Category Archives: Companion-Butterick Patterns

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

Shirtwaist Dresses, 1939

Companion-Butterick 8459, a shirtwaist dress, appeared on the cover of Butterick Fashion News, July 1939.

It was featured on the back cover, too, and several other “shirtwaist” dresses appeared in this flyer. The 1939 shirtwaist could be casual or dressy.

If the text didn’t describe this as a “beautifully detailed shirtwaist dress,” I wouldn’t have classified it that way. Companion-Butterick 8459, July 1939.

Companion-Butterick 8459 does not button down the front, and the bodice is not a separate piece. Clever darts created the shape of this easy to make, pull-over style.

Companion-Butterick 8459, from back cover of BFN flyer, July 1939. A zipper in the side seam would allow you to pull the narrow waist over your shoulders.

Butterick 8459 used only four pattern pieces. Back cover, BFN flyer, July 1939.

Butterick shirtwaist dress 8479 uses pocket flaps as belt carriers. July, 1939. [Note the seamed stockings in the back view.]

Butterick 8466 combines a shirtwaist dress with a coordinating jacket. BFN, July 1939.

This dressy shirtwaist is Butterick 8497. BFN, p. 9, July 1939.

Are these shirtwaist dresses?  That’s not how they are described. BFN, p. 4, July 1939.

Center is Butterick 8493:

Right, Companion-Butterick 8483. BFN, July 1939.

Companion-Butterick 8493: “For spectator sports, wear this dress with brisk pleats in the skirt, and a pocket individualized with embroidery.” Sizes 12 to 20, 30 to 44.

I love this two- (or three-) toned dress with a zipper that runs all the way down the front.

Butterick 8470 has a zipper running from neckline to hem, but it isn’t a housedress.

[For more about the popularization of zippers in women’s clothing during the 1930s, read “Zip” Part 1 and/or Part 2. ]

Even fancier is this print dress made from “sheer” fabric:

Butterick 8486 looks like a shirtwaist to me — its bodice opens with buttons to the waist

The shirtwaist dresses that were a staple of my college wardrobe in 1962 were constructed like this; they buttoned down the front, usually to a concealed placket below the waist. (This 1939 version probably has a zipper opening in the side seam.)

Obviously, I can’t define “shirtwaist dress” from the way the Butterick Fashion News flyers use the term…. But I still appreciate their convenience and versatility.

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hats, Hosiery, Hosiery, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Zippers

The Corseted Silhouette: 1937

Three dresses with a “corseted” waist silhouette, Butterick Fashion News flyer, December 1937.

These patterns from December of 1937 are a far cry from the corseted waist of the early 1900s. In fact, the “corset” refers to a tightly fitted waist section that is part of the dress itself –no boning, no constriction.

Butterick patterns 7615, 7636, and 7640 have a seam at the midriff that defines the fitted waist area. BFN store flyer, Dec. 1937, p. 5

7615, at left, shapes the waist with a peplum and belt; 7636, center, has a curved seam located where an actual waist-cinching undergarment or structure would be ten years later, and 7640 has a built-in notched velvet “girdle” [sash.] All three dresses have high, uncomfortable looking necklines and similar sleeve caps.

Butterick dresses with the “corseted silhouette.” Patterns 7615, 7636, and 7640. Dec. 1937, BFN, p. 5. As a tiny waist becomes important, the shoulder area gets wider.

Back views of Butterick 7615, 7636, and 7640. The “corset” area could be tightened with a buckle at the back. (far left)

The corseted silhouette appeared in day dresses, evening gowns, and even in blouses.

The two evening gowns at left have the corseted silhouette, one trimmed with a row of tiny buttons, and one gathered to echo the sleeves. 1937.

Butterick evening gown 7626; black velvet was suggested.

The back view shows a seam at the bottom of the “corset” area.

The dress has a typical 1930’s side seam closing; in 1937, zippers were replacing snap closings. There’s a short zip at the back neck closing, too. These high necklines and sleeves suggest dresses for dinner & dancing.

Butterick evening gown 7624 has “the new slim corseted waist,” BFN, Dec. 1937, p. 9.

Bare necked — and bare backed gowns — might also have a corset waist:

Butterick evening gown 7646 has “the new corseted silhouette.” BFN, page 8; Dec. 1937. [P.S. That’s a lot of bangle bracelets!]

Butterick evening gown, “slit up the front,” BFN flyer, page 8, Dec. 1937.

This blouse pattern is constructed with a fitted “corset” waist section:

Butterick blouse 7629, BFN flyer, Dec. 1937. There is ruching (stitched-down gathering) at the neckline, the sleeves, and the midriff seam. The back view shows a belt.

Back views of four blouses.

I can’t resist showing the other blouse patterns from this page, although they do not have “corset waist” silhouettes.

Butterick blouse 7623, December 1937 BFN store flyer. Hat pattern 7631 was also illustrated.

Butterick blouse patterns 7627 and 7625, December 1937. Both have snug waists and high necklines; the one at right uses metallic cloth. To see all these blouses in full color illustrations, click here.

This “Triad” dress has a version with a corset waist and one without:

Triad dress pattern 7630 contained three versions. although only two were fully illustrated.in the December 1937 Butterick Fashion News flyer. [Notice the double darts low on the side seam.]

The alternate views show all three versions of Companion-Butterick 7630.

Many of the same patterns were illustrated in Woman’s Home Companion, November 1937.

Companion-Butterick gowns 7624 and 7626. WHC, November 1937.

That corseted look: Companion-Butterick patterns from November 1937. It’s attributed to the style-setting Duchess of Windsor.

I’ve seen so many vintage late Thirties’ and early Forties’ dresses with this fitted midriff look that it’s nice to have a name for it.

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Vintage patterns

Charm After Fifty, July 1937

Charm after Fifty is illustrated in these three dresses made from one pattern: Companion-Butterick 7458. Woman’s Home Companion, July 1937.

This Companion-Butterick triad dress pattern from the summer of 1937 is illustrated on three mature women, none of whom has a conspicuously middle-aged figure.

This illustration by Ernst shows pattern 7458 as it might look on three tall, slim-hipped women. None of them seems to have a single gray hair, never mind a sagging chin or a “menopot.”

However, the size range went all the way to bust size 52.

The three dresses have similar skirts, but bodice and sleeve variations range from casual to dressy. [I imagine that the floral print version was made more often in navy or brown rayon than in yellow chiffon, but it’s nice that women over fifty were encouraged to wear bright colors.

From simple to fancy: Pattern 7458 in striped cotton with short sleeves, in a turquoise print with broad shoulders and 3/4 sleeves, and in a soft yellow chiffon floral print with a V-neck and flounces cascading down the front. WHC, July 1937.

White, perforated summer shoes were not just for “old ladies,” and the heels at right are certainly high.

Perforated shoes for summer. 1937.

Ad for Walk-Over Shoes, with prices, from WHC, June 1937.

“Puncho” shoes. Walk-Over, June 1937. These are white kid suede, but the same shoe was available in blue, black or gray.

“Cabana” shoes from Walk-Over also came in white calf, tan, blue, black or red earth calf, or gray sueded kid. 1937.

Sporty “Lariat” shoes from Walkover. Also in brown or gray. The heel is stacked leather. 1937.

The “Mohawk” oxford shoe from Walk-Over could be purchased in all white calf, or white suede with tan calf, as pictured. 1937.

Shoes weren’t the only things that were perforated in the 193o’s:

Ad for a Perfolastic reducing girdle, WHC, February 1936. That’s “lastic” as in latex: a rubber garment designed to help you sweat off the pounds and inches. Did women have polka-dotted skin when they took it off?

Perfolastic reducing girdle and brassiere ad; WHC, Nov. 1937.

Text, Perfolastic reducing girdle and brassiere, WHC, Nov. 1937. “You appear inches smaller at once.”

Perhaps that’s how these women over fifty maintained their impossibly tall, willowy shapes.

Women over fifty: WHC, July 1937. Elongated fashion figures with suspiciously rosy cheeks.

Top of ad for Louis Philippe’s Angelus Rouge Incarnat lip and cheek rouge, Delineator, June 1934.

Text of ad for Louis Philippe’s Angelus Rouge Incarnat lip and cheek rouge, Delineator, June 1934. “In its allure, it is typically, wickedly of Paris. In its virginal modesty, as natural as a jeune fille….” “You use either on both the lips and the cheeks.”

These women over fifty may have also used another product: Brownatone. It had been in use since the 1920’s — possibly earlier.

Ad for Brownatone gray hair coloring, WHC, February 1937. There seem to be only two color choices.

For another “After Fifty” triad pattern, click here.

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Filed under 1930s, Bras, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Makeup & Lipstick, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Peasant Blouses, 1940’s to 1950’s

McCall pattern 1254 for a Mexican-influenced embroidered peasant blouse. Circa 1945, illustrated in May 1950 needlework catalog.

When full, puffy sleeves returned to fashion in the late 1930’s, the “peasant blouse” reappeared. This Hollywood pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive for a peasant blouse is from 1938.

A “Tyrolean ski suit” available in stores in January, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 55.

A “yodeler” type hat. December 1937, WHC. Note “the gay embroidery on the mittens.”

A “Yodel Apron” featured in July, 1937. WHC. “Go very Swiss-peasant….”

“Tyrolean” hats, ski clothes, and embroidery were briefly popular in the late thirties, until WW II tainted anything German or Austrian for U.S. consumers.

“The Peasant Note is Popular:” A “Swedish” embroidered headscarf, a “Carnaval” apron (over a peasant style blouse), and a “Tyrolean” knitting bag. Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937.

Wool embroidery decorated this Companion-Butterick Triad pattern for schoolgirls.

Left, yarn embroidery adds “Peasant” chic to Butterick pattern 7589 for girls 8 to 15. WHC, October 1937.

The difficulties of travel during the Second World War led many Americans to seek sunshine and a complete change of scene in Mexico, resulting in a fashion influence which lasted for several years after the war. I have already written about Mexican embroidered jackets

McCall "Mexican" coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

…and “Russian” blouses.  A Mexican blouse pattern, McCall 990, at CoPA, dates to 1942.

McCall peasant blouse pattern 1385, from a 1950 Needlework catalog, has “heavily Mexican” embroidery.

Some peasant blouses incorporated smocking and embroidery:

McCall “fiesta-mood” peasant blouse pattern 1317, from about 1947. The illustration is from a 1950 catalog.

The smocking resembles the pattern on this blouse:

McCall pattern 1221 for a smocked blouse. This image is from the Dec. 1946 catalog, but the pattern dates to 1945.

This smocking pattern, 1315, was featured in the same issue as the “fiesta-mood” blouse, pattern 1317 :

McCall smocking pattern 1315. Circa 1947.

Detail of McCall 1315.

Detail, McCall 1315.

For those who were willing to embroider a blouse, but not to smock it, McCall 1386 offered the option of shirring the blouse and applying very fine rickrack to imitate smocking.

McCall 1386, a peasant blouse that could be smocked… or not.

Detail of rickrack on McCall Mexican blouse pattern 1386. Circa 1947.

We tend to think of 1947 dominated by Dior’s New Look, but comfortable, unstuctured casual clothing was still popular in the pattern books.

Smocking continued to be associated with high-end clothing for girls. So did the peasant look:

McCall 1255, circa 1945, is a smocked and cross-stitched peasant dress for a little girl. “The cross-stitch is optional but very “peasanty.’ “

I went looking for a forties’ photo of my mother in a peasant blouse and found a “twofer:”  She’s wearing a peasant blouse and skirt, and I am wearing a smocked dress!

American woman in a simple peasant blouse and skirt, with toddler in a smocked dress. Circa 1947.

Although this 1950’s pattern for children is not “peasanty,” it can be smocked.

 

Artists’ smocks for girls and boys. McCall 1402, illustrated in May 1950. [I could live in that blue outfit, in a grown-up size!]

In fact, McCall 1402 actually is a smock — a painter’s smock — which reminds us that embroidered smocks were originally worn for work by shepherds and country folks — peasants.

A group of country gossips. Punch cartoon from The Way to Wear’em.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Sized to Height Patterns from Butterick, 1948

The July 1948, cover of Butterick Fashion News was still introducing a new product: "Special" patterns for shorter women.

The July 1948, cover of Butterick Fashion News was still introducing a new product: “Special” patterns for shorter women.

I happen to have a group of Butterick Fashion News Flyers from 1948. For several months, “Sized to Height” patterns, or “Special Patterns,” were featured as an innovation which still needed some explanation. The February issue explained the concept several times.

Front cover of Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. The suit on the left, No. 4422, was available in short and average patterns.

Front cover of Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. The suit on the left, No. 4422, was available in both short and standard pattern sizes.

I don’t have a complete, consecutive run — just February, March, July and August of 1948 — but this “Special Patterns” or “Sized to Height” box appears on all four covers. (What I Found has a copy from 1947; that cover also mentions “shorter length” patterns.)

Special patterns for shorter women information box. Cover of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948.

Special patterns for shorter women, information box. Cover of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948.

Further explanation and examples appeared on facing pages 2 and 3.

Pages 2 & 3 featured patterns which could be ordered in sizes for women under 5' 5". BFN, Feb. 1948.

Pages 2 & 3 featured patterns which could be ordered in sizes for women under 5′ 5″. BFN, Feb. 1948.

If the pattern was available in both standard and shorter sizes, customers could order the shorter one by putting an “S” after the pattern number.

Page 3, BFN, Feb. 1948. These patterns for shorter women were described on page 2.

Page 3, BFN, Feb. 1948. These patterns for shorter women were described on (facing) page 2.

Here is the explanatory text from the top of page 2:

Text from top of page 2, BFN Feb. 1948.

Text from top of page 2, BFN Feb. 1948. “Special length … patterns are one inch shorter from neckline to waistline.”

Short pattern purchasing information, bottom of page 2, BFN, Feb. 1948.

Short pattern purchasing information, bottom of page 2, BFN, Feb. 1948.

Special Length patterns were shortened from the waist up, and were not aimed at stout or older women. (If the skirts were also proportionally shortened, Butterick didn’t mention it here.) Some of these patterns were illustrated twice in the same issue, once with the number followed by “S” and once as standard sized patterns. Starred numbers were available in both versions.

Butterick 4424 pattern for a suit with fitted jacket, available in average or short versions. Feb. 1948.

Butterick 4424 pattern for a suit with fitted jacket, available in standard  or short versions. Feb. 1948.

Butterick 4422; its hip-widening peplum shows "New Look" influence.

Butterick 4422; its hip-widening peplum shows “New Look” influence. Feb. 1948.

Both pink dresses are pattern 4419, in Average and shorter sizes.

More “New Look” influence. Both pink dresses are pattern 4419, in standard and shorter sizes. (The model looks long-waisted in both illustrations.) Center, Butterick 4431; perhaps its complex bodice design made it unsuitable for a shorter version.

I don’t know why dresses for larger women, like those on page six, below, were only aimed at women over 5′ 5″ in 1948.

Dresses for mature or large women, available to size 46. (The gray one was available up to size 50.) Shorter versions of these patterns were not mentioned. Feb. 1948.

Dresses for mature or large women, available to size 46. (The gray one was available up to size 50.) Shorter versions of these patterns were apparently not available. Feb. 1948.

It’s a mystery to me why a pattern company like Butterick did not always capitalize on the fact that many women — especially mature women — are both short and “stout.” You would think that women who are not standard sizes would be a perfect niche market for specially sized sewing patterns, but that isn’t the case here.  (Lynn at American Age Fashion has written about the development of “half-size” dresses and patterns several times.)

Butterick did sell such patterns earlier.  In the nineteen thirties,  Butterick had issued some patterns for “shorter women with larger hips.” In her History of the Paper Pattern Industry, Joy Spanabel Emery shows Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7586, from 1937; it is a “Frock for Shorter Women of Larger Hip.” See it at the Commercial Pattern Archive by clicking here. Another from BFN in 1937 was Butterick 7647, the gray dress shown below: dec 1937 BFn numbered no faces 500

Another pattern for Shorter Women of Larger Hip (No. 8014) was shown in the BFN for August 1938. I don’t have a complete run of Butterick Fashion News, but the idea of patterns for shorter women with larger hips appeared at least as early as February, 1933 (Butterick 4883.) See “Clothes for Clubwomen.” 

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/1933-feb-p-77-text-4883-shorter-figure-large.jpg?w=500

I find them as late as Feb. 1940 (Butterick 8790) in my very limited collection.

I haven’t found that phrase in my 1948 flyers, however.

Some of the 1948 dresses on page 7 came in either standard or “special” versions; the text at the bottom of the page taught  customers how to order:

Page 7, Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948.

Page 7, Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. A Star next to the number meant that the pattern could be ordered in short or standard versions.

Text, bottom of page 7. BFN Feb. 1948.

Text, bottom of page 7. BFN Feb. 1948.

Perhaps the “S” stood for “Special,” but I suspect that customers thought it meant “Short.”

In July, 1948, Butterick used the word “Petite” to describe these patterns. The expression may well have appeared earlier, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it applied to Butterick patterns — so far. It’s definitely an improvement over “Special.” Too bad they didn’t think of it in time to indicate these patterns with a “P” instead of an “S.”

Butte4rick Patterns for "Petite" women, Butterick News Flyer, July 1948.

Butterick Patterns for “Petite” women, Butterick News Flyer, July 1948.

Incidentally, it seems incredible to me that for decades Butterick assumed its average customer was 5′ 5″ or over, even in the nineteen twenties, when some of the most glamorous women in Hollywood were tiny:  Gloria Swanson was 5′ 1″. Clara Bow was 5′ 3 1/2″. “Little Mary” Pickford was just over five feet. Louise Brooks? 5′ 2″. Pola Negri? Five feet exactly. Greta Garbo was considered tall — and criticized for her wide hips and big feet — at five foot seven and a half. In the 1920’s Butterick patterns for “small women” were literally small — maximum bust about 37″ — when the normal pattern run fit sizes up to 44″ bust, with some patterns available up to size 52.

There is a great essay (with charts) about pattern sizing here; a chart from a very flawed government study shows that the average American woman was 5′ 3″ in 1937.

After World War II, more statistics were available and led to more specialized pattern sizing. The excellent Midvale Cottage blog (which I just discovered) says that Butterick introduced half sizes (for women under 5′ 5″ who were shorter-waisted and larger in the waist and hip) in 1949. Click here for her history of 1940’s pattern sizing.

I’ll share  more fashions from 1948 in later posts. [As often happens, when I started this post, I didn’t remember Butterick’s Shorter/Larger patterns from the 1930’s — even though I had mentioned them in other posts. As a result of proofreading and checking facts, this post kept getting longer…. Caution:  my sample of Butterick flyers is hardly conclusive for real scholarship — Just full of interesting things to share.]

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

What’s Cooking? Holiday Aprons, Mostly from the 1940’s

Holiday party aprons for little girls, McCall pattern 1281, from a needlework catalog for December 1946.

Holiday party aprons for little girls, McCall pattern 1281, from a needlework catalog for December 1946.

Back in the mid-twentieth century, before women wore casual slacks or jeans to do housework, the apron was a useful, and often elaborate, handmade gift. Aprons were not included in the rule that gifts of clothing were too intimate for anyone but family members. Pattern catalogs and women’s magazines usually featured apron patterns in November and December;  in my parents’ home, one sign that Christmas was approaching was the making of pajamas and aprons.

Holiday Aprons" from Woman's Home Companion, December 1937. Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7652.

“Holiday Aprons” from Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937. Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7652.

The elaborate backs of these aprons may be surprising to those of us who are used to modern, store-bought, unisex aprons. These were serious aprons that protected your dress.

Back views and text for Companion-Butterick apron pattern 7652. Dec, 1937.

Back views and text for Companion-Butterick apron pattern 7652. Dec., 1937. “Triad” meant three designs in one envelope.

This unisex apron set from 1950 shows the basic outline of inexpensive, utilitarian aprons like the ones in my kitchen today; in 1950 they were called “barbecue” aprons, and the idea of a man cooking and wearing an apron at home was no longer just a joke — although the gift aprons were often intended to be humorous.

His and Hers barbeque aprons. McCall pattern circa 1950.

His and Hers barbecue aprons. McCall pattern 1515, circa 1950.

This apron set, found in a McCall Needlework catalog from May, 1950, has elaborate appliques, and would probably have been intended as a gift set — made for a friend, or newlyweds, or intended to be sold at a charity bazaar.

Making aprons to sell at fundraisers is an old tradition. The Ladies’ Home Journal suggested making these aprons for a fundraiser during WW I:

Aprons to make for a Charity Bazaar; Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917.

Aprons to make for a Charity Bazaar; Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917. (In 1917, some skirts also had a ruffle at the waist.) Many women still wore “pinner” aprons, without straps, like those at right.

Of course, when women made aprons for themselves, they might prefer a simple shape, bound in bias tape

Two versions of Butterick apron pattern 6874, from 1926.

Two versions of Butterick apron pattern 6874, from 1926.

… but frilly, sometimes silly, labor-intensive aprons were a staple of holiday gift-making.

McCall called this a "little girl look" apron. Needlework catalog, Dec. 1946.

McCall called this a “little girl look” apron. Pattern 917, McCall Needlework catalog, Dec. 1946, but first issued in 1941. [I can picture June Allyson in this one.]

You can see the pattern piece shapes for No. 917 from a copy in the CoPA collection; click here.

Aprons like the ones below, often decorated half-aprons, were called “cocktail aprons” or “bridge aprons,” [for hosting card parties] and were worn while entertaining, not cooking or washing dishes.

Apron decorated with sequinned hearts. McCall 1278, from a 1946 needlework catalog.

Apron decorated with sequinned hearts. McCall 1278, from a 1946 needlework catalog. I have also seen aprons with sequinned martini glasses on them….

Simplicity aprons No. 1805, dated 1956. Starching and ironing those ruffles would be time consuming.

Simplicity apron No. 1805, dated 1956. Starching and ironing those ruffles would be time consuming.

This dress, McCall 1312, made from sheer fabrics, might be a gift to a bride. It was a fantasy of housework.

This apron, McCall 1312, made from sheer fabrics and delicately appliqued, might be a gift to a bride. It evokes a fantasy of housework, unrelated to reality. 1950 needlework catalog.

I suspect that many fancy aprons were re-gifted and never worn (probably why so many delicate aprons survive in vintage collections.)

This one, decorated with Scottie dogs, is my virtual gift to The Vintage Traveler.

McCall Scottie dog apron, circa 1950.

McCall Scottie dog apron, before 1950. I prefer the version on the right.

Aprons and Sewing Classes

Many girls and women made aprons while learning to sew. A simple half apron was well within the abilities of elementary school students, and many a proud mother must have received an apron — far too pretty to wear — for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.

McCall apron 1096 -- probably a Valentine gift. From a 1946 needle work catalog.

McCall apron 1096 — an appropriate Valentine gift. Photographed from a 1946 needle work catalog, but it dates to 1943.

Simplicity aprons from 1956, pattern No. 1789.

Simplicity aprons from 1956, pattern No. 1789. Even a beginner could make version 4, or apply rickrack, as in version 3.

A Super-Successful Apron Pattern

I found three McCall needlework catalogs (1946 to 1950) at an estate sale; some apron patterns were so successful that they appeared year after year, so a three-digit pattern number is often an indication that the pattern pre-dates 1946. This one first appeared in 1941 and was still in the catalog for November, 1950 — nine years later.

McCall pattern 884, called the "Necktie" apron dates to 1941 and was still being offered in 1950.

McCall pattern 884, called the “Necktie” apron dates to 1941 and was still being offered in 1950 –and, possibly, later.

The Necktie apron — cut in many sections — had to be folded to be ironed correctly:

Necktie apron, McCall 884. It is shown folded for ironing at the left.

Necktie apron, McCall 884. It is shown folded for ironing at the left.

Necktie apron description form 1946 catalog.

Necktie apron description from 1946 catalog. Rickrack trim was applied behind its edges, so that only half the trim was visible. Other designs used rickrack more obviously:

Rickrack was applied to the top sides of these aprons, McCall 987, from 1942.

Rickrack was applied to the outsides of these aprons, McCall 987, from 1942. The tassels would be rather impractical.

Mother-Daughter Aprons

In the post-war period it was generally assumed that little girls wanted to grow up to be housewives, just like their Mommies. You could buy identical apron patterns for children and women, like these:

McCall apron pattern 1532, for women. May 1950 needlework catalog.

McCall apron pattern 1532, for women. May 1950 needlework catalog.

Child's version of McCall 1532 was McCall 1533.

The child’s version of McCall 1532 was McCall 1533.

This Butterflies apron was also available in a child's version. (From 1946)

This Butterflies apron was also available in a child’s version. (From 1946) McCall No. 1257.

A Daughter (or little sister) version of the Butterflies apron was McCall 1258.

A daughter (or little sister) version of the Butterflies apron was McCall 1258.

Once upon a time, little girls wore dresses all day, and protected them with aprons or pinafores. Women also expected a practical apron to protect their dresses from cooking spatters and laundry suds; except for their elaborate embroidery or appliques, these aprons would do the trick:

McCall 1209 covered most of the dress,

McCall apron No. 1209 covered most of the dress. 1940s.

Kitchen pet of the career girl -- this young apron ... completely covers the dress. Pinafore ruffles give the smart broad-shouldered look." McCall 1135.

“Kitchen pet of the career girl — this young apron … completely covers the dress. Pinafore ruffles give the smart broad-shouldered look.” McCall 1135. Circa 1945.

The apron below is really unusual — but I’ll save the other aprons with novelty pockets for another day!

A tulip forms a novelty pocket on this unusual, fasten-in-front apron. McCall 1403, from 1948.

A tulip forms a novelty pocket on this unusual, fasten-in-front apron. McCall 1403, from 1948.

Although it looks complex, this apron would lie completely flat for ironing — more practical than it looks.

1403-m50-p-44-text-tulip-novelty-pocket-front-tie-waist-coverall593

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re inspired to cook up something delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Menswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, World War I