Category Archives: Musings

Hair Styles for American Girls, World War I Era (Part 1)

Three hairstyles from Delineator, February 1917. One is very high, one has bangs and side-puffs, and one may be — but probably isn’t — a bob.

My usual approach to this blog is to collect a lot of images with something in common, and then thread them together — often with plenty of meandering into by-paths….

The top of a full page of hairstyles for women, Delineator, April 1917.

I  ended up with so many images of 1917 hair styles for European-American women that I’m having trouble dividing them into several posts.

One stream has to do with the remarkable height of some 1917 hairstyles. [And hats.]

A model for Paquin (1917) sports a hair style as extreme as any seen on a runway today.

Another has to do with bobbed hair — pre-1920’s — popularized by dancer Irene Castle and necessitated in Europe by women’s war work in munitions factories. (The U.S. was a late-comer to WW I, so American women didn’t need to adopt shorter hairstyles for safety until 1917.)

Mrs. Vernon Castle  (Irene Castle) was credited with setting the fashion for bobbed hair. From an ad campaign for Corticelli Silks, Delineator, October 1917.

Another view of Irene Castle’s famous bobbed hair; Delineator, ad for Corticelli Silks, November 1917. Both photos are probably from the same photo shoot; she is wearing the same dress.

A third idea I’m wrestling with is the gradual steps toward the bob — from a “fringe” (bangs) in the 1880’s to cutting some of the front hair short (1917) while retaining long hair in back. I suspect that most women took this conservative approach, making the change in increments.

From the Sears, Roebuck catalog, Fall 1917. From the front, the woman on the right appears to have bobbed hair, but her reflection in the mirror shows that her back hair is long and gathered into a bun, secured with a large, fan-shaped comb.

And then I have some ads for products related to hair styles….

The image used with this ad resembles the Paquin model above. It offers to transform your own hair combings into “switches” which could be used to increase the size of your hairdo. Anna Ayers ad from Delineator, March 1917.

A Digression About Hair Combings and Rats

One item often included in an early 20th century Vanity set — or dresser set — was a hair receiver.

A vanity set from Sears, Roebuck, 1917. The hair receiver is at upper right.

It was a jar with a hole in the lid, into which women put their “combings.”

Along with nail files, button hooks, brushes, and containers for cotton balls (No. 8K8744,) containers for hair combings (Nos. 8K8745 and 8K8723) appeared on a lady’s dressing table. Sears, 1917.

That is, when women cleaned hair out of their brushes and combs, they put it into the hair receiver, and, when they had collected enough, they made it into a “rat,” encasing it in a hairnet that matched their hair color and then combing their long hair over the rat to create huge turn-of-the-century hairstyles like those illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson.  The huge hairdos of the 1940’s used them too.

Those Tall 1917 Hair Styles

From an ad for Fashionette hairnets, Delineator, April 1917.

A similar conical style, called the “beehive,” was popular in the 1960s:

“The higher the hair, the closer to Heaven” was a popular saying when “bouffant” hairdos were in fashion. We supported these styles by “ratting” our hair (see “rats,” above). Hairdressers called it “back-combing,” but we always called it “ratting.” You took a strand of hair, pulled it up toward the sky, and, with your other hand, repeatedly ran a comb down it toward your scalp. Any loose hairs were pushed into tangles at the base. Spray with “Aquanette.” Repeat. When your ratted hair was a complete, tangled mess, you carefully brushed the outer layer smooth  and sealed it with a final layer of hairspray. I remember a classmate who had a conical “beehive” hairdo done before a prom. By carefully wrapping it in a scarf at night, she preserved it for several days. It gradually deflated, though, so by Friday, her light brown beehive looked like she had a cow patty on her head….

High Hair, 1917

High hair for evening, accented with a jeweled comb, from an article in Delineator, April 1917. The waves are probably a Marcel.

Back in 1917, you could also use Silmarine to set your hair — it probably increased volume, too.

Ad for Silmarine hair setting lotion, Delineator, March 1917.

The Sew Historically website has an extensive set of recipes for shampoos and for Bandoline, the 19th century predecessor to hair spray.  In 1917, you could wear an invisible hairnet:

Another big hair style from a Fashionette hairnet ad. Delineator, August 1917.

The blonde woman with a similar gravity-defying hairstyle is wearing a house dress, not an evening gown. Delineator, January 1917.

Two high hairdos flank a less extreme style in April 1917. Delineator magazine.

A high, conical hairdo from an article in Delineator, April 1917. “The high hair-dressing is new, and adds a generous cubit to your stature.” This was not just a style for evening, as seen from other illustrations.

Did any ordinary women get their hair to look like this? Yes.

This pretty girl with a lap full of kittens posed in the homely back yard of my grandmother’s house. Circa 1917.

Not all hairdos were tall enough to “add a cubit to your height.”

This woman’s long, Marcel-waved hair [her “crowning glory”] is worn close to her head, and caught in a large chignon at the nape of her neck. This style persisted into the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Delineator, April 1917.

The next photo contains a mysterious reference to eating “bread crusts to make your hair curl.”

Her low hair style has a cluster of curls in back. April, 1917. Delineator.

Are they real, or did she buy them?

A “switch” in the form of a “string of curls” was offered in this ad from Delineator, February 1917. Ad for Frances Roberts Co. –“The Mail-Order Hair House.”

Gradually Working Your Way Toward Bobbed Hair

Two women from a Sears’ catalog, Fall 1917. Although at first glance their hair appears as short as Irene Castle’s, a closer look shows a small bun at the back.

In the 1920’s the bun was eliminated:

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Short, “shingle” haircuts from October, 1925; Delineator. The front of the hairdo is much like that of 1917.

Short Hair on Women Marked a Social Change

Long hair used to be the only option for most women. Delineator, March 1917.

A woman’s long hair was said to be “her crowning glory.”  In Victorian times, cropped hair was often a sign that a woman had suffered a severe illness (as in Conan Doyle’s story, “The Copper Beeches.“)

Dresses for girls 8 to 15, Delineator, May 1924. The one on the left has long “Mary Pickford” curls, associated with innocence.

Men saw long hair paradoxically, as both sexy and innocent: young girls wore their hair loose and long, and young ladies “put up their hair” around sixteen, as a sign that they were now adults — and ready for marriage.

Cutting it all short at one time — like Irene Castle — took a lot of courage, especially in 1917. My mother and her best friend shocked their families when they bobbed their hair around 1922. They were the first girls in town to do it.  Back in 1918, my mother was working up to it gradually — and that is a story for another day. (Part 2)

My mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, circa 1918-19.

She has done her best to simulate the high hair and cheek puffs of fashion illustrations — without cutting her hair.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs, World War I

The Great Depression Reflected in Ads from the Back of Women’s Magazines

Ad from Womans’ Home Companion, March, 1936.

“My husband is out of employment and has been for some time…. Our savings are gradually disappearing, and I am so helpless. I don’t know a thing I can do to earn money….” The Woman’s Home Companion invited her to sell magazine subscriptions.

One of the fascinations of vintage women’s magazines is their “time capsule” quality. While reading through them for fashion information, I can’t resist the advertisements, which give me a idea of the era’s preoccupations (zeitgeist is the correct word, I suppose.) What was new — from zippers to steam irons? What did advertisers want people to worry about, from halitosis and pyorrhea to underarm hair? In the Thirties, massive male unemployment found many women desperate to help support their families.

Women’s magazines had many such ads, promising that women could make money at home — “no experience needed.” Ad from Delineator, February 1931.

Before color photography was widespread, black and white photos were hand tinted — “We instruct you by our new simple Photo-Color process and supply you with work.”  Coloring printed images was already “women’s work.” In the 19th century, some women had earned money by hand-painting fashion plates with watercolor.

I realize that researchers tend to notice what they expect to find, so it’s not surprising that, as the child of people who married in 1933 — in the heart of the Great Depression — I noticed these little ads crowded into the backs of magazines.

A few ads from the back of Delineator magazine, October 1931.

Here is a selection of ads which promised women that they could earn money at home, with no experience or skills. Some of them were probably preying on the desperate — but perhaps I’m just cynical….

Top of an ad for Brown Bobbys, Delineator, February 1931.

Text of Brown Bobby ad, February 1931. Brown Bobbys were doughnuts. I suspect that the Food Machine Display Corp. was willing to sell families the equipment for a home doughnut business.

Women might also try to start a candy business….

Open your own candy business? “Making and sales equipment furnished.”  Delineator, February 1933. The American School of Home Economics was already publishing home economics study courses and books in the 1920’s, including Cooking for profit: catering and food service management.

Or sell clothing…

“Women — Sell Fashion Frocks…. Earn up to $22 a week and get all your own dresses without a penny of cost.” Ad from Delineator, April 1936.

Sell Silk Hose: “Startling money-making proposition…. enormous earnings…Your own hose free of cost.” Ad from Womans’ Home Companion, November 1936. Wilknit Hosiery Co. ad. [Do you think that guaranteed stocking replacement might be a problem?]

“Women wanted” to sell fabric, sheets, handkerchiefs, blankets… Mitchell & Church Club ad, Delineator, February 1934.

“Do  you want to make money? … Sell Fashion Frocks.” Ad from WHC, March 1937. “We are appointing a few more ambitious women to act as our representatives.”

[I don’t think it would be easy to sell dresses or anything else to your friends and relatives if you were all equally broke….]

October, 1934; Delineator. “Start earning at once. Thousands of prospects near you.” General Card Co., Chicago.

Was there really such a demand for hooked rugs? From a series of ads for Hollywood Studio Stores, Inc., Ltd., Delineator, December 1934. “Women… Earn extra money at home making beautiful hooked rugs…. Make money the first week! …We furnish complete instructions, tools, and materials.”

Another “Hooked rugs” ad, November 1936. “No experience necessary.”

Fireside Industries said there was a market for hand-painted decorative items:

“Make extra money at once” — after you learn to “decorate clever art gifts at big profit per piece. No experience needed … No tedious study… You don’t even have to leave the house.” October 1931, Delineator. Fireside Industries ad.

Fireside Industries ad, March 1935. Delineator. “Everything furnished including supply of Novelties, for you to decorate and Homecrafters outfit.” “Openings in every locality.” “FIRST LESSON FREE.” [And then?]

Selling greeting cards, stationery, and especially Christmas cards, was advertised as a way to make money.

Ad for Wallace Brown, Inc. greeting card sales, Delineator, February 1937. “Show samples to friends and neighbors. Everybody buys.”

Bluebird Studios ad, WHC, Sept. 1936. “Sells on Sight. Box on approval.” The text looks very similar to that Wallace Brown ad, above.

The words “Earn,” “Easy,” and “Extra Money” appear again and again, often with the promise that women can work from home..

Process Corporation ad, August 1931. ” Thousands of women — many without experience — turn their spare minutes into dollars…. Permanent, big-paying position, if you make good.”

Process Corporation sought women and men to sell greeting cards” imprinted to customer’s order.” October, 1931, Delineator. Jeanette Maumus of New Orleans “Earned $78.20 in 45 minutes. $87.50 just a day’s sales for Mrs. H.H. Castle, Burke, Idaho.”

Janes Art Studio ad for card sellers. Sept. 1934. This ad admits that the pay is on commission — which makes Mrs. H.H. Castle’s $87 in sales look a little less lucrative.

From my own experience in door-to-door sales, sometimes you have to sell a “quota” amount before you qualify for the commission. In 1967, if I didn’t sell enough children’s encyclopedias to meet my weekly sales quota, I didn’t get paid at all. I believe some car salesmen still face this problem.

Ad for John A. Hertel Co. Christmas card sales, September 1931. Delineator. “No experience needed.”

Other ads [which I regard less cynically] offered educational opportunities leading to a new career — in hotel management, dressmaking, or nursing.

Ad for Lewis Hotel Training Schools, October 1934, Delineator.

Women could “Be a Hotel Hostess” or possibly manage an apartment house — a good job for a single mother. Lewis Hotel Training School ad, October 1931. Delineator. In the ad just below, you could make $2 by tipping the Denver Optic Company off to potential artificial eye customers….

Back in the 1920’s, Lewis would teach you how to run a tea room, so this was an established business school:

Ad for the Lewis Tea Room Institute, Delineator, January 1924. “Fortunes are being made in this big new industry….”

Ads for nursing schools were also traditional, and little changed from 1924 to 1937 — except for the potential salary and the hats.

Ad for Chatauqua School of Nursing, January 1924. This school offered a home-study course.

Ad for Chicago School of Nursing, February 1935.  “You can learn at home in spare time.”

Ad for Chicago School of Nursing, WHC, March 1937. “High School not required. Easy tuition payments.”

Ads for the Woman’s Institute have a long history, but during the Depression, the ads emphasized using your sewing skills to earn money. March, 1934.

I have some respect for the ads that suggested professional training for women who, like this one from the ad I began with, had never expected to work outside the home.

“I am nearly 35 years old and have no business experience…. My husband is out of employment and has been for some time.” Woman’s Home Companion ad for subscription sellers, March 1936.

And I can’t resist sharing (again) the “ad from the back of a magazine” that startled me into collecting them:

Ad from Delineator, March 1937. Courtesy Remembered Summers. Who wouldn’t leap at the chance to raise giant frogs for the American Frog Canning Company?

Now, that is desperation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Woman's Institute

Quick Post: Theda Bara’s Bloomers

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Public domain image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917. From WikiMedia Commons. She was at ease in very revealing costumes.

Bonus sighting of Cleopatra’s knickers: The 1917 film of Theda Bara’s Cleopatra is lost, but an attempt to reconstruct it from surviving footage and still photos is being made. The lavish and daring costumes make up in craftsmanship what they lack in authenticity. I especially love this sequence, in which Cleopatra rises from her throne to reveal, under her see-through dress, a pair of very un-sexy 1917 knickers. Click here.       (The inter-titles assume you’re a very slow reader; be patient and wait for it….) The elastic seems to have been removed from the legs.

Ladies drawers or bloomers from Sears, Spring 1917.

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“Mother was right: always wear nice underwear in case somebody sees it….” Public domain image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917.

Since posting about the confusing names for 1920’s undies, I received wonderful comments, including this from The Vintage Traveler:

“Here’s my take, and I could be wrong. I’ve been looking at catalogs from 1918 through 1925, and I’ve found all the terms you’ve mentioned. I have not found anything referred to as a “teddy”. We used that term in the 1980s when the camisole/panty combination had a comeback. I don’t know if it was used in the 1920s.

“From what I can tell using my own sources, an envelope combination is one that has the buttoning crotch flap, sort of in the way an actual envelope has a flap to close it. So the pictured green suit is an envelope combination.

“Step-in combinations are different in that they have to be literally stepped in to. The partition between the legs is sewn rather than buttoned and so the garment cannot be pulled over the head and onto the body. It’s easy to see why the combination was starting to be divided in two pieces. How on earth would one be able to use the toilet without completely undressing?

“For the life of me, I can’t see why Butterick 6194 was called knickers. I’ve read all kinds of explanations about why Americans used bloomers/panties/stepins while the British called the same garment knickers. From what I can see, “knickers” was rarely used in the US to denote an undergarment. But from your example we can see that it was, on occasion, used in that way.

“As for outerwear, bloomers are full, and they close at the bottom with elastic. Knickers are much less full, and close at the knees with a band that buttons.”

And this from Dee, who has a 1931 Home Economics textbook:

“I have a high school home economics book, Fabric and Dress, copyright 1931, which includes a table of materials suitable for underwear. It lists slips, teddies, step-ins, bloomers, shorts, brassieres, shirts, union suits, pajamas and gowns. Shirts and union suits are listed as uses for stockinette, and it is indicated just prior to the table that pajamas and gowns are nightwear. There are also references to previous styles of undergarments: Petticoats, camisoles, and this interesting one “Pettibockers (full bloomers drawn in below the knee) were popular when skirts were long. The style of short skirts changed this undergarment, by shortening it and taking out some of the fullness.”

“I also found it interesting that in the chapter which goes over a bit of fashion history, with an emphasis on the “follies of fashion”, (i.e., 18th century headdress, Elizabethan ruffs, 1860 hoopskirts) there is a reference to “Another more recent fashion, which will probably seem as absurd as many of these when it becomes long out-of-date, is the very short skirt of 1928 and 1929, which was about three inches above the knee.”

Sometimes I love the internet!

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

More Princess Line Dresses (and Styling Tricks) from the Nineteen Twenties

These princess line dresses from the 1920’s do not have the characteristic horizontal hip band of most twenties’ fashions.

In my post about Butterick styles for October 1927, I wrote,

Not all 1920’s dresses had a strong horizontal line across the hip. Princess-seamed dress patterns were available for several years and didn’t change much — except for their length.

Left, Butterick 1683, a princess line dress; Delineator, October 1927, page 31. These 1927 hemlines are just below the knee.

The rear view of the princess dress (1683) shows the characteristic princess seams, which can be shaped to follow the lines of  the body without any waist seam. The front and back are each divided into three panels. A princess line dress usually skims the body — at least, they did before the use of stretch fabrics and elasticated knits.

More Princess Line Dresses from the Nineteen Twenties

Here are some other princess line patterns from 1925 to 1928. Some combine fur and velvet for evening, but one is a day dress.

Left, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6424, Delineator, December 1925. For a young woman or teen.

Left, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6506, from December 1925.

Also from December 1925, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6428. Dresses for adult women were slightly longer than those for teens.

In 1928, the princess line evening gown has a hem that dips low in the back. So does the neckline.

Butterick princess line pattern 2257, from October 1928. Delineator.

Putting Twenties Styles on Modern Bodies

A chenille or ribbon shoulder decoration draws our eye up toward the face on these formal dresses from December 1927. Butterick patterns 1734 and 1753.

I think I’ve mentioned this before: a director once told me that he wanted “absolutely authentic 1920’s costumes” — but added, “Just don’t give me any of those dresses with the waists down around the hips!” In times (like the 1980’s) when contemporary fashion insists on narrow hips and wide shoulders, making an actress feel confident in a dress with natural shoulders and a horizontal line across her hips can be difficult — especially if she isn’t slim-hipped or is self-conscious about her figure.

Trim or fur leads your eye to focus on the top of the body in these styles from December 1928. Butterick patterns 1761 and 1757.

But theatrical designers also have to consider audience expectations — I would not do a twenties’ show in which every woman wore princess line dresses! However, the princess line dress is among the authentic possibilities for one or two characters, or for a re-creator who doesn’t have a “boyish” figure.

Illustration by Helen Dryden, Delineator cover, September 1928. A band of deep pink on the scarf lends a touch of bright color to her head and face area.

The most flattering twenties’ styles balance the hip interest with interest near the face. Butterick patterns 1745 and 1735, from December 1927.

For plays and operas, we try to draw attention to the face and upper body. (It sounds crazy, but audiences can’t hear the lines if they can’t see the faces. Humans lip-read much more than they realize.) Accessories that create a vertical line, such as lighter or brighter colors near the face, those looooong 1920’s necklaces, and those often-seen 1920’s shoulder decorations are flattering and authentic twenties’ tricks.

A scarf or bows with long ties add interest to the top of the body and, in the case of the bows, create a vertical line to balance the hip interest. June 1928, Delineator.

These three couture sketches are undoubtedly twenties’ styles, but they use a variety of styling tricks to move our attention up the body, toward the face, and to deflect interest from the hips.

French designer fashions from May 1928. 1) Renee, 2) Jane Regny, 3) Jenny. Sketches for Delineator. The coat by Jenny suggests princess lines.

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

Lux for Laundry Ads 1930s

A little social history: A relatively new idea appears in this ad, which I showed last week.

The young woman who says she hates men just needed some advice on how to attract them. Lux laundry soap ad, August 1934.

Here, a friend advises her to wash her underwear after each wearing.

Lux laundry soap advised women to wash their underwear after each wearing. This implies a generally higher standard of living — and assumes more than one set of underclothes, since drying time was unpredictable.

In Victorian England, poor women had to put their children to bed for a day in order to wash their clothes. The family huddled under a blanket while the only clothing they possessed was washed and dried. My uncle Bert, born around 1899, behaved like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian bachelor farmers;” believing that a bath “opened the pores” to harmful germs, he would have remained unwashed, wearing the same set of long underwear from fall until spring, if my parents had not required regular bathing and fresh clothes as a condition of his living with us in the 1960’s.

Our twentieth century American sensitivity to personal odors was developed by ad campaigns like this one.

Ad for Lux laundry soap. March 1933. In this case, “It” is not sex appeal but the smell of unwashed underwear.

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1933. “Perhaps she thinks she doesn’t perspire. But we all do, even though we don’t feel sticky. Frequently over a quart a day, doctors say…. Second day underthings are never safe.”

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1932. “Underthings absorb perspiration. Avoid offending….”

Text from Lux ad, March 1932. “I don’t see how she can be so careless about her underthings … wear them so long without a change.”

“She bathes every day, but she wears her girdle a whole week” without washing it. Lux ad, Nov. 1936, Woman’s Home Companion.

Lux ad, WHC, Nov. 1936. She is wearing the relatively new two-way stretch girdle, made possible by Lastex. “Cake-soap rubbing” is a reference to traditional laundry products like Naptha soap, which came in bar form.

Making women feel insecure about their breath worked wonders for Listerine….

Halitosis ruined her entire evening; she has tears in her eyes. Ad for Listerine, Feb. 1924.

That ad campaign was still going strong ten years later:

Listerine “halitosis” ad, February 1934. “Mostly boys in this picture, but the moral is for girls…. Get rid of halitosis with Listerine.” (The man at right is offering money to any fellow willing to cut in and release him from this dancing partner.)

Why shouldn’t a similar ad campaign work for laundry soap?

Ad for Lux laundry soap, McCall’s magazine, July 1938. The story in comic book format: It’s really unpleasant to be near her, so her friends want the window open; her husband isn’t glad to see her….

“I’m so unhappy. Harry doesn’t love me as he used to….” He wonders, “Why isn’t she the dainty girl she used to be?”Lux ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Having taught women to wash their undies, including girdles, it’s time for them to wash their dresses more often, too. “If she’d LUX her dress the way she does her undies, she wouldn’t offend.”

Progress.

(Incidentally, someone could make a study of the use of the word “dainty” in such ads.)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Girdles, lingerie, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

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

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

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

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

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

This isn’t.

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

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

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“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