Category Archives: Musings

“Service Suits” for Girls, Boys, and Women in 1917

Military uniform for boys aged 6 to 16. Butterick pattern 8070, August 1917.

“In these times, boys of all ages like to be ready for service.” He is “ready to do ‘his bit.’ “

Butterick pattern 8070 for a boy’s “military suit” from 1917 was part of a trend: “service suits” and military dress for civilians.

Butterick 9334 for girls, September 1917. Delineator. This girl has long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Right, Ladies’ Home Journal “military dress” pattern 1067 for girls 6 to 14, October 1917.

Butterick “military suit” pattern 9365, September 1917. For girls 10 to 15 years old.

Butterick coat pattern 9315 from August, 1917. Delineator. Sized for young girls  and adult women, it was “sometimes called the trench or military coat….” For “active  service.”

“Service suits” and a military dress for women from Butterick patterns, August 1917. Delineator. For more information about these patterns, click here. The blue and tan dress, like the tan suit, has “service pockets.”

Butterick offered so many variations on “Service uniforms” for adult women, I worry that some women spent more time making an outfit to wear while volunteering than they actually spent doing war work.

Three out of four patterns on this page are “uniforms” for civilian women aged 14 to 19. August 1917, Delineator, page 50. “When Johnny comes marching home he will find his sister all turned out in a new military suit.”

The phrases used to describe these outfits use plenty of military jargon.

It’s not surprising that young women heading off to college expected that they would spend time aiding the war effort in some way.

A traveling suit that is also a service suit, for college-bound women. Butterick coat 9324 with skirt 9374. Delineator, Sept. 1917. Pleated “service pockets” came in large, practical sizes and in sizes that were purely “fashion.”

“So many women are doing relief work of all kinds, and they drop into restaurants for tea and luncheons in this type of suit.”

Right, a Butterick military-influenced suit uses coat pattern 9324 with skirt 9309. August 1917.

Left, Ladies’ Home Journal patterns 1059 (jacket) and 1099 (skirt), November 1917. The majority of patterns were less military looking.

The military look was a new fashion option, among more traditionally feminine styles for women. Left, Ladies Home Journal pattern 1061; right, LHJ pattern 1050. October 1917.

Even Chanel showed a service suit:

A service suit designed by Gabrielle Chanel, illustrated in Butterick’s Delineator in October 1917.

That is not to say that women were just playing dress-up. The “women’s magazines” were an important channel of communication for official government notices, from food conservation to Red Cross needs and instructions for volunteers.

Knitting for sailors; a form from Delineator, August 1917. Those who could knit — or learn to knit — were asked to do so; those who couldn’t were asked to donate money to buy wool yarn.

Knit Your Bit for the Navy. Delineator, August 1917.

From a Red Cross article about knitting for servicemen. It appeared in Delineator, November 1917. The Ladies’ Home Journal printed similar articles by the Red Cross so that readers could volunteer to make everything from “comfort kits” to hospital gowns, bandages, and hot water bottle covers.

EDIT 9/10/17: Synchronicity/serendipity brought me this link via Two Nerdy History Girls to a fine article at “Behind Their Lines” about women knitting for the war effort.

The Butterick Publishing Company received such an outpouring of knitting for the troops that it briefly became a problem, before standardization of size and color was imposed.

Sweater pattern 9355 from Butterick, August 1917. It was sized for boys or men. A short time later, the Red Cross issued standardized patterns for the military.

Nevertheless, the patterns for “service uniforms” for children seem to me to be a little silly. (I certainly didn’t wear my Girl Scout uniform every minute I spent earning badges….) On the other hand, now that even young children carry a cell phone to school, some big “service pockets” on school clothes would come in handy!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

World War I Paper Dolls, 1917

A little while ago I wrote about a series of paper dolls based on silent movies.

Another set of paper dolls based on popular actors in silent films, Delineator, June 1917.

Later in 1917, after the U.S. entered World War I, Delineator magazine gave children a new set of heroes.

Paper dolls of U.S. Naval uniforms, Delineator, September, 1917.

This change of emphasis extended to clothing patterns for children:

Butterick pattern 8383 for boys 4 to 12. Delineator, September, 1917, page 63.

In November, pilots were featured. The illustrations are by Corwin Knapp Linson.

Paper Dolls based on Naval Air Force Uniforms. Delineator, Nov. 19217, p. 25. “A Naval Airplane With Its Daring Crew.”

The illustrator crammed as many drawings as possible on each page,  including a battleship and an airplane — and the Navy Mascot.

U.S. Navy uniforms illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, September 1917.

U.S. Navy uniform illustrated as paper doll, Delineator, September 1917.

U.S. Navy uniforms illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, September 1917.

U.S. Navy uniforms illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, September 1917.

The pilots include one woman:

U.S. Naval air pilots illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, November 1917, p. 25.

U.S. Naval air pilots illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, November 1917, p. 25. “This aviatrice is dressed in a serviceable uniform similar to that worn by Ruth Law.”

U.S. Naval air pilots illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, November 1917, p. 25. Left, “a lieutenant of aviation in service uniform;” right, “his flight suit of light leather or waterproof cloth.”

U.S. Naval air pilots illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, November 1917, p. 25. Left, the leather coat and hood of a lieutenant of aviation.

U.S. Naval air pilots illustrated as paper dolls, Delineator, November 1917, p. 25.

Delineator was a “woman’s magazine,” but it had been running articles about the valiant French and English for a long time.

“Women of France: What They Have Done in the Great War” by Gertrude Atherton. Delineator, February 1917, p. 5. Illustration by W. T. Benda.

Much of the fashion coverage used military terms, like “over the top,” and “holding the line.”  Illustrations of little boys used to show them engaged in peacetime activities; now they were shown “playing war.”

Boys imitating soldiers in a fashion illustration. Delineator, September 1917.

Did anyone really make this uniform, complete with puttees, for a little boy?

Butterick pattern 9383 for boys aged 4 to 12. September, 1917, page 63.

Butterick patterns for boys, September 1917. Left, sailor suit 9171; right, a toddler so young that he is still in a dress  (No. 8867) waves a wooden sword. (In some eras it was customary for boys to wear dresses until they were out of diapers.)

(Did the writer really understand that allusion? “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” — Elegy in a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Gray, published in 1751.)

Butterick patterns for boys, Delineator, September 1917. Left, a sporty suit with Norfolk jacket, No. 8553; right, suit No. 8381 has a naval flavor. Sailor suits for boys were an established tradition. Even girls wore middy blouses (from “midshipman.”)

Butterick patterns for boys, Delineator, 1917.

It’s almost a relief to see this “manly looking” — but civilian — overcoat for boys aged 4 to sixteen.

Butterick overcoat 9030 for boys, 1917. “… It is just the type that Dad wears.”

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, World War I

Beauty Advice from the Nineteen Twenties: Keep Your Chin(s) Up

Ad for Catherine McCunes’s Silk Muscle Lifting Mask, January 1928, Delineator magazine. “Note How Mask Lifts and Supports Sagging Facial Muscles.”

Title of a page of beauty advice by Celia Caroline Cole, Delineator, May 1927, p. 35.

The cherubs turn away in distress from the sight of a double chin.

Cherubs avert their eyes from a double chin in this illustration by L. Fevrier. 1927.

In this 1918 ad for rubber reducing garments, a chin strap could be bought for seventy-five cents.

In 1918, the Bailey Rubber Company sold reducing garments, including a “chin band for reducing double chin.” The rubber garment idea was to dissolve body fat by sweating — like rendering lard from a side of beef. Fat and water, however, are not the same thing.

Catherine McCune promised that wearing her Muscle Lifting Mask would wipe out wrinkles, too. Ad from Delineator, Oct. 1927.

Elizabeth Arden ran a series of ads with this disturbing image; this woman is not recovering from surgery, but receiving a beauty treatment:

The Elizabeth Arden salons sold cold cream, skin tonic, astringents,  and other beauty preparations. This image comes from an ad in Delineator, April 1925. “Tones, firms, whitens and refines the skin.” “Use a Patter for brisk resilient strokes.”

This ad is selling Elizabeth Arden’s Amiral “reducing soap” “for a double chin:”

Ad for Elizabeth Arden’s Amiral Soap, November 1924. “Absorbed by the skin, it breaks down fat by a natural harmless process, stimulates circulation to remove fatty waste.” [If only spot reduction were that easy….]

It’s probably not a coincidence that Delineator’s beauty writer, Celia Cole,  vouched for the efficacy of astringent soap, “skin food,” and even salon reducing treatments that used electricity. She doesn’t name the salon, but those monthly ads paid for by Elizabeth Arden may have had some influence on the editorial choices of Delineator magazine.

From “Chins in the Air”, by Celia Cole. Delineator, May 1927, p. 35.

Those Elizabeth Arden ads offer the “Arden Patter” (for spanking your double chin) for five dollars. Five dollars! In 1925 !

“Perfectly scientific” beauty treatments as described in Delineator, May 1927. To be fair, Celia Caroline Cole also recommended exercise.

Illustration by Brunner for an article on weight loss, Delineator, September 1928. “Floors trembled and ceilings fell from woman’s effort to get thin. Somebody wrote a book about calories…. The lettuce business increased six-fold in ten years.”

Compared to chin “patters,” pseudo-scientific ointments, and electric shocks, maybe the Silk Muscle Lifting masks weren’t the craziest way to spend money in a attempt to preserve your youth.

Complete ad for Silk Muscle Lifting Mask, Delineator, January 1928.

Complete ad for Muscle Lifting Mask, Delineator, October 1927. It was worn while sleeping, or for a few minutes every day. “Much less expensive than plastic surgery or deep peel.” [Did you realize those treatments were available in the 1920’s?]

A no-longer youthful woman ponders her reflection, May 1927. Delineator.

If you are interested in the history of fashion for the mature woman, you might enjoy a visit to AmericanAgeFashion.

Wrigley's gum Curve of Beauty ad 1934 july

Another, [perfectly unscientific] series of ads recommended chewing Wrigley’s gum as a beauty treatment for the facial muscles. I took me three blog posts to share all the ads I found: Chew Gum for Beauty (Part 1), Part 2, and Part 3. The ad above is from 1934. “Keep [your cheek line] from looking old and saggy; chew Double Mint gum. This gentle exercise 5 to 10 minutes daily aids in toning up unused and lazy facial muscles. Try this new Beauty Treatment.”

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

The Glamour of Spanish Combs and Embroidered Shawls

Detail: wrapped in a Spanish shawl; advertisement in Delineator, October 1924.

Imagine that you need to advertise a fine product, but one not known for excitement. Your ad needs to be eye-catching, beautiful, and hint at luxury — and it has to appeal to women. P.S. Sex appeal won’t hurt.

Spanish combs and embroidered shawls in a full-color ad, Delineator, October 1924.

Spanish comb and fringe in a colorful ad from July, 1924. Delineator.

The gorgeous illustrations are by E. Trumbull:

Illustration by E. Trumbull, 1924.

Once Rudolph Valentino tangoed his way into the hearts of women in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  (1921) — followed with Blood and Sand (1922),  A Sainted Devil (1924) and perhaps before that, “Spanish” shawls — many probably imported from China– were a Twenties’ craze.

Click here for another vintage Illustration of a lady in a shawl wearing a Spanish comb in her hair.

This shawl is vintage, and had a crisp rather than silky feel to it:

Vintage embroidered shawl. The long silk fringe adds movement.

So many of these shawls were used as decor, rather than clothing, that I’ve heard them called “piano shawls.”

Click for an exotic comb and shawl combination from a 1926 film of  Carmen. Pola Negri‘s 1923 film The Spanish Dancer may have contributed to the fashion for spit curls. (My mother had one right in the center of her forehead in the 1920’s.)

The twenties’ fad for Spanish shawls and combs extended to spit curls.

Butterick offered its version of a “costume for a Spanish dancer” in 1924 and again (twice) in 1925.

Butterick 5625 is a “Spanish dancer’s costume” for Halloween. Delineator, November 1924.

It showed up again in February (for masquerade parties?) and in October of 1925.

Butterick 5625, “Spanish dancer costume.” These illustrations are from 1925. Note the spit curls.

Have you guessed what those glamorous paintings by Trumbull were advertising?

Detail of ad for Standard Plumbing Fixtures. Oct. 1924.

Ad for Standard Plumbing Fixtures, Delineator, July 1924. Comb, fringe, and spit curl. The bathtub and sink are shown, but not the toilet.

Ole! (Lampshade optional.) Ad from 1924.

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Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

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