Category Archives: Musings

Costume Communicates

College students, Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936.

Many years ago, I finally had time to take a life drawing class. During a break, the woman next to me introduced herself. She was a psychologist. When I told her I was a costume designer, she shared this story — one that taught her the importance of dress, and how much it communicates.

When she was completing her post-graduate degree, starting to look for jobs, she was also asked to do group counseling with high school students who were having behavior problems.

As it happened, on the day of her first group session with the students she also had a very important job interview. She dressed in her best (and only) suit, with high heels she would never have worn on campus for a usual day; she got up early to do makeup and style her hair (instead of pulling it back into her usual “no-time-to-do-my hair” ponytail,) and she carried a briefcase instead of her backpack. She wanted to look as grown-up and professional as possible for the job interview.

Two dressy suits made from Butterick 7928, October 1956, Butterick Fashion News.

She went straight from the interview to her first session with the high school students. It went really well. She felt that they were glad to participate and have a chance to get help with their problems.

A week later, she went straight from attending her own university classes to the high school. That session did not go so well. The students didn’t volunteer or participate as they had. They became quiet, sullen, obviously bored. Every week, every session felt worse. The students who had been so eager were almost hostile now. The young psychologist stayed up nights trying to figure out how to get the group sessions back to that promising first day.

Finally she realized she had to deal with the problem openly; she asked, “What changed?” One girl was willing to answer:

“That first day you came, you seemed to really be interested in us; you listened to us, and we thought maybe you could help make things better. You were all dressed up, and we thought ‘Somebody important cares about us!‘ But then you saw that we was just poor kids, and the next time you came here looking just any-old-way because we didn’t matter.”

“Oh, dear god,” thought the young psychologist. It hadn’t occurred to her that dressing as what she really was — a graduate student in college — would send that signal to them. She realized that being dressed formally had given her extra authority, and built confidence that she was really a doctor. But she hadn’t considered the reverse. She had never thought to carefully explain her real status:  she was a student, like them; poor, like them.  And being honest months later — “I really needed that job, so I tried to look professional and grown-up for the interview” — didn’t help, because it still meant she hadn’t thought it was equally important to dress professionally for them — clients who didn’t pay.

It’s a sad story that has stuck with me all these years. The shaman’s feathers and paint, the doctor’s white coat, the banker’s suit: clothes establish our identity. Whatever we wear tells other people something about who we are, what they can expect from us, and how we expect to be treated. Like it or not, costume communicates.

Doctor, nurse, and baby in an ad from 1937. Delineator.

We know at a glance that this is not a family; and we know these people are trying to help the baby — because we can “read” their clothes, without any conscious thought about what is going on here. We read each other all the time.

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Filed under 1930s, 1950s-1960s, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Uncategorized

Random Images, Random Thoughts….

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

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

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

Butterick bolero 6747, Delineator, March 1914.

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

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

No. 6862 could even be adapted for evening.

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

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

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

I Am Tired of Seeing Icy Landscape Photos

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

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

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

Blue Landscapes Make Me Blue

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

Bobby Hargen in his cowboy outfit, circa 1920s.

Hitting the Target:

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

Delineator cover, April 1914, detail.

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

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic….

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

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

Delineator Cover, detail, March 1920.

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

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

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

The Interior Belt in Vintage Styles

Janet Arnold’s illustration of the interior of a woman’s dress, circa 1896. From Patterns of Fashion 2. Notice the belt, attached only at the center back seam.

If you are trying to reproduce a vintage garment, you need all the information you can get. Information about how a vintage dress looks on the inside is invaluable, and I don’t know of any source better than the series of Patterns of Fashion books by the late Janet Arnold

… even when you have primary source information, like this photograph.

Fashion Photograph from 1896. Met Museum. We can see from the photo that the skirt at left is probably flat-lined — those tell-tale wrinkles would have been omitted in a drawing.

It’s better than a drawing, but the answer to “how did they do that?” requires inside information.

Cream brocade gown from the House of Worth, 1896. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Museums and books sometimes provide close up photos showing details of construction …

Detail of Worth gown from 1896, showing several rows of cartridge pleating on the sleeve and lace-shaped beading on the brocade bodice. Met Museum.

But to reproduce a vintage garment and have it “behave” properly, we need to know where the seams (and the bones) are, how the garment was lined, where the hidden closures were located, what made those sleeves stand up like that***, etc. Also, sometimes we discover a “trick” that made the garment easier to put on, or made it fit better. For costume purposes, we don’t need to follow the original slavishly (sometimes all those difficult hidden closures are not practical for a costume,) but we can make informed decisions.

One device that I have seen on vintage garments — and used on costumes — is the interior waistband or belt. This turn-of-the-century vintage bodice had one.

Elaborate lace and ribbon trimmed this ToC bodice (with a strangely skimpy skirt.)

Inside, a belt (never meant to be seen) was attached to the seams at center back. It closed at center front, and would be the first thing the wearer fastened when getting dressed.

Interior belt or waistband on a Turn of Century [ToC] bodice.

As Janet Arnold sketched the insides and outsides of museum garments, she drew many bodices that used an interior belt.

Interior waistband or belt, drawn by Janet Arnold.

Notice that the belt is only secured to the center back seams, with characteristic X stitches. It closes with hooks and bars at center front. It anchors the bodice to the wearer’s waist, so the bodice cannot ride up. It also holds the bodice in place while the many concealed hooks, eyes, and tapes are fastened. It takes some of the strain at the tightest spot, so the wearer doesn’t have to exert much pull on the more delicate fabrics to fasten them.

The interior belt works well on corsets.

I have seen and used these belts on the inside of corsets — what a great difference they make!

When you lace your own corset after fastening the front busk, you can’t be sure of getting it the same size every time. (Corsets rarely meet in the back.) Delineator,  April 1914.

First, the interior belt closing gives a constant size for the corset. You can’t accidentally lace it looser by mistake. If your dresses have been made to fit perfectly over your corset, but the corset lacing never actually meets at the waist, there’s always a chance that you will tighten your laces, put on your dress, and find that the dress doesn’t fit properly, because you pulled the laces too tight — or allowed yourself a bit more room than you did at the dress fitting.

Janet Arnold’s illustration of the interior of a woman’s dress, circa 1896. From Patterns of Fashion Vol 2. [***Fun fact: Arnold discovered that those huge leg-o-mutton sleeves were stuffed with paper!]

Secondly, when there is a waist belt inside your corset, the belt contracts your waist to the right size for fastening the front busk. The belt takes the strain (and keeps your corset from falling to the floor), giving you two hands free to hook the busk at the waist. Once the corset is fastened there, hooking it the rest of the way up and down is relatively easy. You may not need to deal with the laces at all.

The interior belt is can be made of a non-stretchable ribbon, like grosgrain.

The belt is also a great help in supporting the weight of the skirt; in many period dresses most of the skirt fullness is at the back, so the skirt of the dress can be quite heavy, and hard to wrestle with when its weight pulls the bodice crooked as you try to deal with dozens of fastenings.

Interior of dress from 1913-14 drawn by Janet Arnold. The skirt is sewn to the bodice only at one side. A row of hooks and bars connects the skirt to the bodice on the other side. (You can see two bars below “CF.” Arnold drew every hook.)

This circa 1913 dress (which combines lace, fur, chiffon and other materials) has an elaborate arrangement of closures, all of which would be hidden when the dress is worn. Notice that the skirt is only sewn to the bodice on its right side. The interior belt holds the bodice in the correct place and helps to support the weight of the skirt, while the left side of the skirt is slowly attached, hook by hook, to the left side of the bodice! [I think this one needed the help of a maid to deal with the skirt back and that big bow.]

Detail of Arnold’s drawing of the dress from 1913-14; no closures are visible, as the built-in sash hides the places where the skirt is only hooked to the bodice. The skirt is fur-trimmed.

The use of an interior belt is not restricted to the Victorian era. It remains part of the interior structure on couture when needed. It might be used, for example, to prevent tight jackets’ buttons straining against buttonholes at the waist, or to prevent too much strain on a zipper.

I can’t swear this famous Christian Dior New Look suit’s interior structure uses a belt, specifically, but something is preventing “pull” on the buttons. Click here for a great essay on “New Look” construction techniques.

You can see an interior belt — sewn in, not hanging free — on the waist of this gray dress from Dior’s fall-winter collection of 1955:

This Dior dress from 1955 is lying open on a table, positioned so you can see one end of the interior waistband; it matches the gray of the dress, which is flat-lined with gray organza.

At the place where the dress fits most tightly, the strain is taken by the belt rather than the zipper, which is visible to the right of the belt.

Christian Dior label, “Automne-Hiver 1955.” Charcoal gray dress with matching bolero jacket. Photographed from a private collection. The owner mentioned that this dress was made during Dior’s lifetime.

Digression: [I can’t not show you other pictures of this ensemble, even though I’m straying from my “interior belt” topic!]

You can see the unusual seam lines and darts on the jacket, which also has an interesting vertical buttonhole treatment.

Bolero jacket from Christian Dior, 1955. The matching dress has a full skirt pleated at the waist.

With the bolero jacket unbuttoned, the use of a separate panel to create “buttonholes” can be seen.

No, this buttonhole construction is not as care-free as it may look:

Inside view of Dior buttonhole in the bolero from 1955. The seams on the front of the jacket are not the same as those on the inside, and the buttonhole is reinforced like this.

Here, the interesting seams of the cap sleeve are visible. The back of the dress, with zipper, is visible at right.

Back to the topic of researching the insides of clothes you need to re-create, and the interior belt….

Arnold studied this dress from 1915-16 inside and out. If you were planning to copy it, you might think the outside tells the whole story — bodice and skirt both gathered at the waist.

A circa 1915 dress in a museum collection, drawn and its construction analyzed by Janet Arnold. Note the way a series of tiny tucks curves the sleeve forward.

Text describing the dress mentions that is would have been worn over a corset like this one.

The interior, drawn by Janet Arnold, shows that the scalloped dress in not as simple as it looks.

It has an under bodice, a hidden closure in front, a skirt that is partially attached to the bodice and partially hung from hooks and bars, and an interior belt that is boned and tightly fitted.

Arnold gives you a scale drawing of every part of the dress. This is what the under bodice of net looks like:

Like many vintage dresses which are bloused, this one has an under bodice. See French Linings. The bodice itself has kimono sleeves without armhole seams.

Arnold’s scale drawing of the interior belt on the scalloped dress. “The Petersham is shrunk in at the top to 26 1/2 inches, the bottom edge measures 27 1/2 “

Petersham ribbon looks much like grosgrain, but grosgrain cannot be stretched with steam and pressure. Petersham is often used in hat bands because it can be shaped into a slight curve with a steam iron.

I cannot praise Arnold’s Pattern of Fashion books too highly. Even if you choose not to duplicate her scaled patterns exactly, you will gain insight into period (and couture) construction that is invaluable.

I used to watch 1950s’ movies and wonder how a slender belt with no practical buckle could dig into an actress’s waist to compress it even more than her “merry widow” corset. Here is Elizabeth Taylor in a dress that really squeezes her waist. Janet Leigh’s wedding dress has a belt that might squeeze her that hard — although eventually the hole in the belt would start to tear…. Unless there was an even tighter belt inside those dresses….  “Ya think?”

 

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1940s-1950s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Dresses, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

From Cold Cream to Colds — Ads for Kleenex and Pond’s Tissues

Cold and flu season seems an appropriate time for this bit of time travel.

Kleenex ad from Delineator, April 1925. “Kleenex — The Sanitary Cold Cream Remover.” Cellucotton Products Co.

Kleenex really was a new product, first appearing in 1924: “Kleenex — The Sanitary Cold Cream Remover.”

Among the things I took for granted was that a product whose name is now synonymous with “paper handkerchiefs” was invented for that purpose. Browsing through old magazines taught me that my assumption was wrong!

Online, Mary Bellis wrote about the surprising story of Kleenex tissues here.

Top of a Kleenex tissue ad, Delineator, August 1926.

According to Mimi Matthews’ book  A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, cold cream was applied to the face in the late 19th century as a moisturizer after washing with soap and water. However, since my background is the theatre, I know that after the 1860s, actors and actresses wore oil-based “greasepaint” and needed an oil-based remover: cold cream.

Broadway singing star Helen Morgan was one of the celebrities Kleenex used in their ad campaigns. Delineator, September 1930.

Helen Morgan endorsed Kleenex tissues for removing cold cream and makeup. Detail, ad in Delineator, September 1930.

By the 1920s, many ordinary women who wore powder, rouge, and lipstick had been convinced to clean their faces with “cold cream” instead of soap and water. However, washing a used facecloth with an oily product on it wasn’t convenient. And re-using it day after day without washing it was not very hygienic.

In 1924, cellulose-based Kleenex tissues were introduced as a more sanitary way to wipe off cold cream and makeup:  soft, disposable tissues.

“Two Beauty Crimes” could be avoided by using Kleenex tissues for cold cream removal. Detail of ad in Delineator, August 1926.

Bottom of Kleenex ad, Delineator, August 1926. “One of the most sensational beauty successes in years….”

By using disposable Kleenex tissues, women  avoided the beauty crimes of 1) re-using soiled towels and rubbing” the germs back into the skin,” and 2) using harsh cloth, which “injures delicate skin fabric — causes enlarged pores, skin roughness, etc.”

(I doubt the claims that using Kleenex tissues “lightens a darkish skin several shades or more….[Or] curbs oily skin and nose conditions amazingly.”)

Like any new product, “What it is” and how to use Kleenex tissues had to be explained. Free samples were distributed.

You could still order a free seven-day sample of Kleenex tissues in January, 1927. “Kleenex ‘Kerchiefs mark the only product made solely for the removal of cold cream.”

In 1927, one of those cold cream manufacturers began selling tissues, too.

Pond’s Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream. ad from Delineator, July 1927. Vanishing cream, much lighter than cold cream,  was used as a moisturizer and base for face powder.

Ads for Pond’s cold cream began to include Pond’s Cleansing Tissues — disposable paper for removing the make-up dissolving cold cream.

Pond’s products and tissues in an ad from Delineator, August 1928.

Ads for Pond’s products often showed step by step illustrations. This one is from Delineator, November 1929.

For an excellent history of the Pond’s company, click here.

The battle of the tissues:

From an ad featuring Pond’s Cleansing Tissues, Delineator, May 1930.

Kleenex fought to keep its market by creating colored tissues:

Kleenex Tissues ad, detail; Delineator, June 1930.

Pastel tinted Kleenex tissues came in three colors, plus white:

Kleenex ad, detail; October 1929. This ad introduces the pop-up tissue box, as well as pastel colored tissues.

The tissue colors were “Sea Green,” “Canary Yellow,” and “Flesh Pink.” [This last was probably a pastel tint of orange,  rather than the color of freshly butchered beef….]

Applying tissues to a runny nose was apparently an afterthought — one discovered by users of Kleenex and suggested to the manufacturer. After taking a survey of Kleenex users in 1927, the company began mentioning this alternative use in Kleenex ads.

June 1927: Kleenex used as disposable handkerchief in ad.

According to Mary Bellis, consumers had been writing to the company which made Kleenex Tissues to say they had discovered another use for the Kleenex ‘Kerchief:  they were using them to blow their noses!

“A test was conducted in the Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Ads were run depicting the two main uses of Kleenex: either as a means to remove cold cream or as a disposable handkerchief for blowing noses. The readers were asked to respond. Results showed that 60 percent used Kleenex tissue for blowing their noses. By 1930, Kimberly-Clark had changed the way they advertised Kleenex and sales doubled proving that the customer is always right.” — Mary Bellis

This Kleenex ad from Delineator, August 1928, mentions many new uses for the product.

Kleenex for Handkerchiefs ad, November 1930. “Rapidly replacing handkerchiefs among progressive people….”

Kleenex ad, detail, Delineator, November 1930.

Disposable Kleenex handkerchiefs were advertised for use in schools and offices, to stop the spread of germs. Ad, September 1931.

Pond’s cleansing tissues may have been used the same way, but their ads emphasized cosmetic use — with endorsements from prominent society ladies, not doctors and teachers.

Pond’s Cleansing Tissues in an ad from October 1930.

Kleenex ad from November 1931. Delineator.

I’m not sure what happened to Pond’s tissues. Many other manufacturers sell tissues today. I personally prefer the Safeway brand, but when I feel a sneeze coming, I still say, “I need a Kleenex!”

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Vintage Photos for the Holidays

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

“Can you hear me now?”

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

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

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

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

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

My uncle Leonard Holt, serving in World War II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nina + Howard” and “Gertrude + Mahlon”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detail of woman in widow’s cap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Binge-Watching The Pallisers: A Guilty Pleasure

From a late episode of The Pallisers, a 26 part TV series available on DVD. Picture copyright of BBC via the International Movie Database.

A Guilty Pleasure ….because I couldn’t watch just one!

I took a hard fall in September and wasn’t able to sit at a desk for several weeks. Fortunately, I had purchased the first six episodes of the 1974 BBC series The Pallisers and finally got around to watching them when I was spending my days in the recliner. After the first six, I definitely wanted more!

Thank heaven I eventually found the entire series on YouTube — all 26 glorious episodes.

If you want better picture quality, the 40th Anniversary reissued edition won’t fit in your Christmas stocking, but ask Santa, anyway. (Under $50 for over 20 hours of entertainment.)

It may take you a few episodes to get addicted to the plot; meanwhile the excellent costumes will keep you intrigued — although I was hooked by an early episode in which two horrible old Victorian ladies explain that, after her forced marriage produces an heir to the dukedom, a married woman is permitted to follow her own inclinations….

The novels on which the series is based cover several decades of fictionalized English history.  Anthony Trollope, who published them between 1864 and 1879, was as cynical about the workings of Parliament as he was about romance.

The costumes, therefore, progress from crinolines to bustles, and (surprisingly) through several pregnancies. Yes, the ladies have zippers down their backs — They are wearing costumes, and costumes are made to be re-used as rentals. But they are lavish and character oriented, as well as befitting a duchess and her circle of acquaintances. (And Susan Hampshire has always worn period costumes  — any period! — with complete naturalness.)  Raymond Hughes is the only costume designer credited. It was a massive undertaking.

Cover of the re-issued DVD series — 26 glorious episodes. Image copyright BBC and Acorn via Amazon.

Will passionate, romantic Cora give up the man she loves to marry the stiff, unemotional heir to a Dukedom, as their families have arranged? If so, will she be faithful? Will her husband survive a career in politics and marriage to Cora with his (and her) honor intact?

Can the son of an Irish country doctor afford to be a Member of Parliament — and how many women will be sacrificed to his ambition? (Money and Politics — still a timely topic! Ditto, Love and Loyalty.)

Will a slimy newspaper editor with political ambitions ruin men and women while paving his own way to power? (Long before the internet!)

Will the next set of costumes be even more lavish than the last?

I started watching for the costumes, and ended up unable to ration myself just one episode per day. (“I’ve been sitting her for three hours? even though I haven’t had dinner? How could I?”

But I regard those 20 hours in the recliner as time well spent. One quibble: not all the actresses were corseted properly. Nevertheless…. I loved it.

(P.S. I am walking normally now.)

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 19th century, Late Victorian fashions, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Mid-Victorian fashions, Musings, Resources for Costumers

A Dead End in Fashion, 1920

Butterick dress patterns for June, 1920. Delineator magazine.

In fashion, trial balloons are sent up all the time. Some take off into the stratosphere, and some quietly deflate and are forgotten. As far as I can tell, it’s all about timing.
This dress pattern from 1920 got it half right:

Butterick dress pattern 2417, Delineator, June 1920.

Bodice of Butterick 2417 from 1920. Another “Chinese” influenced top from 1920 can be seen here.

The sleeveless look, the sheer embroidered Georgette, and the horizontal line at the hip became standard for evening wear a few years later.

Sleeveless, embroidered evening dress; Butterick 1090, December 1926.

The loose, unfitted, hip-length top turned out to be the look of the future.

Butterick blouse pattern 5172, April 1924. Delineator.

The bottom part of dress 2417, however, was another story,

The skirt of dress 2417 from 1920 didn’t become mainstream fashion. [I heave a sigh of relief….]

“The drawn-in effect achieved by the plaits at the lower part is new…. ” I think those may be tassels on the front pleats. The other pleats (tucks, really) are stitched down. “Lower edge when falling free [is] 1  3/4 yard.”  With 6 or eight stitched-down pleats on each side, it would be considerably less.

Alternate view of Butterick 2417.

Hobble skirts which made wearers take tiny steps were a hit in earlier in the century — this image is from 1911 — but our 1920 version didn’t suit the increasing freedom of women, who were used to plenty of leg-room by 1916.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/chanel-1916-bell-plate-39-from-fashion-through-fashion-plates-doris-langley-moore.jpg?w=500

Designs by Gabrielle Chanel, dated 1916 [from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates via Quentin Bell.] No need to take mincing little steps in these skirts!

The mid-Twenties’ shape was narrow and unfitted…

These dresses from July 1925 have shapeless, hip-length tops like No. 2417, but are at least as wide at the hem as at the hip, with room for walking.

Butterick dresses for young women; Delineator, September 1925.

… but Mid-Twenties’ skirts didn’t start out wide and then get tighter near the hem, like No. 2417.

Butterick dress pattern 2417, Delineator, June 1920.

Just another fashion dead end!

Advertisement for satin, April 1920. A large end, and a dead end, too.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture