Category Archives: Girdles

Poiret and Tunic Dresses, 1914

Paul Poiret’s “Sorbet” gown. Illustrated by Georges Lepape, September 1913. Image from Irene Lewisohn Collection, Metropolitan Museum.

I saw Poiret’s famous “Sorbet” gown at the V & A years ago.  It’s sometimes referred to as “the lampshade dress,” because of the rigid bottom of the tunic.

I expected to laugh; instead, I haven’t found a picture that does it justice. It’s ridiculous. It’s impractical. And it’s couture: what doesn’t show in the photos I’ve found is that the stylized roses are made from thousands of subtly glittering beads. The silk has the soft gleam of quality. It is lovely.

Perhaps because this is clearly a “wear it once” dress (except for the version without a boned tunic,) it has survived in at least three public collections (V & A, Chicago History Museum,  & FIT. ) And, being couture — custom made for every client —  each rendition is slightly different. Sometimes only the skirt is different (one version has harem pants;) in one, the tunic falls softly instead of being rigid; in the collection at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the dark parts are not black, but mauve (or raspberry sorbet?)

Randy Bigham has written a fascinating essay comparing the three versions.

I called “Sorbet” a “wear it once” dress because it would make a grand entrance, be highly memorable, and also be highly impractical. How would the wearer sit at a dinner table, or travel to a party in a carriage or car? How would she dance in it, since the hoop would pop up in the back as soon as her partner embraced her? [Imagine it flipping around during a tango!]

Butterick pattern 6639 seems to be influenced by Poiret’s “Sorbet” gown, which has black fur at the rigid hem of the tunic in the V&A version. Delineator, January 1914.

The New Flaring Tunics, Delineator, March 1914. In 1914, a “tunic” was an overskirt.

But …. Poiret caught the spirit of the times, even if he didn’t create the tunic fad; by 1914 his dress was influencing Butterick patterns and being imitated elsewhere. I found it in advertisements, too — usually a sign that a style has penetrated the common culture.

Ad for McCallum Hosiery, Delineator, March 1914.

A suit with a flaring tunic and wide sash is seen in an ad for American Woolen, March 1914, Delineator.

This ad for Suesine silk fabric uses Butterick 6639, with the hoop-like tunic.

A flaring tunic dress goes dancing in this ad for Kleinert’s Dress Shields. April 1914; Delineator.

Tunic Dress Patterns from 1914

An outfit with the tunic look might be a dress, or a skirt and “waist” combination.  [A “waist” was a blouse or separate bodice.] The flared part of the tunic might be part of the blouse/waist) …

Waist 6639. Butterick pattern from January 1914. Delineator.

… Or it might be part of the skirt:

Butterick skirt pattern 6719, March 1914. Delineator.

Butterick waist 6718 with skirt 6719. The flared tunic is part of the skirt. Note the fur or velvet border at right, which makes the hem stand out more.

Wearing the tunic over an elaborately draped skirt increased bulk over the hips — and narrowing at the ankles exaggerated it.

Tunic dress; Butterick pattern 6779 from April 1914 has optional ruffles to help the tunic’s hem stand out a bit. Delineator.

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

These are many one-piece tunic dresses, rather than waist and skirt combinations:

Tunic dresses for women to size 44 bust; Delineator, April 1914.

Alternate views of tunic dress 6820, April 1914.

Alternate views of tunic dress 6832, April 1914. Seeing it without the tunic tells us more about how it was made.

A group of hip-widening fashions from April, 1914. Delineator. The one in color is a waist & skirt combination. [Fun hat!]

Butterick waist 6791 with skirt 6733. The tunic is part of the skirt; waist 6791 is not long at all.

Other views of Butterick waist 6791. From 1914.

However, tunic outfit 6797 is a dress:

Butterick dress 6797, April 1914. In the illustration at left, the diagonal closing is barely noticeable.

To my eyes, accustomed to slender, athletic bodies, the fashions of the World War I period are hard to understand, since they add the appearance of many pounds around the hips. [Poiret also took credit for the 1908 “hobble skirt,” still affecting fashion in 1914.]

“What Your Girl Will Want for Easter” 1914: Wide hips and narrow hems. These are styles for teens age 14 to 19. Did teen girls really want to look like they had big, low-slung bottoms? Well…”fashion.”

With dresses like those, you’d hardly need this corset….

Nubone corset ad, March 1914, Delineator.

The tunic styles were for recommended for women (including larger sizes) and for teens:

Butterick 6684 was for teens aged 14 to 19. February, 1914.

Butterick 6651 for teens 14 to 19 and small women. This one has fur trim.

That headdress deserves a closer look:

Lace, fur, chiffon, flowers, and a rather exotic jeweled headdress. January 1914.

For large women, this modified tunic with more vertical lines was recommended.

Left, Butterick 6809 “For Matronly Figures; New styles that are becoming to them.” Delineator, June 1914.

Buttrick 6809 was not a true tunic; this back view is much more slenderizing. “Matronly figures” went up to size 46 bust. Note the ( ) shaped silhouette.

The tunics and draped skirts that increased hip width were apparently popular, but women did have other choices:

Left, a tunic-style outfit made from waist 6627 and skirt 6613; right, distinctly un-fussy shirtwaist 6619 with slim, tailored skirt 6620. Both of these skirts were described as “peg-top.” January 1914.

(I’m still not clear on what “peg-top” actually meant — but now I know where to look….)

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with this long post!

The tunic look from Delineator, May 1914.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, World War I

Steps on the Way: 1914 to 1924

How did fashion get from here …

Fashion image from Delineator, March 1910.

… to here …

Fashion illustrations from Delineator, August 1920.

… in just ten years?

This is not a definitive answer — just a large collection of intriguing and sometimes contradictory tidbits I collected last month.

“Facts and Figures;” about the new corsets, from Delineator, April 1914. The author is Eleanor Chalmers. Page 38.

I was reading this article on corsets (1914) when I saw a sentence that leapt out:

That’s what it says: “Among smart women the size of the waistline has increased three inches in the past two or three years.”

I’ve been going through magazines from 1910, 1914, and 1920, and there is no doubt that a big change in the ideal figure happened between 1910 and 1914. This 1914 corset article will make more sense if we first look at some images from 1910.

Cover illustration, Delineator magazine, March 1910.

Full  breasts, narrow waist, wide hips: a classic hourglass figure. This is a voluptuous, grown woman in the prime of life.

Two curvaceous women wearing Butterick patterns from May 1910.

The 1910 beauty ideal is a mature woman, not a teen-aged girl. Of course, not all women looked this way without help.

Two 1910 corsets in a “Nuform”/ “Reduso” corset ad. Delineator, March 1910.

Even slender women were expected to be curvy:

The Sahlin Perfect Form and Corset Combined was lightly structured, but promised the small-waisted, big-busted look of 1910.

“For the Slender Woman… The only garment that, without padding or interlining, produces the stylish high bust, straight waist, and long hip…. Braces the shoulders, expands the chest naturally.”

If pulling your shoulders back didn’t do the trick, you could resort to a different sort of help:

Nature’s Rival promised a Perfect Bust: “the full rounded bust form of a finely built woman” — very large in relation to the tiny waist. Ad from Delineator, June 1910.

A slender but curvy woman (with an ideal figure for 1910) models a lingerie frock. Fashion illustration, Delineator, April 1910.

Shapely — but not necessarily girlish — women, March 1910; Delineator. Even the older woman has a tiny waist.

The woman at left is curvy; the woman in the suit at right has the hips of a corset ad.

Ad for American Lady corsets, April 1910.

The corset Chalmers recommended in 1914 created a very different shape: it doesn’t support the bust at all; it has — preferably — a stretchy rubberized waist, and its stated goal is to make the hips look narrower while making the waist look larger. (“Unless your waist is large, your hips will not be small….”)

Front and back views of a recommended corset, April 1914.

“The waistline no longer exists… You obviously can’t have the new straight lines with a curve at the waist and hips.” I was surprised to read this in an article from 1914. It seems to prefigure (no pun intended) the fashion ideal of the nineteen twenties.

“The silhouette that the corset makers and manufacturers are working on for 1914, and which is the basis for all the present styles, is the straight figure, with small hips, large waist, and no bust. ” [This is 1914, but it could be 1920-something!]

First paragraph of Eleanor Chalmer’s corset advice.”The face alone, no matter how pretty, counts for nothing unless the body is as straight and yielding as a very young girl.” Delineator, April 1914.

“If a woman clings affectionately to the high bust, the small drawn-in waist and the big hips of a few years ago, she is going to look not only old-fashioned, but old. The corset of former years gave a woman a mature, well-developed, matronly figure. The corset of to-day makes her look like a very young girl.”

American Lady Corset ad from April 1914. It seems to meet the large waist requirement, but young?

Compare two corsets from the same manufacturer, 1910 and 1914. Ads from Delineator.

“If necessary, you can wear a brassiere with it.”

Since the ideal was now a small, low bust, this brassiere for a full-breasted woman confined her breasts rather than supporting them.

Ad for a De Bevoise brassiere, June 1914.

Of course, what fashion writers tell readers they are looking at, and what we actually see, are not always the same thing.

Thomson’s corset ad, February 1914. Her hips are bizarrely long and thin.

Ms. Chalmers and the corset makers are selling the idea of a slender, girlish hip. But for other fashion writers in the same year, this was the headline :

“New Skirt Models That Widen the Figure at the Hip.” Delineator, March 1914.

These skirt patterns were shown in the same issue as the corset advice article which emphasized the importance of slender hips. Delineator, April 1914, p 26.

It hardly seems worth the trouble of wearing a corset under those skirts. “Saddlebag thighs?” Very chic!

However, the waist was definitely getting thicker — and higher. Hard to believe, but the following six outfits are all for girls 14 to 19 years old.

Patterns for teens 14 to 19. Delineator, April 1914, p. 37. [These skirts are wide at the hip and very narrow at the ankle.]

The 1914 ideal of a slender, girlish figure does not look as we might expect.

More patterns for teens 14 to 19 years old. April 1914. Tiny waists are out of style. Wide hips seem to be in… regardless of that corset article in the same magazine.

Even though I’ve written about the Tubular Twenties, I was looking for the arrival of the dropped waist; I missed the arrival of the thick waist. Maybe I should have been asking, “When did the waist disappear?” It looks like the answer is earlier than I realized. In 1914, the new style was usually high-waisted, but look at the girl at far left, above. Her waist is almost Twenties….

Skirts began to rise during World War I, but the wide hips and thick waists of the pre-war era continued into 1920:

Butterick fashions for May, 1920. Delineator, p. 151. The wide, loose sash actually adds bulk to the waist.

Maybe the thickening waist is how we got from this …

Butterick patterns 3828 and 3789, May 1910

… to this …

Butterick patterns for March 1914 show a thick-waisted, wide-hipped silhouette.

… to this:

Butterick patterns for January 1924. The line is long and narrow; there is no hint that women have waists.

In 1925, another Delineator writer suggested that women had let their figures go during these years of bulky fashions. “A Few Years Ago Women Took Off Corsets . . . and Let Their Figures Go.” — Evelyn Dodge, Delineator, July 1925.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Bras, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, World War I

Underneath Those Twenties’ Fashions

Fashions for May, 1924. Undergarments flattened the bust and hips and eliminated the waist. Delineator, May 1924, p. 27.

[This is another post in a series offering links to posts some followers may have missed, while I take time to visit the library and collect more photos.]

Some of the most exciting discoveries I made when I started reading old magazines from the 1920’s had to do with underwear. In addition to fashion advice about what to wear to achieve that “boyish” figure, I found dozens of advertisements — a veritable window into the past. In one article I read,

“To be smart this season one must be more than slim. The figure must defy nature and be as flat as the proverbial flounder, as straight as a lead pencil, and boneless and spineless as a string-bean. One must be straight like a boy and narrow like a lady in a Japanese print.” – Delineator magazine, February 1924.

I happened to read a 1925 article by Evelyn Dodge about the new, boneless corselets: “Not all women need corsets. Women with young, slender figures find that the corselet, which is a combination brassière and hip-confiner, is sufficient. It is unboned and is therefore as soft and flexible as the natural figure.”  I was delighted to find this one illustrated in an ad:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/1925-may-treo-corset-corselet-p-82-ad-girdle.jpg?w=367&h=500

Treo “Brassiere Girdle — a combination garment” ad from Delineator, May 1925. The Treo brand was sold through Sears catalogs, as well as in stores.

You can read more about it in “Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets.”  Click here.

These corselets reshape a woman to look like a tube (or maybe a sausage?) https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/1925-corselette-pattern-1925-bien-jolie-corsette.jpg?w=500

Another thing that struck me while reading so many 1920’s ads was that the boyish silhouette meant that women aspired to be flat in back and flat in front. This was actually a feature of the “tubular Twenties,” not the late nineteen twenties.

Women shaped like test tubes, probably thanks to their corselets. A blouse (left) and a tunic blouse, right, from the “tubular twenties.” Delineator, 1924. I used to wonder how a thin young woman (right) could possibly have a bust that low! [It was mashed by her undergarment.]

If you didn’t want to wear a corselet, you could opt for a separate girdle, worn with or without a bandeau to flatten your breasts. Corsets and girdles of the 1920s were designed to flatten your posterior: “Underpinning  Twenties Fashions: Girdles and Corsets.” Click here to read.

If you are curious about “bust flatteners” or “bound breasts” in the nineteen twenties,  click here for “Underpinning the Twenties: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners.”  It has lots of illustrations.

If  you are curious about what 20th century women wore before the modern brassiere, these two posts give  a quick review of brassieres, and their transition from the 1910’s to the 1920’s.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/sears-1917-spring-catalog-brassieres-with-boning500.jpg?w=500&h=407

The fact that women have two, separate breasts was hidden by these “monobosom” brassieres. WW I Era. Older women probably continued to wear these in the 1920s.

To read Part 1, “Uplift Changes Brassieres: 1917 to 1929, Part 1” click here.

For Part 2, “Uplift Changes Brassieres: Late 1920s Brassieres,” click here.

The monobosom of the early 1900s slowly gave way to the more natural look — with support — of the 1930s:

From a Maiden Form brassiere ad, Womans’ Home Companion, 1936. “For that all-important line of separation.”

The Book, “Uplift: The Bra in America,” by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau covers other decades in addition to the Twenties.  Learn more about this fascinating book here.

Of course, not all women were “bound” to be boyish. Click here to read “Not All Flappers Wanted to Be Flat in the 1920s.”

Between the dress and the flattening girdle, corset, bandeau, or corselet, — or between one’s skin and the dress — were sometimes very delectable silk or rayon undergarments.

Trousseau lingerie from Paris, the house of Doeuillet- Doucet. Illustrated for Delineator, June 1929.

There were also some very awkward looking combination garments. See: Envelope Chemises, Step-ins and Other Lingerie. That post elicited wonderful comments about vocabulary and links for further research.

My mother models her one piece camiknickers and her rolled stockings. About 1918.

Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 with “envelope chemise” 5059. Delineator, April 1924.

Women also wore some not very sexy drawers or knickers….

Right, knickers for 1924. You can often get a glimpse of these in silent movies — especially in comedies, when a woman does a pratfall or climbs into a vehicle. These knickers have elastic at the waist and above the knees — for undergarments, the words “knickers,””bloomers,” and “drawers” were sometimes used interchangeably.

See “Theda Bara’s Bloomers” for a distinctly un-sexy pair — on Cleopatra!

 

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Charm After Fifty, July 1937

Charm after Fifty is illustrated in these three dresses made from one pattern: Companion-Butterick 7458. Woman’s Home Companion, July 1937.

This Companion-Butterick triad dress pattern from the summer of 1937 is illustrated on three mature women, none of whom has a conspicuously middle-aged figure.

This illustration by Ernst shows pattern 7458 as it might look on three tall, slim-hipped women. None of them seems to have a single gray hair, never mind a sagging chin or a “menopot.”

However, the size range went all the way to bust size 52.

The three dresses have similar skirts, but bodice and sleeve variations range from casual to dressy. [I imagine that the floral print version was made more often in navy or brown rayon than in yellow chiffon, but it’s nice that women over fifty were encouraged to wear bright colors.

From simple to fancy: Pattern 7458 in striped cotton with short sleeves, in a turquoise print with broad shoulders and 3/4 sleeves, and in a soft yellow chiffon floral print with a V-neck and flounces cascading down the front. WHC, July 1937.

White, perforated summer shoes were not just for “old ladies,” and the heels at right are certainly high.

Perforated shoes for summer. 1937.

Ad for Walk-Over Shoes, with prices, from WHC, June 1937.

“Puncho” shoes. Walk-Over, June 1937. These are white kid suede, but the same shoe was available in blue, black or gray.

“Cabana” shoes from Walk-Over also came in white calf, tan, blue, black or red earth calf, or gray sueded kid. 1937.

Sporty “Lariat” shoes from Walkover. Also in brown or gray. The heel is stacked leather. 1937.

The “Mohawk” oxford shoe from Walk-Over could be purchased in all white calf, or white suede with tan calf, as pictured. 1937.

Shoes weren’t the only things that were perforated in the 193o’s:

Ad for a Perfolastic reducing girdle, WHC, February 1936. That’s “lastic” as in latex: a rubber garment designed to help you sweat off the pounds and inches. Did women have polka-dotted skin when they took it off?

Perfolastic reducing girdle and brassiere ad; WHC, Nov. 1937.

Text, Perfolastic reducing girdle and brassiere, WHC, Nov. 1937. “You appear inches smaller at once.”

Perhaps that’s how these women over fifty maintained their impossibly tall, willowy shapes.

Women over fifty: WHC, July 1937. Elongated fashion figures with suspiciously rosy cheeks.

Top of ad for Louis Philippe’s Angelus Rouge Incarnat lip and cheek rouge, Delineator, June 1934.

Text of ad for Louis Philippe’s Angelus Rouge Incarnat lip and cheek rouge, Delineator, June 1934. “In its allure, it is typically, wickedly of Paris. In its virginal modesty, as natural as a jeune fille….” “You use either on both the lips and the cheeks.”

These women over fifty may have also used another product: Brownatone. It had been in use since the 1920’s — possibly earlier.

Ad for Brownatone gray hair coloring, WHC, February 1937. There seem to be only two color choices.

For another “After Fifty” triad pattern, click here.

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Filed under 1930s, Bras, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Makeup & Lipstick, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Lux for Laundry Ads 1930s

A little social history: A relatively new idea appears in this ad, which I showed last week.

The young woman who says she hates men just needed some advice on how to attract them. Lux laundry soap ad, August 1934.

Here, a friend advises her to wash her underwear after each wearing.

Lux laundry soap advised women to wash their underwear after each wearing. This implies a generally higher standard of living — and assumes more than one set of underclothes, since drying time was unpredictable.

In Victorian England, poor women had to put their children to bed for a day in order to wash their clothes. The family huddled under a blanket while the only clothing they possessed was washed and dried. My uncle Bert, born around 1899, behaved like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian bachelor farmers;” believing that a bath “opened the pores” to harmful germs, he would have remained unwashed, wearing the same set of long underwear from fall until spring, if my parents had not required regular bathing and fresh clothes as a condition of his living with us in the 1960’s.

Our twentieth century American sensitivity to personal odors was developed by ad campaigns like this one.

Ad for Lux laundry soap. March 1933. In this case, “It” is not sex appeal but the smell of unwashed underwear.

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1933. “Perhaps she thinks she doesn’t perspire. But we all do, even though we don’t feel sticky. Frequently over a quart a day, doctors say…. Second day underthings are never safe.”

Ad for Lux laundry soap, March 1932. “Underthings absorb perspiration. Avoid offending….”

Text from Lux ad, March 1932. “I don’t see how she can be so careless about her underthings … wear them so long without a change.”

“She bathes every day, but she wears her girdle a whole week” without washing it. Lux ad, Nov. 1936, Woman’s Home Companion.

Lux ad, WHC, Nov. 1936. She is wearing the relatively new two-way stretch girdle, made possible by Lastex. “Cake-soap rubbing” is a reference to traditional laundry products like Naptha soap, which came in bar form.

Making women feel insecure about their breath worked wonders for Listerine….

Halitosis ruined her entire evening; she has tears in her eyes. Ad for Listerine, Feb. 1924.

That ad campaign was still going strong ten years later:

Listerine “halitosis” ad, February 1934. “Mostly boys in this picture, but the moral is for girls…. Get rid of halitosis with Listerine.” (The man at right is offering money to any fellow willing to cut in and release him from this dancing partner.)

Why shouldn’t a similar ad campaign work for laundry soap?

Ad for Lux laundry soap, McCall’s magazine, July 1938. The story in comic book format: It’s really unpleasant to be near her, so her friends want the window open; her husband isn’t glad to see her….

“I’m so unhappy. Harry doesn’t love me as he used to….” He wonders, “Why isn’t she the dainty girl she used to be?”Lux ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Having taught women to wash their undies, including girdles, it’s time for them to wash their dresses more often, too. “If she’d LUX her dress the way she does her undies, she wouldn’t offend.”

Progress.

(Incidentally, someone could make a study of the use of the word “dainty” in such ads.)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Girdles, lingerie, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator magazine

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

Doll-Sized Girdles, 1954

Doll-Sized Girdles, Sears catalog for Spring 1954, page.

Doll-Sized Girdles, Sears catalog for Spring 1954, page 314.

This idea seemed so strange to me that I have to share it: “Doll-Sized Girdles” from the Sears catalog for Spring 1954.

At first, I wondered why dolls would need girdles — was it just some grown-up’s nutty idea of a “doll wardrobe?” I was never very interested in realistic dolls, or Barbie, but I was a child in 1954.

Witness2fashion around 1952. I was not thinking about doll sized girdles.

Witness2fashion around 1953. I was definitely not thinking about doll-sized girdles.  I was too old to play with these dolls, and I hated posing for pictures. I still do.

By 1959 I was old enough to wear a girdle and stockings, but it never for a moment occurred to me to associate girdles with dolls.

And, in fact, these are not girdles for dolls.

They are made to fit women with waist sizes from 23 to 30 inches. The “hi-waist”one at top “stretches to 17 in. long on figure.”

Here are some other women’s girdles from the same page:

"Puckerette" girdles for women, Sears catalog for Spring, 1954, page

“Puckerette” girdles for women, Sears catalog for Spring, 1954, page 314. “Big size range… all the way up to 32-inch waist.”

Sally Edelstein, at Envisioning the American Dream, has shown many vintage fifties and sixties girdle ads — they sure bring back memories for me! This one seems to show a woman holding a very small girdle which would stretch to the size of a normal body.

But it’s not quite “doll” size.

True Story: I remember shopping for a long-legged panty girdle around 1963. I tried one that seemed to fit with relative comfort, but the saleslady insisted that I try one in a smaller size. I struggled into it; I couldn’t even pull it up all the way. The saleswoman said, “I’ll hold the waist, and you jump!”

No sale.

Part 2 of Sally’s “A Girl and Her Girdle” can be found here.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Girdles, Musings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs