Category Archives: Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

The Rapidly Changing Corseted Shape: Part 1, 1907 to 1910

Two W .B. Corsets: Left, 1907; right 1910. Both are “Reduso” corsets for stout women, pictured just three years apart.

I have quite a collection of corset ads from the backs of Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal — but it’s just a sampling. Nevertheless, there seems to be a continuing message from advertisers to women, and that message is, “There is something wrong with your body.” In addition to being re-shaped, it needs to be “improved” and “confined.”

This is a selection of corset and padding advertisements from just one source, Delineator magazine.

1907: S-Bend and Padding

Ad for Set Snug Underwear, Delineator, October 1907.

Although that ad didn’t sell padding, it shows the nearly-impossible ideal figure of 1907.

This W.B. Nuform corset was designed to give the “chicness and charm of figure” of the Gibson Girl. September, 1907.

A chic figure might well require some padding, as well as distortion and an unnatural posture:

H & H Pneumatic Bust Forms were inflatable [and recommended as a flotation device.]  In a range of shapes, including “Round… Oblong, convex and concave….” July 1907.

[Note: The H & H “before” image shows a normal, youthful figure…. There is nothing “wrong” with it.]

“Are You Thin?” December 1907. Parisian Perfect Form padding for the “back” and hips. You can see it under the corset, especially in the back view.)

“When Nature Slips a Link, Art Steps In. Don’t be Ungracefully Slender a Day Longer….”

The Hip Form Health [!] Skirt will create a bulging bottom [below an unnaturally tiny waist.] November 1907. The text describes it an a petticoat.

And although these figures were presented as ideal…

American Lady Corset ad, September 1907. Delineator.

“Any woman can find a G.D. Justrite that will bring out the lines of her figure.” G.D. Corset ad, October 1907. Delineator.

… it was always possible to have too much of a good thing:

A Nemo Self-Reducing Corset ad. November 1907.

This ad for a Sahlin Perfect Form corset for slender women seemed to offer a less restrictive garment than those which depended on tight-lacing…

Ad for the Sahlin Perfect Form and Corset Combined, October 1907.

… but on closer inspection, what it really offers the slender woman is a curved, boned bodice which produces the effect of a larger, “stylish high bust” without padding.

It’s a bust improver that improves posture as well as creating a bulging bosom by the use of curved boning.

1910 Corsets: Straightening Out Some of Those Curves

In 1910, swaybacks were out, vertical was in. Two dress illustrations from Delineator, June 1910.

Two W. B. Corsets from March 1910. A mercifully straighter spine than 1907 is combined with a full bust and tiny waist.

Another ad for an inflatable bust improver. Ad for the Nature’s Rival Air Form corset waist, March 1910.

In contrast to an artificially tiny waist, a full bust was encouraged.

Ad for National Corsets, February 1910.

The disappearance of the 1907 sway-back style left some manufacturers off balance:

American Beauty corset ad, March 1910. Apparently a transitional style.

Ad for American Lady corsets, April 1910.

If your breasts were in danger of overflowing your corset top, a “confiner” could be stitched to the corset:

Gossard “bust confiner” made to be sewn to the top of the corset, as shown here.

This J.C.C. corset from 1910 starts low on the bust, and extends far down the thighs. Notice the extension which supports the stocking garters.

These corsets are very long.

Two corsets from an ad for J.C.C. Corsets, March 1910.

Above: The corset was moving down, over the thighs, but in 1910 it still offered some bust support.

The front and back views of a Kabo Corset, March 1910. Delineator.

“The most stylish and serviceable corset made.” Kabo corset ad, March 1910.

To emphasize the change in corset shapes from 1907 to 1910:

Left, 1907 Gibson Girl shape and posture; right, a longer, more vertical corset from 1910.

NOTE: I am not writing an authoritative history of corsets, just offering images from one or two sources in the hope that serious researchers will find them helpful. All of these illustrations come from Delineator magazines.

Coming soon: Corsets continue to change from 1910 to 1914.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Edwardian fashions, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Jumbled Musings and Fashion Surprises

When I named this blog “witness2fashion,” it didn’t occur to me that its initials were WTF. However, that abbreviation does occur to me occasionally when I’m wandering through the pages of a 100 year old magazine.

Caution: this ad uses a word that is offensive when applied to a human being, but the ad uses it to describe a sock supporter….

Ad for “Velvet-Grip Baby Midget Hose Supporters,” Delineator, February 1920.

What the hey? “Baby Midgets” are tiny garters or stocking suspenders which are attached to this baby’s diaper with safety pins!

Seriously: How is a garter supposed to hold up your stockings when you can’t even stand up and walk yet?

I remember reading a book (The Egg and I?) in which the grandmother, hearing that the children were either making too much noise or were suspiciously silent, would shout, “You! Pull up your socks!” This was a fairly effective all-purpose command, since children couldn’t pull up their socks without removing a hand from the cookie jar, or putting down that air rifle…. Just today, reading The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, I found that the Oklahoma Public library sent a condolence message to the Los Angeles Library after a terrible fire. It included the encouraging (?) phrase, “Keep your socks up!”

Incidentally, I also found this ad for Baby Dimples Safety Pins. Awwwww….

Ad for Baby Dimples Safety Pins, Delineator, January 1920.

Here’s another old expression:  “Keep it under your hat.”

Paris hat designed by Virot, Delineator, March 1912.

Don’t wear it while driving. Or while crossing a busy street.

Speaking of hats….

Hat featured in an ad for Cheney “Shower-Proof” silks. Delineator, March 1912.

Ad for Cheney “Shower-Proof” Silks, March 1912.

I don’t know why she would need an umbrella when she’s wearing that hat! In fact,  I’m not sure the umbrella would be big enough to cover that hat. (And what about the umbrella handle…? She couldn’t get it close to her head… or even close to her shoulder! Which is why the umbrella is down on the ground catching water, I guess.)

I started with the intention of writing about this:

When is this? (No, not 2012….)

It surprised me. It’s got bare shoulders. It’s got breast exposure. It’s got a good chance of a “wardrobe malfunction” if you lean sideways. I could imagine this on the red carpet of some awards show, probably in red satin, and probably held in place with toupee tape.

(“Toupee tape” was for many years as common in a wardrobe person’s tool kit as safety pins. It was a double-sided tape intended to secure a toupee to a bald head, but was quickly adapted to keeping low-cut dresses from gaping too far for television. Its great virtue was that the adhesive didn’t give out when exposed to sweat or body oils. Now there’s a similar product manufactured and sold — in larger quantities — specifically for use with clothing.) The video ad amusingly says it prevents “peekaboob.”)

I found this sketch charming. Clue to the date: the artist is fashion illustrator Soulié. [The model was not a young Nicole Kidman….]

And this bodice is part of a couture dress designed by Jeanne Lanvin and shown in Paris in 1920.

Couture gown by Jeanne Lanvin, Paris, 1920. The net skirt is embroidered and beaded. Sketched for Delineator, March 1920.

A deep V neckline in 1920? Breasts as an erogenous zone in 1920? Yes, to my surprise…

Couture gown by Martial et Armand, Paris, 1920.

When I showed these images to a non-fashion-historian friend, she couldn’t get over the “make-your-hips-look-at-least twice-as-wide” skirts.

Couture evening gown by Martial et Armand, sketched for Delineator, January 1920.

The bottom of the hip yoke is wired to make the skirt stand away from the body. Of course, the coat to wear over a dress like this will not produce a slender silhouette, either:

An “evening cloak” and gown designed by Bulloz, Paris, 1920.

My friend was also horrified by the long, dragging panels on these dresses. (Fashion historians accept that wasteful, extravagant, impractical “conspicuous consumption” is a hallmark of high fashion.) “How could you dance in a dress like this?” we wondered. “Everybody would step on it! It would get so dirty!”

The editors of Delineator had a suggestion:

So that’s what you do with it…. Or them….  This gown has two dragging “French panels,” one of fragile lace and one of silk:

Couture gown by designer Elise Poret [not Poiret] from the February, 1920 Delineator.

(That dress also has an “oriental hem.”) There have been many decades when skirts were widened to make waists look smaller by comparison. But that’s not what’s happening here.

We are so conditioned to the fashion ideal of slenderness (or at least, a tall, lean look on fashion models) that, while I was thinking,”Wow! a bodice held up by straps in 1920!” my friend was asking “Why would you wear that? It makes her look fat!”

I look at this hip-widening gown by Berthe and notice that its couture workmanship is outstanding, and … pretty:

Couture gown by Berthe-Hermance illustrated in May, 1920; Delineator.

Couture details on a 1920 gown. Undeniably luxurious.

(Also undeniable is its potential for a wardrobe malfunction if one shoulder relaxes….)

But it is difficult for me to look at coats like these and yearn to wear them:

Evening coats from Butterick patterns, November 1920.

Couture “cloak” by Renee, covered with red, yellow, and green “balls.” January 1920.

“What The F[ashion]?” Are those mules on her feet? With a coat? Seriously? And, what did it feel like to sit on those balls?

The historic House of Worth contributed this (shall we say transitional?) suit which gets its stiffness from pony skin. [Perfect if your name is “Whinnie.”]

From the House of Worth, Paris. Illustrated in Delineator, January 1920.

In other words, after five years of war and its aftermath, Paris went mad for luxury. “Suits no longer content themselves with fur collar and cuffs but are made entirely of mole, caracul, etc.” A lot of horses died in WW I, so I guess pony was a luxury item, too.

To end on a more cheerful note, we know about harem skirts and orientalism and the influence of the Ballet Russe. But this is the first photo of a model wearing harem pants that I’ve encountered:

Orientalism in high fashion: a harem hem for an evening in Paris. Delineator, May 1920.

Glamourdaze paid tribute to the Poiret-influenced harem hem outfit worn on Downton Abbey. But these are later, and not by Poiret.

Information about “Deddy” is hard to find, but the designer Deddy did appear in Delineator fashion coverage more than once.

The harem pants worn on Downton Abbey by Lady Sybil were definitely not as revealing as this outfit!

Very Bare in 1920: The top of Deddy’s harem outfit.

That’s all my “WTFashion?” images for now.  More to come.

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Female Impersonator Julian Eltinge Recommends Red Cross Shoes, 1912

Ad for Red Cross Shoes, Delineator, April 1912. Julian Eltinge was at the height of his stardom playing “The Fascinating Widow.”

One rule of the costume shop is “Never Assume.” Nevertheless, this 1912 ad for Red Cross Shoes for women surprised me. In it, a female impersonator explains why he prefers Red Cross brand ladies’ shoes.

Julian Eltinge, an actor equally convincing in male and female roles.

Julian Eltinge was a very successful female impersonator — starting in vaudeville, performing in the U.S. and England, having a Broadway theater named after him by a grateful producer, and becoming a silent movie star, the fourth of the “Famous-Players-Lasky”  group.  (The other three were Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin. (Yes, Eltinge was that famous!) A quick change artist, he often played both the male and the female leads in the same show or movie, as he did in his greatest theatrical success, The Fascinating Widow.

Julian Eltinge as “The Fascinating Widow,” 1911-1912. Photo courtesy of NY Public Library, via Wikimedia.

Eltinge as himself, and in the wedding scene of “The Fascinating Widow.”

On stage and in movies,  Eltinge’s character was often a man who disguises himself as a woman in order to expose a criminal or right a wrong. This allowed the audience to be “in on the joke.” However, Eltinge’s female characters were not parodies of women; he played them quite sympathetically, without much exaggeration (considering that they were comedies….) Women were his devoted fans. He even had his own magazine for women, giving beauty advice.

That makes his appearance in this ad for women’s shoes a little less surprising.

If Red Cross shoes could make a man’s feet look smaller…. imagine what they would do for women!

In 1912, women were often proud of having tiny feet. (They sometimes insisted on wearing shoes too small for them, which caused a lot of painful foot problems as time went by….) So, what better way to show that Red Cross Shoes would make your feet look smaller than by having a man who wears women’s shoes prove it?

Text of Red Cross Shoe ad featuring Julian Eltinge.

“The most important reason is the fact that I can wear a much smaller shoe in the Red Cross than any other… Perfectly comfortable, wearing even a smaller size than one my size would naturally wear.”

Top right: the Red Cross shoe was flexible.

So was Julian Eltinge…. A master of the quick change. Hooray for him and Red Cross Shoes!

You can find several YouTube compilations of Julian Eltinge photos; click here for one.

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Butterick Wedding Dress, May 1910

Butterick 3784 illustrated as a wedding gown. Delineator, May 1910. Page 384.

The editors of Butterick’s Delineator magazine featured this pattern on at least three pages; a very illustration shows it not being used as a wedding dress:

The woman seated at right is wearing Butterick “princess dress” 3784, made with black lace and a burnt-orange fabric [described as tan.]  Delineator, May 1910. Page 385.

Butterick 3784 is a good example of the “princess” dresses that were so popular in 1910. When you consider how many Butterick illustrations from this era actually showed a separate, matching waist [i.e., bodice / blouse] and skirt (rather than a dress,) the one-piece princess dress that continued to the hem without any seam at the waist was distinctive. (A bodice/blouse that continued past the waist was often called “semi-princess,” like pattern 3843 at the left of the color illustration.)

Butterick 3784 is shaped by the vertical seams from bodice to hem which are still described as “princess seams.” (The princess-seamed dresses below are from the 1920s:)

But the topic today is princess dress 3784, in its bridal and evening versions:

Butterick princess-seamed bridal gown 3784, shown with a long train. Delineator, May 1910, page 384.

Butterick 3784 illustrated as part of a bridal trousseau article, May 1910, page 441. Here, it has a shorter train.

The black and “tan” version of 3784 is shown with a minimal (or no) train when worn as a day or evening dress. Page 385.

Below: Front and back views of 3784 show (left) “medium sweep or round train,” (center) a long or medium train, plus a very different bodice variation, with V-neck and decorative buttons. In this illustration, the sleeves reach just below the elbows.

Front and back views of 3784, showing an extreme train (90 inches from the waist) and a very different bodice variation with V-neck and decorative buttons. May 1910, page 384.

It could be made with long or short sleeves, with a high neck, a round neck or a square neck, and with or without the “bolero” of white or black lace.

Pattern description for Butterick bridal dress, evening dress, or day dress 3784, Delineator, May 1910.

The longer sleeves and high neck in the bridal version are probably part of an under lining, sometimes called a guimpe, which could be worn under other blouses. Butterick blouse 3647 illustrates how this works:

Butterick waist (blouse) 3647 has a scoop neck and open sleeves which end above the elbow. It is worn over a body-lining with long sleeves and a high collar. March 1910.

Here is the bridal version of 3784 with covered throat, covered arms, and a medium train (72 0r 63 inches from the waist.)

Butterick 3784 illustrated as part of a bridal trousseau article, May 1910, page 441.

This is text describing Butterick 3784:

Pattern descriptions for Butterick bridal dress or day dress 3784, Delineator, May 1910. The writer is Eleanor Chalmers.

A very practical (or economy-minded) bride might cut the train off of her wedding dress (“It should be made as simply as possible and in such a way that it may be worn with perfect propriety for other occasions which may come up after the wedding….”) and have the gown dyed, so that she could wear it for afternoon or evening — without the under-lining sleeves and high collar.

P.S. A gown like this would have boning along the torso seams, but it wouldn’t look historically accurate without one of these under it:

Kabo corset ad, detail, Delineator, March 19910 p. 262.

Ad for Kabo corsets, Delineator, March 1910, page 262.

 

 

 

 

 

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April 1928 Ad for Belding’s Silks

Part of an ad for Belding’s “Pure Dye” Silks, Delineator, April 1928.

I don’t have a picture of the entire page, but this ad interested me because it shows dress patterns from several companies:  Vogue, McCall, Butterick and Pictorial Review. It also shows a range of women’s styles for 1928, and it shows the cost of the fabric to make them.

Belding’s “Pure Dye” silk was not weighted “or in any way adulterated” to make it seem more substantial than it was. In other words, this was not the cheapest silk fabric available. In fact, at $3 to $6+ per yard, it was relatively expensive.***

(The Belding Brothers of Michigan established a successful business manufacturing silk thread and silk fabrics, with factories in four states.  They also built housing to attract the best female employees, as well as libraries and a hospital for their workers. “Belding Brothers & Company merged with Heminway Silk Company in 1925 and did business as Belding-Heminway. Soon after, the company was acquired by Corticelli Silk Company and did business as Belding-Heminway-Corticelli. The last mill in Belding closed in 1932.” This 1928 ad also mentions Belding’s silk stockings.

Butterick 1904 was featured in the ad; here it is shown in striped silk.

The Butterick Publishing Co. illustrated it in a different fabric in Delineator magazine:

Butterick 1904 made in dotted fabric. Delineator, June 1928. a “frock for mornings or sports” in sizes from 32 to 48 inch bust.

McCall pattern 5168 in Belding’s Silk ad, Delineator, April 1928. This 100% “radium weave” pure silk was washable “Vanette.”

(“Radium silk” was not radioactive.)

Butterick pattern 1906, Belding’s Silk Ad; Delineator, April 1928. “Simple crepe frocks like this have a smartness that belies their small price.” This is made of Belding’s Crepe Iris, “guaranteed washable crepe.”

This Art Deco (or Moderne) dress doesn’t strike me as especially “simple” to make; I love its geometry (“plaits in an architectural outline,”) but I’d be tempted to hire a “little dressmaker” to deal with all those interlocking pieces.

Butterick’s own illustration of dress 1906, from Delineator, March 1928.

This dress is more formal, with a jeweled “buckle” centered on the hip yoke, and a draped neckline.

Another McCall pattern, 5157. Belding’s Silk ad, Delineator, April 1928. This afternoon frock was made in Belding’s “Satin Ciree.”

Top center in the ad was this jacket and dress combination made from Vogue patterns. The plaid dress is topped with a plaid scarf — not an easy combo to bring off well!

Vogue jacket 9273 is combined with Vogue dress 9261. Belding’s ad, April 1928. The “sport silk” fabrics are “Washable Broadcloth” and “Crepe Cashmere” for the jacket — “heavy enough to tailor crisply.”

Pictorial Review pattern 4229, Belding’s ad, Delineator, April 1928. The asymmetrical dress has a soft jabot/drape running down the bodice.

The relatively simple dress is made of Belding’s silk printed crepe “in a distinctive modern design — a summery pattern suggesting the lovely modernism of Paris.” (The “Style Moderne,” which we also call “Art Deco,” was introduced at the Paris Expo of 1925  (Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes)

This classic 1920’s evening dress is Vogue pattern S 3191.

It is sleeveless, with low armholes; a surplice closing (thought to be slenderizing;) an under layer seen at the neck opening; and a big bow forming a side drape. At first I thought it had a (very unexpected) short sleeve, but a close view shows that the model is wearing an arm bracelet, along with two necklaces and very long dangling earrings.

Detail of jewelry in the Belding’s ad illustration. 1928. Note the low armhole.

The next gown is surprisingly bare:

Pictorial review pattern 4159 is an evening dress made in sheer silk Georgette. Belding’s ad, Delineator, April 1928.

This gown is notable for its narrow jeweled straps and its asymmetric shoulder (or neck) line.

A woman really could not wear much underwear under this dress — just knickers and stockings. (And maybe a girdle….)

Details of the diagonal neckline and shoulder straps of Pictorial Review evening pattern 4159.

Georgette is usually a sheer fabric, so this dress is probably built over a straight, opaque silk lining, which would also support the blousing and hip decoration. That neckline would still be worth copying, if you have the figure for it!

*** The Sears catalog (Fall 1928) offered washable silk satin yardage for 74 cents a yard.

Washable silk satin from Sears, 1928.

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Random Images, Random Thoughts….

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

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

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

Butterick bolero 6747, Delineator, March 1914.

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

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

No. 6862 could even be adapted for evening.

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

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

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

I Am Tired of Seeing Icy Landscape Photos

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

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

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

Blue Landscapes Make Me Blue

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

Bobby Hargen in his cowboy outfit, circa 1920s.

Hitting the Target:

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

Delineator cover, April 1914, detail.

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

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic….

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

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

Delineator Cover, detail, March 1920.

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

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

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The Big Hem Drop: 1929 to 1930

Only one year separates these Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. This is rapid fashion change.

The change in fashion that took place between Fall of 1929 and Spring, 1930 — just a few months — fascinates me. The fact that a completely different fashion silhouette was adopted during a time of economic crisis  — when pennies were being pinched — makes it even more astonishing.

Just to get our eyes adjusted and refresh our memories of 1929 before the change, here are several images of couture and of mainstream Butterick sewing pattern illustrations from July 1929.

French couture sportswear, illustrated by Leslie Saalburg in Delineator, July 1929. Short and un-fussy.

These fashions are unmistakably late 1920s. Note the hem length, which just covers the knees. There is a crisp, geometric quality about many of these outfits.

Couture sportswear illustrated by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, July 1929.

Patterns for home use:

Spectator sportswear; Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. The dress at left is soft and flared, a hint of things to come. The dress at right is crisply geometric. Both are short.

1920’s day dresses, Butterick patterns 2697 and 2707. Delineator, July 1929. Mostly straight lines.

Butterick patterns for sportswear, Delineator, July 1929. Simple, pleated, short.

Whether we look at French couture or home sewing patterns, the silhouette and the length are  definitely “Twenties.”

In the 1929 Fall collections, couturier Jean Patou showed longer skirts — well below the knee — and took credit for changing fashion from the characteristic Twenties’ silhouette to the longer, softer, Thirties’ look. (A few other couturiers also showed longer dresses, but he took the credit for being first.)

French couture fashions sketched for Delineator, November 1929. The large illustration at left is an ensemble by Patou — noticeably longer than the other designers’ hems.

“Paris revolutionizes winter styles.” Compare the hem on the dress by Patou, second from left, with those from Molyneux (left, very “Twenties”) Cheruit (third from left,) and Nowitzky (also “Twenties” in spirit, far right.)

Below is the Fall 1929 version of Chanel’s famous black dress. (In the original, from 1926, hems had not reached their shortest length.)

This variation on Chanel’s famous little black dress — with a slightly different placement of tucks –falls just below the knees in 1929, the season when Patou was pioneering longer dresses.

By Fall of 1929, Chanel’s “little black dress” (a sensation in 1926) is just below the knee. It also has a natural waist.

You may have noticed that waistlines are rising as hems are falling; that’s a topic deserving an entire post, but….

Delineator, October 1929, p. 25. “Higher Waists, Longer Skirts.”

The flared dress at left has a softer, less geometric look, and shirring near the natural waist instead of a horizontal hip line. Delineator, October 1929. This dress seems to be “in the stores” rather than a Butterick pattern.

Between July couture showings and October, 1929: That is how fast commercial manufacturers picked up on the new trend for longer skirts and natural waistlines.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1929.

Delineator (i.e.,Butterick Publishing Co.) had offices in Paris where the latest couture collections were sketched (and copied.) In this case, longer skirts appeared on patterns for sale very quickly. (The process of issuing a pattern took several weeks, and the magazine had a lead time of a month or so, as well.)

When these patterns appeared in April, 1930, nothing was said about their length. Old news!

Dresses for women, up to size 48. Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1930, p. 31. From left, “tiny sleevelet,” “flared sleeves,” “white neckline,” and “short kimono sleeves.”

By April 1930, what was notable about these dresses, to the editors of Delineator, was the variety of their sleeves!

Back views of Butterick 3143, 3179, 3173, and 3180. Delineator, April 1930, p. 31.

Longer styles had been in the news for several months.

Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1930.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1930. Hems have fallen. Waists are in transition.

The most interesting article I found about this change from “Twenties” to “Thirties” was in Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1929, pp. 66 and following.

In “Smart Essentials of the Winter Clothes,” fashion editor Helen Koues wrote:

“They differ from any we have had since the war…. To be sure, last season Patou and a few houses tentatively raised the waistline, and we talked about it and made predictions. But now the normal or above normal waistline is here, and anything remotely resembling a low waist is gone. We have had it a long time, that low waist and short skirt, and it is only fitting and logical that it should make way for some sort of revival. [“Directoire, Victorian, Princess….”] We have worn high waists and long skirts before — both higher and longer. But coming with a greater degree of suddenness than any change of line has come for some years, it is an inconvenient fashion.  What are we going to do with our old clothes? [My emphasis.]

“The new silhouette will be taken up just as fast as the average woman can afford to discard her old wardrobe…. The average woman will replace what she needs to replace with new lines, but she will take longer, because she will wear out at least some of her old clothes.  In three months, however, all over America the tightly fitted gown, the longer skirt, the high waist will have superseded the loose hiplines of another season. and the main reason for the speed of this change is that we are ready for it. We are bored with the old silhouette, for we have had it too long — so long, in fact, that… we were beginning to think that we would wear short skirts and low waists till we die…. The psychological moment has come….

“Skirt lengths are particularly interesting: for sports, three inches below the knee is the right length; for street clothes, four inches below, and for the formal afternoon gown about five inches above the anklebone. Evening, of course, right down to the ground… and probably with as much length in front as back…. These are the average lengths.

“Skirts are slimmer than ever, if that is possible, or at least the effect is slimmer, because with the added length the flare necessarily begins lower down. But the flare is still there in full force….”

Colors for Spring, 1930. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1930. Flares, softness, and a coat that is shorter than the dress.

Koues also noted that the new three-quarter coat, “that strikes the gown just above the knee” was in style, although she did not mention that this, at least, was a break for women who could afford a new dress but not a new winter coat. Koues recommended wearing longer knickers (underwear) in winter to make up for the shorter coat.

Short coats or long jackets, February 1930, Delineator.

Vogue, October 26, 1929 reminded readers “We told you so!”

If you have access to Vogue magazine archives you may enjoy a timeline of Vogue fashion predictions from October 26, 1929. It began, “We told you so! If you are one of the many women who are complaining that the new mode means a completely new wardrobe, that you were caught unawares, we take no responsibility. For two whole years, we have been reiterating and reiterating a warning of the change to come.”

Here are some highlights of Vogue‘s predictions:

JANUARY 1, 1928:  “The Waist-Line Rises as the Skirt Descends…”

JANUARY 13, 1928:  “Skirts ….. Will Be Longer” — “Waist-Lines Will Be Higher” — “Drapery and the Flare Will Be Much in Evidence.”

APRIL 13, 1929:  “What looked young last year looks old this season — all because longer, fuller skirts and higher waist-lines have been used so perfectly that they look right, smart, and becoming.”

JUNE 22, 1929: “The hemline is travelling and so is the waistline. One is going up, and the other is coming down.”

Vogue ended, “Need we say more? Surely, Vogue readers are well prepared.”

This is what designers in Paris were showing in Spring, 1930.

Paris Couture, sketched for Delineator, May 1930. Every one has a long skirt and a natural waist.

I began with several images of patterns and couture from July 1929. Here are some dresses from July 1930, showing how completely the Twenties’ look had been “superseded” by the Thirties — in one year.

The Twenties are over. The Thirties are here. Patterns from Delineator, July 1930.

Naturally, in 1929-1930 some women thought the new long skirts made them look “old” while some thought they looked “youthful;” but that is a story for another day!

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