Category Archives: Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings

Pantyhose from Sears, Roebuck. 1960.

The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings

Further reading: I am indebted to this excellent article about the history of L’Eggs and pantyhose in general by Jake Rossen at Mentalfloss. For the story of how pantyhose were invented, see this article in Smithsonian.

1959: McCall 4936, maternity pattern. According to Smithsonian, panty hose were invented because pregnant women found the garter belt or girdle too uncomfortable.

Pantyhose (sheer, stretch tights) were available in 1959, but not in all markets, and not in all sizes. There wasn’t much demand for them, because skirt hems were still mid-calf in the late fifties, so the thick stocking tops and garters we wore were not likely to show.

Dresses this long hid the tops of our stockings and “garter bumps” quite adequately. No need for pantyhose.

Also, really stretchy stockings didn’t exist yet.

Seamless stretch nylon stockings from Sears; Spring 1958.

Opaque tights from Sears, Fall 1959 catalog.

Opaque tights from Sears, Fall 1959 catalog. Popular for winter sports and dance classes.

Opaque tights were available before 1959, but for most women of my generation (and those before) wearing sheer stockings with seams up the back marked the beginning of adulthood. In 1958, I was in eighth grade, and “dress up” clothing suddenly included seamed stockings (held up by a garter belt) and shoes with “high” heels.

If you were born in the 1960s or later, you may not believe how hard it was to buy stockings in the 1950s (and earlier.)

1) Most stores were not open on Sundays. In a country where most citizens were nominally Christian, Sunday was the official Sabbath, and most businesses (except for essential services like hospitals) did not buy or sell products or require employees to work on the Sabbath. Buying or selling on the Sabbath was generally against the law. Saturday had been the “market” day for centuries; weekdays were also shopping days, but not as they are now because….

2) Even in big cities, stores were not open after 5:30 or 6 p.m. “Designated shopping nite” was a very Big Deal in my childhood circa 1950 when all the major department and clothing stores in downtown San Francisco agreed to stay open until 8 p.m. — every Thursday night. (That’s right, they were open late once a week.)

Working women might have a chance to shop during their lunch break, if they worked near the stores. But a run in your last pair of stockings was a small crisis: When and where could you buy new ones?

“It was 1968, and the recently-appointed president of Hanes Hosiery Mill Co. observed a growing number of pantyhose customers were grabbing cheap stockings at grocery stores for the sake of convenience. While a woman might shop for food multiple times a week, she would likely only head to a department store once every month or two. Rather than wait, she would purchase undergarments when it was most convenient.” — Jake Rossen

When grocery stores and supermarkets began staying open at night, and they began to sell hosiery, the lives of working women took a turn for the better. This was mostly possible because improved technology gave us really stretchy stockings and tights.

Cling-alon seamless stretch pantyhose from Sears really were stretchy: only three women’s sizes were needed.

Cling-alon size chart, Sears, 1968. The women’s sizes are Petite, Average, and Tall. (The sizes at top are for girls.)

Improved stretch meant that stores no longer had to carry stockings in eighteen sizes.

Companies like Hanes made L’Eggs pantyhose specifically packaged to be sold in supermarkets. The improved stretch meant you no longer needed to sell stockings in seven sizes and four lengths. Basic L’Eggs came in just four sizes, but they fit a really big range of heights and weights. Stores were happy that a display of the full range of L’Eggs colors and sizes took up less shelf space than a display of canned olives or jelly. And working women like me could pick them up any night on the way home from work! No more Saturday trips to a department store. No more panicky mornings when I got a run in my last pair of hose.

Cotton Crotch Introduced

One problem: women who adopted the new stretch-nylon pantyhose soon began advising their friends that the nylon did not let moisture evaporate as silk or cotton underwear did. We advised each other to wear cotton briefs under nylon pantyhose to avoid unpleasant rashes and worse. Soon the manufacturers figured it out, and began making pantyhose with “cotton crotch” proudly specified on the package labels.

Thigh Bulge and Garter Bumps Eliminated

Pantyhose did eliminate a problem for women whose legs were not slim and muscular: with the old stocking suspended from one garter in front and one in back, the stocking top would sag, leaving an unpleasant bulge of flesh at the top.

Stocking tops sag at the sides in this illustration from 1930.

This model has lovely legs, but you can see how the stocking top is curving downward at the inside of the thigh. For women who didn’t have slim, firm thighs, the flesh bulged out over the stocking tops. In hot weather the bulges rubbed together, which was especially unpleasant.

Also, the garters themselves had a rubbery part that went inside the stocking, and a metal part that went outside the stocking.

When you sat, the metal dug into your leg at the back, and the rubber part created a bump in front that was visible through light-weight dress fabrics.

Garters could be purchased separately and attached to elastic loops on the girdle.

The metal garter was detachable and inserted through these loops.

With pantyhose: Bliss! — no more garter belts or panty-girdles.  And no bulges.

 

13 Comments

Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Maternity clothes, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Colorful,Textured Hose in the 1960s

Opaque, colored pantyhose shown in Elegance magazine, Fall/Winter 1965-66 issue.

Opaque and fishnet-textured hose from Sears, 1968.

1968: Sears was selling both textured stockings and textured pantyhose. And suggesting the layered look.

“Fishnet” mesh pantyhose from Sears, 1968.

Catniphill commented on a previous post: “I could sew, so I made all my own outfits for school. I was in Jr High from 1966 to 1968 and wore a garter belt with opaque hose covered with fishnet hose in a contrasting color. I certainly flashed a lot of elastic during those days and always crossed my legs and sat crosswise on the school attached chairs. Suddenly pantyhose was available and dubiously I tried wearing something that looked like it would fit a doll–but it stretched amazingly. So I switched to opaque tights with fishnet pantyhose for some outfits and regular pantyhose for others. One of my favorite outfits was a fine-wale yellow corduroy babydoll worn with brown tights with yellow fishnets. I had matching daisy jewelry for this outfit. I still have all my patterns.”

[Ah, yes: Daisy pins and other big, painted floral pins! I used to find lots of them in thrift stores — but when I wanted one for a play set in 1967, I couldn’t find one.]

Center: dark semi-opaque hose (probably pantyhose) went well with the rising skirts of 1969. Simplicity pattern 8365. [I wore my brown tights with a dress very like the one on the left.]

As skirt lengths rose to several inches above the top of the knee, stockings became more varied, and more attention-getting. Instead of “flesh” or “suntan” hosiery, brilliant colors and textures from lace to “chickenwire” appeared on women’s legs.

Textured stockings from Sears, 1968 catalog.

The textures here are “Fishnet, [2] ” “Chicken-wire [3],” and “Diamond [5]” pattern.

Sears’ colors included bright yellow, neon pink, bright orange, bright grass green, pale blue, light pink,  and more conservative navy, deep brown, and parchment white.

Simplicity pattern 7622 from 1968.

Simplicity 7622 worn with heavily textured white pantyhose. 1968.

Simplicity 7755 from 1968.

Textured hose worn with Simplicity 7755. Stripes.

Even conservative “Jackie” style suits like this one …

McCall’s 7981 from 1965.

… could be worn with textured hose:

Vogue pattern with textured hose, Elegance, Fall/Winter 1965-66.

Textured or patterned stockings had also been popular for casual wear in the 1920s, another “leg-conscious” era:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/textured-hose-from-an-article-about-rainwear-delineator-april-1929.jpg

Textured hose from 1929. Delineator, April 1929.

So were wild colors:

The dropped waists of the 1920s (and very long Twenties’ style necklaces) also reappeared in the Sixties.

McCall’s 8135 from 1965.

So it’s not surprising that colorful, attention-getting stockings reappeared, too.

Pink opaque pantyhose or tights, in Elegance, Fall/Winter 1965/66.

Simplicity 7236 dated 1967. Opaque white pantyhose or tights. (Good if your legs were thin….)

“Trapeze” dresses also went well with opaque pantyhose, although these models are wearing sheer pantyhose. Butterick 4873 from 1968.

In theory, men didn’t like the trapeze style because it concealed a woman’s shape. However, it was a great time for “leg” men. Click here for a photo of Sixties’ supermodel Twiggy in a shape concealing, thigh revealing dress. (Very modest, from the hem up….)

22 Comments

Filed under 1960s-1970s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Stocking Memories, 1958 to 1960

Stockings and a girdle from Sears catalog for Fall 1958.

When I started high school around 1958, we wore stockings for dress-up occasions. Usually, those stockings had a seam up the back.

Seamed stockings from Sears, Spring 1960.

(Pantyhose became available in 1959, or so the internet tells me. Seamless nylon or rayon stockings were available — briefly — in the 1940s, but in 1958, seams were the norm for me and the adult women I knew.)

Seamless stockings advertised in Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943.

Of course, stockings are still available and worn by many women, but pantyhose have dominated the market for about 50 years now.

So, for those who never had the dubious pleasure of buying stockings in the 1950s….

A run in her stocking; Lux soap ad from October 1937. Runs looked the same in 1960: a hole with unraveled knit stocking above and below it.

At the Stocking Counter

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about stockings circa 1958 was how many choices you had to make. Faced with the stocking counter — at a department store or even a “five and dime store” — you would see rows and rows of distinctive shallow boxes, each originally holding 6 pairs of stockings. The pairs were separated by layers of tissue; you could buy one pair, incurring the barely concealed scorn of the clerk who waited on you, or two or three pairs of matching stockings (if you could afford them.) Buying the whole box was a wonderful extravagance. Stockings were so fragile that the clerks sometimes wore gloves.

For a young teen, it was a confusing process. You needed to know your size, your “proportion,” the denier, the color, “seam or no-seam,” reinforced heel and toe or sandal foot, knit or “run stop”mesh….

1958 stocking size chart from the Sears catalog.

“What size?” Stockings came in seven sizes. Your stocking size was related to your shoe size, but it wasn’t the same as your shoe size. [Shoes used to come in many sizes and widths, from AAAA (very narrow) to EEE (very wide.)  I wore a shoe size 7 1/2, B width, with a (double) AA heel [Yes, you could buy a wide shoe size with a narrow heel, or many other variations.] As you can imagine, shoe stores had to carry almost as much stock as stocking counters.]

In 1958, your stocking size depended on your shoe size and your shoe width: shoe size 7, width B = stocking size 10.

However, stockings were usually held up by garters (aka suspenders) attached to a garter belt or girdle.

Garter belts, Sears 1958. Also (more accurately) called suspender belts in England.

Top left is a girdle; all the others are panty-girdles. Notice that your stocking top would need to come quite high on the thigh to attach to these garters.

Stockings attach high on the leg, with one garter in front and one in back on this panty-girdle. Sears, 1958.

The suspender part was somewhat adjustable in length, but you had to buy stockings that were long enough to reach the garter comfortably.

Proportioned Stockings for tall women; Sears, 1958. “The extra length reduces garter pull and strain…”

Finding the right proportioned stocking for your height and weight. Sears chart, 1958.  At Sears, your four proportion choices were “petite, shapely, classic, or tall.” (7 sizes x 4 lengths = 28 choices!)

There were so many size variations because 1950s’ stockings did not have much “stretch.” To answer the question “What size?” you needed to know your stocking size and your “pattern” or proportion. (Or you could tell the clerk your height and weight.)

If you wanted long enough stockings, you might have to pay more.

Sears, 1958. The cheaper stockings came in 15 or 30 denier weight, but only one length.

College memory: A friend named Mary was standing in the doorway when my roommate said, “Mary, your stockings are all wrinkled around your ankles.” Mary said, “I’m not wearing stockings. My ankles are sagging.”

Before modern stretch knits, stockings might bag or sag. Worse, if the reinforced top wasn’t high enough, when you knelt down the pull of the suspender could put too much strain on the knee, and your stocking would run or “pop.” Cheap stockings didn’t come in a full range of lengths, so I sometimes came out of church with one or both knees bulging out of big holes in my stockings. All those sizes were necessary because stockings were not very stretchy.

Stocking runs: a tiny hole would unravel the stocking both up and down your leg. This was still true in the 1960s. Lux soap claimed to improve stockings’ elasticity. Ad from 1936.

The stocking clerk might ask, “What weight?” This meant, not your own weight, but the amount of sheerness or strength you needed in the stocking. Light weight 15 denier was very sheer. 30 denier was more durable for everyday wear, and even thicker stockings were available.

“Seams or seamless?” My first stockings had seams, but the seams on the soles of my feet sometimes gave me blisters, so once I discovered seamless stockings, I always bought those. Seamless stockings were available in 1958, but I didn’t discover them for a couple of years. (A vertical seam up the back would have been more flattering to my sturdy legs, but limping on blisters didn’t improve my looks or disposition, so I chose comfort over vanity.) Besides, it’s maddening to be down to your last two intact stockings when you’re dressing for work and find that one of them has a seam and the other doesn’t.

Seamed stockings with reinforced heel and toe (and a seam under the ball of your foot.) Sears, Spring of 1958.

“Reinforced toe and heel? Sandal heel? Sheer foot?” If you wore pumps, then you could buy longer-lasting stockings with reinforced heels and toes. (Toenails or rough heels were hard on stockings.) However, by the 1940s many women wore open-toed or strap-heeled shoes, making the less durable options necessary.

Nude heel or reinforced heel in seamless stockings, Sears, 1958.

“Run stop or regular?” Runs were always a problem. A tiny snag from a chair or a fingernail would start a run racing up and down your leg. Many women kept a bottle of clear nail polish in their purse or desk drawers, because it was the only thing that could stop a run from progressing. If you dabbed a bit on the run before it passed the hem of your skirt, then the stocking might be salvaged enough for future wear. Otherwise, sheer stockings couldn’t be mended. One reason for always buying several identical pairs at the same time: as long as you had two stockings that matched, you could wear them. Once you were down to one stocking, you would probably never find a matching color or knit again, (too many brands, too many choices) so the final stocking might as well be tossed out.

Rayon mesh stockings from Sears, 1944. “Lockstitch resists runs, snags.”

Run-proof stockings were usually a mesh knit. They did get holes, but they didn’t get runs. The holes, however,  kept getting bigger….

Mesh stockings did not run, but they did get holes. And the weave was rather coarse and noticeable. Sears’ seamless mesh stockings from 1942.

“What color?” Stocking manufacturers and fashion magazines urged women to buy stockings to match every outfit. However, the woman on a budget often stuck to one or two shades. We all had drawers full of not-qute-matching stockings (usually kept in a padded box within the drawer.) Sticking to just one color matching your skin tone (or the healthy tan color you wished your legs were) was the economical choice. However, those black or dark stockings for evening were so temptingly glamourous….

Stockings from Sears to match your skin tone or your dress. 1959 catalog.

If you bought the last pairs of stockings in the box, or the whole box (six pairs,) you would be given the box itself, and therefore you would know the brand and color when you needed to buy more stockings a few weeks later.  Otherwise, stockings were simply wrapped in tissue. It was easy to forget where you bought them, the brand, and the name of the color, so your supply of single, unmatched, surviving stockings continued to grow. (One maker’s “nude” or “taupe” was rarely the same as another’s, and “suntan” could mean anything from light golden brown (in expensive brands) to orange (cheaper brands) ….

One Christmas in the Sixties, my father gave me a nightgown set that I didn’t need, so I took it back to Macy’s and exchanged it for a dozen pairs of stockings — two whole boxes! I had several blissful months of not worrying whether I had a pair of stockings that matched. Such luxury!

Next: The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings.

24 Comments

Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Girdles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Seamless Stockings in 1930

Seamed stockings from Sears, Roebuck catalog, 1939.

Every costume design job is an opportunity to do more research, but there are some things that are just part of your general knowledge. For example, when I was hired to costume a college production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, which takes place in 1937, I automatically put the adult female characters in seamed stockings.

I was surprised recently when I came across this image from 1930:

Seamless stockings could be purchased at department stores in 1930! This image is from Delineator, May 1930.

I simply hadn’t come across this information before, so I checked another source: the Sears, Roebuck catalogs. There they were:

“No-Seam” hosiery for women, Sears Roebuck catalog, Fall 1930, p. 171.

No-Seam stockings text, Sears catalog, Fall 1930.

And another source….

From a fashion editorial about accessories, Delineator, September 1930.

There are some typos in the original text, as you can see, but corrected, it says, “I made a new discovery a few days ago — stockings needn’t have seams in order to fit. You may remember the old seamless stockings … which went into Grecian drapery at the ankles after their first contact with soap and water. The new Guildmode hose is knitted in a special way so that it fits just as snugly as a full fashioned stocking. It is dull [matte] and very sheer.”

“Full-fashioned” meant stockings which were shaped like the outline of a leg, curving in at the ankle, and gradually curving out over the calf area.

Before stretchier knits became available, the seam at the back was necessary for a good fit. Full-fashioned stocking illustration from Sears, 1958.

A short history: Knitted stockings have been around for hundreds of years. The simple knitted tube naturally stretched — somewhat — to the shape of the leg, but a seam up the back permitted a closer fit.  As stockings became more sheer (and more visible under short skirts) in the Nineteen Twenties, women became aware of the way the vertical seam up the back created a slenderizing line on their legs.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/hosiery-nov-1928-mar-1929-apr-1929-may-1929.jpg

Gordon Hosiery ads from Delineator, Nov. 1928 through May 1929.

Seams and pointed heels made these stockings flattering. Sears, Fall of 1939.

“Notice how they follow the natural shadows of the ankle — to give you slenderness and grace.”

Skirt hems went down and then up again in the Nineteen Thirties, but seamed stockings were so much a part of normal dress that women couldn’t give up that seam line even when silk or nylon stockings became unavailable during World War II.

There were no nylon or silk stockings available from Sears in 1944 because nylon and silk were needed for the war. Sears catalog index, Spring 1944.

In Spring of 1945, before the War ended,  Sears offered these un-glamourous cotton stockings. Three pairs were guaranteed to last you three months. (I.e., you would have two wearable stockings left.)

But, back to the Thirties:

Chiffon [sheer] and Service Weight stockings from Sears, Fall 1930.

Seamed rayon stockings from Sears, Fall 1930. Rayon, a synthetic fabric based on cellulose, was cheaper than silk.

At the first dress rehearsal of Brighton Beach Memoirs, the director knelt down beside my chair and whispered, “Are those seams on their stockings?” He was clearly delighted. I whispered back, “Well, stockings with seams are too expensive for our budget,** so I taught the actresses to do it the 1940s’ way: we drew ‘seams’ up the backs of their hose with an eyebrow pencil.” (The lines didn’t come out completely when we washed their sheer tights, so they just had to retrace the previous line for the next performance.)

At first, I thought the director was impressed by the seamed stockings because I was much more detail-oriented than my predecessor. Later I realized that anyone who was a teen-aged boy in the 1950s probably feels a certain nostalgia for seamed stockings, which, along with high heels and garter belts, were often seen on pin-up girls.

This 1950s’ stocking ad, shared by Sally Edelstein at Envisioning the American Dream, shows the sex appeal of seamed stockings.

Being allowed to wear high heels (or even kitten heels,) and sheer stockings held up by a garter belt was a rite of passage for girls of my generation. (I think that my first heels and stockings were required for a school field trip to the ballet [or opera?] circa 1958, when I was in 8th or 9th grade.)

Garter belts, seamed stockings, high heels, and a bouffant “crinoline” petticoat in 1958: “Today I am a woman!”

At thirteen, I was finally old enough to ask, “Are my seams straight?”

To return to my costume design for Brighton Beach Memoirs, would this new (to me) information about the existence of seamless stockings*** in 1930 have made any difference? No, because the characters in the play are struggling financially, and because they are not fashionable women. They would have worn inexpensive stockings — probably cotton, rayon, or “service weight.”

Service weight silk stockings were not as sheer as “chiffon” ones. Sears, Fall 1930.

I settled for using sheer tights with added seams because at the time of the production that was the most affordable option. Also, in college productions, most of the actors are younger than the characters they play. The two “mothers” were actually about twenty years old, and the teenaged daughters were also played by twenty year old actresses. Putting the mothers in seamed stockings and the daughters in bobby socks helped to establish an age difference.

More of my own “Garter Belt and Seamed Stockings” Memoirs to come….

** Some very good costume shop supervisors have told me that a seam can be added to inexpensive modern hosiery with an overlock sewing machine, but I haven’t tried it myself.

*** If you need a research topic, note that some of the images make reference to seamless stockings earlier than 1930.

8 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Accessories

A Visit to January 1920, from Delineator Magazine

Ice skaters in an ad for Ivory Flakes laundry soap. Delineator, January 1920, page 4.

One hundred years ago, the January Delineator offered Butterick patterns, advice for the working girl (and her mother), sketches of Paris couture, and all kinds of advertisements. Enter the time capsule:

French couture from Doucet and Paquin. January 1920.

Butterick sewing patterns inspired by French designer styles.

Butterick sewing patterns, January 1920.

These are not what we usually think of when we hear “Twenties’ style,” but the decade was just getting started. Page three began an essay on the dangers awaiting naive young women who went out to work in offices….

“A Warning for Business Women…”

The “young, ignorant girl” applies for a job….

Her boss tells her that “he would go mad unless he could find a young girl who could understand him and care for him….”

Here, he offers her alcohol….****

And then, he escorts her home….

Her mother needs to warn her…. (Author: Josephine Stricker)

It was 100 years ago, but all of this sounds painfully familiar in the 21st century. At least we now acknowledge that saying ‘no” isn’t always enough.

If you had to work as a housemaid, the difficulties might be considerable. This little article about the life of a housemaid in England shows that even Delineator was shocked by their working conditions:

Delineator was aimed at middle and (aspiring) upper class women, but the plight of British housemaids was shocking.

Back to fashion: These Butterick patterns for misses (age 14 to 19, in most cases) show a hint of what women wore in the later 1920s:

A selection of Butterick patterns for misses in their teens. The schoolgirl’s outfit at right shows the straight, low-waisted trend of the future.

Dresses for grown women also offered some styles without exaggerated hips:

Daytime styles for women from Butterick, January 1920.

The bare arms of evening dresses, even for girls in their teens, surprised me. For more “very bare” gowns from 1920, click here.

For young men returning from WW I, these uncorseted young women in bare-armed dresses must have been a pleasant surprise.

What did women do about underarm hair?

Ad for DeMiracle hair remover, January 1920.

A prized gift in 1920 was a “Spanish comb,” often made from celluloid, “the first synthetic plastic material.  In this ad, a celebrity endorsing fingernail powder (yes, nails were buffed to a shine by most women) wears a Spanish comb:

Actress Kitty Gordon wears a Spanish comb in her hair while endorsing Graff’s Hyglo powder nail polish.

More Spanish combs. These are from 1922.

You could order your camisoles, nightgowns, bloomers, and combinations from Dove and other companies.

Ad for Dove Undergarments, January 1920.

WW I had made knitting more popular than ever; this is an ad for Fleischer yarns:

Knit yourself this aqua sweater with Fleischer Yarns.

The obsession with boyish figures has not yet appeared.

You could wash your woolens and fine lingerie with Ivory Soap Flakes.

Well into the Twenties, women shaved their own soap flakes from bar soap, so this was a modern convenience product.

Also convenient: Rubber shoe covers.

Rubber shoe covers slipped on over your shoes in 1920. The shoes might be worn with gaiters that laced up the front. Some shoes had built-in gaiters.

Later in the 1920s, the B.F.Goodrich rubber company introduced a winter shoe cover with a slide fastener closing, giving us the word “Zipper.”

Mothers could find ads for maternity corsets in 1920:

The H & W maternity corset ad, January 1920.

And safety pins had been around for over a century:

Changing diapers was easier after the rust-proof safety pin became widely available. January 1920 ad.

It was appropriate that a magazine designed to sell sewing patterns should have ads for sewing machines.

The Davis sewing machine was portable and electric.

The Davis portable electric sewing machine was operated by a foot pedal. [I made clothes on a (non-electric) treadle sewing machine in the 1960s. Wish I still had one, even though it took up a lot of room.]

This ad should hold a special interest for all us who love Daphne DuMaurier’s novel Rebecca. In a scene often described as the most un-romantic marriage proposal ever, Maxim de Winter includes the information that “I prefer Eno’s.”

Ad for Eno’s Fruit Salts, a laxative. January 1920.

(Let’s hope it wasn’t the Washington Monument in this ad that attracted his attention.)

Eno’s Fruit Salts ad, January 1920.

To see the marriage proposal scene from the excellent (and faithful) 1979 TV adaptation of Rebecca, starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett, click here.

**** I am irresistibly reminded of the limerick about “the young lady of Kent/ who said that she knew what it meant/ when men asked her to dine/ over cocktails and wine….” Perhaps her mother had explained it to her after reading the article in Delineator.

7 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Versatile Butterick Patterns from February 1912

These “dresses” are really made from separate bodice and skirt patterns.

This “evening gown” is also made from a waist pattern and a skirt pattern.

Butterick waist 5188 and skirt 5189 made a lovely evening gown or a chic day dress, depending on your fabric choices. Delineator, Feb. 1912.

In 1912 you could buy “dress” patterns, but Butterick still sold many separate “waist ” and skirt patterns — a combination that allowed for enormous variety and individualization. These eight patterns featured in Delineator magazine in February 1912 show how you could make a day and evening wardrobe from just a couple of waist (bodice) and skirt patterns.

To start with the evening look:

Butterick waist pattern 5188, made in soft, sheer fabrics and embroidered or beaded.

Back view of waist 5188 with knot embroidery (or beading) and an optional high collar for formal daytime occasions.

The high-collared chemisette was optional (as was the body lining). “Sleeves are in full or shorter length, and with or without the cuffs.” Above, the collar is a sheer fabric, but other soft, drape-y fabrics (even wool) could be used.

Two back views of Butterick waist 5188.

Three variations of Butterick waist 5188 with skirt 5189.  At right, it has a “clearing length” skirt, one of three possible lengths.

The variation on the right uses the chemisette and long sleeves (probably attached to the body lining,) but is made of a fabric appropriate for daytime, like linen or wool serge.  Buttons add interest to the “day” look, and the soft collar is omitted entirely.

Evening, day, and afternoon looks from one waist pattern, Butterick 5188.

The same skirt, Butterick 5189, in sheer evening and solid daytime variations. (The evening coat covers part of the skirt.)

These two patterns were clearly meant as a set and could be made as one garment; but not all Butterick waist and skirt combinations close in the same place!

Left: Waist 5196 is more blouse-like and could be worn with different skirts. Right: Waist 5180 has a side closing like its accompanying skirt.

Alternate views of waist 5196. Optional CF seam, optional body lining (to control the fullness,) optional long sleeves and optional peplum as seen in the color illustration.

Skirt 5197 is softly pleated, and could be worn with other waists.

Right: waist 5180 with skirt 5181. The side closing exposes an underskirt.

Waist 5180 could be plain, as in the color illustration, or enhanced with embroidery or soutache braid. Buttons could be visible or the closing could be concealed. Long or 3/4 sleeves were another variation.

It’s possible to attach a skirt like this to the bodice with hooks and bars, but most women probably sewed the waist to the skirt, at least part of the way around. The side-front closing would make it hard to use the bodice with other skirts, although the skirt could be combined with other waists.

Butterick waist 5176 and skirt 5177. 1912.

Alternate views of waist 5176 with skirt 5177.

Waist 5176 and skirt 5177 are another set of patterns that could be made in day, afternoon, or evening versions. The long “sash” or back panel is an optional part of the bodice. Bordered fabrics are recommended for the skirt.

Detail of skirt 5177. For evening, you could stop at the second tier and let an underskirt show. The back-closing skirt “may be made separately or attached to a waist in semi-princess style….

This skirt description offers many fabric and construction options, and also suggests that other waists can be used with it, allowing for even more variety.

Waist 5176 could have a high-necked chemisette, or a lower, round neckline, as in the color illustration, or bare the throat entirely as in the evening version at the right.

Here waist 5176 has a “French round neck.” You can see how easily this waist might be adapted for evening by omitting the fill at neckline and using sheer fabric or lace for the “frill sleeves” and bertha collar.

Waist 5176 in day and evening versions.

Tricks of the Trade

Seeing all these variations should give hope to the overworked costumer: you could dress an entire chorus with variations on three or four bodice patterns and three or four skirt patterns. Fabric and trim variations will multiply the looks without having to draft a new pattern for every costume. In fact, character recognition would be aided by deciding that sophisticated Mme X always wears dresses with assymmetric side front closings, sporty Mlle Y always wears sailor collar variations, and gentle Mlle Z favors lace and soft fabrics. If you do one “waist” pattern fitting and one skirt pattern fitting per actress, and design three costumes for each that are variations on those patterns, you might get 15 costumes from five first fittings…. Hours and hours saved!

P.S. 1912 was the year the Titanic sank; Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912. The best production of Love’s Labour’s Lost I ever saw was set in 1914 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1993, directed by Ian Judge with costume designs by Deirdre Clancy.)

Under These 1912 Clothes:

American Lady Corset ad; corset cover/petticoat for mature lady. Both: Delineator, February 1912.

Brassieres, Delineator, February 1912.

Corset cover and drawers, Delineator, February 1912.

Combination corset cover and drawers; narrow petticoat. Delineator, February 1912.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1910s and WW I era, Bras, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Edwardian fashions, Hats and Millinery, lingerie, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Slips and Petticoats, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage patterns

Tunic Blouses, 1922

Three out of five dresses pictured are “Tunic Blouses” with matching slips. Butterick patterns in Delineator, January 1922. Page 30.

The outfit on the right in this illustration is a “Tunic Blouse” with matching slip. Butterick 3509 with slip 3489. February 1922.

Another simply cut but attractive tunic blouse appeared in this color illustration:

Right, Butterick Tunic Blouse 3530 with slip 2930. Delineator, February 1922, page 27.

We’ll take a closer look at that one in a minute…..  You may have guessed that “tunic” means an over layer that is shorter than the rest of the outfit. But the one below is not called a tunic blouse — it’s just a “dress.”

Butterick dress pattern 3456. Delineator, January, 1922, page 28.

It took me a while to realize that Delineator was selling patterns, so the patterns which included all the layers were described as “dress” patterns, and those that only contained the top layer were “tunic blouse” patterns. That way, the buyer knew she would have to buy a separate pattern (or use one she already had) for the longest layer, which was usually made as a slip — but with fashion fabric rather than lingerie fabric.

In spite of their overskirts, these are not tunics but “dresses.” Delineator, May 1921.

The Tunic look had been very important in the 1910s:

Tunic outfits in 1914. Delineator.

Then, the longer layer of the outfit might be part of the skirt pattern or part of a blouse (called a “waist”) pattern. Or it could be sold as a complete tunic dress pattern:

Alternative and back views of Butterick tunic dress 6779; 1914.

This version of the tunic look appeared in 1921:

Butterick sold this pattern as a tunic blouse; the skirt/slip pattern was sold separately. Google scan from Delineator, found at Hathitrust.org.

Another tunic blouse pattern from late 1921.

“A blouse of the sort with a suitable slip makes a complete costume. The Florentine neck and wide sleeves are particularly smart.”

In 1922, a variety of tunic blouses were on offer.

Butterick 3509 illustrated in January 1922.

Right, Butterick 3509 — again — as shown in February 1922. Delineator.

Butterick tunic blouse 3497 illustrated in February 1922, Delineator.

Detail of Butterick 3530 from February 1922.

I especially like the surprise of bright yellow lining on this black velvet tunic. The bands on the sleeves seem to be embroidered with birds.

Matching embroidered fabric shows through the slit at the neck.

That dress almost makes me forget that most women would look like a sack of potatoes in it — a beautiful, black velvet, embroidered sack ….

Some of these tunics have very deep slits at the sides. Butterick tunic blouses 3497 and 3507.

Those very wide sleeves were also typical of 1922 — they deserve (and will get) a post of their own.

Black chiffon over a black slip. Strips of coral red trim keep it from looking too bedroom-y.

Butterick tunic blouse 3462 over slip 3428. January 1922.

The simple tunic blouse pattern lent itself to different ornamentation.

“An elastic can be run through a casing at the low waistline. If transparent, the blouse is worn over a slip; otherwise a skirt will do.”

Teens and young women wore tunic blouses, too. Butterick 3462 from 1922.

I’ve written before on the tunic as a transition to shorter styles. These tunics are from January, 1925.

Tunics from Delineator, January 1925. The slit side was still seen.

A whole page of tunics in different lengths, from Delineator, March 1925.

As skirts rose to knee length in the later 1920s, the knee-length tunic became irrelevant.

This tunic blouse appeared in 1930, another time of hemline transition:

This tunic blouse with long skirt is from December, 193o. The tunic is the same length as dresses from 1929. Butterick 3560. December 1930; Delineator, p. 27.

5 Comments

Filed under 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Slips and Petticoats