Category Archives: Coats

Balenciaga at the V & A : Museum Exhibitions Online

Design by Cristobal Balenciaga, 1965. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

The Vintage Traveler recently shared an FIT symposium on museum exhibitions of fashion.
That reminded me of some extraordinary videos that were part of “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The exhibition closed in February, 2018, but the V&A has generously posted the videos made for the exhibit online, so we can all enjoy them. [Note to other museums: Go, thou, and do likewise! Once the exhibition closes, put the videos online!] Unfortunately, the still photos from the exhibition are under copyright, as are most other museum pictures of Balenciagas — so please click on the links.

I didn’t see the exhibition in London, but it appears to have used technology to very good purpose. I’ve whiled away hours watching the V&A’s exemplary videos.
This link will take you to the V&A website, where you can read about Balenciaga and watch three marvelous videos illustrating exactly how his minimalist but extraordinary patterns come together into “Balenciagas.” Click here for Secrets of Balenciaga’s Construction

The museum took X-Ray photos of some of the Balenciagas on exhibit. This link includes another fascinating video. You can see hidden weights controlling the drape, and, occasionally, a straight pin!

A V&A video about the custom beading on a glittering evening coat is found here.

In “Learning from the Master: Deconstructing Balenciaga,” the Museum invited a group of advanced design students from the London College of Fashion to create patterns and toiles from Balenciaga gowns in the museum’s collection. If you sew or drape, this is for you! ( I’m thinking of you, Fifty Dresses….)

“Shaping Fashion: Balenciaga” is another well-done video from the V&A. You can watch designs by Balenciaga morph into designs by other famous couturiers. (I just wish all the V&A’s videos were together in one place online!)

A preview of the entire exhibit can be found in the AP Archives: click here.

Until I started searching museum collections for Balenciaga designs, I hadn’t appreciated how much he influenced my wardrobe in the late 1950s/60s. Not that I ever wore couture (ha!) but because the inexpensive clothes I did wear and saw worn everywhere were inspired by his work. My first wool suit (home-made) was a distant echo of this one. Party and prom dresses worn by my friends owed a debt to this simple & elegant flowered dress. (Note the shape of the skirt.) The shape of this coat was everywhere, and I bought a long formal in green brocade with soft pleats at the waist (circa 1964,) reminiscent of the dress under it.

More Online About this Exhibition

Many who visited the exhibition posted images or videos on YouTube; here are a few blogs or videos about it.

At 12 minutes long, this video from Stitchless TV gives a good idea of how well-thought-out this exhibition apparently was. Click here for a “walk through” that includes much besides the videos posted more clearly at the V&A site. It shows the “upstairs” part of the exhibit, which features designers who trained with or were inspired by “The Master.”

This video by Natalie (at Time with Natalie) gives a good “walk through” (starting at one minute in.)

Betty Raen at The London List captures some photos that show more of the exhibit.

For a quick taste, try Fashion Expedition’s report.

The Arcadia online blog previews the exhibit (with illustrations, of course.) Many designs by students of “the Master” are shown.

This link includes a photo of the pink “Tulip Dress” which is magically reconstructed in a V&A video.

As the late Anthony Bourdain said, “I’m still hungry for more.”

More Balenciaga exhibitions:

“Balenciaga and His Legacy:” was presented at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas on February 3, 2007 by the Texas Fashion Collection. Click here. This video is not too dark, unlike others; but it’s not really in focus, either…. However — you won’t see the same creations featured elsewhere. Worth a taste.

When you have had your fill of evening gowns, this video from the Museo Cristobal Balenciaga shows superb construction on wool suits and other daytime clothing. Some of the images are too dark, but other close-ups are superb.

If you still want more Balenciaga, this 2011 exhibition, “Balenciaga and Spain,” from The DeYoung museum in San Francisco is 17 minutes long and traces Balenciaga’s development and early influences  …. sadly, the lighting and photo quality are not good. Films of his showroom are good.

This short video of “Balenciaga: Spanish Master” exhibition from New York is different and definitely worth watching.

Also creative and interesting: this video from ICONIC.

When you have time to relax, pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy these videos and blogs.

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Capes, Coats, Exhibitions & Museums, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Boleros Through the 1930s (Boleros Part 4)

Butterick bolero pattern 7459, from July 1937. Woman’s Home Companion.

When I went looking for 1930’s boleros, I found that I had many more images of them than I realized! (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) What started as one post turned into four — so far. And I am limited to the images I happen to have photographed from Delineator Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Home Companion and various store flyers from a few pattern companies.

To backtrack a bit, with the low waist of the 1920s, boleros might be quite long:

A “youthful” bolero from Butterick, Delineator, April 1929.

A Butterick bolero outfit from August 1929. Butterick 2749, from Delineator magazine.

As waists rose, boleros began to get shorter.

Bolero outfit from October, 1931. Butterick 4122. Illustrated in Delineator magazine.

The width of the bolero was thought to minimize the waist — recommended for women whose waists had expanded during the 1920s. I’ve shown many boleros from the early 1930s (click here or here.) This one, from 1936, is trimmed with pleated ruffles:

It’s similar to a store-bought outfit from 1937:

This bolero covers a sheer, lace bodice. WHC, March 1937.

As a way to stretch your wardrobe with very little money, boleros in different colors could be worn over most dresses. This set of inexpensive additions is Vogue pattern 7250, from Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

Simplicity offered this bolero pattern,  (along with other accessories) in a store flyer, August 1939. Simplicity accessory pattern 3155.

This bolero covers a low-backed sundress; Companion-Butterick pattern 7296, WHC , April 1937.

The bows are part of the dress, not the jacket.

Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7296 shows a low-backed summer dress with matching bolero jacket. Woman's Home Companion, April 1937.

Butterick pattern 7303 from WHC, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick jacket dress pattern 7359; Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937.

This illustration of 7359 shows how many outfits you could get from one pattern in the price-conscious 1930s. [E.g., wearing the white jacket with the brown dress would change it from “fall” to summer….]

In that pattern, the bolero tied in a bow at the high waist. The traditional bolero jacket stopped inches above the waist:

Companion-Butterick pattern 7459 would make three different jackets — or the same jacket in several colors. July 1937.

Economy wardrobe: A jacket took less fabric than a dress, and jackets could be worn with several dresses, if you coordinated carefully.

“…Sure to give you a reputation for having lots of evening clothes….”

Elsa Schiaparelli was credited with popularizing the bolero in the 1930s. She was still using them in fabulous ways in 1940.

Butterick 7804 from a Butterick Fashion News flyer, April 1938. “The bolero (in printed silk) says Schiaparelli is top news….”

And “The beer jacket in denim is still headline material [!]”  Beer jacket? Apparently a “college craze” ( click here ) which, in this case, extended to women students.

You could make four different jackets from Butterick 7804 — including a “beer jacket” and the fitted, zipper-front jacket at bottom right. Zippers were already common in sportswear, but 1937-38 was the year they began to be featured in dressier clothing for women.

Butterick 7803, from a BFN flyer, April 1938. Boleros were definitely getting shorter.

Butterick 7788 has a very brief bolero. BFN flyer, April 1938. Triangular pockets are a couture touch.

A very high-style bolero, Butterick 8805 from August, 1938. Butterick Fashion News. Next to it is a variation of the tied bolero, here called a bloused jacket — the line between “bolero” and “jacket”becomes blurred.

You may have noticed that sleeve heads got puffier, and then shoulders got wider, as the Thirties progressed.

Three jackets from Butterick pattern 8367; BFN, May 1939. These jackets require shoulder pads.

Butterick bolero outfits 8391 and 8355, BFN, May 1939. These are not just for teens. [There is no “apron” explanation.]

Shoulders were getting wider as skirts got shorter:

In May, 1939, we probably can’t attribute the shorter skirts to wartime regulations.

Right, a wide-shouldered, rather matronly bolero outfit. Butterick 8472 from BFN flyer, July 1939.

This wide-shouldered, cropped jacket with frog closings is Simplicity 3203, from October 1939. Only its length says “bolero” to me. Those horizontal darts (or tucks) in the sleeve head exaggerate shoulder width even more. A very “late Thirties” detail.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Coats, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

Boleros Part 3: Day and Evening, 1930s

A bolero jacket tops an evening gown, center, in this editorial illustration by Leslie Saalburg, Delineator, November 1931. The Nineteen Thirties’ bolero was often used with evening wear…. [But boleros continued to be a daytime option, too.] If not actually used as a separate jacket, a bolero might be suggested….

Left, Butterick 4093 from October 1931; right, a vintage dress circa 1929 -31 has the same bolero effect built into its bodice.

Butterick 4093: the width of the bolero enhances the slenderness of the waist and hips. This bolero “runs to a point at the back, is split and tied with a bow.”

A bolero built into the dress contrasts with the slender hips and belted waist. Butterick 3696 from Delineator, February 1931.

This pattern for a tied bolero reminded me of a vintage tied jacket (not a bolero) that I also love.

Right, a bolero for evening is tied at the waist. (Usually, but not always, daytime boleros were tied near their neckline.) Butterick 3460, Delineator, October 1930.

Although this vintage velvet jacket is hip-length, not a bolero, the tie at the waist has the same effect.

Vintage 1930s evening jacket with front-waist tie and dolman sleeves.

The sleeves taper from very full to tight at the lower arm.

This 1931 lamé evening jacket stops at the waist, like a bolero, and has curved fronts, like many boleros — but the word “bolero” is not used:

Another glamorous, but simple, waist-length evening jacket. Butterick 4076 from September 1931. Delineator.

The fad for huge, ruffled “Letty Lynton sleeves” can be seen in this bolero from 1933:

Bolero illustrated for a fashion column, Delineator, April 1933.

In 1936, boleros over evening gowns added versatility to the fashions, which could be worn with or without the jacket, creating two different looks.

A bolero with a long, twisted tie changes this evening gown from daringly bare (left) to chic but modest; the covered-up look was suitable for dinner and night-clubs. Vogue 7507, from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936.

[It’s also a reminder that a gown which appears to be black and white in a movie might really be green, or some other intense color.]

A white gown could be “dressed down” for dinner by a colorful bolero jacket. LHJ, July 1936.

This gown in soft silk or chiffon with printed green organza [or some other fairly stiff fabric] has a low back, covered on a cruise ship by a hooded bolero. Convenient for moments when you step out onto the deck in the moonlight. LHJ, February 1936.

Another article on cruise wear also emphasized the bolero jacket — by packing several boleros, you only needed to pack one long evening gown.

Butterick 7407 shows a halter dress in sheer blue printed fabric — topped with a white bolero. Woman’s Home Companion, June 1937.

From a fashion editorial describing a Companion-Butterick cruise wardrobe. WHC, June 1937.

Below right: this sheer bolero over an evening gown appeared in Ladies Home Journal, July 1936:

Vogue 7403, 7369, and 7386. LHJ, July 1936. A corsage doesn’t have to be worn on the shoulder…. Click here for a closer view of the bolero.

Right, a dignified lace dress with matching bolero; Butterick 7998 from 1938. Butterick Fashion News flyer.

That lace gown is probably for mature women, since the size range is 34 to 52 inches (bust.) But evening gowns for teens also showed them with bolero tops.

A bolero tops a prom dress; WHC, May 1937.

A long dance dress for teens, with bolero jacket. Butterick 7354.

This reminds me that wedding dresses for church ceremonies — and prom dresses in conservative schools — could not reveal bare arms (at Roman Catholic weddings) or have strapless tops or “spaghetti straps” as late as the 1960s, so this jacket would satisfy the chaperones. A girl could take it off when she was alone with her date….

Butterick evening gowns, August 1938 pattern flyer.

Butterick 8004, left, and Butterick 7997, right, with removable bolero top. The bodice of 8004 (“molded to slim your waist”) has a sort of false bolero effect, being larger than the gown below it.

Buttterick 8004, 7997, and 8010. BFN, August 1938. No. 8004 was available in sizes for teens and for women up to 44″ bust. The two on the right are for Junior Misses, up to bust 38.”

Another bolero with coordinating evening gown, left, Butterick 8461, from July 1939. BFN.

A Junior Miss evening gown with bolero jacket. From Butterick Fashion News flyer, July 1939. ” ‘Straps’ on the dress tie in a halter effect….”

However, older women might also buy a pattern that included the versatile bolero in 1939.

Right, Vogue 4128, Vogue Fashion Flyer for May 1939.

Designer Lucile Paray was featured in an article about Paris fashion revivals (i.e., “retro-inspired) — like leg-o-mutton or “Directoire” sleeves — in 1937. Paray’s evening suit was inspired by the turn of the century garment (with bolero) illustrated beside it.

Lucile Paray designer evening suit; illustrated for Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937.

The bolero doesn’t get much simpler than this one, from June, 1937:

Butterick 7405, an evening ensemble with bolero jacket, Woman’s Home Companion, June 1937.

Meanwhile, bolero jackets for daytime use were also seen throughout the Thirties.

In fact, Butterick 7405 had many casual and sporty variations for daytime!

Boleros were not just for evening wear in the 1930s. Click here for more about 7405.

To be continued as “Boleros Through the 1930s, Part 4.”

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Coats, Coats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

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

Bolero Jackets 1930-1931, Part 1

This nearly-timeless jacket came with many pattern variations.

The 1920’s bolero was not always above the waist in length, [click here to see several examples] and this pattern is from the early Thirties.

Alternate views of Butterick bolero pattern 3224. Fronts could be curved or squared (see dotted lines,) open or closed with a bow. Delineator, May 1930.

Delineator, May, 1930, p. 113.

I was initially struck by how modern this “little jacket” looks. If I found it in a thrift store, I would have guessed it was much more recent than 1930. I can imagine it worn with skinny jeans or a knit dress.

Butterick’s Delineator magazine showed many bolero jackets during the transition from low-waisted Twenties’ to natural-waisted Thirties’ dresses. Oddly, the bolero was recommended as a way to camouflage the natural waist for women who felt insecure about showing their figures.

Butterick 3413, September 1930.  “The Reason for Boleros” was that they distracted from the new waist line.

“Designed for [ages] 4 to 18 and for 32 to 44 [inch bust.]” Frankly, any woman whose waist looked like that illustration was probably not too worried about it. However, the design does avoid having a belt at all.

“Boleros and Blousing Are a Great Help.” Boleros were recommended for women self-conscious about the new, defined waist. Delineator, September 1930, p. 104.

Butterick 3409, Delineator, Sept. 1930, p. 105. “The shaped bolero makes it an easy frock to wear….”

Butterick 3435 has a false bolero effect, with the bolero in the back only.

Butterick 3174 (at left) has a bolero over a sleeveless dress, while 3177 (at right) has a matching jacket. Delineator, April 1930.

“The bolero makes the normal waistkine possible for any figure, for it conceals that difficult line at the back. [I didn’t expect that reason!] This bolero is detachable….”

Left, evening dress 3020 has a sheer bolero over a simple princess-line dress; far right, 3074 has a strip of fabric pretending to be a bolero. Delineator, February, 1930.

“Peplums and Boleros Give Youthful Lines.” Butterick 3020 has a “tied, sleeveless bolero” that falls far below the waist in back. Butterick 3074’s “corsage flares partially concealing the narrow belt in front make the high waist-line  more wearable.”

Another “bolero effect:” Butterick 3529 is recommended for a sewing beginner! “The bolero effect is obtained by a stitched-on band” decorating an otherwise simple dress.

Another “not-really-a-bolero-jacket” is part of Butterick dress 3391; “Bolero fronts, bloused back.” Delineator, September 1930, p. 31.

The dress below, with a short bolero, was featured in the same issue of Delineator as the longer, ruffled bolero at the top of this blog post.

Butterick 3006 appears to have a separate, short bolero in front, which may or may not dip below the (new, high) waistline in back. Delineator, January 1930, page 29. The sleeves of the bolero “flare in three-quarter length over those of the frock itself.”

The bolero — real or suggested –remained in fashion through 1931 — more about that later.

MunsingWear pajama ad, Delineator, 1931. The One Piece Bolero Pajama.

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Coats, Nightclothes and Robes

The Big Hem Drop: 1929 to 1930

Only one year separates these Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. This is rapid fashion change.

The change in fashion that took place between Fall of 1929 and Spring, 1930 — just a few months — fascinates me. The fact that a completely different fashion silhouette was adopted during a time of economic crisis  — when pennies were being pinched — makes it even more astonishing.

Just to get our eyes adjusted and refresh our memories of 1929 before the change, here are several images of couture and of mainstream Butterick sewing pattern illustrations from July 1929.

French couture sportswear, illustrated by Leslie Saalburg in Delineator, July 1929. Short and un-fussy.

These fashions are unmistakably late 1920s. Note the hem length, which just covers the knees. There is a crisp, geometric quality about many of these outfits.

Couture sportswear illustrated by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, July 1929.

Patterns for home use:

Spectator sportswear; Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. The dress at left is soft and flared, a hint of things to come. The dress at right is crisply geometric. Both are short.

1920’s day dresses, Butterick patterns 2697 and 2707. Delineator, July 1929. Mostly straight lines.

Butterick patterns for sportswear, Delineator, July 1929. Simple, pleated, short.

Whether we look at French couture or home sewing patterns, the silhouette and the length are  definitely “Twenties.”

In the 1929 Fall collections, couturier Jean Patou showed longer skirts — well below the knee — and took credit for changing fashion from the characteristic Twenties’ silhouette to the longer, softer, Thirties’ look. (A few other couturiers also showed longer dresses, but he took the credit for being first.)

French couture fashions sketched for Delineator, November 1929. The large illustration at left is an ensemble by Patou — noticeably longer than the other designers’ hems.

“Paris revolutionizes winter styles.” Compare the hem on the dress by Patou, second from left, with those from Molyneux (left, very “Twenties”) Cheruit (third from left,) and Nowitzky (also “Twenties” in spirit, far right.)

Below is the Fall 1929 version of Chanel’s famous black dress. (In the original, from 1926, hems had not reached their shortest length.)

This variation on Chanel’s famous little black dress — with a slightly different placement of tucks –falls just below the knees in 1929, the season when Patou was pioneering longer dresses.

By Fall of 1929, Chanel’s “little black dress” (a sensation in 1926) is just below the knee. It also has a natural waist.

You may have noticed that waistlines are rising as hems are falling; that’s a topic deserving an entire post, but….

Delineator, October 1929, p. 25. “Higher Waists, Longer Skirts.”

The flared dress at left has a softer, less geometric look, and shirring near the natural waist instead of a horizontal hip line. Delineator, October 1929. This dress seems to be “in the stores” rather than a Butterick pattern.

Between July couture showings and October, 1929: That is how fast commercial manufacturers picked up on the new trend for longer skirts and natural waistlines.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1929.

Delineator (i.e.,Butterick Publishing Co.) had offices in Paris where the latest couture collections were sketched (and copied.) In this case, longer skirts appeared on patterns for sale very quickly. (The process of issuing a pattern took several weeks, and the magazine had a lead time of a month or so, as well.)

When these patterns appeared in April, 1930, nothing was said about their length. Old news!

Dresses for women, up to size 48. Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1930, p. 31. From left, “tiny sleevelet,” “flared sleeves,” “white neckline,” and “short kimono sleeves.”

By April 1930, what was notable about these dresses, to the editors of Delineator, was the variety of their sleeves!

Back views of Butterick 3143, 3179, 3173, and 3180. Delineator, April 1930, p. 31.

Longer styles had been in the news for several months.

Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1930.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1930. Hems have fallen. Waists are in transition.

The most interesting article I found about this change from “Twenties” to “Thirties” was in Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1929, pp. 66 and following.

In “Smart Essentials of the Winter Clothes,” fashion editor Helen Koues wrote:

“They differ from any we have had since the war…. To be sure, last season Patou and a few houses tentatively raised the waistline, and we talked about it and made predictions. But now the normal or above normal waistline is here, and anything remotely resembling a low waist is gone. We have had it a long time, that low waist and short skirt, and it is only fitting and logical that it should make way for some sort of revival. [“Directoire, Victorian, Princess….”] We have worn high waists and long skirts before — both higher and longer. But coming with a greater degree of suddenness than any change of line has come for some years, it is an inconvenient fashion.  What are we going to do with our old clothes? [My emphasis.]

“The new silhouette will be taken up just as fast as the average woman can afford to discard her old wardrobe…. The average woman will replace what she needs to replace with new lines, but she will take longer, because she will wear out at least some of her old clothes.  In three months, however, all over America the tightly fitted gown, the longer skirt, the high waist will have superseded the loose hiplines of another season. and the main reason for the speed of this change is that we are ready for it. We are bored with the old silhouette, for we have had it too long — so long, in fact, that… we were beginning to think that we would wear short skirts and low waists till we die…. The psychological moment has come….

“Skirt lengths are particularly interesting: for sports, three inches below the knee is the right length; for street clothes, four inches below, and for the formal afternoon gown about five inches above the anklebone. Evening, of course, right down to the ground… and probably with as much length in front as back…. These are the average lengths.

“Skirts are slimmer than ever, if that is possible, or at least the effect is slimmer, because with the added length the flare necessarily begins lower down. But the flare is still there in full force….”

Colors for Spring, 1930. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1930. Flares, softness, and a coat that is shorter than the dress.

Koues also noted that the new three-quarter coat, “that strikes the gown just above the knee” was in style, although she did not mention that this, at least, was a break for women who could afford a new dress but not a new winter coat. Koues recommended wearing longer knickers (underwear) in winter to make up for the shorter coat.

Short coats or long jackets, February 1930, Delineator.

Vogue, October 26, 1929 reminded readers “We told you so!”

If you have access to Vogue magazine archives you may enjoy a timeline of Vogue fashion predictions from October 26, 1929. It began, “We told you so! If you are one of the many women who are complaining that the new mode means a completely new wardrobe, that you were caught unawares, we take no responsibility. For two whole years, we have been reiterating and reiterating a warning of the change to come.”

Here are some highlights of Vogue‘s predictions:

JANUARY 1, 1928:  “The Waist-Line Rises as the Skirt Descends…”

JANUARY 13, 1928:  “Skirts ….. Will Be Longer” — “Waist-Lines Will Be Higher” — “Drapery and the Flare Will Be Much in Evidence.”

APRIL 13, 1929:  “What looked young last year looks old this season — all because longer, fuller skirts and higher waist-lines have been used so perfectly that they look right, smart, and becoming.”

JUNE 22, 1929: “The hemline is travelling and so is the waistline. One is going up, and the other is coming down.”

Vogue ended, “Need we say more? Surely, Vogue readers are well prepared.”

This is what designers in Paris were showing in Spring, 1930.

Paris Couture, sketched for Delineator, May 1930. Every one has a long skirt and a natural waist.

I began with several images of patterns and couture from July 1929. Here are some dresses from July 1930, showing how completely the Twenties’ look had been “superseded” by the Thirties — in one year.

The Twenties are over. The Thirties are here. Patterns from Delineator, July 1930.

Naturally, in 1929-1930 some women thought the new long skirts made them look “old” while some thought they looked “youthful;” but that is a story for another day!

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