Category Archives: Uniforms and Work Clothes

Also Very Thirties: Great Big Collars

Butterick dress 5391 from March 1934 has a great big collar with matching cuffs. Delineator magazine.

A while ago I posted a collection of fashions that featured over-sized bows, which were “Very Thirties.” Today’s featured nineteen thirties’ look is Great Big Collars.

Great big collars didn’t necessarily have that “Puritan” look, but many of them did.

Butterick 5688 from Delineator, May 1934.

Butterick 5870 claimed to be based on a design by Lanvin. (I wouldn’t care to sit for long on all those big, big buttons….) Left, illustration from Delineator, September 1934, Right, photo of the pattern constructed, from Delineator, August 1934.

Digression EDIT 3/18/18: In response to a question from Christina, I looked for more information on these two images, and found that, in August, the dress design was supposedly from Lanvin, and in September, it was attributed to augustabernard:

From Butterick’s Delineator magazine, August 1934, p. 62. “Jeanne Lanvin’s button-down-the-back dress….”

Pattern description of Butterick 5870 from Delineator, September 1934. This time, the design is supposedly inspired by augustabernard. I guess that answers the question I posed back in 2014: When Is a Designer Pattern Not a Designer Pattern?

End of Digression.

Photography was just beginning to be used in the less expensive fashion magazines. I love seeing the “fashion ideal” alongside the fashion reality. What an awkward pose that model has had to take!

The illustration on the left seems to show a double collar, which was definitely a fashion “thing.”

Versions of Butterick collar pattern 5952, Delineator, November 1934.

Collars and scarves could change the look of a dress for the office; Delineator, November 1934.

Butterick dress pattern 5854 has a double collar and “don’t order soup while wearing these” cuffs. September 1934. Photo by Arthur O’Neill.

Butterick dress pattern 4564 has a soft, sheer double collar. June 1932.

Butterick dress 5785 from Delineator, July 1934. This sheer double collar is probably a stiff organdy — which would be crushed by a winter coat.

Butterick dress 5854 has a double collar and double cuffs. Delineator, August 1934.

These collars would make any woman look like the perfect secretary or executive assistant.

Some collars could also be changed from one dress to another, which helped to make a small number of dresses look like a more extensive wardrobe. This was practical fashion for the Great Depression. [For other examples of changeable collars, see One Good Dress in the 1930s,  or   More Button-On Collars.]

Here are some Great Big Collars I have shown before, but these are clearer images:

A great big double or triple-layered collar, Butterick 4797, was featured in an article about “new life for old clothes.” Very timely, in December of 1932.

Another version of Butterick collar pattern 4797 from Dec. 1932.

A new collar was cheaper than a new dress, and several collars could make one dress seem like a larger wardrobe — this was during the massive unemployment of the Great Depression, after all.

This V shaped collar has a high neckline to cover whatever “antiquated” neckline was already on your dress or sweater. Delineator, December 1932.

This similar V-shaped collar was part of the dress:

This vintage dress with a great big collar reminds us that black and white images don’t always give a true idea of what was being worn.

Butterick dresses from November 1934. Delineator. One has a great big collar; one has a great big bow (two, actually.)

Not all great big collars were so attention-getting. These dresses were recommended for the college girl:

September 1931: a dress for college. Butterick 4058 has barely a trace of 1920’s fashion. Delineator.

Butterick 5812, another double-breasted dress for college, from August 1934.

Sometimes crisp and business-like, a big collar could also be soft:

This big collar is an important part of the dress’ asymmetrical design. Butterick 4564 from June 1932.

Butterick 4558 from June 1932 also has a surplice closing. Delineator.

This big collar appeared on an evening dress for women over forty:

Butterick 5924 — “smartness at forty’ =– uses its large, cape-like collar to camouflage upper arms. Delineator, November 1934.

Big collars were not just for grown-ups:

Butterick girls’ dress pattern 4416 from April 1932. Delineator.

And, remember, big collars did not have to be white:

A woman in a big, checked collar visits her butcher. [Prime rib was probably not on everyone’s menu in 1934.] Delineator.

Speaking of dresses for secretaries: I can never resist a plug for the pre-Code movie Baby Face.

Movie Recommendation: Baby Face, 1933
If you watch the movie Baby Face, from 1933, you’ll see Barbara Stanwyck in many variations of the simple dress with accessories, as she literally sleeps her way to the top. This is a Pre-Code picture, a lot more frank about sex than movies were 20 years later! (In some versions, it begins with this teenaged girl’s father clearly prostituting her to the patrons of his dive bar.) Armed with determination, cynicism, and a series of ‘secretary’ dresses, she works her way to the penthouse suite – and a much more glamorous wardrobe.





Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Dresses, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

More Blouses from the Early 1930’s

Two versions of the same blouse, Butterick 4420, from April 1932, Delineator.

These blouses from 1932 and 1933 continue to popularize the use of separates, possibly for office wear, possibly because a blouse is easier to launder in a wash-basin than a dress,  and probably because a blouse takes less fabric. The ability to get several looks from the same two or three blouses and one or two skirts might be another attraction in the scarce-money days of the 1930’s.

A few of the blouses shown below, all from 1932 or 1933, plus two or three skirts or suits, would combine to make a really extensive wardrobe. The skirts of 1932 -1933 were long.

Here, two Butterick blouse patterns are shown with skirt 4908. February 1933, Delineator.

First, Butterick blouses and tops from 1932:

Butterick blouse 4420 was shown in long or short-sleeved versions. Delineator, April 1932.

Butterick blouse 4420 in a more casual version, with short sleeves, a peek-a-boo front, and in dotted fabric. Notice the triple darts that shape the waist and control the fullness. Clever! [Did it have a side opening?] April 1932.

A more “strictly-business” attitude for Butterick 4444 and 4368. April 1932, Delineator. The striped blouse has a “shirtwaist front.” 4368 has a peplum.

Although this next set of tops are called jackets, they are so brief they might be worn with skirts or beach pajamas.

Butterick “bell-hop” jacket 4436, which comes only to the waist. April, 1932.

A young man wearing a bell-boy or bell-hop’s uniform. Story illustration, Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

This version of the “bell-hop jacket”  has “a strict, tailored air.” Butterick 4436, April 1932.

Jacket 4436  was available in a bolero version which “makes a blouse and skirt look like a frock and gives a frock a dress-up air.” 1932.

In case you noticed, three fabric hats made from Butterick pattern 4472 accompany the jacket illustrations.

1933 was also a good year for blouses, beginning in January. All are Butterick patterns featured in Delineator magazine.

Butterick blouse 4882 looks complicated — I’d like to see the pattern pieces! It was also shown in two versions. January 1933. [Sorry about the fuzzy lines — it was a small illustration, not a hairy blouse.]

Butterick 4882 with long, fancy sleeves. January 1933.

[In the interests of space and legibility, I moved the blouse illustration from right to left.] Match your skirt and blouse colors.

Two Butterick blouses for February, 1933. Left, pattern 4922 (“Aboveboard”); right, pattern 4914 (“Half and Half.”) Full sleeves with fitted lower portions  — reminiscent of the 1890’s –were chic.

The February report on Paris Fashions says dressy blouse 4922 in “saffron yellow rough crepe” would look good  “over any table, bridge or luncheon.” Blouse 4922 in “light gray lawn … with a schoolboy collar and tie” is paired with a dark gray wool wrap-around skirt, 4914.

The cover of Butterick Fashion Quarterly showed another short jacket, Butterick 4888, and a wonderful pair of button front beach pajamas, Butterick 3884.

Detail from cover of Butterick Fashion Quarterly, from an ad in Delineator, February 1933.

Here is a clearer image of both, from Delineator, July 1933.

Resort wear: Butterick jacket 4888 in a longer version, and beach pajamas 4884 (right) and 4404 (left.) July 1933.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself; more blouses were shown in the April issue of Delineator:

Butterick blouses 5060 and 5030. April 1933, page 86. 5030 has “cowl sleeves,” an expression I’ve never heard before. 5060 has a sort of built-in weskit or vest.

[Full at the top, fitted at the bottom: 1890’s sleeves.]

Metropolitan Museum Collection. Gigot or “leg of lamb” sleeves. 1890’s.

Digression: I’ve written before about the popularity of collars which could make one dress look like a wardrobe. On the same page was Butterick collar pattern 5072. Imagine these Depression Era collars transforming  a simple dress or a sweater.

Butterick collar pattern 5072 — an inexpensive way to “boost morale.” Delineator,  April, 1933, p. 36

Some Thirties’ dress patterns even came with interchangeable collars.

Back to Blouses: In May, Delineator was writing about borrowing masculine styles for feminine clothing:

Left, Butterick blouse 5090; lower right, Blouse 5116. May 1933. Notice the little darts on 5090, insuring a neat waistline. 5116 is the first of many garments with the look of a man’s vest or weskit. “Note the square buttons.”

Sleeves, 1893. They are very full at the shoulder but tight on the lower arm. Met Museum fashion plate collection.

Blouse (jacket?) 5084 was shown in two versions. This one seems like a wild topper — in taffeta — for an evening skirt, a dark velvet one, perhaps. Below, it’s barely recognizable as the same pattern:

Butterick 5084 is both feminine, in the sleeves, and masculine, in its weskit, which is essentially a man’s formal white evening vest. It is worn over a blouse or dress. May 1933.

For men, there was a brief fad for short mess jackets — copied from the military — in 1934.

I’ll leave blouses from 1934 for another day.


Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Women in Trousers

Blouses from 1931

Butterick blouses 4225 and 4198, December 1931. Delineator magazine.

The blouses of the early 1930’s are varied and, to my eyes, attractive.  They take their interest from unusual cuts and soft fabrics, like silk or rayon crepe, or, in one case, “triple georgette.”

It’s notable that, although these blouses can be worn tucked into the skirt, wearing them as shown gives a dressy effect. Only three years earlier, 1920’s styles broke the silhouette at the hip, so these may be transitional to the natural-waisted styles of the 1930’s, offering a familiar low line and a fitted waist.

This soft blouse with a shawl-like bertha collar was featured in April, 1931. It is Butterick 3758. It looks lovely in white, but watermelon pink was suggested.

Butterick blouse 3778 from Delineator, April 1931. Those openings on the upper arm seem to be popular again, but these end interestingly, with a tie.

Butterick blouse 4158 would easily go from office to date. November 1931, Delineator. Reversible (aka double-sided) crepe satin was suggested.

Butterick blouse 4164, November 1931. The slightly flared bottom is now a “peplum” and echoes the flared wrists.

Three elegant blouses were illustrated in December — perhaps in time for office parties….

Left, another rather formal blouse that would turn a simple skirt into a dressy dinner outfit: Butterick 4217 from December 1931. Sleeves became more complex and sometimes have a “cuff” at or above the elbow while the sleeve continues to the wrist. The dark outfit is a dress.

Butterick blouses 4225 and 4198, December 1931.  These overblouses could be tucked in, or worn as illustrated.

“…Note its length, for blouses are creeping up on us.”

Alternate views of Butterick 4217, 4225, and 4198, from December 1931. 4198 is shorter than the others.

Next: More Blouses from the early 1930’s — 1932 and 1933.



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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Uniforms and Work Clothes

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.




Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

“Service Suits” for Girls, Boys, and Women in 1917

Military uniform for boys aged 6 to 16. Butterick pattern 8070, August 1917.

“In these times, boys of all ages like to be ready for service.” He is “ready to do ‘his bit.’ “

Butterick pattern 8070 for a boy’s “military suit” from 1917 was part of a trend: “service suits” and military dress for civilians.

Butterick 9334 for girls, September 1917. Delineator. This girl has long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Right, Ladies’ Home Journal “military dress” pattern 1067 for girls 6 to 14, October 1917.

Butterick “military suit” pattern 9365, September 1917. For girls 10 to 15 years old.

Butterick coat pattern 9315 from August, 1917. Delineator. Sized for young girls  and adult women, it was “sometimes called the trench or military coat….” For “active  service.”

“Service suits” and a military dress for women from Butterick patterns, August 1917. Delineator. For more information about these patterns, click here. The blue and tan dress, like the tan suit, has “service pockets.”

Butterick offered so many variations on “Service uniforms” for adult women, I worry that some women spent more time making an outfit to wear while volunteering than they actually spent doing war work.

Three out of four patterns on this page are “uniforms” for civilian women aged 14 to 19. August 1917, Delineator, page 50. “When Johnny comes marching home he will find his sister all turned out in a new military suit.”

The phrases used to describe these outfits use plenty of military jargon.

It’s not surprising that young women heading off to college expected that they would spend time aiding the war effort in some way.

A traveling suit that is also a service suit, for college-bound women. Butterick coat 9324 with skirt 9374. Delineator, Sept. 1917. Pleated “service pockets” came in large, practical sizes and in sizes that were purely “fashion.”

“So many women are doing relief work of all kinds, and they drop into restaurants for tea and luncheons in this type of suit.”

Right, a Butterick military-influenced suit uses coat pattern 9324 with skirt 9309. August 1917.

Left, Ladies’ Home Journal patterns 1059 (jacket) and 1099 (skirt), November 1917. The majority of patterns were less military looking.

The military look was a new fashion option, among more traditionally feminine styles for women. Left, Ladies Home Journal pattern 1061; right, LHJ pattern 1050. October 1917.

Even Chanel showed a service suit:

A service suit designed by Gabrielle Chanel, illustrated in Butterick’s Delineator in October 1917.

That is not to say that women were just playing dress-up. The “women’s magazines” were an important channel of communication for official government notices, from food conservation to Red Cross needs and instructions for volunteers.

Knitting for sailors; a form from Delineator, August 1917. Those who could knit — or learn to knit — were asked to do so; those who couldn’t were asked to donate money to buy wool yarn.

Knit Your Bit for the Navy. Delineator, August 1917.

From a Red Cross article about knitting for servicemen. It appeared in Delineator, November 1917. The Ladies’ Home Journal printed similar articles by the Red Cross so that readers could volunteer to make everything from “comfort kits” to hospital gowns, bandages, and hot water bottle covers.

EDIT 9/10/17: Synchronicity/serendipity brought me this link via Two Nerdy History Girls to a fine article at “Behind Their Lines” about women knitting for the war effort.

The Butterick Publishing Company received such an outpouring of knitting for the troops that it briefly became a problem, before standardization of size and color was imposed.

Sweater pattern 9355 from Butterick, August 1917. It was sized for boys or men. A short time later, the Red Cross issued standardized patterns for the military.

Nevertheless, the patterns for “service uniforms” for children seem to me to be a little silly. (I certainly didn’t wear my Girl Scout uniform every minute I spent earning badges….) On the other hand, now that even young children carry a cell phone to school, some big “service pockets” on school clothes would come in handy!


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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

Peasant Blouses, 1940’s to 1950’s

McCall pattern 1254 for a Mexican-influenced embroidered peasant blouse. Circa 1945, illustrated in May 1950 needlework catalog.

When full, puffy sleeves returned to fashion in the late 1930’s, the “peasant blouse” reappeared. This Hollywood pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive for a peasant blouse is from 1938.

A “Tyrolean ski suit” available in stores in January, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 55.

A “yodeler” type hat. December 1937, WHC. Note “the gay embroidery on the mittens.”

A “Yodel Apron” featured in July, 1937. WHC. “Go very Swiss-peasant….”

“Tyrolean” hats, ski clothes, and embroidery were briefly popular in the late thirties, until WW II tainted anything German or Austrian for U.S. consumers.

“The Peasant Note is Popular:” A “Swedish” embroidered headscarf, a “Carnaval” apron (over a peasant style blouse), and a “Tyrolean” knitting bag. Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937.

Wool embroidery decorated this Companion-Butterick Triad pattern for schoolgirls.

Left, yarn embroidery adds “Peasant” chic to Butterick pattern 7589 for girls 8 to 15. WHC, October 1937.

The difficulties of travel during the Second World War led many Americans to seek sunshine and a complete change of scene in Mexico, resulting in a fashion influence which lasted for several years after the war. I have already written about Mexican embroidered jackets

McCall "Mexican" coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

…and “Russian” blouses.  A Mexican blouse pattern, McCall 990, at CoPA, dates to 1942.

McCall peasant blouse pattern 1385, from a 1950 Needlework catalog, has “heavily Mexican” embroidery.

Some peasant blouses incorporated smocking and embroidery:

McCall “fiesta-mood” peasant blouse pattern 1317, from about 1947. The illustration is from a 1950 catalog.

The smocking resembles the pattern on this blouse:

McCall pattern 1221 for a smocked blouse. This image is from the Dec. 1946 catalog, but the pattern dates to 1945.

This smocking pattern, 1315, was featured in the same issue as the “fiesta-mood” blouse, pattern 1317 :

McCall smocking pattern 1315. Circa 1947.

Detail of McCall 1315.

Detail, McCall 1315.

For those who were willing to embroider a blouse, but not to smock it, McCall 1386 offered the option of shirring the blouse and applying very fine rickrack to imitate smocking.

McCall 1386, a peasant blouse that could be smocked… or not.

Detail of rickrack on McCall Mexican blouse pattern 1386. Circa 1947.

We tend to think of 1947 dominated by Dior’s New Look, but comfortable, unstuctured casual clothing was still popular in the pattern books.

Smocking continued to be associated with high-end clothing for girls. So did the peasant look:

McCall 1255, circa 1945, is a smocked and cross-stitched peasant dress for a little girl. “The cross-stitch is optional but very “peasanty.’ “

I went looking for a forties’ photo of my mother in a peasant blouse and found a “twofer:”  She’s wearing a peasant blouse and skirt, and I am wearing a smocked dress!

American woman in a simple peasant blouse and skirt, with toddler in a smocked dress. Circa 1947.

Although this 1950’s pattern for children is not “peasanty,” it can be smocked.


Artists’ smocks for girls and boys. McCall 1402, illustrated in May 1950. [I could live in that blue outfit, in a grown-up size!]

In fact, McCall 1402 actually is a smock — a painter’s smock — which reminds us that embroidered smocks were originally worn for work by shepherds and country folks — peasants.

A group of country gossips. Punch cartoon from The Way to Wear’em.




Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Cloth Bonnets for Sun or Indoors

A vintage sunbonnet, which shows signs of wear.

I know next to nothing about millinery. However, a recent conversation with Linda Rahner about sunbonnets reminded me that I photographed several from a collection that has since been sold. The same collection had Victorian cloth bonnets which may have been made to be worn alone indoors, or under a hat, and it seems logical that their construction would inspire the cloth bonnets used for sun protection. So here are a few sunbonnets and — perhaps — some of their antecedents.
[Tip: If you ever try to search for sunbonnets online, be sure to limit your search by adding “-sue -baby.” Otherwise, Sunbonnet Sue quilts will dominate your results…. ]

This American photo from the late twenties or early 1930’s shows a woman, on the left, wearing a sunbonnet; on the right, her daughter wears trousers.

It's the 1930s. The woman on far right is wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

Trying to date vintage sunbonnets must be a nightmare, because sunbonnets are still being made and sold. The needs of re-enactors, docents at historic sites, and participants in local history days have resulted in many commercial patterns for sunbonnets.

I’m pretty sure this one is “the real thing,”  because it is almost worn out.

A threadbare sunbonnet in grayish brown cloth. Its brim is stiffened with padding and diagonal machine quilting and sticks out quite a way to shade the face.

A close up of the worn sunbonnet. Some white selvedge shows in the ruffle.

Back of the worn brownish sunbonnet. The neck cover is not very long. I have no idea about its date except that it’s machine stitched.

This checked gingham sunbonnet is in very good condition — which makes me wonder if it was really worn for working outdoors.

This sunbonnet is made from striking fabric, so perhaps a reader can identify when it was probably made. It does appear to have been worn more than once. It is stiffened with padding and parallel rows of stitches.

Even this blurred photo shows that it would give the back of your neck good protection.

The rickrack trim on this blue sunbonnet makes me think it may be from the 1930’s — but other opinions are welcome!

This crisp sunbonnet is made of blue chambray and trimmed with rickrack. Perhaps it was a gift — “too good to wear” for yardwork.

Little girls continued to wear variations on sunbonnets in the 1940s.

My friend’s collection also included some white bonnets, definitely vintage, which I am utterly unqualified to date. However, some have long back flaps (like sunbonnets;) some have been stiffened with parallel rows of cording or quilting; and the basic coif shape goes back a long, long way. If you recognize the period for any of these, feel free to share your knowledge:

The simplest white bonnet or house cap:

One piece of fabric forms the front; another is gathered into a back. The stripes are woven into the cloth. The seam between the front and back is piped.

The front has a single ruffle trimmed with lace framing the face.

A closer view of the lace and fabric. Is it machine lace?  The ruffle is actually pleated into place rather than gathered.

Here’s a close up of the fabric — badly mended in one spot:

The fabric looks like linen to me. A hole was badly mended.

There is a drawstring in the back casing (and a French seam.)

Like the front, the back is trimmed with a single ruffle.

A more complex cap or bonnet looks similar from the front:

The front of this bonnet or cap is very simple . . .

But from the side, it’s another story:

Parallel rows of cording stiffen this cap. It also has a long flap in back, pleated rather than gathered.

A closer view of the cording.

The cording appears to be hand stitched.

I just discovered that a similar bonnet was illustrated in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine in 1857.

Is a cap like that one the ancestor of those sunbonnets?

This one — perhaps a house cap? — is too elaborate for farm work:

Definitely meant to be seen, this bonnet has ruffles and cording everywhere — even running down its back.

The be-ruffled bonnet seen from the front. If it was intended to be starched, what a nightmare to iron!

This is the ruffled bonnet seen from the rear. It has a long neck flap, too.

For all I know, one or more of those is really a night-cap….

It’s not quite fair to judge this last masterpiece (and it is one!) without starch, but, since starch attracts insects, it was washed thoroughly before being put into storage. Try to imagine the hand-embroidered lace freshly ironed and standing crisply away from the face:

A front view. The ties are very long.

A closer look at the hand-embroidered cutwork lace.

The same hat viewed from above; in addition to the long ties that go under the chin, there are ties ending in a bow on top.

A close up of the quilting which stiffens the brim.

A very chic cap or bonnet in profile — I’ll go out on a limb and say “probably late 1830s.”

The voluminous crown suggests that it was made to be worn over a hairstyle like this one:

Fashion plate from La Mode, Sept. 1838. The Casey Collection.

Back view of a tulle bonnet trimmed with marabou, The Lady’s Magazine, Feb. 1837. Casey Collection.

An assortment of bonnets from World of Fashion, Nov. 1838. Casey Collection.

An earlier cloth bonnet or coif can be seen in The Bonnet Maker, Costumes d’ouvrieres parisiennes, by Galatine, 1824. (Zoom in to see the details of her embroidered bonnet, and the corded bonnets in her hand.)

I no longer own my Godey’s  or Harper’s fashion plate anthologies, so I present all these photos for the enjoyment of those who do. Happy hunting.

P.S. If you have never visited the Casey Collection of Fashion Plates, there’s a link in my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar.




Filed under 1800s-1830s, 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1930s, Early Victorian fashions, Hairstyles, Hats, Hats, Mid-Victorian fashions, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing