Category Archives: Vintage Couture Designs

Palm Beach Resort Wear by Lelong, January 1928

Two couture tennis dresses by Lucien Lelong, January 1928. Imagine the background in green, and the coat on the right in tucked scarlet crepella. Wow.

Lelong discusses color in the first part of this article on resort wear for America’s brighter sunlight. Delineator, top of page 32, January 1928. It’s a pity that the Delineator ran this article in black and white!

Couturier Lucien Lelong explained to the Delineator magazine how his resort wear for Palm Beach differed from the colors he would have used for French clients.

Colors for Palm Beach: “vied with the parrot and the bougainvillea flower” because the “sub-tropical sunshine … subdues the strongest colors.”

For evening he suggested lighter shades:  greens, grays, coral, pink, amber, ivory, and black and white.

Two evening gowns by Lelong, January 1928. Left, black with rhinestone bands; right, mauve pink chiffon.

His bathing costumes for Palm Beach are colorful in greens and blues:

Left, Lelong uses “green jersey banded with darker green and worn under a sponge cloth coat of string beige.” Right, “blue and white printed crepe de Chine with chartreuse bands and beach coat.”  Both have “tunic tops and shorts.” January, 1928.

For daytime, Lelong’s dress shows the graded colors popular in 1927-28. Costumes using blocks of colors were called “compose” [with an accent aigu on the e : kom-poh-zay.]

Left: Lelong’s blue two-piece sports frock with bands of graded colors. Right, a three piece ensemble in two shades of blue. January 1928 resort wear.

Let’s not forget those sleeveless tennis frocks by this extraordinary French designer:

Two sleeveless and collarless tennis frocks, plus a scarlet coat of tucked crepella. Lelong resort collection, January 1928. Delineator. Illustration by Muriel Lages.

“Design grows more and more simple in appearance, tho [sic] inner cuts are complicated. And of course, all these models, as is usual with me, induce slenderness in the appearance of their wearers. That sums it up.”– Lucien Lelong on his resort collection, in Delineator, January 1928.

When I called Lelong “extraordinary,” I wasn’t exaggerating. As head of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture during the German Occupation of Paris, Lelong managed to thwart the Germans’ plan to move the center of couture to Berlin. You can read “The Man Who Saved Paris” by clicking here.

Further reading:  The Encyclopedia of Fashion has a bibliography of books about Lelong. Click here.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bathing Suits, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

Bare Shoulders, December 1933

Butterick 5437, December 1933. Delineator.

Back in the nineteen nineties Donna Karan realized that, as women age, some become reluctant to bare their necks, or their upper arms, or their chests. Yet, for women, formal evening dress usually requires some bare skin. Karan cleverly exposed the shoulders! Shoulders rarely get wrinkled or flabby, and their skin never sags.

Click here for the “cold shoulders” dress as worn by then First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1993. Versions were also worn by Barbra Streisand and Liza Minelli.

Those Karan bare shoulders are back now: click here.  In 2017 they have worked their way into Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and even children’s clothing. But Donna Karan wasn’t the first to show bare shoulders, by sixty — or ninety — years.

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60. [“Cold shoulders” is not the 1930’s description.]

Film designer Howard Greer created a bare-shouldered dress for Katherine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, 1933.

Katharine Hepburn’s bare-shouldered dress, designed by Howard Greer for the film Christopher Strong, was available as a Butterick “starred” pattern in May, 1933. Delineator.

Butterick 5156 was a faithful copy of this 1933 movie costume.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/5156-5154-front-and-back-views-may-1933.jpg?w=500

In the 1930’s, patterns that had bare shoulders — or slit sleeves that revealed bare upper arms — were available. Butterick 5437 and Butterick 4944.

Right, Butterick evening dress pattern 5530. On the left, Butterick 5518. From 1934; Delineator.

From 1935, this gown for a young woman echoes the evening gowns of an earlier era.

Butterick 6061 from February 1935.  The text says,”Borrowed from another century, the robe de style is today’s evening news.”

However, the bodice evokes this Edwardian evening style:

Evening gown from the House of Worth, 1906-1908. Metropolitan Museum Collection.

The fitted hips of  the 1935 version bears no resemblance to the “robe de style” popularized by Jeanne Lanvin in the 1920’s. [Fashion writing…. as imprecise in 1935 as it is today.]

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/met-lanvin-1926-robe-de-style-62-166-2_front_cp3.jpg?w=357&h=500

Robe de Style, Jeanne Lanvin, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It’s hard to see any resemblance between this gown and Butterick 6061.

The bare shoulders of Butterick 6061 can be seen in 2017: click here.

More about this 1933 nightie:

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60.

The same article, about lingerie, showed a rather extreme velvet negligee:

Butterick negligee pattern 5413, December 1933. Delineator. [The play, which opened in 1932, as described in The Harvard Crimson as “one long bedroom scene.”]

It’s more fun than getting pajamas for Christmas.

Although I wouldn’t say no to these:

Lounging pajamas from 1933. Butterick 5410. [And, yes, in the 1960’s my college dorm still turned off the heat late at night.]

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns from the movies

Day and Night in Vogue Patterns, 1937

“Make These and Have Something to Wear: Vogue Designs for Busy Days and Crowded Nights”

“Vogue Designs for Busy Days.” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1937, page 30. November 1937.

Vogue Designs “for Crowded Nights.” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1937, page 31.

This two-page spread in the Ladies’ Home Journal (LHJ) featured nine Vogue patterns. Here they are in detail:

Vogue two-piece dress pattern 7508 (in “copper”) and dress 7511 in black trimmed with grosgrain ribbons in “flower colors” to “trim the deep-lapped seam from neck to hem.” November 1937, LHJ. Shoulders are getting broader.

Vogue 7508, at left,  is “fitted to bring out natural curves;” Vogue 7511 has a “Victorian” collar and bands of grosgrain trim around the hem, too.

Vogue 7510. November 1937; LHJ. “An opportunity… if you’ve never sewn before, for it’s ‘Easy to Make.’ The skirt is in four gores, and you may use tiny buttons down the front in place of a slide fastener.”

Vogue 7510 has a zipper front and is worn with two (!) belts. Zippers made the change from sportswear to more formal clothing in 1936-1937.

This high-cut collar is also seen on the “copper” colored two piece dress, No. 7508.

Vogue dress 7509, in red, and 7512, in blue. In spite of the zigzag look at the hem and cuffs, 7512 is not a knitted dress. LHJ, Nov. 1937, p. 30. No, 7509 was available for large women, up to a bust of 46 inches.

Details of Vogue 7509 and 7512, from 1937. No. 7509 has a “soft, shirred plastron front”  and amazing sleeves. It is worn with matching dress clips. No. 7512 is “of a new violet-blue crepe with tiny wavy pleating worked right into the fabric. You can make the saw-tooth trimming on your sewing machine. Don’t you think the new-length sleeves are young?”

Alternate views of Vogue 7508, 7511, 7510, 7509, and 7512. LHJ, Nov. 1937.

On the facing page, four Vogue patterns for evening were illustrated:

Slinky satin evening gowns without a center front seam show what can be done with a bias cut and a flat tummy. Vogue 7506, in white, and Vogue 7505, in two shades of green.

“If you can enter a room regally, princess dress 7506 is for you!” This is not what is usually meant by “princess dress.” But she is wearing a tiara….

“The apparent lack of a seam down the front is not a mistake; there is one right down the center in back. We just couldn’t bear desecrating the lovely backward sweep with mere seams. The twisted shoulder straps, that are part of the dress front, drop to the waistline in back. We suggest platinum satin with mink or kolinsky banding.”

(A little digression: Kolinsky is a very expensive fur. High quality watercolor brushes are still made from it; Winsor & Newton will sell you a size 10 Kolinsky brush for $499. Movie plug:  In the 1937 comedy, Easy Living, the life of a hard-working young woman is transformed when an angry millionaire throws his wife’s Kolinsky fur coat out the window. Since our heroine doesn’t know what” Kolinsky” is, she wears the coat, not realizing it’s worth $55,000 — in Depression Era dollars! To her surprise, people start treating her differently because they think she is rich — or immoral….  Easy-to-relate-to Jean Arthur is the star. )

Vogue 7507 has a twisted tie on its bolero jacket. The glittering shoulder straps on the dress can be rhinestoned or sequinned. LHJ, Nov. 1937.

Both the bias cut and the twisted fabrics in those two Vogue evening gowns show the influence of Madeleine Vionnet.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/vionnet-evening-dress-and-jacket-1935-met.jpg?w=448&h=496

A bias evening gown with twisted and tied jacket by Madeleine Vionnet, 1935. Photo: Metropolitan Museum.

Left, Vogue 7507, with a sheer, deep pink cover-up. Top tight, Vogue evening gown 7504. LHJ, 1937.

“Coronation pink” refers to he coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England and the United Kingdom in May of 1937. They were the parents of Queen Elizabeth II. “Shocking pink” was introduced by Elsa Schiaparelli, also in 1937.

Alternate views of Vogue 7506, 7505, 7507 and 7504. LHJ, November 1937. Backs were cut to the waist on the gowns at left.

Are you inspired to start sewing your New Year’s gown?

Note:  These patterns were featured in November, so women would have been making and wearing them in 1938 and 1939 — or later. By mid-1939, the hems on the day dresses would have looked much too long.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, July, 1939.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, page 3. July 1939.

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

High Hats, 1937

A high beret by Agnes was featured in this illustration for Woman’s Home Companion, October 1937. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys. [That’s a lot of eye makeup!]

The next month, Woman’s Home Companion offered this hat pattern, No. 7361:

Detail, “Height in Your Hat,” Butterick-Companion [?] pattern 7631, November 1937. WHC. Three hat styles in one pattern for 25 cents.

A style that combines height with a beret front and a driving cap back, pattern 7631, WHC, Nov. 1937.  This one is closest in spirit to the more extreme couture hat designed by Agnes.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, bags, Gloves, handbags, Hats, Purses, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Stylish Coats for Women, December 1917

A fur-collared coat from Butterick’s Delineator magazine, December 1917. Butterick coat pattern 9535 had a convertible collar, a criss-cross belt, and gathered pockets — all frequently seen in patterns from 1917.

Sketches of coats from three top Paris designers: Beer, Poiret, and Jenny. Delineator, December 1917.

Paris designs were converted into Butterick patterns in spite of the war in France. This was the year of convertible collars that could come right up to the chin when buttoned, or spread over the shoulders like a shawl when unbuttoned. The hats are pretty spectacular, [or hilarious] too.

Coats for young or small women show how the convertible collar looked when fastened, as on the three at left, or unfastened, as on the far right. Butterick 9556, 9535, 9533, and 9531, December 1917.

Alternate views of Butterick coat 9556 show it with the collar undone. Delineator, page 76, Dec. 1917.

Coat 9556 “is made with the large collar shown on all the newest winter coats and it buttons up snugly at the front for cold weather…. It is as good-looking and becoming for young girls as for women.” This pattern was available for bust measure 32″ through 46.”

Coat 9556 was also illustrated in color on a different page:

Butterick coat pattern 9556, page 68, Delineator, Dec. 1917.

Left, coat 9556 again; right, coat 9535. That X-shaped belt also appeared on dresses in the nineteen teens.

Description of coat 9535 from Delineator, page 76, Dec. 1917. On page 69 another description said, “There is the large cape collar that plays such a strong part on all the coats of the season.”

Butterick coat 9535, shown with its collar open. Notice its belt — very “1917” — and the peculiar gathered pockets. This is the same coat illustrated in color at the top of this post.

A fur-collared version of Butterick 9535,  December 1917.

Left, coat 9533; right, coat 9531. December 1917.

Butterick 9533 has one enormous, decorative buckle at the back. One version is 7/8 length, and has huge optional pockets.

Coat 9533 was sized for busts 32 to 44 inches. The straight silhouette “is youthful looking for the older woman….”

Since coat 9531 was illustrated with the collar open on page 76, its alternate view shows the collar closed. Cuffs could be gathered or turn-back. Clothes from this period often have a higher waist in back than in front.

Coat 9531, like the others, has a large cape collar and “deep armholes for comfort and wearableness.”

Coat 9567 was illustrated as worn by a young woman or teen (but, no, that’s not actually her graduation cap.) This was not an era for women who worried, “Does this coat make me look fat?” [See the coat by Paul Poiret pictured earlier.] I find the clothes of this period extremely unattractive.

Butterick coat 9567, with its “new type of convertible collar” is “an excellent coat for a young girl;” the pattern was available from bust 32″ to 44.”

butterick Coat 9567 could have decorative buttons on the front; those on the back are for fastening the collar. Imagine that wide rectangle of collar pulled up and buttoned at the front of the throat. Like this:

Coat 9567 was illustrated again on page 70 of the same issue:

Here, coat 9567 is shown with pairs of buttons all the way down the side fronts. From left, Butterick coat 9567; coat 9490 with skirt 9545; and coat 9501. Delineator, Dec. 1917, page 70.

Coat 9501, seen at the far right above, was shown in color in November:

Butterick coats 9485 and 9501, November 1917, Delineator.

Editorial illustration, Delineator, November 1917. This looks like coat pattern 9485, although these editorial sketches introducing the fashion pages never gave the pattern numbers.

All of these coat patterns appeared late in 1917, but similar styles could still be purchased in 1921.

These coats appeared in the Sears catalog in 1921. The plain one, at right, has another kind of cross-over belt. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties by Stella Blum.

A strange belt also appears on this vintage coat:

A light weight vintage coat from the WW I era. The checked fabric looks like linen. One side of the belt twists around to button to the other side. (One button is on the back of the belt, so it has to twist, unlike this one.)

The cape collar is trimmed with non-functional buttons, which match the blue band on the collar.

A blurry photo of the vintage coat circa 1917 to 1921. It looks home-made.

If I wanted to select an era when fashion was really inexplicable, it would be this one.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/dot-age-17-about-1918828.jpg?w=346&h=500

My aunt Dot, age 18, proudly posing in her fashionable coat. Circa 1917-18. A glimpse of her thin ankles reminds me that she was petite — not chubby — underneath that colossal wool cocoon.

This was also the era of the tonneau, or barrel, skirt. What were they thinking?

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Coats, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, World War I

More Princess Line Dresses (and Styling Tricks) from the Nineteen Twenties

These princess line dresses from the 1920’s do not have the characteristic horizontal hip band of most twenties’ fashions.

In my post about Butterick styles for October 1927, I wrote,

Not all 1920’s dresses had a strong horizontal line across the hip. Princess-seamed dress patterns were available for several years and didn’t change much — except for their length.

Left, Butterick 1683, a princess line dress; Delineator, October 1927, page 31. These 1927 hemlines are just below the knee.

The rear view of the princess dress (1683) shows the characteristic princess seams, which can be shaped to follow the lines of  the body without any waist seam. The front and back are each divided into three panels. A princess line dress usually skims the body — at least, they did before the use of stretch fabrics and elasticated knits.

More Princess Line Dresses from the Nineteen Twenties

Here are some other princess line patterns from 1925 to 1928. Some combine fur and velvet for evening, but one is a day dress.

Left, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6424, Delineator, December 1925. For a young woman or teen.

Left, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6506, from December 1925.

Also from December 1925, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6428. Dresses for adult women were slightly longer than those for teens.

In 1928, the princess line evening gown has a hem that dips low in the back. So does the neckline.

Butterick princess line pattern 2257, from October 1928. Delineator.

Putting Twenties Styles on Modern Bodies

A chenille or ribbon shoulder decoration draws our eye up toward the face on these formal dresses from December 1927. Butterick patterns 1734 and 1753.

I think I’ve mentioned this before: a director once told me that he wanted “absolutely authentic 1920’s costumes” — but added, “Just don’t give me any of those dresses with the waists down around the hips!” In times (like the 1980’s) when contemporary fashion insists on narrow hips and wide shoulders, making an actress feel confident in a dress with natural shoulders and a horizontal line across her hips can be difficult — especially if she isn’t slim-hipped or is self-conscious about her figure.

Trim or fur leads your eye to focus on the top of the body in these styles from December 1928. Butterick patterns 1761 and 1757.

But theatrical designers also have to consider audience expectations — I would not do a twenties’ show in which every woman wore princess line dresses! However, the princess line dress is among the authentic possibilities for one or two characters, or for a re-creator who doesn’t have a “boyish” figure.

Illustration by Helen Dryden, Delineator cover, September 1928. A band of deep pink on the scarf lends a touch of bright color to her head and face area.

The most flattering twenties’ styles balance the hip interest with interest near the face. Butterick patterns 1745 and 1735, from December 1927.

For plays and operas, we try to draw attention to the face and upper body. (It sounds crazy, but audiences can’t hear the lines if they can’t see the faces. Humans lip-read much more than they realize.) Accessories that create a vertical line, such as lighter or brighter colors near the face, those looooong 1920’s necklaces, and those often-seen 1920’s shoulder decorations are flattering and authentic twenties’ tricks.

A scarf or bows with long ties add interest to the top of the body and, in the case of the bows, create a vertical line to balance the hip interest. June 1928, Delineator.

These three couture sketches are undoubtedly twenties’ styles, but they use a variety of styling tricks to move our attention up the body, toward the face, and to deflect interest from the hips.

French designer fashions from May 1928. 1) Renee, 2) Jane Regny, 3) Jenny. Sketches for Delineator. The coat by Jenny suggests princess lines.

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

“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