Category Archives: Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

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.

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Skirt, Blouse, and Hairstyle, December 1907

Butterick skirt 1624 and blouse-waist 1659 showing several possible versions. Delineator, December 1907 p. 885.

Just a single detailed illustration like this one gives a wealth of information about this blouse and skirt, with back and front views of the clothes and one of the hairstyles. I will break it down into close-ups of the details.

Starting with the skirt:

Front and back views of Butterick skirt 1624, from December 1907. The back view shows it without the band of lace trim.

This is a “circular” skirt, with one seam in front and one in back.

The skirt develops folds (or wrinkles) in front.

I think the folds of fabric in front are a result of the sway-backed posture she is forced into by her corset:

From an ad for a G.D. Corset, Delineator, October 1907.

In the three views of blouse-waist 1659, it is trimmed three different ways. However, the low-necked evening version is not illustrated.

Three views of Butterick 1659. December 1907.

The back view, left, shows ribbon trim on the collar, echoing the geometric pattern on the lace; the back view shows a striped lace or fabric on the foundation lining and scalloped lace trim.

A 1910 French lining similar to the one used under Blouse 1659.

The pattern description says the high neckline and sleeves are attached to the under lining, not to the parts of the blouse we see:

Notice that the armholes are not visibly connected to the sleeves. The sleeves are attached to the under-lining.

Another view of the same blouse, made in a dark color with a sheer, simple fabric filling the neckline. “The short puff sleeves are inserted in the foundation, the large armhole of the blouse being furnished with lace.”

The illustration also gives us back and front views of one (enormous) hairstyle…

… the one for evening is decorated with a roses and a plume on top.

These illustrations were obviously influenced by the work of Charles Dana Gibson. Gibson maintained that he was merely reproducing the women he saw on the streets of America.

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Time Traveling Again

This week I’ve been attending the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (seeing movies from the 1920s in a theater that opened in 1922!) and also visiting the Bound Periodicals collection at SF Main Library. Their earliest copies of Butterick’s Delineator magazine are July to December 1907.

One pleasant surprise: a 1907 monthly feature illustrated by fashion photos instead of drawings!

Shirt-waists and blouses (called waists) photographed for Delineator, July 1907. The article is from a series called “Dressing on Dimes.”

I’m also “visiting 1912” at the moment.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, July 1912, p. 23.

I’m trying to prioritize photographing color images, since color is what was lost when so many magazines were microfilmed (and then discarded by libraries) years ago. Even issues that have been scanned by Google and made available online lose a lot of information, because these old magazines used very small type with a serif font on very large pages; automated scanners have to make a choice between legible text, legible drawings, and accurate color illustrations — not always very successfully. [Link added 5/6/19] (Nevertheless, Hathi Trust makes many issues available that would otherwise be very rare and hard to find.) When I visit the bound copies of Delineator, I usually take 3 or 4 photos of each fashion page: whole page, top half, bottom half, and closeups of images. That allows a different camera exposure for text and images, but it’s not a fast process…. Even photographing a small ad requires an “establishing shot” with the page number on it, then a close-up.

I’m finding wonderful color illustrations…

Butterick pattern illustration, Delineator, April 1907, p. 27.

Butterick illustration for waist [bodice] 5188 and [separate] skirt 5189. Delineator, February 1912, p. 105.

… accompanied by useful line drawings…

Line drawings like these are easier to “figure out” for reproduction than full color paintings. Butterick waist 5514 with skirt 5515, showing front and back views. (Hard to realize this is not a dress! Bodice and skirt do not necessarily open in the same place.)  Delineator, July 1912, p. 24.

…and I photograph those (to me) irresistible ads for corsets, bust improvers, hip padding (!) and other products for women.

W.B. Corsets ad for the Reduso corset. Delineator, September, 1907.

Just looking at that corset makes my back ache! It seems that advertisers always think women are either too fat or too thin, and in need of “improvement:”

Ad for H & H Pneumatic Bust Forms, Delineator, July 1907, page 147.

Pneumatic seems to mean “inflated”– “For bathers at the sea-shore they are indispensable; … acts as a buoy to the bather and makes swimming easy.” [Unless you want to swim face-down?

Hats are always tempting me to photograph them:

Butterick waist 5312 with skirt 5313 and a hat that would keep people at arm’s length…. Delineator, April 1912.

Hat featured in fashion article for December 1907. I think it resembles the foliage from a Christmas Cactus….

Don’t sit behind her at the movies.

I do try not to photograph everything that captures my attention, but limiting myself to color images is not easy.

A suit photographed for the “Dress for Dimes” series. Delineator, October 1907.

Being able to see clothing, accurately dated, without the distorted proportions of fashion illustrations is a treat. Delineator‘s fashion photos from the 1920s were not as good as the ones from 1907.

On the other hand, this story illustration is lovely, and I’m surprised by that low-backed gown at left.

Painting illustrating fiction in Delineator, August 1912. Men in white tie: maximum formality.

Edited  5/7/19: A closer look at that low-backed blue-green evening dress hints that a layer of whitish lace was visible above the deep V.

Detail; I think / expect that sheer white or ecru lace covers her camisole and is visible above the deep V back. I also see ermine tails on the white-haired lady.

After seeing that [illustration], I’m thinking maybe 1912 would be a good year for My Fair Lady / Pygmalion.

Ladies’ coat and jacket outfits, Delineator, April 1912, p. 297.

As usual, it’s astonishing to see how rapidly fashions changed. Just two years later:

Butterick patterns from May 1914. The slender lines of 1912 are gone.

Once I have five or six hundred photos downloaded, I have to label them all (year, month, page, pattern numbers,) which takes quite a while. Of course I want to post as many as possible right away, but an orderly process is absolutely necessary to keep images and their information together. So I may be taking a week or so off from posting blogs!

Back soon!

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Butterick Wedding Dress, May 1910

Butterick 3784 illustrated as a wedding gown. Delineator, May 1910. Page 384.

The editors of Butterick’s Delineator magazine featured this pattern on at least three pages; a very illustration shows it not being used as a wedding dress:

The woman seated at right is wearing Butterick “princess dress” 3784, made with black lace and a burnt-orange fabric [described as tan.]  Delineator, May 1910. Page 385.

Butterick 3784 is a good example of the “princess” dresses that were so popular in 1910. When you consider how many Butterick illustrations from this era actually showed a separate, matching waist [i.e., bodice / blouse] and skirt (rather than a dress,) the one-piece princess dress that continued to the hem without any seam at the waist was distinctive. (A bodice/blouse that continued past the waist was often called “semi-princess,” like pattern 3843 at the left of the color illustration.)

Butterick 3784 is shaped by the vertical seams from bodice to hem which are still described as “princess seams.” (The princess-seamed dresses below are from the 1920s:)

But the topic today is princess dress 3784, in its bridal and evening versions:

Butterick princess-seamed bridal gown 3784, shown with a long train. Delineator, May 1910, page 384.

Butterick 3784 illustrated as part of a bridal trousseau article, May 1910, page 441. Here, it has a shorter train.

The black and “tan” version of 3784 is shown with a minimal (or no) train when worn as a day or evening dress. Page 385.

Below: Front and back views of 3784 show (left) “medium sweep or round train,” (center) a long or medium train, plus a very different bodice variation, with V-neck and decorative buttons. In this illustration, the sleeves reach just below the elbows.

Front and back views of 3784, showing an extreme train (90 inches from the waist) and a very different bodice variation with V-neck and decorative buttons. May 1910, page 384.

It could be made with long or short sleeves, with a high neck, a round neck or a square neck, and with or without the “bolero” of white or black lace.

Pattern description for Butterick bridal dress, evening dress, or day dress 3784, Delineator, May 1910.

The longer sleeves and high neck in the bridal version are probably part of an under lining, sometimes called a guimpe, which could be worn under other blouses. Butterick blouse 3647 illustrates how this works:

Butterick waist (blouse) 3647 has a scoop neck and open sleeves which end above the elbow. It is worn over a body-lining with long sleeves and a high collar. March 1910.

Here is the bridal version of 3784 with covered throat, covered arms, and a medium train (72 0r 63 inches from the waist.)

Butterick 3784 illustrated as part of a bridal trousseau article, May 1910, page 441.

This is text describing Butterick 3784:

Pattern descriptions for Butterick bridal dress or day dress 3784, Delineator, May 1910. The writer is Eleanor Chalmers.

A very practical (or economy-minded) bride might cut the train off of her wedding dress (“It should be made as simply as possible and in such a way that it may be worn with perfect propriety for other occasions which may come up after the wedding….”) and have the gown dyed, so that she could wear it for afternoon or evening — without the under-lining sleeves and high collar.

P.S. A gown like this would have boning along the torso seams, but it wouldn’t look historically accurate without one of these under it:

Kabo corset ad, detail, Delineator, March 19910 p. 262.

Ad for Kabo corsets, Delineator, March 1910, page 262.

 

 

 

 

 

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Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s: Jenny (Part 2)

Red and white tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

Jenny in the 1920s

Jeanne Adele Bernard (married name, Jeanne Sacerdote) worked as “Jenny” — an oddly British sounding name. (There were other designers in Paris named Bernard.)  The name “Jenny” became as well known as “Georgette” or “Lucile.” She had been hugely successful in the late 1910s, and she adapted to the 1920s just as well.

Afternoon gown by Jenny, photographed by O’Doye for Delineator February 1924.

Do check out this luxurious evening coat by Jenny, sold by Carolynforbestextiles.com. Amazing 1920’s colors. Simple — but dazzling — is this mid-twenties dress from Jenny:

Evening dress by Jenny, 1925 to 1928; courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

The Peabody Essex Museum has a superb Jenny evening dress circa 1926, more elaborate that the one above and photographed on a mannequin. Click here.

Jenny combined both ivory and black lace with black satin and a beaded belt on this very feminine gown, sketched for Delineator, April 1924.

What struck Delineator’s editors was the full sleeves,  “which have been neither seen nor heard of for evening for several seasons.”

Ivory lace tops the off-the-shoulder bodice [how did that work?] and peeks out from below the black lace skirt. Bare arms were standard on evening dress in 1924.

This sleeveless Jenny design from 1926 has the low armholes and bare arms expected in formal evening gowns.

Jenny’s ruffled evening frock in pink taffeta trimmed with turquoise ribbons; matching cape trimmed in turquoise ribbon and feathers. Sketch in Delineator, July 1924.

In 1924, Jenny was not afraid of the play of patterned fabrics and severely geometric details:

A three piece suit from Jenny; the cashmere printed crepe de Chine “blouse” is a tunic almost reaching the hem of the coat, which is shorter than the long gray skirt. In Delineator, April 1924.

Jenny suit, 1924. The applied trim is bands of self-fabric. See the book Classic French Fashions.

This Jenny ensemble puts a 7/8 length beige coat over a beige, rose, and green plaid dress. The plaid also trim the coat. Delineator, July 1924.

When the very narrow “tubular” silhouette came in, Jenny was ready:

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September, 1924.

In 1925, one of Jenny’s designs was this coat and dress ensemble. Her hems were rising rapidly, but she went against the tide with this very high collar, and a dress trimmed with tiny gold buttons.

Jenny puts this green velvet coat over a dress of rose-beige crepe de Chine, trimmed with hundreds of little gold buttons. Delineator, September, 1925.

1926 shows Jenny still among the top-ranked couturiers:

Three couture ensembles from Delineator, June 1926. Jenny shows a short flared coat over a “just to the knees” dress.

Earlier in the 1920s skirts tended to be straight in back; now these are flared all the way around.

Jenny again catches the mode: a bloused top. Sketched for Delineator, September 1926.

A very bare evening dress with a flared skirt. It was orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls. Jenny design, sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Evening dresses by Jenny and Chanel, Sketched for Delineator, February 1927.

There are a lot of 1960s’ and 70s’ “Twenties” costume dresses out there, covered with tiers of fringe, but this is what beaded fringe looked like in the hands of a couturier like Jenny; on a pink dress, a deeper pink “fringe of crystal beads that touch it with rosy frost.”

Beaded fringe in geometric patterns on an Art Deco evening dress by Jenny, Delineator, February 1927.

Top of beaded dress, Jenny, 1927. I like the way beaded fringe partly covers the deep V neckline — it’s subtly sexy.

I’m not as impressed by every one of her 1927 creations, although closer study usually reveals a little extra creativity. (Remember these are just a tiny fraction of her output.)

Left, Jenny, for evening; right Vionnet day dress. From Delineator, August 1927.

This black and white (?) satin dress comes with a heavily sequinned black chiffon bolero. Jenny in Delineator, October 1927.

Her more tailored coats and suits really are wonderful, with many subtle touches.

One-button suit by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator, June 1927.  The button suggests “a high waistline,” the style of the 1930s, which was just starting to appear.

Lovely lines and pocket detail on the left; astrakhan (unborn lamb) is used on the collar and — unexpectedly — on the back skirt of the coat at right. [Photo distorted by the curvature of the page.]

Her very flared, collarless 1927 coat is a fore-runner of 1940s’ and fifties’ styles.

If you can ignore the scarf, this is a coat decades ahead of its time, from the “Swing” of its flare to the curved seams running into the pocket; note the curved detailing on the cuff. Illustrated for Delineator, May 1927.

It’s quite a change from the tubular coats she made in 1924! Just three years had passed.

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September 1924.

In 1928, Delineator was still enchanted with Jenny’s flower-printed underwear, which she had been showing since 1917, or possibly earlier.

Poppy printed chemise by Jenny, in Delineator, April 1928.

In 1929, Jenny was showing asymmetrical fashions. These are dramatic and unusual.

These 1929 gowns from Jenny play with asymmetry and two-toned color schemes. Delineator‘s Paris report, November 1929.

The short satin gown is very unusual. I wish we could see all around it.

Where does the dark begin? Where does it end? What happens in the back? I don’t know.

By this time, Jenny was in her sixties. She continued making up-to-date gowns in the 1930s. Thanks to Elizabeth Handley Seymour’s desire to make and sell copies to her London clients, the V&A museum has a color sketch of a slinky, broad-shouldered Jenny gown, 1936.

Jenny was one of the couture houses that did not re-open after closing during World War II. For a time line of Jenny’s life, click here.

For French fashion illustrations of Jenny modes, visit the wonderful blog A la Recherche des Modes Perdues [lost] et Oublies [forgotten]. There is a search box and a language translator option.

[Added on 4/21/19] And one for the road: A Jenny evening dress with a complex  skirt and a high, cross-over front. It was Reseda green crepe Romain; the long ties in back gave a flattering rear view, or could be worn with one tie brought to the front.

500 jenny GH 1929 april pg 69 Jenny evening crossed front

Gown by Jenny, from Good Housekeeping, April, 1929, page 69.

The poor image quality is what happened when many magazines were converted to microfilm to save library space.

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Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s, Number 1: Jenny (Part 1)

Evening dress by Jenny (Jeanne Adele Bernard Sacerdote) as sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Some leading designers of the nineteen twenties have names that still sell fashion. Chanel comes to mind. Others were famous before and after the Twenties, like the House of Worth. Having a successful perfume brand helps: “Joy,” by Patou is still available. This is the first in a series about once-famous 1920s designers who are no longer well known.

Jenny (born Jeanne Adele Bernard, later Jenny Sacerdote) was ranked with those big names in the Twenties, but is not as well known today. I’ll be sharing a few of her designs, with links to help you find others.

These are merely a few of the designs by Jenny that were sketched for Delineator, *** and I do not have photos from every year between 1917 and 1930. Her ability to adjust to changes in fashion is admirable.  Born in 1868, she became famous in her fifties, showing 300 pieces in her collection of 1918.

Two sketches of couture by Jenny (Jenny Adele Bernard Sacerdote ) shows her ability to move with the times. Delineator, 1917 and 1927.

Left, a gown with a “tonneau” or “barrel” skirt — a fashion innovation from 1917. Right, a bare, narrow, fringed and beaded evening gown from 1927.

Jenny in 1917

Jenny was already being copied in 1915. The V&A collection has several color sketches of Jenny designs. London dressmaker Elizabeth Handley Seymour sketched hundreds of French couture gowns and coats which she was prepared to duplicate for her customers. She included this coat by Jenny, this evening gown, and this elegant afternoon or evening gown.

Jenny was such a “star” in 1917 that even her underwear collections were featured in “Reports from Paris.” She’s notable for her use of bright colors and print fabrics (!) in her lingerie:

This frothy undergarment was “sulphur-yellow ‘gaze’ trimmed with lace.” Delineator, August 1917.

On Jenny’s pink satin knickers, cream yellow lace is outlined with little roses or ‘cocardes’ [sic] of satin ribbon:

Doucet was a very well-established design house; Jenny is treated as his equal. Delineator, August 1917. Note the ribbon straps.

Print fabric lingerie by Jenny, 1917. Sketched for Delineator.

Jenny used “Flowered muslin in a quite indescribable design of white flowers outlined with pink on a blue background” for her pleated chemise, 1917. I remember how new and exciting print underwear was in the 1960s!

This pink chiffon Jenny dressing gown would have been called a “combing jacket” in an earlier era. (See “Peignoir.”)

A dressing gown by Jenny in Delineator, July 1917: “ruched pink chiffon over a pink satin skirt.”

Other Jenny designs from 1917 show that she had a sense of humor. She named this dress, amply trimmed with fur, “My hairy one.”

Jenny called this model “Mon Poilu” –“my hairy one.” Sketched for Delineator, December 1917.

However, her velvet skating dress seems a little impractical:

Jenny described this as a skating dress. Delineator sketch, December 1917. The tassels would be flying!

The coat below is actually sleeveless, worn over a matching gray silk dress. The geometric trim is stitching in green thread.

Short sleeveless coat over matching gray silk dress, green stitching. Jenny, sketched for Delineator, September 1917.

In June, 1917, Delineator showed a page full of couture designs which featured the new “barrel” silhouette. This was one from Jenny. Page 56.

Delineator claimed the barrel silhouette was chiefly the influence of Jeanne Paquin:

The barrel or tonneau skirt, sketched by Paquin’s own artist. Delineator, March 1917, p 56.

They look better to me when the model is sitting down.

Jenny created this dress for 1917. Delineator, March, p. 56. “Blue serge dress with eight box plaits over each shoulder. The square line at the neck appears in many of the new dresses.”

Left, a design by Jenny — in black satin under white chiffon embroidered with flowers — appears next to a design from the House of Worth. Delineator, March 1917.

I’m sure you could find many more Jenny designs: try searching for Delineator at Hathi Trust; select Journal, then choose a year, and search within the volumes you find. 1922 for example…

*** Note:  Butterick Publishing Company had offices in Paris, giving their pattern makers a chance to follow the very latest trends, which were reported on several times a year, often illustrated by Soulie. All the illustrations I’ll use in this “Less Familiar Designers” series come from Delineator‘s coverage. Caveat:  Pattern companies could sometimes buy couture items and copy them, but designers were not happy to be copied without any payment, so sketch artists attending fashion shows had to be quick and furtive, and sometimes had to work from memory. Read Fashion is Spinach, by Elizabeth Hawes for a sketcher’s real inside story.

Next: Jenny in the 1920s.

Tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

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The Big Hem Drop: 1929 to 1930

Only one year separates these Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. This is rapid fashion change.

The change in fashion that took place between Fall of 1929 and Spring, 1930 — just a few months — fascinates me. The fact that a completely different fashion silhouette was adopted during a time of economic crisis  — when pennies were being pinched — makes it even more astonishing.

Just to get our eyes adjusted and refresh our memories of 1929 before the change, here are several images of couture and of mainstream Butterick sewing pattern illustrations from July 1929.

French couture sportswear, illustrated by Leslie Saalburg in Delineator, July 1929. Short and un-fussy.

These fashions are unmistakably late 1920s. Note the hem length, which just covers the knees. There is a crisp, geometric quality about many of these outfits.

Couture sportswear illustrated by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, July 1929.

Patterns for home use:

Spectator sportswear; Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. The dress at left is soft and flared, a hint of things to come. The dress at right is crisply geometric. Both are short.

1920’s day dresses, Butterick patterns 2697 and 2707. Delineator, July 1929. Mostly straight lines.

Butterick patterns for sportswear, Delineator, July 1929. Simple, pleated, short.

Whether we look at French couture or home sewing patterns, the silhouette and the length are  definitely “Twenties.”

In the 1929 Fall collections, couturier Jean Patou showed longer skirts — well below the knee — and took credit for changing fashion from the characteristic Twenties’ silhouette to the longer, softer, Thirties’ look. (A few other couturiers also showed longer dresses, but he took the credit for being first.)

French couture fashions sketched for Delineator, November 1929. The large illustration at left is an ensemble by Patou — noticeably longer than the other designers’ hems.

“Paris revolutionizes winter styles.” Compare the hem on the dress by Patou, second from left, with those from Molyneux (left, very “Twenties”) Cheruit (third from left,) and Nowitzky (also “Twenties” in spirit, far right.)

Below is the Fall 1929 version of Chanel’s famous black dress. (In the original, from 1926, hems had not reached their shortest length.)

This variation on Chanel’s famous little black dress — with a slightly different placement of tucks –falls just below the knees in 1929, the season when Patou was pioneering longer dresses.

By Fall of 1929, Chanel’s “little black dress” (a sensation in 1926) is just below the knee. It also has a natural waist.

You may have noticed that waistlines are rising as hems are falling; that’s a topic deserving an entire post, but….

Delineator, October 1929, p. 25. “Higher Waists, Longer Skirts.”

The flared dress at left has a softer, less geometric look, and shirring near the natural waist instead of a horizontal hip line. Delineator, October 1929. This dress seems to be “in the stores” rather than a Butterick pattern.

Between July couture showings and October, 1929: That is how fast commercial manufacturers picked up on the new trend for longer skirts and natural waistlines.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1929.

Delineator (i.e.,Butterick Publishing Co.) had offices in Paris where the latest couture collections were sketched (and copied.) In this case, longer skirts appeared on patterns for sale very quickly. (The process of issuing a pattern took several weeks, and the magazine had a lead time of a month or so, as well.)

When these patterns appeared in April, 1930, nothing was said about their length. Old news!

Dresses for women, up to size 48. Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1930, p. 31. From left, “tiny sleevelet,” “flared sleeves,” “white neckline,” and “short kimono sleeves.”

By April 1930, what was notable about these dresses, to the editors of Delineator, was the variety of their sleeves!

Back views of Butterick 3143, 3179, 3173, and 3180. Delineator, April 1930, p. 31.

Longer styles had been in the news for several months.

Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1930.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1930. Hems have fallen. Waists are in transition.

The most interesting article I found about this change from “Twenties” to “Thirties” was in Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1929, pp. 66 and following.

In “Smart Essentials of the Winter Clothes,” fashion editor Helen Koues wrote:

“They differ from any we have had since the war…. To be sure, last season Patou and a few houses tentatively raised the waistline, and we talked about it and made predictions. But now the normal or above normal waistline is here, and anything remotely resembling a low waist is gone. We have had it a long time, that low waist and short skirt, and it is only fitting and logical that it should make way for some sort of revival. [“Directoire, Victorian, Princess….”] We have worn high waists and long skirts before — both higher and longer. But coming with a greater degree of suddenness than any change of line has come for some years, it is an inconvenient fashion.  What are we going to do with our old clothes? [My emphasis.]

“The new silhouette will be taken up just as fast as the average woman can afford to discard her old wardrobe…. The average woman will replace what she needs to replace with new lines, but she will take longer, because she will wear out at least some of her old clothes.  In three months, however, all over America the tightly fitted gown, the longer skirt, the high waist will have superseded the loose hiplines of another season. and the main reason for the speed of this change is that we are ready for it. We are bored with the old silhouette, for we have had it too long — so long, in fact, that… we were beginning to think that we would wear short skirts and low waists till we die…. The psychological moment has come….

“Skirt lengths are particularly interesting: for sports, three inches below the knee is the right length; for street clothes, four inches below, and for the formal afternoon gown about five inches above the anklebone. Evening, of course, right down to the ground… and probably with as much length in front as back…. These are the average lengths.

“Skirts are slimmer than ever, if that is possible, or at least the effect is slimmer, because with the added length the flare necessarily begins lower down. But the flare is still there in full force….”

Colors for Spring, 1930. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1930. Flares, softness, and a coat that is shorter than the dress.

Koues also noted that the new three-quarter coat, “that strikes the gown just above the knee” was in style, although she did not mention that this, at least, was a break for women who could afford a new dress but not a new winter coat. Koues recommended wearing longer knickers (underwear) in winter to make up for the shorter coat.

Short coats or long jackets, February 1930, Delineator.

Vogue, October 26, 1929 reminded readers “We told you so!”

If you have access to Vogue magazine archives you may enjoy a timeline of Vogue fashion predictions from October 26, 1929. It began, “We told you so! If you are one of the many women who are complaining that the new mode means a completely new wardrobe, that you were caught unawares, we take no responsibility. For two whole years, we have been reiterating and reiterating a warning of the change to come.”

Here are some highlights of Vogue‘s predictions:

JANUARY 1, 1928:  “The Waist-Line Rises as the Skirt Descends…”

JANUARY 13, 1928:  “Skirts ….. Will Be Longer” — “Waist-Lines Will Be Higher” — “Drapery and the Flare Will Be Much in Evidence.”

APRIL 13, 1929:  “What looked young last year looks old this season — all because longer, fuller skirts and higher waist-lines have been used so perfectly that they look right, smart, and becoming.”

JUNE 22, 1929: “The hemline is travelling and so is the waistline. One is going up, and the other is coming down.”

Vogue ended, “Need we say more? Surely, Vogue readers are well prepared.”

This is what designers in Paris were showing in Spring, 1930.

Paris Couture, sketched for Delineator, May 1930. Every one has a long skirt and a natural waist.

I began with several images of patterns and couture from July 1929. Here are some dresses from July 1930, showing how completely the Twenties’ look had been “superseded” by the Thirties — in one year.

The Twenties are over. The Thirties are here. Patterns from Delineator, July 1930.

Naturally, in 1929-1930 some women thought the new long skirts made them look “old” while some thought they looked “youthful;” but that is a story for another day!

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