Category Archives: Boys’ Clothing

Random Images, Random Thoughts….

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

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

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

Butterick bolero 6747, Delineator, March 1914.

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

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

No. 6862 could even be adapted for evening.

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

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

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

I Am Tired of Seeing Icy Landscape Photos

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

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

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

Blue Landscapes Make Me Blue

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

Bobby Hargen in his cowboy outfit, circa 1920s.

Hitting the Target:

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

Delineator cover, April 1914, detail.

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

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic….

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

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

Delineator Cover, detail, March 1920.

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

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

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

Valentine Fashions from 1926

Three young women in their teens admire an elaborate Valentine card in this illustration of Butterick patterns. 1926. Naturally, their shingled hair styles are also up to date.

For the February 1926 issue of Delineator, the fashion illustrations for teens, boys, and girls clothes were built around a Valentine’s Day theme. Even the patterns for little boys  were related to Valentine’s Day in the clever illustrations, probably by M.S. Walle.

Left, a little girl wears leggings to protect her from February weather; right, a little boy in short pants (buttoned to his shirt) holds a Valentine card to be mailed.

Right, an older girl in a green, caped coat is about to put the boy’s card in the mailbox. 1926.

Page 30, Delineator, February 1926. Valentines are mailed, received, and enjoyed by children wearing Butterick patterns.

The girl at left wears a dress that could go to the office — or, being velvet, to a daytime party. It is quite short. Frillier party fashions are worn by the other girls.

Butterick fashions illustrated on top of page 30, Delineator, February 1926. Hems for young teens barely cover the knee. Little girls’ knees are bare.

Even the littlest girl holds a Valentine close to her heart.

A range of ages for girls, plus some little boys in short pants, were shown in patterns illustrated on page 31.

A candy box and Valentine’s cards interest these schoolgirls. Delineator, p. 31. February 1926. One girl still has long, long curls.

This Valentine girl is dressed up in an entire outfit made from Butterick patterns, including her hat.

These little boys play with a ball, while the girl below holds a heart-shaped cookie (with a bite out of it.)

Young girl’s fashions, February 1926. Imagine buttoning those leggings!

Even very little girls attract Cupid’s attention.

Since I’ve been absorbed in boleros from the 1930s this week, I can’t resist pointing out this much longer 1926 bolero:

The long bolero at left is typical of the twenties, when the waist was near the hips.

The younger the girl, the shorter the dress. These are for ages 15 to 20.

All these “Valentine” girls wear their dresses much shorter than adult women in the same issue.

Women’s skirts are shown well below the knee. Delineator, page 28, February 1926.

Although I couldn’t find a signature on the pages of children’s fashions, the February illustrations for women’s fashions were signed by M.S. Walle.

Artist’s signature at lower left: M. S. Walle.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Boys' Clothing, Capes, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles

Riding Habits, 1910

Horseback riding, cover of Delineator magazine, May 1910.

Riding coat pattern 3773, Butterick; from Delineator, April 1910. It is not very different from an ordinary suit jacket, except for the fuller skirt.

Butterick coat 3765, Delineator, April 1910.

This girl wears a long or 7/8ths coat to cover her riding breeches.

Riding coat (and breeches) for a teen-aged girl, left, and a sailor suit for her little brother. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1910.

A woman on horseback had formal and informal clothing choices in 1910. This riding habit in the Victoria and Albert Museum was made by a leading London tailor/designer in 1911:

A lady’s riding habit made by Redfern for Mrs. James Fraser, 1911. Courtesy V&A museum.

London Society Fashion is beautifully illustrated with garments from one young lady’s wardrobe: Heather Firbank. Read about the surprising life of Heather Firbank and see some of her designer clothing at the blog of Tessa Boase. Click here.

Detail of magazine cover by P. E (?) Williams, Delineator, May 1910. Notice the lady’s erect posture as opposed to the man’s forward slouch.

It’s possible that the illustrator of the magazine was more interested in the graphic possibilities of white than in accuracy, but Delineator did feature patterns for women’s riding habits in 1910.

Butterick riding suit for girls 8 to 16, pattern 3636. March 1910.

I find it interesting that this teenage girl is riding astride, while the adult woman shown in April is riding sidesaddle.

Riding coat and matching breeches, Butterick 3636 for girls 8 to 16.

The riding coat and skirt for adult women (up to size 42 bust) were sold separately:

Butterick riding coat 3773 was shown with a specialized skirt for riding sidesaddle.

Delineator, page 304, April 1910.

Delineator, page 304, equestrian skirt detail; April 1910:

Safety Equestrian Skirt 3717, for riding sidesaddle. Does it have a breakaway strap?

Detail of the inside of the safety equestrian skirt. Delineator, April 1910.

If you can figure out how this skirt appears very full (as in top image) and very narrow (as here,) you are way ahead of me. But then, I know nothing about riding sidesaddle! However, The Vintage Traveler shared this photo from a 1903 sports book. [Link added 2/27/19.)\]

Is it possible that she is wearing long underwear instead of riding breeches under the skirt? In that case, she will not be safe from embarrassment if she’s thrown. At any rate, no breeches are included in the pattern.

The boy shown riding a donkey is not actually dressed for riding — he is probably at a beach resort where donkey rides were a seaside attraction. The sailor suit in many variations was standard clothing for boys.

A boy enjoying a ride — presumably a slow, easy ride — on a donkey. Delineator, March 1910.

Butterick pattern 3688 shows two variations on a sailor or pseudo-military suit for boys ages 4 to 10. March 1910.

The swastika is an ancient symbol with religious meaning for people in India and for Native Americans. It’s used facing both directions on the back of the sailor collar. In 1910, it had no association with Nazis.

Here is my uncle, Harris Barton, in a sailor suit His father was a tinsmith, or plumber. (It might be my Uncle Mel, born a few years later….)

Probably Frank Harris Barton of California, born 1894.

(Yes, my uncle,  in spite of those luxurious curls!) Harris was born in 1894.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Edwardian fashions, Hairstyles, Sportswear, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Vintage Photos for the Holidays

A little girl communicates with her “Paw Pa” through an ear trumpet. Family photo.

“Can you hear me now?”

It’s time for my annual reminder to keep a box of unidentified family photos and an acid-free pen or a pencil at hand for the quiet moments at family gatherings.

Gertrude, Mack, and Nina Holt with their mother “on her 70th birthday” (1938.) They lived in Pulaski, Tennessee, and sent this to their brother Leonard, in the Army in San Francisco. “I sure do wish Leonard was on here and then the 4 children and mother could all be together.”

Any time you gather with your eldest relatives and friends is a good time to chat about the past. Family stories need to be passed down. (Bonus: you won’t have to talk politics….)

If you think you’ve heard all the stories before, consider that now that you are fully adult, seniors may be willing to tell you things they wouldn’t speak of when you were a child:  failed marriages, lost loves, siblings who died young or were never mentioned for some other reason. (I certainly learned some surprising things when I asked as a adult!) Perhaps there is a terrific story behind one of those faces. Besides, sometimes the stories are funny — and just waiting to be told when the time is right.

Today’s photos come from a side of my family I never knew.  My aunt Dorothy’s husband, Leonard H. Holt, died suddenly a short time before I was born.

My uncle Leonard Holt, serving in World War II.

Dorothy, Holt, and Dorothy’s mother. Redwood City, CA, about 1919.

Dorothy is dressed in hiking clothes, and Holt is wearing “civvies” although he served at nearby Camp Fremont, an Army training camp during the First World War.

L. H. Holt standing in front of a Southern Pacific Railway building in San Francisco. Picture dated 1923.

Dorothy did tell me that Holt was very particular about his clothes, and had his army uniforms tailored to fit well. Look at his elegant shoes! After Dorothy died, I found some of Holt’s silk shirts (with white French cuffs and made for a detachable collar) stored in the cedar chest that once held her wedding linens — a “hope chest” as unmarried girls called them. Holt’s shirts were beautiful, in soft pastel colors or stripes that epitomized the Arrow Shirt man’s look.

I think they were married about 1925. In 1930, Holt was still in the Army, and the couple lived on the Presidio, a beautiful Army base in San Francisco.

Dorothy and Holt vacationing in the snow, early 1930s.

In spite of war-time travel restrictions, Holt’s nephew (?) Jody Holt (serving in an Army band at the time) was visited by his sweetheart “Miss Meek” and his mother (?) Sally Holt, in San Francisco. 1945.

Holt died of a heart attack not long after this happy family visit.

Dorothy was so grief-stricken that she had a sort of breakdown, and didn’t speak of him very often, but she kept up a correspondence with his large family, including the Garners (his mother’s family) in Tennessee. In 1975, someone sent her a photo of the old family home on the farm:

“The little old home on the farm, Pulaski, Tenn, Oct. 1975. Mack Holt’s Farm.”

Mack was still alive, and his new home was much larger.

Holt’s brother Mack apparently kept the old family farm, maintaining the tiny old farmhouse, and lived in a newer, larger house — a family success story. There is great information on the back of the photo, including “Mack J. Holt, Murry Drive” & “Leonard’s brother.”

The great thing about photos exchanged by mail is that they are often labeled or signed, including long notes on the back  — a treasure for genealogists.

Many of these children are Leonard and Dorothy’s nieces and nephews. The back of the picture is full of information.

The back of a photo of many Holt family children. It tells us that Holt’s sister Nina had five children, and that his sister Gertrude had children (one called Hickie) and grandchildren. I don’t know who Estelle was, but that’s a trail to follow.

This photo gave me the names of Nina and Gertrude’s husbands: (Oddly, there’s another Mahlon in the family, her uncle….)

“Nina + Howard” and “Gertrude + Mahlon”

This photo is so old that is has cracked, but luckily the faces and their names are intact: “Leonard’ s Father The Holt Boys John & Mahlon Holt.” JH is on the right.

Unfortunately,  not all the pictures mailed from Tennessee are labeled.

All I know about this couple is that they were photographed in Pulaski. Is this the same mustached man who appears far right in the large group photo below?

Perhaps there are folks in Pulaski, Tennessee, who will recognize their ancestors in this large, undated picture. (It’s 7.5 x 9″) I’d be happy to send it to someone who’d treasure it.

Studio photograph of the Holt family of Pulaski, Tennessee. There are no names on the back, but I think I recognize John Holt, standing 2nd from right, from another photograph. (He died in 1904.) I believe one of the young boys is Leonard H. Holt.

The woman seated center in this photograph appears to be wearing a mourning hat and black veil.

Detail of woman in widow’s cap.

Could the man seated in front, with a large mustache, possibly be this mystery man, photographed with both Holt and Dorothy, probably in the 1920s?

Unknown man with very large mustache, standing with Leonard H. Holt, probably at the Presidio in San Francisco, probably 1920s.

Mustached mystery man with Dorothy Barton Holt, probably at the Presidio in San Francisco, and, judging from her clothing, in the 1920s.

I believe this man was a visiting relative — there are many pictures of him. I could easily believe he’s from Tennessee….

[For any genealogist interested in the large group picture — or in any of these people, I believe these are relatives of Leonard H. Holt, born in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee on February 2, 1893 or (probably) 1894. His parents were John Richard Holt (1868-1904) and Metta Ann Garner (1868-1939).  Their other children included Gertrude “Mamie” Holt (1893-1986), Katrina “Nina” Holt (1897 – ?), and McCallum “Mack” Holt (1900-?) My Uncle Holt (his wife never spoke of him by any other name) died of a heart attack while serving in California in 1945. At the time of his death, according to his wife, he held the rank of captain. They were childless. I think he was a Freemason, and Dorothy belonged to the Eastern Star — for those who can search such records. I have many photos of Holt family relatives, and no one to give them to.] You can contact me through witness2fashion@gmail.com

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Musings, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces

I know where this picture was taken, but not when, or who it is. Monaco, Excelsior Art Gallery, 183 Main Street, Stockton, Cal. “The most artistic photographic work guaranteed, at moderate prices.” Ben Batchelder owned several photo galleries in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but not necessarily the Excelsior at 183 Main…. So the picture is still undated.

Once a year (usually in December) I try to remind readers to use family get-togethers as an opportunity to bring out that box or scrapbook full of old family photos and go through them with the eldest members of the family. Try to put names to the faces. Someday, someone might thank you. (And you might hear some surprising stories….) If you’re lucky, more than one person will be able to put a name to the faces in the photos.

Photograph taken by Elliott and Harkness in Stockton, California. On the back the sitter has written, “Drunk when taken.” (I think he was kidding….)

I’d like to identify this man — he seems to have had a sense of humor. And he really was better looking than the “drunk” photograph implies:

Great hat. Now, who and when was he? A member of my family? or a friend who gave his picture to a pretty girl or to a member of the same fraternal organization? There’s no name on the back.

I’d also like to date his suit, hat, etc. If I knew his name, I could probably find out what he did for a living, and where he fit in the socio-economic scale. Did he live in Stockton, which was quite a large city by the 1880’s? Or was he a farmer who came into town so rarely that he had his picture taken to commemorate the event?

These children were also photographed in Stockton. I used Pioneer Photographers of the Far West to date these photos.

Two photographs taken at the Pioneer Gallery, 198 Main St., Stockton, CA.

A photographer named Ben Batchelder was active in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but he only had the Pioneer Gallery at this address for three years: 1884 to 1887. It’s a clue; it eliminates some possible relatives because they were too old or too young to be this age in those years. It’s nice to be able to date these photos — but it would be nicer to know more about them. The date is not enough to identify this boy and girl.

Unknown boy in suit with short trousers, big bow. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

Unknown girl in a wool dress that looks home-made. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

By the 1980’s I had only one relative I could ask about family photos from the 1880’s and early 1900’s: my Aunt Dorothy, also known as Dot. (We can usually identify our close relatives, even if the picture was taken before we were born.) However, as I try to verify names and dates from public sources, I am discovering that — in the words of literary critics — she was an “unreliable narrator.” And, since I have been using photos she identified and dated to identify other photos, I made a serious error.

I had already figured out that some of the photos I inherited from Dot were probably labeled years after they were taken.

This photo — and many taken on the same weekend — says Monte Rio, July 4, 1921. Dot is 3rd from left, and my mother is on the far right.

She seems to have had many weekend getaways in 1921: in Monte Rio, in Santa Cruz, in Truckee, plus a trip to Washington State…. Or perhaps she just remembered having a good time in 1921, and wrote that on all of them (?)

Dot (back to camera) and The Gang from the Office, Truckee, CA, 1921.

Four women in Santa Cruz, CA, 1921. Dot is third from left. For more about their clothes, click here.

Dot in Granite Falls, Washington, 1921 (She wrote.)

I’m not blaming her — doesn’t everybody have a shoebox full of (pre-digital) photos that we finally get around to putting into a scrapbook years later? Her scrupulousness about writing dates on photos and on the scrapbook pages made me too trusting. I can recognize my Great Aunt Alice, because she was still alive (and lively) when I was a child. (That impish smile in the lower left photo captures the Alice I knew: shrewd and witty.)

Alice Barton: 1900’s, 1930s, 1950s.

My very young Aunt Dot is sitting on the steps with her brother Mel (in sailor suit.) The woman in stripes, center, is her Aunt Alice (my great-aunt.) But — is the woman in white her Aunt Cora or her Aunt Laura? I’m no longer sure.

Dot said this was Aunt Laura, but I’m no longer certain. Is it Laura or Cora? (That is a terrific coat — with an enormous hat — whoever is wearing them. Note the mud splashes around the coat’s hem.)

I believed that my Aunt Dot could tell the difference between her Aunt Laura and her Aunt Cora — they were still alive when she was an adult. But… trusting her identification of photos, I think I wrote a post about the wrong one!

I thought this was Great Aunt Cora, with an unknown man, and my Great Aunt Alice, in the 1930s. Their dresses are short and sleeveless, with belts at the waist: after 1925, probably close to 1930. (Other photos I have examined recently suggest that the man is their brother, John, who died in 1934. Three surviving siblings; that makes sense.)

My research in local sources [The San Mateo County Genealogical Society has amazing databases online!] finally located Cora and Laura’s death dates: Cora died in December of 1924; Laura lived until 1936. Therefore, the woman in glasses in this photo is probably Laura, the unmarried librarian, instead of Cora, the widow. (Oops!)

I subscribed to Ancestry.com a few years ago only because I wanted to access its collection of Sears, Roebuck catalogs. (And I would recommend this to anyone who needs to research “everyday clothing” instead of couture. You’ll get more information for $20 a month than from a dozen books.) But, once I noticed that Dot’s spelling of names was quite variable, I began using Ancestry.com to try to find the correct spelling of names for the people in her photos.

Azalia Dellamaggiore (as spelled on census records) on the courthouse lawn in Redwood City, CA, dated 1918. Dot’s shadow as she takes the picture is included.

Again, Dot did her best. If you asked me to spell the last names of everyone I have met in social situations, — well, I couldn’t. Also, after you meet people several times, and think of them as friends, it’s embarrassing to have to ask them what their last names are! What was Dot — a girl with an 8th grade education — to make of a name like Dale Lucchesi — or Luchese? or Luchassi… or Lucassi? (She pronounced it Loo chee’ zee.)

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Lucassi here] sent this photo of himself to my aunt. Early 1920s.

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Luchessis this time] sent this charming photo of “my little brother and I” to my aunt around 1921. (Look! A sleeve garter! and a tiny boy still in a dress!)

If Dale had given her a studio portrait with his signature on the back (as many of her old beaux did) she would have figured it out. Caston Popescul signed  his:

Studio portrait of Caston Popescul mailed from Columbus, Georgia, dated 1920. (He’s retained his WW I military haircut. For reasons I don’t understand, this haircut was back in fashion in 2017!) Caston was a soldier in the American Army when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1918.

C. Popescul and Dot Barton in Santa Cruz, 1921. (That’s what she wrote.)

Then there’s a military man sometimes identified as “Val:” Volowsky or Walasky or Walisky ….

“Volouskey” (or “Valowskey”?) changes a tire while Jack and Dot look on.

“Walasky” with a tank, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA; dated 1920. There was a WW I military camp, Camp Fremont, in nearby Menlo Park.

Nick and “Walisky” at Neptune Beach. Dated 1920.

Dot and the soldier-with-the-hard-to-spell-name at Neptune Beach, Alameda, California. Dated 1920.

(Is that a box camera in her hand?)

Census Name Variations

I’m finding some wild spelling variations on census reports, too — possibly the fault of the census taker, or the person who happened to be at home to answer questions when the census taker knocked on the door — or a transcription error made when the hand-written census forms were typed into a database.

You wouldn’t think a four-letter name like Lipp would be a problem — but I found some Lipps under the name Siff. And Sipp. And Gipp.  Barton showed up as “Baldhoe” in 1940. So just imagine the variations I’ve found for the family of Augustus Feodorovich Moosbrugger, who emigrated from tzarist Russia at the age of 19 and married one of the Lipp girls; the name on her tombstone is “Alice Moosberger” — and my aunt Dot pronounced it “mooseburger.” Tasty!

I’m so glad someone identified this couple; it’s my mother’s father with Emma Emerson, whom he did not marry.

Dorothy’s father (b. 1862) with Emma Emerson — their names were written in pencil on the back. He married my grandmother in 1893, so this is earlier — probably 1880’s, as the dress suggests. [Taken in Stockton at Monaco Excelsior Art Gallery.]

It was a delight to find this picture:

Signed on the back, “Geo E. Meekins, Menlo Park, California.” It also says, “Age 25.” I found him in the Register of Voters: he was 25 in 1890. How satisfying!

The back of Meekins’ portrait is inscribed — in elaborate writing — “Geo. E. Meekins … Compliments to Miss Lillie M. Lipp,” Dorothy’s mother (my maternal grandmother.) Below, my Aunt Dot wrote, “Mama’s first fellow.” I think she got that one right.

Unknown woman in the snow, white fur muff and stole,  probably 1917 to 1922. I’m still looking for a photo that will identify her….

P.S. Thank you, Aunt Dorothy, for hundreds of photos!

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Bathing Suits, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Hats for Men, Late Victorian fashions, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Suits for Men, Swimsuits, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

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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Clothing Patterns for Boys, 1920’s

Butterick patterns for boys up to 17; Delineator, August 1924.

I don’t mean to neglect clothing for men, but it evolves more slowly and less obviously than clothing for women. Seeing the great sweaters and knickers on the boys who visited Mount Lowe, I remembered that I’ve been compiling a file of Butterick patterns f0r boys. Today’s focus is on pre-teens and boys up to 16 or so. [With a digression on the Butterick Deltor….]

Boys about to play an informal game of baseball, Delineator, April 1928. From an ad for Quaker Oats. The jacket on the right is very like the pattern illustrated above, and… there are two more great, patterned sweaters!

Boys had been wearing short trousers, knickers, and Norfolk jackets for some time. This is an ad from 1917, but the trousers would be much the same in 1927:

Ad for boys clothing from Sampeck Company, Delineator, May 1917.

Boys’ clothes were often very similar to men’s clothing — with the exception of those short trousers.

Suit jacket, tie, and bare knees. Butterick pattern 4840. These boys were shown in an ad for Butterick patterns. Delineator, February 1924. Clothing for pre-school boys (left) was less “manly” than for their school-age brothers.

Butterick assured mothers that they could make clothes for their children that would not look obviously home-made. Delineator, February 1924.

The Deltor was Butterick’s patented instruction sheet. In an era of blank tissue pattern pieces, identified only by punched holes and purchased in an envelope with all the sewing instructions that would fit on the envelope  — and nothing more — the innovation of a pattern that came with an illustrated “how to” guide made Butterick’s reputation. The guide was called “The Deltor.”

Bottom of Butterick pattern ad, February 1924.

Butterick patterns included a suggested fabric layout, as well as assembly instructions, but the pattern pieces were still unprinted, factory-cut tissue in this 1924 ad.

Happy ending of the Butterick ad from Delineator, February 1924.

Why boys were expected to suffer the cold — wearing trousers that ended at the knee in all weathers — I do not know. At least these aren’t flapping in the wind:

A Mackinaw coat and a polo cap from Butterick, December 1924. Mackinaw pattern 5709 for boys 4 to 16 years; cap pattern 4068 for boys 2 to 12.

Their knees might be cold, but their socks were spectacular. Butterick overcoats for boys, Delineator, September 1926. Right, double-breasted Butterick 6256 for boys 2 to 6 years; left, a man-styled overcoat (Butterick 6270) for boys 8 to 16.

This knicker suit (Butterick 7096) even has a matching vest, just like Dad’s suit. The little boy’s double-breasted overcoat (Butterick 7056) is a classic — it looks much like men’s winter overcoats today. Delineator, September 1926.

The day when a boy got his first pair of long trousers marked his entry into manhood.

A suit with optional long trousers, sized for boys from 5 to 12. Butterick 6145, July 1925. Note the short-trousered version at left, for young boys.

Butterick 5010. A boy’s shirt might still be called a blouse in the twenties. Delineator, February 1924.

A man’s soft-collared shirt was sometimes called an outing shirt or a negligee shirt. Delineator, April 1924. Both boys and men wear short neckties.

Summer meant even shorter pants — or possibly golf knickers — for boys.

From left:  Pattern 6025 is for young boys; the blazer (Butterick 4458,) golf knickers (No. 5950,) and an outfit (right) meant for hiking or camping (Butterick 5378) are for older boys. July 1925.

[Butterick Play suit 5365 will be covered when I write about Overalls, some other day.] This is another view of those “camping togs,” Butterick 5378.

Even in Africa, this was the basis for the Boy Scout uniform:

Two boy scouts in Africa; Delineator, March 1929.

Four Butterick pattterns for boys from August, 1926:  shirt 7023, short trousers 4480, windbreaker 7031, and golf knickers 5950. Delineator, August 1926.

That wide range of pattern numbers, from 4480 to 7031, is a reminder that boys’ clothes, and children’s patterns in general, have a longer fashion life than women’s clothing.

Just as 1920’s women’s skirts sometimes were attached to an underbodice that hung from the shoulders, trousers for little boys whose pants wouldn’t otherwise stay up were sometimes attached to a button-on top. Naturally, this made trips to the toilet difficult without assistance.

Talon Zippers had a 1929 ad campaign stressing that zippers would make children able to dress and undress themselves, building self-reliance.

Click to read Zippers Are Good for Your Children. How did over-the-knee socks stay up? Click here.

A page of costume research for one character in the musical She Loves Me. Sometimes, if the costume will be “shopped” or rented instead of built, a sheet like this shows the director, the actor,  and the costume shop what to expect.

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