Category Archives: Hosiery

Hosiery Ads with a Bit of Wit

My favorite series of ads for stockings came from the McCullum Company in 1927.

A wonderfully stylized illustration of short skirts and stockings under the bridge table. Ad for McCallum silk stockings, Delineator, March 1927. (Shades of John Held, Jr….)

Illustration for McCullum silk stockings for everyday wear, Delineator, April 1927.

Text of McCullum Hosiery ad, April 1927.

Extra-long silk stockings to wear with a bathing suit, August 1927. Ad for McCullum’s hosiery, Delineator magazine. Note her bathing shoes and the seams up the back of the stockings.

About stockings with bathing suits:

Text of McCullum ad for hosiery to wear while swimming. August 1927.

“In the water, or just out, silk hose have the smooth gloss of a wet seal.” Stockings were usually worn with bathing suits in the nineteen teens and early twenties.

This 1917 ad for Luxite soap shows long stockings worn with a bathing suit.

A bathing suit illustration from 1924 shows both swimmers wearing rolled stockings. Delineator, July 1917, p. 34.

However, in this photo from the late twenties, you can clearly see the marks left by my mother’s rolled stockings.

Late 1920’s swim suit; you can see the marks left on her legs by rolled stockings, which she had removed.

She took them off when she put on her bathing suit. That McCullum “opera length” ad from 1927 seems to be trying to revive a disappearing custom.

Back to more wonderful McCallum illustrations:

Playing footsie? A couple dressed for a big date plays footsie in this McCallum hosiery ad. Notice how tense the man is, balancing a corsage box on his knees, and how relaxed the woman is as she stretches out her long legs to brush his ankle. December 1927.

Each ad had a border to match — waves for swimming, music for dancing….

“Sheer audacit” describes the short-skirted woman blowing smoke rings in this ad for McCallum hosiery, Dec. 1927. “The beauty of silken sheerness on slender, shapely legs . . is it this that gives the owner such assurance, such audacity . . is it this that fills even the timid man with admiration . .”

I do not know the illustrator — only that these eye-catching drawings are signed H on their left side and M on the right side.

The Onyx Hosiery company also used humor to sell stockings, but the illustrations in this series which referred to classical statues lacked the Art Deco dash of the McCallum ads.

The stature of the goddess Diana is implied to have thick ankles in this ad for Onyx Hosiery.  Onyx ad, November 1926, Delineator.

Onyx Pointex stockings had a pointed heel which, their ads claimed, made ankles look slender.

Venus had thick ankles compared to women who wore Onyx stockings. Onyx ad, March 1927. That dark triangle at the heel was advertised as slenderizing.

Onyx stockings, with their pointed heel, were supposed to make wearers’ ankles look thinner. (The darker heel area showed above the shoe.) Onyx ad, December 1926.

Other stocking ads illustrated the product itself — with elegance, but not many laughs.

The heels of Gordon stockings came in many shapes; left, a V-shape; right, a rectangle. Gordon Hosiery ad, Dec. 1928. Delineator.

As skirts got shorter, stockings got sheerer and more elaborate.

Ad for Gordon Hosiery to wear to the racetrack, September 1928. Delineator. The stockings at left have clocks (a vertical design,) which remained a feature of dressy men’s hose for decades.

Gordon Hosiery ad, May, 1928. Delineator. A different clock pattern.

Gordon hosiery with V-shaped or rectangular heels. Gordon ad, Delineator, October 1928. In the background, a stylized airplane takes off.

Anther stocking company just used celebrity endorsements. The extraordinary dress in this ad is worn by Mary Astor, best known nowadays for her role in The Maltese Falcon. In the 1920’s, she made five or six films a year.

Actress Mary Astor in an ad for Allen-A hosiery. April 1928, Delineator.

For me, none of those ads has the 1920’s zest of this one:

A wonderfully stylized illustration of short skirts and stockings under the bridge table. Ad for McCallum silk stockings, Delineator, March 1927.

“A length of flawless silk stockings to above the knee . . meets the brevity in skirts.” McCallum hosiery ad, March 1927.

“Full-fashioned” means the stockings were shaped like a leg, instead of like a tube. Full-fashioned stockings cost more, but before stretch knit fabrics, stockings that were not full-fashioned tended to wrinkle at the ankles. Like McCallum stockings, the other silk stockings in these ads cost two dollars a pair, more or less, a luxury item for the twenties’  working woman.

Prices from an ad for Onyx Pointex stockings, Dec. 1926.

Cotton lisle was longer wearing than silk, so it was often used at toes and heels and the band where the garter attached to the stocking. Less practical and more fragile, all-silk stockings cost more.

Prices from ad for Allen-A hosiery, April 1928.



Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.



Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Twenties’ Fashions for Larger Women, September 1928

One of these dresses was available in size 52. Butterick patterns in Delineator, September 1928, p. 36.

The fashion editors at Delineator magazine often grouped patterns for larger or more “mature” women together in a one-page article, but in the September 1928 issue, large-sized dresses were shown beside patterns for college girls and women of standard sizes. I’ve long been surprised than in the mid-twenties, when the “Boyish” figure was extolled, the standard Butterick pattern sizes — based on bust measurement — were 33 to 44 inches. But some patterns were issued up to “bust measure 52 inches.”

Left, pattern 2226 for college and career girls; right, pattern 2211, for women with bust sizes up to 52 inches. From 1928.

Details of Butterick 2226, for 15 to 20 years and bust 32 to 40;  and Butterick 2211,  an “all day frock” for sizes 34 to 52. Delineator, Sept. 1928, pg. 35. Are those herringbone stripes in this wool dress?

Top of page 35, which featured wool frocks and coats in sizes from 15 years (bust 32″) to size 52.

Butterick frock 2233 and coat 2230. The coat was sized from bust 32″ to 48″. Delineator, Sept. 1928, p. 35. Note the coat’s triangular pockets, which “merge” into a belt. And what was going on with that dress front? Over? Under?

Butterick 2209 and 2217. To me, the dress on the right, with its little “lingerie finish” ruffles and conservatively feminine qualities, looks like something aimed at mature women, but it is only offered in smaller sizes: age 15 to 20 years and 38, 40 [bust].

The unusual front tabs and sleeves on Butterick 2209 are worth a closer look:

Detail of Butterick 2209 and 2217, Sept. 1928. No. 2209 (left) was available for bust sizes 32 to 44.

“Sport Clothes” to wear to the “big games.” Delineator, Sept. 1928, top of pg. 34.

The second dress from the left looks rather fancy for watching football; the dress on the top left was suggested for larger-than-average women.

Butterick 2231 and 2221, from 1928. No. 2231 was available up to bust size 52 inches.

A vestee is a kind of dickey — a partial blouse.

Some of these dresses have skirts that are plain in the back, with all the fullness, pleats, etc., in the front. This was common in early twenties’ dresses, and still seen here, on some dresses, in 1928. (Patterns 2226 and 2211 show pleats in back, too.)

The back views of Nos. 2226 and 2211 show pleats in the skirt back, too.

Nos. 2193 and 2180 (plaid) have plain skirts in back, with pleats only in the front.

Butterick wool sports frock 2193 and coat pattern 2151. September 1928. Only the front of 2193 is pleated. Both dress and coat are in the average pattern size range. For a dressier version of the same coat, click here. 

This jaunty plaid coat and dress were not limited to slender women:

Butterick two-piece dress 2180 coordinated with coat 2222. September 1928. This “youthful and becoming dress was for bust 32 to [a bigger than average] 46. The coat pattern came in a standard range of sizes, 32 to 44 (with a 47.5″ hip.) I love the diamond shaped “belt encrustation.”

As for evening gowns, the pattern on the left was available up to size 52.

Butterick evening dresses from 1928. Left, no. 2131, with a long side drape, for sizes from 34 to 52; right, Butterick 2125 in sizes from 32 to 44 bust.

Here are some advertisements from the same issue of the magazine. For “the larger woman,” hosiery manufacturers offered slenderizing styles like this one:

From an ad for Allen-A hosiery, Delineator, Sept. 1928. “Note the slenderizing effect this new, longer point Allen-A Heel gives to the ankle.”

Shoe advertisements show that even brands which promised comfort to mature women offered some very high, narrow heels.

Top of Dorothy Dodd shoe ad, Delineator, Sept. 1928.  “Dorothy Dodd shoes are designed to make the foot look youthful.”

Ad for Dorothy Dodd shoes (this image is slightly skewed at the bottom.) Delineator, Sept. 1928.

Queen Quality shoe ad, Delineator, September 1928. The “Sherwood” and “Tiffany” models look like somewhat practical walking shoes, but the “Trickie” (lower left) seems aptly named.

“And Queen Quality keeps the cost of all four pairs less than the cost of a single frock.” They total $37.00 — not an inexpensive frock! (They are not cheap shoes.)

This jersey dress could be ordered for $8:

Ad for a Hubrite wool jersey dress, Delineator, September 1928, p. 101.

Hubrite dress in sizes 16-20 — 36-46. Ad in Delineator, Sept. 1928.


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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Ski Clothes for Women, January 1927

Eighty years ago, Delineator magazine showed the latest styles seen at Lake Placid, NY, and offered Butterick patterns for skiers and skaters. (Lake Placid hosted the winter Olympics in 1932.)

Skiers at Lake Placid, January 1927. Leslie Saalburg illustration for Delineator, p. 15.

Skiers at Lake Placid, January 1927. Leslie Saalburg illustration for Delineator, p. 15.

The woman at left wears a beret, long trousers, and a heavy jacket with big pockets:

Woman skier in heavy jacket, January 1927, Delineator.

Woman skier in belted jacket, January 1927, Delineator.

In spite of twenties fashions, the belt must have “ridden up” to her natural waistline with movement.

Behind her, a woman wears a matching checked top and knickers:

Detail, Ski Resort, January 1927. Delneator, p. 15.

Detail, Ski Resort, January 1927. Delineator, p. 15. I’m curious; was that outfit true-to-life or artistic license?

A few pages later, Butterick patterns for winter sports were featured.

Costumes for Winter Sports: Butterick patterns for skiing and skating, January 1927.

Costumes for Winter Sports: Butterick patterns for skiing and skating, January 1927.

“7062 — 4147 — Back of the north wind is the windbreaker with knitted or fabric collar and cuffs and a hip band that buttons snugly. For skis with their horrid trick of doing a treacherous double cross reinforced knickers fitted at the knee are worn with wool hose and socks.” The knickers button tightly at the knee and were available up to waist size 38 inches. It looks like she is wearing two pairs of socks, one rolled at the ankle.

Butterick ski jacket pattern 7062 with heavy wool knickers, pattern 4147. Delineator, Jan. 1927, p. 22.

Butterick windbreaker ski jacket pattern 7062 with heavy wool knickers, pattern 4147. Delineator, Jan. 1927, p. 22.

Butterick windbreaker pattern 6991 and pleated skirt 1175 from Delineator, January 1927, p. 22.

Butterick windbreaker pattern 6991 and pleated skirt 1175 from Delineator, January 1927, p. 22.

Duvetyn was a brushed fabric, usually wool; suede was also suggested for the jacket. The skirt, with its top-stitched pleats, would have been too tight for some skaters’ moves, but “contrives to be both slim and roomy.” This being the twenties, when some skirts hung from the shoulders on an underbodice,  the skirt was sold by hip size. Does “waistcoat style” mean the belt was adjustable, like the back of a vest? Her striped stockings are probably wool. Textured and patterned stockings were popular for casual winter wear.

Textured stockings in an editorial article about rainwear. Delineator, April 1929, p. 85.

Textured stockings in an editorial article about rainwear. Delineator, April 1929, p. 85.

For more illustrations of colorful stockings in the 1920’s, click here.

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Filed under 1920s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Up Like Little Soldiers: Wilson Garter for Children, 1917

Ad for Wilson Garter, Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Ad for Wilson Garter, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

I want to share this advertisement for a couple of reasons. First, there may be a collector of vintage underthings who has one of these contraptions and will appreciate the identification.

The Wilson Garter for children and pregnant women. It supports the stockings from the shoulders instead of from the waist. LHJ ad, Sept. 1917.

The Wilson Garter for children and pregnant women. It supports the stockings from the shoulders instead of from the waist. LHJ ad, Sept. 1917.

Second, it is just one more example of the way America’s entrance into World War I, in April of 1917, permeated American popular culture.

Wilson Cord and Slide Garters

“Up Like Little Soldiers — That’s how the Cord & Slide Wilson Garter allows children to grow — trim, graceful — all ginger. No more little rounded, stooping shoulders, and no more torn hose tops.

“For Boys and Girls, 1 to 16 years. Shoulder style like picture, slips on over head, white or black, 25 cents. Give Age.

“For Women, same style. Fine for home, athletic or Maternity wear, 50 cents. Bust sizes.”

Digression:  I feel I should explain a bit;  we live in an era when many people have never worn stockings. (Pantyhose are more popular, if less erotic, than individual thigh-high stockings worn with garter belts.)

When I wore my first garter belt in eighth grade, I was puzzled by ads — like this page from a 1958 Sears catalog — that showed the garters [suspenders] being worn over full petticoats — which would have flattened the petticoat absurdly. I had no mother to ask about this; finally an older girl explained that you actually wore the petticoat on top of the garter belt, but advertisers couldn’t show a garter belt attached to stocking tops over a bare thigh in family magazines.

Garter belts from Sears catalog, Fall 1958.

Garter belts from Sears catalog, Fall 1958. My first garter belt looked like K (bottom center), not P (the black one.) Back then, normal 12 year old girls did not wear black lace undies. However, if you wore stockings when dressed up, you needed a garter belt.

“Pull Up Your Socks!”

It’s hard to conceive of a time when active little children wore stockings instead of socks.

Fashions for boys, Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Fashions for boys, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Nevertheless, these little boys are wearing boots with spat-like contrast uppers (or possibly spats! see far right), over stockings probably made of cotton lisle, although wool was a possibility.

Ad for Buster Brown Shoes for Boys or Girls, Delineator, October 1917.

Ad for Buster Brown Shoes “For Boys — for Girls,” Delineator, Oct. 1917.

A poor boy receives a basket of food from a boy who is better off. Both wear stockings. Robert A. Graef illustration, Delineator, Nov. 1924.

A poor boy receives a basket of food from a boy who is better off. Both wear long stockings. Robert A. Graef illustration, Delineator, Nov. 1924.

Because putting on his first pair of “long pants” was once a rite of passage for an adolescent boy, pre-adolescent boys wore knickers or short pants; these left their lower legs exposed all year round — so they sometimes wore long stockings.

Since neither little boys nor little girls have a waist significantly smaller than their hips, keeping trousers, shorts, and stockings from falling down was a problem.

Pictorial Review pattern 3386, for boys shorts that button on to the shirt.

Pictorial Review pattern 3386, for boys’ shorts that button on to the shirt. Note the sagging sock.

A solution popular in the 1920’s was to button the pants to the shirt, or to a sleeveless underbodice, in front and in back. This made it very difficult for small boys to go to the bathroom without help. (To read “Zippers Are Good for Your Children,” click here. )

Boys didn’t always wear stockings; some wore sensible socks, sometimes rolled over elastic garters, and little boys and girls kept warm by wearing stockings under leggings in the winter. [Like much fashion vocabulary which changes over time,  “leggings” now describes a completely different garment, i.e.,  women’s knit tights that stop at the ankle.]  Formerly, stiff (lined) wool or corduroy leggings were buttoned from below the anklebone to above the knee (you needed to use a buttonhook) and must have been a nightmare to put on squirming children.

Clothes for boys, Delineator, Nov. 1917. The smallest boys wear buttoned leggings.

Clothes for boys, Delineator, Nov. 1917. The smallest boys wear buttoned leggings. Butterick patterns.

Grown men wore long trousers which covered their garters:

Boston Garter ad for man's stocking garter; Delineator, Jan. 1917.

Boston Garter ad for man’s stocking suspender with “Velvet Grip;” Delineator, Jan. 1917.

Grown women suspended their stockings from their corsets:

La Camille Corset advertisement, April, 1917.

La Camille International Corset advertisement, Delineator, April, 1917. Look at those lovely clocked/embroidered stockings! For modesty’s sake, the model is drawn wearing frilly bloomers, which would have made it difficult to attach the suspender to the stocking! Here it is left dangling.

Corsets and stocking suspenders were also worn by some unlucky little girls:

Ad for girls' corsets; April 1917.

Ad for girls’ corsets; April 1917. Ferris Good Sense “Waist” for Girls and Misses.

The younger girl’s figure is still unformed, so her corset has shoulder straps to prevent the tension on her stockings from pulling it down. If it only attached to her stocking tops in front, this might produce the “stooped” look mentioned in the Wilson Garter ad.

Like Little Soldiers

Boy's patterns, Delineator, July 1917. Two of these children have sagging socks.

Children’s patterns, Butterick’s Delineator, July 1917. The long stockings of the boy on the left are falling down. Note the military insignias on their tunics.

There was a time when a parent, seeking to divert children from mischief, would simply yell, “Pull up your socks!”

However, the pugnacity of these two boys was part of a general trend to illustrate children as little warriors during World War  I.

Boy's pattern illustration, Delineator, Sept. 1917.

Boy’s Butterick pattern illustration, Delineator, Sept. 1917.  A few months earlier, boys were shown flying a kite, not leading a charge “over the top.”

Butterick pattern for a girl's military uniform, Sept. 1917. Delineator.

Butterick pattern for a girl’s military style “Service” uniform, Sept. 1917. Delineator.

Butterick pattern for boy's military uniform, Delineator, Sept. 1917.

Butterick pattern for boy’s military style outfit, complete with putteesDelineator, Sept. 1917.

Which brings us back to the Wilson Garter, which “allows children to grow . . . up like little soldiers.” By Jingo.

Ad for Wilson Garter, Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Ad for Wilson Garter  for children, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Corsets, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, World War I, Zippers