

In 1939, Sears offered a truly extensive selection of zippers for all clothing purposes:

Some of the zippers sold by Sears in Spring, 1939. Heavy jacket zips, colored enamel Talon zips…. “French dressmakers are using colored zips for smart costume accent…. Rustproof metal enameled in colors to match cotton tape…. Simple instructions for sewing with each fastener.”

More zippers from Sears, Spring 1939. “Match or contrast the colors in your house dresses, housecoats, sports clothes with colored enamel….”

Crown’s “Iris” colored plastic zip fasteners sold by Sears, Spring 1939. “A smart dress trimming as well as streamline fastening for evening dresses, blouses.”

Special zippers for side-closing dress plackets from Sears, Spring 1939. “Closed at each end– the only zip suitable for smooth “no gap” dress plackets. Gives the dresses you make yourself that smart professional look. Easy to sew in. Colored enamel on matching cotton tape.”

“Mind the Gap”

By 1939 zipper manufacturers (and their ad companies) took some inspiration from Listerine, which used “Halitosis” to sell mouthwash, and from corset manufacturers who convinced women that a curvy backside was “Lordosis,” and created a new, embarrassing condition called “Gap-o-sis,” to describe what happened to dresses that used snaps instead of zippers in their side plackets.

“We moderns don’t wear dresses that have gaposis. Cure plackets that gap with Talon Fasteners.” Gaposis could be avoided by replacing snap-closing plackets with zipper plackets in your dresses. Sears catalog, Spring 1939; top of a page listing zippers for sale.

Because vintage clothing collectors depend on zippers for help in dating garments, EBay has even published a zipper guide for collectors. You might want to compare it with some of these images from the Sears catalog….

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers