Category Archives: 1930s

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!

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1936-oct-college-girls-budget.jpg?w=500

 

 

 

 

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

More Ads for Woman’s Institute from 1920’s and 1930’s

1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Big, ruffled “Letty Lynton” sleeves became a huge fashion influence after the release of the movie in 1932.

In a previous post I wrote that Woman’s Institute ads were different every month, and that lining them up gives a mini-tour of fashions for each year. I have no photos from some years and some months, so there are big gaps in this little fashion show. I’ll just put the ones I have in chronological order. I love the captions, which repeat a few Woman’s Institute themes, like “It’s the prettiest dress I’ve ever had” and “I love to wear this dress.”

Woman’s Institute Fashions from the Twenties

February 1924 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This dress is basically a simple tube with neck and arm openings and a belt.

December 1924 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Except for the collar, this is a dress based on rectangles.

August 1925 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. 1920’s fashions are getting more complex.

August 1926 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “Nothing will ever appear ‘home-made.’ “

By December 1926, Twenties’ styles are no longer simple tubes or rectangles.

December 1926 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

January 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Notice how short skirts have become in just 25 months.

Styles had changed a great deal between December 1924 and January 1927 — just two years:

A Woman’s Institute “One Hour Dress” from 1924; two years later, the Woman’s Institute ads showed much more complicated styles.

However, the possibility of making a dress in one hour, thanks to early 1920’s styles, probably inspired many women to try making their own clothing for the first time.

February 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This dress requires piecing curves; it’s not a project for beginners.

March 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course, “used by over 230,000 women and girls.”

August 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Now there are 250,000 users.

October 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

February 1928 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

June 1928 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This is the most matronly outfit I’ve run across in these ads.

The reason many women sew for themselves is that they have non-standard-sized bodies or hard to fit figures. (Having an exceptionally small waist, broad shoulders, or tall body makes it hard to find store-bought clothes that fit, just as having a smaller or larger than average body does.) Oddly, the Woman’s Institute ads I’ve seen don’t seem to be aimed at hard-to-fit women.

October 1928 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This dress has a chic, asymmetrical collar and side drape.

Sending in the coupon from October 1928 would get you a 32 page booklet and a 60 page dressmaking lesson “which tells how to take correct measurements, select the right pattern, alter to your own measurements, cut and fit for all types of figures, etc.” Perhaps hard-to-fit women let their dressmakers alter patterns for them.

March 1929 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

Woman’s Institute Fashions from the Thirties

I have not collected many ads from 1929 or 1930, so my parade of fashions from Woman’s Institute ads has some big gaps.

February 1931 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This shows that not all hems dropped precipitately after 1929.

I have no photos from 1932, but the very long hemline on this dress was well established by 1933.

January 1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “The new feminine fashions have created a big demand for dressmakers.”

February 1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. 1930’s ads often showed evening gowns.

This marks a change to more evening gowns in the Institute’s advertising; 1933 was one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Ads that said “Earn $20 to $40 a week at home” in 1924 said “Earn $10 to $35” in March of 1933:

March 1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Scottie Dog (and fox fur stole) optional.

The number of women wearing furs during the Depression used to surprise me, but “In 1917, there were only four fur farms in the entire United States; by 1930, there were more than forty-five hundred.” This drove down the price of furs — and millions of animals were raised for slaughter. [See A Perfect Fit by Jenna Weissman Joselit.] Also, cheap furs from domestic animals like rabbits and dogs were sold as coney “seal” and “Manchurian wolf.”

March 1934 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. In 1934, “Letty Lynton” sleeves were still in style, and a dressmaker might earn a more optimistic “$20 to $50 a week.”

September 1934 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

Woman’s Institute ads seem to feature more evening dresses in the 1930’s, perhaps because the emphasis is changing to copying fashions, designing your own, and owning your own business or dress shop.

March 1935 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “You can earn a splendid income in a dressmaking business of your own.”

February 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “Earn Money in Dressmaking and Designing.”

March 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. [What a lovely train!]

In addition to lessons in making dresses and hats, Woman’s Institute courses on Cookery and, now, Tea Room Management were available.

Traditionally, most 20th century women who had their clothes made by dressmakers started with a commercial pattern or a photograph from a fashion magazine, although they might ask for changes to suit their taste.

September 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This ad is unusual because it shows a commercial pattern, Vogue 7403.

These 1930’s ads now introduce the idea of copying high fashion, designing dresses, and opening your own dress shop.

October 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

February 1937 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “Earn a fine income at home.”

The ability to work from home has always been important to women with children and other domestic responsibilities. And, of course, the overhead of a home business is lower than that of a shop.

October 1937 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. You can earn money at home . . . or have a good income in a smart dressmaking shop of your own.”

