Category Archives: Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Also Very Thirties: Great Big Collars

Butterick dress 5391 from March 1934 has a great big collar with matching cuffs. Delineator magazine.

A while ago I posted a collection of fashions that featured over-sized bows, which were “Very Thirties.” Today’s featured nineteen thirties’ look is Great Big Collars.

Great big collars didn’t necessarily have that “Puritan” look, but many of them did.

Butterick 5688 from Delineator, May 1934.

Butterick 5870 claimed to be based on a design by Lanvin. (I wouldn’t care to sit for long on all those big, big buttons….) Left, illustration from Delineator, September 1934, Right, photo of the pattern constructed, from Delineator, August 1934.

Digression EDIT 3/18/18: In response to a question from Christina, I looked for more information on these two images, and found that, in August, the dress design was supposedly from Lanvin, and in September, it was attributed to augustabernard:

From Butterick’s Delineator magazine, August 1934, p. 62. “Jeanne Lanvin’s button-down-the-back dress….”

Pattern description of Butterick 5870 from Delineator, September 1934. This time, the design is supposedly inspired by augustabernard. I guess that answers the question I posed back in 2014: When Is a Designer Pattern Not a Designer Pattern?

End of Digression.

Photography was just beginning to be used in the less expensive fashion magazines. I love seeing the “fashion ideal” alongside the fashion reality. What an awkward pose that model has had to take!

The illustration on the left seems to show a double collar, which was definitely a fashion “thing.”

Versions of Butterick collar pattern 5952, Delineator, November 1934.

Collars and scarves could change the look of a dress for the office; Delineator, November 1934.

Butterick dress pattern 5854 has a double collar and “don’t order soup while wearing these” cuffs. September 1934. Photo by Arthur O’Neill.

Butterick dress pattern 4564 has a soft, sheer double collar. June 1932.

Butterick dress 5785 from Delineator, July 1934. This sheer double collar is probably a stiff organdy — which would be crushed by a winter coat.

Butterick dress 5854 has a double collar and double cuffs. Delineator, August 1934.

These collars would make any woman look like the perfect secretary or executive assistant.

Some collars could also be changed from one dress to another, which helped to make a small number of dresses look like a more extensive wardrobe. This was practical fashion for the Great Depression. [For other examples of changeable collars, see One Good Dress in the 1930s,  or   More Button-On Collars.]

Here are some Great Big Collars I have shown before, but these are clearer images:

A great big double or triple-layered collar, Butterick 4797, was featured in an article about “new life for old clothes.” Very timely, in December of 1932.

Another version of Butterick collar pattern 4797 from Dec. 1932.

A new collar was cheaper than a new dress, and several collars could make one dress seem like a larger wardrobe — this was during the massive unemployment of the Great Depression, after all.

This V shaped collar has a high neckline to cover whatever “antiquated” neckline was already on your dress or sweater. Delineator, December 1932.

This similar V-shaped collar was part of the dress:

This vintage dress with a great big collar reminds us that black and white images don’t always give a true idea of what was being worn.

Butterick dresses from November 1934. Delineator. One has a great big collar; one has a great big bow (two, actually.)

Not all great big collars were so attention-getting. These dresses were recommended for the college girl:

September 1931: a dress for college. Butterick 4058 has barely a trace of 1920’s fashion. Delineator.

Butterick 5812, another double-breasted dress for college, from August 1934.

Sometimes crisp and business-like, a big collar could also be soft:

This big collar is an important part of the dress’ asymmetrical design. Butterick 4564 from June 1932.

Butterick 4558 from June 1932 also has a surplice closing. Delineator.

This big collar appeared on an evening dress for women over forty:

Butterick 5924 — “smartness at forty’ =– uses its large, cape-like collar to camouflage upper arms. Delineator, November 1934.

Big collars were not just for grown-ups:

Butterick girls’ dress pattern 4416 from April 1932. Delineator.

And, remember, big collars did not have to be white:

A woman in a big, checked collar visits her butcher. [Prime rib was probably not on everyone’s menu in 1934.] Delineator.

Speaking of dresses for secretaries: I can never resist a plug for the pre-Code movie Baby Face.

Movie Recommendation: Baby Face, 1933
If you watch the movie Baby Face, from 1933, you’ll see Barbara Stanwyck in many variations of the simple dress with accessories, as she literally sleeps her way to the top. This is a Pre-Code picture, a lot more frank about sex than movies were 20 years later! (In some versions, it begins with this teenaged girl’s father clearly prostituting her to the patrons of his dive bar.) Armed with determination, cynicism, and a series of ‘secretary’ dresses, she works her way to the penthouse suite – and a much more glamorous wardrobe.





Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Dresses, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Hair Styles from the World War I Era — and Later (Part 2)

Fashion illustration, Delineator, December 1917. That little puff of hair near the cheek was very important. It looked so charming peeking out from under a hat. She still has long hair, piled on her head.

Hats and hair, Delineator illustration, September 1917.

This front and back view shows that the bun on top of her head is supported by a tall comb, and the wispy hair brushed over her ears, like her bangs, has been cut. Delineator, March 1917.

I ended Part 1 of this post with a studio photograph of my mother, taken about 1919, when she was 14 or 15 years old.

My mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, circa 1919. To see the rest of her class, click here. Many of them have long, girlish curls, but she was trying to look grown-up.

She has tried to match the high hairstyles — and those very important puffs of hair over the cheeks — that she saw in fashion images.

But, as this later photo shows,  she actually had long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Photo of my mother about 1920. Her hair is very long, but now she has cut bangs — with or without her parents’ permission.

Silent star Mary Pickford’s long curls were famous. Here she is in an ad for Pompeiian night cream, 1917.

My mother did other things without her parents’ permission, too.

Girls, boys, cars — Uh-oh! At least we get another view of her long, long  hair….

Here we see that she has cut bangs since her graduation photo, but those long curls are rolled up at the side again. Circa 1920. She is smirking because she was posing in her underwear:

This photo from 1920 says “age 16.” Helen’s friend Irene took this picture; then my mother took one of Irene, similarly undressed.

Irene has also cut bangs, and rolled her long hair up to look short at the sides. This photo was dated on the back: April 18, 1920.

Irene models another type of one-piece underwear:

Teenaged girl practicing naughtiness…. 1920. At least this “combination” has thin ribbon straps…. According to census records, Irene was about 15 in 1920.

Some readers have questioned whether my mother really was a “flapper” in the twenties, with the hint of wild behavior that implies. Ummmm….

Other girls in town also tried to achieve fashionable hairdos, and especially those little puffs that caress the cheeks. (During my youth in the 60’s, a curl on the cheek was called a Guiche; it usually curved forward.)

The woman on the right has cut the front part of her hair short, but probably still has long hair in back, like the woman on the left. Sears catalog, Fall 1917.

Left, short hair in front, with a hint of a bun at the back; right, a tall hairdo supported by a fancy comb. Delineator, April 1917.

The “puffs” or guiches on her cheek are clearly cut shorter than the rest of her hair. Delineator, November 1917.

These girls have also cut some of their front hair — although it could be hard to control the results.

Two California girls, circa 1918. It’s not easy to look like a fashion plate, even in these very stylish sweaters.

Below left, my mother’s friend Ollie had a bad hair day, but later managed an up-do:

Ollie with her hair cut short at the sides; in the second photo we can see that the rest of her her hair is still long enough to pile on top of her head. Circa 1918-1920’s.

From Long Hair to Bobbed Hair

It was my aunt Dorothy who told me that my mother and her friend Irene were the first girls in town to have their hair bobbed — a story she only told decades after my mother’s death. [I suspect that Dorothy, a keen photographer,  developed and printed those naughty photos.]

According to my aunt, their mother was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. With less supervision than usual, younger sister Helen and her friend Irene “snuck off” and had their hair bobbed.  When my grandfather saw his daughter with short hair, he he told her she was forbidden to visit her mother in the hospital. He said (and believed,) “The shock would kill her!”

My mother with bobbed (and permanently-waved) hair, probably 1921 or 1922. I think this picture was taken to show her new look, fresh from the hairdresser.

I can date this picture because she is with her little nephew Gerald, born in 1921:

Helen with bobbed hair and her brother’s baby son, probably in 1922. She was 18 or so.

Here she is wearing a Chinese tunic, and extraordinarily pointy shoes:

Bobbed hair, a Chinese costume, and no-those-are-not-clown-shoes. (She wore shoe size 5 1/2.) Early 1920’s.

Obviously, she got a Marcel wave as well as a hair cut:

My mother with her shockingly short (and suddenly curly) hair, about 1922.

Many people thought bobbed hair was a sign that a girl was “fast.”

Training to be a flapper: my mother is showing bobbed hair, rolled stockings, and bare knees. She was about 18 years old, and wearing an “armistice blouse” that was about to go out of style.

