Category Archives: 1930s

Summer Fashions and More from July, 1937

July 1937 cover of Woman’s Home Companion.

Before the month is over, I thought we might travel into the past with the help of Woman’s Home Companion. Of course, we won’t be hanging around the pool, unmasked, showing off our red, 1937 Dodge…. (She’s sitting on the “running board,” a feature of the older cars driven in my childhood.)

Ad for Dodge cars, 1937.

The bare backed swimsuits on the women go along with the very low backs of late 1930s evening dresses…..

Vogue patterns from 1937.

And what an interesting tan that man on the right would have acquired…. (American men were just getting used to appearing bare chested in public.)

Striped canvas sandals were in, and so were bright red fingernails and toenails.

Ad for La Cross nail polish, July 1937.

Youngsters could wear athletic shoes that looked like classic Keds, but weren’t:

Ad for Hood Canvas Shoes, 1937.

Different models of Hood canvas and rubber shoes were given creative names. (Say Hykeshu out loud.)

1937 was still Depression-era, when many were watching their pennies. Knee-high stockings were featured in these fashion tips:

WHC fashion tips column, July 1937. Note the Pince-Nez glasses!

My glamorous Aunt Irene sometimes wore pince-nez glasses which hung by a black silk cord. (In the drawing, you can see the place where a cord or chain was attached at the side.) She seems to have switched to ordinary glasses in this picture from 1949.

Aunt Irene had bright red hair, bright red lipstick, and sometimes, pince-nez glasses. But not in this photo from 1949.

In 1937, fashions had broad shoulders or puffy sleeves:

One pattern made these three jackets. July 1937. Shoulder pads or a ruffle inside pouffed the sleeve heads.

Other patterns for summer dresses:

“Vacation” dresses for women up to size 44 bust. July 1937.

Dresses for teens and younger women, July 1937.

The green dress has a very wide collar shading the shoulders.

The floral print dress has a cape/collar that looks like sleeves:

Fashions for older women were brightly colored — and worn with white, punched leather shoes.

“Charm after Fifty” was the caption. July 1937.

Punched leather shoes from June, 1937.

Those “After fifty” women look amazingly tall and trim, but the same July issue ran this “halitosis” ad from Listerine mouthwash:

Elderly People:  Your children avoid kissing you? Must be your bad breath…. “You never know when you have halitosis.” “Deodorant Power” Listerine ad, July 1937.

On the bright side, kitchen work was getting easier with the introduction of paper towels! 

In 1937, women had to be taught how to use paper towels. Scot ad, July 1937.

But women were finally being allowed to wear shorts on the tennis court!

Tennis shorts and a knit top, July 1937.

And here is a fad that appears frequently: Alpine, Tyrolean, or otherwise Germanic folkwear inspiration.

The Yodel apron, a pattern from WHC. 1937.

Folksy fashion for June 1937.

Considering that storm clouds were forming over Europe in 1937, the 1930s’ fashion for Germanic folk clothing seems odd. (Although this apron is “Swiss.”) The Vintage Traveller has written about and illustrated the “alpine” trend.

Time to get back to the present…. COVID-19, arthritis, etc. Thanks to Randy Rainbow I can hobble around my house singing, “I will save the world / by lying on my couch.” Don’t forget your mask!

4 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear

Morning to Midnight Fashions for June, 1930

Golf outfit illustrated by Leslie Saalburg, June 1930. Delineator masthead.

Before June 2020 is over, let’s relax with some women’s fashions from 90 years ago. Butterick’s Delineator magazine illustrated a range of outfits for sports, resorts, and daily life, for day and night.

The play of pattern on pattern is pretty extreme in this editorial illustration of a golfer:

Should this outfit be taken literally? June 1930.

Another editorial illustration by Saalburg for June 1930.

Those bare-backed beach overalls were real, as shown by Butterick pattern 3184, far left, below. Beach shorts like those on the right could also be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick overalls pattern 3184; center and center right are Butterick shorts 3187 and 3178.

For summer evenings in 1930, Saalburg illustrated couture by Lucien Lelong, Molyneux, Cheruit, and Jean Patou:

French couture evening coats and gowns by Lelong, Molyneux, and Cheruit. Delineator, June, 1930.

This Patou jacket and matching gown was described as a “restaurant ensemble.”

Wealthy women who couldn’t afford a trip to Paris could buy a copy of a different Patou gown from Saks Fifth Avenue:

Detail of a printed chiffon evening gown by Patou at Saks. 1930.

The fishnet gloves were a chic summer accessory for this “lavender chiffon gown printed in delicate rose and green.”

Patou gown from Saks, 1930.

Earlier in the day, soft gowns were worn for formal occasions (e.g., an afternoon wedding or dance).

Left, Butterick afternoon dress 3247; right, tea gown 3279. June 1930.