In 1938, Woman’s Institute placed this ad in a Butterick Fashion News Flyer, encouraging women who use commercial patterns to design and make their own clothes with the dressmaking skills learned from Woman’s Institute.

Woman’s Institute advertisement that appeared in the Butterick Fashion News Flyer for March, 1938.

“Be the smartest dressed woman in your town!” That’s almost what the ads said in 1917!

Testimonials from Woman’s Institute customers. There are now 300,000 of them. March 1938.

Coupon for Woman’s Institute, March 1938.

Mary Brooks Picken also published a quarterly magazine, Fashion Service. If you are researching Woman’s Institute ads, I found 1114 citations with a search on the Cornell University Home Archive.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Woman's Institute

More Cutex Nail Polish Ads in Color

Cutex advertises smoky nail polish shades for chic bridesmaids; Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1936.

While catching up on files I hadn’t labelled, I found two more 1930’s color ads for Cutex Nail Polish.

In 1936, ads assured customers that their Cutex nail polish would not get thick and gummy after being opened. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1936

Those sharply pointed kitten-claw nails are much in evidence, with white, unpainted half-moons and tips. The colors are “smoky” and coordinated with autumn clothing colors.

Smoky shades of nail polish to compliment bridesmaids’ clothing colors. Cutex ad, September, 1936.

Robin Red was recommended for this pink organdy dress.

“Be divine in pink organdy with Cutex Robin Red nails.”

This bridesmaid wears Rust nail polish with her green dress.

By sending in a coupon and fourteen cents, you could get two samples of nail polish, nail polish remover, and a Cutex lipstick to harmonize! (This is the first mention I happen to have seen about coordinated nail and lip color; that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of earlier references I simply haven’t come across.)

Cutex coupon ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1936.

In the October ads, competition among the nail polish companies became evident: both Cutex and Glazo claimed that their polish wouldn’t get thick or “gummy.”

Top of Cutex ad, October 1936.

Cutex showed a lineup of colors from different companies.

Nail polish colors in competition; Cutex ad, October 1936.

“We deliberately uncorked [!] 10 bottles of nail polish — two of our New Cutex — Clear and Creme, and 8 popular rival brands — and let their contents stand exposed to the air for 14 days.”

Text from a Depression Era Cutex ad (October 1936) stresses economy: “usable down to the last drop — a distinct saving!” “There’s no question about value for your money when you buy Cutex.”

Nail polish being a luxury, rather than a necessity, women must have felt a little bit guilty buying it during hard times — unless it was really a money-saving purchase, “usable down to the last drop — a distinct saving!”at “the old economical price” of 35 cents.

Glazo nail polish also addressed the problem of nail polish that became too thick to use. Glazo ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1936. At 25 cents per bottle, Glazo was cheaper than Cutex.

Here’s a closer look at those hats:

The hats worn in this Glazo nail polish ad are really rather conservative for 1936.

New “smoky” Cutex nail polish colors from October 1936.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories

Lux for Laundry Ads 1930s

A little social history: A relatively new idea appears in this ad, which I showed last week.

The young woman who says she hates men just needed some advice on how to attract them. Lux laundry soap ad, August 1934.

Here, a friend advises her to wash her underwear after each wearing.

Lux laundry soap advised women to wash their underwear after each wearing. This implies a generally higher standard of living — and assumes more than one set of underclothes, since drying time was unpredictable.

In Victorian England, poor women had to put their children to bed for a day in order to wash their clothes. The family huddled under a blanket while the only clothing they possessed was washed and dried. My uncle Bert, born around 1899, behaved like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian bachelor farmers;” believing that a bath “opened the pores” to harmful germs, he would have remained unwashed, wearing the same set of long underwear from fall until spring, if my parents had not required regular bathing and fresh clothes as a condition of his living with us in the 1960’s.

Our twentieth century American sensitivity to personal odors was developed by ad campaigns like this one.

Ad for Lux laundry soap. March 1933. In this case, “It” is not sex appeal but the smell of unwashed underwear.

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1933. “Perhaps she thinks she doesn’t perspire. But we all do, even though we don’t feel sticky. Frequently over a quart a day, doctors say…. Second day underthings are never safe.”

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1932. “Underthings absorb perspiration. Avoid offending….”

Text from Lux ad, March 1932. “I don’t see how she can be so careless about her underthings … wear them so long without a change.”

“She bathes every day, but she wears her girdle a whole week” without washing it. Lux ad, Nov. 1936, Woman’s Home Companion.

Lux ad, WHC, Nov. 1936. She is wearing the relatively new two-way stretch girdle, made possible by Lastex. “Cake-soap rubbing” is a reference to traditional laundry products like Naptha soap, which came in bar form.

Making women feel insecure about their breath worked wonders for Listerine….

Halitosis ruined her entire evening; she has tears in her eyes. Ad for Listerine, Feb. 1924.

That ad campaign was still going strong ten years later:

Listerine “halitosis” ad, February 1934. “Mostly boys in this picture, but the moral is for girls…. Get rid of halitosis with Listerine.” (The man at right is offering money to any fellow willing to cut in and release him from this dancing partner.)

Why shouldn’t a similar ad campaign work for laundry soap?

Ad for Lux laundry soap, McCall’s magazine, July 1938. The story in comic book format: It’s really unpleasant to be near her, so her friends want the window open; her husband isn’t glad to see her….

“I’m so unhappy. Harry doesn’t love me as he used to….” He wonders, “Why isn’t she the dainty girl she used to be?”Lux ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Having taught women to wash their undies, including girdles, it’s time for them to wash their dresses more often, too. “If she’d LUX her dress the way she does her undies, she wouldn’t offend.”

Progress.

(Incidentally, someone could make a study of the use of the word “dainty” in such ads.)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Girdles, lingerie, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Fingernail Polish Ads from 1917 to 1937

Fingernail polish in an illustration from 1931.  The tips and “half moons” remain white. This was the fashion during the 1920’s and the 1930’s. Delineator, November 1931. The artist was Dhynevor Rhys.

By 1931, the liquid product we call “nail polish” was widely available, but there was an earlier way to shine your fingernails: nail polish powder. It persisted into the 1920’s.

From an ad for Cutex nail powder and polishes, Delineator, November 1924.

Back in the 1940s, my mother still had her old celluloid dresser set, (not as nice as that one!) which included — in addition to a hair brush and a mirror — a button hook, a hair receiver, a container for collar studs, a file, and a nail buffer. She showed me, once, how to put the polish, which came in a small jar, on my bare fingernails and then buff them to a soft shine with a chamois nail buffer.

Using a nail buffer; illustration from an article on nail care, Delineator, July 1924, p. 37.

Buffing your nails was supposed to improve circulation; it gave them a temporary rosy glow. (Pink fingertips go back a long way; Homer describes the dawn as “rosy fingered.”)

“Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and polished marble that stood in front of his house. [Odyssey]”  Thanks to Gary Corby.

In 1917, this is what nail polish could look like:

From an ad for Cutex nail polish, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

Cutex Nail Polish ad, 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

The range of Cutex products in a sampler set from 1917 included “the ideal cuticle remover,” an emery board for shaping the nails, an orange stick for cleaning under nails and pushing back the cuticle, a ball of cotton, nail white, “polishing paste pink” and a bar [or is it a box?] of polish.

Cutex manicure products, 1917. This sampler kit “sent for 14 cents” includes two forms of polish, nail white, cuticle remover, “Cuticle Comfort” moisturizer, and basic tools.  Ad from LHJ, October 1917.

There is an excellent history of the Cutex company, which was founded by Northam Warren, complete with product descriptions and early advertising: click here.

This Cutex cuticle remover ad from October 1917 explains how to use it by soaking cotton in the Cutex and applying it to the cuticle with an orange stick. (The thimble-like object is the cork bottle stopper.)

The Cutex company’s initial product was a liquid for softening and minimizing cuticles without cutting them:  Cuticle-“X,”  became the “Cutex” brand.

Cutex Cuticle Remover ad, October 1917; Ladies’ Home Journal. “Discard forever your manicure scissors!”

After removing the cuticle and buffing your nails to a rosy shine, you could finish by whitening the tips of your nails:

Applying Cutex nail white, from a 1917 advertisement. “A touch of Cutex Nail White underneath the nails leaves them immaculate — snowy white.” Later,  Nail White came in a tube, making it easier to apply. This is an ancestor of the “French Manicure” popular at the end of the 2oth century.

In 1917  — and into the 1920’s — the ideal was an almond-shaped nail with a distinct half-moon at the base and white tips:

The twenties’ ideal was almond nails with white half moons and tips; from an ad for Cutex, November 1927; Delineator. Colored polish was not applied to the tip or the base of the nail.

Half moons and lovely oval fingernails. Cutex ad, April 1928. Delineator. The “ideal nail shape” changed to sharply pointed nails in the nineteen thirties, but the half moons and tips remained white.

According to several sources, clear liquid nail polish was available in 1916, and Cutex sold a clear liquid polish, tinted “natural” pink, after 1920, but in this Cutex ad from 1924, Cutex Liquid Polish which “lasts a whole week” is just one option among the older buffing products like powder polish, cake polish, and paste polish.

An introductory set:  Cutex powder polish and liquid polish plus cuticle remover and cuticle cream. Ad in Delineator, October 1924. Full sizes cost 35 cents each.

Throughout the nineteen twenties, liquid polish gained popularity.

The “sophisticated Parisienne” applies Cutex Liquid Nail Polish in this ad from November, 1926. Delineator. The brush is now part of the bottle cap.

Cutex packaging was changing, too.

A sample of Cutex liquid nail polish in a bottle with separate brush. Ad from November 1926. “In two shades, “Natural or the New Deep Rose.” A bottle of nail polish remover was included.

By 1928, Cutex ad campaigns featured celebrities like Anita Loos.

Anita Loos appeared in an ad for Cutex liquid nail polish in 1928.

Illustrator and industrial designer Helen Dryden praised liquid Cutex nail polish.

Fashion Illustrator Helen Dryden illustrated many magazine covers for Delineator. Cutex ad, 1928.

So did this “lady explorer” (Osa Johnson) on a zebra….

Cutex ad, January 1929, Delineator. Cutex liquid nail polish was advertised as nail protection in the late 1920’s.

Also in the late twenties, Cutex packaging took on an Art Deco look:

Cutex Liquid Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover. January 1929 advertisement. This introductory offer included both for 6 cents, but normal sized bottles cost 35 cents each.

Incredibly, it seems that liquid nail polish was sold in the 1910’s before nail polish remover appeared, but in this 1929 introductory package, they are offered together.

The ideal fingernail was not overly long in the 1920s — and nail polish did not cover the “half-moon” or the tips of the nails. Cutex ad, Delineator, June 1928.

Elegant hands wear colored nail polish on a Delineator cover, February 1932. Dynevor Rhys illustration.

As liquid nail polish became available in a range of bright colors, Cutex had to convince women to wear them. There was an ad campaign stressing that respectable socialites and debutantes wore colored nail polish. Presumably, conservative women thought red nails were the sign of a scarlet woman, and had to be persuaded otherwise.

Do 1932 debutantes choose tinted nails or natural? Cutex ad, Delineator, February 1932. “The popular girl of 1932 is way past losing sleep over whether to wear her nails bright or pale.”

Debutantes were encouraged to wear colored nail polish — and sharply pointed nails. Cutex ad, Delineator, February 1932. Applying polish to just part of the nail is definitely more difficult than painting the entire nail, but fashion is rarely practical….

Pointed nails shaped like claws appeared in the early 1930’s.

The picture of innocence? Strawberry soda and very sharp fingernails painted to match. Delineator cover, July 1933. Dynevor Rhys illustration.

If respectable women were going to have bright red fingernails, they needed to be taught how to coordinate their nail polish with their clothing.

Three highly respectable socialites wear brightly colored nail polish. From left, ruby red nails with a black outfit, rose nails with a green dress and silver fox fur, and coral nails with a beige dress. Cutex ad, February 1933, Delineator.

Tinted or natural colored nail polish? It depended on what you were wearing. Cutex ad, February 1932. “Wear Cardinal with black velvet — Natural with brocaded [metallic] lame — and Coral to accent white satin.”

A larger range of colors was available:

Cutex advertised six nail polish colors in February 1933. Delineator. A woman had to have several choices so she wouldn’t “commit Atrocities” with clashing colors. “If there’s any dress in your closet that hasn’t its special shade of polish to snap it up, go get it!” That should increase sales….

There was also price competition:

Ad for Glazo liquid nail polish, Delineator, February 1934. At 25 cents, Glazo was much cheaper than 35 cent Cutex, which made it easier to own several colors.

From an ad for Glazo nail polish, Delineator, February 1934. “Six authentic shades. Natural, Shell, Flame, Geranium, Crimson, Mandarin Red, Colorless.”

Women also needed more nail polish in the nineteen thirties, because they were encouraged to paint their toenails, too.

A “manicure” included matching polished toenails in this beauty advice article from July 1934. Delineator, p. 37. The new, open-toed sandals for day or evening showed off twinkling toes.

In the thirties, open-toed shoes came out of the bedroom and on to the dance floor. These high-heeled evening sandals , trimmed with gold, were featured in 1934:

Right, evening sandals, June 1934, Delineator.

The sandals pictured below are for daytime wear, but not necessarily on the beach.

Fashion article in Delineator, June 1934. Sandals to show “your tanned feet and tinted toe-nails.”

Daytime sandals described in Delineator fashion article, June 1934.

EXTRAS:  You can still buy a nail buffer and polishing cream at Vermont Country Store.

There is a History of Cutex with color ads at the Chronically Vintage blog, and an authoritative history of Cutex with color ads and images of products 1920, etc. at the Northam Warren (Cutex) site.

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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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