Category Archives: Tricks of the Costumer’s Trade

Jumbled Musings and Fashion Surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris hat designed by Virot, Delineator, March 1912.

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

Speaking of hats….

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

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

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

I started with the intention of writing about this:

When is this? (No, not 2012….)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couture gown by Martial et Armand, Paris, 1920.

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

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

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

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

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

The editors of Delineator had a suggestion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couture details on a 1920 gown. Undeniably luxurious.

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

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

Evening coats from Butterick patterns, November 1920.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

19 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Capes, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs, World War I

More Cloche Hat Patterns from 1925: Butterick 5966 and 5952

In 1925, home stitchers could make these cloche hats from Butterick patterns.

Several years ago I wrote about a versatile hat and scarf pattern from Butterick (No. 5218.) I mentioned that my own experience making 1920s’ hats was with factory-made felt hat “shapes,” so  I was surprised to find that pattern companies like Butterick issued many hat patterns for home stitchers. A cloche hat made from a gored hat pattern was apparently quite do-able, and as the decade progressed, the patterns became a little more complex. Many hat patterns for little girls (and girls up to age 12) appeared in Delineator magazine, but patterns 5966 and 5952 were available in a full range of sizes. In this illustration, they are shown with dresses for girls 8 to 15.

Young teen girls wear Butterick hats 5966 and 5952 in this illustration from Delineator, June 1925.

Hat pattern 5952 has six gores and a brim (and usually a bow on top;) 5966 has just one center back seam, and the small brim does not continue all the way around the back, leaving a small space for a bun at the nape of the neck if the wearer’s hair was not bobbed into a short style.

Butterick hat patterns 5966 and 5952, Delineator, April 1925.

Butterick Cloche Hat Pattern 5952

Six-gored hat, Butterick 5952. This style was  illustrated in Delineator in 1925 and 1926.

Pattern 5952 could be made from contrasting fabrics (or from one fabric with the grain running in two different directions.)

5952 with the grain running two different ways.

Hat 5952 made in a shiny solid fabric, in a striped or textured fabric with the grain in two directions, or in one smooth fabric which doesn’t show differences in grain. 1925.

Side view of 5953 with contrasting grain. The back brim is very narrow.

Hat 5952 in a shiny fabric. Crepe satin could also be used, alternating matte and shiny sides.

If this hat was made from a delicate fabric like silk or velvet, you would need to flat-line it (and the brim) with a more substantial interfacing.

The bow at the top did not need to be self-fabric. In later illustrations, this hat was often shown without the bow.

Without the bow on top, hat 5952 is a very simple six-gored cloche. March, 1926; Delineator.

Hat 5952 as shown in January 1926. Delineator. Notice that the brim could be worn different ways, showing the contrasting ribbon hat band.

A simple piece of jewelry on the velvet version of the hat makes it quite dressy. It could also benefit from elaborate embroidery or patterned fabric:

Hat 5952 in Delineator, February, 1926. The embroidery would probably be wool, or “pearl/perle” embroidery floss in cotton, silk, or rayon.

Butterick Cloche Hat Pattern 5966

Butterick hat 5966, shown in April, 1925. “For ladies and misses” and for girls.

Duvetyn was a brushed fabric; wool duvetyn was often recommended for coats.

Hat 5966 has just one seam up the back, and a decorative self-fabric “feather” or leaf, apparently tucked under [or does it go through?] a pinch of fabric at the top.

Butterick hat pattern 5966. Delineator, April 1925.

Butterick hat 5966 in a side view; it’s shown with coat pattern 6037. May, 1925. Delineator.

The shading makes it appear to have gores, but they aren’t mentioned in the description.

If that illustration shows corded silk, and there is only one seam, perhaps the top of the pattern piece is shaped like the top of a heart. Is this a cylinder with a strange, curved top? There is no front seam. The grain appears to run either vertically or horizontally. Does the “leaf” pass through a slit at the top? Too bad that the Commercial Pattern Archive *** doesn’t have this pattern. Yet.

Hat 5966 illustrated in Delineator, May 1925. Passing a tie through a bound buttonhole in the dress was quite common in Twenties’ fashions.

This pattern was available for ladies, misses, or girls.

This young woman wears hat 5966 and carries a tennis racquet. (She’s a little distorted by being close the the binding of the book I used.)

Left, a purchased hat; right, Butterick hat 5966. May 1925, Delineator.

It’s not clear what that blue hat is trimmed with (beads? silk flower petals? felt shapes?) but it looks like you could copy it using pattern 5952 without the bow. Here is one more view of No. 5966:

Another side view of Butterick 5966 from 1925. It seems to be velvet, matching the collar and sleeves of the dress.

*** If you already use the Commercial Pattern Archive, skip this section. If you have anything to do with vintage patterns or dating vintage clothing, you need to know about CoPA!

If you have never visited the CoPA site located at the University of Rhode island, you can create a log in — it is free! — and have access to images of more than 64,000 vintage patterns, all of them dated; the envelopes/pattern layouts are photographed when possible. Pattern layouts show you the shapes of the pattern pieces…. Curious? To see a great example, create a Log-in name and password; choose the “search for pattern number” option.  Type in pattern no. “1603,” select “McCall” from the Company name pop-down list, and hit “enter.” Next, click on the archive number at the far left (in this case, it’s 1927.91, because they are archived by date: 1927.) That click will give you a color image of the pattern illustration and all of the pattern pieces. You can print it. Sizing them up into a usable pattern will be up to you…. 🙂

While you are at the CoPA site, go back to the search page and select “Complete Search.” You will see several columns of search possibilities. If you select the year 1920 and hold down the Shift key, you can select 1920 through 1929. In the next column (“Garment,”) choose “Hat.”  In the Gender column, choose “Female.” In the other columns (Keyword, Pattern Company, Collection) choose “Any.” When you click on “Search” you will see every woman’s hat pattern in the collection that is dated between 1920 and 1929, with a small image of the pattern illustration. From there, you can explore them using the Archive numbers. As you can see, 1920s’ hat patterns are rare, but some have gorgeous color illustrations!

Once you start searching CoPA, you will see the amazing possibilities of this searchable digital archive. Imagine being able to scroll though hundreds of  1920s (or 1930s, or 1960s, etc.) patterns. Pick a year, or a range of years, and get a really specific overview of that era. Costume and pattern research has never been this easy!

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Dating Vintage Patterns, Hats, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Capris or Pedal Pushers? Pants Vocabulary from 1971

Image from 1971 Vogue booklet Everything About Sewing Pants and Jumpsuits. Courtesy of Lynn Mally.

Lynn Mally at American Age Fashion wrote about her “find” last week: a 1971 booklet from Vogue patterns, Everything About Sewing Pants and Jumpsuits. Since I had been wondering whether my memories of vocabulary from this era were correct (or possibly just regional) I was delighted by her blog on this very topic.

I asked if I could enlarge some of the images so the labels would be easier to read. Here are the results:

Stovepipe pants and “elephant pants.” 1971.

Lynn and I agree that we wouldn’t call them “elephant pants;” I opt for “palazzo pants” and Lynn offered “just wide legged pants today.”

Straight legs and “gangster” pants. 1971.  I never called them “gangsters.” “Classic” or “forties’ trousers,” maybe.

We agree that the “gangsters” are now “Hepburn style,” with a pleat in front. Lynn quoted advice that “Even the short, curvaceous woman could look good in pants, especially if she chose straight-legged styles to add height.” I am a tall “curvaceous” woman who always searches for straight legs — by which I mean that the circumference at the ankle is not obviously smaller than the circumference at the thigh. (Costumers’ fact: 16″ is the narrowest trouser cuff a man can take off without removing his dress shoes. Does the actor make a fast change? Choose trousers for him with at least a 16″ circumference at the ankle.)

Jeans are the classic Levis worn by working cowboys and generations of young people. They are similar to stovepipe trousers. These “Hipsters” seem also to have flared legs (wider than “Boot” legs.)

I called low-waisted jeans and trousers “hip-huggers;” “hipsters” were people.

Ski pants and a bell-bottomed jumpsuit from 1971.

Those ski pants, held taut by straps under the foot, had been around since the 1950s. Stretch gabardine was becoming available. “Bell-bottom” trousers were originally copied from sailors’ pants. For a few years the U.S. Navy was right in step with women’s street wear. (Old song: “Bell-bottom trousers, coat of navy blue; he’ll go skipping up the rigging like his daddy used to do.”)

Top: Culottes or a “pantskirt;” Bottom: gaucho pants. 1971.

Culottes (aka a pantskirt) usually had pleats, like the ones shown here; when you stood with your legs straight, they appeared to be a pleated skirt, rather than a “divided skirt.” Gaucho pants didn’t have pleats, so it was obvious that they were pants. (They look like the “elephant pants,” shortened, but were not made of soft, flowing fabric. [However: see culotte pattern 5586, far below.]

Pedal pushers stop at mid-calf; Capri pants just bared the ankle area.

In 2019, we are used to seeing skintight “leggings” worn without a covering tunic blouse or dress. These tight, close-fitting Capris probably look attractive if you’re used to our current tight clothes. However, these 70s’ versions did not benefit from stretch fabrics and were usually made of poplin or another non-stretch, non-knit fabric. Mary Tyler Moore looked great in them on the Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s, but they were controversial.

Deck pants and knickers, 1971.

If they were cuffed and rolled up, pants (the ones  now called “cropped”) might be described as “deck pants ” or “clamdiggers.” Knickers appeared until the 1980s, although they did not flatter many figures. I only saw them worn by very young women — they were rather “costumey.”

Bermudas stopped at the knee; Jamaicas were shorter.

This was a “Preppie” fashion (“yes, we are collegiate!”) and most people called any thigh-covering shorts “Bermudas.” For perfect 1960s’ Preppie shorts, Indian Madras plaid was the favored fabric — although the real thing ran (“bled”) when washed….

“Boy shorts,” a “skort” (skirt/shorts) and “shortpants.” 1971.

“Boy shorts” were the most modest option. If you bent over while wearing a “skort” or “hotpants,” your butt cheeks showed. I owned a skort in 1971, but quickly realized that I had to wear matching dance briefs when riding a bicycle. (It had looked modest enough standing still, in the dressing room….) I never heard the word “shortpants.” These are “hot pants.” If you made your hot pants by cutting the legs off a pair of jeans and leaving the edge frayed, you had “Daisie Maes” (after the character in the Li’l Abner cartoon strip) or “Daisy Dukes” (after a character on the TV show Dukes of Hazzard.

As a sidelight: when women proved not eager to trade their mini-skirts for midi-skirts, mid-calf skirts that buttoned down the front were sometimes worn open over hot pants as a sort of compromise. Not for the office!

As I said before, fashion nomenclature is variable. A quick flip through patterns produced these:

Simplicity 6450 dated to 1966. “Hip rider bell bottoms, Slim Knee Knockers, Slim Jamaicas.”

McCall’s 5586 from 1977. Right: “culottes.” So I was wrong about culottes and gauchos. Maybe.

Simplicity 8829, dated to 1970. “Misses’ dress and pantdress in two lengths.” I’d say version 4 has straight legs and is not a dress, but a jumpsuit! I would call version 3 a “playsuit.” I owned both (store-bought) in 1970.

Butterick 6888 from 1972. Left, jumpsuit; right, evening dress with front slit.

“Fashion is Spinach.” — Elizabeth Hawes.

19 Comments

Filed under 1960s-1970s, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Women in Trousers

Butterick Fashions for April 1920

Ninety-nine years ago, women might have been dreaming about wearing these dresses:

April fashions from Delineator, [EDIT s/b 1920!] 1914.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1920, page 151.

Here they are in detail, in no particular order:

Butterick 2250, with bolero jacket; illustrated in Delineator, April 1920, page 151.

The word “vestee” is used rather loosely.  Other Butterick patterns from this year, in the collection of CoPA, have a line on the bodice pattern for cutting the “suspender top vestee.” I would guess that this dress has a side seam opening, closed with snaps, or hooks and bars. (A hook and bar at the waist is always a good idea!) The bolero jacket has an interesting back; close-fitting sleeves, trimmed with many buttons, are an option. Butterick 2250, April 1920.

Two-piece outfit: Butterick waist (bodice) 2265 with pleated skirt 2170. Delineator, April 1920, p. 151.

Alternate views of Butterick 2265 and 2170. Longer sleeves and/or a collar were optional.

Butterick 2229 has decorative buttons running along the outside of the sleeves and the skirt. Delineator, April 1920, p. 151.

Butterick 2272 from Delineator, April 1920, p. 151. It has bust darts at the shoulders.

Butterick also sold embroidery patterns.

Butterick 2241 from Delineator, April 1920. This combines a tunic top with the peg-top look of previous years.

The handbag pattern is Butterick 10810. That hat is rather wonderful and would be easy to duplicate.

Butterick 2264 from Delineator, April 1920, p. 15.

Note the tassel — probably one end of the rope belt.

The skirts of No. 2272 and 2229 stick out from the body in a similar way.

Although perfectly authentic, these styles might be better suited to comedy (or comic characters) than to serious plays. We always have to consider audience expectations — and that includes changing ideas of beauty.

Of these six designs from April 1920, I know which I would rather wear!

Butterick 2250, with bolero jacket; illustrated in Delineator, April 1920, page 151.

7 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories

Costume Communicates

College students, Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936.

Many years ago, I finally had time to take a life drawing class. During a break, the woman next to me introduced herself. She was a psychologist. When I told her I was a costume designer, she shared this story — one that taught her the importance of dress, and how much it communicates.

When she was completing her post-graduate degree, starting to look for jobs, she was also asked to do group counseling with high school students who were having behavior problems.

As it happened, on the day of her first group session with the students she also had a very important job interview. She dressed in her best (and only) suit, with high heels she would never have worn on campus for a usual day; she got up early to do makeup and style her hair (instead of pulling it back into her usual “no-time-to-do-my hair” ponytail,) and she carried a briefcase instead of her backpack. She wanted to look as grown-up and professional as possible for the job interview.

Two dressy suits made from Butterick 7928, October 1956, Butterick Fashion News.

She went straight from the interview to her first session with the high school students. It went really well. She felt that they were glad to participate and have a chance to get help with their problems.

A week later, she went straight from attending her own university classes to the high school. That session did not go so well. The students didn’t volunteer or participate as they had. They became quiet, sullen, obviously bored. Every week, every session felt worse. The students who had been so eager were almost hostile now. The young psychologist stayed up nights trying to figure out how to get the group sessions back to that promising first day.

Finally she realized she had to deal with the problem openly; she asked, “What changed?” One girl was willing to answer:

“That first day you came, you seemed to really be interested in us; you listened to us, and we thought maybe you could help make things better. You were all dressed up, and we thought ‘Somebody important cares about us!‘ But then you saw that we was just poor kids, and the next time you came here looking just any-old-way because we didn’t matter.”

“Oh, dear god,” thought the young psychologist. It hadn’t occurred to her that dressing as what she really was — a graduate student in college — would send that signal to them. She realized that being dressed formally had given her extra authority, and built confidence that she was really a doctor. But she hadn’t considered the reverse. She had never thought to carefully explain her real status:  she was a student, like them; poor, like them.  And being honest months later — “I really needed that job, so I tried to look professional and grown-up for the interview” — didn’t help, because it still meant she hadn’t thought it was equally important to dress professionally for them — clients who didn’t pay.

It’s a sad story that has stuck with me all these years. The shaman’s feathers and paint, the doctor’s white coat, the banker’s suit: clothes establish our identity. Whatever we wear tells other people something about who we are, what they can expect from us, and how we expect to be treated. Like it or not, costume communicates.

Doctor, nurse, and baby in an ad from 1937. Delineator.

We know at a glance that this is not a family; and we know these people are trying to help the baby — because we can “read” their clothes, without any conscious thought about what is going on here. We read each other all the time.

11 Comments

Filed under 1930s, 1950s-1960s, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Uncategorized

Balenciaga at the V & A : Museum Exhibitions Online

Design by Cristobal Balenciaga, 1965. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

The Vintage Traveler recently shared an FIT symposium on museum exhibitions of fashion.
That reminded me of some extraordinary videos that were part of “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The exhibition closed in February, 2018, but the V&A has generously posted the videos made for the exhibit online, so we can all enjoy them. [Note to other museums: Go, thou, and do likewise! Once the exhibition closes, put the videos online!] Unfortunately, the still photos from the exhibition are under copyright, as are most other museum pictures of Balenciagas — so please click on the links.

I didn’t see the exhibition in London, but it appears to have used technology to very good purpose. I’ve whiled away hours watching the V&A’s exemplary videos.
This link will take you to the V&A website, where you can read about Balenciaga and watch three marvelous videos illustrating exactly how his minimalist but extraordinary patterns come together into “Balenciagas.” Click here for Secrets of Balenciaga’s Construction

The museum took X-Ray photos of some of the Balenciagas on exhibit. This link includes another fascinating video. You can see hidden weights controlling the drape, and, occasionally, a straight pin!

A V&A video about the custom beading on a glittering evening coat is found here.

In “Learning from the Master: Deconstructing Balenciaga,” the Museum invited a group of advanced design students from the London College of Fashion to create patterns and toiles from Balenciaga gowns in the museum’s collection. If you sew or drape, this is for you! ( I’m thinking of you, Fifty Dresses….)

“Shaping Fashion: Balenciaga” is another well-done video from the V&A. You can watch designs by Balenciaga morph into designs by other famous couturiers. (I just wish all the V&A’s videos were together in one place online!)

A preview of the entire exhibit can be found in the AP Archives: click here.

Until I started searching museum collections for Balenciaga designs, I hadn’t appreciated how much he influenced my wardrobe in the late 1950s/60s. Not that I ever wore couture (ha!) but because the inexpensive clothes I did wear and saw worn everywhere were inspired by his work. My first wool suit (home-made) was a distant echo of this one. Party and prom dresses worn by my friends owed a debt to this simple & elegant flowered dress. (Note the shape of the skirt.) The shape of this coat was everywhere, and I bought a long formal in green brocade with soft pleats at the waist (circa 1964,) reminiscent of the dress under it.

More Online About this Exhibition

Many who visited the exhibition posted images or videos on YouTube; here are a few blogs or videos about it.

At 12 minutes long, this video from Stitchless TV gives a good idea of how well-thought-out this exhibition apparently was. Click here for a “walk through” that includes much besides the videos posted more clearly at the V&A site. It shows the “upstairs” part of the exhibit, which features designers who trained with or were inspired by “The Master.”

This video by Natalie (at Time with Natalie) gives a good “walk through” (starting at one minute in.)

Betty Raen at The London List captures some photos that show more of the exhibit.

For a quick taste, try Fashion Expedition’s report.

The Arcadia online blog previews the exhibit (with illustrations, of course.) Many designs by students of “the Master” are shown.

This link includes a photo of the pink “Tulip Dress” which is magically reconstructed in a V&A video.

As the late Anthony Bourdain said, “I’m still hungry for more.”

More Balenciaga exhibitions:

“Balenciaga and His Legacy:” was presented at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas on February 3, 2007 by the Texas Fashion Collection. Click here. This video is not too dark, unlike others; but it’s not really in focus, either…. However — you won’t see the same creations featured elsewhere. Worth a taste.

When you have had your fill of evening gowns, this video from the Museo Cristobal Balenciaga shows superb construction on wool suits and other daytime clothing. Some of the images are too dark, but other close-ups are superb.

If you still want more Balenciaga, this 2011 exhibition, “Balenciaga and Spain,” from The DeYoung museum in San Francisco is 17 minutes long and traces Balenciaga’s development and early influences  …. sadly, the lighting and photo quality are not good. Films of his showroom are good.

This short video of “Balenciaga: Spanish Master” exhibition from New York is different and definitely worth watching.

Also creative and interesting: this video from ICONIC.

When you have time to relax, pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy these videos and blogs.

2 Comments

Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Capes, Coats, Exhibitions & Museums, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

The Interior Belt in Vintage Styles

Janet Arnold’s illustration of the interior of a woman’s dress, circa 1896. From Patterns of Fashion 2. Notice the belt, attached only at the center back seam.

If you are trying to reproduce a vintage garment, you need all the information you can get. Information about how a vintage dress looks on the inside is invaluable, and I don’t know of any source better than the series of Patterns of Fashion books by the late Janet Arnold

… even when you have primary source information, like this photograph.

Fashion Photograph from 1896. Met Museum. We can see from the photo that the skirt at left is probably flat-lined — those tell-tale wrinkles would have been omitted in a drawing.

It’s better than a drawing, but the answer to “how did they do that?” requires inside information.

Cream brocade gown from the House of Worth, 1896. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Museums and books sometimes provide close up photos showing details of construction …

Detail of Worth gown from 1896, showing several rows of cartridge pleating on the sleeve and lace-shaped beading on the brocade bodice. Met Museum.

But to reproduce a vintage garment and have it “behave” properly, we need to know where the seams (and the bones) are, how the garment was lined, where the hidden closures were located, what made those sleeves stand up like that***, etc. Also, sometimes we discover a “trick” that made the garment easier to put on, or made it fit better. For costume purposes, we don’t need to follow the original slavishly (sometimes all those difficult hidden closures are not practical for a costume,) but we can make informed decisions.

One device that I have seen on vintage garments — and used on costumes — is the interior waistband or belt. This turn-of-the-century vintage bodice had one.

Elaborate lace and ribbon trimmed this ToC bodice (with a strangely skimpy skirt.)

Inside, a belt (never meant to be seen) was attached to the seams at center back. It closed at center front, and would be the first thing the wearer fastened when getting dressed.

Interior belt or waistband on a Turn of Century [ToC] bodice.

As Janet Arnold sketched the insides and outsides of museum garments, she drew many bodices that used an interior belt.

Interior waistband or belt, drawn by Janet Arnold.

Notice that the belt is only secured to the center back seams, with characteristic X stitches. It closes with hooks and bars at center front. It anchors the bodice to the wearer’s waist, so the bodice cannot ride up. It also holds the bodice in place while the many concealed hooks, eyes, and tapes are fastened. It takes some of the strain at the tightest spot, so the wearer doesn’t have to exert much pull on the more delicate fabrics to fasten them.

The interior belt works well on corsets.

I have seen and used these belts on the inside of corsets — what a great difference they make!

When you lace your own corset after fastening the front busk, you can’t be sure of getting it the same size every time. (Corsets rarely meet in the back.) Delineator,  April 1914.

First, the interior belt closing gives a constant size for the corset. You can’t accidentally lace it looser by mistake. If your dresses have been made to fit perfectly over your corset, but the corset lacing never actually meets at the waist, there’s always a chance that you will tighten your laces, put on your dress, and find that the dress doesn’t fit properly, because you pulled the laces too tight — or allowed yourself a bit more room than you did at the dress fitting.

Janet Arnold’s illustration of the interior of a woman’s dress, circa 1896. From Patterns of Fashion Vol 2. [***Fun fact: Arnold discovered that those huge leg-o-mutton sleeves were stuffed with paper!]

Secondly, when there is a waist belt inside your corset, the belt contracts your waist to the right size for fastening the front busk. The belt takes the strain (and keeps your corset from falling to the floor), giving you two hands free to hook the busk at the waist. Once the corset is fastened there, hooking it the rest of the way up and down is relatively easy. You may not need to deal with the laces at all.

The interior belt is can be made of a non-stretchable ribbon, like grosgrain.

The belt is also a great help in supporting the weight of the skirt; in many period dresses most of the skirt fullness is at the back, so the skirt of the dress can be quite heavy, and hard to wrestle with when its weight pulls the bodice crooked as you try to deal with dozens of fastenings.

Interior of dress from 1913-14 drawn by Janet Arnold. The skirt is sewn to the bodice only at one side. A row of hooks and bars connects the skirt to the bodice on the other side. (You can see two bars below “CF.” Arnold drew every hook.)

This circa 1913 dress (which combines lace, fur, chiffon and other materials) has an elaborate arrangement of closures, all of which would be hidden when the dress is worn. Notice that the skirt is only sewn to the bodice on its right side. The interior belt holds the bodice in the correct place and helps to support the weight of the skirt, while the left side of the skirt is slowly attached, hook by hook, to the left side of the bodice! [I think this one needed the help of a maid to deal with the skirt back and that big bow.]

Detail of Arnold’s drawing of the dress from 1913-14; no closures are visible, as the built-in sash hides the places where the skirt is only hooked to the bodice. The skirt is fur-trimmed.

The use of an interior belt is not restricted to the Victorian era. It remains part of the interior structure on couture when needed. It might be used, for example, to prevent tight jackets’ buttons straining against buttonholes at the waist, or to prevent too much strain on a zipper.

I can’t swear this famous Christian Dior New Look suit’s interior structure uses a belt, specifically, but something is preventing “pull” on the buttons. Click here for a great essay on “New Look” construction techniques.

You can see an interior belt — sewn in, not hanging free — on the waist of this gray dress from Dior’s fall-winter collection of 1955:

This Dior dress from 1955 is lying open on a table, positioned so you can see one end of the interior waistband; it matches the gray of the dress, which is flat-lined with gray organza.

At the place where the dress fits most tightly, the strain is taken by the belt rather than the zipper, which is visible to the right of the belt.

Christian Dior label, “Automne-Hiver 1955.” Charcoal gray dress with matching bolero jacket. Photographed from a private collection. The owner mentioned that this dress was made during Dior’s lifetime.

Digression: [I can’t not show you other pictures of this ensemble, even though I’m straying from my “interior belt” topic!]

You can see the unusual seam lines and darts on the jacket, which also has an interesting vertical buttonhole treatment.

Bolero jacket from Christian Dior, 1955. The matching dress has a full skirt pleated at the waist.

With the bolero jacket unbuttoned, the use of a separate panel to create “buttonholes” can be seen.

No, this buttonhole construction is not as care-free as it may look:

Inside view of Dior buttonhole in the bolero from 1955. The seams on the front of the jacket are not the same as those on the inside, and the buttonhole is reinforced like this.

Here, the interesting seams of the cap sleeve are visible. The back of the dress, with zipper, is visible at right.

Back to the topic of researching the insides of clothes you need to re-create, and the interior belt….

Arnold studied this dress from 1915-16 inside and out. If you were planning to copy it, you might think the outside tells the whole story — bodice and skirt both gathered at the waist.

A circa 1915 dress in a museum collection, drawn and its construction analyzed by Janet Arnold. Note the way a series of tiny tucks curves the sleeve forward.

Text describing the dress mentions that is would have been worn over a corset like this one.

The interior, drawn by Janet Arnold, shows that the scalloped dress in not as simple as it looks.

It has an under bodice, a hidden closure in front, a skirt that is partially attached to the bodice and partially hung from hooks and bars, and an interior belt that is boned and tightly fitted.

Arnold gives you a scale drawing of every part of the dress. This is what the under bodice of net looks like:

Like many vintage dresses which are bloused, this one has an under bodice. See French Linings. The bodice itself has kimono sleeves without armhole seams.

Arnold’s scale drawing of the interior belt on the scalloped dress. “The Petersham is shrunk in at the top to 26 1/2 inches, the bottom edge measures 27 1/2 “

Petersham ribbon looks much like grosgrain, but grosgrain cannot be stretched with steam and pressure. Petersham is often used in hat bands because it can be shaped into a slight curve with a steam iron.

I cannot praise Arnold’s Pattern of Fashion books too highly. Even if you choose not to duplicate her scaled patterns exactly, you will gain insight into period (and couture) construction that is invaluable.

I used to watch 1950s’ movies and wonder how a slender belt with no practical buckle could dig into an actress’s waist to compress it even more than her “merry widow” corset. Here is Elizabeth Taylor in a dress that really squeezes her waist. Janet Leigh’s wedding dress has a belt that might squeeze her that hard — although eventually the hole in the belt would start to tear…. Unless there was an even tighter belt inside those dresses….  “Ya think?”

 

17 Comments

Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1940s-1950s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Dresses, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing