Category Archives: Vintage Couture Designs

Jumbled Musings and Fashion Surprises

When I named this blog “witness2fashion,” it didn’t occur to me that its initials were WTF. However, that abbreviation does occur to me occasionally when I’m wandering through the pages of a 100 year old magazine.

Caution: this ad uses a word that is offensive when applied to a human being, but the ad uses it to describe a sock supporter….

Ad for “Velvet-Grip Baby Midget Hose Supporters,” Delineator, February 1920.

What the hey? “Baby Midgets” are tiny garters or stocking suspenders which are attached to this baby’s diaper with safety pins!

Seriously: How is a garter supposed to hold up your stockings when you can’t even stand up and walk yet?

I remember reading a book (The Egg and I?) in which the grandmother, hearing that the children were either making too much noise or were suspiciously silent, would shout, “You! Pull up your socks!” This was a fairly effective all-purpose command, since children couldn’t pull up their socks without removing a hand from the cookie jar, or putting down that air rifle…. Just today, reading The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, I found that the Oklahoma Public library sent a condolence message to the Los Angeles Library after a terrible fire. It included the encouraging (?) phrase, “Keep your socks up!”

Incidentally, I also found this ad for Baby Dimples Safety Pins. Awwwww….

Ad for Baby Dimples Safety Pins, Delineator, January 1920.

Here’s another old expression:  “Keep it under your hat.”

Paris hat designed by Virot, Delineator, March 1912.

Don’t wear it while driving. Or while crossing a busy street.

Speaking of hats….

Hat featured in an ad for Cheney “Shower-Proof” silks. Delineator, March 1912.

Ad for Cheney “Shower-Proof” Silks, March 1912.

I don’t know why she would need an umbrella when she’s wearing that hat! In fact,  I’m not sure the umbrella would be big enough to cover that hat. (And what about the umbrella handle…? She couldn’t get it close to her head… or even close to her shoulder! Which is why the umbrella is down on the ground catching water, I guess.)

I started with the intention of writing about this:

When is this? (No, not 2012….)

It surprised me. It’s got bare shoulders. It’s got breast exposure. It’s got a good chance of a “wardrobe malfunction” if you lean sideways. I could imagine this on the red carpet of some awards show, probably in red satin, and probably held in place with toupee tape.

(“Toupee tape” was for many years as common in a wardrobe person’s tool kit as safety pins. It was a double-sided tape intended to secure a toupee to a bald head, but was quickly adapted to keeping low-cut dresses from gaping too far for television. Its great virtue was that the adhesive didn’t give out when exposed to sweat or body oils. Now there’s a similar product manufactured and sold — in larger quantities — specifically for use with clothing.) The video ad amusingly says it prevents “peekaboob.”)

I found this sketch charming. Clue to the date: the artist is fashion illustrator Soulié. [The model was not a young Nicole Kidman….]

And this bodice is part of a couture dress designed by Jeanne Lanvin and shown in Paris in 1920.

Couture gown by Jeanne Lanvin, Paris, 1920. The net skirt is embroidered and beaded. Sketched for Delineator, March 1920.

A deep V neckline in 1920? Breasts as an erogenous zone in 1920? Yes, to my surprise…

Couture gown by Martial et Armand, Paris, 1920.

When I showed these images to a non-fashion-historian friend, she couldn’t get over the “make-your-hips-look-at-least twice-as-wide” skirts.

Couture evening gown by Martial et Armand, sketched for Delineator, January 1920.

The bottom of the hip yoke is wired to make the skirt stand away from the body. Of course, the coat to wear over a dress like this will not produce a slender silhouette, either:

An “evening cloak” and gown designed by Bulloz, Paris, 1920.

My friend was also horrified by the long, dragging panels on these dresses. (Fashion historians accept that wasteful, extravagant, impractical “conspicuous consumption” is a hallmark of high fashion.) “How could you dance in a dress like this?” we wondered. “Everybody would step on it! It would get so dirty!”

The editors of Delineator had a suggestion:

So that’s what you do with it…. Or them….  This gown has two dragging “French panels,” one of fragile lace and one of silk:

Couture gown by designer Elise Poret [not Poiret] from the February, 1920 Delineator.

(That dress also has an “oriental hem.”) There have been many decades when skirts were widened to make waists look smaller by comparison. But that’s not what’s happening here.

We are so conditioned to the fashion ideal of slenderness (or at least, a tall, lean look on fashion models) that, while I was thinking,”Wow! a bodice held up by straps in 1920!” my friend was asking “Why would you wear that? It makes her look fat!”

I look at this hip-widening gown by Berthe and notice that its couture workmanship is outstanding, and … pretty:

Couture gown by Berthe-Hermance illustrated in May, 1920; Delineator.

Couture details on a 1920 gown. Undeniably luxurious.

(Also undeniable is its potential for a wardrobe malfunction if one shoulder relaxes….)

But it is difficult for me to look at coats like these and yearn to wear them:

Evening coats from Butterick patterns, November 1920.

Couture “cloak” by Renee, covered with red, yellow, and green “balls.” January 1920.

“What The F[ashion]?” Are those mules on her feet? With a coat? Seriously? And, what did it feel like to sit on those balls?

The historic House of Worth contributed this (shall we say transitional?) suit which gets its stiffness from pony skin. [Perfect if your name is “Whinnie.”]

From the House of Worth, Paris. Illustrated in Delineator, January 1920.

In other words, after five years of war and its aftermath, Paris went mad for luxury. “Suits no longer content themselves with fur collar and cuffs but are made entirely of mole, caracul, etc.” A lot of horses died in WW I, so I guess pony was a luxury item, too.

To end on a more cheerful note, we know about harem skirts and orientalism and the influence of the Ballet Russe. But this is the first photo of a model wearing harem pants that I’ve encountered:

Orientalism in high fashion: a harem hem for an evening in Paris. Delineator, May 1920.

Glamourdaze paid tribute to the Poiret-influenced harem hem outfit worn on Downton Abbey. But these are later, and not by Poiret.

Information about “Deddy” is hard to find, but the designer Deddy did appear in Delineator fashion coverage more than once.

The harem pants worn on Downton Abbey by Lady Sybil were definitely not as revealing as this outfit!

Very Bare in 1920: The top of Deddy’s harem outfit.

That’s all my “WTFashion?” images for now.  More to come.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Capes, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs, World War I

A Bride’s Trousseau by Top Designers, April 1928

A wedding gown designed by Lucien Lelong and illustrated for Delineator magazine, April 1928. Delineator maintained an office in Paris to get the latest fashions for the Butterick pattern company.

In April 1928, Delineator magazine selected a hypothetical trousseau purchased  from the top Paris designers. The wedding gown and several other items were from the house of Lelong. Other designers’ names, like O’Rossen and Jane Regny, may be less familiar. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting time capsule of what a very rich society bride might choose for her first season as a married woman.

To make these images legible, I’ve straightened them out and adjusted them for exposure and clarity.

The illustrations were splayed around the wedding gown in the center, so I have made individual images of each garment to show the details.

The wedding gown displays an extreme version of the uneven hems that were chic in the late Twenties. The front of the gown is at knee length, but the train is extravagantly long.

A dipping train in the back of the wedding dress.

The dress is shaped close to the hips with a series of godets [inserts] which flare in front.

Superb construction was a mark of the House of Lelong.

The simple veil springs lavishly from a close-fitting cap. Large earrings dangle below the severe headdress.

The rest of the bride’s trousseau/wardrobe includes evening gowns, suits, and a coat (which was also by Lelong.)

First, a not-so-simple evening dress from Champcommunal. It is sleeveless, with a long chiffon scarf on one side.

Next, a sporty summer suit which combines fabrics in a very sophisticated way:

The cardigan jacket is casual and striped. The [wonderful] skirt is a floral print, and the same fabric lines the open jacket and trims the pockets. The design house is London Trades.

Dresses with gradations of color [“composé” ] were very stylish.

This dress in graded colors has a coordinating jacket. The designer is Jane Regny.

A real classic is this overcoat by Lelong. The waistline may move up or down, but the basic tailored overcoat appears in some version decade after decade. There is a classic belt in back, too.

The coat, by Lelong, is double-breasted and almost severe.

A wool traveling suit by O’Rossen is worn with a necktie (or scarf tied like a necktie) and a large fur stole. O’Rossen specialized in “tailleurs” — tailored clothing.

Women wore less sporty outfits to afternoon events. This print “dress” and jacket is by Lelong. The big floral decoration on one shoulder may be stiffened self-fabric. Oddly (to my eyes) both this accent and the flare of the asymmetrical skirt are on the left side of her body, rather than the accent being worn on the opposite side to “balance” the skirt. I see this “same side” accent on many 1920s’ illustrations.

A slightly more dressy ensemble by Lelong. The skirt is asymmetrical.

At this level of society, a woman would need more than one evening dress. The one below is extravagantly ruffled, but it’s not girlish.

I can’t get over how modern the model’s hair looks!

A breezy, casual, and chic 1928 hairstyle.

Another evening gown from Lelong, this one has yards and yards of lightweight ruffled net creating a full skirt which dips in the back.

That net dress is for parties and balls, while the “simple” chiffon evening dress would be appropriate for more intimate dinners and dancing.

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

For one thing, they can buy couture.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles, Vintage Couture Designs, Wedding Clothes

Wrap-look Dresses from June, 1931

Butterick dress 3989, a pattern from July 1931.

Considering how popular and enduring a fashion Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dresses have been, this looks-like-a-wrap dress from 1931 got my attention. 1931 was the year when hems kept falling, so its proportions look odd, but the general impression is very much the same.

Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, Vogue pattern 1548, from 1976. Courtesy of the Commercial Pattern Archive.

Marie Claire ran a tribute to the DVF wrap dress (click here to read it) which includes a photo of the designer modeling her own dress. 1970s: DVF in this exact wrap dress . 2010: Michelle Obama in a classic wrap dress.  2014: The Duchess of Cambridge in her wrap dress . I think the wrap dress counts as a “classic,” especially since this look has been around since 1931!

The simple V neckline, the long sleeves, the slightly flared skirt — all those style elements were worn in 1931:

This 1931 dress was described as having a “surplice” closing at the side, often recommended in the 1920s as flattering to the figure.

It’s hard to tell without seeing the actual pattern, but this may be a long, asymmetrical wrapped bodice over a skirt.

Back view of Butterick 3989.

Fifty Dresses recently made Vogue 1610 (a DVF design circa 1977); the Fifty Dresses blogger uses vintage patterns to make 21st century clothing, and you can see that the classic DVF wrap dress still works. Click here.

Vogue 1610 (circa 1977) and 1548 (1977) by DVF are for stretchable knits only, while the 1931 wrap dresses probably depend on bias stretch for their fluid fit. In 1931 McCall offered No. 6681, which looks like a wrap but does not seem to open all the way down the side seam:

McCall wrap dress 6681 is in the collection of the Commercial Pattern Archive. It also dates to 1931.

Note the classic V neckline. Its skirt is suspended from a diagonal seam — in this case, straight rather than curved. Without being able to see the pattern pieces, it’s hard to tell how far the surplice opening continued into the skirt, but Butteick 3989, which was illustrated on the same page as 3960, below, does close with a tie at the side.

Also from 1931:

Butterick 3960 from July of 1931. The bodice doesn’t resemble a wrap but there’s definitely a tie at the side seam.

Note: wrap skirts were around in the 1920s:

Butterick wrap skirt 1480, from Delineator, June 1927. This suit was copied from Vionnet.

Click here for more 1920’s wrap skirts. Wrap dresses were also worn during World War I:

Back to 1931:

The plaid scarf doesn’t have much to do with the structure of this Butterick wrap dress from Delineator, February 1931.

It appears that the bodice wraps and ties at the side; the pleated section seems to be attached to the bodice and tied over a simple inner skirt. Is it a true wrap dress? The one below is.

Wrap/surplice dresses were often recommended for older figures:

Butterick “slenderizing” dress 4049, from Delineator, September 1931. Here, the front wrap clearly ties over an under layer, as in a classic DVF wrap dress.

For glamour — 1931 or now — it’s hard to improve on the long, wrap negligee:

Butterick’s wrap negligee No. 4224,from Delineator, December 1931.

Wow. And available for bust sizes 32 to 52! Gleaming, “icy pastel” satin for the shapely; deep burgundy velvet for more mature figures? Perfect for the Jean Harlow in every woman.

Jean Harlow in a wrap negligee, 1935. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1960s-1970s, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Flared Skirts Appear: 1925 – 1926

Center and right: skirts with a flare, from January 1926, Delineator.

Browsing through Butterick patterns in Delineator, I don’t find very many skirts made with a circular flare — rather than fullness from gathers or pleats — before mid-1925.  That’s not to say that designers didn’t show them, or that there were none….

Poiret had a great success with his tunic dresses in 1914; he tried them again in 1924:

Poiret tried to revive his “minaret” look in early 1924. Delineator, February 1924.

Other designers were also introducing the circular flare in 1924:

Coat by Lanvin, Delineator, April 1924. “Lanvin’s love of fullness shows itself in the cut and sewing of the circular flare.”

Butterick dress pattern 5006 has a circular flounce at the bottom. Delineator, February 1924.

But, until fall of 1925,  the strongly vertical line is seen on many more patterns.

A page of Butterick patterns from June 1924. Delineator, p. 31.

The following summer, this 1925 Butterick skirt was notable because of its “new” (very slight) flare, front and back.

Butterick “flare skirt” 5991 is “new and smart;”from Delineator, May 1925. For sizes 35 to 52″ hip.

Here is a range of Butterick styles for young women from the previous summer (1924):

Patterns for young women, Delineator, June 1924.

There are some real changes by September 1925:

Butterick 6345 for young women has the new flared [and shorter] skirt; Delineator, September 1925. p. 27.

More Butterick dress patterns with flared skirts appeared in mid-to-late 1925, and by 1926 they were easy to find.

Butterick patterns from January, 1926; Delineator magazine, page 25. “Style starts the new year in flared and plaited silhouettes.” [The dress in the center may be inspired by  Vionnet.]

Number 6537 (far right) has a flared skirt in back, but not in front. Delineator, January 1926, page 25. No. 6539 has a flared overskirt that is the same on back and front.

The back views from January 1926 show that the flare was not necessarily the same on the front and back of a dress. Many earlier 1920s’ patterns said “plain back” or “one-piece back,” even when the front was pleated or flared:

The flare of this Butterick dress from December 1924 stops at the side seams; the back is plain.

Two new, flared dresses from Delineator, October 1925, p. 26. Both have “circular cut” skirts.

The flare also appeared in dresses for adult women.

Flared dresses for women were longer than those for teens and small women. Delineator, October 1925.

These are from January 1926:

More flared frocks from January 1926. Butterick’s Delineator magazine, page 24. From left, Butterick 6559, 6553, 6567, and 6569, which has a side drape or “flying panel” instead of a flared skirt.

The flared skirts now have as much fullness in back as in front:

Back views of Butterick patterns, Delineator, page 24. January 1926.

Butterick frocks 6529 (left) and 6511 (center) show the new flared skirts. Delineator, January 1926, p. 29. The skirts of 6529 (left) and 6509 (right) are similar, except that one is flared and one is straight.

Delineator, January 1926, page 29. When fashion “widens the hem, she shortens the skirt….”

“The straight frocks of last year can often be converted to new lines by means of godets, circular flounces, inserted plaits [pleats], flying panels, etc.  The vogue of two materials, two colors, or two shades of the same color makes reconstruction possible and practical.”

Skirt godets in contrasting colors can be seen on this flared dress pattern from November 1925. Butterick 6354.

If women needed ways to update their straight skirts into flared skirts in 1926, I think we can say flared skirts were a trend, although skirts were also made more “walkable” with pleats and other devices.

Three silhouettes from January 1926: a straight princess line dress with pleats, a dress with side pleats, and a dress with a flared skirt. Young women’s styles from Delineator.

Flared skirts for teens and small women; Butterick 6536, 6545, and 6523. Delineator, January 1926.

Below:part of the difference between the bolero dress for teens (6565) and the bolero dress for women (6495) is in the proportions of the fashion illustrations, rather than the clothes.

Butterick “dress and bolero” 6565 and 6495, both from Delineator, January 1926.

The outfit on the left is for teens (15 to 20) and small [short] women.  The neck to hem measurement on patterns for women 15 to 20 was shorter than for adults, but the figure on the right is very elongated. When drawing realistic figures, the distance from the top of the head to the waist is roughly “three heads” (using top of head to chin as a unit of measurement.) If the woman on the right were a real women, her waist would be about where her collar streamers tie.  The “realistic” distance from top of head to hip joint is usually “four heads.” But a “fashion figure” may be as much as eleven “heads” high. Even runway models can’t match that! No wonder we always fall short of the ideals….

 

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Filed under 1920s, Coats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s: Jenny (Part 2)

Red and white tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

Jenny in the 1920s

Jeanne Adele Bernard (married name, Jeanne Sacerdote) worked as “Jenny” — an oddly British sounding name. (There were other designers in Paris named Bernard.)  The name “Jenny” became as well known as “Georgette” or “Lucile.” She had been hugely successful in the late 1910s, and she adapted to the 1920s just as well.

Afternoon gown by Jenny, photographed by O’Doye for Delineator February 1924.

Do check out this luxurious evening coat by Jenny, sold by Carolynforbestextiles.com. Amazing 1920’s colors. Simple — but dazzling — is this mid-twenties dress from Jenny:

Evening dress by Jenny, 1925 to 1928; courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

The Peabody Essex Museum has a superb Jenny evening dress circa 1926, more elaborate that the one above and photographed on a mannequin. Click here.

Jenny combined both ivory and black lace with black satin and a beaded belt on this very feminine gown, sketched for Delineator, April 1924.

What struck Delineator’s editors was the full sleeves,  “which have been neither seen nor heard of for evening for several seasons.”

Ivory lace tops the off-the-shoulder bodice [how did that work?] and peeks out from below the black lace skirt. Bare arms were standard on evening dress in 1924.

This sleeveless Jenny design from 1926 has the low armholes and bare arms expected in formal evening gowns.

Jenny’s ruffled evening frock in pink taffeta trimmed with turquoise ribbons; matching cape trimmed in turquoise ribbon and feathers. Sketch in Delineator, July 1924.

In 1924, Jenny was not afraid of the play of patterned fabrics and severely geometric details:

A three piece suit from Jenny; the cashmere printed crepe de Chine “blouse” is a tunic almost reaching the hem of the coat, which is shorter than the long gray skirt. In Delineator, April 1924.

Jenny suit, 1924. The applied trim is bands of self-fabric. See the book Classic French Fashions.

This Jenny ensemble puts a 7/8 length beige coat over a beige, rose, and green plaid dress. The plaid also trim the coat. Delineator, July 1924.

When the very narrow “tubular” silhouette came in, Jenny was ready:

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September, 1924.

In 1925, one of Jenny’s designs was this coat and dress ensemble. Her hems were rising rapidly, but she went against the tide with this very high collar, and a dress trimmed with tiny gold buttons.

Jenny puts this green velvet coat over a dress of rose-beige crepe de Chine, trimmed with hundreds of little gold buttons. Delineator, September, 1925.

1926 shows Jenny still among the top-ranked couturiers:

Three couture ensembles from Delineator, June 1926. Jenny shows a short flared coat over a “just to the knees” dress.

Earlier in the 1920s skirts tended to be straight in back; now these are flared all the way around.

Jenny again catches the mode: a bloused top. Sketched for Delineator, September 1926.

A very bare evening dress with a flared skirt. It was orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls. Jenny design, sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Evening dresses by Jenny and Chanel, Sketched for Delineator, February 1927.

There are a lot of 1960s’ and 70s’ “Twenties” costume dresses out there, covered with tiers of fringe, but this is what beaded fringe looked like in the hands of a couturier like Jenny; on a pink dress, a deeper pink “fringe of crystal beads that touch it with rosy frost.”

Beaded fringe in geometric patterns on an Art Deco evening dress by Jenny, Delineator, February 1927.

Top of beaded dress, Jenny, 1927. I like the way beaded fringe partly covers the deep V neckline — it’s subtly sexy.

I’m not as impressed by every one of her 1927 creations, although closer study usually reveals a little extra creativity. (Remember these are just a tiny fraction of her output.)

Left, Jenny, for evening; right Vionnet day dress. From Delineator, August 1927.

This black and white (?) satin dress comes with a heavily sequinned black chiffon bolero. Jenny in Delineator, October 1927.

Her more tailored coats and suits really are wonderful, with many subtle touches.

One-button suit by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator, June 1927.  The button suggests “a high waistline,” the style of the 1930s, which was just starting to appear.

Lovely lines and pocket detail on the left; astrakhan (unborn lamb) is used on the collar and — unexpectedly — on the back skirt of the coat at right. [Photo distorted by the curvature of the page.]

Her very flared, collarless 1927 coat is a fore-runner of 1940s’ and fifties’ styles.

If you can ignore the scarf, this is a coat decades ahead of its time, from the “Swing” of its flare to the curved seams running into the pocket; note the curved detailing on the cuff. Illustrated for Delineator, May 1927.

It’s quite a change from the tubular coats she made in 1924! Just three years had passed.

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September 1924.

In 1928, Delineator was still enchanted with Jenny’s flower-printed underwear, which she had been showing since 1917, or possibly earlier.

Poppy printed chemise by Jenny, in Delineator, April 1928.

In 1929, Jenny was showing asymmetrical fashions. These are dramatic and unusual.

These 1929 gowns from Jenny play with asymmetry and two-toned color schemes. Delineator‘s Paris report, November 1929.

The short satin gown is very unusual. I wish we could see all around it.

Where does the dark begin? Where does it end? What happens in the back? I don’t know.

By this time, Jenny was in her sixties. She continued making up-to-date gowns in the 1930s. Thanks to Elizabeth Handley Seymour’s desire to make and sell copies to her London clients, the V&A museum has a color sketch of a slinky, broad-shouldered Jenny gown, 1936.

Jenny was one of the couture houses that did not re-open after closing during World War II. For a time line of Jenny’s life, click here.

For French fashion illustrations of Jenny modes, visit the wonderful blog A la Recherche des Modes Perdues [lost] et Oublies [forgotten]. There is a search box and a language translator option.

[Added on 4/21/19] And one for the road: A Jenny evening dress with a complex  skirt and a high, cross-over front. It was Reseda green crepe Romain; the long ties in back gave a flattering rear view, or could be worn with one tie brought to the front.

500 jenny GH 1929 april pg 69 Jenny evening crossed front

Gown by Jenny, from Good Housekeeping, April, 1929, page 69.

The poor image quality is what happened when many magazines were converted to microfilm to save library space.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Slips and Petticoats, Sportswear, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s, Number 1: Jenny (Part 1)

Evening dress by Jenny (Jeanne Adele Bernard Sacerdote) as sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Some leading designers of the nineteen twenties have names that still sell fashion. Chanel comes to mind. Others were famous before and after the Twenties, like the House of Worth. Having a successful perfume brand helps: “Joy,” by Patou is still available. This is the first in a series about once-famous 1920s designers who are no longer well known.

Jenny (born Jeanne Adele Bernard, later Jenny Sacerdote) was ranked with those big names in the Twenties, but is not as well known today. I’ll be sharing a few of her designs, with links to help you find others.

These are merely a few of the designs by Jenny that were sketched for Delineator, *** and I do not have photos from every year between 1917 and 1930. Her ability to adjust to changes in fashion is admirable.  Born in 1868, she became famous in her fifties, showing 300 pieces in her collection of 1918.

Two sketches of couture by Jenny (Jenny Adele Bernard Sacerdote ) shows her ability to move with the times. Delineator, 1917 and 1927.

Left, a gown with a “tonneau” or “barrel” skirt — a fashion innovation from 1917. Right, a bare, narrow, fringed and beaded evening gown from 1927.

Jenny in 1917

Jenny was already being copied in 1915. The V&A collection has several color sketches of Jenny designs. London dressmaker Elizabeth Handley Seymour sketched hundreds of French couture gowns and coats which she was prepared to duplicate for her customers. She included this coat by Jenny, this evening gown, and this elegant afternoon or evening gown.

Jenny was such a “star” in 1917 that even her underwear collections were featured in “Reports from Paris.” She’s notable for her use of bright colors and print fabrics (!) in her lingerie:

This frothy undergarment was “sulphur-yellow ‘gaze’ trimmed with lace.” Delineator, August 1917.

On Jenny’s pink satin knickers, cream yellow lace is outlined with little roses or ‘cocardes’ [sic] of satin ribbon:

Doucet was a very well-established design house; Jenny is treated as his equal. Delineator, August 1917. Note the ribbon straps.

Print fabric lingerie by Jenny, 1917. Sketched for Delineator.

Jenny used “Flowered muslin in a quite indescribable design of white flowers outlined with pink on a blue background” for her pleated chemise, 1917. I remember how new and exciting print underwear was in the 1960s!

This pink chiffon Jenny dressing gown would have been called a “combing jacket” in an earlier era. (See “Peignoir.”)

A dressing gown by Jenny in Delineator, July 1917: “ruched pink chiffon over a pink satin skirt.”

Other Jenny designs from 1917 show that she had a sense of humor. She named this dress, amply trimmed with fur, “My hairy one.”

Jenny called this model “Mon Poilu” –“my hairy one.” Sketched for Delineator, December 1917.

However, her velvet skating dress seems a little impractical:

Jenny described this as a skating dress. Delineator sketch, December 1917. The tassels would be flying!

The coat below is actually sleeveless, worn over a matching gray silk dress. The geometric trim is stitching in green thread.

Short sleeveless coat over matching gray silk dress, green stitching. Jenny, sketched for Delineator, September 1917.

In June, 1917, Delineator showed a page full of couture designs which featured the new “barrel” silhouette. This was one from Jenny. Page 56.

Delineator claimed the barrel silhouette was chiefly the influence of Jeanne Paquin:

The barrel or tonneau skirt, sketched by Paquin’s own artist. Delineator, March 1917, p 56.

They look better to me when the model is sitting down.

Jenny created this dress for 1917. Delineator, March, p. 56. “Blue serge dress with eight box plaits over each shoulder. The square line at the neck appears in many of the new dresses.”

Left, a design by Jenny — in black satin under white chiffon embroidered with flowers — appears next to a design from the House of Worth. Delineator, March 1917.

I’m sure you could find many more Jenny designs: try searching for Delineator at Hathi Trust; select Journal, then choose a year, and search within the volumes you find. 1922 for example…

*** Note:  Butterick Publishing Company had offices in Paris, giving their pattern makers a chance to follow the very latest trends, which were reported on several times a year, often illustrated by Soulie. All the illustrations I’ll use in this “Less Familiar Designers” series come from Delineator‘s coverage. Caveat:  Pattern companies could sometimes buy couture items and copy them, but designers were not happy to be copied without any payment, so sketch artists attending fashion shows had to be quick and furtive, and sometimes had to work from memory. Read Fashion is Spinach, by Elizabeth Hawes for a sketcher’s real inside story.

Next: Jenny in the 1920s.

Tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, lingerie, Nightclothes and Robes, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Resources for Costumers, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

Balenciaga at the V & A : Museum Exhibitions Online

Design by Cristobal Balenciaga, 1965. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

The Vintage Traveler recently shared an FIT symposium on museum exhibitions of fashion.
That reminded me of some extraordinary videos that were part of “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The exhibition closed in February, 2018, but the V&A has generously posted the videos made for the exhibit online, so we can all enjoy them. [Note to other museums: Go, thou, and do likewise! Once the exhibition closes, put the videos online!] Unfortunately, the still photos from the exhibition are under copyright, as are most other museum pictures of Balenciagas — so please click on the links.

I didn’t see the exhibition in London, but it appears to have used technology to very good purpose. I’ve whiled away hours watching the V&A’s exemplary videos.
This link will take you to the V&A website, where you can read about Balenciaga and watch three marvelous videos illustrating exactly how his minimalist but extraordinary patterns come together into “Balenciagas.” Click here for Secrets of Balenciaga’s Construction

The museum took X-Ray photos of some of the Balenciagas on exhibit. This link includes another fascinating video. You can see hidden weights controlling the drape, and, occasionally, a straight pin!

A V&A video about the custom beading on a glittering evening coat is found here.

In “Learning from the Master: Deconstructing Balenciaga,” the Museum invited a group of advanced design students from the London College of Fashion to create patterns and toiles from Balenciaga gowns in the museum’s collection. If you sew or drape, this is for you! ( I’m thinking of you, Fifty Dresses….)

“Shaping Fashion: Balenciaga” is another well-done video from the V&A. You can watch designs by Balenciaga morph into designs by other famous couturiers. (I just wish all the V&A’s videos were together in one place online!)

A preview of the entire exhibit can be found in the AP Archives: click here.

Until I started searching museum collections for Balenciaga designs, I hadn’t appreciated how much he influenced my wardrobe in the late 1950s/60s. Not that I ever wore couture (ha!) but because the inexpensive clothes I did wear and saw worn everywhere were inspired by his work. My first wool suit (home-made) was a distant echo of this one. Party and prom dresses worn by my friends owed a debt to this simple & elegant flowered dress. (Note the shape of the skirt.) The shape of this coat was everywhere, and I bought a long formal in green brocade with soft pleats at the waist (circa 1964,) reminiscent of the dress under it.

More Online About this Exhibition

Many who visited the exhibition posted images or videos on YouTube; here are a few blogs or videos about it.

At 12 minutes long, this video from Stitchless TV gives a good idea of how well-thought-out this exhibition apparently was. Click here for a “walk through” that includes much besides the videos posted more clearly at the V&A site. It shows the “upstairs” part of the exhibit, which features designers who trained with or were inspired by “The Master.”

This video by Natalie (at Time with Natalie) gives a good “walk through” (starting at one minute in.)

Betty Raen at The London List captures some photos that show more of the exhibit.

For a quick taste, try Fashion Expedition’s report.

The Arcadia online blog previews the exhibit (with illustrations, of course.) Many designs by students of “the Master” are shown.

This link includes a photo of the pink “Tulip Dress” which is magically reconstructed in a V&A video.

As the late Anthony Bourdain said, “I’m still hungry for more.”

More Balenciaga exhibitions:

“Balenciaga and His Legacy:” was presented at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas on February 3, 2007 by the Texas Fashion Collection. Click here. This video is not too dark, unlike others; but it’s not really in focus, either…. However — you won’t see the same creations featured elsewhere. Worth a taste.

When you have had your fill of evening gowns, this video from the Museo Cristobal Balenciaga shows superb construction on wool suits and other daytime clothing. Some of the images are too dark, but other close-ups are superb.

If you still want more Balenciaga, this 2011 exhibition, “Balenciaga and Spain,” from The DeYoung museum in San Francisco is 17 minutes long and traces Balenciaga’s development and early influences  …. sadly, the lighting and photo quality are not good. Films of his showroom are good.

This short video of “Balenciaga: Spanish Master” exhibition from New York is different and definitely worth watching.

Also creative and interesting: this video from ICONIC.

When you have time to relax, pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy these videos and blogs.

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Capes, Coats, Exhibitions & Museums, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing