Category Archives: Uniforms and Work Clothes

Women’s Work Overalls, circa 1917

Quite apart from work clothes worn by women doing war work (See “College Girls Become Farmers”), Butterick offered “bloomer dress” patterns in 1917.

Bloomer Dress Overalls, 1917

The woman with the mop is wearing Butterick pattern 9294, called a "Bloomer Dress." Delineator, July 1917, p. 52.

The woman with the mop is wearing Butterick pattern 9294, described as a dress, which resembles the “Bloomer dress,” of 19th century dress reformer Amelia Bloomer. Its “overalls or bloomers are soft and pretty.” Delineator, July 1917, p. 52.

500-9294-text-1917-july-p-52-bloomer-dress-9294-housedress-9258-cap-9253-9279-megligee-9304-dressing-sack-8950-9253-9267-9301

“The design is also delightful for negligee wear” in washable silk or satin. Butterick  pajamas for 1917  were also  gathered  at the ankle.

During World War I, fashion magazines used many military terms in a punning way –“over the top” fashion, the “dress parade,” etc. Here, “home-reserve” and “active service” are not meant to be taken literally, although many American women did take active roles in formerly male occupations, from farms to factories, in 1917. (Although World War I  began in Europe in August of 1914, the United States did not enter the war until April 6, 1917.)

Like the original Bloomer outfit of the 1850’s, Butterick dress No. 9294 conceals the trousers above the knee with an ample overskirt.

The month before, in June, a more daring “Bloomer dress” was shown; without a concealing overdress, it is more like a boiler suit or coverall.

Center, Butterick Bloomer dress pattern 9235, Delineator, June 1917, page 62.

Center, Butterick Bloomer dress pattern 9235, Delineator, June 1917, page 62.

500-text-9235-bloomer-1917-june-p-62-summer-bloomer-pants-9235-btm-text

“The next step in the woman movement is into the bloomer dress.” Butterick pattern 9235 is suggested for domestic duties, with no mention of volunteer work. “If you would sprinkle the lawn or clean out the attic you might as well be practical about it as well as feminine.”

The Ladies’ Home Journal suggested equally revealing outfits for women taking on traditionally male jobs in 1917, but did not offer patterns for them.

Ladies' Home Journal, September 1917.

Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917. Not all of the Journal’s suggestions had overskirts.

Of course, some women factory workers simply adopted men’s overalls for their war work.

American woman in Ladies' Home Journal, August 1917.

American woman in Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1917. Women doing previously male jobs freed men for military duty.

Other women workers wore variations on gym clothes, usually voluminous — and shape disguising — bloomers.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/1918-oct-college-girls-vassar-milk-platoon.jpg?w=500

College girls working at a dairy, Delineator, October 1918. They are literally wearing their gym suits.

Butterick’s Delineator magazine formed its own “Women’s Preparedness Bureau”…

Delineator magazine's Women's Preparedness Movement, July 1917, p. 22.

Delineator magazine’s Women’s Preparedness Bureau, July 1917, p. 22. “There are many kinds of service, from coursing on the clouds as an aviator to managing a spirited steed or a modern rifle.”

From Delineator's Women's Preparedness Bureau, July 1917

From Delineator’s Women’s Preparedness Bureau, July 1917.

“Businessmen are realizing that they will have to employ women in positions where formerly only men were to be found….”

The Woman's Preparedness Bureau offered to match women with suitable war jobs. Delineator, July 1917, p. 22.

The Woman’s Preparedness Bureau offered to match women with suitable war work. Delineator, July 1917, p. 22.

However,  The Ladies’ Home Journal published a much more practical multi-page article in November 1917. You can read it online thanks to the Hathi Trust. Here is the link. It may be slow to load, but it is interesting reading in women’s history.

Top of the first page of a long article on War Work for women in the United States. Ladies Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

Top of the first page of a long article on War Jobs for women in the United States. Ladies Home Journal, November 1917, top of page 39.

This long article names government offices and civil service testing opportunities. If an army moves on its stomach, it also moves on a flood of clerical work.

One part sounds all too familiar…

From "War Jobs for Women," Ladies' Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

From “War Jobs for Women,” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917, page 39. “All the facts he gives are from government sources.”

Given the current political climate, I found this paragraph — about the women who took those unglamorous jobs — quite interesting. They were often first generation Americans, the daughters of immigrants.

From The Ladies' Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

From The Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

Of course they had an economic incentive, but many of these first generation American women must have come from cultures not accustomed to letting their daughters work outside the home or family farm, away from the watchful and protective eyes of fathers and brothers.

A Disturbing Sidelight on Women in Trousers, 1920

At a Silent Film Festival, watching Oscar Micheaux’s historic 1920 silent film Within Our Gates, I saw female members of a lynch mob wearing variations on these wartime work outfits.

The movie, Micheaux’s response to the glorification of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation, shows the lynching of a black family. Just after their little boy escapes, a mob including women surges toward the gallows. One of the women is wearing a suit; one wears a light, summery dress; at least two others wear voluminous gym knickers with middy blouses tucked into the waist. Whether they are farm workers or young women in gym suits isn’t clear.  The film is very grainy, but shows women appearing in a crowd of men while wearing trouser-like work clothes. Click here to see them in motion.   (It is grim.) Note that Micheaux has included women of all social classes in his lynch mob. This two-minute scene is powerful. Incidentally, his leading lady Evelyn Preer wears an extensive nineteen-teens wardrobe in the course of the film, so we can see period clothes in motion on a lovely but real woman’s body, instead of a fashion illustrator’s fantasy.

4 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers, World War I

What’s Cooking? Holiday Aprons, Mostly from the 1940’s

Holiday party aprons for little girls, McCall pattern 1281, from a needlework catalog for December 1946.

Holiday party aprons for little girls, McCall pattern 1281, from a needlework catalog for December 1946.

Back in the mid-twentieth century, before women wore casual slacks or jeans to do housework, the apron was a useful, and often elaborate, handmade gift. Aprons were not included in the rule that gifts of clothing were too intimate for anyone but family members. Pattern catalogs and women’s magazines usually featured apron patterns in November and December;  in my parents’ home, one sign that Christmas was approaching was the making of pajamas and aprons.

Holiday Aprons" from Woman's Home Companion, December 1937. Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7652.

“Holiday Aprons” from Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937. Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7652.

The elaborate backs of these aprons may be surprising to those of us who are used to modern, store-bought, unisex aprons. These were serious aprons that protected your dress.

Back views and text for Companion-Butterick apron pattern 7652. Dec, 1937.

Back views and text for Companion-Butterick apron pattern 7652. Dec., 1937. “Triad” meant three designs in one envelope.

This unisex apron set from 1950 shows the basic outline of inexpensive, utilitarian aprons like the ones in my kitchen today; in 1950 they were called “barbecue” aprons, and the idea of a man cooking and wearing an apron at home was no longer just a joke — although the gift aprons were often intended to be humorous.

His and Hers barbeque aprons. McCall pattern circa 1950.

His and Hers barbecue aprons. McCall pattern 1515, circa 1950.

This apron set, found in a McCall Needlework catalog from May, 1950, has elaborate appliques, and would probably have been intended as a gift set — made for a friend, or newlyweds, or intended to be sold at a charity bazaar.

Making aprons to sell at fundraisers is an old tradition. The Ladies’ Home Journal suggested making these aprons for a fundraiser during WW I:

Aprons to make for a Charity Bazaar; Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917.

Aprons to make for a Charity Bazaar; Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917. (In 1917, some skirts also had a ruffle at the waist.) Many women still wore “pinner” aprons, without straps, like those at right.

Of course, when women made aprons for themselves, they might prefer a simple shape, bound in bias tape

Two versions of Butterick apron pattern 6874, from 1926.

Two versions of Butterick apron pattern 6874, from 1926.

… but frilly, sometimes silly, labor-intensive aprons were a staple of holiday gift-making.

McCall called this a "little girl look" apron. Needlework catalog, Dec. 1946.

McCall called this a “little girl look” apron. Pattern 917, McCall Needlework catalog, Dec. 1946, but first issued in 1941. [I can picture June Allyson in this one.]

You can see the pattern piece shapes for No. 917 from a copy in the CoPA collection; click here.

Aprons like the ones below, often decorated half-aprons, were called “cocktail aprons” or “bridge aprons,” [for hosting card parties] and were worn while entertaining, not cooking or washing dishes.

Apron decorated with sequinned hearts. McCall 1278, from a 1946 needlework catalog.

Apron decorated with sequinned hearts. McCall 1278, from a 1946 needlework catalog. I have also seen aprons with sequinned martini glasses on them….

Simplicity aprons No. 1805, dated 1956. Starching and ironing those ruffles would be time consuming.

Simplicity apron No. 1805, dated 1956. Starching and ironing those ruffles would be time consuming.

This dress, McCall 1312, made from sheer fabrics, might be a gift to a bride. It was a fantasy of housework.

This apron, McCall 1312, made from sheer fabrics and delicately appliqued, might be a gift to a bride. It evokes a fantasy of housework, unrelated to reality. 1950 needlework catalog.

I suspect that many fancy aprons were re-gifted and never worn (probably why so many delicate aprons survive in vintage collections.)

This one, decorated with Scottie dogs, is my virtual gift to The Vintage Traveler.

McCall Scottie dog apron, circa 1950.

McCall Scottie dog apron, before 1950. I prefer the version on the right.

Aprons and Sewing Classes

Many girls and women made aprons while learning to sew. A simple half apron was well within the abilities of elementary school students, and many a proud mother must have received an apron — far too pretty to wear — for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.

McCall apron 1096 -- probably a Valentine gift. From a 1946 needle work catalog.

McCall apron 1096 — an appropriate Valentine gift. Photographed from a 1946 needle work catalog, but it dates to 1943.

Simplicity aprons from 1956, pattern No. 1789.

Simplicity aprons from 1956, pattern No. 1789. Even a beginner could make version 4, or apply rickrack, as in version 3.

A Super-Successful Apron Pattern

I found three McCall needlework catalogs (1946 to 1950) at an estate sale; some apron patterns were so successful that they appeared year after year, so a three-digit pattern number is often an indication that the pattern pre-dates 1946. This one first appeared in 1941 and was still in the catalog for November, 1950 — nine years later.

McCall pattern 884, called the "Necktie" apron dates to 1941 and was still being offered in 1950.

McCall pattern 884, called the “Necktie” apron dates to 1941 and was still being offered in 1950 –and, possibly, later.

The Necktie apron — cut in many sections — had to be folded to be ironed correctly:

Necktie apron, McCall 884. It is shown folded for ironing at the left.

Necktie apron, McCall 884. It is shown folded for ironing at the left.

Necktie apron description form 1946 catalog.

Necktie apron description from 1946 catalog. Rickrack trim was applied behind its edges, so that only half the trim was visible. Other designs used rickrack more obviously:

Rickrack was applied to the top sides of these aprons, McCall 987, from 1942.

Rickrack was applied to the outsides of these aprons, McCall 987, from 1942. The tassels would be rather impractical.

Mother-Daughter Aprons

In the post-war period it was generally assumed that little girls wanted to grow up to be housewives, just like their Mommies. You could buy identical apron patterns for children and women, like these:

McCall apron pattern 1532, for women. May 1950 needlework catalog.

McCall apron pattern 1532, for women. May 1950 needlework catalog.

Child's version of McCall 1532 was McCall 1533.

The child’s version of McCall 1532 was McCall 1533.

This Butterflies apron was also available in a child's version. (From 1946)

This Butterflies apron was also available in a child’s version. (From 1946) McCall No. 1257.

A Daughter (or little sister) version of the Butterflies apron was McCall 1258.

A daughter (or little sister) version of the Butterflies apron was McCall 1258.

Once upon a time, little girls wore dresses all day, and protected them with aprons or pinafores. Women also expected a practical apron to protect their dresses from cooking spatters and laundry suds; except for their elaborate embroidery or appliques, these aprons would do the trick:

McCall 1209 covered most of the dress,

McCall apron No. 1209 covered most of the dress. 1940s.

Kitchen pet of the career girl -- this young apron ... completely covers the dress. Pinafore ruffles give the smart broad-shouldered look." McCall 1135.

“Kitchen pet of the career girl — this young apron … completely covers the dress. Pinafore ruffles give the smart broad-shouldered look.” McCall 1135. Circa 1945.

The apron below is really unusual — but I’ll save the other aprons with novelty pockets for another day!

A tulip forms a novelty pocket on this unusual, fasten-in-front apron. McCall 1403, from 1948.

A tulip forms a novelty pocket on this unusual, fasten-in-front apron. McCall 1403, from 1948.

Although it looks complex, this apron would lie completely flat for ironing — more practical than it looks.

1403-m50-p-44-text-tulip-novelty-pocket-front-tie-waist-coverall593

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re inspired to cook up something delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Menswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, World War I

Photos of Summer Dresses, circa 1919

Graduation photo, 8th grade class, May 1919.

Graduation photo, 8th grade class, May 1919.

I can date this photo, because my mother is second from the right in the back row. Her family took another photo of her holding her diploma, and wrote on the back, “May 1919.”

Eighth grade graduation day, 1919. I "pushed" the photo to clarify the ruffles on her dress. which arn't visible in the official photographs.

Eighth grade graduation day, 1919. I “pushed” the photo to clarify the ruffles on her dress, which aren’t all visible in the overexposed  photograph.

14 year old girl, graduation dress, 1919.

14 year old girl in her graduation dress, 1919. She has a ruffled “Bertha” collar, and the fabric is very sheer, probably netting. I’ll discuss the hairdo in a later post.

All these dresses are so lovely that I wanted to share them. I even know some of the students’ names.

Front row, left. is Frances Ryan. 1919.

Front row, left, is Frances Ryan. 1919.

I don’t know the girl who is second in the row, but the sheer fabric of her dress, with an opaque pattern woven in, is my favorite. [I once had an extravagantly expensive Swiss cotton nightgown from similar fabric.] Note how many of these girls have big bows in their hair — they are still children.

From Left, Angelina Piana, Alice Perry, and Frances Flynn. Seated is Albert Genoce. 1919.

From Left, Angelina Piano, Alice Perry, and Frances Flynn. Seated is Albert Genoce. 1919.

Almost every dress is trimmed with horizontal tucks, which create the effect of opaque stripes across the sheer cotton fabrics. Notice their crossed ankles. This was how a lady sat. I believe these girls were graduating from a Catholic school run by nuns, so lady-like posture was enforced.

Alice Perry, Francies Flynn, and Eleanore Larrouy. 8th grade graduation, 1919.

Alice Perry, Frances Flynn, and Eleanore Larrouy. 8th grade graduation, 1919.

Most of the dresses have a rounded, scooped neckline, but Frances, like some of the girls in the top row, has a high, square-ish, lace-trimmed neckline.

Top row, left, is Eleanor Hahir. 1919.

Top row, left, is Eleanor Hahir, next girl unknown. 1919. Bottom row: Frances Ryan, unknown, Angelina Piano.

Left, my mother; the girl on the right is unknown (and slightly out of focus, too. In Front row are Frances Flynn and "Elinore" Larrouy. 1919,

Left, my mother; the girl on the right is unnamed (and slightly out of focus, too.) In front row are Frances Flynn and “Elinore” Larrouy. 1919.

I was delighted to find that someone had written the names of several of these students on the back of the picture, because my parents remained in the same town, and I knew many of their friends, including some of the girls in this picture. Sadly, I have no idea who the lovely young woman at the center of the back row is.

Unknown girl in 8th grade graduation photo, 1919.

Center, an unknown girl in 8th grade graduation photo, 1919. Left, “Angie” Piano; right, Alice Perry.

The girl in the center looks older than the others, or perhaps just more poised, in her beautifully embroidered dress and string of pearls.

Angie Piano remained a friend to my father and me in the years after my mother’s death, as did Frances Flynn, who wore tailored, non-fussy clothing, often dressed in slacks, was great fun to be with, and took us huckleberry picking at her family cabin in the Coastal hills. (Stepping into a packrat’s nest was always a bit of a shock, but the contents were fascinating!) The cabin was a bit of a time machine in the 1950’s, with a sleeping porch, an ice box, and a water tank that collected cold spring water;  we depended on oil lamps when we couldn’t get the electricity generator started.

Angela , or Angelina, Piano, called "Angie." Note her hairstyle, which is long in back, but has chic puffs over her ears. about 1919.

Angela (or Angelina) Piano, called “Angie.” Note her hairstyle, which is long in back, but has chic puffs of shorter hair over her ears. About 1919-20.

Angelina Piano in a velvet dress and long "crystal" necklace. On the back of the picture is her address in San Francisco and her age, 15. Dated "April 4, 1920."

Angelina Piano in a velvet dress and long “crystal” necklace. On the back of the picture is her address in San Francisco and her age, 15. Dated “April 4, 1920.”

Elegant “Angie” Piano was still chic and charming in her fifties — in fact, I hoped my widowed father would marry her.  She did take me to the ballet in the 1950’s, when I was about ten years old, and she fixed us a memorable dinner of crab and spaghetti! Between Angie and Frances I had two good but very different role models.

Edith Nicholls, Ruth Cross, my Aunt Dorothy, and my mother, dated 1918.

Edith Nicholls, Ruth Cross, my Aunt Dorothy, and my mother, dated 1918.

I like two things about about this photo. The first is that it shows a range of clothing — Edith is wearing taffeta and wonderful high boots, Aunt Dorothy is in her school uniform, and my mother is wearing a casual sleeveless pullover sweater. The second thing I like is that it shows how far from high society these girls were. They are standing on a dirt path in somebody’s back yard. Behind them is a fruit tree in a small vegetable patch, and on the left, a clothesline.

I’m not sure of the name on this picture — but I do like her dress ( with another Bertha-type collar) and her face. I wish I’d known her, too.

Another "Redwood City girl" circa 1918.

Another “Redwood City girl” circa 1918.

4 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Dresses, Hairstyles, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, World War I

A Gentleman’s Morning Coat, 1930’s Weddings

Groom, bride, guest (in checked trousers) Best man (?) and usher. I think the father of the bride is the beaming man with white hair; the man with the blazer and red carnation is presumable a guest. Esquire, June 1934. Pg. 139.

Formal Wedding Party, Daytime Wedding, Esquire, June 1934. Pg. 139.

The "morning coat", or "cutaway" is the most formal daytime outfit for men. "Morning coat" refers to the entire outfit, which includes striped trousers and a vest, etc. Esquire magazine, April, 1934, p. 126.

The “morning coat”, or “cutaway” is the most formal daytime outfit for men. “Morning coat” refers to the entire outfit, which includes striped trousers and a vest, etc. Esquire magazine, April, 1934, p. 126.

In the Spring and Summer of 1934, Esquire magazine ran several articles about wearing the morning coat. The morning coat, or “cutaway” had long been a correct choice for formal daytime events, but in 1936, by royal decree, it officially replaced the “frock coat” as formal daytime clothing in the English court. (I found this date  in Diana de Marly’s book, Fashion for Men. )

In the early 20th century, in spite of the acceptance of sack suits for most business purposes. . .

What the sack suits looked like by 1934. Double breasted or single breasted, they were standard business clothing. Esquire, Feb. 1934.

What sack suits looked like by 1934. Double breasted or single breasted, they were standard business clothing. Esquire, Feb. 1934.

. . . the frock coat was still correct formal daytime wear for diplomats and other men for whom a casual appearance was not acceptable.

A little background on the frock coat:

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1861. He wears a frock coat, vest and trousers. Photo by Mayall, courtesy of V and A museum.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1861. He wears a frock coat, vest and trousers. Photo by Mayall, courtesy of V and A Museum.

The frock coat — and the man’s three piece suit — can be said to have originated with Charles II of England, who abolished the clothing worn at the French court . . .

A french courtier, 1660, from costumer Nicole Kipar's archives.

A French courtier, 1660, from costumer Nicole Kipar’s archives.

and commanded, in 1666, that the more manly “Persian” suit of clothes be worn in his presence. Eventually, the combination of knee length coat, breeches, and vest evolved into normal business wear for men. The 19th century frock coat really did resemble the full-skirted dresses of the 1820’s and 30s….

Frock coat in French Fashion Plate, 1829. Courtesy of V and A Museum/

Frock coat in French Fashion Plate, 1829. Courtesy of V and A Museum

Frock coats, 1828, Journal des Dames. Thanks to TwoNerdyHistoryGirls for finding this plate.

Frock coats, 1828, Journal des Dames. Thanks to TwoNerdyHistoryGirls for finding this plate.

Young lady with gentleman in Frock coat, London, 1861. Courtesy V & A Museum.

Young lady with gentleman in Frock coat, London, 1861. Courtesy V & A Museum.

The photo below, from the early 20th century, shows the King of England, George V (at left), wearing a frock coat, which he favored for official daytime menswear. It was worn by lawyers, bankers, and other successful men, not just at court. He is with his son, Prince Edward (b. 1894, later the Duke of Windsor), who is wearing a formal black or dark gray cutaway.

Left, King George V in Frock coat; right, Edward Prince of Wales, wearing a cutaway or morning coat. Photo: Flash and Footle .

Left, King George V in frock coat; right, Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing a cutaway or morning coat. Photo: Flash and Footl

During the few months when he was king — before abdicating — Edward, who really preferred to wear a sack suit, abolished the frock coat at court in favor of the cutaway, or morning coat. By the 1930s, the bands of braid on the cutaway had disappeared. (Around the turn of the century a cutaway could be part of a casual three piece suit.)

During the early 1930’s, Esquire treated its readers to at least two articles about the morning coat — timed for the Summer wedding season. (On June 3, 1937, Edward, now the Duke of Windsor, was married — appropriately, in a morning suit.)

This ad from men’s clothier Rogers Peet shows attire for a wedding:

Rogers Peet ad for menswear. Esquire, April 1934.

Rogers Peet ad for menswear. Esquire, April 1934. (The curvature of the page distorts it.)

Esquire, April 1934, p. 126.

Esquire, April 1934, p. 126.

The Floorwalker at a posh department store. He says, --and think of us when you think of panties," while handing an elderly lady her package. Esquire, April 1934, p. 32.

The Floorwalker at a posh department store. While handing an elderly lady her package, he says, “–and think of us when you think of panties.”  Esquire, April 1934, p. 32.

Esquire felt obliged to explain that — even though classy store employees wore them — there really was justification for a gentleman to buy a set of morning clothes.

Reasons to won a morning suit, Esquire, April 1934.

Reasons to own a morning suit, Esquire, April 1934.

The "morning coat", or "cutaway" is the most formal daytime outfit for men. "Morning coat" refers to the entire outfit, which includes striped trousers and a vest, etc. Esquire magazine, April, 1934, p. 126.

“Morning coat” refers to the entire outfit, which includes striped trousers and a vest, etc. Esquire magazine, April, 1934, p. 126. Illustration by Fellows.

Article from Esquire, April 1934. p. 126. It refers to the image at top of this post.

Esquire morning coat article, April 1934.

Esquire morning coat article, April 1934.

vest 1934 april p 126 wedding morning coat clothes formalwear color image fellows illus

In June, Esquire spelled out the groom’s obligations regarding gifts to the ushers, flowers, and how to avoid blunders when dressing for a formal daytime wedding — with many choices of gray, white, or natural linen waistcoat, and a variety of collars and ties.

Wedding Etiquette and Dress Article by Sturart Howe, Esquire, June 1934.

Wedding Etiquette and Dress Article by Stuart Howe, Esquire, June 1934.

Illustration accompanying Esquire's June article on clothes for a formal wedding, p. 139.

Illustration accompanying Esquire’s June article on clothes for a formal wedding, p. 139.

Which man wears wears what at a formal daytim wedding. Article from Esquire, June 1934.

Which man wears wears what at a formal daytime wedding. Article from Esquire, June 1934. Pg. 138.

I believe that the man with a mustache, standing left of the bride, and wearing a white vest and stiff wing-collar shirt, is the groom, partly because his boutonniere is lily of the valley, rather than a white carnation or gardenia.

The groom is responsible for flowers worn by the usher, et al. Esquire, June 1934, pg. 138.

The groom is responsible for flowers worn by the ushers, et al. Esquire, June 1934, pg. 138.

Gifts from the groom to the ushers, et al. Esquire, June 1934, pg. 138.

Gifts from the groom to the ushers, et al. Esquire, June 1934, pg. 138.

Waistcoats/vests to wear to a wedding with your cutaway or morning coat. Esquire, June 1934. p. 138.

Waistcoats/vests to wear to a wedding with your cutaway or morning coat. Esquire, June 1934. p. 138.

Wedding guest in cutway coat and spats. Ad for Talon zippers, Esquire, April, 1934.

Wedding guest in cutway coat,with spats over his shoes. Ad for Talon zippers, Esquire, April, 1934.

The wedding party wears spats, too:

Groom, bride, guest (in checked trousers) Best man (?) and usher. I think the father of the bride is the beaming man with white hair; the man with the blazer and red carnation is presumable a guest. Esquire, June 1934. Pg. 139.

Groom, bride, guest (in checked trousers & shoes with light colored tops). An usher in white-striped trousers. Is that the best man wearing herringbone trousers and a wing-collared shirt? Esquire doesn’t mention him. I think the father of the bride is the beaming man with white hair and two-button cutaway; the man in the blazer, solid gray trousers, and red carnation is presumably a guest, not part of the wedding party. Esquire, June 1934. Pg. 139.

For the man whose social schedule did not include participating in the Easter Parade, attending Royal Ascot or signing treaties, there was another occasion, besides weddings, when a morning coat could be worn:

Cartoon by Hoff, Esquire, June 1924.

Cartoon by Hoff, Esquire, June 1924.

There is an excellent history of the morning coat at the Morning Dress Guide blog, with the added advantage of a European point of view (and photo collection) from its author, Sven Raphael Schneider.

Even in the thirties, when many men owned a tuxedo to wear to dances, nightclubs, dinners, concerts, and the theatre, morning dress was more  likely to be rented than purchased, in spite of Esquire‘s advice.

P.S. What would costumers do without Stacy Adams shoes? This company still sells black shoes with white tops, although they have snaps, rather than buttons…. The Gentleman’s Emporium has a surprisingly wide selection of spats.

3 Comments

Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 17th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Shirts for men, Shoes, Shoes for Men, Suits for Men, Uniforms and Work Clothes

A Gentleman’s White Dinner Jacket, 1934

An off-white, double-breasted dinner jacket worn with tuxedo trousers. Esquire, July 1934.

An off-white, double-breasted dinner jacket worn with tuxedo trousers. Esquire, July 1934.

In 1934, Esquire magazine reminded readers that for summer and resort wear, the tuxedo was not the only option for “black tie” evening dress.

"A Few Suggestions for Saturday Night;" Black tie options for August, 1934, from Esquire magazine.

“A Few Suggestions for Saturday Night;” Black Tie options for August, 1934, from Esquire magazine.

“White Tie” describes the most formal evening dress for men; “Black Tie” is less formal, and less uncomfortable, since a starched bib-front shirt, white vest, and scratchy, rigid collar were not necessary with a tuxedo.

The Tuxedo was named after a resort called Tuxedo Park, but according to one club member, “I was brought up believing that no one called it a tuxedo. It was always called a dinner jacket.” From a history of the tuxedo in Wall Street Journal.

In the late 1800’s, the outfit we now call a tuxedo was worn only when ladies were not present, or at family dinners in the era when men and women “dressed” for dinner. But, by the 1920’s, many men wore “black tie” to dances, nightclubs, and fine restaurants. This illustration shows three black tie variations from 1934:

Left, a double-breasted tuxedo in dark navy blue,; center, and single-breasted black tuxedo worn with a cream vest (a black vest was more common, but this was for summer.) Right, an double-breasted "white" dinner jacket, also double-breasted. Esquire, August 1934.

Left, a double-breasted tuxedo in midnight blue; center, a single-breasted black tuxedo worn with a light colored vest (a black vest was more common, but this was for summer.) Right, a white dinner jacket, also double-breasted. Esquire, August 1934. Both peaked lapels and shawl collars were acceptable.

The wider bow tie, called a bat tie, went with a soft-collared shirt.

500 text top three1934 aug saturday night p 122

“Palm Beach” was a brand name; it indicated a summer fabric that was washable, and could refer to the cloth or to a suit made from it.

Ad for a Palm Beach suit, Esquire, July 1934.

Ad for a Palm Beach suit, Esquire, July 1934.

Palm Beach label, July 1934 ad.

Palm Beach label, July 1934 ad.

White double breasted dinner jacket, Esquire Aug. 1934.

White double-breasted dinner jacket, Esquire Aug. 1934. There are four buttons, but only the bottom buttons are fastened.

The white dinner jacket was illustrated as an essential part of a wardrobe for a weekend in the country, Esquire, Aug. 1934.

The white dinner jacket was illustrated as an essential part of his wardrobe for a weekend in the country, Esquire, Aug. 1934. Also essential: black patent shoes or pumps for “dress-up time.”

A single-breasted white dinner jacket shown in an ad for Skinner Linings. Skinner made suit linings and, in this case, the cummerbund worn with the dinner jacket. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

A single-breasted white dinner jacket shown in an ad for Skinner Linings. Skinner made suit linings and, in this case, the cummerbund worn with the single-button dinner jacket. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

The white or off-white “dinner jacket” was usually worn with black tuxedo trousers.  Often the dinner jacket was a warm-weather choice because it might be unlined, or half-lined (rather than fully lined) in back, and because it was not worn over a vest. [Esquire recommended double-breasted business suits for summer in 1934, because they could be worn without a vest, unlike single-breasted suits, which were usually three-piece.] The cummerbund, in black or in maroon, was coming into fashion, perhaps left over from the brief craze for wearing a waist-length mess jacket for evenings on cruises or at resorts.

White dinner jacket from an illustration on cruise or resort wear, February 1934. Esquire.

White dinner jacket from an illustration of cruise or resort wear, February 1934. Esquire, Upper left. This double-breasted jacket only has buttons at the waist.

Mess jacket from an illustration of cruise and resort wear, Esquire, Feb. 1934.

Mess jacket with starched shirt and a black cummerbund, from an illustration of cruise and resort wear; Esquire, Top center, Feb. 1934.

Text for illustrations of cruise and resort wear, Esquire, Feb. 1934.

Text for illustrations of cruise and resort wear, Esquire, Feb. 1934.

There had been an early thirties’ fashion for wearing a white “Mess jacket,” which was cropped at the waist like a military evening uniform (hence its name — as in “Officers’ Mess,” or dining room.) As explained at the excellent  Black Tie Guide site, the white mess jacket was soon relegated to servants, barmen, and waiters.

The cummerbund, however, has been with us as a “black tie” accessory ever since; originally only worn as resort wear, in the 1930’s it slowly replaced the tuxedo vests worn in the 1920’s and was acceptable in town by the 1940’s.

Black tie worn with a vest or with a cummerbund, Esquire, August 1934.

Black tie worn with a vest or with a cummerbund, Esquire, August 1934.

500 text btm 1934 aug saturday night p 122

Black patent evening pumps or lace up evening shoes for men Aug 1934 Esquire

Black patent evening pumps or lace up evening shoes for men; sheer black stockings with stripes or red clocks. Aug. 1934, Esquire.

The “white” dinner jacket was not necessarily stark white; natural linen colors were also chic, as can be seen in this ad for Arrow dress shirts.

Ad for Arrow dress shirts, shown with an off-white dinner jacket. Esquire, Sept. 1934. The shirt on the right has a "regular", i.e., stiff, detachable collar. The one on the left has a new, attached collar.

Ad for Arrow pleated dress shirts, shown with an off-white dinner jacket. Esquire, Sept. 1934. One shirt has a “regular neck band” worn with a stiff, detachable collar. The other shirt has a new, attached collar.

The pleated fronts distinguished “dress shirts” from business shirts.

Esquire ran a regular series of illustrations which used actual fabric cut into the shapes of coats, shirts, etc. This one shows the off-white color and linen-like texture used in some “white” dinner jackets.

A creamy white dinner jacket worn with a pure white shirt, plus blue bachelor button in the lapel. Esquire, July 1934.

A creamy white dinner jacket worn with a pure white shirt, plus blue bachelor button in the lapel. Esquire, July 1934.

The off-white tone of the classic dinner jacket — darker than the shirt  — can be seen in this amusing clip from the movie The Lady Eve (1941.) Henry Fonda plays a wealthy but awkward herpetologist who hasn’t been in close proximity to a glamorous woman for quite some time — a situation that fortune-hunter Barbara Stanwyck corrects in this shipboard scene. Her bare-midriff dress and high heels are wonderful, too.

7 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shirts for men, Shoes for Men, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Clothes for Joe College, circa 1934

The expression “Joe College” in Esquire, January 1934, caught my eye.

Esquire, January 1934, p. 104.

Esquire, January 1934, p. 104. “On Every Campus Joe College Goes Nonchalant Again.”

I have a few other illustrations of “college life,” and will find more, no doubt. Perhaps it’s because the school year starts in September, but an autumnal color palette is common to them. Also, clothes for college men were more casual than business dress, and clothes for male country wear and sports traditionally echoed the colors of the landscape, favoring tweeds in browns and loden green over navy blue and charcoal gray.

Illustration for an article giving advice to College Freshman girls. Woman's Home Companion, October 1936.

Illustration for an article giving advice to College Freshman girls. Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936. “Freshmen are eager and thrilled with their new life.”

The article in WHC, supposedly written by a 23 year-old married sister, assumed that the Freshman girl would have attended an all-girls boarding school, and would therefore need social advice for a co-ed campus. (She reminded her sister to be as carefully dressed and well-groomed for class as she would be for a dance, since male students would see her all day long. This was in the bad old days, when any woman who attended college was suspected of “trying to get her M.R.S. degree.” No doubt, some were — college was a good place for intelligent and ambitious women to meet intelligent and ambitious men.)

“Nonchalant'” Joe College

The clothes featured in Esquire had an upper middle class, East Coast bias. Yale’s bulldog mascot appears at top left.

Joe College as drawn by L. Fellows for Esquire magazine, January 1934. Pg. 104.

Joe College as drawn by L. Fellows for Esquire magazine, January 1934. Pg. 104. A Yale bulldog is on the pillar behind his shoulder.

Belted jackets, like the greenish one in the background, evolved from country wear to urban sports jackets. The coat over that student’s is a large-scale plaid. The student in front wears a three-piece brown suit, a shirt with a button-down collar, and a knit tie under his reversible tan overcoat with cuffs that can be made tighter at the wrist with a button tab. Two out of three wear snap-brim hats or smoke pipes.

“… University clothes, at least for on-campus wear betray a studied carelessness… Rough cloths….From Princeton to California, the better dressed undergraduates are wearing shetlands, Harris tweeds, cashmeres and cheviot suitings…. This outfit, with its rough-textured suit, buttoned down collared shirt and crocheted tie, is almost a campus uniform.” — Esquire

Detail of suit , etc. College students. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Detail of suit, coat, etc. Ivy League College students. Esquire, Jan. 1934.

“The reversible topcoat of tweed and gabardine, which swept the country after its introduction at Princeton almost two years ago, is another established favorite. College men… have resorted to an odd trick in the matter of headgear — the combining of a brown hat and a black hat band…. The new hats, by the way, have a lower crown and a slightly wider brim. The exact proportions are shown in the hat at the left.”

Cuffed trousers with a three piece suit: college undergraduate; Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Cuffed trousers on college undergraduates; Esquire, Jan. 1934. The neckties are described as “crocheted.”

Solid-colored shirts with matching cuffs and collars, Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Solid-colored, button-down shirts with matching cuffs and collars, Esquire, Jan. 1934.

Soft-collared shirts — button-down, in this case — were replacing shirts with detachable collars, in offices as well as on campus.

Other college trends were pictured in the Autumn, 1933 issue of the magazine.

Correct clothing for underclassmen, Esquire, Autumn 1933, pg. 58. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Correct clothing for underclassmen, Esquire, Autumn 1933, pg. 58. Illustration by L. Fellows.

Description from Esquire, Autumn, 1933, p. 58.

Description from Esquire, Autumn, 1933, p. 58.

Clothes for Underclassmen. Esquire, Autumn 1933.

Clothes for Underclassmen. Esquire, Autumn 1933. Bow tie or rep or wool tie, button-down shirt, camel-hair pull-over sweater, belted coat with raglan sleeves, snap-brim semi-homburg hat.

The text describes this as a “bat” tie:  “In the bat style, foulards and twills are preferred, while in the four-in-hand the first call goes to the heavier material, such as the silk and wool poplin in which the striped ties sketched at the right are made up.” The pull-over sweater” is described as a required item “in the college and prep school wardrobe.”

College students, from the April 1936 issue of Woman's Home Companion.

College students, from the April 1936 issue of Woman’s Home Companion.

Three of these men wear sweaters. The man at left wears a shirt with a collar pin under the tie knot, a V-neck sweater, a tweed sports jacket, and cuffed trousers in a darker shade than his jacket. (A decade later, this was the “uniform” of a college professor.)  All four male undergraduates wear neckties to class.

In Esquire, on the page facing the clothes for underclassmen, this outfit was recommended for upperclassmen and young, recent graduates.

Clothes for upperclass college men or recent graduates. Esquire, Autumn 1934, p. 59.

Clothes for upperclass college men or recent graduates according to Esquire, Autumn 1934, p. 59.

“The coat sketched here, with four patch pockets, is the type that has been made up by the better tailors, for some time, for [upperclassmen at Princeton and Yale] and for the recent graduates in the New York financial district…. Natural concomitants for the rougher clothing fabrics are crocheted ties in both horizontal and diagonal stripings as well as in rich dark solid colors and wool hose in the traditional Argyle plaid patterns.”

I would have thought that a gray coat would be recommended for graduates looking for a job on Wall Street, but perhaps trying to stretch your clothes budget was not considered a problem for Esquire readers. The coat’s hidden button placket is certainly a dressy touch.

The editors went on at length — and with disapproval — about Joe College’s insistence upon wearing “bruised” and “battered” dark brown snap brim hats, “pinched unmercifully at the front of the crown.” We “know that nothing can be done about it,” they admitted, although “right thinking citizens and hat makers” were offended.

Ah, the good old days — when college students could express a rebellious streak just by wearing a battered and sharply pinched brown felt hat with a black (instead of matching) hatband. The sight of an eighteen-year-old solemnly smoking a tobacco pipe must have amused — or outraged — a few adults.

College men wearing hats and smoking pipes. 1933-1934.

College students wearing hats and smoking pipes. 1933-1934. The little moustache on the lower right was not yet associated with Hitler, but why would a young man want to look like Oliver Hardy or Robert Benchley?

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Hats for Men, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shirts for men, Suits for Men, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Watching But Not Enjoying: Downton Abbey & Mercy Street

I’m still watching one of these shows because of the costumes; I stopped watching the other because of the costumes. Prepare for nits to be picked.

Dinner party, Jan. 1924 Delneator.

Informal dinner party, Jan. 1924, Delineator. We know it’s informal, because the men are wearing tuxedos — aka “black tie.”

I’ve mentioned before that I watch Downton Abbey more from a sense of duty than with enthusiasm. There are many fine actors, and some beautiful clothes. But the more recent scripts make me empathize with the TV critic who said he’d watch the final season only to be sure they nailed the coffin shut.

Illustration by Dynevor Rhys, Feb. 1932. Delineator. Dinner.

Illustration by Dynevor Rhys, Feb. 1932. Delineator. Dining in emeralds.

I even watched a “making of” program in which the actors mentioned the instruction they get about period manners, posture, etc. — including the instruction that ladies wore opera-length gloves while eating dinner. I found that hard to swallow.

Dinner party, Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Formal dinner party, Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936. White tie on male guests, black vest on the butler.

Imagine my delight when I read “Miss Manners” in the SF Chronicle on Monday, January 25! (The article first appeared in the Washington Post in 2013.)
After explaining the proper use of British titles as applied to Diana, Princess of Wales (incorrectly called “Princess Diana,”) Miss Manners went on to explain that the daughters of the Earl of Grantham, on Downton Abbey, are given the courtesy title of “Lady,” but they are commoners and “could, if the series lasts long enough, stand for election to the House of Commons.”  Miss Manners added:

“No, that is not a spoiler. Miss Manners has no idea what is happening to these characters. She tuned out when she saw them wearing their gloves to dinner in their own house.”

Hostess with maids, Dec. 1937, Woman's Home Companion.

Hostess with maids, Dec. 1937, Woman’s Home Companion. The dinner is formal; the hostess is in evening dress and the young man is wearing white tie and tails.

If you don’t read Miss Manners, author of many delightful etiquette  books, I should explain that she won my heart decades ago, when a reader inquired, “What do you say when introduced to a gay couple?” Miss Manners replied that [as with all introductions] you say “How do you do?”

There’s a long interview with Miss Manners (the pen name of Judith Martin) at Smithsonian.com. It’s worth putting up with all the ads to see her response to claims of rudeness in Washington, D.C.

“I was born in Washington, and I’m not rude. You’re talking about people that you sent here. You’re talking about people you voted for and you sent to Washington. So if you have complaints, and when people do, they often say to me, well what can we do about it? I said the answer there is something called an election. That’s something you can do about it.”

Why Mercy Street Is Not My Cup of Costume Tea

Young ladies in a fashion plate from the Casey Collection, dated 1862.

Young women in a fashion plate from the Casey Collection, dated 1862. Frilly or simple, the clothes are supposed to fit like this. (Costumers often insert a gusset under the arms so a modern actor can do whatever the director asks….)

I stopped watching mid-way through episode two of Mercy Street. There was only one character I cared about, and the writing seemed almost as formulaic as Downton Abbey’s. But I might have stuck with it, if the women’s costumes fit better. I found them really distracting. [Notes in brackets like this mean I’m trying to be more reasonable….]

Mercy Street women's costumes, from an article in Alexandria Times.

Mercy Street women’s costumes, from an article in Alexandria Times.

I seriously wondered if the actress playing the nurse from the north (left, above) was a last-minute cast replacement, because some of her clothes were so obviously too big for her. (The solid grayish bodice she wears about 1 minute into this clip distracted me every time it came on screen.) Her real vintage jacket was baggy in back, too. I searched a bit online, and found the costume designer saying that her best source of research was a book of Civil War era photographs that had been colorized. Colorized? Ahem: why turn a primary source  into a secondary source? [Thinking that over, I realize it may have been the photo collection itself — which one could try to imagine without the color — that was the attraction. I hope.]

I also found an interview with a woman who had been hired to make a corset for the series — the original plan was for a spoon-busk corset, so it’s a good thing she noticed that an 1870’s corset would not be quite “the thing” for the early 1860’s.

Considering the really good, carefully researched corset patterns — and built corsets — that have been available for a very long time and are now easy to find online, what were the TV people thinking?

An elegant young woman in a dress that is very tight over the corset.

An elegant young woman in a dress that is very tight over the corset and bust. The shoulders and neckline fit perfectly. (Sorry: I can’t find the link to this photo marked Sharlot Hall Museum Archives.)

I am not a Civil War era historian or specialist, but I’ve seen enough period photographs (like Joan Severa’s books ) and real dresses to know that they were more often too tight than too loose.   This woman’s dress fits. Most of her bodice wrinkles are at the armscye. True, many poorer people were forced to wear second-hand clothing, which would excuse a poor fit, as would going without a corset [or food] or wearing the wrong corset, but the Mercy Street characters whose dresses wrinkled in the wrong places were middle class. (Unless, of course, that widowed baroness has a very interesting backstory of poverty which will be slowly revealed….)

I do like the suggestion of a soldier’s hashmarks on this authoritative woman’s dress [good design choice!], but the dress doesn’t quite fit the actress. [Perhaps it means the character has lost weight, which would be reasonable. I am trying to be sympathetic.]

Too loose in back (the dress), too low in front (the corseted bust, not the dress. Mercy Street. Photo fron Alexandria Times

The dress is too loose in back; the bust is too low in front. A British nurse on Mercy Street. Photo from Alexandria Times.

Here’s the thing about bust darts: in general, they are not supposed to continue up over the point of the bust. (Princess seams excepted.) These costumes look poorly fitted to me. Click here to get an enlarged view. I admit that some dresses on mannequins at the Metropolitan Museum do seem to have very long, over the bust, darts. Click here.

[EDIT added 2/2/16: I admit I was working from memory, because I long ago de-accessioned my copies of Norah Waugh and Janet Arnold, et al. I have seen more photos of 1860’s bodices with very long bust darts this week –but the bodices still fit smoothly over the bust.]

1863 dress in collection of Metropolitan Museum.

1863 dress in collection of Metropolitan Museum. It appears that some of the trim has been lost.

It may have something to do with the mannequin’s bust not bulging high above a corset as a woman’s bust often does. The shoulders and neck of this particular mannequin are not the same as those of the original wearer, either. Some wrinkles would have been hidden by her detachable lace collar, now lost.

As a costumer, I really do know what it’s like to struggle with an inadequate budget, and time constraints. I, too, have been forced to use a stiff, poly-blend modern fabric because we couldn’t afford real handkerchief linen or cotton lawn or pure wool or silk. But good cutting and some adjustment of your design can minimize the disaster. I’m thinking of the way-too-puffy yoke on this cream-colored costume. [OK, I do acknowledge the “Good? Fast? Cheap?” problem we always have.]

I realize I’m being hyper-critical; was I constantly thinking about how to make the dresses fit better because the script didn’t hold my interest? Or did I really get so distracted by the fit of costumes on important characters that I couldn’t “lose myself” in the show? Maybe someone who has extensively researched the 1860’s, and built more civil war era dresses than I have, can change my mind. I do love links to research. [This “whine train” has pulled into the station and I’m stepping off. Will go back to watching the 1971 Elizabeth I TV series starring Glenda Jackson to refresh my palate. ]

16 Comments

Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, Corsets, Costumes for the 19th century, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Uniforms and Work Clothes