Category Archives: Musings

A Few Favorite Twenties’ Patterns

 

An embroidered coat from Delineator, August 1926.

Today’s post doesn’t have a theme; these are just patterns I find attractive, and they are all from the 1920’s. The coat itself is probably a Butterick pattern, but I don’t have another picture of it. Fullness below the elbow was often seen in 1926 patterns.

A closer view of the coat and the embroidery transfer, Butterick 10464. It seems inspired by Chinese designs. Delineator, August 1926.

Surprise: the coat is made of taffeta! However, the braid could also be applied to a light wool.

It would be an unusual quilting motif.

I’m always attracted to twenties’ styles with a geometric quality. The yellow dress below is complex but not fussy (I’m not big on ruffles or fluttering chiffon) and the top-stitching made me think it might be a light wool fabric (but it’s silk.) The tab of material that passes through the front looks like a designer touch; I like the top-stitched self belt, and the parallel diagonal lines add interest.

The dress shown in yellow is Butterick 2682, from June of 1929.

Another surprise: This is referred to as a tennis dress! (I do hope there was a sleeveless version….) There are pleats in back, too.

I don’t like the dress on the right at all — is its “anchor panel” echoing the styles of the 1300’s? (Click here to see the 1315 tomb brass of Lady Margaret of Cobham.)

The print dress on the right illustrates Butterick pattern 2675, from 1929.

I don’t show enough patterns for children; these are both charming and comfortable. Below, the young lady on the left wears a dress decorated with triangular pockets. The collar has the same [applied?] trim. If the trim is tiny intersecting tucks, it would be a technique favored by Vionnet.  (The capelet was optional.)

Left, Butterick 7017, for girls 8 to 15. Right, Butterick 7021 is decorated with embroidered (and appliqued?) flowers for girls aged 6 to 10. Delineator, August 1926.

For sophisticated ladies, a set of lingerie inspired by Vionnet would be just the thing. Personally, I’d prefer this lounging pajama set!

Suggested Christmas gifts made from Butterick patterns; Delineator, December 1928.

Butterick lounging set 2288. December, 1928.

[Calling the robe a “coolie” coat is now offensive; ku li, referring to men who did hard labor, means “bitter strength.”  My school textbooks showed the final spike being driven into the Central Pacific railroad in 1869, connecting the east and west coasts of the United States, but they didn’t mention the thousands of Chinese laborers whose work made that celebration possible. Then, just thirteen years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. I’m afraid I see a pattern of events here….]

Back to more trivial patterns: Butterick claimed this set of lingerie was inspired by Vionnet. It included a step-in, underpants, and a nightgown.

This step-in with lace inserts is Butterick pattern 2348; from 1928. Step-ins usually buttoned at the crotch.

Butterick 2349, “tap pants”/underpants/drawers/dance pants are part of a set; 1928. The vocabulary for underpants is varied.

This night robe [nightgown] — flows smoothly. Butterick 2350, from 1928.

The text does not say whether the set is cut on the bias, just that it’s made of “geometrical sections”. It’s certain that any of these undies would look good under a sheer negligee.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Accessory Patterns, lingerie, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Mystery Dresses

This vintage dress has been altered and patched. It raises many questions.

The patches on this faded dress hint at a life of hardship. If I had photographed the back, dating it might be possible — but a poor woman might not have had access to current fashions. It’s a mystery to me.

Many collectors are interested in the beauty of vintage dresses. But the woman who collected these dresses saw them as windows into women’s lives. Sadly, neither dress had documentation, so we don’t know anything about the women who made them, wore them, patched them, and tried to make them last a few more months or years. I’m sharing them because such dresses rarely survive to be collected — they end in the rag bag, not a museum. I don’t have the expertise even to date them securely (and how I wish I had had time to take more pictures!) Comments and conjectures about them are very welcome.

A mystery dress circa 1930?

Back of red dotted dress with a puzzling insert at the waist.

Here’s the front again:

Is this a late twenties dress, lengthened as much as possible for the 1930s? Or is it a thirties dress, lengthened and altered for a new wearer?

It is very long, suggesting early 1930s. There’s no fading to mark a previously shorter hem line, but this hem is as skimpy as possible. Was it a hand-me-down from a shorter woman?

A tiny rolled hem.

This dress was home-made, and not by a very accomplished seamstress. Here’s the sheer collar:

The rolled hem on this collar is machine stitched, but quite uneven.

Maintaining even tension around the curve of a soft, sheer material isn’t easy.

Someone who worked on this dress didn’t cut perfectly on grain, so the skirt sags towards its right side. You can see that the vertical pattern of dots on the front of the dress lined up originally. Was there always a waist seam? It doesn’t look like it.

The slightest sag at the waist seam (the dots don’t line up evenly) affects the hang of the skirt. Did this happen originally, or when the wide piece was inserted? Was the front of this dress one piece from shoulder to hem before it was altered?

The pattern of dots isn’t straight because the skirt is off grain at the waist.

There are seams in the back of the dress:

Vertical back seams suggest that the dress always had a waist seam in back — or do they? I’m asking….

Again, this pattern matching is not the work of an experienced dressmaker. On the other hand, I once bought cheap  printed flannel plaid for a nightgown and discovered that it was printed off grain, so it was possible to make perfectly matched seams on one side but not on the other. Maybe it was hard to fold this material for cutting and make the dots line up.

Aside from the question of why this dress has a wide band inserted at the waist, it’s clear that the person doing the alterations had barely enough material for the band — not enough to match the dots and line them up inconspicuously. In fact, the stripes on the dress run vertically and those on the band run horizontally. It’s made from scraps.

Scraps were also needed for alterations to the armholes. Either they tore while the dress was being worn, or they had to be enlarged for a different wearer:

On each side, the armhole was made larger and a patch was placed underneath. The repairs to the sheer ruffle are not symmetrical. Did one side tear?

Presumably there wasn’t enough fabric to match the pattern — or the person making the alternations wasn’t skilled enough to try (these are very large patches, secured with another line of large hand stitches.

I’m not belittling the people who made and altered this dress. I’m suggesting that they did not have the luxury of perfectionism. They had to make do with what they had, and I think that whoever owned this dress, new or second-hand, had to wear it and hold her head high. Poverty limits choices.

Another mystery dress, probably 19th century (?)

The front of a long dress with fitted bodice and many patches.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this dress is that the patches accumulated over time. It appears to be patched with scraps of the original fabric, but the dress, the large patch, and the smaller patch are not faded equally. The fabric is lightweight, so the cream colored bodice lining contributes to the impression of fading there, but not on the sleeves.

How I wish I had had a mannequin available, and the time to photograph the back and the interior structure. The back seams would tell us something about the date when it was made. The waist seems to be cartridge pleated, but, again, I have no photo of the construction. The shoulders don’t look dropped, but it’s hard to tell on a big, padded coat hanger!

The neckline is crudely done, using fabric that matches the band on the skirt.

The hem is very worn, and the fabric at the shoulders is faded and worn through in one place.

It is possible to see two bust darts on the left side of the bodice (on its right, they are hidden by a patch.)

You can see characteristic Victorian bust darts which are not covered by the dark patch.

But the dress is a mystery as to date, especially because, if it was made and worn by a rural woman, she could have been using a much older dress as her only guide. Machine stitched or hand stitched? Or both? I don’t know.

Someone may recognize the fabric, or be able to date the dress from old photographs — for me, it’s a nagging mystery — and I wish I knew about the woman who wore it. To me, the dress says that she was strong and brave while enduring years of hardship.

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Dresses, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

A Mother’s Day Meditation on My Mother’s Hair (and Maternity,) 1940s

An evening hairstyle from a Vogue fashion flyer, May, 1939.

My mother’s friends joked about her vanity, calling her “glamourpuss,” but she stayed with this 1939 hairstyle for at least ten years.

My mother’s hair, worn in two rolls over her forehead from the late 1930s until about 1950.

I’ll admit, it suited her. In this picture, she’s dressed for the Fourth of July, always a big occasion in our town, with a parade and rodeo.

Her hair, without a hat.

If you’re interested in World War II era hairstyles, I can tell you  how she did hers:  she parted it down the center from forehead to nape, then sectioned off the front. In back, her very long hair was braided into two braids, each long enough to wrap over the top of her head, or around the base, from ear to ear and back, where the ends were tucked neatly under the wide part of the braid. The braids were kept in place with both bobby pins and hairpins, as needed. The rolls were curled in toward the center and secured with pins.  Oddly, I never saw hairspray until the 1950s. She didn’t use it.

The style worked well with hats, and, until I came along, she worked as a secretary for a tobacco company in San Francisco, so she wore a hat to work every day, commuting by train.

My mother in a wide hat, during World War II

Although she had been one of the first girls in town to bob her hair in the early 1920s, she didn’t adopt a short 1950’s Toni perm until a radical mastectomy made it impossible for her to raise both arms over her head.  She couldn’t manage this braided hairstyle any more. Although she hated to cut her long hair, in fact the perm made her look much more youthful because it wasn’t an outdated style, but the latest thing. But that’s not why I’m writing this for Mother’s Day.

While looking through old photos for examples of this hairstyle — which I was stunned to actually find illustrated in that Vogue fashion flyer…

My mother wore her hair in the style illustrated with this 1930’s evening gown pattern from Vogue.

… I was equally surprised to find this photograph of my mother (and me.) I’ve been writing about maternity fashions of the twenties, thirties, and forties. And here is my mother wearing a smock, a few months before I was born:

Maternity wear, 1945. Before motherhood, her hair was a long pageboy in back. Once she had a baby to take care of, she grew long braids and pinned them up.

The fact that this photo exists surprises me. I remember overhearing her bragging that out-of-town friends who came to visit her when she was six months pregnant didn’t realize that she was expecting a baby. (My cynical adult self wonders if they were too polite to mention her weight gain.) On the other hand, no one expected her to have her first child at the age of forty. Also, this was a period when fashion magazines still advised pregnant women to be “inconspicuous” — it wasn’t until Lucille Ball wore maternity clothes on America’s most popular TV show in 1952 that the media stopped being embarrassed by visible pregnancy. The Post-War baby boom ushered in attractive maternity clothing — clothing that celebrated instead of concealing. But that’s a topic I mentioned in my last post.

Probably because my existence put a new financial strain on the household, I don’t think my mother — now that she didn’t have an office job in The City — allowed herself many fashion extravagances. Nevertheless, here we are around 1946. She still looks good in a hat:

My mother, a proud parent at age 41. Her hat has a veil, her knee-length coordinating dress is decorated with metal studs, her figure is back to normal, and her love of pretty new clothing seems to be directed at her offspring’s outfit. 1946 or 1947.

To everyone who makes those willing sacrifices — Happy Mother’s Day.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Hairstyles, Hats, Maternity clothes, Musings, vintage photographs

Colorful Fashions for April, 1926

Delineator, page 27, April 1926. Butterick patterns for women.

These Butterick patterns for April, 1926, were illustrated by Marie L. Britton. I did not record all the pattern information, but, based on other issues of Delineator magazine, the illustration style distinguishes between dresses for women (usually sized up to 44 inch bust) and dresses for young women 15 to 20, or for small women. Typical mid-twenties details include colorful prints, border prints, embroidery, and the contrast between the matte and shiny sides of crepe satin.

At left, Butterick dress pattern 6686; at right, Butterick dress pattern 6737, shown decorated with Butterick embroidery transfer 10430. Delineator, April 1926, page 27.

The dresses on page 27 were for adult women.

Butterick patterns for women, Delineator, April 1926, top of page 27. Butterick 6692, 6704, and 6739.

The dress in the center makes good use of a border print fabric which graduates from larger to smaller scale. The dress on the right contrasts shiny with matte surfaces. Both dresses on the left have the long, ribbon-like ties at the neck which can be seen on many 1920’s Butterick patterns — an attempt to introduce a flattering vertical line to balance the horizontal line at the hips. (For more examples, see 1920’s Accessories: What’s Missing?)

This page also showed a classic twenties’ evening dress:

Butterick pattern 6743 is very snug around the hips. Delineator, April 1926, p. 27.

Party dresses were also illustrated on page 29. I think these are for young or small women, judging from the illustration style.

Left, Butterick dress pattern 6716 is embroidered with Butterick transfer pattern 10378. It could be worked in beads or in shiny thread. Right, Butterick 6715.

Instead of a “Spanish” shawl, a painted shawl is shown: This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.This “Aztec” pattern painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

Another black floral print dress is illustrated on page 29. Notice that these young women or teens are drawn with snub noses.

Butterick pattern 6650, shown in a black print fabric; Butterick cape coat 6769 over dress 6719; and another border print, Butterick 6683. April 1926.

All three of these dresses have long ties at the neckline. Perhaps Butterick didn’t want to suggest that a long necklace was necessary. On the print dress below, which is very snug across the rear, the long tie is on the back of the dress.

Butterick dress patterns [for young women,] April 1926; Delineator page 29. Butterick 6711 and 6728. Notice the bust dart at right.

The dress on the right, No. 6728, has the bib front (based on a man’s shirt) that was very popular in the twenties, and seen again in the 1960’s,  when dropped waists were also briefly in style.

A Vogue pattern circa 1966 with a bib front. Vogue 6988.

This dress pattern from 1965 shows a dropped waist and, like Butterick 6728, a long row of buttons creating a vertical line down the front.

McCall’s 8135 from 1965 has a dropped waist and a long vertical line of buttons.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that very long necklaces also returned to style in the 1960’s.

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Filed under 1920s, Musings, Vintage patterns

100 Year Old Kodak Camera Ads from World War I

“The Parting Gift — A Vest Pocket Kodak.” Ad in Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1917.

We take small, portable cameras for granted. But one hundred years ago, Kodak was putting pocket sized cameras into the hands of people who never had them before — including the men and boys who volunteered to fight in World War I.

Kodak Vest Pocket camera ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1917, p. 51. “It is monotony, not bullets, that our soldiers dread…. In the training camps and during the days of forced inaction there are going to be some tedious, home-sick days — days the Kodak can make more cheerful…. There’s room for a little Vest Pocket Kodak in every soldiers’ and sailor’s kit.”

When the United States entered the war in April of 1917, training camps were still being built — including Camp Fremont, in what is now Menlo Park, California. For teen-aged girls like my mother’s older sister and her friends, it was both a patriotic duty and a pleasure to meet homesick young men from all over the country. And, judging from the photos I inherited from my aunt, “the boys” did enjoy sending pictures of their daily activities to family and friends.

My aunt, in her school uniform, with Walter van Alyne. The back of the photo says, “aged 20 years,” and it was apparently mailed to her when Walter was “Somewhere in Fra …. chelles.” [writing not legible]

Here she is with Wentworth Prescott  Gann, in 1918:

Wentworth Prescott Gann and my aunt, 1918.

Pictures reassured soldiers’ families, and were also a pretext for corresponding with new friends. (“I’d love a copy of that photo with you….” or “Here’s a copy of that picture we took at the beach….”)

Wentworth Prescott Gann, posing with artillery and a friendly dog, 1918.

Three soldiers posing for a picture to send home — or to sweethearts. The one on the left is Gaston Popescul; “Columbus (?) GA”

Clarence Turpening, probably at Camp Fremont, 1918. Sitting on two garbage cans, he is the picture of military camp tedium.

Because Camp Fremont was still under construction in 1917,  many of the soldiers who trained there did not get sent overseas. However, some unfortunate members of the 8th Division were sent to Siberia after the Russian Revolution of 1917. They were on active duty for months after World War I came to an end.

This photo of a luckier group was made into a postcard — probably everyone in it sent a copy home. I believe it is a group of bakers, with my uncle Holt (the soldier my aunt eventually married) leaning against a post in the center. I’m sure a picture like this would reassure worried families that their menfolk were safe and well. And perhaps, a bit bored….

A group of Army bakers or cooks, military camp in U.S.A., World War I photo.

“Snap-shots from Home” enhance morale for soldiers in World War I. Kodak ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917, p. 91.

Text of “Snap-shots from Home” ad, Kodak, Sept. 1917. Ladies’ HOme Journal.

Even schoolgirls like my aunt took (and sometimes printed) their own photos.

This typical photo from 1917-1918 fits easily in my hand. It’s about three inches high. The soldier’s name is Philip Wilson.

I was always puzzled by how tiny (about 2″ by 3″) many of these old photos are.  Finally, I found a full page ad in the Ladies Home Journal that gave me a hint: to save money, many people used their contact prints — made directly from the negative — but never bought enlargements. (In my aunt’s case, she made her own duplicate contact prints for friends.)

[Not Actual Size] Top of a full-page ad for Kodak, showing Vest Pocket photos in two sizes. July 1917, LHJ, page 79.

The contact prints, made by putting the negative directly on the photo paper without using an enlarger, were actually about two by three inches. The paper used for contacts feels flimsier than normal photo prints.

Bottom of full-page Kodak Vest Pocket camera ad, July 1917, page 79. Not actual size. “You don’t carry a Vest Pocket Kodak, you wear it, like your watch.”

I was not able to photograph the magazine page at actual size, so I took a photo of the whole page and then made this “relative size” image of the contact print and the enlargement.

Relative size of a contact print and an enlargement, 1917. The small contact prints — the same size as the film — were meant to be used for selecting the enlargements you ordered, but people who couldn’t afford 15 cents per enlargement made do with the contact prints themselves. And duplicate contact-sized pictures could be made by amateurs who didn’t own an enlarger.

Different cameras used different sized film, so those little contact prints came in a range of sizes.  A roll of film for the Vest Pocket Kodak cost twenty cents in 1917 and made eight exposures.

Although most people on the home front, especially in the U.S.,  had no idea of the horrors of the First World War, a tone of sadness, or at least, of solemnity, affected even Kodak’s Christmas season advertising  in wartime.

“Kodak knows no dark days.” Top of a full -page ad for Kodak cameras, December 1917. Ladies Home Journal, p. 104.

The ad was referring to taking pictures indoors, but a reference to “its allies” in the text is a reminder of the war.

Text of a Kodak ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917, page 104.

“With its allies, the Kodak flash sheets and a Kodak flash sheet holder….” As in fashion writing, allusions to the war crept in everywhere, even when it wasn’t mentioned specifically.

And here, as our dessert, is that lovely pink silk dress in better detail:

A young woman poses in a party dress in this Kodak ad from 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. 1917, p. 104. It’s not a full color ad, which would have been more expensive, but probably printed using just black and red ink.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, World War I

Vintage Fur and Feather Update with Useful Links

Ad for Albrecht fur coats, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Just because a fur coat is 100 years old does not necessarily mean that you can sell it without a permit. And you need to know your bird species if you are selling vintage hats. In fact, you need to know your animal products, from feathers to ivory to crocodile to tortoiseshell, snakes — and more.

I have updated my recent post about a Vintage Store that was raided by California and U.S. Federal agencies last year. The owner is currently facing prosecution. After posting, I found a useful factsheet from the U.S. government. Click here: it is a two page pdf that can be printed and posted for reference.

If you sell or collect vintage clothing, you may not realize that “antique” or vintage status does not exempt all furs, feathers, and other animal products from regulation. Some vintage items made from listed animals can be sold if you have a permit. But for some items made from endangered species, there are no permits and very limited exceptions.

“Some wildlife laws prohibit all sale or purchase of products made from a protected species. Examples include the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which protects more than 1,000 wild birds native to the United States) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” — U.S Fish and Wildlife Service “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.

Here is what the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet says about feathers from endangered and threatened species:

“Taxidermied migratory birds or migratory bird feathers and parts: With some limited exceptions, sale of any type prohibited regardless of age of the specimen. (Exceptions involve limited purchase and sale of certain captive-reared and sport-taken migratory waterfowl.)
Examples: Victorian songbird collections, vintage women’s hats, and feather boas. [My boldface]
Of course, you have to be able to recognize which feathers and furs are on the endangered or threatened list (a very long list, called CITES Appendix 1). Identifying them on vintage clothing is complicated by the very old practice of altering fur and feathers from common domestic species to resemble rare or exotic species. Is that a bald eagle feather [“Sale prohibited regardless of age”]  or a turkey feather that has been doctored to look like one? Could that vintage “jaguar skin” coat really be jaguar [prohibited,] or is it rabbit fur cleverly dyed?
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service says,
“For us to answer your questions accurately, you must be able to tell us the species involved, including the scientific name, if possible.” — “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.
 What kind of “wolf” fur is this? Hint: It’s probably not Manchurian, and definitely not wolf. More like Rin Tin Tin.

Manchurian Wolf Dyed Dog Fur trimmed coat from Sears, 1931.

At least it’s not a member of an endangered Canis Lupus (i.e., wolf) family….

My mother, around 1945. Was she literally “putting on the dog?” (That expression — meaning “dressing to make a display of wealth” — dates to the 19th century.)

Another passage from the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet:

“Grizzly bear, jaguar, or other U.S. species listed as endangered or threatened: No interstate or international sale of any type regardless of age, without a permit. Sale within a State allowed unless prohibited under State law. Examples: Taxidermied specimens, rugs, clothing, and other fur articles.
Sometimes a permit is needed to sell products made from protected species. Trade is regulated by state, federal, and international agencies — so you need to check with all that apply.  Investigators from both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the raid on Cicely Ann Hansen’s vintage clothing store.
If only it were possible to ask “The Bird on Nellie’s Hat” what species it is!
Women's hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Women’s hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917. The mania for egret feathers on hats eventually led to the formation of the Audubon Society, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Read about it here.

In 1905, George Bernard Shaw complained to the management of an opera house about having to sit behind women who wore dead birds on their hats. To read his entertaining letter, click here.

Some Useful Links About Threatened and Endangered Species

Here is an endangered and threatened species list from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s alphabetized by Latin names, but the common names are also given.
Birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include several kinds of egrets; a full endangered and protected birds list can be found by clicking here (common English and scientific names are given.)
Click here for an overview of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) program. Unfortunately, the CITES appendices are in scientific classification format, so look up the scientific name for your problematic animal before visiting CITES. For example, search “Latin name for gray wolf” and you will find it is Canis Lupus. Then you will be able to find out if the animal is on an endangered species list.
But first, before you think of buying or selling, you need to identify what the garment or object is made of. The Vintage Fashion Guild Fur Resource can help you identify furs, crocodile, alligator, etc. The listings will expand if you click on the {…} symbol. Then, checking if you need a permit to sell your garment is up to you.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hats, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Freckles and Freckle Creams, 1920s and Later

Top of an ad for Othine Double Strength Freckle cream, Delineator, May 1925, p 29.

I’ve already written about skin bleaches from the 1920’s and 1930’s. I’ve also collected a number of ads for freckle removers, from several different makers, ranging from 1917 to the 1940’s. They use a standard advertising strategy: First, make women feel self-conscious about something that’s perfectly normal, then sell them something to “fix” it.

“Your freckles ruin your appearance;” ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream, Aug. 1924.

“Are you one of the 14,695,000 folks who wish they could get rid of freckles?” Ad for Othine cream, Redbook magazine, 1949.

Ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream, July 1917. “Freckles are ‘as a cloud before the sun’ hiding your brightness, your beauty.”

Freckles were O.K. on boys, apparently, but not on their sisters.

The freckled face of child actor Mickey Daniels was an asset to his career in the Our Gang Comedies.  Ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream, Sept. 1924. Delineator.

“Your freckles always attract attention, no matter how well you dress.” Stillman’s promised to “dissolve away” freckles and whiten, refine and beautify your skin. “Guaranteed to remove freckles or money refunded.”

Stillman’s ad from Chatelaine, a Canadian magazine, August, 1939. p. 31.

Probably the creepiest anti-freckle ads were for a product called Mercolized Wax. “Better than trying to hide or cover up such disfigurements. Simply apply the wax at bedtime and wash off in the morning. This actually peels off the freckled cuticle, gently, gradually, without harm or inconvenience. Unveils the young, healthy, beautiful skin underneath. Unequaled as a blemish remover and complexion rejuvenator.”

Mercolized Wax seemed to promise to lift the freckles right out of your skin. Ad from 1924.

In that ad, freckles were equated with “disfigurements” and “blemishes” — I began to wonder whether they were talking about blackheads or freckles. Pulling the freckles out of your skin would not be a pleasant or beautifying act.

Astonishingly, Mercolized Wax was was still running ads in 1942!

Mercolized wax ad, Redbook magazine, September 1942. I found this ad via Pro-Quest. “Mercolized Wax Cream flakes off the surface skin in tiny, almost invisible particles, revealing a fairer, fresher, more attractive underskin. Start bleaching skin now.”

At least, by 1942, the ads no longer imply that freckles will be yanked right out of your face; it’s more like a “skin peel.” Use according to directions, indeed.

This 1934 ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream is almost identical to an ad Stillman’s ran in 1924. They even used the same photo. Delineator, June 1934.

Here’s a more lyrical Stillman’s ad from 1921:

Ad for Stillman’s Freckle Cream in Vogue magazine, August 15, 1921.

Ad for Othine Freckle Remover, August 1926, Delineator.

“Don’t try to hide your freckles or waste time on lemon juice [used for its acidic bleaching properties] or cucumbers; get an ounce of Othine and remove them.”

Amazingly, both Stillman’s and Othine offered a money-back guarantee. In addition to freckle creams like Stillman’s, Othine, and Mercolized Wax, bleach creams like Golden Peacock were also touted for freckle removal.

1933 ad for Golden Peacock skin bleach, Delineator, Aug. 1933. The “before” photo is very unconvincing!

I’ve been watching a lot of young artists on YouTube lately; I’m happy to see some of them drawing women with freckles. One of my favorites, Minnie Small (aka SemiSkimmedMin.com,) sketched this freckled beauty.  I like the way her freckles are intrinsic to her look. (If you like, you can watch a 3 minute video of this sketch being created. Just click on the image.)

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture