Category Archives: Corsets

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator magazine

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

Modart Corset Ad, March 1928

Ad for Modart Corsets, detail, March 1928, Delineator.

Ad for Modart Corsets, detail, March 1928, Delineator.

This color advertisement for Modart corsets caught my eye. I think it’s aimed at women with a “mature” figure, because the corsets have lace-up features, and appear to be boned.

Closer view of Modart corset No. , from 1928.

Closer view of Modart corset No. 9513, from 1928. It has adjustable laces at the side, and creates the 1920’s tubular silhouette, including a flattened posterior and a flattened bust.

At the bottom of the ad, five other Modart styles were shown.

Five Modart corset styles taken from the bottom of the ad. 1928.

Five Modart corset styles taken from the bottom of the ad. 1928. Notice bandeau [bra] No. 0857, at bottom right; it wouldn’t have offered much support, but it has darts. It’s not a flattener. The bra shown with step-in No. 7012, at top left, has breast separation, described as an “uplift” style.

By 1925, many younger women were wearing less restrictive, un-boned foundation garments called corsolettes or corselets. (There were many spelling variants.) By 1928, Bandeaux and other bust-flattening garments were also on their way out. You can see two bras with bust darts worn with waist-high Modart girdles in this ad. By 1929, the new brassieres gave a more natural look.  Some women wore no bra at all; others were adopting so-called “uplift” styles which had breast separation and a “pocket” for each breast.

But most women still needed an undergarment to suppress their curves and give the fashionable, flat-in-back, narrow silhouette.

Evening dresses from Delineator, March 1928, the same issue as the Modart ad.

Evening dresses from Delineator, March 1928, the same issue as the Modart  Corset ad. From left, the fabrics are lace, moire silk, satin, and a print fabric, probably silk or Georgette.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1936 and Butterick 1946. March, 1928.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1936 and Butterick 1946. March, 1928.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1910 and Butterick 1942. March, 1928.

Alternate view and pattern information for Butterick 1910 and Butterick 1942. March, 1928.

Three of these patterns were available in bust measure 44 inches, which meant a hip of 47 1/2 inches.

Text of Modart ad, March 1928. Delineator magazine.

Text of Modart ad, March 1928. Delineator magazine.

“Thousands of women now wear with ease the difficult, simple lines of modern fashion … by wearing Modart foundations. Over the rightly proportioned, supported figure, all types of frocks have a new smartness, a new confidence in fashion.”

The horizontal hip line of 1920’s dresses was likely to make a woman’s body look wider, in spite of the ideal of a slender, youthful silhouette. In fact, some of these French designer fashions for Spring, 1928, are really the opposite of slenderizing.

Sketches of Paris designs by Premet, Philippe et Gaston, [Augusta] Bernard, and Worth. Delineator, March 1928.

Sketches of Paris designs by Premet, Philippe et Gaston, [Augusta] Bernard, and Worth. Delineator, March 1928. The designs by Philippe et Gaston and the House of Worth make even a fashion illustration look like a sack of potatoes.

Sketches of Paris designs by . Delineator, March 1928.

Sketches of Paris designs by Lenief, Bernard, and Premet. Delineator, March 1928.

I have written many posts about women’s undergarments in the nineteen twenties. I linked to some of them in this post, but, if you’re a new subscriber with an interest in the nineteen twenties, you may want to check these titles:

Not All Flappers Wanted to be Flat in the 1920s

How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 1 (Advice from an article dated 1925)

Underpinning the 1920s: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners

Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets

Uplift Changes Brassieres, Part 1

Uplift Changes Brassieres, Part 2

Changing the Foundations of Fashion: 1929 to 1934

If you want to see some lovely full color illustrations of dresses from 1928, click here. If you just love twenties fashions in general, searching this blog for 1928 will turn up many Butterick pattern illustrations from that year.

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Filed under 1920s, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Big Pockets, Big Hips, Tiny Waists in the 1950s

A comment from Fabricated about the peculiar pockets of 1917 reminded me that big pockets, which visually widened the hips, were in style again in the late forties and through the nineteen fifties. But in the fifties, they emphasized a tiny waist.

Butterick 5529 uses big, decorated pockets to make the waist look smaller by contrast. Butterick Fashion News, January 1951.

Butterick 5529 uses big, decorated “stand” pockets to make the waist look smaller by contrast. Butterick Fashion News, January 1951. The bodice darts at front and back are visible in the small illustrations.

This is the influence of Dior’s 1947 collection, when he cinched in his models’ waists and padded their hips to achieve an exaggeratedly feminine shape. For several years, couturiers and even some ready-to-wear manufacturers built foundation garments into suits and dresses.

A Dior dress and Dior Suit, 1947. The jacket has padded hhips accented with large pockets. Sketches from the Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

A Dior dress and Dior Suit, 1947. The jacket has padded hips accented with large pockets. Sketches from the Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

Couture tip: When a bodice or jacket fits this tightly, an interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon is used. It fits very tightly around the waist, and closes with hooks and eyes or bars. You fasten the interior waistband, and then zip or button the garment. Since the ribbon waistband is attached to the seam allowances of the garment, often at the side and back seams, it takes the strain of the tight waist, so there is never any visible pulling at the buttonholes.

You can see one end of such a band inside this Dior dress dated 1955 on the label.

Interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon; you hook it before fastening the dress with the zipper. Christian Dior, 1955.

Interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon; you hook it before fastening the dress with the zipper. Christian Dior, 1955.

The bare topped, pleated dress had inch-wide straps, and could be worn with or without this cropped jacket.

Short jacket and pleated dress, Dior, Autumn-Winter 1955.

Short jacket and pleated dress, Dior, Autumn-Winter 1955.

A 1949 Dior dress with pockets reminiscent of 1917, and a Dior Suit, not dated, but from the period 1947 to 1949. Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

A 1949 Dior dress with pockets reminiscent of 1917, and a Dior Suit, not dated, but from the period 1947 to 1949. Bergdorf Goodman Sketch Collection at the Metropolitan Museum.

I have added a link to the large collection of couture sketched for the Bergdorf Goodman store between 1930 and 1950 to my “Sites with Great Information” Sidebar.

I don’t have a a good collection of 1950’s illustrations, but here are a few images I’ve assembled:

A pattern sold through newspapers in 1956: Anne Adams pattern 4803. Big pockets visually widen the hips.

A pattern sold through newspapers in 1956: Anne Adams #4803. Big “stand” away-from-the-body pockets visually widen the hips.

The Anne Adams pattern is similar to Butterick 5718 from 1951. Mail Order patterns were usually conservative, and a little behind the times.

Even the pockets on aprons got bigger: McCall pattern 1532, from a 1950 Needlework catalog.

Even the pockets on aprons got bigger: McCall pattern 1532, from a 1950 Needlework catalog.

McCall 1579 could be worn as a sundress or an apron. Needlework catalog, November 1950.

McCall 1579 could be worn as a sundress or an apron. Needlework catalog, November 1950. There is a “fitted bodice option;” when a full skirt is used to make the waist look smaller, only a very slender figure can get away with a loosely gathered bodice. The figure in blue is not realistic. In fact, both illustrations show impossible waist size.

McCall's 1451 has cap sleeve to balance the pocket size, and to create an hourglass figure. 1950.

McCall 1451 has cap sleeves to balance the pocket size, and to create an hourglass figure. 1950. Notice the bodice darts. The slightly shorter version (A) was recommended as a coverall apron, and the longer one as a sundress.

Butterick skirt 4460 from March 1948; Butterick Jumper 505o from November 1949. Butterick Fashion News flyers.

Big pockets on Butterick skirt 4460 from March 1948, and Butterick jumper 505o from November 1949. Butterick Fashion News flyers.

Below: The curves and decorated pockets of this 1948 suit lead your eye from hip to waist. A similar style,  Vogue pattern 1096, by Molyneux, was issued in 1950. It has hip pads and double curved pockets, one on top of another.

Butterick jacket 4616 combines with skirt 4600 to make a suit. August 1948.

“Long lissome” Butterick jacket 4600 combines with skirt 4604 to make a suit. BFN, August 1948.

Another hip-widening style was the peplum, which flared out from the waist of a jacket or blouse. The patch-pocketed jacket below was illustrated repeatedly in 1948; the back of this jacket gives a “peplum effect.”

Butterick 4571, a jacket with fitted front and full back, appeared in Butterick Fashion News July and August 1948.

Butterick 4571, a two-piece dress with fitted front and full flared back on the jacket, appeared in Butterick Fashion News in July and August, 1948. Although the back is loose, the front is tightly fitted. A couture version might have had a fitted back bodice inside the loose one.  On the striped versions, the pocket stripes run horizontally, increasing the impression of width.

Below: The three tops on the left have hip-widening peplums;  not a pocket but “drapery tied in the back gives hipline emphasis to the blouse top” of the two-piece dress on the right.

Three two piece dresses with prplum tops, and one with draped hipline emphasis. Butterick patterns from summer 1948.

Three two-piece dresses with peplum tops, and one with draped hipline emphasis. Butterick patterns from summer 1948.

Peplums give the impression of a wider hip and tiny waist on these Simplicity patterns for April, 1948.

Peplums give the impression of a wider hip and tiny waist on these Simplicity patterns for April, 1948. (An impression furthered by the illustrator’s artistic license….) Simplicity patterns 2413, 2414, and 2393.

The fashion for exaggerated hips and tiny waists continued  through the 1950’s. This coat-dress from 1956 has a very full skirt accented by large pockets:

Coat-dress from Butterick pattern 7814, from Butterick Fashion News, October 1956.

Coat-dress from Butterick pattern 7814, from Butterick Fashion News, October 1956. Tiny waist, full skirt and big pockets.

This 1956 suit has a shorter jacket than the peplum fashions of 1948, but it still creates a strong horizontal line at the hip, accented with horizontal, decorative pocket flaps.

Butterick suit 7928 has one jacket and two skirt options, narrow or full. BFN, October 1956.

Butterick suit 7928 has one jacket with two skirt options, narrow or full. BFN, October 1956.

In 1959 and 1960, big pockets and small waists were still appearing on patterns:

Butterik skirt pattern 9082, from 1959. The big pockets were optional.

Butterick skirt pattern 9082, from 1959. The big pockets were optional.

If you’re considering the “wider hips will make my waist look smaller” concept, there are a few caveats.

One:  A normal human being does not look like these fashion illustrations. These fashions are flattering if you have a normally proportioned figure, or are slender. A full skirt will also conceal disproportionate hips. But, if you carry your extra pounds around your midriff, the illusion may not work, unless…. (See “Two.”)

Two:  The dressy fashions were designed to be worn over a foundation, a “merry widow” corset, or a waist cinch, all of which reshape the natural figure. Tight bodices which didn’t have built-in corsetry looked better when worn over elastic and boning that created a figure more like the ideal.

We called this kind of starpless corset a "Merry Widow." If you want to wear vintage fashions from the late forties or fifties, they were designed to be worn over one of these.

When I was in high school, we called this kind of zip-closing strapless corset a “Merry Widow.” Sears catalog, Spring 1954. If you want to wear tightly fitted vintage fashions from the late forties or fifties, remember that they will fit better over a lightly boned foundation like these.

The Sears catalog calls the garment on the left a "waist whittler." We called it a "waist cinch" in the fifties.

The Sears catalog calls the garment on the left a “waist whittler.” We called it a “waist cinch” in the fifties. Some well-made garments had a boned waist cinch, without the garters, built into the dress.

Of course, I didn’t wear such foundation garments under my shirtwaist school dresses.  I didn’t want a tight fit or a tiny waist, anyway.

I don’t think ordinary women expected to look like couture models or the women in movies.  But the dress forms used for clothing design were not the same as a natural, uncorseted body. Bodices were made to be very tight over a firm, fat-free ribcage, and shaped with many darts. (And dress mannequins’ posteriors were pushed down and flattened like the backside of a woman wearing a girdle.)

Notice how many darts were needed to shape the bodice to the ideal fifties figure.

Notice how many darts were needed to shape the bodice to the ideal fifties figure.

Four darts in front and and four in back were usually the minimum on a simple dress, like the cap-sleeved white and blue one. Six darts in front (like the three jackets top and right) were not unusual.  The plaid dress at top left also has two darts each side of the center seam (and probably, hidden by the shawl, a dart pointing from each side seam to the bust points.) The darkest blue suit is shaped by princess seams, but still has three additional waist darts on each side!

All those darts were necessary to transition from the bust (say, 34 inches around) to the waist (say, 26″ or less) without any unflattering looseness or gathers (or bulges showing.) This dress from 1960 has big hip pockets and a tight waist, but all three dresses have just one bust dart at each side to control that bodice fullness:

Left, Butterick 9357 from BFN, May 1960.

Left, Butterick 9357 from BFN, May 1960. Eliminating the waist-to-bust darts made a dress cheaper to manufacture, but this style was not flattering except to slim figures. (The greater the difference between bust and waist, the more fabric puffed out above the belt, for a “sack tied in the middle” look.)

If you have a yen to see more big pockets and fifties fashions, I recommend Wade Laboissonierre’s full color, generously illustrated book, Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s.

 

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns

Fashion Illustration and Fashion Reality, 1948

Butterick 4609, evening gownfrom Butterick Fashion News, back cover, August 1948.

Butterick 4609, evening gown from Butterick Fashion News, August 1948.

I’ve been looking at pattern illustrations from 1948, when Dior’s “new look” was getting women into waist-cinching undergarments, full (sometimes padded) hips, and a long, long silhouette.

Butterick 4610, from Butterick Fashion News, Aug. 1948.

Butterick 4610, from Butterick Fashion News, Aug. 1948. The waist is exceptionally narrow compared to the hips.

Simplicity store flyer, patterns from April 1948.

Simplicity store flyer, patterns from April 1948. Note the waist sizes.

Butterick suit pattern 4600 from August 1948, Butterick store flyer.

Butterick suit pattern 4600 from August 1948, Butterick store flyer.

I love to remind people that fashion illustrations shape women’s expectations (and self-critical self image) of what they should look like. This 1948 Butterick suit pattern was sized for women under 5′ 5″ tall:

Butterick suit pattern 4569 was available in a special version for women under 5' 5" tall.

Butterick suit pattern 4569 was available in a special version for women under 5′ 5″ tall. Store flyer, July 1948.

If suit 4569 seems awfully tall and thin for a petite woman —  it is.

Fashion models used to be 5’7 or so; this photo from the back of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948, shows a probably waist-cinched but otherwise real young woman:

Ad for Butterick, back of Butterick Fashion News, July 1948.

Ad for Butterick, back of Butterick Fashion News, July 1948.

It was hard to judge her head size exactly, since she is looking down, but from crown to heel (or front anklebone) she is six and a half heads high. The illustration of suit 4569 is relatively (well over a foot) taller and much thinner:

Photo and fashion illustration from July 1948. Using here head a a a unit of measurement, the real woman is six and a half heads from crown to heel. The illustration is eight heads high.

Photo and fashion illustration from July 1948. Using her head as a unit of measurement, the real woman is six and a half heads from crown to heel. The illustration is eight heads high — a woman stretched by more than a foot. And compare their waists!

Over the decades, we appear to have selectively chosen fashion models to match fashion illustrations, putting very thin,  5′ 11″ tall women into very high heels, to resemble these old drawings of imaginary human beings.

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, Corsets, Musings, Vintage patterns

Persuasive Ads for Spencer Corsets, 1930’s

A persuasive ad for Spencer corsets shows a woman wearing the same dress, with and without the corset. Woman's Home Companion, November 1936.

A persuasive ad for Spencer corsets shows a woman wearing the same dress, with and without the corset. Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936. [Of course, photos could be altered with a retouching brush.]

Corset advertisements used to be a mainstay of women’s fashion magazines. Usually they simply showed a picture of the product. However, I found a series of ads for Spencer Corsets that seem especially persuasive, since they show “before and after” photographs of the models, and also show how much the corset could improve the look of a woman’s clothing.

Ads for Spencer custom corsets showed "before," "after," and "under" photos; the Spencer corset (center) under a fashionable dress. Woman's Home Companion, Dec. 1936.

Ads for Spencer custom corsets showed “before,” “after,” and “under” photos; the Spencer corset (center) under a fashionable dress (right). Woman’s Home Companion, Dec. 1936.

The fashions of 1936 and 1937 were designed for very narrow hips.

Left, illustrations of Butterick patterns 6668 and 6605, from February, 1936. Right, holiday party gowns illustrated in Ladies' Home Journal, January 1936.

Left, illustrations of Butterick patterns 6668 and 6605, from February, 1936. Right, holiday party gowns illustrated in Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1936.

This Spencer corset ad emphasized hip control. January, 1936. The sleek model in this ad for Simonize car polish shows why women were worried about their hip size.

This Spencer corset ad emphasized hip control. January, 1936. The sleek model in the ad for Simonize car polish shows why women were worried about their hip size.

Spencer corsets were made to order, so they were presumably more expensive than ready-made foundation garments.

Another custom corset company, called Spirella, also stressed hip control.

Two ads for Spirella corsets, August and July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Two ads for Spirella corsets, August and July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal. “Have the Spirella Corsetiere mold your figure to its ideal lines with the patented Spirella Modeling Garment.” “At no cost to you… in your own home. See your figure idealized before your very eyes.”

Like Spirella, Spencer offered corset fittings in your own house: “Have you ever had a Spencer Corsetiere make a study of your figure? …An intelligent woman, trained in the Spencer designer’s methods of figure analysis will call at your home.”

An ad for Spencer corsets, Woman's Home Companion, September 1937.

Top image from an ad for Spencer corsets, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1937.

Ad for Spencer corset, Woman's Home Companion, September 1936.

Ad for Spencer corset, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Just as Listerine warned against “halitosis” to sell mouthwash, this corset ad used “lordosis” — a word which describes the normal curvature of the spine as well as excessive curvature — to sell corsets.

Figure faults included "bulging hips, bulging abdomen, and lordosis."

“Figure faults” included “bulging hips,” “bulging abdomen,” and “lordosis.”

Top of an ad for Spencer corsets, Woman's Home Companion, September 1936.

Top of an ad for Spencer corsets, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936. “Check your figure fault on the coupon below.”

Women were encouraged to identify their “figure fault.”

Spencer Corsets were "individually designed" to correc such "faults" as a normal. curvy derriere.

Spencer Corsets were “individually designed” to correct such “faults” as a normal. curvy derriere.

Notice that the same ad recruited saleswomen who would be trained to become “Spencer Corsetieres.”

Spencer corset ad, April 1937.

Spencer corset ad, April 1937. Notice her flat backside.

Of course, photos can lie; a subtle change of posture — shoulders back, chest up — is noticeable here; but the flattening power of the Spencer foundation garment is also evident.

Corset laces can be seen at the waist of the stretched-out girdle on the left. Spencer ad, WHC, Sepot. 1936.

Corset laces can be seen at the waist of the stretched-out girdle on the left. Spencer ad, WHC, Sept. 1936.

(A flat rear was also important in the 1920’s. Click here.)

The ill-fitting bra and really unattractive girdle on the left would not enhance any dress. Spencer ad, Jan 1936.

The ill-fitting bra and gaping girdle on the left would not enhance the fit of any dress. Spencer ad, Jan 1936.

"her mirror warned her that her figure was slumping...." Spencer ad, Nov. 1936. WHC.

“Her mirror warned her that her figure was slumping….” Spencer ad, Nov. 1936. WHC.

"But her mirro told a different story when she donned a SPENCER." Corset ad in Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

“But her mirror told a different story when she donned a SPENCER.” Corset ad in Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Pretty persuasive — and the personal fitting was free. A price range was not given; finding out the price from a saleswoman who had already spent time locating your “figure faults” in the privacy of your own home put the buyer in a vulnerable position.  But “Your Spencer corset and bandeau will effectively correct any figure fault, because every section, every line is designed, cut and made to solve your figure problem and yours only…. Prices depend on material selected. A wide range to suit every purse.”

Text opf a Spencer Corset ad, Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

Text of a Spencer Corset ad, Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

If you’re curious about the Corsetiere’s fitting kit, The Vintage Post has pictures of a Spirella one from the 1940’s. Click here.

These custom corsets were intended for women whose figures were imperfect (or who thought they were.) Women who only needed a little support, or a firmer silhouette, could wear the relatively new elastic foundations like this one from  Flexees.

A one-piece foundation from Flexees smoothed the figure without boning or tightly woven traditional corset materials.

Thanks to Lastex, a one-piece step-in foundation from Flexees smoothed the figure without boning, zippers, hooks and eyes, or lacing. Ad from December, 1936.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Chic Undergarments for Ladies, 1917

Butterick patterns for ladies' underwear, Delineator, August 1917.

Butterick patterns for ladies’ underwear, Delineator, August 1917.

In 1925, Delineator fashion writer Evelyn Dodge recommended three ways to look thinner in nineteen twenties’ clothes. Her first suggestion was to wear a corset or lightly boned corselette. (Click here to read about 1920s corselettes.)
Her second recommendation was to stop wearing the bulky underwear of the previous decade.

Evelyn Dodge, writing in Delineator magazine, July 1925.

Evelyn Dodge, writing in Delineator magazine, July 1925.

The styles of the World War I era were not worn close to the body, so underwear did not have to be sleek or tight.

Some typical, military-influenced women's fashions from August 1917. Delineator, p. 50.

Some typical, military-influenced women’s fashions from August 1917. Delineator, p. 50.

The following images show Paris couture underwear from August 1917, followed by Butterick lingerie patterns from the same issue of Delineator magazine.

Underpinnings of Paris included lingerie by designers Premet, Doucet, and Jenny. Delineator, August 1917, p. 60.

“Underpinnings of Paris” included lingerie by designers Doucet, Premet, and Jenny. Delineator, August 1917, p. 60.

Paris lingerie by Premet, August 1917.

Paris lingerie by Premet, August 1917. This bridal set included “Pale pink voile, pale silver-blue ribbons, and pointed net embroidered with bouquets and baskets.”

Couture undergarments by French designers Doucet and Jenny. Aug. 1917.

Couture undergarments by French designers Doucet and Jenny; Aug. 1917. Left, pink voile combination trimmed with lace; right, cream yellow lace on pink satin knickers, outlined with “cocardes” of satin ribbon. The crotch of the combination is very low.

The simple ribbon straps (“braces”) seem to be a new idea on lingerie. (And they were already falling off women’s shoulders, as shown.) The Butterick corset covers shown later in this post, some of which covered the underarm area, were beginning to look old-fashioned [and they were.]

Couture undergarments by Premet, August 1917. Delineator.

Couture undergarments and nightgown by Premet, August 1917. Delineator.

Lingerie from Paris, by designers Doucet and Jenny. August 1917.

Lingerie from Paris, by designer Jenny. August 1917. Left, a petticoat made of sulphur-yellow “gaze” trimmed with lace; right, a box-pleated chemise of flowered muslin.

It’s impossible to imagine these garments under a narrow 1920’s dress.

A petticoat from Paris by Premet. August 1917.

A petticoat from Paris by Premet. August 1917. “The kilted skirt is …held in by a blue ribbon” at the hem. Pretty, but bulky….

A corded slip by Doucet, designed to be worn under the wide-hipped styles of 1917.

A slip by Doucet, designed to be worn under the wide-hipped styles of 1917. The ribbon-bound ruffles would keep a woman’s skirt far from her body. “Shoulder ribbons for both day and evening wear.”

Nightgowns, negligees, peignoirs, etc., were also shown:

Paris designer Doucet created this pleated nightgown and a peignoir with a classical Greek inspiration. August 1917. Delineator.

Paris designer Doucet created this pleated nightgown and a peignoir with a classical Greek inspiration. August 1917. Delineator.

To modern eyes, the models’ nightcaps (boudoir caps) are not very sexy. More about boudoir caps later….

The August issue of Delineator also showed a selection of Butterick lingerie patterns. The combination on the left has tiny underarm sleeves to protect clothing from perspiration.

Butterick combination 9347 and Butterick chemise 9353. Delineator, Aug. 1917, p. 49.

Butterick combination 9347 and Butterick chemise 9353. Delineator, Aug. 1917, p. 49.

Although called a chemise, Number 9353 has a very low crotch, probably closed with buttons between the knees. Number 9347 has an open crotch, like Victorian drawers. The top of No. 9347 is described as a “corset cover.”

9347-9353

Butterick nightgown pattern 9345 and combination 9343. August 1917.

Butterick nightgown pattern 9345 and combination 9343. August 1917. No. 9343 has a corset cover on top of open drawers.

9345-nightgown-and-9343-combination-500-1917-aug-butterick-p-49

The fact that not all women adopted new fashions immediately is shown by the inclusion of “corset covers;” the corset of 1917 did not cover the bust area, although it was often worn with a “brassiere.”

Bon ton corset ad, Delineator, May 1917. P. 71.

Bon Ton corset ad, Delineator, May 1917, p. 71.

BUtterick corset cover pattern #8478, drawers #9341, and princess slip #8973. Delineator, Aug. 1917.

Butterick corset cover pattern #8478, open drawers #9341, and princess slip #8973. Delineator, Aug. 1917.

corset-cover-8478-drawers-9341-princess-slip-8973-1917-aug-butterick-p-49

About those boudoir caps….

boudoir-caps-1917-delineator

They could be quite elaborate; probably the most lavishly decorated and well-preserved ones were from bridal trousseaux.

This vintage boudoir cap was embroidered with silver thread, which has tarnished to dark gray.

This vintage boudoir cap was embroidered with silver thread, which has tarnished to dark gray. Pomegranates are associated with fertility.

BUtterick boudoir cap pattern 9253, Delineator, August 1917, p. 52.

Butterick boudoir cap pattern 9253, Delineator, August 1917, p. 52. The “Castle cap” is a reference to dancer Irene Castle, a fashion trend-setter in the nineteen tens and twenties.

Vintage boudoir cap, 20th century.

Vintage boudoir cap, 20th century.

This vintage silk boudoir cap is trimmed with "wings" of crochet.

This vintage silk boudoir cap is trimmed with “wings” of orange crochet lace.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Hats, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Uncategorized, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Wedding Clothes, World War I

Becoming Dresses and Maternity Gowns, 1930

"Smart Patterns and Becoming Maternity Gowns," Good Housekeeping, February 1930, p. 74.

“Smart Patterns and Becoming Maternity Gowns,” from Good Housekeeping, February 1930, p. 74.

You’d expect fashion coverage from 1930 to be interesting, as women were trying to adjust to natural waistlines and descending hemlines. Caroline Gray, writing in Good Housekeeping, combined her suggestions for the mature figure with suggestions for maternity fashions. (Can you guess which are which?)

“The new silhouette is definitely here! Waists are higher and skirts are longer, and whether we like it or not, if we wish to look smart we must try to adapt it to ourselves and make it becoming…. Find the exact place where a higher belt is most becoming to you and put it there, regardless of whether it is quite as high as the dresses you see…. Nothing will look truly smart on you unless it suits your figure…. When you are determining the length of your skirt, experiment until you find the exact spot where it will add the most to your height and slenderness, for that is what we all want to achieve this season.”

Good Housekeeping pattern F-7 was recommended in February 1930. Sizes up to 42.

Good Housekeeping pattern F-7 was recommended in February 1930. Sizes 34 to 42. Not a maternity fashion.

“A small bolero is always becoming and makes the higher waistline more bearable.” The band at the hips echoes the familiar line of the twenties, but it follows the line of the bolero instead of  running horizontally.

Pattern F-6 is also suggested as a transitional style for “mature” women:

Good Housekeeping pattern F-6 from February 1930, p. 74. The natural waist is there, but not accented.

Good Housekeeping pattern F-6 from February 1930, p. 74. The natural waist is fitted, but not accented. For sizes 36 to 42. The tunic gives both a short and a longer hemline.

Of course, looking tall and thin is a challenge for most women even when they are not pregnant. Many writers in the 1920’s assumed that a woman’s goal was to conceal her pregnancy as long as possible.

“Maternity clothes have two objects: One is to make your condition unnoticeable, the other is to give you every physical advantage possible…. At this time you do not want to be conspicuous in any way.” — From The New Dressmaker, a Butterick book, c1921, p, 72.

To this end, Vogue suggested, in June of 1930, that pregnant women simply buy chic dresses in a larger-than-usual size, and have the neck and shoulders altered to fit.

“At first, concealment is easily effected by any woman with an eye for dress, but, after the figure is obviously changed, it is still possible to achieve, sometimes to the very end, the effect of a normal figure…. One should try to create the illusion of the naturally heavy figure, rather than be conspicuous for a disproportionate one.” — (Vogue, June 1930, pp 83, continued on p 102.) [This is 1930’s “pregnancy shaming:” it was better to be thought “heavy” than pregnant.]

Vogue suggested these fashionable gowns, among others, for the expectant mother in 1930:

Suggested maternity fashions, Vogue, June 1930. The one on the right is a Vionnet tea-gown.

Suggested maternity fashions, Vogue, June 1930. The one on the left was from Bonwit-Teller; the one on the right is a Vionnet tea-gown available from Jay Thorpe.

I’ll devote a later post to Vogue‘s other “just buy a bigger size” 1930 maternity suggestions.

Here are the maternity styles suggested by Good Housekeeping in 1930:

Maternity gown suggestions, Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1930, p. 74.

Maternity gown suggestions, Good Housekeeping, Feb. 1930, p. 74.

The article did not offer a pattern, or say that this suit and rather formal surplice dress could be purchased ready-made.

gh-text-two-maternity-dresses-1930-feb-p-200-end-of-article-proquestdocuments-2016-09-14

It’s hard to imagine how these dresses could be expanded enough, although the assumption was often made that you would constantly open seams, as your shape changed,  and remake the dress as needed from wide seam allowances.

“It is much better to choose current styles that can be adapted to maternity wear and use them in preference to the special maternity clothes…. The slight alterations [!] that you make for maternity use can be changed back to normal lines after the baby is born.” (The New Dressmaker, circa 1921. Page 72.)

There Were Clothes Specifically for Pregnancy

Dressmaker Lena Bryant had found a market niche back in 1905, when her private clients began asking for maternity fashions (She used elastic in the waistbands, among other  devices for making them expandable.)

Lane Bryant ad for maternity corset, Ladies Home Journal, December 1917, p. 112.

Lane Bryant ad for maternity corset, Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917, p. 112.

“By 1904, [Lena] Bryant was successful enough to open her own shop on Fifth Avenue at 120th Street. In the process of obtaining a loan from Oriental Bank, her first name was misspelled, giving birth to “Lane Bryant.”

“Bryant soon turned to producing dresses as well as undergarments for pregnant women, who had a difficult time finding stylish clothes that fit well. Bryant designed a maternity tea dress, called “Number 5” after its place on the order form. According to Figure, no newspaper would run advertisements for her maternity dresses–it was against the mores of the day for “ladies in waiting” to appear in public. When Bryant finally managed to have a small ad run in the New York Herald, she sold out of maternity dresses the day it appeared.” — from Funding Universe  (My McAfee security says it blocked ads from this site.)

Ad for the Lane Bryant maternity catalog, Delineator, March 1917. p. 43.

Ad for the Lane Bryant maternity catalog, Delineator, March 1917. p. 43. “Portraying the prevailing New York fashions, but so adapted as to successfully conceal condition….Fit when figure is again normal.”

The Lane Bryant mail-order catalog passed $1 million in sales in 1917. (Oddly, that was an era that favored thick waists, very full skirts, and smock-type overblouses — one of the rare times when mainstream fashion was perfectly suited to accommodate pregnancy.) Lane Bryant promised that their dresses would “automatically adjust” to fit after the baby was born — making them a good investment.

Chanel styles 1916 from Fashion through Fashion Plates by Doris Langley Moore.

Chanel styles, 1916, from Fashion Through Fashion Plates by Doris Langley Moore.

Teen-aged girls, circa 1918. Waists were thick and skirts were full.

Teen-aged girls in California, circa 1918. Waists were thick (and high) and skirts were full.

However, of the many decades when fashion was cruel to the chic pregnant woman, the early nineteen-thirties may hold the crown. These are maternity dresses. (Seriously.) The mores of the publishing industry meant that they could not be illustrated on a visibly pregnant body.

Woman's Home Companion, August 1936

The illustration shows three versions of Companion-Butterick maternity dress pattern 6948, from Woman’s Home Companion, August, 1936.  To read more about it, see Who Would Ever Guess?

A long, slender ideal silhouette plus soft, clinging fabrics, narrow hips, flat tummies, and (often) a decorative belt at the natural waist — combined with the idea that pregnancy was shameful and had to be concealed — must have made pregnant women feel frustrated in the thirties. Talk about an impossible ideal!

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Maternity clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes