Category Archives: Bathing Suits

Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces

I know where this picture was taken, but not when, or who it is. Monaco, Excelsior Art Gallery, 183 Main Street, Stockton, Cal. “The most artistic photographic work guaranteed, at moderate prices.” Ben Batchelder owned several photo galleries in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but not necessarily the Excelsior at 183 Main…. So the picture is still undated.

Once a year (usually in December) I try to remind readers to use family get-togethers as an opportunity to bring out that box or scrapbook full of old family photos and go through them with the eldest members of the family. Try to put names to the faces. Someday, someone might thank you. (And you might hear some surprising stories….) If you’re lucky, more than one person will be able to put a name to the faces in the photos.

Photograph taken by Elliott and Harkness in Stockton, California. On the back the sitter has written, “Drunk when taken.” (I think he was kidding….)

I’d like to identify this man — he seems to have had a sense of humor. And he really was better looking than the “drunk” photograph implies:

Great hat. Now, who and when was he? A member of my family? or a friend who gave his picture to a pretty girl or to a member of the same fraternal organization? There’s no name on the back.

I’d also like to date his suit, hat, etc. If I knew his name, I could probably find out what he did for a living, and where he fit in the socio-economic scale. Did he live in Stockton, which was quite a large city by the 1880’s? Or was he a farmer who came into town so rarely that he had his picture taken to commemorate the event?

These children were also photographed in Stockton. I used Pioneer Photographers of the Far West to date these photos.

Two photographs taken at the Pioneer Gallery, 198 Main St., Stockton, CA.

A photographer named Ben Batchelder was active in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but he only had the Pioneer Gallery at this address for three years: 1884 to 1887. It’s a clue; it eliminates some possible relatives because they were too old or too young to be this age in those years. It’s nice to be able to date these photos — but it would be nicer to know more about them. The date is not enough to identify this boy and girl.

Unknown boy in suit with short trousers, big bow. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

Unknown girl in a wool dress that looks home-made. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

By the 1980’s I had only one relative I could ask about family photos from the 1880’s and early 1900’s: my Aunt Dorothy, also known as Dot. (We can usually identify our close relatives, even if the picture was taken before we were born.) However, as I try to verify names and dates from public sources, I am discovering that — in the words of literary critics — she was an “unreliable narrator.” And, since I have been using photos she identified and dated to identify other photos, I made a serious error.

I had already figured out that some of the photos I inherited from Dot were probably labeled years after they were taken.

This photo — and many taken on the same weekend — says Monte Rio, July 4, 1921. Dot is 3rd from left, and my mother is on the far right.

She seems to have had many weekend getaways in 1921: in Monte Rio, in Santa Cruz, in Truckee, plus a trip to Washington State…. Or perhaps she just remembered having a good time in 1921, and wrote that on all of them (?)

Dot (back to camera) and The Gang from the Office, Truckee, CA, 1921.

Four women in Santa Cruz, CA, 1921. Dot is third from left. For more about their clothes, click here.

Dot in Granite Falls, Washington, 1921 (She wrote.)

I’m not blaming her — doesn’t everybody have a shoebox full of (pre-digital) photos that we finally get around to putting into a scrapbook years later? Her scrupulousness about writing dates on photos and on the scrapbook pages made me too trusting. I can recognize my Great Aunt Alice, because she was still alive (and lively) when I was a child. (That impish smile in the lower left photo captures the Alice I knew: shrewd and witty.)

Alice Barton: 1900’s, 1930s, 1950s.

My very young Aunt Dot is sitting on the steps with her brother Mel (in sailor suit.) The woman in stripes, center, is her Aunt Alice (my great-aunt.) But — is the woman in white her Aunt Cora or her Aunt Laura? I’m no longer sure.

Dot said this was Aunt Laura, but I’m no longer certain. Is it Laura or Cora? (That is a terrific coat — with an enormous hat — whoever is wearing them. Note the mud splashes around the coat’s hem.)

I believed that my Aunt Dot could tell the difference between her Aunt Laura and her Aunt Cora — they were still alive when she was an adult. But… trusting her identification of photos, I think I wrote a post about the wrong one!

I thought this was Great Aunt Cora, with an unknown man, and my Great Aunt Alice, in the 1930s. Their dresses are short and sleeveless, with belts at the waist: after 1925, probably close to 1930. (Other photos I have examined recently suggest that the man is their brother, John, who died in 1934. Three surviving siblings; that makes sense.)

My research in local sources [The San Mateo County Genealogical Society has amazing databases online!] finally located Cora and Laura’s death dates: Cora died in December of 1924; Laura lived until 1936. Therefore, the woman in glasses in this photo is probably Laura, the unmarried librarian, instead of Cora, the widow. (Oops!)

I subscribed to Ancestry.com a few years ago only because I wanted to access its collection of Sears, Roebuck catalogs. (And I would recommend this to anyone who needs to research “everyday clothing” instead of couture. You’ll get more information for $20 a month than from a dozen books.) But, once I noticed that Dot’s spelling of names was quite variable, I began using Ancestry.com to try to find the correct spelling of names for the people in her photos.

Azalia Dellamaggiore (as spelled on census records) on the courthouse lawn in Redwood City, CA, dated 1918. Dot’s shadow as she takes the picture is included.

Again, Dot did her best. If you asked me to spell the last names of everyone I have met in social situations, — well, I couldn’t. Also, after you meet people several times, and think of them as friends, it’s embarrassing to have to ask them what their last names are! What was Dot — a girl with an 8th grade education — to make of a name like Dale Lucchesi — or Luchese? or Luchassi… or Lucassi? (She pronounced it Loo chee’ zee.)

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Lucassi here] sent this photo of himself to my aunt. Early 1920s.

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Luchessis this time] sent this charming photo of “my little brother and I” to my aunt around 1921. (Look! A sleeve garter! and a tiny boy still in a dress!)

If Dale had given her a studio portrait with his signature on the back (as many of her old beaux did) she would have figured it out. Caston Popescul signed  his:

Studio portrait of Caston Popescul mailed from Columbus, Georgia, dated 1920. (He’s retained his WW I military haircut. For reasons I don’t understand, this haircut was back in fashion in 2017!) Caston was a soldier in the American Army when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1918.

C. Popescul and Dot Barton in Santa Cruz, 1921. (That’s what she wrote.)

Then there’s a military man sometimes identified as “Val:” Volowsky or Walasky or Walisky ….

“Volouskey” (or “Valowskey”?) changes a tire while Jack and Dot look on.

“Walasky” with a tank, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA; dated 1920. There was a WW I military camp, Camp Fremont, in nearby Menlo Park.

Nick and “Walisky” at Neptune Beach. Dated 1920.

Dot and the soldier-with-the-hard-to-spell-name at Neptune Beach, Alameda, California. Dated 1920.

(Is that a box camera in her hand?)

Census Name Variations

I’m finding some wild spelling variations on census reports, too — possibly the fault of the census taker, or the person who happened to be at home to answer questions when the census taker knocked on the door — or a transcription error made when the hand-written census forms were typed into a database.

You wouldn’t think a four-letter name like Lipp would be a problem — but I found some Lipps under the name Siff. And Sipp. And Gipp.  Barton showed up as “Baldhoe” in 1940. So just imagine the variations I’ve found for the family of Augustus Feodorovich Moosbrugger, who emigrated from tzarist Russia at the age of 19 and married one of the Lipp girls; the name on her tombstone is “Alice Moosberger” — and my aunt Dot pronounced it “mooseburger.” Tasty!

I’m so glad someone identified this couple; it’s my mother’s father with Emma Emerson, whom he did not marry.

Dorothy’s father (b. 1862) with Emma Emerson — their names were written in pencil on the back. He married my grandmother in 1893, so this is earlier — probably 1880’s, as the dress suggests. [Taken in Stockton at Monaco Excelsior Art Gallery.]

It was a delight to find this picture:

Signed on the back, “Geo E. Meekins, Menlo Park, California.” It also says, “Age 25.” I found him in the Register of Voters: he was 25 in 1890. How satisfying!

The back of Meekins’ portrait is inscribed — in elaborate writing — “Geo. E. Meekins … Compliments to Miss Lillie M. Lipp,” Dorothy’s mother (my maternal grandmother.) Below, my Aunt Dot wrote, “Mama’s first fellow.” I think she got that one right.

Unknown woman in the snow, white fur muff and stole,  probably 1917 to 1922. I’m still looking for a photo that will identify her….

P.S. Thank you, Aunt Dorothy, for hundreds of photos!

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Bathing Suits, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Hats for Men, Late Victorian fashions, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Suits for Men, Swimsuits, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Palm Beach Resort Wear by Lelong, January 1928

Two couture tennis dresses by Lucien Lelong, January 1928. Imagine the background in green, and the coat on the right in tucked scarlet crepella. Wow.

Lelong discusses color in the first part of this article on resort wear for America’s brighter sunlight. Delineator, top of page 32, January 1928. It’s a pity that the Delineator ran this article in black and white!

Couturier Lucien Lelong explained to the Delineator magazine how his resort wear for Palm Beach differed from the colors he would have used for French clients.

Colors for Palm Beach: “vied with the parrot and the bougainvillea flower” because the “sub-tropical sunshine … subdues the strongest colors.”

For evening he suggested lighter shades:  greens, grays, coral, pink, amber, ivory, and black and white.

Two evening gowns by Lelong, January 1928. Left, black with rhinestone bands; right, mauve pink chiffon.

His bathing costumes for Palm Beach are colorful in greens and blues:

Left, Lelong uses “green jersey banded with darker green and worn under a sponge cloth coat of string beige.” Right, “blue and white printed crepe de Chine with chartreuse bands and beach coat.”  Both have “tunic tops and shorts.” January, 1928.

For daytime, Lelong’s dress shows the graded colors popular in 1927-28. Costumes using blocks of colors were called “compose” [with an accent aigu on the e : kom-poh-zay.]

Left: Lelong’s blue two-piece sports frock with bands of graded colors. Right, a three piece ensemble in two shades of blue. January 1928 resort wear.

Let’s not forget those sleeveless tennis frocks by this extraordinary French designer:

Two sleeveless and collarless tennis frocks, plus a scarlet coat of tucked crepella. Lelong resort collection, January 1928. Delineator. Illustration by Muriel Lages.

“Design grows more and more simple in appearance, tho [sic] inner cuts are complicated. And of course, all these models, as is usual with me, induce slenderness in the appearance of their wearers. That sums it up.”– Lucien Lelong on his resort collection, in Delineator, January 1928.

When I called Lelong “extraordinary,” I wasn’t exaggerating. As head of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture during the German Occupation of Paris, Lelong managed to thwart the Germans’ plan to move the center of couture to Berlin. You can read “The Man Who Saved Paris” by clicking here.

Further reading:  The Encyclopedia of Fashion has a bibliography of books about Lelong. Click here.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bathing Suits, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

Colorful Clothing for Girls and Boys, July 1926

Clothes for girls (and a boy) age 15 and under, Delineator, July 1926, page 30.

I’m making an educated guess at the age range, based on other Butterick illustrations. Teen girls aged 15 to 20 years were “Misses,” and they usually had their own pages of fashions in Delineator magazine. Butterick patterns for children often reflected adult style details; but styles for young children changed very slowly, so we sometimes find patterns that were released years before mixed in with brand new ones — in this group, two patterns numbered in the 5000’s appear among 6900’s.

From left, a girl’s dress and bloomers, Butterick 6923; a “suit” for a young boy, 6928; and another dress and bloomers set for a girl, Butterick 6905, with hat 6323. Delineator, July 1926. Matching or coordinating bloomers were part of a toddler’s outfit.

Girl’s dress (probably for 6 to 10 years) No. 6859, and a red bathing suit, Butterick 5210. July 1926. The bathing suit is unchanged from previous summers; it first appeared in 1924.

Red and blue often photographed as black, so I love seeing the red swimsuit. It buttons at the shoulders.

When I based a painting on this 1920’s photo of my cousins Gerald and Mimi, I made their bathing suits blue, but colors ranging from purple (or navy blue) to red, green, and brown all photographed as black.

My cousins enjoying the sprinkler in the 1920’s. I guessed that their swimsuits were blue; now I know they might have been red. At least I gave them red sandals!

Three Butterick patterns for girls: Left, 6878; center, 6043; right, 6915. July 1926.

The white and blue dress (6878) looks much like the dresses for grown-ups in the same issue:

These dresses are smocked near the shoulders and hip, but they could also be made with ruched or shirred gathers, like the girl’s dress. When the sleeves continued to the neckline, forming a yoke, as on the left, they were called “saddle shoulders.”

The lavender dress has a sort of scalloped front; scallops were also used on this woman’s dress:

Scallops bound with bias tape decorate the front of a woman’s dress and a girl’s dress, both from 1926.

This is my favorite:

Butterick 6915 has colorful dots and a red tie that weaves in and out of openings on the front of the dress.

The same detail is seen in a dress for older girls:

Dresses for school-age girls, Butterick 6959, left, and 6909. July 1926.

Like the scalloped lavender dress above, the polka dotted dress (6959) can be tightened at the hip with button tabs. Perhaps the tie on the back of the flowered dress (6909) serves the same function.

Butterick 6908 is shown in a large floral print. It has a “saddle shoulder.” Its “collar” becomes a long tie — very common in this period.  Butterick 6087 is shown in coral red, trimmed with blue and white smocking.

Butterick embroidery design 10365 shows variations on smocking. From the August, 1925 Delineator.

Dresses for girls and women were often shown with smocking near the shoulder or hip, and sometimes at the neckline and wrist.

In the center, a Misses’ smocked dress pattern, 6012, from May, 1925. Left (6963) and right (6087,) smocked dresses for girls from July 1926.

Butterick patterns for little girls: Left, 6963 with hat pattern 6753; right, Dress and bloomers No. 6911 with hat 5557. Illustrated in July 1926.

In addition to children’s patterns illustrated in color, these outfits for boys and girls were shown in black and white, with a touch of yellow:

Matching brother-and-sister outfits from July 1926: Butterick boy’s “suit” 6948 and girl’s dress 6958. They look like they are wearing blouson jackets; in the twenties, a “dress” pattern could mean a separate top and skirt, often a skirt suspended from the shoulders on a sleeveless bodice.

The little girl wears Butterick dress 6917; the boy’s suit has shorts which button to his shirt and a “bib front…”

… like this woman’s dress (in yellow) from the same July 1926 issue of Delineator.

Left, a bib front dress from June, 1926; right, a bib front dress from July, 1926. Both from Delineator.

July is time to start planning a fall wardrobe, so these stylish coats for older girls were also shown:

A caped coat pattern, Butterick 6920, and a top-stitched coat, No. 6955, with Butterick hat pattern 6089. July 1926, Delineator. By making your own hat, you could match it to your dress, as shown at right. The hat on the left, however, has a grown-up buckle trim that must have made its wearer feel very sophisticated.

Notice how short these coats for girls are. I sometimes think that young women adapted easily to the shortest of nineteen-twenties fashions because they had never worn longer ones. Below are some coats for young women aged fifteen to twenty from the previous season — March, 1926.

Coats for Misses 15 to 20 or small women, Delineator, March 1926, p. 27.

By comparison, they look too long to me! By the end of the year, such coats were probably being shortened:

Couture by Berthe, left, and Vionnet, right. Delineator, January 1927.

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Children's Vintage styles, Hats, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns

Summer Halter Dresses and Pantsuit Patterns from Vogue, 1966

Cover of Vogue store flyer, June, 1966. Vogue pattern 6797.

These breezy summer fashions are fifty-one years old, but I can’t really remember a summer since then when halter styles were not worn. In 1966, Vogue patterns offered several halter-style dresses, plus a pantsuit with a halter top included.

Vogue halter dress patterns 6766 (left) and 6787 (right;) June 1966 flyer.

Alternate views of Vogue 6766 and 6787.

The only thing that separates these dresses from current styles is that they have more structure: darts, linings, interesting seams — details that we don’t find in garments mass-produced as cheaply as possible, using stretch fabrics and sewing shortcuts.

Depending on fabric choice, these two could be very dressy — cocktail dresses rather than casual dresses. Vogue patterns 6793 (left) and 6789, from 1966.

The dress on the right has a sixties’ stiffness that requires some lining or flat-lining to hold its shape. The pattern includes a matching jacket.

The pattern for the long, bare-shouldered beach cover-up on the left included a two-piece swim suit:

Vogue 6771 included a swim suit whose straps are perfect for wearing under it. Right, the short dress with a flounce, Vogue 6772, also conceals a swim suit. From 1966.

Another swim suit and “sun-shelter” dress:

Vogue 6772, a beach cover-up with bathing suit included. From 1966.

This pantsuit has a halter-topped blouse under it:

A pantsuit with long, slim trousers or conservative shorts. Vogue 6795 from 1966. The “spare little jacket, belted high in back, covers a turtleneck blouse with cut-in armholes.”

The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) at University of Rhode Island has this pattern, Vogue pantsuit 6795 .  It’s illustrated in a Villager-flavored floral print. Although not mentioned in the store flyer, the pattern also includes a skirt and a dress, in day or evening length.

A caution about pantsuits in the sixties: I graduated from college in this year, 1966. Women students were not allowed to wear trousers on outdoors on campus unless they wore a coat over them. These pantsuits are sportswear, not worn to school or to the office. (The big-city bank where I worked allowed us to wear matching trousers and jackets to work in 1970.)

A “smock-like” fabric pullover top with matching above-the-knee shorts. Vogue pattern 6727, from 1966.

A  bit “kookie” is this dress trimmed with ball fringe (optional).

Vogue 6726 is a dress with a little Mod/op art influence and some hippie ball fringe…. To see it in color, click here.

To the right of 6726 is a much more sophisticated bare-backed dress — I think it has an Emma Peel flavor.

In black, Vogue 6751, a side-baring, back-baring “patio dress” from 1966.

Notice the low-heeled shoes. The hairstyles illustrated were often seen on television, worn by Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”) and Barbara Feldon (“Get Smart.”) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Bathing Suits, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

100 Years Ago: Women’s Bathing Suits for 1917

The knit bathing suit illustrated in this ad for Luxite Hose is considerably more revealing than the suits that could be made from Butterick patterns in 1917. Delineator, June 1917, page 50.

A friend once gave me a bathing suit as a birthday gift, with the explanation, “The swimsuit isn’t the real present. The real present is that now you don’t have to go through the agony of shopping for a swimsuit.” She was right. Getting a glimpse of my aged,  fish-belly white thighs in a department store’s three-way mirror is never the highlight of my summer.

Butterick bathing suits for June, 1917. Top of page 64, Delineator magazine.

On the other hand, even though these bathing suits from one hundred years ago would cover my thighs, I doubt that they would be flattering in any other way.

Butterick bathing suit patterns from Delineator, July 1917, p. 53.

I always enjoy seeing multiple versions of a pattern; most of these suits were illustrated in two ways in June of 1917 and in another two ways in July. They are all Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. It’s also interesting to see the line drawings that show alternate views and the under-layer, which is often lost in vintage bathing suits.

Butterick 9201, a bathing suit for 1917

One version of Butterick 9201 from June 1917.

A sleeveless version of Butterick bathing suit 9201. Delineator, June 1917, p. 64.

A third version of Butterick 9201, July 1917, Delineator, page 53.

A fourth, striped, version of Butterick 9201, from Delineator, July 1917, p. 53.

This view from June 1917 shows the bloomers attached to an underbodice, or underbody,  which was worn under the “blouse” of Butterick 9201.

All four versions have ruffled pockets. I won’t show descriptions of all four versions, but the basic information is contained in this one.

The fabrics and colors only apply to the sleeveless, square-necked version. Other versions suggested were purple, navy, scarlet, or green, in wool jersey, satin, or taffeta. The pattern was available in sizes 30 to 44 inches bust measure.

Butterick 9219, a bathing suit from 1917

The striped bathing outfit is Butterick pattern 9219 as shown in Delineator, June 1917, p. 64.

A sleeveless version of Butterick 9219. “You can have it show jaunty bloomers underneath or have it cover them…. The bloomers are sewed to an underbody so there is no danger of accidents.”

Butterick 9291 pictured in Delineator, July 1917, p. 53.

Another version of Butterick 9219, July 1917. She wears black stockings and bathing shoes; the “unusual and becoming cap” was included.

Other views of Butterick 9219.

This view of Butterick 9219 shows the yoked bloomers attached to an underbody.

Various wool or silk fabrics were suggested. Although serge and silk poplin are mentioned, cotton is not, with the exception of “brilliantine,” a wool-and-cotton or mohair-and-cotton blend.

Butterick 9237, a “bathing-suit” from 1917

Butterick bathing suit pattern 9237, June 1917. This is the shorter version. Note her rolled stockings.

Butterick 9237 shown with a striped skirt long enough to cover the bloomers, Delineator, June 1917, p. 64.

Coin-sized dots and white lattice on the sleeves are unique details for this blue and white version of No. 9237. Butterick pattern from 1917. Cap pattern included.

Alternate views of Butterick 9237.

Girls’ bathing costume,  Butterick 9240, from 1917.

This bathing suit pattern, Butterick 9240, was available for girls 2 to 14 years old. Delineator, June 1917.

“If the child is very small the gathered or plaited straight skirt need not be worn.”

Butterick 9240 illustrated on an older girl. Delineator, July, 1917, p. 53.

Bathing suit for girls 2 to 14, Butterick 9240, from 1917.

Description of Butterick child’s bathing suit No. 9240, July 1917. Delineator.

How anyone, much less a child, was expected to swim in one of these bathing suits once it was wet and waterlogged is a mystery to me. The pockets must have been great for collecting seashells — or filling with sand and water and dragging you down ….

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Bathing Suits, Children's Vintage styles, Hosiery, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, World War I

A One-Trunk Vacation Wardrobe Designed in Paris, March 1927

Delineato magazine cover, March 1927. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

Delineator magazine cover, March 1927. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

By February or March, those who could afford to take a break from winter weather — and those who just wanted to daydream about doing it — could read about resort wear.
In a two page spread, Delineator assured readers that all these authorized copies of French designer fashions would fit into just one trunk.

Informal coat by Paquin, Delineator. March 1927, p. 18.

Informal coat by Paquin, Delineator. March 1927, p. 18. The mole collar is dyed green to match the cloth coat; the hat is by Reboux.

text-1927-mar-p-18-10-till-tea-informality-paquin-coat-goupy-sweater-lelong-bathing-suit-and-cover-btm-text

Sporty day outfits combine a sweater and pleated skirt. Delineator, March 1927.

Sporty day outfits combine a skirt and lacy sweater, left,  or a printed silk “jumper” and coordinating skirt by Goupy, right. Delineator, March 1927. These imported fashions could be purchased in New York stores.

A bathing suit and beach robe by Lelong. Delineator, March 1927.

A bathing suit and beach robe by Lelong. Delineator, March 1927. The ingeniously cut wrap reverses from jersey to toweling. The bathing suit is cut low in back to produce a tan the same shape as an equally low cut evening dress.

For more about the fad for suntans in the 1920’s, click here. For more about composé colors, click here.

text-1927-mar-p-19-formality-teatime-designer-berthe-coat-dress-ensemble-text

A more formal dress and matching coat ensemble designed by Berthe are worn in the late afternoon. Delineator, March 1927.

A more formal afternoon dress and matching coat ensemble designed by Berthe are worn in the late afternoon. Delineator, March 1927. The matching mauve coat is 7/8 length. The straw hat by Agnes (left) “has the new front-peak silhouette.”

The somewhat similar draped hat on the magazine’s cover, illustrated by Helen Dryden, shows a “peak” that is pinned up, away from the face.

A rose colored outfit is accented with emeral jewelry in this stylized image by Helen Dryden. March 1927.

A rose colored outfit (or is it mauve?) is accented with emerald jewelry in this stylized image by Helen Dryden. March 1927.

A gold lame evening wrap by Vionnet is show with a "bolero" dress by Chanel. Delineator, March 1927, p. 19.

A gold lamé evening wrap by Vionnet, “striped with silver” and trimmed with gold fox fur, is shown with a “bolero” dress by Chanel in white Georgette trimmed with jewels and silver. Delineator, March 1927. page 19.

An evening dress made of lace. Delineator, March 1927.

An evening dress made of lace. “Rose silk lines the fur bows.” The tiers of the skirt “extend all the way to the shoulder in back.” Delineator, March 1927. No designer was named.

The Chanel evening dress was imported by Lord and Taylor; the other French afternoon and evening clothes were available from John Wanamaker.

Fashion Illustrator Myrtle Lages

The illustrations from pages 18 and 19 are by Myrtle Lages. Here are some Lages signatures, which usually appeared subtly at a lower corner of the image. I had to enhance some of these to improve legibility.

Lages (Myrtle Lages) worked as a fashion illustrator for Delineator, which often used one illustrator for an entire article. Lages usually squeezed her signature modestly into the lower corner of one illustration (probably magazine policy.)

Lages (Myrtle Lages) worked as a fashion illustrator for Delineator, which often used one illustrator for most of the pattern illustrations in an issue. Lages usually squeezed her signature modestly into the lower corner of one illustration (probably magazine policy.) Delineator magazine was owned by Butterick.

Lages’ signature varied between the faint and stylized vertical one, giving last name only, to the carefully written full name, as in September 1933. When Delineator switched to black and white line illustrations plus one color, Lages had no problem adjusting her style.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Delineator, May 1927.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Lages for Delineator, May 1927.

Lages pattern illustration, Delineator, August 1927. Butterick 1555, 1589, 1573, 1384.

Myrtle Lages pattern illustrations, Delineator, August 1927. Butterick 1555, 1589, 1573, 1384.

According to her obituary, Myrtle Lages (married name Whitehill) worked as an illustrator for Butterick for more than forty years. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, she died in 1994, aged 98.

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Hats, lingerie and underwear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

To Tan or Not to Tan 1920s – 1930s

Elizabeth I, the Rainbow Portrait, in Hatfield House; image via wikimedia commons

Elizabeth I, detail of the “Rainbow Portrait” in Hatfield House; image via wikimedia commons

Three centuries after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, American women still believed that beautiful skin should be pale.

Advertisement, 1917.

Advertisement, 1917. “So tanned, so colorless …. However unattractive exposure to the summer sun may have made” your face….

“Fair and tender ladies” with “peaches and cream” complexions — that was the fashion ideal promulgated for thousands of years, and not just in Europe. (Click here for the disturbing “White Skin: A Chinese Obsession.

"So tanned, so colorless -- What shall she do?" Ad from Ladies' Home Journal, 1917. Advertisement for Woodbury soap.

“So tanned, so colorless — What shall she do?” Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917. Advertisement for Woodbury soap.

Then came the nineteen twenties…. When chic American and European women wanted to be sun-tanned.

"Sun-tan makes Maybelline more necessary than ever!" Ad for eye makeup, Delineator, July 1929, p. 81.

“Sun-tan makes Maybelline more necessary than ever!” Ad for eye makeup, Delineator, July 1929, p. 81.

One of the many bizarre ideals of beauty — one that has given pain to as many women as the fashions for impossibly thin bodies or bound feet — is the crazy idea that beauty requires a light or pale skin tone. The Ancient Egyptians and Etruscans often portrayed women in a lighter shade of paint than men. “The feminine ideal during the Han period (2000 years ago) for women of the court was almost unearthly white, white skin. Moon-like roundish faces, long black hair,” writes Ann Rose Kitagawa.  Cosmetics that were supposed to lighten your skin have been around for thousands of years. For women of color, there are plenty of depressing  vintage ads for preparations that are supposed to lighten or bleach your skin. (And plenty of modern ones, too….)

“The Greeks favored light complexions, which they maintained using white lead. This was later replaced by chalk powder (around 1000 BCE) due to the many deaths caused by slow lead poisoning.” [White lead, which was also used in cosmetics by the Elizabethans, is a form of arsenic.]— read more at annmariegianni.com.

At a time when almost all people worked out of doors (that is, for most of human history,) tanned skin was the mark of a peasant, and lighter skin the mark of higher social status: the educated, the administrators, and the aristocrats. This idea was turned upside down between the 1920’s and the 1930’s, when more people worked indoors, and only wealthy people could afford to vacation at beach resorts during the winter months. Suddenly, a winter tan became a status symbol for Americans and Europeans, influencing dress, as explained in this 1929 magazine article:

"Tan Takes its Turn as a Maker of Fashion." Article in Delineator Magazine, February, 1929, p. 25.

“Tan Takes its Turn as a Maker of Fashion.” Article in Delineator magazine, February, 1929, p. 25.

This article even mentions artificial tanning: “Last summer’s tan, acquired on the Lido or American Beaches, conserved during the winter months with a sun machine and ready to deepen now at Palm Beach or Bermuda…,” could be maintained with a tanning lamp like this one.

"Now you can afford Ultra-Violet sunshine;" ad for a Health Developer Tanning Lamp, 1929.

“Now you can afford Ultra-Violet sunshine;” ad for a Health Developer Twin-Arc Tanning Lamp, 1929.

Ad for National Health Applliance Corp. tanning lamp, 1929.

Ad for National Health Appliance Corp. tanning lamp, 1929.

To be fair, the “health” claims were related to the relatively recent discovery of Vitamin D, its part in calcium absorption, and the need for sunshine to prevent the bone-deforming disease, rickets, in children. But the sunlamp was undoubtedly as much a fashion item as a health item in 1929.

It’s not surprising that women were confused in the late twenties and early thirties — To tan, or not to tan? [Personal note:  I am very pale, as California girls go, but my mother, who prized her extremely white skin, was terribly disappointed that her little girl was not as fair-skinned as she was. Apparently, some women who lived through this “tan/not tan” era were never enthusiastic about the new fashion.]

Even in the thirties, not every woman chose to get a tan. Story illustration from Woman's Home Companion, Jan. 1936.

Even in the thirties, not every fair-skinned woman chose to get a tan. Two blondes in a story illustration from Woman’s Home Companion, Jan. 1936.

I was amused to find these two ads facing each other in the pages of Delineator in 1924, before tanning became chic.

Left, an ad advising a remedy for sunburn; right, an ad for a bleaching cream. Delineator, Aug. 1924.

Left, an ad suggesting a remedy for sunburn; right, an ad for a skin bleaching cream.   Delineator, Aug. 1924.

Nadinola “whitens the skin to milky purity. It bleaches freckles, sun-tan and wind-tan.”

Absorbine, Jr. promised that “the next day,” users would have “only a slightly deeper coat of tan as a reminder of the day’s sport.”  In 1924, getting a tan was an accident that called for a remedy like Nadinola Bleaching Cream, which promised “The Lure of Southern Loveliness.” [Hmmmm.]

In 1928, the unlucky girl who accidentally got a tan could buy Gouraud’s Oriental Cream to cover it up:

"A Sunproof Complexion" -- or the illusion of one -- could be applied with a bottle of Oriental Cream. Ad, July 1928.

“A Sunproof Complexion” — or the illusion of one — could be applied with a bottle of Oriental Cream, which “renders an entrancing film of pearly beauty….”  Ad, July 1928.

Text of ad for Gouraud's Oriental Cream, a makeup which covered up a tan. Delineator, July 1928.

Text of ad for Gouraud’s Oriental Cream, a face and body makeup which covered up a tan, and theoretically prevented one. “You appearance will not be blemished by the sun or wind.” Delineator, July 1928.

Bottom of ad for Gouraud's Oriental Cream, apparently a liquid body makeup. July 1928

Bottom of ad for Gouraud’s Oriental Cream, which seems to be a liquid body makeup. July 1928. Delineator.

Apparently a liquid body makeup, Oriental Cream was available in “White, Flesh and Rachel.” “Rachel” was a dark-ish makeup color for olive or tanned complexions. Here is a “don’t fear the beach, use Apex Bleach” ad aimed at women of color in the 1920’s.

[I can’t read “Flesh” color without thinking about comedian and civil rights leader Dick Gregory‘s sixties’ joke (I’m paraphrasing from memory) that he really thought we were making progress towards racial equality — until he “tried to buy a flesh colored bandaid.” Dick Gregory opened some windows in my little, white world. And guess what? — that joke is still valid.]

However, by 1929 suntanned faces and bodies were in style, according to fashion magazines:

500 title 1929 feb tan article p 25

Beginning of text of suntans and fashions article in Delineator, February, 1929.

Beginning of article about fashions and colors to flatter a suntan in Delineator, February, 1929.

Notice the references to American and European resorts: Palm Beach, Antibes, the Lido (Venice), Bermuda…. French resorts like Deauville and Biarritz– where Chanel started her rise to eminence — were part of the phenomenon. “It has become smart to look healthy, smart to go in for tan, and smart to dress expressly for it.”

A sports suit with "sunburn back" used white with vivid colors to compliment the tan. Delineator, Feb. 1929.

A sports suit with “sunburn back” used white with vivid colors to compliment the tan. Delineator, Feb. 1929. Her back is bare, but wrinkled by the model’s pose.

425 1929 feb tan article p 25 top lower

425 1929 feb tan article p 25 lower rt end

“Even the southern evening frock is deliberately more decollete than ever so as to reveal the extent of the day’s tan.”

“The necessity of being true to your tan and its outline,” e.g., U shaped, V shaped  or square-shaped, is important, since your bathing suit line would dictate the other clothes you could wear to show off your tan. “Tan is truly the maker of fashion.”

A deep U shape in front. Feb, 1929 Delineator.

A deep neckline in front and intense flower prints to go with a tan. Feb, 1929, Delineator.

Low-cut evening gowns also exposed your tan, front and back.

Evening gown in blue chiffon, Delineator Fe. 1929.

Evening gown in blue chiffon, Delineator, Feb. 1929. It “Follows the design of the sports suit” with the very deep “sunburn” back.

That’s not to say that women were not conflicted by contradictory advertising.

Top image from an ad for Golden Peacock Bleach cream. July 1931.

Top image from an ad for Golden Peacock Bleach cream. July 1931.

Ad for Golden Peacock skin bleaching cream, July 1931.

Ad for Golden Peacock skin bleaching cream, July 1931. “Ten nights — and you’ll be a ravishing, fair skinned beauty!”

Note that these skin bleach ads from Delineator magazine were primarily aimed at women with Caucasian/European ancestry. Many other products that claimed to bleach or lighten skin were advertised to women with naturally dark complexions.

B. Vikki Vintage has written a well-illustrated review of  Style & Status: Selling Beauty to African-American Women, 1920-1975 by Susannah Walker. Visit her blog here.

1929 ad for Hinds Honey Almond Cream. That is a low cut bathing suit!

1929 ad for Hinds Honey Almond Cream.  This extremely low-cut bathing suit matches some equally low cut evening dresses of the 1930’s. Click here.

"Sunshine weathers the skin unmercifully. Does more than anything else to age it."

“Sunshine in moderation is good. Severe sunburn, however, weathers the skin unmercifully. Does more than anything else to age it.” Ad for Hinds Cream.

“To prevent that fiery sunscorch in the first place, — before going on the beach, smooth on Hinds Cream, and powder over it.”

“Powder over it?” In 1931, Dorothy Gray offered a product that claimed to prevent sunburn by “absorbing ultra-violet rays.” (It probably did work better than powder over moisturizer):

Ad for Dorothy Gray sunscreen. July 1931. Note the peculiar suntan lines that will be caused by this swimsuit.

Ad for Dorothy Gray sunscreen. July 1931. Note the peculiar suntan lines that will be caused by this swimsuit, which the model has obviously not worn before. Judging by her legs and midriff, she tanned her arms and upper back while wearing a dress.

Text of Dorothy Gray ad, July 1931.

Text of Dorothy Gray Sunburn Cream ad, July 1931. $2.00 was not an insignificant amount of money. In 1924 and in 1936, a working woman paid about $20 per month for a rented room.

The fashion for tanning was not necessarily long, or universal, and like all fads … It faded.

Illustration from "Keeping Up and Making Up," Delineator, June 1934. "When Skins Change Their Color, It's News."

Illustration from “Keeping Up and Making Up,” Delineator, June 1934. Dark tan in 1932, lighter tan in 1933, and a big beach hat and cover-up in 1934.”When Skins Change Their Color, It’s News.”

“News” seems to suggest that very deep tans were losing their cachet by 1934. But this cartoon from 1936 contradicts it — at least for an English humorist:

"Don't worry, darling. You'll look quite respectable in a day or two." Punch magazine cartoon from 1936, in The Way to Wear'em, by Christina Walkley.

“Don’t worry, darling. You’ll look quite respectable in a day or two.” Punch magazine cartoon from 1936, in The Way to Wear’em, by Christina Walkley.

I’m afraid, from the dismay on the dark-suited girl’s face, that the cartoonist did not agree that a dark tan was “respectable.” The old “peasants versus aristocrats” stereotype had not died.

Sadly, millions of women in third-world countries are still using skin bleach products that contain mercury and other toxic ingredients in the quest for lighter skin. Click here to read The Global Phenomenon of Skin Bleaching: A Crisis in Public Health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bathing Suits, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Costumes for the 17th Century, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Swimsuits