Category Archives: 1930s

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

Hairstyles for April 1937

Illustration of “Six New Hairdressings for Gadabout,” Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937. Ben-Hur Baz, illustrator.

The Womans’ Home Companion had hairstyles from leading salons illustrated in April of 1937.

Text for “Six Hairdressings” article, WHC, April 1937. The letters next to each head are the call numbers for radio stations, where readers could listen to fashion reports..

These hairdos look very fussy to me — would a lover would ever dare run fingers through them? –and they were probably full of hidden hairpins.

On the theory that product advertisements use models that women can identify with, I browsed through advertisements from 1936 and 1937 in the same magazine, looking for photographs, rather than drawings. Some hairstyles in ads did have this tightly curled and controlled look.

Tight, sculptured curls in an ad for Ipana toothpaste. WHC, Oct. 1936.

Here, the hair seems to reflect the models’ state of digestion….

Woman to woman advice in a Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia ad, WHC, Dec. 1936.

One of the models in this ad for Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia [a laxative] is definitely curled “up tight” (constipated hair?)

And so is the mother in this article about hairstyles for mother and daughter:

Supposedly, this is how the daughter wished her mother would update her hair style. WHC, May, 1937.

I get the impression that tightly controlled hair styles were aimed at the sophisticated or “mature” reader.  But not necessarily; there’s not a sculptured curl to be seen on these women who are pictured in an ad for Brownatone Hair Dye.

Women in an ad for hair dye show a range of styles, from a late 1920’s Marcel with tiny bun (lower left), to loose, almost collar- length waves. February 1937.

This chic sophisticate has far-from-casual hair…

Ad for Dorothy Gray cosmetics, March 1937. WHC.

… compared to this model in the same issue:

Soft, loosely waved hair on a model in an ad for Colgate toothpaste, March 1937.WHC.

Another off-the-face style from later in 1937:

Natural looking off-the-face waves in an ad for Doggett and Ramsdell cleansing cream. WHC, Dec. 1937. The asymmetrical hairstyle leaves room for an off-center hat.

Below, on the right, a group of models as “career girls.”

Top left, thick, loose curls from an ad for Dodge cars; right, shorter hair for “career girls;” and bottom left, a mother in an ad for Lux laundry soap. 1936-1937, WHC.

The Ponds face cream ads showed a series of lovely women; both the debutante and the duchess have loose, fluffy hairstyles:

Miss Phyllis Konta, New York debutante, in an ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, March 1937.

The Duchess of Leinster’s hair had to accommodate a tiara. June, 1937, WHC. Ad for Ponds cold cream.

Colgate ran a series of toothpaste ads featuring women who looked lovely until they smiled.

Toothpaste ad, May 1937.

Toothpaste ad, September 1937.

This Bayer Aspirin ad shows two views of the same headache-sufferer. Did taking an aspirin relax her hair?

Before and after in an ad for Bayer Aspirin. WHC, Dec. 1936.

As in the ad for Milk of Magnesia, relief and comfort are symbolized by a more natural hairstyle.

Of course, in 1937, a woman’s hairstyle was dictated by the need to wear a hat while shopping or dining in restaurants, so a curl-free area was usual in daytime hairdos.

Women in a color ad for Dodge, Dec. 1937

Women in an ad for Ponds cold cream, Oct. 1937. The hostess is the only one without a hat, and the crown of her head is smooth — and hat-ready..

Two women wearing hats; Kotex ad, Nov. 1937.

With the exception of motion picture actresses, the hair is usually worn rather close to the head.

Movie starlets in an ad for Richard Hudnut makeup, April 1937.

Actress Merle Oberon in an ad for Richard Hudnut makeup, December 1937. Her hair softly frames her face. Her plucked and penciled eyebrows look more 1920’s than 1930’s. (Compare them with the other models from 1937.)

The brushed-back hair of this model could almost pass for a 1950’s style — but it’s from February, 1937, before the “Six Hairdressings” article was written.

A brushed, almost casual hairstyle from an ad for Dorothy Gray cosmetics, February, 1937. Cartier supplied the jewels.

The model is far from girlish (and the jewels are from Cartier), but she seems much more “timeless” than Merle Oberon, and miles away from this:

Suggested “Hairdressings” from April, 1937. Woman’s Home Companion.

Maybe the ad agencies were more in touch with popular fashion than the editors of Woman’s Home Companion?

Added consideration: One disadvantage of close-to-the-head hairstyles is that, without a hat or fuller hair to balance the width of shoulders and hips, a normal woman can’t come close to the long, lean 1930’s fashion silhouette; this fashion photo from Woman’s Home Companion shows how small the head can look in relation to the figure. [Hair — and shoulders — got much bigger by the forties!]

A photo of “styles in stores;” WHC, March 1936.

In the mid-thirties, as photography replaced fashion illustrations in the “women’s magazines,” women had a more realistic image of what was possible.

Instead of adjusting our idea of beauty, the magazines and designers eventually adjusted the height and weight of the models they used.

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Filed under 1930s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Hairstyles, Makeup & Lipstick, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

McCall Dress Patterns in Color, July 1938

McCall patterns 9802 and 9803, McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

Even allowing for the difference in printing technology, the color combinations from vintage fashion magazines are often surprising. This mustard yellow and dark olive green suit was on one page, and this light yellow and robin’s egg blue coat, beside a mauve coat and peachy pink dress, was featured on the opposite page, captioned “Colors in Twos or Threes.”

McCall patterns 9812 and 9816, McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

McCall’s was a large format magazine, so I’ll show closeups of the outfits below.

Detail, McCall patterns 9802 and 9803,for sizes 12 to 18 and 36 to 42. 1938.

McCall 9802 and 9803, showing the detail of the jacket and dress bodices. 1938.

Large line drawings of the dresses without cape or jacket were conveniently placed beside them:

Dresses 9802 and 9803, 1938. A large bunch of artificial flowers, stems down, is tucked into a belt.

Back views, McCall 9802 and 9803.

Dresses with coordinating coats, McCall 9812 and 9816, From McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

On the left, a sort of hat/scarf, tied in back, which matches the striped gloves. (In surprising colors….) Notice the wrist-exposing sleeves on the mauve coat.

Again, these dresses were also illustrated without the coats:

Dresses 9812 and 9816, McCall’s Magazine, July 1938. Pattern 9816 is shown with a bunch of artificial flowers tucked into its belt.

All four dresses have puffy sleeves, and were available in pattern sizes 12 to 18 and women’s sizes 36 to 42.

The fashion illustrator on these two pages was B. Rothschild:

The illustrator’s signature is B. Rothschild, but the first name is not simply “Blanche”….

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Filed under 1930s, Vintage patterns

Two Coats from January 1936

I was looking for images of 1930’s hats when I noticed this inspiring coat. If you can get past the stylized nineteen- thirties’ illustration, the lapel structure is rather modern.

Butterick coat 6594 from Delineator, January 1936.

Butterick coat 6594 from Delineator, January 1936.

The coat seems to be unlined, perhaps with the fashion fabric turned in and topstitched instead of having a separate facing piece, although I don’t see any topstitching on the coat front. Perhaps the skirt was attached with a waist seam.

Butterick coat pattern 6594, detail. 1936.

Butterick coat pattern 6594, detail. 1936. The center panel is topstitched, as are the cuffs and pockets.

I can’t quite figure out how the topstitched lapel works, since there is no indication of that topstitching continuing down the front of the coat. Does the front of the coat turn in and act as its own facing? Or is it a separate piece? (More likely.) In either case, if that line of topstitching is practical, why doesn’t it continue down the front of the coat? Did the illustrator reverse the solid and dotted lines? Or is that “topstitch” purely decorative and confined to the lapel area?

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It would not be hard to adapt this to a more purely geometrical construction. When we look at the back, we see that the center panel is tapered, helping to shape the coat.

Butterick coat 6594 from Delineator, January 1936.

Butterick coat 6594 from Delineator, January 1936.

I’m not crazy about the pockets, but I could imagine this as a modern jacket. If the center panel continued below the waist in front, inseam pockets would be a natural adaptation. Good thing I don’t sew for myself (or even have a dressmaker mannequin.)

Butterick 6594 as inspiration:  I couldn’t resist updating it, with the front panel tapering at the waist and repeated in the skirt to make easy pockets.

Butterick coat from 1936, updated. I copied the top stitching on the lapel, to match the 1926 illustration. (I couldn't think of a hat that says "2017" more clearly than this one....)

Butterick coat from 1936, updated. I simply copied the top stitching on the lapel, to match the 1936 illustration. (But I couldn’t think of a hat that says “2017” more clearly than this one….)

I also love swing-backed coats like this one, also from 1936:

Butterick coat 6582, January 1936, Delineator.

Butterick coat 6582, January 1936, Delineator. Look at those big, rectangular buttons, and the surprise of that pointed “fishtail” back yoke.

Pattern information on Butterick topcoat 6582 from 1936.

Pattern information on Butterick topcoat 6582 from 1936. The plaid version was suggested as resort wear. I’m not sure that plaid would work over “even rather formal clothes.”

Are those double pockets, or just an oddly shaped patch pocket?

Butterick 6582 is not exactly “timeless,” but I still have a ten year old, black wool raincoat shaped like this one in my closet! (It doesn’t have those intriguing buttons, that pointed yoke, or those tiny pockets, however.) I remember buying mine at Nordstrom’s before a trip to New York in January 2008. I haven’t worn it much during the years of California drought.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Musings, Vintage patterns

Hairstyles and Hats for the Mid-Nineteen Thirties

The hairstyle is designed to be worn with a hat. Delineator cover, March 1935. Dynevor Rhys illustration.

The hairstyle is designed to be worn with a hat. Delineator cover, March 1935. Dynevor Rhys illustration.

In February of 1936, Butterick’s Delineator magazine showed six fashionable hairstyles by some top New York salons — but they were photographed on mannequin heads, rather than real women. (Stylists still practice on such uncomplaining heads while training.) I have added a few photographs and drawings from advertisements to supplement Delineator’s 1936 color images. (Because Delineator was a large format magazine, a full page photo doesn’t translate well into a 500 dpi image. This is just the top half of page 16:

"Tip-Top Hair Styles" article by in Delineator, February 1936, page 16.

“Tip-Top Hair Styles” for evening; article by Josephine Felts in Delineator, February 1936, page 16. These brilliant heads flash across the evening mode. Follow their lead in smart new ways to fix your hair.”

Evening hairstyle for 1936.

Evening hairstyle for 1936 by Charles of the Ritz. Most of us wouldn’t describe this as a “wide halo” of curls.

"The top of the head is entirely without waves."

“The top of the head is entirely without waves.”

Hairstyle to be worn with a cocktail hat, by Michael of the Waldorf. 1936.

Hairstyle to be worn with a cocktail hat, by Michael of the Waldorf. 1936.

"Have your bob three-quarter length, curled from the part on each side all around. You can't see it, for its under her hat, but the top of the head is smooth." 1936.

“Have your bob three-quarter length, curled from the part on each side all around. You can’t see it, for it’s under her hat, but the top of the head is smooth.” 1936.

Evening hairstyle for silver hair, by Emile at Rockefeller Center. 1936.

Evening hairstyle for white hair, by Emile at Rockefeller Center. 1936.

A "distinguished" style for white hair. "Have your mother try it." 1936.

A “distinguished” style for white hair. “Suggest that your mother” try it. 1936.

[This one is for Lynn at American Age Fashion. I’m pleased to see that the one featured 1936 hairstyle that could be worn today without looking bizarre is the one suggested for white hair! The side part would allow for a close-fitting 1930’s hat to be worn on one side of the head, as was the fashion.]

1936 hairstyles werer usually flat at the crown to allow for a small hat pulled down on one side of the head. Delineator fashion illustrations from January 1936.

1936 hairstyles were usually flat at the crown to allow for a small hat pulled down on one side of the head. A lady always wore a hat in public in the daytime – even if it was just a tam pulled down over one eyebrow. Delineator fashion illustrations from January 1936.

Here are images from the bottom of the page of “Tip-Top Hair Styles.”