Everything shown for June 1930 has a natural waist, although sometimes it’s partially hidden by a blouson bodice. Often the bodice continued to a seam far  below the waist, and the bodice was not darted. Only the belt defined the waist. Some of these day dresses show a hint of the old dropped waist and the new natural waist:

Women’s dress patterns from Butterick for June 1930. These 1930 bodices continue to the place where the skirt is attached, with no waist seam.

1920s meets 1930s in these summer dresses.

A belt at the natural waist and a horizontal seam around the low hip. 1930.

The waist is natural, but the bodice is bloused, rather than fitted. June, 1930.

Women who wore larger sizes could find flattering styles, too. These patterns were available up to size 48 bust:

Butterick dress patterns for larger women. 1930. The one on the right has vertical tucks to define the waist.

Here’s a variety of dresses in the usual size range of 32 to 36 (14 to 18) and 38 to 44. Patterns sized by “year,” e.g., “15 to 20 years” used to come in shorter lengths for younger or smaller women. That seems to be changing here.

Butterick dresses for women and teens, 1930. No bare knees to be seen! No. 3278 is at far right. Vertical tucks at far left.

These dresses (below) for younger women show how different 1930 outfits could be. The one on the left has a separate cape, but flutter sleeves became an iconic 1930s look — reappearing in the 1970s.

Left, Butterick 3297 has a cape; right, 3261 has a bolero top. June 1930.

Another little touch that was popular in the Thirties (on sportier outfits) was lacings. The laced look was “nautical” and popular for several years:

Lacings affect the fit of 3256 (left) and lacings appear on the skirt, jacket, and blouse of 3262, at right. June 1930. These three patterns were only available up to bust size 40.

These are “sailor made fashions” from Butterick, featured in 1934.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

And these  laced dresses come from a Berthe Roberts catalog, January 1935.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/sailor-lacing-butterick-6019-delin-jan-1935-and-berth-robert-catalog-1934.jpg

That’s it for June 1930!

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Capes, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Women in Trousers

Book Recommendation: Three Books by Ruth Gordon, plus Vanity Fair

I am indulging an old addiction by re-reading all of Ruth Gordon’s non-fiction books. Most people know her from the movie Harold and Maude, (in which she is perfectly cast!) but she was already a well-known stage actress. (She started in 1915, flunked out of drama school, wouldn’t give up; by the 1930s she was a huge hit in London and on Broadway; she gave 1,078 performances as Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker, and was nominated for a Tony award in 1956.)
She was a playwright (selling an autobiographical play to MGM for $100,000 in 1952 — it’s called The Actress, and Spencer Tracy plays her father;) a screenwriter (5 Oscar nominations with her husband Garson Kanin, including the Tracy/Hepburn comedies like Adam’s Rib.)
And she won her first Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in Rosemary’s Baby in 1968-69. (She was 72 years old; she’d been acting since 1915.)  Accepting it, she said, “I can’t tell ya how encouragin’ a thing like this is….) See her acceptance speech here:
She published three books in her 70s and 80s; won an Emmy when she was 83 ….  In other words, a good role model for all of us!
I want some of her zest for life to rub off on me. (And her memory for funny stories. Among her many, many friends: Harpo Marx, Thornton Wilder, Charles Laughton, Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Parker, Walter Matthau …. A lot of laughter!)

Typical story: In the 1910s, Ruth was still a nobody, but she was friends with a Broadway star who asked her to keep her company on the way to a movie audition. The would-be movie actress was asked to improvise a scene. She was shown a movie set which contained a table with a vase of flowers, a letter, and a pistol. As Ruth described the try-out, (I’m paraphrasing:) The actress enters the room. She goes to the table. She sees the letter. She opens the letter. It’s bad news. It’s terrible news! She sees the gun. She picks up the gun. She shoots the letter.

And she didn’t get the part! I guess the studio already had a comedienne.

Another story: When Gordon was a Broadway star herself and a member of the Algonquin Round Table (along with writers and wits  Robert Benchley, Alexander Woolcott, Dorothy Parker…,) she was also a friend of silent movie and stage star Lillian Gish and her sister, Dorothy. The Gish sisters were living in an apartment in New York. The apartment was on an upper floor, and the Gish sisters had a pet parrot. Its wings were clipped, so it was free to wander around indoors. One summer day, they forgot that the window was open and let the parrot out of his cage. It hopped on to a chair, then on to the table, and then, to their horror, it hopped up on the windowsill and flew out the window — and immediately realized that it couldn’t fly.

“Oh, dear!” it cried, flapping its wings,
                                                                      “OH dear!,”
                                                                                                 “OOOOH DEAR!” all the way down.

Luckily it landed on a canvas-covered truck, rode to New Jersey, and was returned to the Gish sisters, a sadder but wiser bird.

Top left, Ruth Gordon, with Raymond Massie and Pauline Lord on Broadway in Ethan Frome, 1936. Photo by Steichen from Vanity Fair.

But I don’t read Gordon’s autobiographical books just for the laughs. She writes as if the reader is an old friend, so reading her is like chatting over lunch with a fabulous friend who is wise and shrewd and full of stories, with 80 years of life experience and still interested in everything.
She’s very honest about her life — triumphs and failures, happy memories and regrets. Her first husband died when he was only 36; (she was several years younger.) Later, after an affair with a married man,  she chose to raise her illegitimate son, rather than pretend he was adopted, as other stars did in the same situation. She was often broke, embarrassed by owing money to her more successful friends. When she was successful — as an actor and a writer — she wore couture and loved it. (Of course she wrote about the experience of shopping couture; the pink satin gown she wore while accepting her Oscar was a Givenchy.)
She has total recall of every dress her mother made for her or that she wore early in her career. (And I wonder, exactly what was “tango-colored” in 1913?)
But she also writes about poverty in her teens, when she and her factory-worker father sold everything — including her few childhood books — to pay for her mother’s care after a stroke. Struggling to get a start in her acting career, she was hungry enough to consider the “casting couch” route. If you want to know what it was like to tour with a play that opened in a different city every day, Ruth can tell you. (Some hotels didn’t accept actors, so she claimed to be a traveling saleswoman for Onyx Hosiery.)

Onyx Hosiery ad, 1910.

She made headlines during World War II:
“‘Actress forty-six marries film director thirty.” Her husband said he liked the headline. “If it said ‘Actress forty-five’ a lot of people would say ‘She’s fifty if she’s a day,’ but when an actress says she’s forty-six, you have to believe her.” It was a long, happy, successful marriage and writing collaboration. And the snappy exchange of dialogue in those Spencer Tracy/Kathrine Hepburn movies was the work of Ruth Gordon and her husband, Garson Kanin. (Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike, etc.)
Incidentally, the only award she usually mentions was that Oscar in 1969.  In 1915, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts told her “Don’t come back. You don’t show any promise.” In 1968, they asked her to come back to give her an Award for Achievement and to make a speech to the students. Boy, did she!
Here’s Ruth:
“I think what it takes is don’t give up! DON’T GIVE UP! Just don’t give up and that sounds like a put-down, but it isn’t. And it sounds as though it’s easy and it isn’t. DON’T GIVE UP! I learned that at the Academy and it was all I did learn. It wasn’t what my father paid four hundred dollars [tuition] for, but it may be the best lesson I was ever taught. DON’T GIVE UP! …. At the end of the year [Mr. Sargent] said, “Don’t come back. You don’t show any promise….”
I was scared. I was scared I wouldn’t find out how to be an actress because in that year the school hadn’t taught me. I’m smart and I can learn, but the school hadn’t given me a clue. Four hundred dollars and all I got for it was fright, because even to myself I didn’t show any promise….  ‘Don’t come back,’ he said. That’s a terrible thing, you could drop dead…. You could kill yourself…. You could give up….
Or you could learn something. Isn’t that what we came to the Academy for? So I learned something and what I learned here was and is DON’T GIVE UP…. When somebody says to you,”You’re not pretty enough,” “You’re too tall,” You’re too short,” “Your personality’s not what we’re looking for,” DON’T GIVE UP!’ “
I bet she enjoyed saying every word of that! And she said a lot more, too…
“Most every moment along the way takes courage. Courage is like a strain of yoghurt culture, if you have some you can have some more.” (From An Open Book.)
Start by reading My Side, her autobiography. Published in 1976, available in paperback or hardback. Her style is conversational; she skips from topic to topic and memory to memory as if she was chatting with you, but once I decided to go with her flow, it was wonderful! And, if you want to know more about shooting movies, Ruth tells you the details of filming Harold and Maude.
Next, An Open Book,  published in 1980. (It includes that lecture at The Academy.}

Then, if you’re hungry for more,   Myself Among Others , published in 1971. You probably haven’t heard of many of the early 20th century celebrities Gordon knew well and writes about. Luckily for me, I bought an anthology of articles and celebrity photos from Vanity Fair magazine in the 1920s when I was a teenager in 1960 and didn’t own many other books. This photo of Leslie Howard permanently warped my idea of “an attractive man.”

How to wear a top hat, white tie, and tails: Leslie Howard photographed by Steichen for Vanity Fair, 1934.

Not only did this book prepare me for many of the plays I have designed costumes for, it acted as my first door into a different era, with jokes and essays by many writers and critics who were household names in the 1920s and 1930s.  If you love those decades, it’s full of photos and articles — not about the 1920s and 1930s but from the 1920s and 1930s. Many copies are available online, from under $4.

So, in addition to Ruth Gordon’s various memoirs,  I also recommend Vanity Fair: A Cavalcade of the 1920s and 1930s, edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee.

Clara Bow, photographed by Dyer for Vanity Fair in 1928.

And if you haven’t seen Ruth Gordon at work as an actress, forgive Harold and Maude for being so “Seventies” and just watch a genius at work. (It’s on YouTube and on Prime.) A big part of acting is listening — I just watched a brief clip and now I want to watch the whole movie again. Gordon also gave a Golden Globe-winning (and Oscar nominated) performance as Daisy Clover’s mentally ill mother in Inside Daisy Clover. (1966) It is not a good movie, but Gordon is truthful and real in every scene she has.

2 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Musings

Early Thirties’ Hats & Patterns

This big-brimmed hat was shown on the cover of Delineator, August 1930. Illustrated by Dynevor Rhys. It may be based on Butterick pattern 3816, shown later in this post.

The transition from 1920s to 1930s was more gradual in hats than in dresses. The cloche was still around, but tiny hats and huge hats were also featured.

Five different hat styles appeared on the same page in Delineator, August 1930.

Above, Hat B is a familiar cloche, Hat C clings very tightly to the head, Hats A and D have wide brims, and Hat E is cut away in front, with most of the brim at sides and back.

You would expect these wide brims in summer; August 1930.

By summer of 1930, the natural waist is everywhere.

Delineator cover for June 1930. Detail.

I find 1930 hats with a pleated brim very attractive:

Left, a medium-width pleated brim. August 1930.

Another pleated brim from August 1930.

Wide-brimmed hats were especially seen with afternoon dresses:

A long, formal afternoon dress is topped with a very wide brim. August 1930. You can imagine this woman is a guest at a wedding.

Another afternoon ensemble; Delineator cover, June 1930.

This socialite was photographed in an afternoon dress by Paquin and a Reboux hat with unusual brim. Delineator, August 1930. Click here for another asymmetrical Reboux hat dated 1928.

However, wide brims were also worn for sun protection with casual dresses and even pajamas:

Fashion editorial illustrations; Delineator, May 1930.

Detail from a Delineator cover, February 1931. Thanks to Lynn at Americanagefashion.com for this image! [Thong shoes!]

Butterick offered this versatile hat pattern in 1931.

Butterick pattern 3816 for hats with and without a brim. Delineator, April 1931.

The one second from left doesn’t have a brim, just a “binding.”

Butterick hat patttern 3816; back view of two versions.

This pattern is also in the collection of the Commercial Pattern Archive.

Butterick 3816 image from pattern envelope. CoPA.

The version at lower left resembles the hat featured on the August 1930 Delineator cover.

Very similar to Butterick 3816, but with added trim inside and outside the hat.

The shapes of the pattern pieces for Butterick 3816, courtesy of CoPA.

Once you create a log-in for the Commercial Pattern Archive, you have free access to this and other patterns.

McCall hat pattern 1879 from 1931. CoPA archive.

Pattern pieces for McCall 1879, a hat from 1931.

This beautiful hat from the CoPA collection dates back to 1924:

McCall pattern 1362 envelope illustration, courtesy of Commercial Pattern Archive.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to copy those flowers and add them to a purchased straw hat!

A big hat was still appropriate for summer in 1933:

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, Women in Trousers

Scalloped Button Tabs, Early 1930s

Scallop-shaped button tabs from 1930. Sometimes they are bound with bias tape. The ones on the left may be topstitched, instead.

Sometimes a minor fashion detail will catch my eye as I browse through photos. I don’t think this one was a major fashion trend, but it does show up enough for me to make quite a collection of examples. Scalloped hems had been seen in the 1920s, but these button tabs seem to be a 1929  – 1931 feature. They are shown on women and children.

Scalloped button tabs on a woman’s tunic and a girl’s dress. Butterick patterns, 1930.

Sometimes they appear on skirts.

Scalloped button tabs on suit skirts. 1930 and 1931.

Sometimes they are bound with bias fabric contrasting with the dress; sometimes they are lined but not outlined. See above. (And sometimes it’s had to tell which from the illustrations….)

Scallops are a theme on the collar and button tabs of this dress from October 1930.

I think the dark outline of the scallops is not bias binding, but the artist’s attempt to show a shadow. The tabs on the skirt hold a pleat in place. They probably don’t unbutton.

A “tailored” wool dress. “Like many this season, it’s a buttoned frock with scallops used smartly.”

I’m not sure how popular bias-bound scalloped button tabs would have been with home stitchers…. It’s relatively easy to make a scalloped edge when it is finished with the garment’s lining, like the hem of this blue dress:

The blue dress on the left has a scalloped hem lined with gray taffeta. Butterick pattern from 1926.

Aprons and cotton dresses often had scalloped hems bound with contrasting bias tape.

Left: A day dress from 1929 has scallops at the waist, the collar, and the hem. The hem appears to be bound with bias tape.

This apron from 1931 uses bias tape for trim and to bind the edges of hem, neckline, armholes and waist ties.

A scalloped apron hem bound with bias tape. 1931.

The curved part of the scallop is easy to bind, but the points where the curves meet take some practice.

Scalloped button tabs appeared in Delineator in November, 1929:

Scalloped button tabs on a blouse and skirt, Butterick 2916. November 1929.

The blouse and skirt on the left, Butterick 2916, was illustrated on two pages of Delineator, November 1929. Note the natural waist (a new fashion) and the  knee-length hems (about to go out of style.)

There are subtle differences, like the color of the attached scarf and the size of the buttons.

Two versions of Butterick 2916. 1929. The blouse tucks into the skirt, which has matching scallops.

Two big scalloped button tabs on Sport dress 3257. June 1930. Bias binding adds a dash of color.

It’s likely that many of these scalloped button tabs were purely decorative, and the dresses opened under the arm, along the side seam.

Scallops showed up on house dresses…

Scalloped button tabs on a cotton wash dress. 1930.

And on suits…

A series of rounded button tabs on this suit are not actually scallops. The text commented on the natural waist of this suit. Butterick 3151, April 1930.

Scallops had long been popular on girls’ clothes.

Dresses for schoolgirls, 1930.

Scalloped button tabs make this simple coat very fancy. October 1930.

The next illustration gives us a combination of scallops and straight lines! Probably artistic license….

One armhole and one side of the neckline have scallops. The buttons have scalloped tabs. Illustration for an article on sportswear, Delineator, May 1930.

Occasionally the button tabs took on an angular, zig-zag quality:

Pointed button tabs instead of curved ones — a little variety. Left, 1930; right, 1929.

This stylish scalloped version comes from December, 1931:

Butterick 4231, Delineator, December 1931.

That’s all, folks!

14 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Seamless Stockings in 1930

Seamed stockings from Sears, Roebuck catalog, 1939.

Every costume design job is an opportunity to do more research, but there are some things that are just part of your general knowledge. For example, when I was hired to costume a college production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, which takes place in 1937, I automatically put the adult female characters in seamed stockings.

I was surprised recently when I came across this image from 1930:

Seamless stockings could be purchased at department stores in 1930! This image is from Delineator, May 1930.

I simply hadn’t come across this information before, so I checked another source: the Sears, Roebuck catalogs. There they were:

“No-Seam” hosiery for women, Sears Roebuck catalog, Fall 1930, p. 171.

No-Seam stockings text, Sears catalog, Fall 1930.

And another source….

From a fashion editorial about accessories, Delineator, September 1930.

There are some typos in the original text, as you can see, but corrected, it says, “I made a new discovery a few days ago — stockings needn’t have seams in order to fit. You may remember the old seamless stockings … which went into Grecian drapery at the ankles after their first contact with soap and water. The new Guildmode hose is knitted in a special way so that it fits just as snugly as a full fashioned stocking. It is dull [matte] and very sheer.”

“Full-fashioned” meant stockings which were shaped like the outline of a leg, curving in at the ankle, and gradually curving out over the calf area.

Before stretchier knits became available, the seam at the back was necessary for a good fit. Full-fashioned stocking illustration from Sears, 1958.

A short history: Knitted stockings have been around for hundreds of years. The simple knitted tube naturally stretched — somewhat — to the shape of the leg, but a seam up the back permitted a closer fit.  As stockings became more sheer (and more visible under short skirts) in the Nineteen Twenties, women became aware of the way the vertical seam up the back created a slenderizing line on their legs.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/hosiery-nov-1928-mar-1929-apr-1929-may-1929.jpg

Gordon Hosiery ads from Delineator, Nov. 1928 through May 1929.

Seams and pointed heels made these stockings flattering. Sears, Fall of 1939.

“Notice how they follow the natural shadows of the ankle — to give you slenderness and grace.”

Skirt hems went down and then up again in the Nineteen Thirties, but seamed stockings were so much a part of normal dress that women couldn’t give up that seam line even when silk or nylon stockings became unavailable during World War II.

There were no nylon or silk stockings available from Sears in 1944 because nylon and silk were needed for the war. Sears catalog index, Spring 1944.

In Spring of 1945, before the War ended,  Sears offered these un-glamourous cotton stockings. Three pairs were guaranteed to last you three months. (I.e., you would have two wearable stockings left.)

But, back to the Thirties:

Chiffon [sheer] and Service Weight stockings from Sears, Fall 1930.

Seamed rayon stockings from Sears, Fall 1930. Rayon, a synthetic fabric based on cellulose, was cheaper than silk.

At the first dress rehearsal of Brighton Beach Memoirs, the director knelt down beside my chair and whispered, “Are those seams on their stockings?” He was clearly delighted. I whispered back, “Well, stockings with seams are too expensive for our budget,** so I taught the actresses to do it the 1940s’ way: we drew ‘seams’ up the backs of their hose with an eyebrow pencil.” (The lines didn’t come out completely when we washed their sheer tights, so they just had to retrace the previous line for the next performance.)

At first, I thought the director was impressed by the seamed stockings because I was much more detail-oriented than my predecessor. Later I realized that anyone who was a teen-aged boy in the 1950s probably feels a certain nostalgia for seamed stockings, which, along with high heels and garter belts, were often seen on pin-up girls.

This 1950s’ stocking ad, shared by Sally Edelstein at Envisioning the American Dream, shows the sex appeal of seamed stockings.

Being allowed to wear high heels (or even kitten heels,) and sheer stockings held up by a garter belt was a rite of passage for girls of my generation. (I think that my first heels and stockings were required for a school field trip to the ballet [or opera?] circa 1958, when I was in 8th or 9th grade.)

Garter belts, seamed stockings, high heels, and a bouffant “crinoline” petticoat in 1958: “Today I am a woman!”

At thirteen, I was finally old enough to ask, “Are my seams straight?”

To return to my costume design for Brighton Beach Memoirs, would this new (to me) information about the existence of seamless stockings*** in 1930 have made any difference? No, because the characters in the play are struggling financially, and because they are not fashionable women. They would have worn inexpensive stockings — probably cotton, rayon, or “service weight.”

Service weight silk stockings were not as sheer as “chiffon” ones. Sears, Fall 1930.

I settled for using sheer tights with added seams because at the time of the production that was the most affordable option. Also, in college productions, most of the actors are younger than the characters they play. The two “mothers” were actually about twenty years old, and the teenaged daughters were also played by twenty year old actresses. Putting the mothers in seamed stockings and the daughters in bobby socks helped to establish an age difference.

More of my own “Garter Belt and Seamed Stockings” Memoirs to come….

** Some very good costume shop supervisors have told me that a seam can be added to inexpensive modern hosiery with an overlock sewing machine, but I haven’t tried it myself.

*** If you need a research topic, note that some of the images make reference to seamless stockings earlier than 1930.

8 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Accessories

Cross-Over Dresses, 1930s

Two Butterick styles from November 1930: 3525 and 3535.

As I browse through images from Delineator magazine, I notice odd trends, like these cross-over button plackets from 1930 to 1933. They seem rather complicated, and I’m glad I don’t have to figure out their construction.

The tricky bit on some, like the two pictured above, is that the part of the dress with the buttonholes on top is different on the bodice and the skirt. If the bodice buttons left over right, the skirt buttons right over left, and vice versa.

Full views of Butterick 3523 and 3535 from 1930.

Butterick blouse 3502,also from November 1930.

The dress with a sort of zig-zag front closing is also seen with the bodice and skirt overlaps going in the same direction:

Butterick 3070 from Delineator, February 1930, page 35.

This variation was suggested as flattering to older women.

The idea seems to be inspired by a couture dress from Patou, which was sketched for Delineator in May of 1930.

A dress by Jean Patou, sketched for Delineator readers among other Paris fashions in May, 1930.

Bodice detail of Patou dress. [Unfortunately, it was one of many sketched on the same page, so the image is small.]

Butterick’s interpretation, featured in September 1930. Pattern 3417.

This approach, with one side of the dress clearly overlapping the other on both bodice and skirt, is easy to understand.

This two-button version of the zig-zag front closing looks simple. Butterick 3462 from October 1930.

It was recommended for older and larger women:

“Youthful” Butterick 3462 was available in large sizes, bust 34 to 48 inches.

This sleeveless dress from August 1930 has a lot going on…. Butterick 3359. It’s not a two-piece, however.

The dress below really has a lot happening — the multi-closing, overlapping front pushed to extremes: **

Three buttons, in three places, on narrow strips of fabric: I can’t help thinking of mummies…. Butterick 3343 from August 1930.

But Butterick had not given up on the really difficult “right over left/ left over right” look. In 1933 two versions of this blouse were featured:

Butterick blouse pattern 4882, from January 1933. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that closure. **

A second version of blouse 4882. Delineator, January 1933.

Below, center, is another 1933 cross-over dress, with the top and skirt appearing to button in different directions:

Vacation fashions from Delineator, May 1933. Butterick 5104 (center)** carries on the cross-over style, but with bigger buttons.

** One possibility is that many 1930s’ garments had a side seam closing, which was almost never shown on the pattern illustrations. That would allow some of these button closings to be purely decorative. Till I actually see one of these “left over right, right over left” garments, I can only speculate.

9 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Musings, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Sleeves with a Flare: 1930

Sleeves which end in a flare: Butterick patterns from February 1930. Delineator.

Left: bare arms covered by a sheer Bertha collar; Center: bare arms covered by a sheer jacket whose sleeves have a double flare or flounce. Right: bare arms for evening. Butterick patterns in Delineator, April 1930.

1930 was a good year for capelets, Berthas, and other soft, sheer, flowing covers for the arm.

Butterick sleeve pattern 3075, February 1930.

Short sleeves (above the elbow) were also appearing on dressy dresses (and even on dinner dresses.) A sort of combination of the two styles was the new fitted sleeve with a flounce or “flare.” I first noticed these “medieval” sleeves:

The very long, slit flare on these sleeves was “medieval.” Butterick 3265 from Delineator, June, 1930.

Click here for some real medieval sleeves. Was Charles Addams remembering these dresses when he drew Morticia Addams?

Butterick 3534, from Delineator, December 1930. Another example of a flounce or flare with a slit in it.

A side note: notice how many of these 1930 evening dresses have a long, sheer skirt over a shorter, opaque lining.

Three evening gowns with sleeve interest. Butterick 3052, 3044, and 3054 from February 1930.

Digression: The one on the right is not chiffon but a coarse net mesh, and would deserve a closer look even without its above-the-elbow, tied sleeves (definitely a 1930 style.)

Sleeves that tie above the elbow “are entirely new;” sheer skirt over a shorter opaque layer. Butterick “dinner frock” 3054, February 1930.

The flared sleeve, which is my real topic, was included in pattern 3075 — it offered several sleeve styles for updating or individualizing other patterns:

Butterick sleeve pattern 3075, Delineator, February 1930, p. 31

Butterick sleeve pattern 3075, Delineator, February 1930, page 30. This illustration included the tied sleeve seen on No. 3054.

Right, the flared sleeve again. Afternoon dresses, Butterick 3215 and 3202, May 1930.

Here is the flared sleeve on a dress for “madame,” i.e., an older women. (She holds her lorgnette in her hand.)

Butterick 3128, an afternoon dress for older or larger ladies.

(This alternate view shows a tied sleeve instead.)

I inherited this collapsible lorgnette with leather case and long chain, like the one worn in the illustration above.

Left, a dress with removable sheer cape; right, Butterick 3289 has a tied bolero top with long, flounced sleeves.

Both dresses have a shorter, opaque under layer with a longer sheer layer on top.

Detail of the 1930 bolero top, Butterick 3289.

I was lucky to find pattern 3269 at the Commercial Pattern Archive. (CoPA), so we can see the pattern pieces.

Pattern envelope for Butterick 3289.

Right: pattern shapes for sleeve and flare  3289.

In that case, the flare is a circle or oval with a round opening in the center.

I was glad to see that these sleeves were not limited to Butterick styles. Here is a very similar dress and jacket pattern from Ladies’ Home Journal:

Another evening dress with optional flounced-sleeve jacket. LHJ pattern 6483, 1930.

The pattern shapes for the sleeve and sleeve flare. This flare (10) is made very differently.

Another — different — sleeve flare:

A third way to achieve the “flare” sleeve. This one hangs open at the back.

Another flare was seen on this McCall pattern from 1931:

McCall pattern 6617 from 1931.

A short sleeve with a frill (top) and a long sleeve with a surprising shape. McCall 6617.

Also from 1931 is this set of sleeves:

Nine sleeve shapes from 1931. Butterick 3698.

A variety of ways to create a flared sleeve.

And, for real inspiration, here is a couture dress by Ardanse, very sheer from neckline to upper arm, where the lace fabric of the dress creates full, slit sleeves with a big, circular flare; they seem to defy gravity.

Couture by Ardanse, left, and Lelong, right. Delineator, May 1930.

Wow.

9 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Capes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Broad Shoulders for September, 1933.

Wide shoulders were appearing as early as September, 1933.

I had thought of mannish padded shoulders as typical of the late 1930s and early 1940s,…

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/bfn-sept-1943-p-11-suit-dresses-shoulders.jpg

Butterick Fashion News, Sept. 1943. Broad, padded shoulders for women.

… but the September 1933 issue of Delineator surprised me. The huge, ruffled shoulders of the Letty Lynton era (the movie was released in 1932) were an early symptom of a change in silhouette — and the ability of wide shoulders to make hips look smaller in comparison mustn’t be ignored.

Shoulders begin to square up as early as summer of 1933.

Delineator, July 1933, p. 53. Left, a yoke with sharp shoulder line; right, a Letty Lynton ruffled shoulder.

Fall and winter coats offered novelty shoulders, sometimes exaggerated by fur trim:

Tpo of page 61, Delineator, September 1933.

Bottom of page 61, Delineator, September 1933.

Lead paragraph of Delineator article, September 1933, p. 61. “These shoulders look broad, but not stoutish.”

Butterick 5276, a coat with enhanced shoulders, was recommended for a college wardrobe. Delineator, Sept. 1933, page 63.

Even without fur or padded shoulder rolls (reminiscent of Elizabethan fashions!) the shoulders are getting straight and squared off, as in this blouse.

College wardrobe, Sept. 1933.

Patterns for women not going off to college show the same exaggerated shoulder line:

Ladies’ dress patterns from Butterick, September 1933.

Ladies patterns, Delineator, Sept. 1933, page 66.

As hips become impossibly narrow, exaggerated shoulders widen the top of the body.

“Paris frocks” become Butterick patterns, Delineator, Sept. 1933, page 65.

“Coal-heavers’ shoulders” are a feature of this Butterick pattern. Delineator, September 1933, page 55.

Ladies’ dress patterns from Delineator, September 1933, page 55. Note that extended yoke at bottom right.

Butterick 5247, 5270, 5259, and 5365. September 1933.

Extended shoulders were also shown on coats for girls:

Even the little girl’s coat (top right) has wide shoulders, thanks to its yoke or collar.

Older women also benefited from broader shoulders in 1933:

Clothes for women no longer young or slender. Butterick patterns 1933.

Delineator, September 1933. I found No. 5307 at the Commercial Pattern Archive.

Those shoulders, almost square, cannot be achieved without padding, but I have not found a 1933 pattern at CoPA that mentions shoulder pads — not even this exact pattern, No. 5307.

Coats for evening wear were even more exaggerated, evoking the sleeves of 1895:

Evening dress with jacket; Butterick pattern 5279, Sept. 1933.

Evening wrap and evening dress for a trousseau, Delineator, September 1933.

Four years later, in 1937, these patterns for young women were still “broad shouldered.” The “squarely fitted” cape shoulders were especially stylish.

Butterick patterns for young women; Delineator, Sept. 1937.

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Capes, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Slenderizing Fashions from 1931

Butterick 4064 from September 1931, Delineator.

“These Slanting Lines Are for Slenderness.” Seven styles meant to flatter large or mature figures were featured on the same page.

Slenderizing Butterick patterns from Delineator, September 1931. Top of page 91.

Two of these designs were available up to bust size 48 inches. The rest came in the normal size range, up to 44 inches. Two “slenderizing” ideas were 1) diagonal lines and 2) lighter or brighter colors near the face, to draw the eye upward and away from the not-so-slender figure. I have my doubts about No. 4064:

Butterick 4064 from September 1931, Delineator.

It’s hard to tell whether the back view succeeds because of the diagonal line or the elongated fashion figure. Notice the tiny tucks fanning out like rays from the back neck. The six gored skirt has a side closing in front.

Butterick 4064.

Butterick 4054 has an ingenious skirt, with “arrows” pointing to the center of the body.

Butterick 4054, from 1931.

Those little frills look skimpy to me, but the princess seams are very clever, making the shoulders lok wider and the hip, look narrower.

The sheer frills  –“lingerie touches” — contrast with the wool dress fabric.

The lighter top and darker skirt (Butterick  4075 and 4052 ) is a classic combination, but may not be slenderizing when the dividing line is at the hip….

Butterick top 4075 with skirt 4052. 1931. Orange is suggested for the top,with a brown skirt.

Nevertheless, that diagonal line and side opening skirt are interesting.

Also diagonal is this wrap dress:

Butterick 4049 is a wrap dress. 1931,

In addition to its diagonal closing and front hip seam, a pale colored under layer draws attention to the face. The bodice, with its “soft revers,” has enough drape to camouflage a thick waist.Dress 4051 has an unusual collar which folds under, and a skirt whose yoke has sharp diagonal lines that add interest.

Butterick 4051, 1931. Available in bust sizes 34 to 48 inches.

Velvet is the recommended fabric, not necessarily in black. Midnight blue, burgundy, dark brown, forest green –any dark color might be used.

Butterick 4044 also uses a jabot effect with diagonal lines in the skirt’s double yoke.

Butterick 4044 has a softly falling collar and strong V-shapes in the skirt.

The yoke creates a focus of interest at the center of the body. It echoes the V of the bodice. Satin is suggested for both the light and dark areas.

There is a hint of the Twenties in this dress for older (or larger) women.

Buttrick 4070 is illustrated as a two-color dress with a low waistline in front. 1931. Available in sizes 34″ to 48″ bust..

For larger sizes, a one color dress, rather than this two-tone version, is recommended. The “new unbelted waistline” is hardly new — they were still in style just two years earlier, in 1929.

1920s Butterick 2799 from October 1929.

[Fashion writing…. Feh!] Nevertheless, diagonal lines and lighter, brighter colors near the face are not just a Delineator fashion writer’s idea:

Lane Bryant catalog for stout women, ad from October 1931.

 

4 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes