Category Archives: 1950s-1960s

Doll-Sized Girdles, 1954

Doll-Sized Girdles, Sears catalog for Spring 1954, page.

Doll-Sized Girdles, Sears catalog for Spring 1954, page 314.

This idea seemed so strange to me that I have to share it: “Doll-Sized Girdles” from the Sears catalog for Spring 1954.

At first, I wondered why dolls would need girdles — was it just some grown-up’s nutty idea of a “doll wardrobe?” I was never very interested in realistic dolls, or Barbie, but I was a child in 1954.

Witness2fashion around 1952. I was not thinking about doll sized girdles.

Witness2fashion around 1953. I was definitely not thinking about doll-sized girdles.  I was too old to play with these dolls, and I hated posing for pictures. I still do.

By 1959 I was old enough to wear a girdle and stockings, but it never for a moment occurred to me to associate girdles with dolls.

And, in fact, these are not girdles for dolls.

They are made to fit women with waist sizes from 23 to 30 inches. The “hi-waist”one at top “stretches to 17 in. long on figure.”

Here are some other women’s girdles from the same page:

"Puckerette" girdles for women, Sears catalog for Spring, 1954, page

“Puckerette” girdles for women, Sears catalog for Spring, 1954, page 314. “Big size range… all the way up to 32-inch waist.”

Sally Edelstein, at Envisioning the American Dream, has shown many vintage fifties and sixties girdle ads — they sure bring back memories for me! This one seems to show a woman holding a very small girdle which would stretch to the size of a normal body.

But it’s not quite “doll” size.

True Story: I remember shopping for a long-legged panty girdle around 1963. I tried one that seemed to fit with relative comfort, but the saleslady insisted that I try one in a smaller size. I struggled into it; I couldn’t even pull it up all the way. The saleswoman said, “I’ll hold the waist, and you jump!”

No sale.

Part 2 of Sally’s “A Girl and Her Girdle” can be found here.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Girdles, Musings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs

Big Pockets, Big Hips, Tiny Waists in the 1950s

A comment from Fabricated about the peculiar pockets of 1917 reminded me that big pockets, which visually widened the hips, were in style again in the late forties and through the nineteen fifties. But in the fifties, they emphasized a tiny waist.

Butterick 5529 uses big, decorated pockets to make the waist look smaller by contrast. Butterick Fashion News, January 1951.

Butterick 5529 uses big, decorated “stand” pockets to make the waist look smaller by contrast. Butterick Fashion News, January 1951. The bodice darts at front and back are visible in the small illustrations.

This is the influence of Dior’s 1947 collection, when he cinched in his models’ waists and padded their hips to achieve an exaggeratedly feminine shape. For several years, couturiers and even some ready-to-wear manufacturers built foundation garments into suits and dresses.

A Dior dress and Dior Suit, 1947. The jacket has padded hhips accented with large pockets. Sketches from the Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

A Dior dress and Dior Suit, 1947. The jacket has padded hips accented with large pockets. Sketches from the Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

Couture tip: When a bodice or jacket fits this tightly, an interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon is used. It fits very tightly around the waist, and closes with hooks and eyes or bars. You fasten the interior waistband, and then zip or button the garment. Since the ribbon waistband is attached to the seam allowances of the garment, often at the side and back seams, it takes the strain of the tight waist, so there is never any visible pulling at the buttonholes.

You can see one end of such a band inside this Dior dress dated 1955 on the label.

Interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon; you hook it before fastening the dress with the zipper. Christian Dior, 1955.

Interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon; you hook it before fastening the dress with the zipper. Christian Dior, 1955.

The bare topped, pleated dress had inch-wide straps, and could be worn with or without this cropped jacket.

Short jacket and pleated dress, Dior, Autumn-Winter 1955.

Short jacket and pleated dress, Dior, Autumn-Winter 1955.

A 1949 Dior dress with pockets reminiscent of 1917, and a Dior Suit, not dated, but from the period 1947 to 1949. Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

A 1949 Dior dress with pockets reminiscent of 1917, and a Dior Suit, not dated, but from the period 1947 to 1949. Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

I have added a link to the large collection of couture sketched for the Bergdorf Goodman store between 1930 and 1950 to my “Sites with Great Information” Sidebar.

I don’t have a a good collection of 1950’s illustrations, but here are a few images I’ve assembled:

A pattern sold through newspapers in 1956: Anne Adams pattern 4803. Big pockets visually widen the hips.

A pattern sold through newspapers in 1956: Anne Adams #4803. Big “stand” away-from-the-body pockets visually widen the hips.

The Anne Adams pattern is similar to Butterick 5718 from 1951. Mail Order patterns were usually conservative, and a little behind the times.

Even the pockets on aprons got bigger: McCall pattern 1532, from a 1950 Needlework catalog.

Even the pockets on aprons got bigger: McCall pattern 1532, from a 1950 Needlework catalog.

McCall 1579 could be worn as a sundress or an apron. Needlework catalog, November 1950.

McCall 1579 could be worn as a sundress or an apron. Needlework catalog, November 1950. There is a “fitted bodice option;” when a full skirt is used to make the waist look smaller, only a very slender figure can get away with a loosely gathered bodice. The figure in blue is not realistic. In fact, both illustrations show impossible waist size.

McCall's 1451 has cap sleeve to balance the pocket size, and to create an hourglass figure. 1950.

McCall 1451 has cap sleeves to balance the pocket size, and to create an hourglass figure. 1950. Notice the bodice darts. The slightly shorter version (A) was recommended as a coverall apron, and the longer one as a sundress.

Butterick skirt 4460 from March 1948; Butterick Jumper 505o from November 1949. Butterick Fashion News flyers.

Big pockets on Butterick skirt 4460 from March 1948, and Butterick jumper 505o from November 1949. Butterick Fashion News flyers.

Below: The curves and decorated pockets of this 1948 suit lead your eye from hip to waist. A similar style,  Vogue pattern 1096, by Molyneux, was issued in 1950. It has hip pads and double curved pockets, one on top of another.

Butterick jacket 4616 combines with skirt 4600 to make a suit. August 1948.

“Long lissome” Butterick jacket 4600 combines with skirt 4604 to make a suit. BFN, August 1948.

Another hip-widening style was the peplum, which flared out from the waist of a jacket or blouse. The patch-pocketed jacket below was illustrated repeatedly in 1948; the back of this jacket gives a “peplum effect.”

Butterick 4571, a jacket with fitted front and full back, appeared in Butterick Fashion News July and August 1948.

Butterick 4571, a two-piece dress with fitted front and full flared back on the jacket, appeared in Butterick Fashion News in July and August, 1948. Although the back is loose, the front is tightly fitted. A couture version might have had a fitted back bodice inside the loose one.  On the striped versions, the pocket stripes run horizontally, increasing the impression of width.

Below: The three tops on the left have hip-widening peplums;  not a pocket but “drapery tied in the back gives hipline emphasis to the blouse top” of the two-piece dress on the right.

Three two piece dresses with prplum tops, and one with draped hipline emphasis. Butterick patterns from summer 1948.

Three two-piece dresses with peplum tops, and one with draped hipline emphasis. Butterick patterns from summer 1948.

Peplums give the impression of a wider hip and tiny waist on these Simplicity patterns for April, 1948.

Peplums give the impression of a wider hip and tiny waist on these Simplicity patterns for April, 1948. (An impression furthered by the illustrator’s artistic license….) Simplicity patterns 2413, 2414, and 2393.

The fashion for exaggerated hips and tiny waists continued  through the 1950’s. This coat-dress from 1956 has a very full skirt accented by large pockets:

Coat-dress from Butterick pattern 7814, from Butterick Fashion News, October 1956.

Coat-dress from Butterick pattern 7814, from Butterick Fashion News, October 1956. Tiny waist, full skirt and big pockets.

This 1956 suit has a shorter jacket than the peplum fashions of 1948, but it still creates a strong horizontal line at the hip, accented with horizontal, decorative pocket flaps.

Butterick suit 7928 has one jacket and two skirt options, narrow or full. BFN, October 1956.

Butterick suit 7928 has one jacket with two skirt options, narrow or full. BFN, October 1956.

In 1959 and 1960, big pockets and small waists were still appearing on patterns:

Butterik skirt pattern 9082, from 1959. The big pockets were optional.

Butterick skirt pattern 9082, from 1959. The big pockets were optional.

If you’re considering the “wider hips will make my waist look smaller” concept, there are a few caveats.

One:  A normal human being does not look like these fashion illustrations. These fashions are flattering if you have a normally proportioned figure, or are slender. A full skirt will also conceal disproportionate hips. But, if you carry your extra pounds around your midriff, the illusion may not work, unless…. (See “Two.”)

Two:  The dressy fashions were designed to be worn over a foundation, a “merry widow” corset, or a waist cinch, all of which reshape the natural figure. Tight bodices which didn’t have built-in corsetry looked better when worn over elastic and boning that created a figure more like the ideal.

We called this kind of starpless corset a "Merry Widow." If you want to wear vintage fashions from the late forties or fifties, they were designed to be worn over one of these.

When I was in high school, we called this kind of zip-closing strapless corset a “Merry Widow.” Sears catalog, Spring 1954. If you want to wear tightly fitted vintage fashions from the late forties or fifties, remember that they will fit better over a lightly boned foundation like these.

The Sears catalog calls the garment on the left a "waist whittler." We called it a "waist cinch" in the fifties.

The Sears catalog calls the garment on the left a “waist whittler.” We called it a “waist cinch” in the fifties. Some well-made garments had a boned waist cinch, without the garters, built into the dress.

Of course, I didn’t wear such foundation garments under my shirtwaist school dresses.  I didn’t want a tight fit or a tiny waist, anyway.

I don’t think ordinary women expected to look like couture models or the women in movies.  But the dress forms used for clothing design were not the same as a natural, uncorseted body. Bodices were made to be very tight over a firm, fat-free ribcage, and shaped with many darts. (And dress mannequins’ posteriors were pushed down and flattened like the backside of a woman wearing a girdle.)

Notice how many darts were needed to shape the bodice to the ideal fifties figure.

Notice how many darts were needed to shape the bodice to the ideal fifties figure.

Four darts in front and and four in back were usually the minimum on a simple dress, like the cap-sleeved white and blue one. Six darts in front (like the three jackets top and right) were not unusual.  The plaid dress at top left also has two darts each side of the center seam (and probably, hidden by the shawl, a dart pointing from each side seam to the bust points.) The darkest blue suit is shaped by princess seams, but still has three additional waist darts on each side!

All those darts were necessary to transition from the bust (say, 34 inches around) to the waist (say, 26″ or less) without any unflattering looseness or gathers (or bulges showing.) This dress from 1960 has big hip pockets and a tight waist, but all three dresses have just one bust dart at each side to control that bodice fullness:

Left, Butterick 9357 from BFN, May 1960.

Left, Butterick 9357 from BFN, May 1960. Eliminating the waist-to-bust darts made a dress cheaper to manufacture, but this style was not flattering except to slim figures. (The greater the difference between bust and waist, the more fabric puffed out above the belt, for a “sack tied in the middle” look.)

If you have a yen to see more big pockets and fifties fashions, I recommend Wade Laboissonierre’s full color, generously illustrated book, Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s.

 

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns

How to Do Laundry, 1920’s and Later (Part 1)

"Things to Be Thankful For" in November of 1933: Washing machines. Delineator magazine, p 29.

“Things to Be Thankful For” in November of 1933: Washing machines. Delineator magazine, p. 29.

“Things to be thankful for.” That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read this article from July 1927:

The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering, Delineator, JUly 1927, p. 40 (detail)

The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering, Delineator magazine, July 1927, p. 40 (detail)

I will go through that article, step by step, in the next post (Part 2). First, for those too young to remember why women had “Wash Day Blues,” a little background.

Little Lulu day-of-the-week embroidered towels. McCall Needlework catalog, May 1950.

Little Lulu day-of-the-week embroidered dish towels. McCall Needlework catalog, May 1950. Little Lulu was a newspaper cartoon character.

Monday was Wash Day — even if you were a doll or a cartoon character. Tuesday was ironing day. On Wednesday, you mended clothes and replaced any buttons broken in the wash.

Raggedy Ann day-of-the-week dishtowels; McCall embroidery pattern, May 1950 catalog.

Raggedy Ann day-of-the-week dishtowels; McCall embroidery pattern, May 1950 catalog.

As a child in the 1950’s, I saw my mother and my grandmother doing the laundry with washing machines very much like this one:

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

That means I recognize many of the steps in “Modern Methods of Laundering” (1927) and may be able to explain a bit. I was a working class kid; my parents married in 1933 — and, as a child in 1950, I didn’t realize that my parents and their friends were still using appliances that were twenty years out of date. That roller thing on top of the machine was the “wringer,” two rolls of wood or hard rubber that squeezed excess water out of your clothes — and squeezed random creases into them.

The wringer was also called “the mangle.” See the pressure adjusting lever/screw handle at the top? If you’ve handled vintage clothing that was washable, you have probably noticed a lot of broken buttons on shirts and blouses. Blame the mangle. The mangle was no friend to glass or mother-of-pearl (shell) buttons. It was also a real danger to fingers, hair, and housewives wearing dresses with long ties, scarves, or ribbons at the neck. This picture explains the origin of the expression “to be put through the wringer.”

Woman putting wet clothes into the wringer, June, 1927. Once the soapy water was squeezed out, the clothes were rinsed and put through the wringer again.

Woman putting wet clothes into the wringer (which has an electric motor,) June, 1927. Once the soapy water was squeezed out, the clothes were rinsed and put through the wringer again. Standing in a puddle of water on the floor while operating an electric washer? Not recommended.

My father was very careful never to use naughty language around me, which is probably why this moment made such an impression:  One day when he came home from work, my mother told him that a customer had phoned several times, and that she sounded angry.  My father sighed and said, “She’s got her tit in a wringer about something.” Now, every time I get a mammogram, I remember our old washing machine and think, “tit in a wringer….” It always makes me smile. (Thanks, Dad!)

Woman using a clean pine dowel rod or broom handle to pull clothes out of the hot water before inserting them in the mangle. Fels Naptha Soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Woman using a smooth [pine?] dowel rod or broom handle to pull clothes out of the hot water before inserting them in the mangle. Fels Naptha Soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Another digression: Before I could read, I thought that naptha soap was “Nap, the Soap”  — like “Smokey, the Bear.”

So that we can understand the writers’ enthusiasm for “Modern Methods of Laundering” in 1927, let’s take a look at previous washing machine advice:

From an article on choosing a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

From an article on choosing a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21. Heat the water on the stove, pour it into the washer.

This old-fashioned machine is not electric — to agitate the clothes, I think you rock the tub with that big lever on the side. You heat water on (or in) your stove, carry it to the machine one bucket at a time until the tub is full, rub clothes on the washboard inside the tub to remove stubborn dirt, and drain the dirty water out of the faucet near the bottom into a bucket. Carry bucket to sink or back porch. Dump water. To rinse clothes, repeat the process. Two rinses recommended. (My mother sometimes rinsed the first load, ran it through the wringer, then added soap and my father’s overalls to the still warm rinse water to wash the next load. When you had to fill and drain the tub by hand, this was a time saver.)

Carrying buckets of water and big, heavy baskets full of wet clothing (you took it outside and hung it on a line to dry) was hard work. Notice how muscular this washerwoman looks. (“Laundress” was a more polite job description.)

Washerwoman and housewife, ad for Pepperell sheets, Delineator, Feb. 1925.

Washerwoman and housewife, ad for Pepperell sheets, Delineator, Feb. 1925.

In fact, this household budget for 1924 assumes that no woman who can afford a laundress will wash anything heavier than lingerie and stockings with her own hands. And doing the laundry took the laundress two days.

Suggested budget, Delineator magazine, July 1924.

Suggested budget, Delineator magazine, July 1924. Right after housing and heating costs is the cost of laundry (almost half the rent!) “Flat work” would be large items, heavy when wet, like blankets, sheets and tablecloths, which took time to iron, too.

A more convenient electric washing machine, which you fill with a hose, and which empties into a dedicated drain in the floor of your house. August, 1926.

A more convenient washing machine, which you fill with a hose, and which empties into a dedicated drain in the floor of your house. August, 1926.

By 1933, the better quality washers had a water pump, which allowed the dirty water to be expelled through a hose into a sink or drain — as washers do today.

Washing machines add a water pump for emptying the machine. Delineator, Nov. 1933, p. 29.

Washing machines add a water pump for emptying the machine. Delineator, Nov. 1933, p. 29. “Half the hard work of washing is in handling the water…. The worker should not have to lift it.”

“The services of the washing-machine have replaced the washerwoman, and electric power is replacing woman power for the washing of clothes.” — Delineator, August 1926. That is not to say you could put a load in the washer, walk away,  and get on with other housework.

Selecting a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

Selecting a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

There was quite a variety of machine styles. Some of these seem to have wringers that can be cranked by hand, although the article mentioned the importance of a wringer that can be locked in several positions and which has a “safety release that can be quickly and easily operated” — in case your hair or fingers got caught in the mangle. Also, the electric washing machine motor — usually visible under the machine — “must be protected from water.”

Maytag washing machine ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Maytag washing machine ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

The idea of building a box around the machine to conceal the motor was still a new one. I was surprised to see this 1929 ad for a Savage washing machine, which didn’t need a mangle wringer; it had a spin cycle.

The Savage spin washer did not use a mangle to extract water from clothes. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1929.

The Savage Wringerless washer did not use a mangle to extract water from clothes. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1929. Ten pounds of clothes “from hamper to line in an hour.”

Detail of ad for Savage spin washer, Feb. 1929. Delineator magazine.

Detail of ad for Savage spin washer, Feb. 1929. Delineator magazine. “Empties itself” automatically!

Nevertheless, mangle washing machines continued to be sold. This Thor machine used the motor that ran the wringer to also run a mangle iron — the parts were interchangeable.

Ad for Thor washer with wringer and interchangeable mangle iron. Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1930, p. 53.

Ad for Thor washer with wringer and interchangeable mangle iron. Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1930, p. 53.

"From washer to ironer in 10 seconds." Thor washing machine ad, 1930.

“From washer to ironer in 10 seconds.” Thor mangle washing machine ad, 1930. Doesn’t that look easy?

When there were no “permanent press” fabrics, ironing large, flat items like tablecloths, sheets, pillowcases, and dish towels took a long time. In the fifties, my father bought a rotary iron — second hand — and made a point of using it, although we quickly discovered that ironing shirts, dresses, and other clothing on it took more skill than we had time to master.

Using a mangle iron, Delineator, June 1929. 1929. Getting a large sheet through it was not this easy.

Using a “mangle” or rotary iron, Delineator, June 1929. Getting a large sheet through it was not this easy.

Sitting beside the washing machine to use the mangle iron. Thor ad, 1929.

Sitting beside the washing machine to use the rotary iron, which, like the wringer, pivoted. Thor ad, 1929.

You would certainly have needed to make sure your floor was mopped and dry before putting a sheet through this machine  attached to the washer. At $149.25, the Thor combination would be a sizable investment (some families lived on about $35 per week in 1925). [To read one magazine’s article about the cost of living in 1925, click here.]

On the other hand, a woman (like my mother-in-law) who was willing to take in washing and ironing could supplement the family income.

"Iron on Tuesday" embroidery pattern, McCall Needlecraft catalog, Nov. 1950.

“Iron on Tuesday” embroidery pattern, McCall Needlecraft catalog, Nov. 1950.

If you hired a laundress for two days a week, as recommended, the second day would be devoted to ironing.

Sunbeam electric iron, 1924 ad. The "set" included the iron and a box to store it in.

Sunbeam electric iron, 1924 ad. The “set” included the iron and a box to store it in.

The electric iron was certainly an improvement over the irons my grandmother heated on the stove (she had two or three — one getting warm while another was in use) but you needed to “sprinkle” your clothes to dampen them before ironing — until the steam iron arrived.

A sprayer for dampening ironing. Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1936.

A sprayer for dampening ironing. Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1936. In 1950, my grandmother used a beverage bottle with a purchased cork-and-perforated-metal top — like a big salt shaker, but containing water.

However, by the time this sprayer was featured, a steam iron could also be purchased.

A steam iron, Woman's Home Companion, September 1937.

A “steaming  iron,” as explained by Woman’s Home Companion, September 1937. “You need no wet cloth for pressing woolens and no sprinkling for dry fabrics.”

I will show the entire, step-by-step, illustrated article “The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering,” from 1927, in the next post.

I inherited this Sunbonnet Sue dish towel. She was once part of a set of seven day of the week towels.

I inherited this Sunbonnet Sue dish towel. It was once part of a set of seven day-of-the-week towels. Sue, bent over her wash tub, was appliqued to a bleached flour sack.  I wish I had two dozen!

You can read more about Day of the Week towels and laundry customs at RememberedSummers.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized

Sanitary Protection: Tampax Introduced 80 Years Ago

Detail, Ad for Tampax tampons, Woman's Home Companion, March 1937, p. 124.

Detail, Ad for Tampax tampons, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937, p. 124.

When I saw this ad — “A few short months ago many women heard about Tampax for the first time….” — in Woman’s Home Companion, March, 1937, I was surprised. It was like running into an old friend, and finding that she’s a lot older than you thought.

Text of ad for Tampax, March 1937. WHC, page 124.

Text of ad for Tampax, March 1937. WHC, page 124.

“The first ad [for Tampax] appeared on Sunday, July 26, 1936, in the American Weekly. A Sunday supplement that was inserted in many major newspapers, it claimed the greatest circulation in the world, some 11 million buyers.”– Tampax history

I realize that discussing women’s sanitary needs is still not comfortable for many of us. However, now that the discussion of sales taxes on sanitary products is in the news, we are going to have to get comfortable discussing a normal function which about 51% of the world’s population experiences at regular intervals for approximately half of their lives.

"The proof is in the Wearing," said this Kotex ad in WHC, Nov. 1937. Pg. 119

“The Proof Is in the Wearing,” said this Kotex ad in WHC, Nov. 1937. Pg. 119. Women only discussed it in whispers….

I’m not sure which college dormitory friend coached me through my first use of a tampon from an adjoining bathroom stall — but I owe her a big “thank you!” In the sixties, if you found yourself in need of sanitary protection while visiting a friend’s house, and you asked her “if she had something,” she would usually ask your preference: “Mattress or plug?” — our way of classifying pads and tampons. But, until 1936, there was no choice.

Even before Tampax, vintage ads for Kotex and Modess pads were very discrete, lest young minds learn too soon about “feminine secrets.”

From an ad for Modess. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys. Delineator, April 1931.

From an ad for Modess. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys. Delineator, April 1931. It could be an ad for chic accessories.

The ads often featured women in slinky white dresses — or engaging in active sports while wearing white sportswear.

A 1933 ad for the Kotex Equalizer, with "Phantomized ends." Delineator, Sept. 1933. p. 77.

A 1933 ad for the Kotex Equalizer, with “Phantomized ends.” Delineator, Sept. 1933. p. 77.

Detail, Kotex ad, Delineator, August 1933.

Detail, Kotex ad, Delineator, August 1933. Sailing in white clothes.

When I learned about menstruation in the Girl Scouts, and again in the classroom (“girls only” for that “special” movie or filmstrip,) only external pads were mentioned. Until then (roughly 1954) my friends and I had been so puzzled by what came out of the dispenser in the ladies’ room at the VFW post that we once used some of our candy money to find out what came out of the dispenser. (Our parents were playing Bingo.) What we got was a box. We opened the box. It seemed to be full of white packing material, so we pulled it apart, and found nothing inside. (No Cracker Jack toy!) At this point, a grown up lady whom we did not know found us, accused us of being “filthy” little girls, and reported to our folks that we had been caught doing something nasty in the restroom. We remained bewildered. Why would you pay money for a box with nothing in it? The stuff in the box was clean and white, if not very interesting. So why was it “dirty” and “disgusting?”

In western society, women were (and as far as I know, still are) not eager to broadcast the fact that they are menstruating. And we still worry about “leaks”  — nobody wants to leave a bloodstain on the upholstery. So, many ads emphasized “safety.”

This 1937 ad for Kotex pads emphasized comfort --"can't chafe" even during active sports -- and safety -- "Can't fail" even on a long airplane trip. top of ad, Delineator, August 1937.

This 1937 ad for Kotex pads emphasized comfort — “Can’t Chafe” even during active sports — and safety — “Can’t Fail” even on a long airplane trip. Top of ad, Delineator, August 1937.

Bottom of Kotex ad, Aug. 1937. "Kotex can't fail" and "Kotex can't show."

Bottom of Kotex ad, Aug. 1937. “Kotex can’t fail” and “Kotex can’t show.”

Young women who have never known a sanitary pad that didn’t adhere to the crotch of a normal pair of panties may not understand the constant emphasis on “absolute invisibility.” “Even the sheerest dress, the closest-fitting gown, reveals no tell-tale lines or wrinkles.” “The rounded ends of Kotex are flattened and tapered to provide absolute invisibility.” And let’s not forget those “Phantomized ends.”

Consider the text of that early Tampax ad:

Detail of ad for Tampax, 1937.

Detail of early ad for Tampax, 1937.

That’s right — in the 20th century, before Tampax, a bulky pad had to be safety-pinned to an elastic belt. At each end of the pad was several inches of the wrapping material, without padding. This was pinned to the belt (in the 1920’s) or pulled through the celluloid or plastic device on the belt (in the 1930’s and for decades after), then folded back on itself, which made a lump fore and aft.

Sanitary belts and supplies from Sears catalog, 1924

Sanitary belts and supplies from Sears catalog, 1924. Notice the safety pins.

Ads for Beltx personal belt, with celluloid tabs for holding the ends of the napkin. Delineator, July and June 1929.

Ads for Beltx personal belt, with celluloid tabs for holding the ends of the napkin. An apparatus like this eliminated the need for safety pins. Delineator, July and June 1929.

Sanitary belts and a sanitary pad from Sears Catalog, 1937.

Sanitary belts and a sanitary pad from Sears Catalog, 1937. The safety pins are attached to prevent dropping them and losing them — a disaster if you weren’t at home and didn’t have another safety pin.

Sanitary belts from Sears catalog, 1937. You can see a pad with its end pulled through the clasp at top left.

Sanitary belts from Sears catalog, 1937. You can see a pad with its end being pulled through the clasp/tab1920s 1930s at top left. This is the kind of sanitary protection we girls were taught to use in the 1950’s.

Obviously, clinging silk dresses or knits would reveal bulges. ” ‘I warn women when they have gowns fitted,’ says a famous Modiste:’ ”

Text of a Kotex ad, Delineator, March 1929, p. 107.

Text of a Kotex ad, Delineator, March 1929, p. 107.

Image from Kotex ad, Delineator, March 1929, p. 107.

Image from the same Kotex ad, Delineator, March 1929, p. 107.

Modess Vacation ad, Delineator, July 1931.

Modess Vacation Special ad, Delineator, July 1931.

“Why worry about summertime protection? You can wear Modess under your sheerest dresses with an easy feeling of perfect safety — perfect comfort. The softly fluffed filler is cool and evenly absorbent. Modess will never be conspicuous, because the edges and corners are carefully rounded and it smoothly fits to the figure. It is deodorant — easily disposable.”

It can’t have been easy writing ad copy for a product that couldn’t be pictured, and whose purpose could only be hinted at. Here, a woman sits nervously while people in the background seem to be making fun of her.

Top of Modess ad, Ladies' Home Journal, 1936, p. 77.

Top of Modess ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, probably 1936, p. 77.

“What is this woman afraid of? Often a haunting fear spoils good times. But now — women can say goodbye to all that!”

In the second picture, thanks to Modess, she is playing golf in a white dress — with no fear of embarrassment.

Bottom of Modess ad, 1936.

Bottom of Modess ad, 1936.

In another ad, women ride bicycles while wearing pale-colored (probably white) dresses. White emphasized the “safety” from leaks and the sanitary”/”hospital cleanliness” of disposable pads. (And disposable pads were a a lot more pleasant than earlier home-made pads of folded fabric which had to be boiled clean after every use….)

Modess ad, September 1936. Woman's Home Companion.

Modess ad, September 1936. Woman’s Home Companion.

Nurses often appeared in ads for sanitary products, although images of the finished product itself were hard to find in popular magazines. (Images from the factory production line were acceptable.)

Kotex ad, Feb. 1932. Delineator.

Kotex ad, Feb. 1932. Delineator. “The known immaculacy of genuine Kotex.”

Nurses in Kotex ads. 1924 and 1932.

Nurses in Kotex ads, 1924 and 1932. They are not holding the product itself.

What really amazed me as I collected these images was the difference between close-fitting “sanitary protection” underwear and normal ladies’ underpants. Whether you call them “knickers,” or “bloomers,” or “combinations” these variations on women’s underpants from 1924-1925 are long and bulky:

Women's underwear, 1924: knickers, a "combination," and and "envelope chemise" which buttons at the very low crotch. Butterick patterns

Women’s underwear, 1924: knickers, a “combination,” and an “envelope chemise” which buttons at the very low crotch. Butterick patterns 3197, 4112, and 5059. The number sequence implies that the combination first appeared in the catalog in 1924.

Knickers or bloomers from women, 1925. Butterick patterns

Knickers or bloomers for women, 1925. Butterick patterns 6194 and 5705. These were worn by young women as well as by their mothers, and can sometimes be glimpsed in silent movies. (Note the use of elastic.) Delineator.

And yet, this is a pair of 1924 sanitary bloomers made by Kleinert’s (a company that also made underarm shields and baby pants — all products which used rubber as well as cloth.)

Kleinert's Blue-Line Santalettes, sanitary protection underpants, in an ad from September. Delineator. 1924.

Kleinert’s Blue-Line Santalettes, sanitary protection underpants, in an ad from Delineator, September, 1924.

By 1936, close-fitting women’s briefs as we now know them were finally appearing:

Panties and combination garments from 1936, Ladies Home Journal, August.

Panties and combination garments from 1936, Ladies Home Journal, August.

Ad for Spun Lo rayon knit panties, WHC, Dec. 1936, p. 89.

Ad for Spun-Lo rayon knit panties, WHC, Dec. 1936, p. 89. They appear to be very sheer — and ample….

But by then, Kleinert’s was selling what we would call a “French cut brief” for sanitary protection :

Ad for Kleinert's Sani-Scant, Delineator, April 1937.

Ad for Kleinert’s Sani-Scant, Delineator, April 1937. A traditional (but improved?) sanitary belt was also offered. Doesn’t that Sani-Scant look modern?

Kleinert’s knew how to make a pair of briefs that fit close to the body in 1924. But women didn’t get used to wearing sleek, close-fitting undies — except for long johns — for quite a while.

In 1931, the term "panties" was replacing "knickers" or "bloomers" in the U.S. Delineator, Sept. 1931.

In 1931, the term “panties” was replacing “knickers” or “bloomers” in the U.S. Delineator, Sept. 1931. Butterick patterns 4012 and 3798.

Apparently air circulation around “the privates” was preferred — at least, for most days of the month.

And the acceptance of internally worn sanitary products “even for unmarried girls” also had to overcome considerable prejudice in the thirties and later. (So did the use of anesthetics during childbirth, but we got over that, too….)

Sadly, some of the “ingredients” put into tampons — fragrances, synthetic materials, etc. — during the 1970’s and 1980’s caused fatal infections in some women. (Back in the 1930’s cellulosic materials –i.e., rayon, or plant based–  were used in external pads, but they turned out to be a bad idea in tampons.) It turns out that 75% of cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome were related to one specific brand of tampon: Rely.  It was withdrawn from the market.

There is an excellent history of the tampon in the Atlantic magazine which discusses toxic shock syndrome [TSS], ingredients that caused it, and legislation concerning tampons.  In 2015, Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced a bill regarding independent testing of the safety and ingredients of tampons, with oversight by the FDA. The Atlantic gave it just a 2% chance of passing in Congress.  In May of 2016, 40 states still charged sales tax on tampons, as if they were a not a necessity for women, but something we could easily do without. (Unlike candy, or potato chips….)

Here’s a possibly relevant fact: “When Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, NASA engineers asked her whether 100 tampons would be enough for her weeklong journey on the space shuttle Challenger—arguably helping cement the tampon’s reputation as both a fixture of modern womanhood and a complete mystery to men.” [My italics] — Ashley Fetters, writing  in The Atlantic. (A magazine which, as it happens, used to be called The Atlantic Monthly.)

Anyway, “Happy Belated 80th Birthday” to Tampax — a product that made my life a lot more pleasant.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1950s-1960s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

The Persistence of Fashion

While looking through some family photos, I found a few good examples of the persistence of fashion — a reminder of the variety that can be found within a historical period.

Fashion doesn’t change overnight — and it changes very slowly for some people. There is a theory called “the persistence of fashion” which accounts for the fact that clothing which is twenty or even thirty years out of date can be seen in many illustrations and photographs.

Story illustration, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1936. Thw Woman on the right demonstrates the persistence of an older fashion.

Story illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1936. The hem length of the woman on the right, about right for 1917 or 1923, demonstrates the persistence of an older fashion.

In the 20th century, the persistence of fashion was often associated with older women. (An older man wearing a suit that is twenty years out of date is barely noticeable, because men’s styles change very slowly — and some styles for men have changed very little since the nineteenth century.)

But, in the 20th century, it was older women who were usually depicted as clinging to the styles of their youth — or, at least, of their middle age.

Jeanette Albers, Mrs. McLeod, and Nan Mc Leod, mid-1920's.

“Jeanette Albers, Mrs. McLeod, and Nan McLeod,” late 1920’s.

Mrs. McLeod doesn’t look impoverished, but her dress is probably several years old. (Hems this long were last in style  in 1923.) Jeanette Albers (left) has a hem which barely reaches her knees, suggesting 1927 or later. Nan McLeod (right) has a more conservative — or possibly two or three year old — outfit. It reminds me of this Chanel suit from January 1925 — which was not short.

Three generations. Probably World War I era, or a little later.

Three generations. This picture was in an album, and dated 1921.

Although the youngest woman wears a mid-calf skirt appropriate for teenagers, her mother and grandmother wear much longer dresses — the plaid one could have been seen on a wagon train; she’s dressed like the 19th century prairie pioneers!

Wearing out-of-date styles is sometimes caused by a lack of money, or a body that cannot be made to conform to the current fashion ideal, or conservatism and/or prudery, or the expectations of the local community (the wife of a small-town businessman had to dress “respectably.”) Ageism is also a factor — an older woman who dressed to compete with marriageable younger women was called “mutton dressed as lamb.” [Note: a mutton chop, which comes from a fully grown sheep, does not taste like a lamb chop….]

I captured these two late fifties’ dresses from a clip of the Groucho Marx quiz show, You Bet Your Life. The older woman, a schoolteacher, is wearing a longish, conservative 1950’s dress, probably new, but not very different in style from what she would have worn in the 1930’s. The other woman is a teenager in flat shoes (“flats”) and a full-skirted knee-length dress.

Teacher and teen-aged girl on You Bet Your Life. The oder wman has a longer skirt, sensible high heels, and longer sleeves. 1950s.

Teacher and teen-aged girl on You Bet Your Life, probably 1960. The older woman has a longer skirt, sensible high heels, and 3/4 sleeves that cover her arms. This episode is copyright 1961, the show’s last season.

Female contestants on You Bet Your Life, a TV quiz show which ran throughout the 1950s.

Female contestants on You Bet Your Life, a TV quiz show which ran from 1950 to 1960.

Mothers and grandmothers were not encouraged to present themselves as sexually attractive.

Persistence of Fashion: an Advertisement for Sealy Mattresses, Delineator, Sept. 1917.

Persistence of Fashion in an advertisement for Sealy Mattresses, Delineator, Sept. 1917. The younger woman wears a V-neck blouse, a relatively new fashion in 1917, but the older woman wears a high, 1890’s style collar.

The reasons for the persistence of fashion among older women are many. Magazine illustrations and advertisements make it clear that among prosperous older women, many who could afford to keep up with changing styles chose to have their new clothing made with the high collars and low hemlines of a previous decade. Sewing  patterns from 1918 allowed a choice of neckline.

Illustration of a restaurant, Delineator, Oct. 1924. Notice the persistence of fashion on the older woman in the foreground.

Illustration of women in a restaurant, Delineator, Oct. 1924. The young women are very stylish, with bare arms and necks. Notice the persistence of an earlier fashion on the older woman in the foreground.

The waitress in the background, and the young women in the foreground, are dressed for 1924.

The waitress in the background, and the young women in the foreground, are dressed for 1924, but the older woman would not be out of place in 1910.

The older woman has the hairstyle and the high-waisted dress of the previous decade, although she is clearly a prosperous member of the middle class. She is comfortable wearing an older style that she feels is becoming to her.

The woman on the left in this photograph is dressed up and proud of it — in new-looking clothes that are ten years out of date.

Helen Taylor in 1915. The young woman on the right is not wearing a shorter skirt because she is a girl, but because it is the fashionable length.

Left: Mrs. Taylor and Helen Taylor in 1915. The young woman on the right is not wearing a shorter skirt because she is a child, but because it is the fashionable ankle-baring length.

Obviously, it is not lack of money that prevents this hostess from dressing in the current fashion:

This lady, with her butler at her side, could afford to dress in chic clothes -- but she chooses not to. May, 1932 illustration by W. Morgan.

This lady, with her butler at her side, could afford to dress in chic clothes, like the lady on the right — but she chooses not to. May, 1932, illustration by W. Morgan.

The older woman’s long skirt is a relic of 1923 — or even earlier. She is conservative in hair and hem.

I found this interesting example of the persistence of fashion in an article about women who volunteered to sew for soldiers during World War I:

Full mourning -- circa 1898 -- in a photo from 1917. Ladies Home Journal, Nov., p. 22.

One woman wears “full mourning”– circa 1898 — in a photo taken in 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal, November, p. 22. Poor woman — has she been in mourning for 19 years? [Edit: 9/10/16: Christina reminds me that this woman may be mourning a son lost in the early months of WW I; I failed to consider naval losses.]

Mourning costumes, 1898, from Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazar.

Mourning costumes, 1898, from Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar.

The widow’s bonnet had a long black veil which could be pulled over the face for privacy, or to hide tear-swollen eyes. It’s a little surprising to see that Jacqueline Kennedy wore one at President Kennedy’s funeral — but it was over her normal pillbox hat.

Another extraordinary hold-over appears on the right in this photo:

Persistence of fashion: Right, a turn of the century dress beside a dress from the early 1920s.

Persistence of fashion: Right, a turn of the century dress (or “wrapper”?) beside a dress from the late teens or early 1920s. The older woman has shortened her dress to walking length for housework — or to expose her shoes, which look new. Her throat is exposed, too, so this is a fairly new dress made in an older style, and worn over petticoats!

The Lack of Ready-to-Wear Clothing and the Persistence of Fashion

Today, we take the existence of “off-the-rack” ready-to-wear clothing in a range of sizes for granted. If we need a new coat, we go to a store and buy one, from a range of prices to fit most budgets.

That was not possible until the latter part of the 19th century.  Suiting Everyone, published by the Smithsonian, was the book that made me aware of the importance of the U.S. Civil War (which ended in 1865) in developing the standardization of sizes. The urgent demand for hundreds of thousands of military uniforms, plus the development of industrial sewing machines, created a need for statistics about human measurements — and the war supplied them. For the first time it was possible to predict that a man with a 44 inch chest was statistically likely to have a 38 inch waist, and a man with a 38 inch chest was likely to have a 32 inch waist. Related back and sleeve lengths could also be calculated. [This is not to say that Civil War uniforms fit well!]

Elizabeth Ewing’s History of 20th Century Fashion makes it clear that standardized sizes for women happened later in England than in the U.S.; she says large-scale production of ready-to-wear in the early 20th century happened in America about ten years earlier than in Britain. (p. 122.) There, at the turn of the century, “The only dresses which were ready-made were those produced for window display.” (p. 40) At least one London department store would make up a dress, fully trimmed, and leave the back seam open, for easy “fitting” to the customer. [Note: this is the worst way to alter a dress!] Of course, the simplification of styles and the relaxed fit of women’s wear in the 1910’s and 1920’s made mass-produced clothing for women much easier to sell. A snug fit in the torso was not needed.

Unfitted styles like these, from Delineator, Sept. 1924, made ready-to-wear for women easier to manufacture and sell.

Unfitted styles like these, from Delineator, Sept. 1924, made ready-to-wear for women easier to manufacture and sell.

Before the 1860’s, most fitted clothing was custom made. If you could not afford to have your dresses and coats made for you, or make them yourself, second-hand clothing was all you could find. Sometimes, clothes had been passed through a long line of used clothing sellers and pawnbrokers. “The rag trade” was a literal description of the end of the line. The very poor wore rags. It was a “perk” of body servants in upper class houses to be given their masters’ and mistresses’ old and damaged clothing — sometimes after removing the re-usable trims and lace. The servants could not wear luxurious clothing themselves — at least, not where their employers could catch them in it — so it was sold. And sold, worn, pawned, sold, worn, and sold again. I recommend Diana de Marly’s book, Working Dress for an overview of what was and was not available ready-made before the late 1800’s. Ewing’s book discusses the earliest mass-produced items for women.

Clearly, the lack of ready-to-wear clothing at affordable prices used to have something to do with the persistence of fashion. However, there is a psychological element, as well.

As an older woman myself, I have lots of ten-year-old clothing in my closet. I haven’t reached the alarming proportions of my [Edited from “once beautiful” on 9/5/16] once fashionable great-grandmother, on the right, below:

Three generations, probably about 1910.

Three generations, probably about 1910. The woman on the right has clearly lost all interest in current fashion — and in corsets.

… but I have always worn classic,  straight-legged slacks. Sadly, I have them in sizes 12 through 16…. As I get closer to a healthy BMI, some barely-worn size twelves will return to the front of the closet. I’ll wear them, even if they were bought several years ago. [

Old Body, New Ideas

I’m retired. I don’t have to dress to impress anybody, because I no longer have a job telling other people how to dress. I no longer need to read WWD or fashion magazines, because I no longer design modern dress plays. I used to “shop” for a living (for clothing and fabrics,) so I don’t think of shopping as entertainment. Long ago, I met — and married — “Mr. Right,” so the fantasy of finding the perfect dress — “the one that will make me beautiful” — is over.

When I need something specific, like a new raincoat with a zip-out wool lining, I go to Nordstrom, just as I did when I was working. When I needed a dressy pair of water-and-snow-proof boots for a January vacation in New York City, I paid full price willingly — for the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever bought. (The vacation included reservations at a lot of good restaurants, plus an opera, plays, etc.) But in general I’m now much more likely to shop at Ross than at a major department store. When you prefer simple, classic styles in neutral colors, “last season” and “this season” aren’t very relevant. (And budget is a consideration — I am always saving up for a trip to Europe.)

Like the older women in these photos, I reject some new styles on sight. I’m not going to be buying any leggings or jeggings or any other tight-at-the ankle trousers, because I know from experience that, in them, I look really broad in the beam. I’ve been shopping for myself for 60 years; I know what to avoid by now. I already know what colors I should never wear (like yellow,) and which styles are most flattering to my narrow shoulders and wide hips. Plus, I am trying to get rid of “things,” not acquire them.

Buy Less, but Buy Better.

I admire people who try to limit their purchases of new clothing for ethical reasons. The excellent documentary The True Cost is a real eye-opener. In fact, it has me shopping for organic cottons — and it convinced me they are worth the price. Here’s a good idea: “Buy less, but buy better –” Better quality, and better for the world.

I realize I may end up as an example of the persistence of fashion, because I don’t own any up-to-the-minute fashions. But Fashion doesn’t own me.

It's the 1930s. The woman on far right is wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

It’s the 1930s. The woman on far right is even wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

Sunbonnets are a very old head covering, although the one on the left uses early 20th century fabric.

Sunbonnets are a very old form of head covering. And they protect the back of your neck. The Met has a corded sunbonnet slightly similar to the tan one — dated 1840.

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Musings: Two Books on the World of High Fashion

Simplicity patterns from April, 1948 show that the influence of Dior's New Look was already a "Main Street" fashion. Simplicity pattern flyer, April 1948.

Simplicity patterns from April, 1948 show the influence of Dior’s New Look (1947) on “Main Street” fashion. Simplicity pattern flyer, April 1948.

I checked out two library books about fashion last month:

Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty, by Robert Lacey (2015) and

Vogue on Christian Dior by Charlotte Sinclair (2012.)

Each was fascinating in its own way, and both offered insights into the way high fashion was merchandised.

As always, I looked through the illustrations first.

Relative Size

This illustration is from Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty. In case you have been thinking about modern dress sizes, (Size Zero?) and wondering why the size tags in vintage dresses no longer make sense…. Read this composite card for Ford model Iris Bianchi,  circa 1957.

A card for Ford Agency model Iris Bianchi, circa 1957. Photo by Richard Avedon from Model Woman, by .

A composite card for Ford Agency model Iris Bianchi, circa 1957. Photo by Richard Avedon. Illustration from Model Woman, by Robert Lacey.

She was too short to be a high fashion model by today’s standards — only five foot seven and a half.

But she made up for that by having a 21 inch waist.

[In 1958, my best friend was 5′ 8″ tall and, like this model,  had 32 inch hips. The mean girls at school called my friend “Ichabod Crane.” Being jeered at by their classmates is a common memory among successful models in Robert Lacey’s book.]

Notice that Iris Bianchi wore a 1950’s size 10.  Her measurements were:  Bust 32.5, Waist 21, Hips 32 inches. She would not be a size 10 today.

Detail of illustration from Model Woman.

Detail of illustration from Model Woman.

Dior Customers’ Mannequins

The following illustrations are from Vogue on Christian Dior, by Charlotte Sinclair.

A photo taken through the windows of Christian Dior's workroom.

A photo taken through the windows of Christian Dior’s workroom. Photo by Bellini at Dior Archive. Illustration from Vogue on Christian Dior, p. 41.

This is a photo taken through the windows of Dior’s workshop: “Lined up on a shelf above are made-to-measure mannequins, one for each of Dior’s private clients.” From Vogue on Christian Dior, by Charlotte Sinclair, p. 41.

Like many couture houses (and movie studios,) Dior’s atelier kept dress mannequins that duplicated the shape and size of regular customers. Each mannequin was reserved for one person; it had her name on it, and it echoed her shape and posture. That way, couture could be draped and fitted without requiring the customer to stand for long hours in preliminary fittings.

In case you need your memory refreshed, this is the famous “Bar Suit” from Dior’s debut “Corolle” line. Its tiny waist, padded hips, and mid-calf skirt was dubbed “the New Look” by fashion editors.

The "Bar Suit" from Christian Dior's "Corolle" collection, 1947.

The “Bar Suit” from Christian Dior’s “Corolle” collection, 1947. Photo from Vogue on Christian Dior. The model’s hips were padded to accentuate her narrow waist.

I’m struck by how few of Dior’s regular customers had the ideal figure for Dior’s clothing designs:

Mannequins for private Dior customers. From Vogue on Christian Dior.

Mannequins for regular Dior customers. From Vogue on Christian Dior.

Another photo in Vogue on Christian Dior shows “A model being fitted for a Lefaucher corset in Dior’s atelier in 1952. Such a corset, Vogue reported, lent a woman the required Dior shape: controlled hips, nipped waist, flat back, and caved-in midriff.”

A model being fittted in a corset that achieves the ideal Dior line -- and posture.

A model being fitted in a corset that achieves the ideal Dior line — and posture. 1952. Illustration from Vogue on Christian Dior, p. 81. Frances McLaughlin photo for Vogue.

Mannequins and model

Compare Dior clients’ mannequins (left) and the corseted model (far right.)

Getting “a Dior” to look good on a normal, imperfect — often aging — body? That is one of the things you pay for when you buy couture.

The Met has two nearly identical 1920’s dresses by Lanvin, adapted to flatter different clients. Click here.

I would love to see an exhibit of side by side dresses like those two! NOTE: Please do not copy any of these images. They are samples of the information contained in the books being reviewed.

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Musings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs

Three McCall Hat and Bag Patterns Popular 1946 through 1950

These three hat and bag patterns were so popular that they appeared in McCall Needlework catalogs  for several years.

McCall pattern 1294, Hats and Bags

McCall hat and bag pattern 1294, from the December 1946 Needlework catalog.

McCall hat and bag pattern 1294, from the December 1946 Needlework catalog. This pattern was still being sold in November, 1950.

According to the Commercial Pattern Archive, McCall 1294 was issued in 1946.

MC 1294 text dec 1946346

“Hand-made hats, bag, with the “custom” look. Rows of machine stitching give these hats style and body. Stitched bag has hand strap or shoulder strap.” [One of the good things to come out of WW II was the popularity of hands-free, over-the-shoulder purses, suitable for busy women who carried their own packages and took public transportation.]

you can see the topstitching of mcCall 1294 more clearly here. Note the back strap which holds the hat in place.

You can see the topstitching of McCall 1294 more clearly in this enlargement. Note the period back strap which holds the hat in place.

McCall 1294 from the November 1950 catalog.

McCall 1294 from the November 1950 catalog. This pattern first appeared in 1946.

In the two 1950 Needlework catalogs I have, only the top two illustrations were used.  Hat styles were changing, along with hair styles, but the bags are classic shapes — a compact 7 1/2 inches high by 9 inches wide.

McCall pattern 1262, Handbags

McCall pattern 1262, for a a set of handbags, also had longevity; it, too first appeared in 1946.

McCall handbag pattern 1262, from 1946, and still in the catalog in 1950.

McCall handbag pattern 1262, from 1946, and still in the catalog in 1950.

McCall 1262 description.

McCall 1262 description. “You need never become a One-bag Woman!”

Views A and C close with a slide fastener, i.e., a zipper. Trapunto quilting, as on C, involves putting extra padding under the design, so that it is a raised pattern with stitching around it. Click here to see trapunto on a bed jacket. The sequinned bag at right is for evening. View C is “very dressy.”

McCall 1204, Hats for Girls

These hats for girls also appeared for at least four years, starting in 1945.

McCall pattern 1204, Girls' hats, dates to 1945.

McCall pattern 1204, girls’ hats, dates to 1945.  View C needs a back strap to stay perched on the head, just like some adult hats.

Here’s a closer look at the top four images — that jaunty feathered hat seems pretty sophisticated:

This enlarged image is from the November, 1950 McCall needlework catalog. No. 1204.

This enlarged image of No. 1204 is from the November, 1950 McCall needlework catalog, although the pattern was first released in 1945.

View C was called a “pancake hat” in 1945. It reminds me of a bellhop’s cap. It was also called a “pillbox” hat.

MC 1204 text girl hats top 1204 text

“Left-over pieces from Sister’s dress or coat can be used to make her a matching fabric hat.” “For school, for gadabout, for prettying up! Most casual of the three is the little brim hat (A) that fits the head closely.” It’s very similar to 1294 (B), the equally popular adult pattern, although the crowns are constructed differently.

McCall hat pattern #1294 for women, from 1946, and #1204, from 1945, for girls.

McCall hat pattern #1294 for women, from 1946, and #1204, from 1945, for girls.

Imagine: a world where little girls routinely wore hats — as did their fathers.

These girls’ hats are from Sears — 1945. Women who wanted to make hats at home from sewing patterns used cloth, because making a shaped felt hat usually requires equipment not available to the home stitcher.

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