I have two other photos of her friend Irene:

Irene has cut bangs, but only pulled one strand down into a curl on her forehead. It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t think her hair has been bobbed yet. About 1921-22.

Here, Irene, aged 18 — with “her first husband” — has a Marcel wave, and a hairstyle more associated with the 1920’s. “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead….”

Irene with chin length hair, a Marcel wave, and a husband; early 1920’s. I suspect that she’s wearing an invisible hair net for a perfectly smooth finish. Irene was probably born in 1905, making this circa 1923.

Third from left, Irene — now married — and wearing a terrific 1920’s skirt. My aunt said, “She was 18 and he was 25.”

While long hair required the kind of hairpins that mountain roads are named after [“hairpin curves,”] bobbed hair needed a different kind of hairpin — the bobbie pin. What a pity for the wonderfully named Hump Hair Pin Company.

An ad for Hump Hairpins, Delineator, March 1917. These pins for long hair were not shaped like traditional hairpins.

Nothing works for long hair like traditional hairpins — although, if you haven’t used them, you may wonder how they could hold anything in place. Humblebee & Me (dot com) has a good demonstration. Click here.

For more about Mary Pickford, and the headlines she made by finally bobbing her hair, click here. Silentology is a delightful film history site.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, vintage photographs, World War I

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:

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.




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.









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

Quick Post: Theda Bara’s Bloomers


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.

Image result for theda bara cleopatra public domain images

“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!




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

Envelope Chemises, Step-ins, and Other Lingerie, 1924-25

An ad for Royal Society embroidery “package outfits;” Delineator, November 1924, p. 78. It seems that these were kits, ready to be embr0idered.

The variety of lingerie — and the names — from Butterick’s 1924 underwear patterns is amazing to me. It’s a specialized area that doesn’t really make me want to hit the reference books. However, for those of you who love or collect vintage undies, here are some images and pattern descriptions from 1924 and 1925.

The two garments on the right are called “combinations;” The one with birds is Butterick 5030; the one on the far right (“drawer skirt combination”) is Butterick 5050. Delineator, February 1924.

A closer look at combination 5030 and drawer skirt combination  5050. No. 5030 seems to form into legs, but in fact the front and back hems are connected with a strip of fabric.

The back view implies that 5050 has a crotch strap running from front to back [and closed with buttons]. The text doesn’t really explain how number 5050 is constructed. “Tub” means “washable.” 5030 is a “dainty step-in combination chemise and drawers.”

These two patterns were illustrated repeatedly, but not together, with varied descriptions. I arbitrarily referred to this pale green one-piece as a “teddie” in a previous post, but I’m no longer sure that’s the correct term. It might be  “combinations” or a “step-in” chemise. [See comments.]

This pale green, tucked teddy [or step-ins? or combinations? ] has a crotch strap, barely visible. It stops at the edge of the netting lace. You can see a straight line of stitching where it attaches to the garment, about an inch or so above the lace trim.

Edit 1/17/18: thevintagetraveler says this green envelope chemise is not a step-in, because step-ins don’t have a button crotch. See her very helpful comment for more clarifications. That makes this a step-in:

Vintage step-ins; the crotch has no buttons, the sides are open below the waist, and they would not be easy to step into, because your hips would have to fit through the waist — or, rather, the waist has to be as big as your hips.

Detail of leg on vintage combination step-ins. It would not be easy to answer the call of nature while wearing these.

[End of edited section….]

Butterick “Step-in” 4112 and “Envelope Chemise” 5059, pictured in Delineator, June 1924. You can see the button crotch in both of these. But how does a “combination” differ from a “step-in?” Or a “step-in combination” as it says here?

The very low crotch looks uncomfortable to a woman who grew up wearing knitted briefs, but there was probably a notion that “the parts need airing,” as was sometimes claimed by wearers of kilts.

Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 with “envelope chemise” 5059. Delineator, April 1924.

Munsingwear offered this unfussy, step-in version of a “woven union suit with closed gore, step-in style.”

Ad for Munsingwear knitted underwear for women; Delineator, June 1924. If the crotch strap was close to the hem, that “wide opening at the side” [see below] would be needed.

And the Munsingwear ad mentions bloomers among its underwear selections.

Below, a pair of “knickers” held by a young woman wearing an “envelope chemise.”

The model wearing “envelope chemise” 4137 is holding a pair of “knickers,” pattern 3197. In the U.S., “Knickers” sometimes referred to undergarments in January 1924, and still does in England. Delineator, January 1924. [And Delineator was published in England as well as in the U.S.]

Knickers? Bloomers? Confused? That’s OK. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist….” Incidentally, the pattern numbers give you an idea which were slightly earlier styles that were being continued (3000’s and 4000’s) and newer styles (5000’s and 6000’s.) This knickers pattern (6194) — clearly an undergarment — was new in 1925:

Butterick knickers pattern 6194 was brand new in August of 1925 — and these knickers are definitely underwear.

But, to add to my confusion, Butterick offered knicker pattern 3496 as outdoor wear, also in the summer of 1925.

Woman golfer wearing knicker pattern 3496, from Delineator, July 1925, p. 35.

The number series suggests knicker pattern 3496 was issued back in 1922 or 1923 and still popular in 1925.

Butterick pattern 3496, knickers to wear for sports. Delineator, January 1925, p. 34.

Knickers? Bloomers? Drawers?

Butterick pattern 4974, for step-in “Drawers” was probably issued in 1923 or early 1924. These have elastic in the waist, making them easy to step into and draw up.

Butterick “step-in drawers” pattern 5564, from October 1924. “Under the new narrow dresses you should wear lingerie cut on correspondingly narrow lines.”

This set (“chemise and drawers”) was featured in June, 1924.

A “French chemise” and one-piece step-in drawers, Butterick 3826, illustrated in June 1924. I’m guessing that the pattern contained  a camisole-and-drawers version and an all-in-one version as shown at right. “Width at bottom of each leg 30 inches.”

This vintage step-in [1/17/18 edit: Combination] chemise would look different on a human body. This silky beauty has no waist seam. It does have a button crotch.

“Drawer-skirt combination” (5050, at left,) camisole 4957, and envelope chemise 5059. Delineator, May 1924.

This lovely vintage set of camisole and drawers shows its button crotch clearly:

This vintage set — I love the contrasting lace and embroidery color — has a separate camisole and [not step-in] drawers. Since the waist is not elastic, the “drawers” need to have a button crotch.

A camisole, which covers only the upper body, could be worn with drawers, like the camisole and drawers (or step-ins?)  shown in this Royal Society ad:

Detail from Royal Society ad, November 1924. The camisole costs $1.25 and the drawers [?] cost $1.50.

Different patterns for drawers were issued:

Butterick 4974 was called ” step-in drawers” in January 1924. They have an elastic waist, so they might not need a button-crotch. For hips 35″ to 52.”

A new set of step-in drawers “in a skirt effect” is illustrated in October, 1924: Butterick pattern 5565. These would need a strap-type crotch of some kind. [They don’t have separate legs, so why are they called “drawers?”]

Drawers and knickers were different from bloomers, which tended to be fuller:


Bloomers, Butterick 5705; Delineator, March 1925. To read about boneless corselettes, click here.

But bloomers, like knickers, could also be outerwear:

Butterick “combination” 5030 (again) and bloomers for a little girl [or girls 2 to 16 years!] Butterick 5065. Delineator, March 1924. These bloomers are attached to an underbodice, very practical for the years when little girls have tummies bigger than their hips. [I remember needing suspenders on my skirts in first grade….]

Often, “bloomers” were intended to be seen, and were worn by almost all girls as part of their gym suits, or for any active pursuits. The middy blouse would cover the underbodice:

Middy blouse 3849 was a classic. I have photos of my aunt and friends graduating from high school wearing a middy-blouse-plus-white-skirt uniform in 1917. Gym bloomers (“for girls or misses 2 to 18”) were very full, often pleated. Delineator, February 1924. The Vintage Traveler shared a whole middy catalog from the 1920’s here.

Did I learn anything from this adventure in undergarment nomenclature?  Only to avoid making absolute pronouncements about bloomers, knickers, drawers, teddies, chemises, camisoles, combinations, and step-ins! [Please see helpful comment from thevintagetraveler!]










Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Beautiful Blouses Circa 1917

Women’s blouses (called “Waists”) from the Sears catalog, Fall 1917, p. 122.

Because so many white vintage blouses from this era have survived, I needed this reminder that many brightly colored blouses were also worn in the nineteen “teens.” Perhaps the lacy white “lingerie blouses” have survived in greater numbers because most of the blouses pictured above were made of silk, which is more likely to shatter with age.

Blouse patterns from Butterick’s Delineator magazine, made up in colorful fabrics; June 1917.

These delicate white cotton voile or batiste blouses from the World War I era have survived nicely.

A sheer vintage blouse, circa 1918. Those deep tucks over the sleeve heads would flatter a woman with narrow shoulders.

The gathered back with twill tape ties is characteristic of WW I era blouses. All those pin tucks make a beautiful back.

A vintage V-necked blouse on embroidered Swiss cotton. The exposed throat came in around 1912.

Sheer cotton vintage “Armistice” blouse circa 1918. Inserted filet lace.

Detail of inserted filet lace and fagoting on vintage “Armistice” blouse.

Construction details like these would cost a fortune today — but they were mass-produced one hundred years ago.

Sheer cotton vintage blouse, circa 1918.

Detail of delicate work on a vintage cotton blouse, circa 1918.

Those last two blouses, which have a center front insert, are the style are often called “Armistice” blouses after a Folkwear pattern that was very popular.

Sears sold many versions of this style.

“Armistice” style blouse in white cotton voile from Sears catalog, Spring 1919. Valenciennes lace was so popular it’s often described as “Val lace.” [Or was that a way to avoid false advertising ?]

More white voile blouses (“waists”) from the Sears catalog, Spring 1919.

It seems extraordinary to me that such luxurious, embroidered items cost less than two dollars. (For perspective, manufacturing jobs paid about $0.53 per hour in 1918. ) Some blouses were even less expensive:

This pin tucked voile lingerie “waist” from the Knickerbocker catalog ad cost only 98 cents in 1917. Clusters of pin tucks, insertion lace, embroidery, many buttons and buttonholes…. You wouldn’t think a blouse like this could be manufactured and sold so cheaply. Delineator, Feb. 1917.

From an ad for Fern Waists, Delineator, May 1917. $1 or $2. “You’ll find the Fern at the Fine Stores.”

Fern waists came in two price categories, “Fern,” for $1 and “Fernmore” for $2.

“Oh, it’s a Fern!” Text of an ad for Fern brand waists, Delineator, May 1917. “Produced by the largest waist-makers of the world…. S. & L. Krohnberg” of New York.

These “Handmade Waists for Less Than $1” could be made (with your own hands) from Ladies’ Home Journal patterns. July 1917. Note the colored collars and trim on the three at right.

But why make your own blouses, when these could be bought so cheaply?

From an ad for Bellas Hess ready-to-wear blouses, Delineator, Jan. 1917. “Good quality washable voile.”

From an ad for Bellas Hess ready-to-wear blouses, Delineator, Jan. 1917. “Sheer, white, washable voile” with inserted lace.

From an ad for Bellas Hess ready-to-wear blouses, Delineator, Jan. 1917. In washable white voile with “Swiss embroidery” and “Val. lace.”

Women could also buy lacy blouses for about $1 from the Sears catalog.

Inexpensive blouses from Sears Roebuck & Co. Spring catalog, 1918; priced at 89 to 98 cents each. Those matronly flounces (bottom right) seem to have been popular.

Inexpensive blouses from Sears, Fall 1917. Although illustrated in black and white, these less-than-a-dollar blouses were colorful. Fall 1917.

The one at the bottom center, No. 27K2230, was available in three colors:

Sears blouse (waist)  No. 27K2230, from Fall 1917, was white with blue, rose, or heliotrope [violet] trim.

Compared to the dollar blouses from Bella Hess and Knickerbocker, Sears offered some “waists” at several times the price.

Colorful blouses from Sears, Spring 1918, p. 108. Priced from $2.98 (vertical stripe, center) to $6.98 (the gold/tan colored ones with embroidery.)

Blouses from Sears catalog, Spring 1918, p. 107; from $3.98 (top left) to $5.98 (black lace.)

The Sears catalogs for 1919 showed beautiful silk blouses — some costing nearly $9.00.

Silk blouses sold through the Sears catalog for Spring 1919. The brown-and-black one near the center cost $8.95.

Luxurious blouses from Sears, Spring 1919 catalog, p. 34.

features lovely embroidery. Sears, 1919.

This silk blouse, like others in the higher price range, features lovely embroidery on sheer fabric.

Colored blouses from Sears, Spring 1919, p. 108.

If you couldn’t afford the pink one with horizontal tucks, you could make your own from patterns offered by Ladies’ Home Journal or by Butterick..

Ladies’ Home Journal make-over blouse patterns. July 1918, p. 81. This magazine often suggested patterns that could be made using fabrics from  out-of style dresses. The skirt of that old striped dress might be turned into up-to-date blouse #9957.

Butterick blouse patterns 8768 and 8879, Delineator, January 1917.

I have many other World War I era blouse images to share, but I think that’s enough for today.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2018!






Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shirts and Blouses, Sportswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, World War I