Category Archives: 1940s-1950s

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

Curling Iron Memories

A curling iron like this one was not heated with electricity. Illustration from Delineator, February 1934.

A curled hair style with ringlets over the ears, from 1838. From La Mode, in the Casey Collection.

Novelist and fashion historian Mimi Mathews has written another wonderful post about Victorian women’s hairstyles and beauty products. Click here for her latest, and then follow the links at the bottom of that post for the answer to many other “how did they do that?” questions about beauty and hair styling products from the 1800s.

In 1920, Silmerine hair curling liquid, applied with a toothbrush, was used to set curls in women’s hair.

Ad for Liquid Silmerine hair setting lotion, 1920. It could probably be used to set hair in rag curls.**  The chemicals it contained varied, but some would have been cousins to the Victorian hair preparations Mimi Matthews researched.

The Silmerine ad says that “You’ll never again use the hair destroying heated iron.”

I have personal knowledge of the heated curling irons — sometimes called curling tongs — like the ones below, because my mother used them on me almost daily until I was about eight years old.

An old fashioned curling iron (in three sizes) from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

Ad for the Lorain gas stove, 1926. The stove we had in the 1940s was similar.

This kind of curling iron didn’t plug into an electric outlet; my mother turned up the flames on one burner of the gas stove in our kitchen and stuck the metal part of the tongs into the fire for a while.  (Our curling iron had wooden handles.)  I was sent to the bathroom to bring her several sheets of toilet paper. I sat on a stool in the middle of the kitchen. If the curling iron curled the paper, but did not burn it, it was ready for my hair. (Our toilet paper was not soft and quilted.)

I hated the ordeal of the curling iron, and I hated having to wear a bow in my hair to school every day, too. This picture is probably 1952 or 1953 — and these curls were not in style!

Girls in the combined 2nd & 3rd grade class, Redwood City, CA, 1952-53. Only one (me) with long sausage curls. My best friend, Arleen, wasn’t fussed over; her Mom had 5 daughters to get off to school.

Once I started school and discovered that other girls — like my friend Arleen — did not have long ringlets, this daily ordeal became an ongoing battle. I hated it. But my mother’s idea of how her perfect child should look was unshakeable. We fought, I cried, I begged, but I was only allowed to leave for school once — that I remember — without being curled with that hated hot iron. (I remember skipping with joy, and then feeling the ringlets bounce into their usual shape before I had gone half a block.)

My mother frequently told me, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.”  I doubt that the saying originally referred to curling irons.

[I should make it clear that I wasn’t especially afraid of getting burned, although my squirming must have made it more likely. Getting snarls combed out of my hair was worse, as my mother got increasingly exasperated with me. It was the whole, time-consuming, pointless (to me) process that I hated.  At least I often got out of the house with just a brushing and a barette on the weekends.]

Once, I was allowed to stay overnight with my Uncle Mel and his beautiful wife, Irene. Aunt Irene had naturally bright red hair that fell in waves to below her waist. She coiled her thick braids on top of her head for the office, but one night Uncle Mel brought me to her house just after she had washed her hair. She was sitting on the sofa in a pale blue satin robe, brushing her red hair as it dried. It was so long she could sit on it. She told me about having her hair set with rags when she was a girl my age, and that night she offered to give me rag curl.** In the morning, when she brushed my hair, I was amazed and happy to have curls without any pain! I told my mother about this wonderful way we could stop using the curling iron. She wasn’t impressed — and I was never allowed to stay overnight with Aunt Irene again.

My mother as a teenager, with her own Mary Pickford curls.

Maybe Mary Pickford was to blame for our battles about the curling iron.  And Shirley Temple.

I was an only child, born after twelve years of marriage to parents who were forty years old. My mother had had a long time to dream about the child she hoped for. I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her that her child, and especially her daughter, would not be exactly like her — a perfectible extension of herself. She was always surprised — and saddened or angered — by every sign that I was my father’s daughter, too. I remember her disappointment when she discovered that my skin, even where the sun never touched it, was not as milky white as hers, but halfway between the whiteness of hers and the cream-white of his.  And the lunch when she suddenly exclaimed, “Dammit, Charles! She’s got your mouth!” (instead of her shapely one.)  My mother was so worried that I would take after his family and be taller than the boys in my class, that she lied about my age and enrolled me in first grade instead of kindergarten. I heard her tell a friend that she had decided to do it after driving past a school and seeing my older cousin in the playground with other children: “She looked like a G**-dammed giraffe!”  So instead of being the youngest child in kindergarten, I was (secretly) the youngest child in first grade and in every grade until high school.  It was lucky that reading came easily to me, and I had plenty of experience in being quiet and obedient, so my first teachers never realized that I was so young in other ways.

My mother had been pretty and popular; she loved to dance; so she never noticed that I was bookish and uncoordinated. I certainly never asked to be entered in a Beautiful Baby contest!

“Crowned Supreme Royal Princess Better Baby Show, Dec. 7, 1947.” I hope I didn’t wear the cape and tinsel crown to the contest! (She was sure I’d win.)

I came in second, but she made this outfit and put this picture on her Christmas cards. (The trophy said that I was “99 1/2 % perfect….)

She was certainly proud of me — or, proud of herself for having me. Relatives have told me that she treated me like a doll. She kept me dressed in frilly dresses that she washed and ironed and starched, and changed twice a day. (I got my first pair of jeans when I stayed with her mother, because Uncle Mel said Grandma was too old to cook and clean and look after a child AND do all that extra laundry.) I was completely happy at Grandma’s house. And Grandma didn’t try to turn me into Shirley Temple or Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford shows her famous long curls in this ad for Pompeiian face cream. Delineator, November 1917.

In the 1920s, movie star Mary Pickford played little girls with long curls well into her thirties. Here she is in “Little Annie Rooney” in 1925. Pickford was born in 1892, and was only five feet tall. (She was also a formidable movie producer.) It was big news when she finally bobbed her hair in 1928, partly because she wanted to play an adult role for a change.

She would have been a megastar when my mother was a teenager.  (Pickford made 51 silent movies in 1910 alone!) These pictures of hairstyles for girls from 1917 show the kind of ringlets Pickford wore, probably achieved with a curling iron. Did my mother always dream of having a child who looked like these girls?

Hair styles for girls, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

Hair in ringlets; Ladies Home Journal, November 1917.

Girl with ringlets, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

The disadvantage of curling irons was that you couldn’t curl the hair closest to your scalp — the hot iron would burn you.

My 1920s’ curling iron ringlets, done in the late 1940s.

Ringlets from 1924. Delineator, May 1924.

The Pickford influence can be seen in these fashion illustrations from 1924, when my mother was twenty.

Fashion illustrations of girls, Delineator, February 1924.

Perhaps my mother formed her idea of the perfect little girl back then, although she was forty when she finally had a baby. That’s a long time, but she still had her curling iron and knew how to use it….

My curling iron curls, late 1940s.

By 1933, when my parents were married, there was a new super-star named Shirley Temple, age 5. Shirley was famous for her curls, although hers were shorter than Mary Pickford’s.

Shirley Temple in Rags to Riches, 1933. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shirley Temple could sing. I could sing.   Shirley Temple could tap dance. I suffered through lessons in “Tap, Ballet, and Acrobatics.” Shirley Temple had a full head of curls. Click here for a picture of Shirley Temple in Curly Top (1935.) And I was given a permanent wave as soon as the beautician said I was old enough ….

These curls were the result of a permanent wave, although they needed to be kept in shape with a curling iron.

What I remember about this trip to the beauty parlor was how incredibly heavy the rollers were.

This is what getting a permanent looked like in 1932. The process was similar when I was a child in the late 1940s.

This Nestle home permanent machine had only one curling device. It took “a few” hours!

But the professional Nestle machine could curl a whole head in an hour … or three….

Professional Nestle permanent waving machine, from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

I was fortunate that the home permanent arrived around 1950. The smell was so terrible that my mother once took me to the Saturday matinee show at the movies just to get that smell out of the house! Ah, Peter Pan in 1953! My one happy memory associated with those hated curls.

There were other, much more serious problems poisoning our relationship,  but I sometimes wonder: if my mother had known that she would die when I was nine, would we still have spent morning after morning after morning fighting about my hair?

[Sorry to write such a personal post, but I mention this as something for other mothers to think about….]

** Putting your hair up in rags required some strips of clean cloth four or five inches long. You wrapped your moistened hair around a finger, slid the finger out, put the rag strip through the center of the coil, and tied it. No hairpins were needed. And you didn’t have to sleep on wire rollers, as we did in the 1960s. Sleeping on rollers should have proved that suffering doesn’t guarantee beauty!)

22 Comments

Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

More Christmas Doll Patterns from the 1920s

A Butterick pattern for little boys, plus two Butterick doll patterns. Delineator, December 1924. His shorts are attached to his shirt with buttons.

I haven’t figured out why this is a “Deli-bear.”

Deli-bear pattern 10271 looks like a sailor bear to me.

The same doll pattern was featured again in 1926:

Deli Bear pattern 10271 from Delineator, May 1926.

To my eyes, this Puss in Boots doll from December 1924 isn’t nearly as appealing as the Deli-bear. (I had a real black cat, who was very handsome, unlike this doll.)

I’m deducing that this is Puss in Boots. Butterick Toy animal pattern 10200, from December 1924.

This toy animal dolls pattern was shown in two places in the same issue.

Butterick doll pattern 10302, in a color illustration from Delineator, page 28, December 1924.

On another page, the toys seem to be photographed, rather than drawn, so we can see the nice effect of using a textured fabric on the rabbit:

Animal dolls pattern 10302 from page 40 of the December 1924  Delineator.

Patterns for “baby dolls” (some almost as big as real children) were also on offer.

Whole wardrobes for purchased dolls were available to make for Christmas. Left, Butterick 424.

[More than twenty years later, clothes for dolls and little girls didn’t look much different from these 1924 illustrations as far as dress styles and doll sizes went:]

Toddler and very big baby doll, circa 1947. The shapeless dress (with room to grow) was still around.

A little girl with a doll dressed in Butterick 425.

The doll’s clothes are as detailed as a real girl’s. Butterick 425.

As a child, I appreciated doll clothes that were like mine — including underwear and pajamas or sleeping suits. (If I had to wear itchy, frilly undies, so did my dolls.)

Little girls sometimes wore “Romper” suits, and so does this doll from 1926:

Butterick doll’s romper and sunbonnet pattern 426.

This doll wears Butterick 427. Delineator, May 1926.

Butterick doll 10192 has yarn braids and does not look like a baby (more like an older sister.) I love those tiny appliqued birds! Fast, easy blanket stitch trims the girl’s collar and cuffs.

DIGRESSION: Since the holidays are approaching, I’ll slip in my yearly reminder to get out those old photos now, and get some names and stories penciled on the back when relatives gather. Suggested questions: What was the best toy you ever got? What were your favorite books (or games) when you were a child?

Witness2fashion with home-made Raggedy Ann and her store-bought “brother,” Raggedy Andy. Raggedy Ann (made by a friend of my Grandmother) had real, black shoe-button eyes, and I almost dug a hole in her chest by trying to feel her candy heart with “I Love You” printed on it.

McCall pattern from the 1950 needlework catalog. My Raggedy Ann looked exactly like this one, with a dotted Swiss apron and bloomers. Raggedy Ann and Andy stuffed doll pattern, McCall 820.

As the only child of parents in their forties, I didn’t have much contact with other children until I started school. Aunts and uncles deluged me with baby dolls, but I never wanted to be a mother. Dressing and undressing dolls was not my idea of fun. My favorite dolls were Raggedy Ann and Andy (I begged for Andy, and finally got a store-bought Raggedy Andy to go with my beloved, home-made Raggedy Ann.)

A book that survived my growing up, many moves, and growing old.

There was a series of books about Raggedy Ann and Andy. They had adventures. ***  Those dolls were not my “babies,” they were my friends.

Too much of a good thing,

I actually didn’t know enough names to name all the baby dolls I was given, so I took to naming them after the person who gave them to me. I am probably the only child ever to have a baby doll (in a lacy bonnet and a long white christening dress) who was named “Uncle Ole.” (I just recognized “Uncle Ole” as the doll in a frilled bonnet at top left! At least “Uncle Ole” wasn’t too big to carry!)

*** All too often, their adventures involved cookies and candy….

12 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1940s-1950s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Dresses, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs

Learning from Browsing at CoPA

One of 64,000 pattern images you can find online at the Commercial Pattern Archive.

I know I recommend the online Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island too often, but it just keeps revealing new reasons to visit. (Online Inventory last time I checked: 64,681 sewing patterns; mostly 1840s through 1970s.)
I can’t link to CoPA images anymore, because users now need to create a login, but you just create a user ID name and a password, and log in to use a totally free website! I never get email from them.

Two Butterick patterns from February, 1922. Delineator.

I’ve been sorting through my Delineator photos from 1922, and happened to log in to CoPA to check construction details — not really expecting to find much. However, I found a surprisingly large number of Butterick patterns from 1922 archived — and that means images of both back and front of the pattern envelope. You can see the shape of the pattern pieces!

“Armistice” blouse 1922 pattern The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) has put over 60,000 vintage patterns online.

If you are trying to replicate a vintage pattern, whether you use drafting or draping, seeing the shape of the original pieces is very helpful.  And if, like me, you have no intention of re-creating the pattern, (that used to be part of my job) you can still learn a lot about vintage clothing construction.

NOTE: The images from CoPA that I show here do not reflect the quality of CoPA images online.  Because I couldn’t download them directly, I printed them, scanned them, and put them into a “500 dpi on the longest side” format. Unfortunately, I scanned the prints at the “black & white” resolution instead of at the “photograph” resolution. Image quality was lost on my scanner, not CoPA’s.

This bad image is not what Butterick 4025 looks like at the CoPA site. (https://copa.apps.uri.edu/index.php)

Elastic in 1920’s garments

There was a time when I was suspicious of any so-called vintage 1920s’ garments that depended on elastic. That was just my ignorance, based on “book learning” and classroom generalizations. Once I started really paying attention to vintage pattern magazines and pattern envelopes, my mind opened a bit!

All of these 1922 patterns include casing for elastic at the (usually lowered) waist.

Tunic Blouse 3462

Butterick tunic blouse 3462 from Delineator, January 1922.

If you sew, you know that there is a lot of information on the pattern envelope that you won’t find in the pattern’s catalog description.

CoPA shows images from the front and back of the pattern envelope whenever possible. The version at top right shows the tunic with “cascades” at the sides.

Pattern 3462 included a variation with “cascade” panels on each side, and the information that the waist could have elastic.

I’m surprised that there is no elastic casing pattern included, but it was mentioned in Delineator magazine’s pattern description (January 1922, p. 26.)

Dress 3460

Butterick 3460, Delineator, January 1922, keeps its shape with elastic at the slightly dropped waist. (Left, a Spanish comb in her hair.)

The front of the pattern envelope, from the Commercial Pattern Archive.

“Ladies’ and Misses’ One-Piece Dress, “Closed at the Back, with or without Elastic in Casing at Low Waistline or Blouse Body Lining.”

The pattern pieces for Butterick 3460, from CoPA.

This detail shows an inside belt and length of elastic. It also reminds us that the 1920s’ blouson effect was sometimes achieved with an optional inner bodice lining. (With bust dart!)

Pattern description from Delineator, January 1922.

This simple dress was also illustrated with a matching cape:

Butterick dress 3460 with matching cape, Butterick 3589. Delineator, March 1922.

Coat 3594:  This coat, which I find bulky but oddly appealing, could be controlled with elastic at the waist:

Butterick coat 3594 is gigantic, but beautifully trimmed…. Delineator, March 1922.

Butterick coat 3594 in Delineator magazine illustrations.

The front of the pattern envelope. In the online CoPA archive, the image is much clearer (and they have several copies of this pattern!)

Pattern pieces from the envelope. CoPA will tell you how to print a larger image (See CoPA Help)

Rubber elastic tends to degrade faster than the other components of the garment, so the elastic itself may not be present in a vintage dress (or underwear.) But these patterns confirm its use.

I was surprised to see this “Armistice” blouse [Not what they were originally called] issued in 1922. It can have elastic in a casing at the waist:

The “Armistice blouse” was still available as a pattern in the 1920s. The center panel is the “vestee.”

Pattern pieces for Butterick 3672 from CoPA.

Searching CoPA for a specific pattern: “Search by Pattern Number”

After you create a log-in at CoPA, you can search for any pattern by number (e.g., type in “3672” and select “Butterick” from the pattern company pull-down list. Chose “Any” collection. Results will show you images and links to further information — including the date for every pattern they have!   Say you own Vogue 1556, by Yves St. Laurent? CoPA’s archive number will tell you it was issued in 1966. (If you have an approximate date, you can also date patterns which are not in the archive by finding where they would be in the company’s number sequence and checking their resemblance to other styles and envelopes from the same year….)

Browsing through a year or group of years: use “Complete Search”

Or you can click on “Complete Search” and search by year (or a period of several years, e.g. 1920 through 1926 — just hold down the shift key while selecting.) You can limit your search in many ways (e.g., “male” + “adult;” or  “1945” + “hat” +”McCall;” or “1877 + “Any”….)

One of hundreds of McCall patterns from the 1920s you can find at the Commercial Pattern Archive. McCall 5315 from 1928.

Trying CoPA: If you love a specific decade, start with one year (e.g., “1928” + “McCall”  + Collection: “Any”) By the mid-1920s, McCall pattern envelopes had beautiful, full color illustrations. New to CoPA? Start with McCall in the 1920s, or try McCall in 1958! Less well-known pattern companies are also well-represented. Scroll though the “Pattern Company” pull-down for Hollywood, Advance, La Moda, Pictorial Review, DuBarry, & dozens more.

TIP: Be sure you set the final category (Collection) to “Any” if you want to search the complete archive. Otherwise, you’ll miss some good stuff! Also, search more than one way. “Medical uniform” (Category: Garment) got 20 results; “Nurse uniform” (Category: Keyword) got 38. It’s not a complaint; just what happens when many people try to describe things for a spreadsheet.

Next: Pattern pieces for side drapes (“cascades”.)

The dress at right has a cascade at each side.

 

11 Comments

Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Capes, Coats, Costumes for the 19th century, Dating Butterick Patterns, Dating Vintage Patterns, Menswear, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns

In the Swim, August 1943

Pin striped swimsuit featured in Vogue, August 15, 1943.

This college issue of the American Vogue magazine passed through my hands some time ago, and, in a week of temperatures in the 90s (in a city where we expect 66 degrees in June) I didn’t want to think about any clothes but bathing suits.

Green and white striped bathing suit, Vogue, August 15, 1943.

“Blazer stripes go chevron-wise in the long torso, vertically in the skirt. Result: A look of slender height. Rayon sharkskin. About $25. Best; I. Magnin.”

I originally photographed the magazine for an eBay listing, so I apologize for the small distortions in the individual images.

The page these photos came from.

Brigance suit; it cost less than $15 in August of 1943. From Marshall Field or Lord and Taylor.

“Paintbrush stripes on the Rayon jersey bodice. Skirt, tights of rayon with “Lastex.” Brigance suit; Lord and Taylor; Marshall Field.

“Cabana stripes” on a bare midriff swimsuit. August 1943.

Cabana stripes on a Greek-drapery suit of rayon jersey. Most becoming to a sparse figure. It costs approximately $13 at Saks-Fith Avenue.”

Pin-stripes on a two piece blue bathing suit; Vogue, August 15, 1943.

Under  $4! From a distance, those string shoes look rather like she’s a ballerina.

Beach shoes in Vogue, August 15, 1943.

And her tippy-toe pose makes her legs look so looooong.

Pin striped swimsuit featured in Vogue, August 15, 1943.

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Accessories

Three Pattern Companies, Similar Styles: 1939

Cover of Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.

The cover of the Butterick Fashion News flyer for September 1939 showed a sheer black dress over a matching slip. It has the puffy sleeves of the era, and a V neck.
The Du Barry store flyer for the previous month showed a similar dress.

Du Barry pattern 2319 B. DuBarry store flyer August 1939.

In fact, it was on the cover of the Du Barry flyer, in a yellow, printed, non-sheer fabric version:

Du Barry Prevue cover, August 1939. Pattern 2319 B.

Du Barry showed it a third time, in purple:

Du Barry 2319 B.

Butterick (and Companion-Butterick) patterns were sold in fabric stores, and, before the Great Depression, Butterick was aimed at middle and upper-middle class shoppers. Du Barry patterns were sold only at Woolworth’s — the five and dime store. “Du Barry Patterns are 10 cents Each — For Sale Exclusively by F. W. Woolworth Co.” By contrast, Butterick pattern 8556 cost 45 cents.

In fact the two sheer black dress patterns are not identical — just two different expressions of a current look.

Companion-Butterick 8556.

Du Barry 2319 B. Slide fasteners [zippers] began appearing in dressy dresses about 1937.

The Butterick bodice is probably more difficult to make, since its curved seams end in a crossed, tucked piece in front that becomes a belt in back.

The Du Barry bodice uses simple gathers or ruching for the bodice and the sleeve heads.

However, the Du Barry pattern has a soft pleat in the center front of the skirt.

The Butterick skirt is more flared and cut in several panels.

Butterick 8556.

Even the sleeve heads are more tailored; both dresses are consistent within their own aesthetic.

At this point, I realized that I have a third, contemporaneous store flyer: Simplicity Prevue, August 1939. It, too, shows a sheer black dress pattern. In fact, Simplicity showed two!

Simplicity 3129, a sheer black dress. August 1939.

Simplicity 3150, sheer black dress, August 1939.

Both of the Simplicity patterns have yokes at the shoulders (diagonal in the case of No. 3150, and horizontal on No. 3129. Both were shown made in opaque fabrics, too.

Two views of Simplicity 3150.

Simplicity patterns cost 15 cents each, more than Du Barry (10 cents) and much less than Butterick (45 cents.)

Simplicity pattern information for 3139 and 3150.

Although the Simplicity patterns did not come in larger-than- usual sizes, they had this caption:

Simplicity recommended these two patterns (3150 and 3139) as “slenderizing.”

Maybe because they could be made in black? Lynn Mally at American Age Fashion found this photo:

Ashville, Ohio, July 4th 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn, Library of Congress.

Ashville, Ohio, July 4th 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn, Library of Congress.

If it seems odd that older women were wearing see-through dresses, perhaps they were the generation that wore  lingerie dresses twenty-odd years before?

P.S. Does this post seem familiar? My bad. I was trying to be sure I had scanned all my department store fashion news flyers, found two of these flyers missing from my picture files, and consequently didn’t realize that I had written about some of these patterns before! So, you are not having a deja vu experience…. Click here for “More Sheer Dresses from the Late 1930s” or “Sheer Black Dresses, Fall 1930.”  That’s where you saw these pictures before….

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hats, Musings, Shirts and Blouses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Zippers

All-American Cooking

I don’t usually talk about where I live, but I do appreciate San Francisco for more than the mild climate and the Silent Film Festival.

My husband, in Texas, late 1940s. Me, in California, about the same time.

I keep being reminded how lucky I am to have grown up in a part of the U.S. which was built and is constantly sustained by immigrants from all over the world. (It’s not just the great food, but sharing a meal is a traditional way of getting to know our neighbors.) My experiences growing up near San Francisco were different from my husband’s, who remembers attending segregated schools in a North Texas town. (My own schools were segregated not by official policy, but by neighborhoods in a “walking distance to school” approach. Definitely not ideal. And California — to our shame — was the leader in many anti-immigrant policies, like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — an extraordinary example of ingratitude, since it was chiefly Chinese workers who tunneled through the Sierra mountains in the 1860s –making the Union Pacific Railroad that linked California with the rest of the nation possible.)

Recently, I was reminded of one of the things I learned by living here. Our SF neighborhood movie theater showed Harold and Maude for Valentine’s Day. There is a glimpse — just a few seconds — of Maude’s wrist. In the sixties, in San Francisco, one customer of the bank where I worked — an admirable man, a pillar of the community — was an Auschwitz survivor. Whenever he wore a short-sleeved shirt, I saw his concentration camp tattoo; that’s not something you forget.  Maude has row of numbers on her arm, too; it’s a detail you might not understand, if you grew up in a town where most people have the same background, the same churches, the same politics.

My California parents (born in 1904) embraced diversity. They believed in the American “melting pot” idea — that the stew is more delicious if everyone puts something in. Speaking of stew…

Pozole is a sort of stew popular in the American Southwest. It uses many traditional Mexican ingredients. One day at the grocery store, a young woman in line behind me saw the tomatillos, the chiles, and the hominy I was buying. “Are you making pozole?” she asked, clearly surprised. When I said I was, she told me that her mother was born in Mexico, but her husband was from Palestine. Pork shoulder (on sale at $.99 per lb; one recipe makes a huge pot of pozole) is the usual meat for this dish, but her Muslim husband doesn’t eat pork. So she substitutes chicken thighs (which were also on sale at $.99 per lb., although mine weren’t halal.) I tried it and discovered that I much prefer the chicken version! How lucky I am that she spoke to me. That’s what I call All-American(s) cooking.

At a potluck party last year I met a woman who is active in a Jewish genealogy group. She has had amazing success exchanging information and photos with people around the world. [From a picture she posted, a stranger in Europe recognized the house her ancestors once lived in — it was next door to his ancestors’ home. In the 1920s, those close neighbors had exchanged photos — so he had photographs of her family that her own ancestors had lost in the Holocaust. Now she has copies.] In addition to being very helpful with genealogy advice,  she had brought to the party the best kugel (a noodle and dairy dish) I have ever tasted. I confess, I had three helpings over five hours! She said, “I like to experiment with Italian dairy products — sometimes I use ricotta, or mascarpone. This time, as I was putting in the spices, I added some cardamom.” Wow! It was exceptional. (When I told a Muslim friend whose father was born in India about the cardamom, she laughed with delight.) Another example of All-American(s) cooking.

From the food truck at a farmer’s market, I ordered a sort of soft taco: barbecued pork, plus a dash of Asian plum sauce (the kind you spread on your rice pancake with mu shu chicken or pork,) plus a handful of baby greens, rolled in a warm corn tortilla. Southern barbecue, Chinese sauce, wrapped in a corn tortilla: fabulous All-American(s) cooking.

San Franciscans sharing food, sharing stories: Just a few reasons why I love this town.

Two book critics at my breakfast table.

16 Comments

Filed under 1940s-1950s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Musings, Uncategorized

Random Images, Random Thoughts….

Alice Eating Watermelon, 1929. Watercolor painting by S. Grote. The watermelon eater is my Great Aunt  Alice.

I’m feeling grouchy today. I was getting tired of 1930’s boleros, so I dropped into my 1914 photo files for a bit of a change. Wrong choice!

A bolero pattern, Butterick 6627; Delineator, January 1914.

Butterick bolero 6747, Delineator, March 1914.

Bolero pattern 6821, Butterick’s Delineator magazine, April 1914.

Butterick waist pattern 6862 imitates a bolero. Delineator, May 1914.

No. 6862 could even be adapted for evening.

Obviously, 1914, with its high-waisted fashions, was not the year to get away from boleros!

So, what follows isn’t about fashion history — but what’s the point of a blog if I can’t just blather occasionally? 🙂

Butterick 6686 looks like a tied bolero in front. February 1914.

I Am Tired of Seeing Icy Landscape Photos

Every time I turn on my laptop, Bing gives me a different photograph screensaver, and asks if I like it or not. I realize that Bing is probably using my responses to improve their AI algorithms, but I’m also conducting a little experiment with them: How long will it take their AI to catch on? It would definitely be simpler if Bing just asked me what kind of photos I prefer. Multiple choice, perhaps…. (Villages, yes. Hummingbirds, yes. Deserts, yes. Ancient artifacts? yes. Landscapes that make me want to get up and put on a sweater? No.) Yes, I could buy or create my own screensavers, but where would the challenge be?

My experiment is to always reject icy-cold landscapes with jagged rocks and distant mountain climbers, and to always like images of animals and flowers. I deliberately liked a toucan, and a field of tulips in bloom — that ought to be a pretty broad hint that I prefer intense colors. But no, they keep sending me isolated hikers in glacial terrain. Brrrrr. And not enough birds and animals for me to really express my preference. So my experiment goes slowly. (I do realize I’m in a minority when it comes to landscapes — but Bing invites me to express a preference….)

A Rose for Georgia, from a series of watercolors in homage to women artists, by S. Grote.  I love O’Keefe’s face and that wise, humorous expression.

Blue Landscapes Make Me Blue

A fascinating — and depressing — survey, if you know an artist who is trying to sell paintings, is the work of artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, who made a statistical study of the best loved (vs. least wanted) paintings, nation by nation. The winners, hands down, were “blue landscapes.” You know, a landscape with blue skies and blue water…. Maybe with some mountains, a few clouds…. Personally, I always prefer a hike through wooded, rolling hills that ends at the village teashop or pub or bistro. Wildflowers are appreciated.  If I spot a fox that isn’t roadkill, or lambs wagging their tails and frolicking, or hear a cuckoo, it makes my day. But far-off people standing on a precarious cliff, overlooking a raging river far below — not so enjoyable for an acrophobe who had to approach the rim of the Grand Canyon on her butt…. inching forward.

Bobby Hargen in his cowboy outfit, circa 1920s.

Hitting the Target:

The general incompetence of online advertising does intrigue me. A few years ago my husband leased an electric car — over my objections to its limited range. But he got a great deal — about $118 per month. The week after he signed the lease, the very dealership he signed it with began sending him almost daily emails offering the same car for $98 a month.  That is no way to create a satisfied customer.

Delineator cover, April 1914, detail.

I bought a very satisfactory charger for household batteries from Office Depot — online. For many weeks thereafter, I got emails offering to sell me exactly the charger I had bought.  Of course, I didn’t need one; I had already bought one! The thing is, I really needed more rechargeable batteries — AA , AAA, etc. Somehow the idea of selling me related items — accessories, if you will — never occurred to them. (I hunted the batteries down at Home Depot, instead.)

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic….

I do love a pair of teal blue eyeglass frames I got online — but, really how often am I likely to buy frames for prescription glasses? Once every two years. So, cool it, Cool Frames!

And why did Microsoft Solitaire spend weeks sending me Spanish language ads for anemic looking American beers? I never bought any beer online — in any language!

Delineator Cover, detail, March 1920.

The artist of this cover seems to be C (or E?) Deane.

Signature on Delineator cover, March 1920. The last name is Deane.

12 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1940s-1950s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, World War I

The Interior Belt in Vintage Styles

Janet Arnold’s illustration of the interior of a woman’s dress, circa 1896. From Patterns of Fashion 2. Notice the belt, attached only at the center back seam.

If you are trying to reproduce a vintage garment, you need all the information you can get. Information about how a vintage dress looks on the inside is invaluable, and I don’t know of any source better than the series of Patterns of Fashion books by the late Janet Arnold

… even when you have primary source information, like this photograph.

Fashion Photograph from 1896. Met Museum. We can see from the photo that the skirt at left is probably flat-lined — those tell-tale wrinkles would have been omitted in a drawing.

It’s better than a drawing, but the answer to “how did they do that?” requires inside information.

Cream brocade gown from the House of Worth, 1896. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Museums and books sometimes provide close up photos showing details of construction …

Detail of Worth gown from 1896, showing several rows of cartridge pleating on the sleeve and lace-shaped beading on the brocade bodice. Met Museum.

But to reproduce a vintage garment and have it “behave” properly, we need to know where the seams (and the bones) are, how the garment was lined, where the hidden closures were located, what made those sleeves stand up like that***, etc. Also, sometimes we discover a “trick” that made the garment easier to put on, or made it fit better. For costume purposes, we don’t need to follow the original slavishly (sometimes all those difficult hidden closures are not practical for a costume,) but we can make informed decisions.

One device that I have seen on vintage garments — and used on costumes — is the interior waistband or belt. This turn-of-the-century vintage bodice had one.

Elaborate lace and ribbon trimmed this ToC bodice (with a strangely skimpy skirt.)

Inside, a belt (never meant to be seen) was attached to the seams at center back. It closed at center front, and would be the first thing the wearer fastened when getting dressed.

Interior belt or waistband on a Turn of Century [ToC] bodice.

As Janet Arnold sketched the insides and outsides of museum garments, she drew many bodices that used an interior belt.

Interior waistband or belt, drawn by Janet Arnold.

Notice that the belt is only secured to the center back seams, with characteristic X stitches. It closes with hooks and bars at center front. It anchors the bodice to the wearer’s waist, so the bodice cannot ride up. It also holds the bodice in place while the many concealed hooks, eyes, and tapes are fastened. It takes some of the strain at the tightest spot, so the wearer doesn’t have to exert much pull on the more delicate fabrics to fasten them.

The interior belt works well on corsets.

I have seen and used these belts on the inside of corsets — what a great difference they make!

When you lace your own corset after fastening the front busk, you can’t be sure of getting it the same size every time. (Corsets rarely meet in the back.) Delineator,  April 1914.

First, the interior belt closing gives a constant size for the corset. You can’t accidentally lace it looser by mistake. If your dresses have been made to fit perfectly over your corset, but the corset lacing never actually meets at the waist, there’s always a chance that you will tighten your laces, put on your dress, and find that the dress doesn’t fit properly, because you pulled the laces too tight — or allowed yourself a bit more room than you did at the dress fitting.

Janet Arnold’s illustration of the interior of a woman’s dress, circa 1896. From Patterns of Fashion Vol 2. [***Fun fact: Arnold discovered that those huge leg-o-mutton sleeves were stuffed with paper!]

Secondly, when there is a waist belt inside your corset, the belt contracts your waist to the right size for fastening the front busk. The belt takes the strain (and keeps your corset from falling to the floor), giving you two hands free to hook the busk at the waist. Once the corset is fastened there, hooking it the rest of the way up and down is relatively easy. You may not need to deal with the laces at all.

The interior belt is can be made of a non-stretchable ribbon, like grosgrain.

The belt is also a great help in supporting the weight of the skirt; in many period dresses most of the skirt fullness is at the back, so the skirt of the dress can be quite heavy, and hard to wrestle with when its weight pulls the bodice crooked as you try to deal with dozens of fastenings.

Interior of dress from 1913-14 drawn by Janet Arnold. The skirt is sewn to the bodice only at one side. A row of hooks and bars connects the skirt to the bodice on the other side. (You can see two bars below “CF.” Arnold drew every hook.)

This circa 1913 dress (which combines lace, fur, chiffon and other materials) has an elaborate arrangement of closures, all of which would be hidden when the dress is worn. Notice that the skirt is only sewn to the bodice on its right side. The interior belt holds the bodice in the correct place and helps to support the weight of the skirt, while the left side of the skirt is slowly attached, hook by hook, to the left side of the bodice! [I think this one needed the help of a maid to deal with the skirt back and that big bow.]

Detail of Arnold’s drawing of the dress from 1913-14; no closures are visible, as the built-in sash hides the places where the skirt is only hooked to the bodice. The skirt is fur-trimmed.

The use of an interior belt is not restricted to the Victorian era. It remains part of the interior structure on couture when needed. It might be used, for example, to prevent tight jackets’ buttons straining against buttonholes at the waist, or to prevent too much strain on a zipper.

I can’t swear this famous Christian Dior New Look suit’s interior structure uses a belt, specifically, but something is preventing “pull” on the buttons. Click here for a great essay on “New Look” construction techniques.

You can see an interior belt — sewn in, not hanging free — on the waist of this gray dress from Dior’s fall-winter collection of 1955:

This Dior dress from 1955 is lying open on a table, positioned so you can see one end of the interior waistband; it matches the gray of the dress, which is flat-lined with gray organza.

At the place where the dress fits most tightly, the strain is taken by the belt rather than the zipper, which is visible to the right of the belt.

Christian Dior label, “Automne-Hiver 1955.” Charcoal gray dress with matching bolero jacket. Photographed from a private collection. The owner mentioned that this dress was made during Dior’s lifetime.

Digression: [I can’t not show you other pictures of this ensemble, even though I’m straying from my “interior belt” topic!]

You can see the unusual seam lines and darts on the jacket, which also has an interesting vertical buttonhole treatment.

Bolero jacket from Christian Dior, 1955. The matching dress has a full skirt pleated at the waist.

With the bolero jacket unbuttoned, the use of a separate panel to create “buttonholes” can be seen.

No, this buttonhole construction is not as care-free as it may look:

Inside view of Dior buttonhole in the bolero from 1955. The seams on the front of the jacket are not the same as those on the inside, and the buttonhole is reinforced like this.

Here, the interesting seams of the cap sleeve are visible. The back of the dress, with zipper, is visible at right.

Back to the topic of researching the insides of clothes you need to re-create, and the interior belt….

Arnold studied this dress from 1915-16 inside and out. If you were planning to copy it, you might think the outside tells the whole story — bodice and skirt both gathered at the waist.

A circa 1915 dress in a museum collection, drawn and its construction analyzed by Janet Arnold. Note the way a series of tiny tucks curves the sleeve forward.

Text describing the dress mentions that is would have been worn over a corset like this one.

The interior, drawn by Janet Arnold, shows that the scalloped dress in not as simple as it looks.

It has an under bodice, a hidden closure in front, a skirt that is partially attached to the bodice and partially hung from hooks and bars, and an interior belt that is boned and tightly fitted.

Arnold gives you a scale drawing of every part of the dress. This is what the under bodice of net looks like:

Like many vintage dresses which are bloused, this one has an under bodice. See French Linings. The bodice itself has kimono sleeves without armhole seams.

Arnold’s scale drawing of the interior belt on the scalloped dress. “The Petersham is shrunk in at the top to 26 1/2 inches, the bottom edge measures 27 1/2 “

Petersham ribbon looks much like grosgrain, but grosgrain cannot be stretched with steam and pressure. Petersham is often used in hat bands because it can be shaped into a slight curve with a steam iron.

I cannot praise Arnold’s Pattern of Fashion books too highly. Even if you choose not to duplicate her scaled patterns exactly, you will gain insight into period (and couture) construction that is invaluable.

I used to watch 1950s’ movies and wonder how a slender belt with no practical buckle could dig into an actress’s waist to compress it even more than her “merry widow” corset. Here is Elizabeth Taylor in a dress that really squeezes her waist. Janet Leigh’s wedding dress has a belt that might squeeze her that hard — although eventually the hole in the belt would start to tear…. Unless there was an even tighter belt inside those dresses….  “Ya think?”

 

17 Comments

Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1940s-1950s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Dresses, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Chiquita Banana Costume, 1951

Butterick 5971 suggests making matching mother and daughter Chiquita Banana costumes. Butterick Fashion News flyer, December 1951.

This costume is nostalgic for me. I can still sing the first line of the Chiquita Banana song: “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say….” But I had to look up what it was that she said!

You would be gathering and bias-tape-binding yards of ruffles if you opted for a “Chiquita” costume. The “banana” doesn’t seem to come into it.

Text for the Butterick pattern. It was not issued in time for Halloween, but I bet lots of amateur theatricals had “Latin” numbers.

Butterick apparently licensed the rights to call its costume pattern by this name, although it bore very little resemblance to the original, which had a bolero top with ruffled sleeves.

Alternate view and Chiquita brand logo, 1951. Chiquita’s was meant to suggest a basket of fruit — with her stem sticking up through the center.

The Chiquita company still uses a ruffle-clad woman in its logo.

The song first appeared as a radio advertisement in 1944 — and its purpose was to tell people how to recognize a ripe banana, and to remind them not to store bananas in the refrigerator.

“I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say – Bananas have to ripen in a certain way – When they are fleck’d with brown and have a golden hue – Bananas taste the best and are best for you – You can put them in a salad – You can put them in a pie-aye – Any way you want to eat them – It’s impossible to beat them – But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator – So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator.” — Chiquita Company Jingle

By 1951, when this pattern was issued, people could see the animated commercial in movie theaters and on TV. The tune was embedded in my brain by the time I was six. The Chiquita Company says, “At its peak, the jingle was played 376 times a day on radio stations across the United States.”

Thanks to YouTube, you can watch the original animated Chiquita ad by clicking here.

Astonishingly, a version of the song with less obviously instructive lyrics became a huge hit, covered by many singers. Here is one such version. Inevitably, the song was linked to Carmen Miranda in the public mind. If you search for a Chiquita banana costume today, you’ll find lots of Carmen Miranda costumes instead. A documentary about her is called Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business. [I just learned that she has been credited with popularizing platform shoes!]

Many internet sources say that Miranda wrote the ad jingle. She didn’t.

According to the Chiquita company’s Jingle page the original ad was the work of three men: “Chiquita Banana” (words and music by Garth Montgomery, Leonard Mackenzie, William Wirges) under license to Chiquita Brands L.L.C. © 1945 Shawnee Press Inc.

Sarah Skwire wrote delightfully on this topic, so I recommend you click here to read her essay on the wildly popular Chiquita Banana song. She is right about the wartime scarcity of bananas; I remember reading a memoir of British writer Evelyn Waugh in which his children watched him eat the first banana they had seen in years. They remembered it because he ate it in front of them and did not share even a bite.

has written about the commercial’s resultant “Latina” stereotyping in her essay “Miss Chiquita Banana: Here to Stay, for Better or Worse.”

All things considered — history-wise — I wouldn’t rush to make a nostalgic Chiquita Banana Halloween costume today — even though it does look much better in this red, yellow, and black version used on the pattern envelope.

Color image from A History of the Paper Pattern Industry by Joy Spanabel Emery. Please do not copy.

7 Comments

Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns