Category Archives: 1950s-1960s

Summer Halter Dresses and Pantsuit Patterns from Vogue, 1966

Cover of Vogue store flyer, June, 1966. Vogue pattern 6797.

These breezy summer fashions are fifty-one years old, but I can’t really remember a summer since then when halter styles were not worn. In 1966, Vogue patterns offered several halter-style dresses, plus a pantsuit with a halter top included.

Vogue halter dress patterns 6766 (left) and 6787 (right;) June 1966 flyer.

Alternate views of Vogue 6766 and 6787.

The only thing that separates these dresses from current styles is that they have more structure: darts, linings, interesting seams — details that we don’t find in garments mass-produced as cheaply as possible, using stretch fabrics and sewing shortcuts.

Depending on fabric choice, these two could be very dressy — cocktail dresses rather than casual dresses. Vogue patterns 6793 (left) and 6789, from 1966.

The dress on the right has a sixties’ stiffness that requires some lining or flat-lining to hold its shape. The pattern includes a matching jacket.

The pattern for the long, bare-shouldered beach cover-up on the left included a two-piece swim suit:

Vogue 6771 included a swim suit whose straps are perfect for wearing under it. Right, the short dress with a flounce, Vogue 6772, also conceals a swim suit. From 1966.

Another swim suit and “sun-shelter” dress:

Vogue 6772, a beach cover-up with bathing suit included. From 1966.

This pantsuit has a halter-topped blouse under it:

A pantsuit with long, slim trousers or conservative shorts. Vogue 6795 from 1966. The “spare little jacket, belted high in back, covers a turtleneck blouse with cut-in armholes.”

The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) at University of Rhode Island has this pattern, Vogue pantsuit 6795 .  It’s illustrated in a Villager-flavored floral print. Although not mentioned in the store flyer, the pattern also includes a skirt and a dress, in day or evening length.

A caution about pantsuits in the sixties: I graduated from college in this year, 1966. Women students were not allowed to wear trousers on outdoors on campus unless they wore a coat over them. These pantsuits are sportswear, not worn to school or to the office. (The big-city bank where I worked allowed us to wear matching trousers and jackets to work in 1970.)

A “smock-like” fabric pullover top with matching above-the-knee shorts. Vogue pattern 6727, from 1966.

A  bit “kookie” is this dress trimmed with ball fringe (optional).

Vogue 6726 is a dress with a little Mod/op art influence and some hippie ball fringe…. To see it in color, click here.

To the right of 6726 is a much more sophisticated bare-backed dress — I think it has an Emma Peel flavor.

In black, Vogue 6751, a side-baring, back-baring “patio dress” from 1966.

Notice the low-heeled shoes. The hairstyles illustrated were often seen on television, worn by Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”) and Barbara Feldon (“Get Smart.”) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Bathing Suits, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Asian-Influenced Maternity Pattern, 1956

This chic maternity pattern appeared in the Butterick Fashion News store flyer in June, 1956.

Butterick 7795, a maternity pattern from June, 1956. Available in three versions.

[I apologize for the poor quality photos — my new computer won’t run my old photo program!]

Pattern description for Butterick 7795, from 1956.

The sleeveless version of Butterick 7795 was illustrated in pale green. The dress at left was for “Expecting company.”

The “Party time” version was a skirt and blouse with three-quarter sleeves and side slits; brocade material was recommended.

A glamorous Asian-influenced brocade maternity outfit for parties. 1956.

These 1950’s outfits — which assume that the mother-to-be will lead a normal life, entertaining, shopping, attending parties — are a refreshing contrast to the attitude of previous decades, which suggested that pregnancy should be concealed as long as possible, and that a pregnant woman should try not to attract attention in public. (See Who Would Ever Guess? (1930’s), Some Maternity Clothes of the 1920’s and 1930’s, and Maternity Fashions for December 1942, etc.)

1934 march p 80 lane bryant maternity catalog

“Designed to conceal condition,” 1934.

I remember the maternity fashions of my own childhood, the fifties, as being pretty — and making the wearer look pretty, too — distinct from the tight-waisted dresses of those days, but available in many versions, from “suitable for church” to “picnic in the back yard,” which included trousers instead of the narrow pencil skirts worn in public. (Trousers were strictly casual — not for school or PTA meetings.) This McCall pattern is from 1959.

McCall maternity pattern 4936, dated 1959. A pencil skirt, tapered “Capri” pants, and Bermuda shorts were included.

Back of pattern envelope, McCall 4936. From 1959. The “kangaroo” front of the pencil skirt and the waist of the trousers are adjustable.

There is no nonsense about concealing pregnancy in these fifties’ outfits. Hooray!

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Maternity clothes, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Vintage Fur and Feather Update with Useful Links

Ad for Albrecht fur coats, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Just because a fur coat is 100 years old does not necessarily mean that you can sell it without a permit. And you need to know your bird species if you are selling vintage hats. In fact, you need to know your animal products, from feathers to ivory to crocodile to tortoiseshell, snakes — and more.

I have updated my recent post about a Vintage Store that was raided by California and U.S. Federal agencies last year. The owner is currently facing prosecution. After posting, I found a useful factsheet from the U.S. government. Click here: it is a two page pdf that can be printed and posted for reference.

If you sell or collect vintage clothing, you may not realize that “antique” or vintage status does not exempt all furs, feathers, and other animal products from regulation. Some vintage items made from listed animals can be sold if you have a permit. But for some items made from endangered species, there are no permits and very limited exceptions.

“Some wildlife laws prohibit all sale or purchase of products made from a protected species. Examples include the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which protects more than 1,000 wild birds native to the United States) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” — U.S Fish and Wildlife Service “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.

Here is what the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet says about feathers from endangered and threatened species:

“Taxidermied migratory birds or migratory bird feathers and parts: With some limited exceptions, sale of any type prohibited regardless of age of the specimen. (Exceptions involve limited purchase and sale of certain captive-reared and sport-taken migratory waterfowl.)
Examples: Victorian songbird collections, vintage women’s hats, and feather boas. [My boldface]
Of course, you have to be able to recognize which feathers and furs are on the endangered or threatened list (a very long list, called CITES Appendix 1). Identifying them on vintage clothing is complicated by the very old practice of altering fur and feathers from common domestic species to resemble rare or exotic species. Is that a bald eagle feather [“Sale prohibited regardless of age”]  or a turkey feather that has been doctored to look like one? Could that vintage “jaguar skin” coat really be jaguar [prohibited,] or is it rabbit fur cleverly dyed?
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service says,
“For us to answer your questions accurately, you must be able to tell us the species involved, including the scientific name, if possible.” — “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.
 What kind of “wolf” fur is this? Hint: It’s probably not Manchurian, and definitely not wolf. More like Rin Tin Tin.

Manchurian Wolf Dyed Dog Fur trimmed coat from Sears, 1931.

At least it’s not a member of an endangered Canis Lupus (i.e., wolf) family….

My mother, around 1945. Was she literally “putting on the dog?” (That expression — meaning “dressing to make a display of wealth” — dates to the 19th century.)

Another passage from the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet:

“Grizzly bear, jaguar, or other U.S. species listed as endangered or threatened: No interstate or international sale of any type regardless of age, without a permit. Sale within a State allowed unless prohibited under State law. Examples: Taxidermied specimens, rugs, clothing, and other fur articles.
Sometimes a permit is needed to sell products made from protected species. Trade is regulated by state, federal, and international agencies — so you need to check with all that apply.  Investigators from both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the raid on Cicely Ann Hansen’s vintage clothing store.
If only it were possible to ask “The Bird on Nellie’s Hat” what species it is!
Women's hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Women’s hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917. The mania for egret feathers on hats eventually led to the formation of the Audubon Society, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Read about it here.

In 1905, George Bernard Shaw complained to the management of an opera house about having to sit behind women who wore dead birds on their hats. To read his entertaining letter, click here.

Some Useful Links About Threatened and Endangered Species

Here is an endangered and threatened species list from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s alphabetized by Latin names, but the common names are also given.
Birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include several kinds of egrets; a full endangered and protected birds list can be found by clicking here (common English and scientific names are given.)
Click here for an overview of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) program. Unfortunately, the CITES appendices are in scientific classification format, so look up the scientific name for your problematic animal before visiting CITES. For example, search “Latin name for gray wolf” and you will find it is Canis Lupus. Then you will be able to find out if the animal is on an endangered species list.
But first, before you think of buying or selling, you need to identify what the garment or object is made of. The Vintage Fashion Guild Fur Resource can help you identify furs, crocodile, alligator, etc. The listings will expand if you click on the {…} symbol. Then, checking if you need a permit to sell your garment is up to you.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hats, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

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