Category Archives: Musings

Remembering 11/11/18: Red Cross Patterns

The appalling carnage of World War I is often given in statistics; these Red Cross patterns and instructions for volunteers — making hospital gowns, bandages and wound dressings, surgical masks and gowns, etc. — also remind us (and those Red Cross volunteers) of the suffering it caused.

Women’s magazines like Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal published government information as well as encouraging volunteer work. The patterns above are for operating room personnel.

A surgical gown for doctors and two kinds of pajamas for hospital patients. Delineator, Nov. 1917.Red Cross patterns were available for sewing groups or individual volunteer stitchers.

Operating room gear — like surgical gowns and sterile shoe covers — could be made using regulation Red Cross patterns. Pajamas for patients were also in demand. The “taped” pajama below opens so the injured soldier need not be moved for his wounds to be inspected and dressed.

Red Cross regulation “taped pajamas” for the wounded and socks for injured feet; Ladies Home Journal, Dec. 1917.

Making these garments must have reminded civilians that soldiers were receiving terrible injuries.

Women and children were encouraged to knit Red Cross regulation sweaters, socks, and even “helmets” that kept heads and faces warm.

“Knit Your Bit for the Navy” article, Delineator, August 1917. “Every man in the fleet must be kept warm if we are to win — will you help?”

Delineator, November 1917.

Red Cross volunteers also made:

Not just knitting: List from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917. The same information ran in several women’s magazines, but each magazine formatted it differently.

Many women imagined themselves doing “glamorous” war work, like nursing or ambulance driving. (They had no idea of the horror those women faced daily.)

However, “In war more men die from exposure and illness than from wounds. Every hour that you waste, you are throwing away the life of one of our soldiers.” “Don’t say you are too busy to knit — it isn’t true.”

Items to Knit for the Red Cross, LHJ, October 1917.

Initially, there was such an outpouring of knit garments — many totally unsuitable for the Front — that the Red Cross used women’s magazines to explain why regulation colors and instructions had to be imposed.

A poorly knitted or fitted sock could have a serious impact on a soldier. Blisters and foot infections sent many to the hospital. LHJ, Oct. 1917.

The front and back of a knitted “helmet.” LHJ, Oct. 1917.

More disturbing knitting supplied the operating room:

Knitted Wipe for Surgical Use, LHJ, July 1917.

Some volunteers chafed at the Red Cross rules, so regulations had to be explained and justified — repeatedly.

LHJ, October 1917. (Laparotomy is an abdominal surgery procedure.) Sterile dressings needed to be made in supervised rooms, not at home.

LHJ, October 1917. Even a loose thread could cause infection.

Children were also encouraged to knit for soldiers and sailors:

Article recruiting members of the Junior Red Cross, Delineator, November 1917. Even beginning knitters could manage to make mufflers and wristlets.

Junior Red Cross war work suggestions. Delineator, Dec. 1917. “Uncle Sam needs a million sweaters NOW. There are twenty-two million of you [children.] If you work, every soldier under the Stars and Stripes will have his sweater.”

The United States didn’t enter the war until April of 1917. French and British soldiers had been fighting the Germans since August of 1914, and supplies were being exhausted.

LHJ, August 1917.

LHJ, October 1917. All these “boxed” images are from the same article.

The Armistice treaty which concluded “the War to End All Wars” came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”) — Wikipedia.

About 8,500,000 soldiers had died. Over 21 million were wounded.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Accessory Patterns, Menswear, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, World War I

Found Online, October 2018

Cover of Delineator magazine, June, 1914. The illustrator is Neysa McMein.

First, a new site for reading vintage magazines; next, a 1969 comic book about sewing classes for girls.

The Hathi Trust (working with Google) has been digitizing and posting vintage magazines, including Delineator, as soon as they fall out of copyright in the U.S.  The Hathi Trust is up to 1922 now. That’s the good news.

You can flip through the magazines (select the two page layout from the icons at the far right) until something catches your eye. You can download pages or more as Pdfs. Some pages are in color.

Niggling details: The quality of the scans is very variable, sometimes overexposed, sometimes with blurry text.

We can’t expect perfection on every page — I feel lucky the pages are there at all.

Bound copies of Delineator. The larger one is from 1920; the smaller format is from 1922. These are the bound magazines in my public library which I use for research.

Before 1921-22, Delineator was a large format magazine, 16 inches high, often with tiny, serif fonts that are hard to read even when I’m holding the original magazine in my hands, and even harder to photograph because the font is thin and low contrast.

I took this full page photo at a very high resolution from the March 1910 Delineator at my public library.This photo gives a fair idea of how hard to read the original is.

If you look at the same page on the Hathi Trust, at least you can magnify it greatly.

I sympathize with how challenging it is to get these resources online at all.

The Hathi Trust digitizes materials from the libraries of member universities. They are bound volumes, usually containing January through June or July through December, so they are cataloged as one book rather than six issues. You may need a little patience to find what you want, although the text of each volume is searchable, which is very convenient. In 1910, Delineator numbered all the pages in a volume sequentially, so that January began with page numbers in the single digits and June reached the 400s. That’s not hard to navigate.

By 1914, (I don’t have the intervening years yet) each issue began with page 1 — which means you have to search for February, March, April, etc., and the “go to page” function only works within one issue at a time — not the whole volume. Tip: just to the right of the “GO” button is an icon for “sections” of the volume. You can figure out when a new “section” begins — i.e., a new month.

Getting the right exposure for an entire page with images and text isn’t easy. Image from Hathi Trust and Google.

Two images of the same cape from Delineator, April 1920, from Hathi Trust and Google. I printed them, scanned them, and adjusted them.

I have successfully downloaded images from the Hathi trust site, printed them, scanned them and used them in this blog — and I now can search for patterns by number (the same pattern often appears more than once, illustrated in different views.) I used this search function for the capes I wrote about recently. I had only photographed the alternate view of cape 2319; I found the other views on Hathi Trust.

“How To” Lessons in Delineator:

Just in: Delineator ran a series of articles on dressmaking and millinery making. For example, in 1910, Delineator Vol. 75, page 241 (and following pages) illustrates and describes the steps for making a Spring hat — from the wire frame to the finished hat. Click here. (There are more milinery lessons in 1910.) A search of 1909 (Vol. 74) will turn up more hat-making instructions. Other issues simply describe the newest hats and show photographs of them…. Like these gravity defying hats from 1905, Vol. 66.

To find more, search for Delineator and the year (e.g. “Delineator 1907”;) then narrow the list by selecting “Journals” from the column at left.

I have been so absorbed in Delineator that I’ve just begun to see what other magazines are available.  Godey’s Lady Magazine for 1832 is there. Frank Leslie’s Ladies’ Magazine is there. Who knows what wonders you may find at Hathi Trust? I’ve added it to my sidebar list of Sites with Great Information,

Today’s second find is from a British site, The House of Mirelle, in Hull, England. It shares a glimpse of a comic book series aimed at teenaged girls in the sixties.

Bunty image from House of Mirelle article; image copyright D.C.Thompson. Please do not copy.

The 1969 Bunty Annual about Sewing Classes for Girls post will be nostalgic for some of us.

“The House of Mirelle was a high end fashion house that existed in the UK city of Hull between 1938 and 1978.” The website archives materials from these glory days of a thriving Hull city center.

Perfectionist sewing teachers probably caused a lot of tears over the years. San Francisco artist Dolores R. Gray has done a series of works using old sewing patterns and mannequins in remarkable ways. She told me there were uncut threads dangling from this one because, when she finished a dress she was really proud of, the only thing her teacher noticed was one uncut thread.

How perfect that the Bunty story was about a girl who really wanted to be an artist!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, World War I

Chiquita Banana Costume, 1951

Butterick 5971 suggests making matching mother and daughter Chiquita Banana costumes. Butterick Fashion News flyer, December 1951.

This costume is nostalgic for me. I can still sing the first line of the Chiquita Banana song: “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say….” But I had to look up what it was that she said!

You would be gathering and bias-tape-binding yards of ruffles if you opted for a “Chiquita” costume. The “banana” doesn’t seem to come into it.

Text for the Butterick pattern. It was not issued in time for Halloween, but I bet lots of amateur theatricals had “Latin” numbers.

Butterick apparently licensed the rights to call its costume pattern by this name, although it bore very little resemblance to the original, which had a bolero top with ruffled sleeves.

Alternate view and Chiquita brand logo, 1951. Chiquita’s was meant to suggest a basket of fruit — with her stem sticking up through the center.

The Chiquita company still uses a ruffle-clad woman in its logo.

The song first appeared as a radio advertisement in 1944 — and its purpose was to tell people how to recognize a ripe banana, and to remind them not to store bananas in the refrigerator.

“I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say – Bananas have to ripen in a certain way – When they are fleck’d with brown and have a golden hue – Bananas taste the best and are best for you – You can put them in a salad – You can put them in a pie-aye – Any way you want to eat them – It’s impossible to beat them – But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator – So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator.” — Chiquita Company Jingle

By 1951, when this pattern was issued, people could see the animated commercial in movie theaters and on TV. The tune was embedded in my brain by the time I was six. The Chiquita Company says, “At its peak, the jingle was played 376 times a day on radio stations across the United States.”

Thanks to YouTube, you can watch the original animated Chiquita ad by clicking here.

Astonishingly, a version of the song with less obviously instructive lyrics became a huge hit, covered by many singers. Here is one such version. Inevitably, the song was linked to Carmen Miranda in the public mind. If you search for a Chiquita banana costume today, you’ll find lots of Carmen Miranda costumes instead. A documentary about her is called Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business. [I just learned that she has been credited with popularizing platform shoes!]

Many internet sources say that Miranda wrote the ad jingle. She didn’t.

According to the Chiquita company’s Jingle page the original ad was the work of three men: “Chiquita Banana” (words and music by Garth Montgomery, Leonard Mackenzie, William Wirges) under license to Chiquita Brands L.L.C. © 1945 Shawnee Press Inc.

Sarah Skwire wrote delightfully on this topic, so I recommend you click here to read her essay on the wildly popular Chiquita Banana song. She is right about the wartime scarcity of bananas; I remember reading a memoir of British writer Evelyn Waugh in which his children watched him eat the first banana they had seen in years. They remembered it because he ate it in front of them and did not share even a bite.

has written about the commercial’s resultant “Latina” stereotyping in her essay “Miss Chiquita Banana: Here to Stay, for Better or Worse.”

All things considered — history-wise — I wouldn’t rush to make a nostalgic Chiquita Banana Halloween costume today — even though it does look much better in this red, yellow, and black version used on the pattern envelope.

Color image from A History of the Paper Pattern Industry by Joy Spanabel Emery. Please do not copy.

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns

Book Review: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism — Women’s Fight for Change, by Tessa Boase

Note: the accompanying images are not from this book, but much of what I learned, is. Any reflections about parallels with current events are mine, and mine alone. This book made me think.

The millinery and feather trades were a huge international business in 1910. Ad from Delineator.

I’m sorry I took so long to review this book; I loved reading it, and I’ve raved about it to friends, but it is so jam-packed with fascinating information that I was tempted to quote something from every other page — which would not be fair to other readers; it’s too much fun to discover surprising facts for yourself! [Even so, I couldn’t resist sharing a few. My enthusiasm carries me away. A shorter review can be found at The Vintage Traveler 🙂 ]

In her previous book, The Housekeeper’s Tale, Tessa Boase poured through old account books, legal proceedings, letters and diaries, and used her research to unearth the life stories of several women servants over a period of nearly two centuries. I confess that history was the class that bored me the most in high school — although I was a good student, I hated “history.” But history vividly told though the lives of ordinary women — that is fascinating, and suspenseful, reading.

This teenaged girl wears entire bird wings on her hat. Delineator, March 1910. In 1892, 800,000 pairs of wings were imported by one London dealer. [Boase, p. 87]

In Mrs. Pankhurst’s Purple Feather, the women central to her story are not ordinary — most of them are women who achieved great things: They changed the laws of England in the early twentieth century. And they did it against all odds:

“Right up until the First World War, the idea of bird protection was as laughable to the general population as the concept of female emancipation.” — Boase, p. xiii

Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst was the very vocal leader of the movement for women’s suffrage, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU.) Mrs. Etta Lemon was the primary founder of the Society for the Preservation of Birds (SPB,) seeking to prevent the extinction of birds which were being hunted for women’s hat trimmings. Both of them were up against an all-male parliament, male voters, and a public perception that women should stay home and keep their opinions to themselves.

But, surprisingly, the crusading Mrs. Lemon,  — like many of her supporters — was an “Anti:” she was opposed to women getting the vote.

Did you know? In 1913, the Antis had 33,000 members; “the Pankhurst’s WSPU just 2,000.” [Boase, p. 237.]

It’s very hard for a modern woman to identify with Etta Lemon, — and this conflict between two successful, activist women is the paradox that shapes Boase’s book. It twines together two stories about women: the campaign for wildlife conservation and the campaign for voting rights. [The large cast of characters is helpfully listed and described early in the book — a very good idea!]

Wisely, Boase uses the gripping story of working woman Alice Battershall, ” a lowly feather washer,” to plunge us into the very big business of millinery and the feather trade in late Victorian and Edwardian England (and the world.) Alice was tried for the crime of stealing two ostrich plumes from her employer.

The trade in feathers was world wide. Ad for South African ostrich, Delineator, April 1910.

Alice Battershall earned 5 shillings a week — not a living wage even by the sweatshop standards of 1885. Her employer would have sold the feathers for 7 shillings each. Alice sold them to a “fence” for 1 shilling apiece. I had to stop and think about these figures: one ostrich plume was worth more than a week’s wages. Even by selling them to so cheaply, Alice increased her starvation wages by 40% — a powerful temptation.

And ostrich plumes were not the most valuable; ostrich were farmed, and the ostrich didn’t have to be killed for its feathers.

A family of Snowy egrets. Photo By AdA Durden from Jacksonville, USA Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC , via wikipedia.

The bird that faced rapid extinction was the snowy egret. (Milliners called its feathers “Osprey.”) In 1903, a single ounce of Osprey feathers cost almost twice as much as an ounce of gold. [Boase, p.124] But snowy egrets only sported these long, delicate feathers (their nuptial plumage) while mating and raising their young. Egret nestlings need to be fed by both parents over a long period of time; whenever a plume hunter shot and skinned the parent birds, the next generation of snowy egrets died of starvation. When a colony was hunted two or three years in a row, it became extinct.

One famous hunter, David “Egret” Bennett, first wiped out egret colonies in Central America, then moved on to the colonies in Mexico and Baja California. He, too gets a chapter. He was aware that he was driving the species to extinction, but “I have never found any occupation as profitable,” he explained.

[Personally, I see a parallel with the fossil fuel industry today. For me, history — brought to life in Mrs. Pankhurst’s Purple Hat — keeps informing and illuminating the present.]

Mrs. Lemon and her friends began a campaign against the wearing of osprey; they sent letters to newspapers all over England; they wrote to parish newsletters and to clergymen citing biblical passages in support of their views; they wrote (and spoke) to other women and of course, to members of Parliament. But, while Mrs. Pankhurst was leading demonstrations and being arrested (repeatedly) for advocating votes for women — always while elegantly dressed and wearing hats bedecked with feathers,  the anti-suffrage ladies of the [eventually Royal] Society for the Protection of Birds hired men to carry the placards in their most effective education campaign. And, although Mrs. Lemon actually ran the SPB until she was forced out in 1939, on paper her husband Frank was its “honorary secretary.” She did not assume its leadership — officially — until he died.

Exotic birds, like the bird of paradise, were especially valued. This “Paradise Bird” was sold by Sears.

If you couldn’t afford the real thing, parts of many birds might be combined to make one. Sears catalog, 1910.

The sheer numbers of birds killed and skinned and transported to auction in New York and London boggles the mind. An undercover reporter from the American Ornithologists Union slipped into a plumage sale in London in 1888.

“Here were birds by the shipload,” writes Boase, listing about 7,000 parrots, 1,000 woodpeckers, 14,000 quail, grouse and partridge, 4000 snipes and plovers and other domestic birds like the 7,000 starlings, jays, and magpies. There were 5000 tanagers; hundreds (each) of birds of paradise, gulls, finches, orioles, larks, toucans; and 12,000 hummingbirds from all over the world. [It’s a mercy that my mind simply cannot picture a pile of 12,000 dead hummingbirds.]

Until I read this book I knew very little about Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst; I didn’t realize that she was a widow who had to support herself and her daughters, while trying to maintain the appearance of a respectable and “womanly” woman of the upper classes. Cartoonists often depicted suffragettes as mannish women with ties and cigars or as frustrated spinsters. Mrs. Pankhurst was determined to break that stereotype. As in all things British, social class came into it. She didn’t believe that the exclusively male Members of Parliament, who were middle class by virtue of inheritance and/or wealth, would pay attention to the pleas of working class women. This led to a painful break with her socialist daughter Sylvia, who championed “equal pay for equal work” and an end to the “sweating trades” (e.g., ostrich feather curlers) in 1918. [That was 100 years ago….]

The women who worked in the millinery and feather trades were exploited in wretched, health-destroying working conditions, and often reduced to prostitution during the regularly occurring months when their trades were dormant.

A child might have worked for days to “willow” this plume. Peckham’s ad in Delineator, June 1910.

This is an ostrich plume that has been “willowed.” An ordinary ostrich feather has been made longer, fluffier and more luxurious by having extensions tied to every flue — a job which the small and nimble fingers of children were good at.

“One women and two children might labour for a day and a third on a single ostrich plume — whose preparation required as many as 8,613 knots…. In 1910, this earned them 3 cents….”  — Boase, p. 13.

“Pulmonary tuberculosis was a slow and steady killer of women in the feather trade.” [Boase, p. 13]  Nevertheless, abolishing the trade was a political hot potato: workers often preferred the risk of slow death to unemployment and starvation. (Hunger was already part of their lives.)

[This is another dilemma we face today. Although Boase never mentions these parallels, this book offers plenty of food for thought. Silicosis and  pneumoconiosis kill coal miners, and mesothelioma kills asbestos workers; nevertheless, eliminating these trades means eliminating jobs — a problem in 1910 and in 2018.]

As the new century progressed,  some women — like Etta Lemon; Eliza Phillips; Emily Williamson; Virginia Woolf;  and Winifred, Duchess of Portland — campaigned against the extinction of entire species for hat trimmings.  Mrs Pankhurst, immaculately dressed but debilitated from her frequent protest fasts, saw her supporters’ demonstrations become increasingly violent. Then came World War I, and a great change in women’s lives….

As I have mentioned, Mrs. Pankhurst’s Purple Feather is history told by a scholar with a novelist’s touch, focusing on the small detail and the personal story to bring its events vividly to life.  And, although the author does not mention their relevance to modern life, I can’t help being stimulated by many of the facts she shares.

Over 100 years ago, American Ornithologist Henry Oldys addressed the U.S. Congress on the topic of wildlife conservation, urging legislation to prevent the extinction of species:

The spirit of the age, was, he said, marked by ignorance, cupidity and supineness — a toxic combination that was steadily exterminating creation. “History will not listen to the plea, ‘It was not my business,’ ” he cried. ‘It will answer: “You were there and could have prevented it; therefore it was your business. You failed to do your duty. The only explanation is that you were corrupt, ignorant, or weak.” ‘ — from Boase, p. 226.

[In the light of my country’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the U.N.’s recent report that irreversible climate change is happening more rapidly than predicted, someone needs to say that to Congress again.]

Nevertheless, I also found hope from the fact that women, working together, can accomplish the near-impossible. Even the story of the troubling Mrs. Lemon gives me hope:

The RSPB began with a letter writing campaign organized by a few Victorian ladies — bird-lovers excluded from all-male ornithological societies because they were women.

“Within six months… this little ‘bird and bonnet’ society [grew] from 1,000 to 5,000 members.” In two years, it had almost 10,000, “most of them women.” [p. 74.] Today, “The RSPB is a behemoth — a charity with 1.2 million members, 200 nature reserves…, 2000 staff and 14,000 volunteers. It has an annual income of 100 million pounds and it wields great political power. Its business today is international nature conservation.” (p. xi.)

Reading that makes me feel a lot better about our chances.

Summary: By focusing her complex story on the lives of individual women, Tessa Boase has turned an extraordinary mass of scholarly research into a memorable and fascinating book, filled with surprises and startling details. I used to think history was boring. Not this one.

The publishers deserve praise, especially for the footnotes (actually endnotes) which are printed in two-column format. They never intrude, but if you want to check a source, they are easy to read without constant page flipping. Full index and bibliography; color plates; and Ms. Boase herself collected the illustrations for the end papers from period magazines. Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

Mrs. Pankhurst wore a purple feather because the Suffragette colors were purple (for freedom and dignity,) white (for purity,) and green (for hope.) Click here to see the (faded) feather that inspired this book.

Tessa Boase blogs at tessaboase.com/blog, where you can see more Edwardian feathered hats in full color (including eyes and beaks….)

Fashion sketch of a chic Parisienne; Delineator, May 1910. She is wearing a glorified chicken.

Four feathered hats. Delineator, February 1910.

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Edwardian fashions, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, World War I

Steps on the Way: 1914 to 1924

How did fashion get from here …

Fashion image from Delineator, March 1910.

… to here …

Fashion illustrations from Delineator, August 1920.

… in just ten years?

This is not a definitive answer — just a large collection of intriguing and sometimes contradictory tidbits I collected last month.

“Facts and Figures;” about the new corsets, from Delineator, April 1914. The author is Eleanor Chalmers. Page 38.

I was reading this article on corsets (1914) when I saw a sentence that leapt out:

That’s what it says: “Among smart women the size of the waistline has increased three inches in the past two or three years.”

I’ve been going through magazines from 1910, 1914, and 1920, and there is no doubt that a big change in the ideal figure happened between 1910 and 1914. This 1914 corset article will make more sense if we first look at some images from 1910.

Cover illustration, Delineator magazine, March 1910.

Full  breasts, narrow waist, wide hips: a classic hourglass figure. This is a voluptuous, grown woman in the prime of life.

Two curvaceous women wearing Butterick patterns from May 1910.

The 1910 beauty ideal is a mature woman, not a teen-aged girl. Of course, not all women looked this way without help.

Two 1910 corsets in a “Nuform”/ “Reduso” corset ad. Delineator, March 1910.

Even slender women were expected to be curvy:

The Sahlin Perfect Form and Corset Combined was lightly structured, but promised the small-waisted, big-busted look of 1910.

“For the Slender Woman… The only garment that, without padding or interlining, produces the stylish high bust, straight waist, and long hip…. Braces the shoulders, expands the chest naturally.”

If pulling your shoulders back didn’t do the trick, you could resort to a different sort of help:

Nature’s Rival promised a Perfect Bust: “the full rounded bust form of a finely built woman” — very large in relation to the tiny waist. Ad from Delineator, June 1910.

A slender but curvy woman (with an ideal figure for 1910) models a lingerie frock. Fashion illustration, Delineator, April 1910.

Shapely — but not necessarily girlish — women, March 1910; Delineator. Even the older woman has a tiny waist.

The woman at left is curvy; the woman in the suit at right has the hips of a corset ad.

Ad for American Lady corsets, April 1910.

The corset Chalmers recommended in 1914 created a very different shape: it doesn’t support the bust at all; it has — preferably — a stretchy rubberized waist, and its stated goal is to make the hips look narrower while making the waist look larger. (“Unless your waist is large, your hips will not be small….”)

Front and back views of a recommended corset, April 1914.

“The waistline no longer exists… You obviously can’t have the new straight lines with a curve at the waist and hips.” I was surprised to read this in an article from 1914. It seems to prefigure (no pun intended) the fashion ideal of the nineteen twenties.

“The silhouette that the corset makers and manufacturers are working on for 1914, and which is the basis for all the present styles, is the straight figure, with small hips, large waist, and no bust. ” [This is 1914, but it could be 1920-something!]

First paragraph of Eleanor Chalmer’s corset advice.”The face alone, no matter how pretty, counts for nothing unless the body is as straight and yielding as a very young girl.” Delineator, April 1914.

“If a woman clings affectionately to the high bust, the small drawn-in waist and the big hips of a few years ago, she is going to look not only old-fashioned, but old. The corset of former years gave a woman a mature, well-developed, matronly figure. The corset of to-day makes her look like a very young girl.”

American Lady Corset ad from April 1914. It seems to meet the large waist requirement, but young?

Compare two corsets from the same manufacturer, 1910 and 1914. Ads from Delineator.

“If necessary, you can wear a brassiere with it.”

Since the ideal was now a small, low bust, this brassiere for a full-breasted woman confined her breasts rather than supporting them.

Ad for a De Bevoise brassiere, June 1914.

Of course, what fashion writers tell readers they are looking at, and what we actually see, are not always the same thing.

Thomson’s corset ad, February 1914. Her hips are bizarrely long and thin.

Ms. Chalmers and the corset makers are selling the idea of a slender, girlish hip. But for other fashion writers in the same year, this was the headline :

“New Skirt Models That Widen the Figure at the Hip.” Delineator, March 1914.

These skirt patterns were shown in the same issue as the corset advice article which emphasized the importance of slender hips. Delineator, April 1914, p 26.

It hardly seems worth the trouble of wearing a corset under those skirts. “Saddlebag thighs?” Very chic!

However, the waist was definitely getting thicker — and higher. Hard to believe, but the following six outfits are all for girls 14 to 19 years old.

Patterns for teens 14 to 19. Delineator, April 1914, p. 37. [These skirts are wide at the hip and very narrow at the ankle.]

The 1914 ideal of a slender, girlish figure does not look as we might expect.

More patterns for teens 14 to 19 years old. April 1914. Tiny waists are out of style. Wide hips seem to be in… regardless of that corset article in the same magazine.

Even though I’ve written about the Tubular Twenties, I was looking for the arrival of the dropped waist; I missed the arrival of the thick waist. Maybe I should have been asking, “When did the waist disappear?” It looks like the answer is earlier than I realized. In 1914, the new style was usually high-waisted, but look at the girl at far left, above. Her waist is almost Twenties….

Skirts began to rise during World War I, but the wide hips and thick waists of the pre-war era continued into 1920:

Butterick fashions for May, 1920. Delineator, p. 151. The wide, loose sash actually adds bulk to the waist.

Maybe the thickening waist is how we got from this …

Butterick patterns 3828 and 3789, May 1910

… to this …

Butterick patterns for March 1914 show a thick-waisted, wide-hipped silhouette.

… to this:

Butterick patterns for January 1924. The line is long and narrow; there is no hint that women have waists.

In 1925, another Delineator writer suggested that women had let their figures go during these years of bulky fashions. “A Few Years Ago Women Took Off Corsets . . . and Let Their Figures Go.” — Evelyn Dodge, Delineator, July 1925.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Bras, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, World War I

Conventions of Mourning, 1910

“The Conventions of Mourning,” an article by Eleanor Chalmers which appeared in Delineator magazine in March, 1910.

Costumers often need information about etiquette and social conventions for the era they are researching. I’m happy to have found this article from March, 1910. I’ve broken it up into segments for legibility. One of the interesting things it mentions is the difference between mourning customs in England and the United States. This magazine, Delineator, was published in both countries and aimed at a middle class or upper middle class reader in the United States, with regular reports on French couture.

The conventions of mourning are different depending on relationship to the deceased. Notice that these three women probably represent three generations; complete mourning dress for a younger girl was shown on the next page.

These women in mourning are different ages, with the early-middle-aged one at the left, the youngest in the center, and the eldest at right. Perhaps the one on the right is the mother, and the one in the middle is her grown daughter. Their clothes would be black, but have been illustrated in shades of gray so the details are more visible.

“The deepest mourning is that worn by a widow for her husband. A widow should wear deep mourning for a year or eighteen months….”

This woman appears to be wearing the widow’s “Marie Stuart bonnet of black crepe with a ruching of white crepe near the face.”

This appears to be the widow. Her veil is bordered in black and very long. Her hat has a touch of white.

Collars and cuffs for widows. 1910. White organdy was lined with stiff black buckram or crinoline.

[Presumably your ladies’ maid would be responsible for making new organdy collars and cuffs every day!]

“One can wear pearls and diamonds, … but no gold, silver, or colored jewels…. Black furs…. Sable has always been accepted as the equivalent of black.” [Well, that must have been a relief….]

In America, black “bands on the sleeves are only worn by servants or people too poor to afford proper mourning.”

I would not describe this hat as a toque. I defer to wiser writers…..

It’s sometimes not clear whether the word “for” refers to the deceased or to the wearer of mourning. “For a young child may mean “worn by a young child” but the context suggests that a mother is not expected to mourn as long for a young child as for a grown child. [My own great-grandmother had twelve children, but only three survived her.]

Young girls might wear all white mourning instead of all black.

All white, especially for [i.e., on] young girls, is considered full mourning…. A girl of 12 or 14 might wear black for a parent or sibling, but it wasn’t obligatory.

“Black and white mourning is only half mourning; in fact, it is worn so much nowadays by smartly gowned women that it hardly suggests mourning at all.”

“For a brother or sister full mourning is worn for a year…. If mourning is worn at all for a grandparent, it is worn for six months; for an aunt or uncle, three months [unless that relative was acting in loco parentis….]

“Mourning means a withdrawal from society, and no formal entertaining or visiting is done throughout its duration.”

“I have said nothing about mourning [to be worn by] children, as there is a very strong feeling against it in this country…. With men, too, mourning is never emphasized as it is for women.”

So, when the husband dies, the wife mourns for 18 months. When the wife dies, the husband wears black for a year, and a black hatband. “Many American men do not wear mourning at all….” [Of course, the widower is expected to “go into society” looking for a replacement after six months or so….]

Mourning hats and veils, 1910. Delineator, March 1910; pp. 243 & 244. Black fur and diamonds were acceptable, but gold or silver jewelry was not.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Hats, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Accessories

Snapshots from a Time Traveler

Ta-dah! The big reveal from February 1920. Delineator.

I’m still having fun in the library. This week I traveled to 1914 and 1920, and I couldn’t wait to share a few snapshots.

High life: wearing Butterick patterns in February 1914. Delineator.

“Does this dress make my hips look big enough?” Delineator, June 1920.

Of course, I’m still labeling photos from 1910, too.

A Big Hat from January, 1910. Delineator.

Another Big Hat:

“No, I’m not a fortune teller: why do you ask?” From Delineator, February 1910.

However, I predict your bust will be improved….

Nature’s Rival: You can have a Perfect Bust thanks to the Air-Form Corset Waist. Ad from Delineator, February 1910. [Inflated with what?]

From Big Hats to High Hats:

It can’t have been easy getting out of a cab in one of these — in the hat or the skirt. Delineator, April 1914.

A High Hat from May 1914. Delineator.

“See you real soon….” With lots more images from the colorful past.

Seriously, I’m trying to prioritize color images, because there is simply not enough time to photograph everything that interests me in these old magazines. But it’s not easy!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Corsets, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, World War I