Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Valentine’s Day 2017

I’ve shown this image before, but a great dress is worth repeating.

Cover of the Ladies' Home Journal, February 1936.

Cover of the Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1936.

Have a happy day!

If you long for more low-backed dresses from the 1930’s, here is a post about them.

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Summer in January, 1928

Title of a page in Butterick's Delineator magazine, January 1928. P. 33.

Title of a page in Butterick’s Delineator magazine, January 1928. Page 33. [From a black and white illustration.]

It was traditional for fashion magazines to show cruise or resort clothes in the dead of winter. Here are all eight “Summer Modes” and their pattern information.

Butterick 1828, from January 1928.

Butterick 1828, from January 1928. “A typical southern frock.” Available up to size 44 bust. Soft fabric petals accent one shoulder.

Then as now, people who could afford a vacation headed south for a little sunshine during winter months.

Butterick 1821 and 1581, January 1928.

Butterick coat 1821 and frock 1581, January 1928. I love the dress fabric, a pattern of umbrellas and rainbows in falling rain. The sheer coat has a decorative fabric flower on the shoulder.

Butterick 1824, a spectator sports outfit from January 1928..

Butterick 1824, a spectator sports outfit from January 1928. This cardigan costume — with velvet sleeveless cardigan — has two color bands at hip and wrist, the lighter band matching the cardigan vest’s color.

Butterick 181 from January 1928.

Butterick 1818 from January 1928. Sheer georgette chiffon in a floral print worn over a light colored slip, probably the same color as the “plain Georgette” which trims the neck and forms a long bow.

Four outfits featured on the bottom of page 33. Delineator, Jan 1928.

Four outfits featured on the bottom of page 33. Delineator, January 1928.

Buterick 1819, a coat illustrated in a bold patterned stripe.

Butterick 1819, a coat illustrated in a boldly patterned striped shantung silk. It is also shown sleeveless. The dress barely covers the kneecap, and the 7/8 length coat suits it perfectly.

I love this silk coat. I think it is meant to be worn open, and is not for warmth, but I like the deep triangular pockets and that fabric! I hope it really existed and was not the illustrator’s invention.

Jean Patou had popularized monogrammed sports wear (his own monogram on couture) in the early twenties, and many stylized alphabets were available as embroidery patterns.

Butterick 1816, a sports frock from January 1928.

Butterick 1816, a sports frock from January 1928. Stylized monograms were quite popular, so that may be an “M” embroidered in thread to match the striped neckline and belt. The box pleats are applied on top of the belt.

By a happy coincidence, The Midvale Cottage blog just shared illustrated sewing instructions by Ruth Wyeth Spears for sewing exactly this type of pointed 1920’s pleat. Click here.

Butterick 1822, a three piece sport ensemble from January 1928.

Butterick 1822, a three piece sport ensemble from January 1928. It is not a knit fabric, but Shantung. The blouse has a bold sun ray applique.

So, that’s one cardigan made of velveteen and one made from silk Shantung. Without the pattern descriptions, I would have assumed they were jersey knits.

Butterick party frock 1826, from January 1928.

Butterick party frock 1826, from January 1928. It could also be made with long sleeves, and the pattern was available for teens or small women, and for women up to size 44 bust.  Notice the ruching at the shoulder, which creates a little fullness for the bust. The pattern for the slip that goes under the sheer chiffon Georgette was not mentioned.

We think of the twenties as the era of the slim, boyish figure, but all eight of these Butterick patterns were available in sizes up to 44 inches bust measurement, hip 47 inches.

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Filed under 1920s, Sportswear, Uncategorized, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

How to Do Laundry, 1920’s and Later (Part 1)

"Things to Be Thankful For" in November of 1933: Washing machines. Delineator magazine, p 29.

“Things to Be Thankful For” in November of 1933: Washing machines. Delineator magazine, p. 29.

“Things to be thankful for.” That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read this article from July 1927:

The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering, Delineator, JUly 1927, p. 40 (detail)

The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering, Delineator magazine, July 1927, p. 40 (detail)

I will go through that article, step by step, in the next post (Part 2). First, for those too young to remember why women had “Wash Day Blues,” a little background.

Little Lulu day-of-the-week embroidered towels. McCall Needlework catalog, May 1950.

Little Lulu day-of-the-week embroidered dish towels. McCall Needlework catalog, May 1950. Little Lulu was a newspaper cartoon character.

Monday was Wash Day — even if you were a doll or a cartoon character. Tuesday was ironing day. On Wednesday, you mended clothes and replaced any buttons broken in the wash.

Raggedy Ann day-of-the-week dishtowels; McCall embroidery pattern, May 1950 catalog.

Raggedy Ann day-of-the-week dishtowels; McCall embroidery pattern, May 1950 catalog.

As a child in the 1950’s, I saw my mother and my grandmother doing the laundry with washing machines very much like this one:

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

Ad for a Thor washing machine, Delineator, November 1928, p. 78.

That means I recognize many of the steps in “Modern Methods of Laundering” (1927) and may be able to explain a bit. I was a working class kid; my parents married in 1933 — and, as a child in 1950, I didn’t realize that my parents and their friends were still using appliances that were twenty years out of date. That roller thing on top of the machine was the “wringer,” two rolls of wood or hard rubber that squeezed excess water out of your clothes — and squeezed random creases into them.

The wringer was also called “the mangle.” See the pressure adjusting lever/screw handle at the top? If you’ve handled vintage clothing that was washable, you have probably noticed a lot of broken buttons on shirts and blouses. Blame the mangle. The mangle was no friend to glass or mother-of-pearl (shell) buttons. It was also a real danger to fingers, hair, and housewives wearing dresses with long ties, scarves, or ribbons at the neck. This picture explains the origin of the expression “to be put through the wringer.”

Woman putting wet clothes into the wringer, June, 1927. Once the soapy water was squeezed out, the clothes were rinsed and put through the wringer again.

Woman putting wet clothes into the wringer (which has an electric motor,) June, 1927. Once the soapy water was squeezed out, the clothes were rinsed and put through the wringer again. Standing in a puddle of water on the floor while operating an electric washer? Not recommended.

My father was very careful never to use naughty language around me, which is probably why this moment made such an impression:  One day when he came home from work, my mother told him that a customer had phoned several times, and that she sounded angry.  My father sighed and said, “She’s got her tit in a wringer about something.” Now, every time I get a mammogram, I remember our old washing machine and think, “tit in a wringer….” It always makes me smile. (Thanks, Dad!)

Woman using a clean pine dowel rod or broom handle to pull clothes out of the hot water before inserting them in the mangle. Fels Naptha Soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Woman using a smooth [pine?] dowel rod or broom handle to pull clothes out of the hot water before inserting them in the mangle. Fels Naptha Soap ad, Delineator, March 1927.

Another digression: Before I could read, I thought that naptha soap was “Nap, the Soap”  — like “Smokey, the Bear.”

So that we can understand the writers’ enthusiasm for “Modern Methods of Laundering” in 1927, let’s take a look at previous washing machine advice:

From an article on choosing a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

From an article on choosing a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21. Heat the water on the stove, pour it into the washer.

This old-fashioned machine is not electric — to agitate the clothes, I think you rock the tub with that big lever on the side. You heat water on (or in) your stove, carry it to the machine one bucket at a time until the tub is full, rub clothes on the washboard inside the tub to remove stubborn dirt, and drain the dirty water out of the faucet near the bottom into a bucket. Carry bucket to sink or back porch. Dump water. To rinse clothes, repeat the process. Two rinses recommended. (My mother sometimes rinsed the first load, ran it through the wringer, then added soap and my father’s overalls to the still warm rinse water to wash the next load. When you had to fill and drain the tub by hand, this was a time saver.)

Carrying buckets of water and big, heavy baskets full of wet clothing (you took it outside and hung it on a line to dry) was hard work. Notice how muscular this washerwoman looks. (“Laundress” was a more polite job description.)

Washerwoman and housewife, ad for Pepperell sheets, Delineator, Feb. 1925.

Washerwoman and housewife, ad for Pepperell sheets, Delineator, Feb. 1925.

In fact, this household budget for 1924 assumes that no woman who can afford a laundress will wash anything heavier than lingerie and stockings with her own hands. And doing the laundry took the laundress two days.

Suggested budget, Delineator magazine, July 1924.

Suggested budget, Delineator magazine, July 1924. Right after housing and heating costs is the cost of laundry (almost half the rent!) “Flat work” would be large items, heavy when wet, like blankets, sheets and tablecloths, which took time to iron, too.

A more convenient electric washing machine, which you fill with a hose, and which empties into a dedicated drain in the floor of your house. August, 1926.

A more convenient washing machine, which you fill with a hose, and which empties into a dedicated drain in the floor of your house. August, 1926.

By 1933, the better quality washers had a water pump, which allowed the dirty water to be expelled through a hose into a sink or drain — as washers do today.

Washing machines add a water pump for emptying the machine. Delineator, Nov. 1933, p. 29.

Washing machines add a water pump for emptying the machine. Delineator, Nov. 1933, p. 29. “Half the hard work of washing is in handling the water…. The worker should not have to lift it.”

“The services of the washing-machine have replaced the washerwoman, and electric power is replacing woman power for the washing of clothes.” — Delineator, August 1926. That is not to say you could put a load in the washer, walk away,  and get on with other housework.

Selecting a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

Selecting a washing machine, Delineator, Aug. 1926, p. 21.

There was quite a variety of machine styles. Some of these seem to have wringers that can be cranked by hand, although the article mentioned the importance of a wringer that can be locked in several positions and which has a “safety release that can be quickly and easily operated” — in case your hair or fingers got caught in the mangle. Also, the electric washing machine motor — usually visible under the machine — “must be protected from water.”

Maytag washing machine ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Maytag washing machine ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

The idea of building a box around the machine to conceal the motor was still a new one. I was surprised to see this 1929 ad for a Savage washing machine, which didn’t need a mangle wringer; it had a spin cycle.

The Savage spin washer did not use a mangle to extract water from clothes. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1929.

The Savage Wringerless washer did not use a mangle to extract water from clothes. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1929. Ten pounds of clothes “from hamper to line in an hour.”

Detail of ad for Savage spin washer, Feb. 1929. Delineator magazine.

Detail of ad for Savage spin washer, Feb. 1929. Delineator magazine. “Empties itself” automatically!

Nevertheless, mangle washing machines continued to be sold. This Thor machine used the motor that ran the wringer to also run a mangle iron — the parts were interchangeable.

Ad for Thor washer with wringer and interchangeable mangle iron. Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1930, p. 53.

Ad for Thor washer with wringer and interchangeable mangle iron. Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1930, p. 53.

"From washer to ironer in 10 seconds." Thor washing machine ad, 1930.

“From washer to ironer in 10 seconds.” Thor mangle washing machine ad, 1930. Doesn’t that look easy?

When there were no “permanent press” fabrics, ironing large, flat items like tablecloths, sheets, pillowcases, and dish towels took a long time. In the fifties, my father bought a rotary iron — second hand — and made a point of using it, although we quickly discovered that ironing shirts, dresses, and other clothing on it took more skill than we had time to master.

Using a mangle iron, Delineator, June 1929. 1929. Getting a large sheet through it was not this easy.

Using a “mangle” or rotary iron, Delineator, June 1929. Getting a large sheet through it was not this easy.

Sitting beside the washing machine to use the mangle iron. Thor ad, 1929.

Sitting beside the washing machine to use the rotary iron, which, like the wringer, pivoted. Thor ad, 1929.

You would certainly have needed to make sure your floor was mopped and dry before putting a sheet through this machine  attached to the washer. At $149.25, the Thor combination would be a sizable investment (some families lived on about $35 per week in 1925). [To read one magazine’s article about the cost of living in 1925, click here.]

On the other hand, a woman (like my mother-in-law) who was willing to take in washing and ironing could supplement the family income.

"Iron on Tuesday" embroidery pattern, McCall Needlecraft catalog, Nov. 1950.

“Iron on Tuesday” embroidery pattern, McCall Needlecraft catalog, Nov. 1950.

If you hired a laundress for two days a week, as recommended, the second day would be devoted to ironing.

Sunbeam electric iron, 1924 ad. The "set" included the iron and a box to store it in.

Sunbeam electric iron, 1924 ad. The “set” included the iron and a box to store it in.

The electric iron was certainly an improvement over the irons my grandmother heated on the stove (she had two or three — one getting warm while another was in use) but you needed to “sprinkle” your clothes to dampen them before ironing — until the steam iron arrived.

A sprayer for dampening ironing. Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1936.

A sprayer for dampening ironing. Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1936. In 1950, my grandmother used a beverage bottle with a purchased cork-and-perforated-metal top — like a big salt shaker, but containing water.

However, by the time this sprayer was featured, a steam iron could also be purchased.

A steam iron, Woman's Home Companion, September 1937.

A “steaming  iron,” as explained by Woman’s Home Companion, September 1937. “You need no wet cloth for pressing woolens and no sprinkling for dry fabrics.”

I will show the entire, step-by-step, illustrated article “The Delineator Institute Presents Modern Methods of Laundering,” from 1927, in the next post.

I inherited this Sunbonnet Sue dish towel. She was once part of a set of seven day of the week towels.

I inherited this Sunbonnet Sue dish towel. It was once part of a set of seven day-of-the-week towels. Sue, bent over her wash tub, was appliqued to a bleached flour sack.  I wish I had two dozen!

You can read more about Day of the Week towels and laundry customs at RememberedSummers.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized

Remembering Costume Designer Willa Kim

Years ago, I was lucky to be a “fly on the wall” when Willa Kim was in town, designing dance costumes. I didn’t deal with her directly, but I watched her interacting with the costume shop, and I heard stories….

Willa Kim was so completely focused on her work that her age (80-ish) seemed irrelevant — except when you remembered that she won her first Tony award for Costume Design when she was in her sixties and her second, for Will Rogers Follies, in 1991 — ten years later. She was completely professional, she was funny, she loved dance and theatre and the people who worked there, and she really knew her stuff. (I heard that, when a lighting designer tried putting intense red light on dance costumes that were white, red and green, the metaphorical fur flew. Red light makes green appear black, and white appear red, which would have destroyed her designs; although petite, Willa could be very assertive when necessary!)

In fact, although I knew how famous she was, and had looked her up in Pecktal’s Costume Design: Techniques of Modern Masters, I learned a lot from reading her obituaries, because Willa Kim lived in the present — being much more interested in her current projects than in past glories. In 2003, Willa did a half-hour interview for the Women in Theater Project — in which she explains how she came to be the first costumer to make dance costumes out of Lycra stretch fabric, among other things. Click here to watch the interview, via Playbill magazine online. (And watch her reaction when asked about lighting design….)

Click here for her full obituary, as printed in The Seattle Times. She said her costume designs for the opera Turandot, at Santa Fe Opera (2005,) were the most interesting of her career. You can see a slide show of those, plus her deliciously witty design sketches for other projects, by clicking here, where there is a slide show from a curated exhibit honoring her work.

The book Designs of Willa Kim is available through Amazon.

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Chic Undergarments for Ladies, 1917

Butterick patterns for ladies' underwear, Delineator, August 1917.

Butterick patterns for ladies’ underwear, Delineator, August 1917.

In 1925, Delineator fashion writer Evelyn Dodge recommended three ways to look thinner in nineteen twenties’ clothes. Her first suggestion was to wear a corset or lightly boned corselette. (Click here to read about 1920s corselettes.)
Her second recommendation was to stop wearing the bulky underwear of the previous decade.

Evelyn Dodge, writing in Delineator magazine, July 1925.

Evelyn Dodge, writing in Delineator magazine, July 1925.

The styles of the World War I era were not worn close to the body, so underwear did not have to be sleek or tight.

Some typical, military-influenced women's fashions from August 1917. Delineator, p. 50.

Some typical, military-influenced women’s fashions from August 1917. Delineator, p. 50.

The following images show Paris couture underwear from August 1917, followed by Butterick lingerie patterns from the same issue of Delineator magazine.

Underpinnings of Paris included lingerie by designers Premet, Doucet, and Jenny. Delineator, August 1917, p. 60.

“Underpinnings of Paris” included lingerie by designers Doucet, Premet, and Jenny. Delineator, August 1917, p. 60.

Paris lingerie by Premet, August 1917.

Paris lingerie by Premet, August 1917. This bridal set included “Pale pink voile, pale silver-blue ribbons, and pointed net embroidered with bouquets and baskets.”

Couture undergarments by French designers Doucet and Jenny. Aug. 1917.

Couture undergarments by French designers Doucet and Jenny; Aug. 1917. Left, pink voile combination trimmed with lace; right, cream yellow lace on pink satin knickers, outlined with “cocardes” of satin ribbon. The crotch of the combination is very low.

The simple ribbon straps (“braces”) seem to be a new idea on lingerie. (And they were already falling off women’s shoulders, as shown.) The Butterick corset covers shown later in this post, some of which covered the underarm area, were beginning to look old-fashioned [and they were.]

Couture undergarments by Premet, August 1917. Delineator.

Couture undergarments and nightgown by Premet, August 1917. Delineator.

Lingerie from Paris, by designers Doucet and Jenny. August 1917.

Lingerie from Paris, by designer Jenny. August 1917. Left, a petticoat made of sulphur-yellow “gaze” trimmed with lace; right, a box-pleated chemise of flowered muslin.

It’s impossible to imagine these garments under a narrow 1920’s dress.

A petticoat from Paris by Premet. August 1917.

A petticoat from Paris by Premet. August 1917. “The kilted skirt is …held in by a blue ribbon” at the hem. Pretty, but bulky….

A corded slip by Doucet, designed to be worn under the wide-hipped styles of 1917.

A slip by Doucet, designed to be worn under the wide-hipped styles of 1917. The ribbon-bound ruffles would keep a woman’s skirt far from her body. “Shoulder ribbons for both day and evening wear.”

Nightgowns, negligees, peignoirs, etc., were also shown:

Paris designer Doucet created this pleated nightgown and a peignoir with a classical Greek inspiration. August 1917. Delineator.

Paris designer Doucet created this pleated nightgown and a peignoir with a classical Greek inspiration. August 1917. Delineator.

To modern eyes, the models’ nightcaps (boudoir caps) are not very sexy. More about boudoir caps later….

The August issue of Delineator also showed a selection of Butterick lingerie patterns. The combination on the left has tiny underarm sleeves to protect clothing from perspiration.

Butterick combination 9347 and Butterick chemise 9353. Delineator, Aug. 1917, p. 49.

Butterick combination 9347 and Butterick chemise 9353. Delineator, Aug. 1917, p. 49.

Although called a chemise, Number 9353 has a very low crotch, probably closed with buttons between the knees. Number 9347 has an open crotch, like Victorian drawers. The top of No. 9347 is described as a “corset cover.”

9347-9353

Butterick nightgown pattern 9345 and combination 9343. August 1917.

Butterick nightgown pattern 9345 and combination 9343. August 1917. No. 9343 has a corset cover on top of open drawers.

9345-nightgown-and-9343-combination-500-1917-aug-butterick-p-49

The fact that not all women adopted new fashions immediately is shown by the inclusion of “corset covers;” the corset of 1917 did not cover the bust area, although it was often worn with a “brassiere.”

Bon ton corset ad, Delineator, May 1917. P. 71.

Bon Ton corset ad, Delineator, May 1917, p. 71.

BUtterick corset cover pattern #8478, drawers #9341, and princess slip #8973. Delineator, Aug. 1917.

Butterick corset cover pattern #8478, open drawers #9341, and princess slip #8973. Delineator, Aug. 1917.

corset-cover-8478-drawers-9341-princess-slip-8973-1917-aug-butterick-p-49

About those boudoir caps….

boudoir-caps-1917-delineator

They could be quite elaborate; probably the most lavishly decorated and well-preserved ones were from bridal trousseaux.

This vintage boudoir cap was embroidered with silver thread, which has tarnished to dark gray.

This vintage boudoir cap was embroidered with silver thread, which has tarnished to dark gray. Pomegranates are associated with fertility.

BUtterick boudoir cap pattern 9253, Delineator, August 1917, p. 52.

Butterick boudoir cap pattern 9253, Delineator, August 1917, p. 52. The “Castle cap” is a reference to dancer Irene Castle, a fashion trend-setter in the nineteen tens and twenties.

Vintage boudoir cap, 20th century.

Vintage boudoir cap, 20th century.

This vintage silk boudoir cap is trimmed with "wings" of crochet.

This vintage silk boudoir cap is trimmed with “wings” of orange crochet lace.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Corsets, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Hats, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Uncategorized, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Wedding Clothes, World War I

Happy Halloween 2016

Halloween illustration for the Little Delineator, Signed "Robt a Graef."Delineator magazine, October, 1924/

Halloween illustration for the Little Delineator, Signed “Robt a Graef.”Delineator magazine, October, 1924.

The Delineator was a woman’s magazine, and in the nineteen twenties, that meant that each issue included a magazine for children — pages which could be torn out and folded to make a child-sized book.

This would have been the October cover illustration. Robert A. Graef was a versatile illustrator who died in 1951. He painted many covers for the men’s magazine, Argosy.

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Martha, Is That You?

George and Martha Washington in illustration for article in Delineator, February 1925, p. 19.

George and Martha Washington in an illustration for an article in Delineator, February 1925, p. 19.

I was making an inventory of a vintage costume collection for a friend, trying not to spend too much time on items with little resale value. I found a section of bustle dresses, or parts of them, that were clearly “the real thing.”

Vintage bustle dress, skirt missing.

Vintage bustle dress, skirt missing. Too small to fasten on the mannequin.

Vintage bustle dress , embroidered buttons. Details.

Vintage bustle dress, embroidered buttons. Details. The fabric is substantial.

Vintage brown taffeta bustle dress top; skirt missing.

Vintage brown taffeta bustle dress top; skirt missing. The long overdress fitting snugly at the hips, with gathers almost over the pelvis, can be seen in 1879-1880.

I never had time to photograph that one on a mannequin. The front with long, low gathering is very distinctive.

Back detail of late Victorian overdress. Skirt missing.

Back and fabric detail of late Victorian overdress. Brocade, satin, and velvet.

Front of long dress in autumn colors, satin underskirt.

Front of long dress in autumn colors, satin underskirt.

Late Victorian bustle dress, side view.

Late Victorian bustle dress, side view. Changeable taffeta.

A vintage bustle dress with back draperies pulled up, rather like a 19th century version of an 18th century polonaise.

A vintage bustle dress with back draperies pulled up, rather like a 19th century version of an 18th century polonaise. Skirt missing; a petticoat is visible.

All those crisp fabrics — and then I reached into the “bustle era” hanging storage and put my hand on this one:

A polaise -- sort of. Print cotton fabric, soft and droopy, rather too small in circumference....

Not a bustle, but a polonaise — sort of. It has elements of the robe a la francaise. Print cotton fabric, soft and droopy, rather too small in circumference…. for a moment, I thought it might be a “Dolly Varden dress.” (An 1870’s fad based on an 18th c. character in a Dickens novel.)

But, no, it’s a masquerade costume — meant to be 18th century — from a period that favored soft, droopy fabrics, no boning, and a skirt less full than the 1780’s.

 Martha Washington costume pattern, Butterick, 1924.

Martha Washington costume pattern 4258, Butterick, 1924.  (It is not this exact dress, but shows the effects of 1920’s style on the perception of 1780’s fashions.)

The front of the costume was never photographed on a mannequin, but you can see, as it hangs on a coat hanger (that’s how I found it) that the sheer ruffles on each side of the front are long enough to be worn crossed like the “Martha Washington” costume’s fichu:

Top of a masquerade or theatrical costume made in the the 20th century, but suggesting the Colonial period.

Top of a masquerade or theatrical costume made in the the 20th century, but suggesting the Colonial period. The sheer ruffles on the front are very long, probably meant to cross over the breast and waist. The machine stitching on the sleeve flounces is crude.

It has an interior bodice made of netting — a practice I have seen in dresses of the nineteen-teens.

The inner bodice of costume is made of netting. A theatrical costume would be lined with a strong fabric, like muslin, to take the strain off the seams -- and to allow for a tight fit over a period corset.

The inner bodice of costume is made of netting. A theatrical costume would normally be flat-lined with a strong fabric, like muslin, to take the strain off the seams — and to allow for a tight fit over a period corset.

All the sewing is a bit sloppy — and  why not, for a costume that might be worn only once?

These pieces of twill tape inside the skirt hold up the poufs of the polonaise.

These pieces of twill tape inside the skirt hold up the “Polonaise” poufs of the overskirt.

At the time when I found it, I wondered why my friend had collected something so clearly not “the real thing.”

But, many years afterward, I remembered it when I realized that pattern companies have been making “colonial lady” and “Marie Antoinette” patterns for costume parties, Halloween parties, centennials and local history pageants, 4th of July parties, and amateur theatricals for a very long time.

A Martha Washington costume from Butterick, February 1924. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, but dressing up in a masquerade costume like this was more glamorous and romantic than many other options.

A “Martha Washington” costume from Butterick, February 1924. As far as historic accuracy goes, it is pretty awful, but dressing up in a masquerade costume like this was more glamorous and romantic than many other options.

Click here for another Butterick  “Martha Washington”  pattern, circa 1941, No. 1695. The dress my friend collected does a better job of interpreting the back of an 18th century dress than either of the Butterick patterns.

Martha Washington Costume pattern 4258 and Continental suit costume pattern, Delineator, Feb. 1925, p. 37.

Martha Washington costume pattern 4258 and Continental suit costume pattern 4262, Delineator, Feb. 1925, p. 37.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1700s, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Dresses, Late Victorian fashions, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Uncategorized, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns