Category Archives: 1950s-1960s

Work Clothes: Bib Overalls and Coveralls

Story illustration by George Giguere, Delineator, February 1924. A young man in bib overalls receives a visit from two pretty girls. Notice the house across the street. This is not necessarily a farm.

When I began writing witness2fashion, I wanted to focus on everyday clothes, clothing for working class people. All the men in my family did manual labor — skilled labor, but impossible to do without getting dirty.

My mother (in light dress) with her older sister and her two brothers. About 1913, judging from their ages. My Uncle Harris, wearing a coverall on the right, would have been working in his family’s ice house by then.

I grew up seeing bib overalls on my father and my uncles. This is not a scholarly history of overalls, but a little tribute to a 20th century classic.

Both overalls [the word I use to refer to bib overalls] and coveralls [by which I mean mean a one piece garment with sleeves which covers the body from neck to ankle] have been around for a very long time. Early Levi jeans were called “waist overalls.”

Waist overalls from Sears, Spring 1896. The construction is like that of men’s wool trousers, with a high back and a buckle for adjusting the waist fit. “Overalls” meant a work pant — with or without an “apron” or “bib,” front. The top two were also available in a bib version: “Same as above, with apron front … and strap suspenders.”

For farmers and other men (and sometimes women) doing manual labor, the bib overall was almost synonymous with “work clothes.” It was also an ideal garment for active children.

My great-aunt with my Aunt Dorothy, my Uncle Mel, and my Uncle Harris. Dorothy was born in 1901, so this is probably before 1906. My grandmother has very sensibly dressed her boys in bib overalls.

Sears Roebuck sold overalls for children “4 to 14” as early as Spring of 1896. They called them “Brownie suits.” The model is not wearing a shirt: “Let your boy play in the healthy outdoor air this summer, dressed in a Brownie Suit. They are all the style this season.”

In 1907 the style had changed slightly.

From a Sears catalog, 1907. Overalls were made of durable fabrics and allowed a boy to “play without being afraid of spoiling his best clothes.”

The pockets seem a bit small to me, but a boy wearing these could answer the call of nature without adult assistance, since the bib suspenders unhooked from the front.

In 1907, the boy who didn’t wear overalls might wear something like this:

Clothes for boys from Sears catalog, 1907. Not really suitable for playing in the dirt.

Since overalls were made of heavy fabrics, and available at low prices from catalogs, I was a little surprised to see Butterick sewing patterns for them:

Butterick pattern 5410, for men’s overalls/coveralls, and Butterick 5365, a very similar “play suit” for young boys. Both from Delineator, 1924. Note: the word “jumpsuit” dates to World War II and is American in origin; in England they were called siren suits.

Butterick pattern 5780 for men’s bib overalls [also called apron overalls,] Delineator, January 1925. This man is a mechanic carrying a pipe wrench. My Uncle Mel, a plumber, still wore striped overalls in the 1940s and 1950s.

Overalls for boys two to twelve; Butterick 5258 from June 1924. He may be gardening, but professional farmers wore overalls, too. [And, more than 20 years later,  my Grandma bought me sandals exactly like those he is wearing. Mine were always red, bought new at the start of each summer.]

Some children wore overalls as a matter of course:

A farm family in 1934; photo from a Nujol ad in Delineator, April 1934.

For a well-illustrated article on bib overalls, as worn by farmers and others, click here.

Overalls for a “youth” and a grown man, from Sears, Spring 1929. “Fellows! The real thing! … just like Dad’s!” Left, bib overalls and a matching jacket in “Sturdy 2.20 white back denim.”

My uncle, the plumber, wore dark, denim, indigo blue overalls with narrow white stripes — and a matching jacket — in 1950. Unlike modern plumbers who wear jeans, he could crawl under a sink without exposing cleavage in back.

Sears overalls and matching jacket, Spring catalog, 1929.

“Heavy reinforcements where reinforcements are needed. Securely bar tacked at all points of strain.”  Levi Strauss used rivets to reinforce stress points — and held a patent.

One of the great things about bib front overalls was the specialized pockets.

From the Sears Catalog, Spring, 1950. Carpenters overalls, left, have ample pockets for nails, a carpenter’s rule, carpenters’ pencils, and a loop on the side seam of the leg for carrying a hammer. Painters’ and paperhangers’ overalls have room for paint rags, etc. House painters traditionally wore white overalls.

Sears overalls for painters and paperhangers, 1897. “Two pockets and knife pocket.”

If you’ve ever hung wallpaper, you’ll appreciate the knife pocket.

My father wears [once white] carpenter’s overalls in 1950. His foreman, at left, preferred dungarees and a blue work shirt. Note the foreman’s felt hat.

1956: Sears’ coveralls and overalls from Everyday Fashions of the Fifties. Coveralls were favored by auto mechanics; they had to lie on their backs to reach the undersides of cars. There’s not a baseball cap to be seen on these working class men from the 1950’s — they are wearing their old “good” felt hats.

In this illustration, a traveling salesman shows his wares to a woman he (understandably) mistakes for the farmer’s wife:

Story illustration, Delineator, February 1936.

However, overalls could be beach pajamas or play suits for women in the 1930s:

Masthead illustration by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, March 1932. She’s not wearing a top under her overalls.

These pajamas were suggested for tennis in an ad from Delineator, June, 1932. They look like a trip hazard to me.

Women had worn men’s overalls when doing factory work in the First World War.

American woman in Ladies' Home Journal, August 1917.

American woman, Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917.

They also wore them during World War II, but this 1940’s sewing pattern is for work or play:

Anne Adams sewing pattern 4350 circa 1942.

My father still wore overalls from time to time after he retired in the 1970’s. This striped pair have big, removable pockets attached with a zipper.

Striped overalls worn on a fishing trip, 1970s — better than gutting fish in your good trousers and shirt!

He’s  standing in a basement laundry room. Automatic washing machines may explain why many workers now wear chinos or jeans instead of overalls.

Here are some overalls for children from the 1940’s:

Overall-styled play suit (with matching jacket) from Butterick Fashion News, October 1943.

An overall/play suit very like the back-baring beach pajamas of 1932, with narrower legs. Butterick Fashion News, August, 1948.

Overalls for children continue to be popular. These brand new striped overalls from OshKosh are faded and aged before being sold.

I don’t remember these, but here’s proof that I used to wear overalls, too:

Witness2fashion in overalls, early 1950s. The curls and the hair bow were my mother’s idea.

What’s with the dirt piles? My father was a housemover; the house behind me is “up on blocks” and on its way to a new location.

A house being moved from one location to another, California, 1950s.

In England, “housemovers” move furniture, but in my part of the world, where wooden houses survive earthquakes better than stone or brick ones, housemovers could separate a house from its foundation and move it to a new location, often miles away, while keeping it perfectly intact. It was definitely skilled work.

P.S. The Vintage Traveler supplied a link to the article in Paris Review: The Jumpsuit That Will Replace All Clothes Forever. We’re not convinced.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Exhibit of Brian Stonehouse Fashion Illustrations for Vogue

I’d never heard of illustrator and artist Brian Stonehouse until I saw this image in an ad for the exhibit, but if you are lucky enough to be in London between October 19 and December 22, 2017, you might want to visit the Abbott and Holder Gallery at 30 Museum Street for “the final group of works from the Artist’s Estate painted during his New York, American Vogue years.” Click here for a view of many fashion illustrations from the fifties and sixties, thanks to the Guardian newspaper’s Fashion section.
An eye-catching ad in the London Review of Books encapsulates the life of Brian Stonehouse, M.B.E. (1918 – 1998) this way:

“WW II SOE Agent, Concentration Camp Survivor and American Vogue Illustrator 1952-1963.”

As a British spy working with the French Resistance during WW II, Stonehouse was captured and sent to a concentration camp. After he was liberated, he moved to New York and did a series of lovely illustrations for Vogue.

If you can’t make a visit in person, you can page through the gallery’s full color exhibition catalog by clicking here.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers

Happy Halloween, 2017

Happy Hallowe’en from the “fortune teller” in the middle. One of my favorite blogs,  Envisioning the American Dream, has some wonderful Halloween ads from the 1950’s, when this photo was taken.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

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