Category Archives: Shoes

A Visit to January 1920, from Delineator Magazine

Ice skaters in an ad for Ivory Flakes laundry soap. Delineator, January 1920, page 4.

One hundred years ago, the January Delineator offered Butterick patterns, advice for the working girl (and her mother), sketches of Paris couture, and all kinds of advertisements. Enter the time capsule:

French couture from Doucet and Paquin. January 1920.

Butterick sewing patterns inspired by French designer styles.

Butterick sewing patterns, January 1920.

These are not what we usually think of when we hear “Twenties’ style,” but the decade was just getting started. Page three began an essay on the dangers awaiting naive young women who went out to work in offices….

“A Warning for Business Women…”

The “young, ignorant girl” applies for a job….

Her boss tells her that “he would go mad unless he could find a young girl who could understand him and care for him….”

Here, he offers her alcohol….****

And then, he escorts her home….

Her mother needs to warn her…. (Author: Josephine Stricker)

It was 100 years ago, but all of this sounds painfully familiar in the 21st century. At least we now acknowledge that saying ‘no” isn’t always enough.

If you had to work as a housemaid, the difficulties might be considerable. This little article about the life of a housemaid in England shows that even Delineator was shocked by their working conditions:

Delineator was aimed at middle and (aspiring) upper class women, but the plight of British housemaids was shocking.

Back to fashion: These Butterick patterns for misses (age 14 to 19, in most cases) show a hint of what women wore in the later 1920s:

A selection of Butterick patterns for misses in their teens. The schoolgirl’s outfit at right shows the straight, low-waisted trend of the future.

Dresses for grown women also offered some styles without exaggerated hips:

Daytime styles for women from Butterick, January 1920.

The bare arms of evening dresses, even for girls in their teens, surprised me. For more “very bare” gowns from 1920, click here.

For young men returning from WW I, these uncorseted young women in bare-armed dresses must have been a pleasant surprise.

What did women do about underarm hair?

Ad for DeMiracle hair remover, January 1920.

A prized gift in 1920 was a “Spanish comb,” often made from celluloid, “the first synthetic plastic material.  In this ad, a celebrity endorsing fingernail powder (yes, nails were buffed to a shine by most women) wears a Spanish comb:

Actress Kitty Gordon wears a Spanish comb in her hair while endorsing Graff’s Hyglo powder nail polish.

More Spanish combs. These are from 1922.

You could order your camisoles, nightgowns, bloomers, and combinations from Dove and other companies.

Ad for Dove Undergarments, January 1920.

WW I had made knitting more popular than ever; this is an ad for Fleischer yarns:

Knit yourself this aqua sweater with Fleischer Yarns.

The obsession with boyish figures has not yet appeared.

You could wash your woolens and fine lingerie with Ivory Soap Flakes.

Well into the Twenties, women shaved their own soap flakes from bar soap, so this was a modern convenience product.

Also convenient: Rubber shoe covers.

Rubber shoe covers slipped on over your shoes in 1920. The shoes might be worn with gaiters that laced up the front. Some shoes had built-in gaiters.

Later in the 1920s, the B.F.Goodrich rubber company introduced a winter shoe cover with a slide fastener closing, giving us the word “Zipper.”

Mothers could find ads for maternity corsets in 1920:

The H & W maternity corset ad, January 1920.

And safety pins had been around for over a century:

Changing diapers was easier after the rust-proof safety pin became widely available. January 1920 ad.

It was appropriate that a magazine designed to sell sewing patterns should have ads for sewing machines.

The Davis sewing machine was portable and electric.

The Davis portable electric sewing machine was operated by a foot pedal. [I made clothes on a (non-electric) treadle sewing machine in the 1960s. Wish I still had one, even though it took up a lot of room.]

This ad should hold a special interest for all us who love Daphne DuMaurier’s novel Rebecca. In a scene often described as the most un-romantic marriage proposal ever, Maxim de Winter includes the information that “I prefer Eno’s.”

Ad for Eno’s Fruit Salts, a laxative. January 1920.

(Let’s hope it wasn’t the Washington Monument in this ad that attracted his attention.)

Eno’s Fruit Salts ad, January 1920.

To see the marriage proposal scene from the excellent (and faithful) 1979 TV adaptation of Rebecca, starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett, click here.

**** I am irresistibly reminded of the limerick about “the young lady of Kent/ who said that she knew what it meant/ when men asked her to dine/ over cocktails and wine….” Perhaps her mother had explained it to her after reading the article in Delineator.

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Filed under 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

College Wardrobe for Women, 1929

Essentials of a perfect College Wardrobe; Delineator, September 1929.

It’s a bit late in the year to be planning an “off to college” wardrobe, but Delineator devoted several pages to this question in September, 1929.

Administrators at Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith colleges shared their observations on what college girls were wearing in 1929. Delineator, Sept 1929, pp. 29 & 104.

Administrators at three prestigious East Coast women’s colleges contributed their observations in an accompanying article, which was later quoted in the Butterick pattern descriptions.

In addition to Butterick patterns, several “college clothing” illustrations were sketched from clothes being sold at Lord & Taylor.

These “College Requirements” could be purchased at Lord & Taylor. Delineator, Sept. 1929, page 28.

At all three colleges, sportswear — rather than “city” clothing — was said to dominate.  (Vassar was literally “in the country.” In the case of Wellesley, Freshmen lived in the nearby town, so clothes suitable for walking and bicycling to campus were necessary.) Dressing for dinner usually required a change, but not into evening dress.  However, dances and Proms called for at least one formal evening gown.  [I attended a women’s college in California in the 1960s, and we often loaned or borrowed evening gowns for off campus dances, so having only one wasn’t a real problem. Our dates saw us in a different dress each time.] I also appreciated reading about a dorm at Smith where the girls grouped together to rent a sewing machine! All three writers agreed that sporty, casual clothing — home made or purchased — dominated the college wardrobe and to some extent erased class distinctions. (In the late Twenties, Vassar had 1150 undergraduate students, Wellesley 1500, and Smith 2000.)

Laura W. L. Scales, Smith College. Delineator,  Sept. 1929, page 29.

I’ll start with college clothes available from Lord & Taylor in 1929:

(A) A fur coat was practical on campus in snowy winters, but wool coats were equally acceptable.

(B) is an afternoon dress, suitable for formal daytime events (teas, concerts) or as a dinner dress at college.

Wool knits, jersey, and tweeds were practical and traditional “country” looks; most of these colleges were then in the country a few miles from big cities, although urban sprawl has changed that.

“Simulated suede raincoat”? Interesting.  Augusta “Bernard” and “Louiseboulanger” were top Paris designers,

A warm robe, pajamas for sleep and dorm lounging, plus “sports” underwear (J): the top and bottom are buttoned together. 1929.

Formal evening wrap and dress from Lord & Taylor. September 1929. The coat is short; the gown has a long dipping hem.

Note those stretchy bias diamond pieces at the hip of the gown. Pearl-covered handbag.

Butterick patterns for the young college woman, September 1929:

Butterick patterns for college women, Sept. 1929, p. 30.

This dress really is easier to make than it looks. The full, scalloped skirt is cut on the straight grain, lined with “skin” colored taffeta, and has a dipping hem because it is attached to a dipping bodice.

Intimate apparel for college girls:

The slip at right has built in panties, to save time while dressing ….

“No brassiere is necessary,” but some girls do “make this set with a bandeau brassiere instead of a vest.”

Fall and winter weather was another good reason for wearing sporty wool clothing with low heeled shoes and wool, instead of silk, stockings on campus.

Wool fabrics were suitable for campus or weekends in town:

More sporty patterns for college women, 1929. Butterick patterns, Delineator, page 31.

A tweed suit suitable for city or country, a chic two-toned jersey dress, and a princess line wool or jersey dress with flared panels. Butterick patterns from Delineator, September 1929, p. 31

A sporty tweed dress with laced trim (very popular in the 30s), a pleated wool dress with Deco lines (“staircase pleats,”) and a fur-trimmed tweed coat. Butterick patterns for college women, Delineator, Sept. 1929, p. 31.

It’s sad to realize that these attractive 1929 styles would be out of fashion just a year later — although many women would have no choice but to continue wearing them as the economy crumbled in the early nineteen thirties.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bras, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, handbags, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, lingerie, Nightclothes and Robes, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Shoes, Slips and Petticoats, Sportswear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Women in Trousers

“Turn Your Housework into Exercise;” Advice from 1926

Vary the way you pick things up from the floor.

No time to go to the gym? That was a problem in the 1920s, too. In 1926, Dr. Lillian E. Shaw had these suggestions for “the housewife and mother whose innumerable duties keep her occupied from morning till night.”

“Her back may be kept straight and flexible, abdominal muscles firm and hips slender by using every day in her work the same kinds of exercises the instructor plans for her classes in the gymnasium.”

Even making the bed is an opportunity to stretch and strengthen muscles. Article in Delineator, March 1926.

Balance exercise: putting on stockings.

[I think I’d put my back against a wall before trying this for the first time….]

Flexing your torso while brushing your hair.

Dust with both hands.  Work from the shoulder.

Making the bed or dusting is an opportunity for deep knee bends.

Making the bed can be an opportunity to stretch side and back muscles.

Use different muscle groups to pick things up from the floor.

One way of picking up a piece of thread.

A different way to pick up a piece of thread.

Don’t think of it as vacuuming; think of it as strengthening exercise!

I’m really sorry I missed the opportunity to photograph page 66! I think these illustrations are charming, ( Look!– realistic drawings of the human figure — in a fashion magazine!) and the idea of doing repetitive tasks using different muscle groups makes sense to me. ( I wish I had been doing squats more often, while my knees still worked pretty well….) When your loved ones leave toys and socks on the living room floor, think of those objects as opportunities to use the four “pick up” positions!

What the attractive young housewife wore in 1926.

From the fashion viewpoint: notice that the typical 1926 housewife in the exercise article is wearing stockings and a dress to do housework, but her shoes are very low-heeled, and her belt is at her waist, not her hips….

A woman proudly shows her new Congoleum kitchen flooring to a visitor. Delineator, 1925.

Advertisements are always a useful reality check when you’re doing fashion research. The advertising agency (and Congoleum executives with ad approval) thought their audience could identify with this look, even if the fashions were definitely out of date by 1925.

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Filed under 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Beautiful Shoes from 1930

These I. Miller shoes could be dyed to match your dress. Featured in Delineator, June 1930, p. 28.

1930 was a good year for shoes, especially if you like high heels. Most of these are afternoon or evening shoes, but it’s a pleasure to see the quality of delicate scrolls of piping, or combinations of fabrics and kid….

These high heels are piped with silver kid. From J. & P. Cousins, in Delineator, June 1930.

These high heels from 1930 could be dyed to match your dress.

Pale blue suede & kid afternoon pumps from Laird Schober. Delineator, June 1930, p. 28.

White kid pumps with a flash of colored trim and colored heel. For a color image of gold kid and brocade Laird Schober shoes, click here.

Queen Quality shoes were advertised in Delineator; they are not extravagantly expensive, but not cheap, either.

[In my experience, pumps with that high cut are pretty much guaranteed to make women’s feet bulge over the top after they stand for a few hours….]

Queen Quality shoe prices, May 1928. They range from $7.50 to $12.50., “some as low as $6.” [In 1936, a college girl was expected to spend $12 per year on shoes, @ $3 per pair.]

For more causal occasions, heel heights are varied.

Brown and white spectator pumps from Stetson, featured in Delineator, June 1930, p. 28.

This white linen and white kid sport shoe from Adapto came with piping in various colors.

There’s a lot going on in this perforated tan and white sandal from Walkover. June 1930; Delineator, p. 28.

Delineator may have occasionally featured brands that advertised in the magazine, like Queen Quality, but most of the shoes mentioned in the June, 1930, issue were not made by advertisers.

These are couture-level shoes by famous French designers:

Designer shoes from Paris; Delineator, June 1930, p. 29. Made by Costa. The Met Museum has three pairs of Costa shoes.

The complex heel — are those bands of gold or silver leather, or jewels? — and the graceful curves are a sign of quality.

Ducerf-Scavini was very high-end. For 1928 shoe designs by Ducerf-Scavini, click here.

Even mass-market shoes from 1930 could be elegantly trimmed; in fact, Foot Saver shoes were aimed (as you might expect) at w omen who wanted comfort as well as style.

This ad for Foot Saver shoes appeared in the same June 1930 issue of Delineator as the high fashion shoes. The shoe on the right looks like it’s made to be comfortable, but the style at left is not noticeably dowdy….

Nor is this one:

Foot Saver evening shoe, November 1930.

Foot Saver shoe ad, November 1930.

The 1930 shoe illustrations from Delineator, June 1930, pp. 28 & 29, were by Leslie Saalberg. For more gorgeous shoes see Paris Shoes for April, 1928.

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage Couture Designs

In the Swim, July 1920

Butterick beach costumes or bathing suits in Delineator, July-August 1920, page 101.

I’ve been working on the year 1920, which contains some surprises for me. If you find a fringed “1920s flapper” dress with narrow shoulder straps in a thrift store, it’s probably a costume from the 1960s or later. But evening dresses held up by straps were around in 1920. (More about that in a later post.) The bathing suit pictured (above center) is part of that trend.

While we’re looking at all three suits, notice the different choices for stockings and beach shoes. Each has its own hat, too. First, Butterick 2442:

Butterick “beach or bathing suit” 2442, Delineator, 1920.

The label shows that even the editors of Delineator realized that this outfit might not be suitable for use in the water.

Those pocket-like openings would fill with water and inflict a lot of “drag” on the swimmer, even if they are open at the bottom.

This suit is truly sleeveless. The exaggerated hip width reflects the dresses worn that summer.

Strap-top bathing suit No. 2440 also has a lot of fabric in its dress and bloomers, but the shoulders and upper arms are as bare as in a modern swimsuit.

Butterick bathing-suit 2440, summer of 1920.

Button straps and a straight band form the top of this suit.

“This being the same cut as the evening bodice does away with the uneven showing of coloring if one tans and wears an evening dress.”

This is a very early 1920s’ reference to a suntan being desirable, and to the bare skin revealed in a strap-top evening dress:

Singer Anna Case, photographed for Delineator, February 1920.

The third bathing suit for women is more conservative (for sizes up to 46″ bust.)

Butterick bathing-suit 2445, Delineator, summer of 1920.

Rows of parallel stitching were often seen during the WW I years. The sleeves are also conservative, compared to the other — sleeveless — suits.

That great hat seems to be included.

Bathing suits for younger girls were also illustrated.

Bathing suits for teens and little girls also showed the bare-versus-conservative styling.

The one on the left resembles adult suit 2240, with straps, bare arms, and a belt that passes through the dress.

Styles for girls echo styles for women. 1920. No. 2438 was for “misses”/teens and also for ladies. No. 1718 was for girls 2 to 14 years old.

I have labeled this “circa” 1920, because the small girl’s suit is No. 1718, indicating that it was first issued in an earlier series. Note how the sleeves and parallel stitching echo women’s conservative bathing suit No. 2445.

Taffeta was a recommended fabric for most of these bathing suits. Don’t forget your parasol [1920] or sunscreen [2019] !

For bathing suits from other years, use the search term “in the swim” in the search box at top right.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Bathing Suits, Children's Vintage styles, Hats, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

In the Swim, August 1943

Pin striped swimsuit featured in Vogue, August 15, 1943.

This college issue of the American Vogue magazine passed through my hands some time ago, and, in a week of temperatures in the 90s (in a city where we expect 66 degrees in June) I didn’t want to think about any clothes but bathing suits.

Green and white striped bathing suit, Vogue, August 15, 1943.

“Blazer stripes go chevron-wise in the long torso, vertically in the skirt. Result: A look of slender height. Rayon sharkskin. About $25. Best; I. Magnin.”

I originally photographed the magazine for an eBay listing, so I apologize for the small distortions in the individual images.

The page these photos came from.

Brigance suit; it cost less than $15 in August of 1943. From Marshall Field or Lord and Taylor.

“Paintbrush stripes on the Rayon jersey bodice. Skirt, tights of rayon with “Lastex.” Brigance suit; Lord and Taylor; Marshall Field.

“Cabana stripes” on a bare midriff swimsuit. August 1943.

Cabana stripes on a Greek-drapery suit of rayon jersey. Most becoming to a sparse figure. It costs approximately $13 at Saks-Fith Avenue.”

Pin-stripes on a two piece blue bathing suit; Vogue, August 15, 1943.

Under  $4! From a distance, those string shoes look rather like she’s a ballerina.

Beach shoes in Vogue, August 15, 1943.

And her tippy-toe pose makes her legs look so looooong.

Pin striped swimsuit featured in Vogue, August 15, 1943.

 

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Accessories

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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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Edwardian fashions, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, World War I

In the Swim, 1907 (Without a Skirt!)

Butterick bathing suit pattern 1245 is a one-piece, without a skirt.

This Butterick pattern from Delineator, July 1907, came as a surprise to me. “Where is the skirt illustration?” I was thinking. And then I read the text:

Pattern description, Butterick 1245, Delineator, July 1907.

This is a “swimming suit” rather than a “bathing suit.” Nice distinction!

Here is the bottom part of the description in bigger print:

The dress-like bathing suit in this story illustration [also from the July 1907 issue] is more typical (I think).

Story illustration from Delineator, July 1907. Page 56.

Love her beach shoes…. And what does his hat tell us about that character??? Looks like a college boy to me…. Or a guy who leaned forward to look in a store window and forgot he was wearing a hat. I wish I’d had time to read the story.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Bathing Suits, Edwardian fashions, Hats for Men, Men's Sportswear, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Women in Trousers

In the Swim, 1914

Three bathing suits for women, Delineator, May 1914.

Three “bathing-suits” for women and one for a girl were featured in Butterick’s Delineator, May 1914. They were illustrated and described again in June, 1914.

Part of page 75, Delineator, June 1914. Headdresses/caps were included in the patterns.

In May, the text was arranged around the illustrations, which means I will have to cut and paste to fit descriptions into a 500 dpi format.  I will use the shorter descriptions from June, and put the longer ones at the bottom of the post for anyone who’s interested.

Top of page 36, Delineator, May 1914. The center bathing suit had a “peg-top” skirt.

It’s entertaining to see how the “peg-top” fashion in dresses has been translated into a bathing-suit, however impractical!

A draped, peg-top skirt, very narrow at the bottom. The silhouette was said to resemble a child’s spinning top.

Butterick bathing-suit pattern 6894, Delineator, May 1914. The skirt has a “pannier effect.” The recommended fabric was silk, not wool.

Butterick 6891 from May 1914, Delineator. Tunic tops over longer skirts were a fashion in dresses, here echoed in bathing suit.

Butterick bathing-suit 6891, alternate views; the sleeveless-topped knickerbockers would be worn under any version of the overdress. Headdress included in pattern.

Butterick 6891 description, Delineator, June 1914. “Raglan shoulders;” “knickerbockers attached to an underbody and a cap complete the costume.” In sizes from 32 to 44 inch bust.

Butterick 6912, bathing suit from May 1914. Delineator, p. 36.

Brilliantine was a lustrous fabric in 1914; later it was the name of a men’s hair dressing lotion that gave that “patent leather” shine.

Description of pattern 6912, June 1914. Delineator. “The two-piece skirt shows the peg-top silhouette which is gained by having the top wider than the lower edge. Knickerbockers attached to an underbody are worn with this costume.

It’s notable that the under garment for bathing suits was called “bloomers” in 1910, but is called “knickerbockers” for women’s bathing suits in 1914.

A bathing suit for girls was also shown in May 1914: (Its under layer is still called “bloomers.”)

Left, a romper suit. Center and right: two views of Butterick 6860 bathing-suit for girls, May 1914.

Butterick bathing-suit for girls aged 2 to 14, Delineator, June 1914. Page 75.

“Body and bloomers are in one, and the two-piece skirt need not be used if one wishes a simple swimming suit …. The bloomers may be straight or gathered at the knee with or without a frill.”

It’s interesting that girls (2 to 14) could wear this suit without a skirt — so they could actually swim. See the boys’ and men’s bathing suits from 1910.

These bathing suits would be worn with a “cap to match the suit, stockings of medium weight and canvas bathing shoes…. It is advisable to wear a close-fitting rubber cap under the bathing-cap.”

This rubber bathing cap was advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. Sadly, rubber degrades in storage, so vintage rubber caps are hard to find. Ad for Faultless Rubber Co.

These “In the Swim” posts were inspired by The Vintage Traveler’s bathing suit timeline. For In the Swim, 1910, click here. EDIT: Links added 4/4/19.

Full Bathing Suit Descriptions from Delineator, May 1914.

For those who want every detail, here are the longer bathing-suit descriptions which appeared in the May, 1914, issue of Delineator.

Butterick 6891 from May 1914, Delineator.

Text for Butterick 6891 from Delineator, May 1914.

Butterick 6894 from May 1914.

Text for Butterick 6894, Delineator, May 1914.

Butterick bathing-suit 6912 from May, 1914.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Bathing Suits, Children's Vintage styles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Women in Trousers, World War I

Vintage Photos for the Holidays

A little girl communicates with her “Paw Pa” through an ear trumpet. Family photo.

“Can you hear me now?”

It’s time for my annual reminder to keep a box of unidentified family photos and an acid-free pen or a pencil at hand for the quiet moments at family gatherings.

Gertrude, Mack, and Nina Holt with their mother “on her 70th birthday” (1938.) They lived in Pulaski, Tennessee, and sent this to their brother Leonard, in the Army in San Francisco. “I sure do wish Leonard was on here and then the 4 children and mother could all be together.”

Any time you gather with your eldest relatives and friends is a good time to chat about the past. Family stories need to be passed down. (Bonus: you won’t have to talk politics….)

If you think you’ve heard all the stories before, consider that now that you are fully adult, seniors may be willing to tell you things they wouldn’t speak of when you were a child:  failed marriages, lost loves, siblings who died young or were never mentioned for some other reason. (I certainly learned some surprising things when I asked as a adult!) Perhaps there is a terrific story behind one of those faces. Besides, sometimes the stories are funny — and just waiting to be told when the time is right.

Today’s photos come from a side of my family I never knew.  My aunt Dorothy’s husband, Leonard H. Holt, died suddenly a short time before I was born.

My uncle Leonard Holt, serving in World War II.

Dorothy, Holt, and Dorothy’s mother. Redwood City, CA, about 1919.

Dorothy is dressed in hiking clothes, and Holt is wearing “civvies” although he served at nearby Camp Fremont, an Army training camp during the First World War.

L. H. Holt standing in front of a Southern Pacific Railway building in San Francisco. Picture dated 1923.

Dorothy did tell me that Holt was very particular about his clothes, and had his army uniforms tailored to fit well. Look at his elegant shoes! After Dorothy died, I found some of Holt’s silk shirts (with white French cuffs and made for a detachable collar) stored in the cedar chest that once held her wedding linens — a “hope chest” as unmarried girls called them. Holt’s shirts were beautiful, in soft pastel colors or stripes that epitomized the Arrow Shirt man’s look.

I think they were married about 1925. In 1930, Holt was still in the Army, and the couple lived on the Presidio, a beautiful Army base in San Francisco.

Dorothy and Holt vacationing in the snow, early 1930s.

In spite of war-time travel restrictions, Holt’s nephew (?) Jody Holt (serving in an Army band at the time) was visited by his sweetheart “Miss Meek” and his mother (?) Sally Holt, in San Francisco. 1945.

Holt died of a heart attack not long after this happy family visit.

Dorothy was so grief-stricken that she had a sort of breakdown, and didn’t speak of him very often, but she kept up a correspondence with his large family, including the Garners (his mother’s family) in Tennessee. In 1975, someone sent her a photo of the old family home on the farm:

“The little old home on the farm, Pulaski, Tenn, Oct. 1975. Mack Holt’s Farm.”

Mack was still alive, and his new home was much larger.

Holt’s brother Mack apparently kept the old family farm, maintaining the tiny old farmhouse, and lived in a newer, larger house — a family success story. There is great information on the back of the photo, including “Mack J. Holt, Murry Drive” & “Leonard’s brother.”

The great thing about photos exchanged by mail is that they are often labeled or signed, including long notes on the back  — a treasure for genealogists.

Many of these children are Leonard and Dorothy’s nieces and nephews. The back of the picture is full of information.

The back of a photo of many Holt family children. It tells us that Holt’s sister Nina had five children, and that his sister Gertrude had children (one called Hickie) and grandchildren. I don’t know who Estelle was, but that’s a trail to follow.

This photo gave me the names of Nina and Gertrude’s husbands: (Oddly, there’s another Mahlon in the family, her uncle….)

“Nina + Howard” and “Gertrude + Mahlon”

This photo is so old that is has cracked, but luckily the faces and their names are intact: “Leonard’ s Father The Holt Boys John & Mahlon Holt.” JH is on the right.

Unfortunately,  not all the pictures mailed from Tennessee are labeled.

All I know about this couple is that they were photographed in Pulaski. Is this the same mustached man who appears far right in the large group photo below?

Perhaps there are folks in Pulaski, Tennessee, who will recognize their ancestors in this large, undated picture. (It’s 7.5 x 9″) I’d be happy to send it to someone who’d treasure it.

Studio photograph of the Holt family of Pulaski, Tennessee. There are no names on the back, but I think I recognize John Holt, standing 2nd from right, from another photograph. (He died in 1904.) I believe one of the young boys is Leonard H. Holt.

The woman seated center in this photograph appears to be wearing a mourning hat and black veil.

Detail of woman in widow’s cap.

Could the man seated in front, with a large mustache, possibly be this mystery man, photographed with both Holt and Dorothy, probably in the 1920s?

Unknown man with very large mustache, standing with Leonard H. Holt, probably at the Presidio in San Francisco, probably 1920s.

Mustached mystery man with Dorothy Barton Holt, probably at the Presidio in San Francisco, and, judging from her clothing, in the 1920s.

I believe this man was a visiting relative — there are many pictures of him. I could easily believe he’s from Tennessee….

[For any genealogist interested in the large group picture — or in any of these people, I believe these are relatives of Leonard H. Holt, born in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee on February 2, 1893 or (probably) 1894. His parents were John Richard Holt (1868-1904) and Metta Ann Garner (1868-1939).  Their other children included Gertrude “Mamie” Holt (1893-1986), Katrina “Nina” Holt (1897 – ?), and McCallum “Mack” Holt (1900-?) My Uncle Holt (his wife never spoke of him by any other name) died of a heart attack while serving in California in 1945. At the time of his death, according to his wife, he held the rank of captain. They were childless. I think he was a Freemason, and Dorothy belonged to the Eastern Star — for those who can search such records. I have many photos of Holt family relatives, and no one to give them to.] You can contact me through witness2fashion@gmail.com

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