Category Archives: Tricks of the Costumer’s Trade

Proportions: Dresses from January 1926 and 1927

Fashions for teens and small women, January 1926. Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, bottom of page 27.

One year later, young women were wearing their dresses much shorter, and fashions looked more youthful because of a subtle change in proportions.

Day wear for teens (15 to 20) and small women, January 1927. Butterick patterns in Delineator, page 24. I see knees.

When looking at designs from 1926, we need to make allowance for the exaggerated length of the 1926 fashion [illustration] figure.

Here’s the original 1926 image again — tiny heads on very long bodies:

Fashions for teens and small women, January 1926.

To make a point, I altered this image rather crudely to show that the biggest change from 1926 illustrations to 1927 illustrations is in the torso length:

The proportions of the 1926 dresses have been altered near the waist in this image, not at the hem. I just cut and pasted the lower part of the 1926 dresses higher on the body.

Left, original illustration; right, with the lower half of the dress moved higher on the torso. The result is also a more realistic human figure.

1920’s dress patterns had to be altered at the waist, not just at the hem, to make the proportions look “right” — and to match the later 1920’s styles. (Click here for alteration advice from December 1926.)

"We pinned half of the pattern together and put it on . . ."The fact that many late Twenties’ dresses had a horizontal seam at the mid-hip must have made it much easier to restyle 1926 dresses into 1927 dresses!

Conjecture: A thrifty woman could use the bottom of a 1926 dress as the skirt of a 1927 dress:

The skirt portion of a 1926 dress might be cut off below the waist and sewed to a shorter bodice to become the skirt of a shorter 1927 outfit….

Or she might shorten the dress three or four inches at the 1920’s dropped waist level and cover the resulting seam with a belt….

This dress from January 1927 was altered at the waist while still in the pattern stage, but that belt could also cover a dress alteration….

I suspect that, when skirts got shorter in 1927, many “little dressmakers” must have been busy doing simple alterations like these.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns

Paris Ideas, Butterick Pattern, 1926

Soulie’s sketches of Paris designer fashions, Delineator, January 1926.

Two designers showing strongly banded dresses were featured in Delineator‘s January report from Paris. And a strongly banded Butterick pattern appeared in the same issue.

Butterick dress pattern 6543 (right) shows Paris influence.

The designer dress by Lanvin has a “silver girdle” molding the hips and its “divided front tunic” is trimmed with silver, perhaps silver stitching. (Custom embroidery is still a mark of couture.)

A closer look at the Lanvin design, which features silver bands on a black dress. Winter, 1925-1926.

Striking, contrasting bands down the center front give impact to this Butterick pattern (right) from January 1926:

Butterick 6543, right, offers a charming solution to “authentic Twenties style” for women who don’t want to exaggerate the width of their hips.

“Crepe satin used with its reverse side” would give a very subtle effect; here, chiffon velvet seems to be suggested, although applying those straight bands to velvet would not be easy sewing. Heavy crepe de Chine would be an easier-to-handle choice.

Right, a good example of the subtle effect of reversible crepe satin; this 1927 dress uses the matte and shiny sides of the same fabric.

The flared sleeves of Butterick 6543 are very like the Lanvin couture design, although the bands ate placed differently.

Here is the alternate view of patterns 6561 and 6543:

Alternate views of Butterick patterns 6561 and 6543.

Note the short-sleeved summer version of 6543; the suggested border print fabric would make a dress that looked very different from its dark winter version.

Happy New Year, 1926!

This banded evening dress by Jenny was also illustrated in January 1926 — It’s not for the timid:

A banded evening design by Jenny, a very successful couturier in the 1920’s. For more about those deep armholes, click here.

In “orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls and blue flowers worked at hip and shoulder,” it would be modified to suit the woman who ordered it. It was probably available in other color choices — and with a sheer “modesty” insert in the deep V neckline, if required.

Click here for another daring neckline by Jenny. UK vintage clothing dealer and blogger Blue 17 wrote a good, illustrated Jenny tribute: Click here to read it.

For a much less elaborate Butterick dress from 1926 — which used a slimming contrast tie to good effect, see 6553, at right:

Butterick 6559 and 6553, Delineator, January 1926. Cape optional.

The long ties are important to the effect of these dresses, distracting from the horizontal line at the hips, adding the illusion of width to the shoulders and drawing our eyes up, closer to the face.

Butterick 6559 (left) makes good use of a border print.

Wishing you a very happy 2019!

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Party Dresses for January 1926

Afternoon and evening dresses for women, Delineator, January 1926, page 28.

Evening dresses for teens (ages 15 to 20) and small women. Butterick 6535 and 6482, Delineator, January 1926, p. 27.

Details of evening dresses for young women. The proportions of the blue dress — and its flaring circular skirt — do not scream “Twenties.”

The lower edge of the “two piece circular skirt” stands out because it is scalloped and bound with bias. This dress has an underarm closing in the side seam, which would have used a row of snaps with a hook and bar at the top and at other points of stress.

Pattern magazines like Delineator came out ahead of the month on the cover, so you probably could have made these dresses in time for New Year’s Eve parties in 1926.  Dresses for adult women were shown longer than those for teens. If you want to make a Twenties’ dress shorter, you should shorten the pattern at the waist, not the hem. Click here for a 1926 article about dress alterations.

Butterick 6498, 6497, and 6527, Delineator, January 1926.

Butterick 6498, January 1928. The model is holding a huge feather fan that matches the  trim on her dress. The dress is as simple as they get! Notice the easing in the side seam instead of a bust dart. The side panel is sheer Georgette.

Details of Butterick 6497 and 6527, January 1928.

A slip with optional sleeves and a higher neckline would convert this to an afternoon dress as seen in the back view. It was illustrated in a “Lanvin green” border print.

This dress would be super-easy to copy using modern patterns. (Yes, bust darts were used in the 1920s! But they didn’t come so far toward the bust point. [Busts weren’t pointed.] Click here.) The circle skirt is attached to an under slip, so the skirt does not start at the waist, but at the hip.

The very long top on the”pervenche blue” metallic brocade dress was also seen on this pattern with “troubadour sleeves,” 1926.

Another very long-torsoed pattern from 1926. They were not as popular as the usual mid-hip waistline.

Butterick 6549, January 1926. (A good style for those who don’t appreciate a hip band.) This is an afternoon dress, with embroidered sleeves. Perhaps they have sheer appliques on them. The shirred godets go all around the dress — nice for tea dances. Bois de rose (rosewood) was a chic tan/rose pink color, not as orange as it looks here.

If made sleeveless, it would be an evening dress.

Butterick dresses 6517 and 6531; Delineator, January 1926.

“Princess dress” in the Twenties doesn’t mean it’s close-fitting, as in some other periods. The gold lining on an “Amazon green” dress below adds interest to the attached circular flare.

Details of Butterick 6517 and 6531. The vertical “circular frills” on 6517 were often used in the 1920s.

If you are wondering why the vertical frills are called “circular,” I’ll explain.

This is one of those things that made pattern making — draping and drafting patterns — such an interesting class. I urge you to experiment with it, because, although you can learn this principle, every tiny change you make to the pattern will change the way the fabric behaves, drastically!

The basic idea is this: if you want to create a cascade of ripples in a jabot or a flounce or a frill or whatever you want to call it, you need to cut the fabric with a curve on the side you will attach to the garment. It has to be cut to the right length, but not in a straight line. When you force that curve into a straight line, as has been done on Butterick 6517, ripples will form!

The “circular frills” at left and the overskirt at right are both based on circles.

Twenties’ dresses that depend on the “cut a curve and straighten it out” principle. Delineator, July 1925.

The long drape on the left is probably just a long rectangle. If cut on a curve, I think it would ripple more. The skirt on the right is based on a section of a circle. The ruffled V shaped neckline trim in the middle shows the soft ripples you get when you attach a curved frill in a straight line.

The more curved the line is, the more ripples you get when you straighten it out.

Butterick 2387 is meant to flutter. Dark fabrics are suggested, which does not rule out red....

The curves in these diagrams are greatly exaggerated, just to give the general idea!

A flounce based on a fairly tight curve.  When the blue half circle was straightened out, the flounce would have many ripples.

The gentler the inside curve, the fewer ripples the flounce will have.

That is the basic pattern for a 1920s dipping hem. (Of course, the waist is not really a circle…. This is just the starting point for a muslin.)

Left, a typical dipping hem for evening, September 1928; Butterick pattern.

Evening gown by Lelong, sketched for Delineator, May 1929. Getting all those flounces right took a lot of experiments in muslin! (Draping at 1/2 or 1/4 scale saves a lot of money.)

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Winter Underwear, 1880s to 1920s

Detail from and ad for Munsingwear knit undergarments, Delineator,  September, 1927.

Frau Buttonbox asked what women wore under those 1920’s dresses in the winter — and how they protected their dresses from sweat and body oils. I have some ads to share!

Just for vocabulary, in the U.S., a one piece knit suit like this was called a “union suit” (proper name) or “long johns” (common name.)

This wool union suit was recommended by dress-reformer Annie Jenness-Miller in 1888.

In 1880’s England, Dr. Jaeger’s theory that wearing wool next to the skin (instead of plant fibers like linen or cotton) was good for health was championed by dress reformers and George Bernard Shaw.

My uncle Bert (like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers”) came from a generation (b. 1899) that believed that a hot bath would “open your pores” to admit disease, so he wore long johns from September to March. My stepmother insisted that he wash them (and himself) from time to time if he wanted to eat dinner with us. Whew!

Women’s union suit from Sears catalog, Fall 1918.
By 1916, skirts were getting shorter, but lace-up boots would have hidden the legs of this underwear. Notice the short sleeves.

Ladies’ shoes from Sears catalog, 1918.

Wool, needed for army uniforms, was hard to get in the U.S. in 1917-1918. Note the overlapping “open” back.

The problem with fashionable clothing is that it is usually the opposite of practical clothing — so women who want to be fashionable usually have to sacrifice some comfort — and common sense.

By the mid-1920s, skirts were reaching the knee, and bare arms were expected with evening dresses and dinner dresses. Nevertheless, many dining rooms (even in mansions) were unheated.

Ad for Forest Mills long underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The union suit on the left could be worn under day dresses. These models look like teens.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/1925-oct-p-27-500-dpi-whole-color-page.jpg?w=398&h=500

Winter clothes for teens and small women, October 1925. Delineator.

Under evening dress, your torso could be warm, but your arms had to be bare.

Combed cotton knit underwear from Sears, 1927 catalog. You could wear a silk or rayon slip over these, under your dress.

Butterick 5755, 5714, 5713, Delineator, January 1925, page 29.

Evening dresses for teens, January 1925.

“It s no longer necessary to shiver through the long winter months in order to be stylishly dressed.”

“Keep your body warm.” Ad for Forest Mills knit underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The ad doesn’t state fiber content, but knits made for a smooth, “no bumps” fit.

“Underwear that will not only absorb perspiration, but will keep your body from being chilled.”

The Forest Mills underwear shown in the photograph is not much different in style from silk underwear (slips, camisole and bloomers) sold by Sears, but knit underwear fit more smoothly.

Silk underwear from Sears catalog, Fall 1927. Silk or rayon bloomers came to just above the knee.

Carter’s, a company that made rayon knit underwear, ran a whole series of ads that showed couture fashions next to pictures of models (in the same poses) wearing Carter’s underwear. I don’t now how warm it was, but it did fit very closely.

Detail of an ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear, Delineator, November 1926. Premet and Poiret were famous Paris Couturiers. That’s a Poiret model above.

Detail of 1927 ad for Carter’s underwear. The model wears Poiret; at right she poses in her Carter’s underwear.

“Poiret’s black and gold gown” and silk cape, pictured in an ad for Carter’s underwear, November 1927. Poiret was very influential in the 1910’s, but falling out of favor by the late 1920’s.

Detail from an ad for Carter’s knit underwear, November 1927. Smooth, one-piece fit.

Right, back view of a one-piece union suit; left, a camisole “vest” and bloomers. Carter’s rayon knit undergarments, ad from 1926.

Premet’s “Vampire” dress, with Carter’s combination underwear to go under it. April, 1928. That dress would have permitted a much warmer undergarment.

The gold and white brocade hostess gown is by Drecoll; the underwear is Carter’s “vest and bloomer” of rayon knit. Ad from May 1927. The House of Worth also participated in this ad campaign.

As to keeping clothes free of perspiration stains and odor, deodorants were available (and ruined the armpits of many a vintage garment….) A solution still used in theatrical costumes, and by those allergic to certain chemicals, is the dress shield.

1910 ad for Kleinert’s dress shields. Delineator.

Ad for OMO dress shields, a rival to Kleinert’s. March 1910, Delineator.

Dress shields were usually safety pinned or basted into place in the armholes of a dress or jacket.

1920 Kleinert’s dress shield ad. You can see that this shield is curved at the top to follow the shape of the bottom of the armhole; it folds over the underarm seam, extending into the dress and into the sleeve.

Costumers sew in snaps so the shields can be changed and washed.  Some women preferred to wear a bra or guimpe-like washable garment which included the shields.

Top of a Kleinert’s dress shield ad, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

The Kleinert’s website (the company is still in business) explains:

“Before The Advent Of Deodorants & Antiperspirants The Dress Shield Was The Way To Protect Your Garments From Sweat & Odor. In 1869 Kleinert’s Invented the Dress & Garment Shield Category Which Is Still In Use Today Protecting Our Clothes & Saving Us From Embarrassing Situations Due To Sweat Stains & Odors. Trust Kleinert’s Quality & History To Keep You Dry Throughout The Day. Choose Below From Our Selection Of Fine Dress Shields.” Kleinerts.com

The shields come in different shapes for differently cut armholes. Now you can get disposable ones — and in a costume emergency I have cut self-adhesive pantiliners to stick in the underarms of a costume.

Bottom of Kleinert’s dress shield ad from March 1937, WHC.

I’ve mentioned this before: actors sweat, and stage actors have to wear their costume(s) for eight performances per week. It’s not good for a wool suit to be dry-cleaned every week; underwear protects the costume, but a changeable shield under each arm keeps the suit from getting wet at all. Undershirts and shirts, etc., are laundered daily — in fact, Equity actors have duplicates supplied so they don’t ever have to put on a shirt that is still damp from the matinee performance. (Ditto for all other items that touch the skin.)

Full page, full-color Kleinert’s ad, March 1924. Delineator.

Unsexy as a dress shield may be, it’s preferable to ruining a $2000 dress or destroying it by too-frequent dry cleaning. Bonus: you can raise your arms and never show a sweat ring.

Camisole and bloomers from Munsingwear ad, September 1927, Delineator.

P.S. [Edited 1/6/2019] Liza D at BVD sent a photo of the Kleinert’s dress shields she found in a vintage garment (Thanks, Liza!) :

Liza D found these used dress shields in a vintage garment. Those ugly stains would have been on the blouse if the woman who wore it hadn’t used these in the underarms. Click here for Liza’s post about it.

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French Lining

French lining pattern 6933 from Butterick. Delineator, June 1914, p. 74. It has princess seams and many neckline options.

As far as I can tell, a French lining is a closely fitting interior structure that is usually not the same shape as the finished garment we see. It is different from “flat lining,” or a “dropped in” lining shaped like the dress or skirt, or a coat lining that merely allows the coat to slide over other fabrics more easily.

“A French lining gives a perfection of fit that can be attained by no other means…. It makes an excellent foundation for the draped waists [blouses] now in vogue…. For stout figures a French lining is almost indispensable, and this design will prove most welcome, for it conforms to the newest lines. When made of thin material it may be used as a foundation for Summer dresses or waists, and when made of lawn or silk it is also an excellent foundation for the draped evening dresses now worn.” — Delineator, June 1914. p. 74

Delineator, June 1914, p. 74.

When you have a garment that is tightly fitted, “flat lining” [a lining whose pieces are the same shape as the fashion fabric and are sewed at the same time] will take some of the stress off the seams and the fashion fabric. But when you see a vintage garment that fits very closely in back, but appears to be loosely fitted in front, expect a French lining.

Inside this apparently loose-fitting bodice is a tight-fitting inner structure. Vintage garment.

This vintage bodice has no visible opening. The tight lining prevents “pull” on the fashion fabric’s concealed closure.

When you have a garment that is draped, or bloused, or which has complicated concealed closures, it will behave better with an invisible, body-hugging lining.

This vintage dress does not have a visible opening in front or down the back. It does not have a snap opening in the side seam.

How do you get into it?

Back of vintage lingerie dress. It doesn’t open down the back. Clue: There is a hook and eye closing on the left shoulder.

This sheer lingerie dress with a blouson top has a simple French lining made of net.

How do you get into this dress?

The bias cut lining, which takes the strain of the hooks and eyes, fastens at the center front.

The pattern for the inside of the dress is not the same shape as the pattern for the fashion layer. I would class this as a simple French lining.

The lining fastens at center front; the fashion fabric layer fastens with hooks and bars at the side and shoulder! The sleeves are attached to the French lining. The skirt opens at side front.

The “French Lining” pattern could be purchased separately, but was often included in a dress or blouse pattern.

The Commercial Pattern Archive has this Butterick pattern from 1914.

Butterick 7317; information from the pattern envelope, courtesy of CoPA (The Commercial Pattern Archive.) Notice how different the French lining pattern pieces (top center) are from the fashion fabric pieces (at the bottom.)

Left, the French lining is an 8 piece princess line pattern which fits closely to the body.

The French lining was meant to fit very tightly, and is the support for the fashion fabrics. It ensures that the weight of the dress is suspended from the shoulders, that the folds and blousing aren’t pulled out of place, and that the wearer always looks neat as a fashion plate. In No. 7317, the cross-over drape in front ties at center back.

Changing Body Shapes Seen in French Lining Patterns

These French lining patterns reflect the changing body shape as corsets changed.

1910: Butterick French lining pattern 3527, January 1910. Note the “sway back” shape caused by 1910 corsets. This princess seamed lining has 4 panels in front and 6 in back.

1914: Butterick French lining 6933 from June 1914. The lower bust and larger waist reflect a change in corset shape.

1917: Far right, French lining pattern 1042 from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. The womanly torso is losing its curves.

1924: A French lining pattern from Butterick, July 1924. “…An excellent dress lining or… it can be used to cover a dress form.” It probably was intended for older or “stout” women, since 1920’s dresses were lighter and less structured than previous styles. It has a long, hip-length, waistless shape, like most Twenties’ dresses. Butterick 5361 came in sizes 32 to 48 bust.

French Lining Included in Patterns

The French lining is often based on a princess seamed pattern (like all of those above,) since this permits an extremely tight fit, perfectly contoured to the body. (A French lining also looks very much like the covering of a professional dressmaker’s mannequin.) When you are draping on a professional dress form, you can feel the underlying seams through your muslin — very handy for locating the exact bust point or side seam, or placing a dart.

Once the French lining was perfectly fitted to a woman’s body, she could also use it to figure out (Oops, accidental pun!) alterations to commercial patterns.

[I was taught to call an individually fitted basic pattern a “sloper;” they’re handy to have if you are making multiple costumes for the same actor — or several pairs of trousers for yourself! Fitting patterns are still sold.]

Butterick waist 6791; Delineator, April 1914.

Incredibly, the Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island has the pattern for this waist! (If you just create a Log-in, you can use this wonderful site  — over 64,000 patterns and growing! — for free.) There’s always a link to CoPA in my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar.

Pattern pieces for Butterick 6791; Commercial Pattern Archive.

It’s no surprise that Butterick 7971 includes a French Lining.

You can almost guess from the illustrations which garments need a French lining: if you think, “That dress defies gravity! How can that be possible?” or “How did she get into that?” you are probably looking at a dress that has a French lining.

Fashion Plate, 1888-1889 from Metropolitan Museum Costume Plate collection. Below the wrapped outer bodice is a concealed side-front closing.

There are no visible openings on these late 1880’s dresses. Met Museum collection.

They definitely did not have a zipper down the back! A tight fit in back and a concealed opening usually means a French lining; you can probably deduce the rest….

Vintage garment with very full front. The lace was accented with large French knots. It does not have a visible opening in front or in back.

Butterick 3816, Delineator, May 1910.

Butterick 3816, May 1910. The gathers are stitched to the lining; they won’t slide around or come untucked, and the V’s in back and front will never gape.

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A Subtle Change in Fashion, 1920s to 1930s

Short sleeves on a very dressy dress; Delineator, February 1930. Butterick pattern 3032, for [Misses age] 14 to 20.

I’m not claiming that short sleeves were never seen in 1920’s clothing, but the short set-in sleeve — mid-bicep length — was usually associated with house dresses and work uniforms in the Twenties. [EDIT 12/27/18:  I goofed! I was mislead by all the references to the “New” short sleeves in 1930. I’ve just noticed that many “alternate views” at the back of a 1926 Delineator show a short sleeve option on dresses that were illustrated with long sleeves in larger pictures…. So they were available if women wanted them.]

A short sleeved-house dress worn while washing dishes in February 1930. Super Suds soap advertisement.

The woman on the left in this picture wears a work uniform with short, set-in sleeves.

Left. a servant or waitress uniform, June 1929. Ad from Delineator.

The short-sleeved work dress below probably has kimono sleeves — cut in one with the top of the dress and finished with bias tape, like the neckline. This was a fast, cheap way to make a dress by eliminating facings and separate sleeves.

Woman ironing with a mangle while wearing a short-sleeved house dress. Ad, June 1929. Delineator.

Short kimono sleeves — that is, sleeeves not cut separately from the dress bodice — were very common, and contributed to the ease of making the typical twenties’ dress.

Two casual dresses from April, 1929. Butterick 2573, left, and 2541, right.

The alternate views are interesting: even in its long-sleeved version, 2573 has kimono sleeves at the shoulder. 2541, on the other hand, has short, set-in sleeves.

Alternate views of 2573 and 2541. April 1929. Waists are still low, and lengths are still short.

Full length views of Butterick 2573 and 2541. Delineator, April 1929.

2573 is for wear in the “country,” for sports like tennis [!], or “at home in the morning.” [The phrase “porch dress” was sometimes used instead of “house dress.” Either way, the dress stayed at home.]

Perhaps 2541 has set-in sleeves because it was available in very large sizes — up to 52 inch bust.

However, older and larger women were also offered these kimono sleeved dresses in early 1930:

Both Butterick 3028 and 3067 from February 1930 have kimono sleeves, but they reflect the rising waistlines of 1929-1930. 32″ to 44″ bust was the normal Butterick size range, but these models are not youthful.

[Period detail: Both of those dresses have bias tape bindings or accents. The scallop button closing was very popular.]

These dresses from June 1929, illustrated side by side, show a long (or short) close-fitting sleeve (left, No. 2648) or a kimono sleeve (right, No.  2668. )

Two typical dresses from the first half of 1929. Butterick 2648 (in sizes up to 48) has set-in sleeves. 2668 has kimono sleeves “for sun-browned arms”. Delineator, June 1929. These short dresses with low waistlines were on the verge of extinction in summer, 1929.

Close-fitting wrist-length sleeves, cut and sewn separately from the bodice, were usual for street clothes in the Twenties.
But I notice that the short sleeve, as we know it, was increasingly used on “dressy” dresses in 1929 and 1930.

The caption for this page was “Mature Grace.” The sheer dress on the left  (Butterick 3168) has the new, short sleeves — and it is suggested for older women in the normal size range. April, 1930. The name “one-quarter sleeve” is useful.

Two Butterick dresses from February 1930. I showed a detail of the one on the left at the top of this post — but I think it deserves a full-length view, too. [The Twenties are over.]

Many of the new, shorter sleeves were decorated with a non-functional tie or bow.

Butterick 3058 from February 1930 has short sleeves trimmed with decorative bows.

Right, another bow-trimmed short sleeve, from March 1930. This is definitely not a house dress. Butterick patterns from Delineator.

Left, a dress from Saks; right, Butterick blouse pattern 3282. Delineator, June 1930. Notice how long the dress is; both dress and blouse have natural waistlines. Bows on short sleeves were not just a Butterick pattern idea.

However, not all short sleeves from 1930 are set-in; the easier-to-sew kimono sleeve sometimes got longer:

All four of these dresses from June 1930 have the new short sleeve look, but, incredibly, they all have kimono sleeves — described as the key to an “easy to make” dress.

(Sewing tip: In my experience, a close-fitting, longish kimono sleeve is very likely to tear under the arm unless you add a gusset; if you don’t, it’s a good idea to use a stretchable stitch — like a narrow zig-zag — on the curved part of the underarm seam. Fabric cut in a curve will stretch — but only if the seam can stretch, too. An oval gusset is safer.)

All these 1930 dresses have set-in sleeves:

Dresses with short, set-in sleeves. Butterick patterns in Delineator, July 1930.

Bows on the sleeves were not obligatory.

Butterick patterns for young women, July 1930. Delineator.

But they are very “summer of 1930”!

A princess line dress with short sleeves trimmed with decorative bows. Butterick 3349 from August 1930.

All Butterick patterns pictured are from Delineator magazines.

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Costume Shop Stories: An Unexpected Use for Costume Skills

Woman’s Home Companion cover, October 1936.

I wrote some time ago about the ways that costumers can change an actor’s appearance. A few years ago I met an old friend, [let’s call her Daisy] who discovered a wonderful use for this skill. I first met her when she managed the costume shop for me — very well indeed — on productions of West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet which opened on the same weekend and played in rotating repertory. It was quite a challenge for a community college, but thanks to her, everything was done well and on time!

After she semi-retired, “Daisy” sometimes did clothing alterations for private clients. One was a woman who had recovered from cancer, but whose arm and shoulder had been amputated. Clothes shopping was a nightmare for her, because every dress or shirt sagged crookedly without a shoulder to support it.

At first, she hired “Daisy” to alter her clothes to make them hang better. But Daisy had a bright idea. Used to making washable padding that can turn a thin actor into a fat Falstaff, or an athletic man into “Crookback” Richard III, Daisy decided to make a washable pad shaped exactly like the missing part of her client’s shoulder.

She made several prototypes, and ultimately came up with one that made her client’s body look more symmetrical. It was light-weight, washable, and attached to a scoop-necked camisole. The cancer survivor could now buy clothing off the rack and wear it without shoulder alterations.

I am filled with admiration for “Daisy,” who saw a need, filled it (and re-purposed her costuming skills.)

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