Category Archives: Bathing Suits

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

A Paris Wardrobe for Summer 1928 from Butterick Forecast Patterns

This final (?) set of eight patterns, identifiable as “Forecast” patterns only because of their peculiar numbering, were illustrated by L. Frerrier, like previous Forecast patterns. Crowded on to one page this time, each pattern was shown in equal-sized front and back views. Nothing in the text explains why they cost a dollar each — twice as much as any other Butterick patterns.

Forecast patterns from Butterick, June 1928. Delineator, p. 42. L. Frerrier, illustrator.

Forecast Wardrobe patterns 12 A through 12 H from Butterick, June 1928. Delineator, p. 42. L. Frerrier, illustrator.

The bathing suit, 12 A, is shown with a variation of caped coat 12 E.

Forecast wardrobe patterns 12 A bathing suitand 12 E coat. Butterick, June 1928.

Forecast wardrobe patterns 12 A bathing suit and 12 E coat. Butterick, Delineator, June 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12A text500 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12E coat450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12E text

Frerrier has cleverly illustrated the back/alternate views made up in different fabrics from the front views, turning eight patterns into sixteen illustrations

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 B, Delineator, June 1928.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 B, Delineator, June 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12B text

Butterick Foreccast Wardrobe pattern 12 C, Delineator, June 1928.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 C, Delineator, June 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12C text

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 D, Delineator, June 1928.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 D, Delineator, June 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12D text

Butterick Forecarst Wardrobe pattern 12 F, Delineator, June 1928.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 F, Delineator, June 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12 F text

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 G, Delineator, June, 1928.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 G, Delineator, June, 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12G text

The “new cord-narrow straps” on the slip (called spaghetti straps in the 1960s) — not to mention the depth of the V in back — would make it impossible to wear a 1920’s brassiere under this dress.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 H, Delineator, June 1928.

Butterick Forecast Wardrobe pattern 12 H, Delineator, June 1928.

450 1928 june p 42 paris wardrobe 12H textThe coat’s front cape, which wraps around over the shoulder, must have been a nightmare for the coat-check girl who had to put it on a hanger. It was customary for dresses with side panels or irregular hems to hang out under the evening wrap, as they do here — a look which in other eras would have been dismissed as “draggle tailed.”

None of these patterns was available in sizes bigger than a 40 inch bust measurement.

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Dating Butterick Patterns, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns

Men Bare Their Chests at the Beach, 1933

One man has a bare chest and one wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustratioin from Woman's Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

One man has a bare chest and one man wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustration from Woman’s Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

Nude bathing for men was an accepted tradition in Victorian times. (A stretch of river called Parson’s Pleasure was reserved for this purpose at Oxford University until 1991.) But as “mixed” bathing became popular near the end of the 19th century, both men and women were expected to cover up from breastbone to knee.

Man's bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910.

Man’s bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910. Sleeveless swimming suits for men were also for sale.

1920’s bathing suits were clinging, but very similar for both sexes.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925. The swim suit worn by the seated man is not very different from the woman’s suit.

Practices varied from place to place but, at public beaches and pools in the U.S., men were usually required to wear suits that covered their nipples until the mid-nineteen thirties.

Men's swim suits from Sears, Spring 1935.

Men’s swimming suits from Sears, Spring 1935. Left, an elasticized “Speed Suit” suspended from the shoulders. Center, trunks with a separate tuck-in shirt. Right, a “two-purpose suit” whose top attaches with a zipper.

The “Speed Suit” (left) has attached trunks and “elastic-ribbed fabric.” The “High Waisted Trunks” at center are shown with a separate all-wool shirt which tucks into the suit at front and back. The “two-purpose” Zip Top Suit” at right has a zipper in front that allows you to remove the “shirt” part.

By 1934, it was becoming acceptable for men to swim bare-chested, but rules for public and private beaches and pools differed, so bringing an optional top would save embarrassment. (Speaking of embarrassment, I wonder: when the trunks were not suspended from the shoulders, was a belt necessary to support the weight of water-logged wool knit trunks?)

This vintage suit, from Macy’s, has a similar zipper front and a rather bare X back:

Man's swim suit from Macy's, circa 1930s, with slide closing detachable top.

Man’s swim suit from Macy’s, circa 1930s; the detachable top connects to the trunks with a large metal zipper.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/whc-april-1937-p-3-nmen-bathing-suits-tans-illus-cordrey-500.jpg?w=500

This illustration from Womans’ Home Companion, 1937, shows that some men — in this case, two out of three — continued to wear the top even when not required to do so.

Men's bathing suits with tops, WHC February 1936 illustration.

Men’s bathing suits with tops, WHC, February 1936 illustration.

The older man is wearing a more conservative, covered-up swimsuit.

According to Esquire magazine in 1934,

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

This implies that shirtless swimming was permitted on some public beaches in 1933, and earlier [1932] at some private beaches and pools.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men's swimming trunks without chest coverage.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men’s swimming trunks without chest coverage. The punning caption read: “Even the Public Beaches Embrace the Nude Deal.”

The man at left is wearing a shirt tucked into his trunks.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

In the same July 1934 issue, this ad for Mansco Sportswear shows several conservative looks:

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swiming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swimming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

However, this ad from Gantner and Mattern Co. shows much tighter-fitting trunks — and no top.

Ad for Gantner "Wikies" swim trunks, esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Gantner “Wikies” swim trunks, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner Wikies man's swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner “Wikies” man’s swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934. A “Snapper Shirt” top for Wikies was available separately, presumably to snap on at beaches where swimming with a bare chest was still not permitted.

The Wikies’ high waist reflects the high-waisted men’s trousers then in fashion. Wikies’ snug fit was probably possible because of the recent [1931] invention of Lastex yarn, which even appeared in men’s suit fabric in 1934 ads.

Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8.

From a Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8. “Lastex, the spun elastic yarn, is now weaving comfort into everything a man wears — into his business suit, Tuxedo, sportswear, bathing suit, riding clothes, shirt, …underwear, pyjamas….”

The Lastex company ran a series of advertisements in Esquire magazine showing men’s suits, tuxedos, etc. which were made with stretch fabrics — in 1934!

Beach and resort wear, including "pretty snug" men's swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133.

Beach and resort wear, including “pretty snug” men’s swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133. L. Fellows, illustrator.

1934 aug p 133 beach and resort wear swim text swim

This editorial illustration appeared in a women’s magazine in 1935:

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, May, 1935.

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, Woman’s Home Companion, May, 1935.

Perhaps the acceptance of bare chests had something to do with Hawaii:

A surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

A Hawaiian surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

I can’t help noticing that Esquire chose to use men “of a certain age” to model swimsuits in its editorial fashion articles. The women’s magazines, however, pictured younger, athletic-looking men wearing swimsuits in their illustrations, just as Esquire favored voluptuous women in its cartoons….

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Zippers

Too Fat or Too Thin — 1933 & 1934

"You'd never guess they once called me SKINNY." Ad for yeast supplement, Delineator, 1934.

“You’d never guess they once called me SKINNY.” Ad for ironized yeast, 1934. Breasts are prominently featured.

Nineteen thirties’ fashion illustrations show tall, impossibly narrow-hipped women, but magazines also ran ads humiliating women for being “too skinny.” Sometimes I encounter an “Are you too fat?” ad, turn the page, and encounter an “Are you too skinny?” ad. One explanation is that, in times of famine, looking too thin implies poverty and hardship. And many people really did go hungry in the 1930’s.

Feeding a big family on $9 a week, January 1934. Ad for Royal Baking Powder.

Feeding a big family on $9 a week, January, 1934. Ad for Royal Baking Powder. Delineator.

(In modern America, cheap, poorly nutritious food — a tasty and addictive combination of fats, carbohydrates, salt and sugars — has created a historically unique situation: now, obesity is often a sign of poverty, while a lean, fit body is a sign of wealth and leisure:  it signals enough money to afford fresh foods, along with time — and a safe place — to exercise.)

Certainly the emphasis on a “boyish” figure favored the young and slender in the mid-nineteen-twenties.

But 1933-1934 was a time of mixed signals for the average woman.

Delineator, March 1933, page 81.

Delineator, March 1933, page 81. “Safe Way to Lose FAT.” Ad for Kruschen Salts.

“How would you like to lose 15 pounds of fat in a month…?” That was on page 81.

Or maybe you should gain 15 pounds? The following ad was on page 97 of the same magazine:

Delineator, March 1933, page 97.

Delineator, March 1933, page 97. “Dangerous to be skinny.” Ad for Ironized Yeast, which “adds solid, healthy flesh quicker than beer.”

“I’m so lonely and unhappy.  Nobody likes a skinny girl.”

“There’s no need to be skinny now.  I’ll tell you a quick way to gain.”

“New discovery adds solid, healthy flesh quicker than BEER…. For years doctors prescribed beer to put flesh on these scrawny, weak, nervous people.”

The ad urged readers to compare their weight and measurements with the “solid, healthy” model on the left.

March 1933: The model's measurements are given as 5' 3.5" tall, 118 lbs, 34"-25"-36."

March, 1933: The model’s measurements are given as 5′ 3.5″ tall, 118 lbs, 34″-25″-36.”

“Selected as having the best figure in the U.S. for her height, according closely to measurements favored by a famous theatrical producer and a great artist.” [Both anonymous…. She’s a long way from the 1930’s fashion illustrators’ ideal!]

The same Ionized Yeast company offered different models’ measurements in each ad:

June 1933 ad for Ionized Yeast. The model's measurements are

June, 1933 ad for Ionized Yeast. The model’s measurements are given as 5′ 4″, 120 lbs, 35″-26″-36″.

“Skinny girls listen to this! … Adds pounds quicker than beer.”

May 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. The model's measurements are given as

May, 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. “Now no need to be thin…. New easy way adds pounds so fast you’re amazed.” The model’s measurements are given as 35″-26″-36.”

Six weeks ago she was jeered at, but Ionized Yeast “gives 5 to 15 lbs. in a few weeks.”

June 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. The model's measurements are

June, 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. “…Get lovely curves fast!” The model’s measurements are height 5’5″, weight 130 lbs., 35″-27″-38″.

In some of these ads, “curves” seems to be code for “full breasts.” By modern standards, the models are all well within the range for a healthy BMI [Body Mass Index], which cannot be said for many of today’s fashion models. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine most of these women being chosen to model slinky 1930’s dresses like these:

Ads for Kruchen Salts, sold for weight loss. Delineator ads from May and April, 1933.

Ads for Kruchen Salts, sold for weight loss. Delineator ads from May and April, 1933. The word FAT is dominant.

Text of ad for Kruschen Salts. April 1933.

Text of ad for Kruschen Salts. April 1933. E. Griffith Hughes, Inc.

Ginger Rogers appears in an add for Kellogg's All Bran, Delineator, April 1934.

“Ginger Rogers is just the type to wear this difficult but delightful gown.” Ad for Kellogg’s All Bran, Delineator, April 1934. “Watch your figure. Modern fashions are built around youthful curves.”

(If you didn’t recognize her, remember that Ginger Rogers was called “Ginger” because she had red hair.)

Laxative salts were advertised for weight loss, as were breakfast cereals. “Two tablespoonfuls [of All-Bran] daily are usually sufficient…. Isn’t this better than risking unpleasant patent medicines? Kellogg’s All-Bran is not fattening.”

"A curve is the smartest distance between two points." Ad for Kellogg's All Bran cereal, June 1934.

“A curve is the smartest distance between two points.” Ad for Kellogg’s All Bran cereal, June 1934.

“Figures must be graceful, slim, and rounded in the right places…. To look well in the new gowns, many of us must reduce. We must exercise. We must watch our meals.”

Ad for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, May 1933.

Ad for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, May, 1933. “When you begin to think about light summer clothes….”

There’s no promise that Corn Flakes will help you lose weight, just the suggestion of lightness.

However, the cover of the July 1933 Delineator shows the appeal of sugary temptations.

Delineator magazine cover, July 1933. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys.

Delineator magazine cover, July 1933. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys.

Ounce for ounce, ice cream will also “add pounds quicker than beer.” Alas.

True story: A hand-lettered sign appeared taped to a lamppost in my neighborhood: “I LOST 40 lbs of ugly fat! Call: (it gave a phone number.)” The next time I passed, someone had added a smaller sign:  “Found @ corner of Sunset & 37th: 40 lbs of ugly fat. Call (a different phone number) to claim.”

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, Bathing Suits, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

NYPL Digital Collection: An Open Book

This collection is so vast that it took me two hours to find again what I found by accident the day before! Bookmark any site you might want to return to,  to save your sanity. (For example, knowing that I wanted to re-visit “Costumes — 1930s” did not take me to “evening wear” from the 1930s. That has its own navigation listing. And, since the Mid-Manhattan Collection runs to 34,746  images, and is “navigated” by alphabetical order, I had to scroll down through a lot of “Birds” before getting to “Costumes” in the alphabetical listing! )

I hope this post will give you a better way…. The “Book” method. (I feel pretty silly for not realizing that I would find this feature just by scrolling down past the bottom of the page that filled my screen!)

It’s worth trying, because there are treasures there.

A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932.

A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932. The graded red gown is by Louiseboulanger.

I found it most enjoyable to view this fashion collection as if I were turning pages in a book. To try it, Click Here, and immediately Scroll Down until you see a series of gray descending boxes (collection, sub-collection, etc.) Then, from that drop-down on the left, choose View as Book.

If you want to see two pages at a time, click the double rectangle.

If you want to be able to read the information about an item, click the single image rectangle, and then magnify the image as many times as needed, and push the image up so you can read its bottom text. At the bottom of this sketch, there is an exact year written in pencil: 1937.

I love this particular 1930’s “book” because it also shows men’s evening clothes illustrations from the 1930s. This one, for example, reminds us that tuxedos and “white tie” cutaways could be purchased in either black or navy.

Check out other decades, like “men’s clothing 1920s” …

Men's clothing, 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.

Costumes — Men’s clothing 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.

If you’d like to browse men’s fashions for the 1920s, click here , then click on any image that interests you; scroll down below the image, look at the left of the screen and, again, choose View as Book.

Digression:  As the pendulum of fashion in the 1920s swung away from those skinny-legged, “pegged” and cuffed, “high water” trousers from men, “Oxford bags” appeared as the equal and opposite reaction:

Cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear'em.

Punch cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear’em.

Maybe the the equal and opposite reaction to “jeggings” will be a fad for palazzo pants and 1930’s beach pajamas ….

About that 1920 illustration of two men in suits and a woman in a bathing costume: it would be tempting to write a whole story about it —  the Ferris wheel in the background (Coney Island?), the reason the men are fully dressed while on the beach, their relationship to the girl, and to the airplane or balloon they are all watching so intently….

The Open Book Approach, or Getting What I Needed Without Using the Alphabetical Navigation List:

The trick I finally figured out when using the Mid-Manhattan Collection is that you can do a search — say, for “Molyneux” — then click on any one of the images that shows up, Scroll Down, and that will lead you to a sub-collection “book” of related images, at a convenient scale for viewing. You don’t have to click on individual images and enlarge them, one by one. I love the “book” option.

I was especially happy to find designs by two lesser-known couturiers from the 1920s, Louiseboulanger and Jane Regny. (I’ve been saving other images of their work, but haven’t written posts about them yet.) Louise Boulanger was very influential in the late 1920s.

Other good news: 180,000 public domain images can be found through  the New York Public Library online. Click here.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Menswear, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs

Butterick Starred Patterns: Actual Fashions from the Movies (Part 1)

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156 5154, Delineator May 1933. P. 71

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156, Delineator May 1933. P. 71 From the movie Christopher Strong.

As far as I can tell, in 1933 Butterick decided to take advantage of the movies’ influence on fashion by issuing a dozen patterns that were exact copies of the clothes worn in films. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly, Travis Banton, and Howard Greer for actresses Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Kay Francis and Mary Astor, among others. The series was called Butterick Starred Patterns. The movie studios cooperating with Butterick were Warner’s, R.K.O., and Paramount.

These patterns are not to be confused with the Hollywood Pattern company; Hollywood Patterns only had movie studio tie-ins, with pictures of stars and starlets appearing on the pattern envelopes. The patterns were not exact copies of movie costumes. As explained in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery:

“Hollywood pattern styles were not of the garments worn in films, for as stated in the April/May Hollwood Pattern Book, ‘[The designs] are inspired by the clothes of the smartest stars, not copied from them. The dress which may be perfect for the camera may be too dramatic in the office or home. Our staff studies the best previews, then creates clothes in the same spirit, but easier to wear.’ ” — Joy Spanabel Emery, p. 126. [Movies were often previewed a month before general release.]

SoVintagePatterns.com has many Hollywood patterns for sale. Click here and see if you find your favorite actress. Click here to see the Hollywood pattern version of a Scarlett O’Hara dress, translated into a 1939 evening gown or day dress.

Butterick Starred Patterns

Because of their rarity and their genuine movie and celebrity tie-ins,  Butterick Starred Patterns are collectors’ items now. Butterick No. 5215, a pattern for the bathing suit worn by Bette Davis in The Working Man, sold on Ebay in December, 2015, for $113.50 (unused.)

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and Butterick Starred Pattern. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and  Butterick pattern 5215, a halter top bathing suit. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns only appeared in the Butterick catalog for one year: 1933. (Joy Spanabel Emery, p 127.)

As it happens, I have just finished going through all 12 issues of Butterick’s Delineator magazine — in which “Starred” Patterns were publicized — from 1933. From April through August, The Delineator featured a different movie each month, with illustrations of the patterns on the same page as photographs of those exact outfits being worn in the film.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orr-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orry-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

I’ll separate the patterns by designer, starting with Bette Davis in four costumes designed by Orry-Kelly for the Warner Brothers’ film, The Working Man. Here is the text of the article “Four Costumes Worn by Bette Davis.”

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 left TEXT

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 btm half TEXT

Bette Davis’ bathing suit 5215  in The Working Man is searchable as Butterick 5215 C in the Vintage Pattern Wikia. The pattern envelope shows another, pleated version, too. That view was featured in Delineator’s July issue. It’s been named “Seaworthy,” and there is no mention of Bette Davis or the movies.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 -- "Seaworthy" -- in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 — “Seaworthy” — in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

In June, Delineator said, “The plaid gingham bathing suit is fashion news, for the cotton suit is the suit of the summer, much, much smarter than the wool one.” In July, the same suit, in an alternate view with pleated skirt, was described this way:

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Two designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. Jule 1933, Delineator.

Two Orry-Kelly designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. June 1933, Delineator.

Bette Davis wore Starred Pattern No. 5204 for her role as a secretary:

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a "four pocket" dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a “four pocket” dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

“It was a grand dress to get fired in.” 5204  is not in the Vintage Pattern Wikia, but click here to see the envelope.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orr-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orry-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred pattern 5214 is described in the June article as the “two color dress [which] tends to reduce one’s ‘Boss’ to a state where he will eat out of one’s hand.”

Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Right: Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis Starred Pattern 5214 is listed in the Vintage Pattern Wikia as 5214 B. Patterns 5204 and 5214 had long or short sleeved versions, so buyers could make an exact copy of the movie dresses.

The “jabot frock” on the left, above, “would make the best possible Saturday dress.” Bette Davis Starred pattern  5212 is also in the Vintage Pattern Wikia.

Costume designer Orry-Kelly first worked with Bette Davis in 1932, when she still thought of herself as “a mousy, twenty-two year old virgin with knobby knees, a pelvic slouch, and cold blue bug eyes….”

“Davis credited Orry-Kelly’s designs for giving her a certain amount of chic, a quality that she did not feel she possessed…. During her eighteen years at Warner Bros.,  Davis came to rely on Orry-Kelly to help her build the characterizations for which she became so famous.” — Creating the Illusion, p. 170

Orry-Kelly and Bette Davis didn’t like each other, according to Jorgenson and Scoggins in Creating the Illusion, but they realized that they complemented each other’s work.  They made forty-two movies together in a period of fourteen years.

“Working with Bette Davis isn’t easy, but she’s worth it. She’s honest and outspoken. She’s one of the very few actresses I know who can look in the mirror and tell herself the truth. When I’m ready to give up and throw out a dress, she’ll give it a hitch or a twist and turn it into something great.” — Orry-Kelly, quoted in Creating the Illusion, p. 171.

Orry-Kelly has an astoundingly long list of movie design credits  (Filmography) at the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), but he didn’t design all the costumes in all those movies. Studios often listed a department head or supervisor as the “designer” on films. Much of the work was done by assistants. However, established stars developed working (and sometimes fighting) relationships with studio designers. In addition to all those Bette Davis pictures, you may remember Orry-Kelly’s costumes for Gold Diggers of 1933,  Casablanca and Some Like It Hot. 

Next:

Butterick Starred Patterns, Part 2: Orry-Kelly designs costumes for Kay Francis, and Butterick makes patterns from his designs.

 

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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bathing Suits, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Swimsuits, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns, Vintage patterns from the movies, Women in Trousers