"The unusual side treatment comes from a rolling braid begun at the part and simulating a halo." Delineator, February 1936, p. 16.

Hairstyle by Michael of the Wardorf, 1936. “The unusual side treatment comes from a rolling braid begun at the part and simulating a halo.” Delineator, February 1936, p. 16. The wide braid begins over her left eye and continues around the back of her head to the left side.

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An artificial braid sometimes formed a halo or tiara effect for evening. Here is a such a braid on Ginger Rogers.

1936 evening hairstyle by Emile at Rockefeller Center.

1936 evening hairstyle by Emile at Rockefeller Center.  “This style is best worn by the very sophisticated.”

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Hairstyle by Charles of the Ritz, 1936. A "tailored" style for evening.

Hairstyle by Charles of the Ritz, 1936. A “tailored” style for evening. The “flat curls above the forehead” are barely visible bangs rolled under at the hairline.

The final hairstyle in the article by Josephine Felts, Delineator, February 1936. You could write to her for more information.

The final hairstyle in the article by Josephine Felts, Delineator, February 1936. You could write to her for more information.

This was certainly a time for “small heads” and tightly curled hair. However, I browsed for a few photos of real women and real hair in the same issue:

Delineator showed these young models in an article about the polite way to chew gum. 1936.

Delineator showed these young models in an article about the polite way to chew gum. February, 1936. The one on the left has the flat crown which suited 1936 hats.

In September of 1936 Delineator showed this model in an evening gown designed by Ruzzie Green.

In September of 1936 Delineator showed this model in an evening gown designed by Ruzzie Green.

Miss Vivian Dixon, a debutante, wears a much more natural looking hairstyle in an ad for Camel Cigarettes.

Debutante Vivian Dixon has long-ish, softly flowing hair in the Came Cigarette ad form Delineator, February 1936.

Debutante Vivian Dixon has long-ish, softly flowing hair in the Camel Cigarette ad from Delineator, February 1936.

I believe a lot of young women who did their own hair must have looked like this model in Delineator’s “How to Sew” feature article:

A model in an article about home sewing, February 1936, Delineator.

A model in an article about home sewing, February 1936, Delineator.

Illustrator Dynevor Rhys made tight curls and close-to-the head hair look pretty:

Advertising illustration by Dynevor Rhys, February 1936. Delineator.

Advertising illustration by Dynevor Rhys, February 1936. Delineator.

But illustrator Hans Flato showed a softer, looser hairdo in a series of ads for sanitary products:

Hans Flato illustration for an ad, Delineator, March 1936.

Hans Flato illustration for an ad, Delineator, March 1936.

Hans Flato illustration for an ad, March 1935. Delineator.

Hans Flato illustration for an ad, March 1935. Delineator.

But one thing all these styles have in common, regardless of the age of the model, is the need to accommodate a 1930’s hat.

WOmen's hats in Delineator fashion illustrations, January 1936.

Women’s hats in Delineator fashion illustrations, January 1936.

Elsa Schiaparelli’s hat designs were very influential in the 1930’s. Click here for a post about them, with many more pictures.

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

Red and White Print Dresses, Vogue Patterns, 1936

What’s Black and White and Red All Over?

Vogue patterns 7251, 7253, and 7252, from Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936, p. 25.

Vogue patterns 7251, 7253, and 7252, from Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936, p. 25.

Perhaps Valentine’s Day inspired the Ladies’ Home Journal to illustrate these Vogue patterns in black, white and red, back in February, 1936. In the 1930’s, the LHJ didn’t use as much color illustration as the Woman’s Home Companion. When the LHJ stopped selling its own patterns, it began to feature Vogue patterns, just as the WHC had begun selling “Companion-Butterick” patterns in the thirties. (Butterick’s own magazine, Delineator, suddenly ceased to exist in 1937.)
For a while in the twenties, Delineator had abandoned full color illustrations in favor of using black, white, and just one color.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Delineator, May 1927.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Lages, Delineator, May 1927.

(I wonder if Edward Gorey had a stash of 1927 Delineator magazines?) Here are closer views of this illustration:

"French frocks in America." Butterick 1419, Delineator, May 1929. Notice the flashes of red in the pleated skirt.

“French frocks in America.” Butterick 1419, Delineator, May 1929. Notice the flashes of red in the pleated skirt.

Butterick 1417, Delineator, May 1927. If you want to know how those top-stitched pleats were done, click here.

A print scattered with red hearts or leaves. Butterick 1417, Delineator, May 1927. If you want to know how those top-stitched pleats were done, click here.

These Vogue dress illustrations from Ladies’ Home Journal use the same method, but in a less distinctive drawing style. What’s black and white and red all over? These pattern illustrations.

Vogue 7251, illustrated in a foulard print with either a black ground or a red ground. Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Vogue 7251, illustrated in a foulard print with either a dark ground or a red ground. Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936. The alternate view, which appears later in this post, shows a very interesting yoke and shoulder.

Text accompanying Vogue 7251.

Text accompanying Vogue 7251. This dress could be made in dressier versions, using “crinkled satin” or “beige heavy sheer.” a “foulard” design was often used in men’s neckties.

Vogue pattern 7253, for a dress and matching jacket. Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Vogue pattern 7253, for a dress and matching jacket. Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936. The fabric is illustrated with either a pink or dark ground.

Vogue 7253 pattern information. 1936.

Vogue 7253 pattern information. 1936. LHJ suggested that you make the dress  in a floral pattern for a young woman to wear to school, and for a mature woman in sheer navy with tucked sleeves on the jacket.

Alternate views of Vogue 7251, 7253, and 7252. 1935.

Alternate views of Vogue 7251, 7253, and 7252. LHJ, 1936.

Vogue 7252 from Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Vogue 7252 from Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

Pattern description for Vogue 7252, 1936.

Pattern description for Vogue 7252, 1936. “The dress itself is slim and simple. The jacket has shaped lapels and a diminutive peplum…. in bright red and navy.”

You can see the dress without its jacket in the alternate view, above. (And the text reveals a shortcoming of black and white illustrations: the fabric is really red and navy blue.)

Butterick suggested print dresses for February 1936, too; left, a solid sheer; and right, a sheer floral print.

Butterick 6630, shown in sheer fabric, and 6634 in a floral print. Delineator, February 1936, p. 37.

Butterick 6630, shown in sheer dark fabric, and 6634 in a sheer floral print. Delineator, February 1936, p. 37.

Butterick print dresses from 1936. Left, pattern 6668, right pattern 6634. The dress in the middle is Butterick 6605. All from Delineator, Feb. 1936.

Butterick print dresses from 1936. Left, pattern 6668; right, pattern 6634. The dress in the middle is Butterick 6605. All from Delineator, Feb. 1936.

We can get an idea of what 1930’s dresses looked like on a real woman from this photo:

Her husband approves of this red and white print outfit, which the young woman made on ther Singer Home Sewing Machine. Singer ad, Delineator, Feb. 1936.

Her husband approves of this red and white print outfit, which the young woman made on her Singer Home Sewing Machine. Butterick 6593. Singer ad, Delineator, Feb. 1936.

This evening dress, in a large-scale butterfly print, is Butterick 6666.

Butterick 6666, a print fabric covered with large butterflies. Delineator, Feb. 1936.

Butterick 6666, a print fabric covered with large butterflies. Delineator, Feb. 1936. It is trimmed with triangular dress clips, which are jewelry, not buttons.

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Elsa Schiaparelli showed a large-scale butterfly on this bathing suit in 1929 …

A Schiaparelli swimsuit and hooded coverup illustrated in Delineator, July 1929.

A Schiaparelli swimsuit and hooded coverup illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. “White wool bathing suit embroidered in black.”

… and made butterflies even more popular in  1937:

Elsa Schiaparelli butterfly dress, in the Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection.

Elsa Schiaparelli butterfly evening dress, 1937. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection.

I’m all a-flutter! And I seem to have strayed from red and white and black prints.

P.S. In the nineteen fifties, the answer to the children’s riddle “What’s black and white and ‘red’ all over?” was  “A newspaper.”  Gee, I’m feeling old today.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Sportswear, Vintage patterns

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.

500-5-text-switch1927-july-p-40-laundry-step-by-step-page

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