Category Archives: Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

More Christmas Doll Patterns from the 1920s

A Butterick pattern for little boys, plus two Butterick doll patterns. Delineator, December 1924. His shorts are attached to his shirt with buttons.

I haven’t figured out why this is a “Deli-bear.”

Deli-bear pattern 10271 looks like a sailor bear to me.

The same doll pattern was featured again in 1926:

Deli Bear pattern 10271 from Delineator, May 1926.

To my eyes, this Puss in Boots doll from December 1924 isn’t nearly as appealing as the Deli-bear. (I had a real black cat, who was very handsome, unlike this doll.)

I’m deducing that this is Puss in Boots. Butterick Toy animal pattern 10200, from December 1924.

This toy animal dolls pattern was shown in two places in the same issue.

Butterick doll pattern 10302, in a color illustration from Delineator, page 28, December 1924.

On another page, the toys seem to be photographed, rather than drawn, so we can see the nice effect of using a textured fabric on the rabbit:

Animal dolls pattern 10302 from page 40 of the December 1924  Delineator.

Patterns for “baby dolls” (some almost as big as real children) were also on offer.

Whole wardrobes for purchased dolls were available to make for Christmas. Left, Butterick 424.

[More than twenty years later, clothes for dolls and little girls didn’t look much different from these 1924 illustrations as far as dress styles and doll sizes went:]

Toddler and very big baby doll, circa 1947. The shapeless dress (with room to grow) was still around.

A little girl with a doll dressed in Butterick 425.

The doll’s clothes are as detailed as a real girl’s. Butterick 425.

As a child, I appreciated doll clothes that were like mine — including underwear and pajamas or sleeping suits. (If I had to wear itchy, frilly undies, so did my dolls.)

Little girls sometimes wore “Romper” suits, and so does this doll from 1926:

Butterick doll’s romper and sunbonnet pattern 426.

This doll wears Butterick 427. Delineator, May 1926.

Butterick doll 10192 has yarn braids and does not look like a baby (more like an older sister.) I love those tiny appliqued birds! Fast, easy blanket stitch trims the girl’s collar and cuffs.

DIGRESSION: Since the holidays are approaching, I’ll slip in my yearly reminder to get out those old photos now, and get some names and stories penciled on the back when relatives gather. Suggested questions: What was the best toy you ever got? What were your favorite books (or games) when you were a child?

Witness2fashion with home-made Raggedy Ann and her store-bought “brother,” Raggedy Andy. Raggedy Ann (made by a friend of my Grandmother) had real, black shoe-button eyes, and I almost dug a hole in her chest by trying to feel her candy heart with “I Love You” printed on it.

McCall pattern from the 1950 needlework catalog. My Raggedy Ann looked exactly like this one, with a dotted Swiss apron and bloomers. Raggedy Ann and Andy stuffed doll pattern, McCall 820.

As the only child of parents in their forties, I didn’t have much contact with other children until I started school. Aunts and uncles deluged me with baby dolls, but I never wanted to be a mother. Dressing and undressing dolls was not my idea of fun. My favorite dolls were Raggedy Ann and Andy (I begged for Andy, and finally got a store-bought Raggedy Andy to go with my beloved, home-made Raggedy Ann.)

A book that survived my growing up, many moves, and growing old.

There was a series of books about Raggedy Ann and Andy. They had adventures. ***  Those dolls were not my “babies,” they were my friends.

Too much of a good thing,

I actually didn’t know enough names to name all the baby dolls I was given, so I took to naming them after the person who gave them to me. I am probably the only child ever to have a baby doll (in a lacy bonnet and a long white christening dress) who was named “Uncle Ole.” (I just recognized “Uncle Ole” as the doll in a frilled bonnet at top left! At least “Uncle Ole” wasn’t too big to carry!)

*** All too often, their adventures involved cookies and candy….

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1940s-1950s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Dresses, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs

The “Gibson” Shirt-Waist, 1910

Shirt-waist “in Gibson style.” Delineator, June 1910.

“In number 3929 we have a very chic tailored shirt-waist or shirt-blouse in Gibson style, suitable for sporting and all other general use. The three narrow tucks in each front mark this waist with a distinctiveness of its own as well as giving a pleasing amount of fullness across the bust. Both the one-seam leg-o’-mutton and regulation shirt-waist sleeves are suitable for a model on this order, and these may be made in the full or three-quarter length.”

Alternate views of Butterick 3929, including a tiny “sailor collar” with bare neck. 1910.

Butterick 3607 is another “Gibson effect” shirt-waist. Delineator, February 1910. Here it has a masculine detachable collar. In back, the shoulder tucks create a slenderizing V shape.

“Probably there is no style of shirt-waist which women like better and find more becoming than the ones in Gibson effect, these making the wearer look broader, besides having a chic style of their own. An especially good shirt-waist, on this order, is shown in No 3607, a model having a very smart front closing. The more elaborate waist would be embroidered in some such manner as shown here, the Dutch collar and French cuffs both offering a splendid opportunity for this handwork, while the plainer model would be finished with the neck-band for wear with separate collars, and the regulation shirt-waist sleeve.”

“Gibson effect” shirt-waist No 3607 illustrated with “Dutch collar,” side front closing, and embroidery.

Charles Dana Gibson drew marvelous pen and ink sketches and cartoons of the American girl, a tall, regal presence who excelled at sports and sometimes dwarfed the men around her. As the term was used in Delineator in 1910, the “Gibson” shirt-waist seems to be one with wide tucks extending over the sleeve cap, like those above.

This Gibson shirt-waist fastens down the back, but has shoulder-widening tucks. Butterick 3624, Feb. 1910.

“A rather plainer model on the shirt-waist order is shown  in No. 3624, and this is a design which offers a splendid opportunity for some very effective embroidery. The tucks, arranged in Gibson style, extend slightly over the sleeves and give that broad effect which every American women desires.”

Variation on Butterick “Gibson” shirt-waist 3624. Delineator, Feb. 1910.

The bare, square “Dutch” neckline was a daring change from the previously high collars. “This is a waist which may be finished with the high neck and standing collar, the neck-band for wear with other separate collars, or the Dutch square neck. With the square neck and short sleeves, the model would be appropriate for home wear….”

This lacy, embroidered vintage blouse has wide “Gibson” tucks at the shoulders.

The very long front allows for the “Pouter pigeon” look when it’s tucked into a skirt.

Butterick 3432 is another “Gibson effect” shirt-waist from 1910.

“Wide tucks on the shoulders give the Gibson effect of waist No. 3532, and the cluster of three narrow tucks on each side make the only trimming that is necessary….”

The tucks are very wide on this vintage blouse, and the back view shows the optical illusion created when they converge in a V shape:

This “Gibson effect” waist would have been worn with a stiff, detachable collar.

Another illustration of Butterick’s “Gibson” waist 3607.

Although shirt-waist 3595 (below) is equally businesslike and tucked, the tucks do not extend over the sleeve head. No. 3595 was not described as a “Gibson” shirt-waist.

Butterick 3595, Delineator, February 1910, pages 102 and 97.

Both men and women wore detachable collars, sometimes made of paper or celluloid.

There is a surprising and well-illustrated article about celluloid collars at the National Museum of American History.  (click here.)

I just discovered the very good National Museum of American History website, which has a section on clothing and American history. As usual, the story of everyday clothing can be a doorway into history — as in this article about hats and shoes in Greensboro: Freedom’s Tally: an African American business in the Jim Crow South.

Digression: while I’m thinking about tiny, everyday objects that bring the past to life…. Some time ago I mentioned mudlarking in Victorian England. (Mudlarks eked out a living by searching for saleable trash in the Thames river.)

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/mudlark-sketched-by-munby-1855-coalheaver-gives-her-remains-of-his-dinner.jpg

“Mudlark girl. Coalheaver gives her remains of his dinner. From life. 1855.” Sketch by Arthur Munby from Victorian Working Women. (All the raw sewage of London flowed into the Thames. Even bits of coal were saleable.)

I often watch videos by Nicola White, a modern day mudlarker and artist. This one brought the past to life for me…. (There may be lots of commercials, but White always researches her finds — like this “forget me not” token inscribed by a 10 year old girl convicted of felony and sentenced to 7 years in prison in 1844.)

As a girl, I hated history classes. I wish I had been shown a doorway into the lives of ordinary people — like the ones available now.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Edwardian fashions, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Shirts and Blouses, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

“Oriental” Hems, 1920

These dresses from 1920 have “Oriental” hems. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine.

Dresses and skirts with Oriental hems were not the dominant style of 1920, but I’d love to hear from any vintage collectors who have encountered one.  I suspect that, like other trends that didn’t dominate their era, dresses with Oriental hems are probably rare, especially since they had plenty of fabric for re-making into a more conventional dress later.

The “Oriental” skirts of 1920 remind me of the bubble skirts popular — especially as formals — in the late fifties and early 1960s.

A bubble skirted evening dress, circa 1959. Click here for more. Associated with Balenciaga in the 1950s, they seemed to be making a comeback in 2018!

For the benefit of anyone who has found a vintage 1920s’ dress with this strange hem, here are more examples from Delineator, 1920.

Dress with Oriental hem, Butterick 2248, Delineator, April 1920.

The “Oriental hem” hem is not the same as harem pants, although this outfit also appeared in 1920:

Orientalism in high fashion: harem pants for an evening in Paris. Delinator, May 1920.

Oriental hem on Butterick 2309, May 1920.

On the same page:

Oriental hem — and ball fringe! — on a dress from 1920.

The pattern descriptions make it clear that the fuller hem on the fashion fabric is gathered to a narrower interior skirt — not trousers.

“The skirt is in one piece and caught under in Oriental fashion to a short, straight foundation skirt.”

Like most unusual fashions, this one began in couture houses:

Oriental hem on an evening gown by Elise Poret, sketched for Delineator, February 1920.

The Paris house of Madeleine et Madeleine showed this gown; sketched for Delineator; March, 1920.

There was — in more mainstream dresses — a trend to narrow hems, often as an under layer with a fuller, shorter skirt on top.

Butterick 2472 has a shorter, sheer overskirt and a narrow, longer underskirt. 1920.

Left, Butterick 2695 has a short overskirt and a narrow underskirt. Right, No. 2699 has an Oriental hem.

Butterick 2695 and 2699, skirt detail.

The “Oriental hem” was not the look for everyone, but, if you’re looking for something a little different — but authentic…. have fun.

Butterick patterns with “Oriental Hems” from 1920.

Witness to Fashion on Memory Lane: Bubble dresses circa 1960 often had wadded-up nylon tulle sandwiched in between their skirt layers. They did not emerge from dry-cleaning with all their charm intact. Since the small, hand-held steamer was not a common household appliance in 1959, taking a lovely bubble dress out of a packed closet could be a sad experience: a “light as whipped cream” taffeta dancing dress might emerge as a flattened prune.

 

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Filed under 1920s, Dresses, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Three Pattern Companies, Similar Styles: 1939

Cover of Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.

The cover of the Butterick Fashion News flyer for September 1939 showed a sheer black dress over a matching slip. It has the puffy sleeves of the era, and a V neck.
The Du Barry store flyer for the previous month showed a similar dress.

Du Barry pattern 2319 B. DuBarry store flyer August 1939.

In fact, it was on the cover of the Du Barry flyer, in a yellow, printed, non-sheer fabric version:

Du Barry Prevue cover, August 1939. Pattern 2319 B.

Du Barry showed it a third time, in purple:

Du Barry 2319 B.

Butterick (and Companion-Butterick) patterns were sold in fabric stores, and, before the Great Depression, Butterick was aimed at middle and upper-middle class shoppers. Du Barry patterns were sold only at Woolworth’s — the five and dime store. “Du Barry Patterns are 10 cents Each — For Sale Exclusively by F. W. Woolworth Co.” By contrast, Butterick pattern 8556 cost 45 cents.

In fact the two sheer black dress patterns are not identical — just two different expressions of a current look.

Companion-Butterick 8556.

Du Barry 2319 B. Slide fasteners [zippers] began appearing in dressy dresses about 1937.

The Butterick bodice is probably more difficult to make, since its curved seams end in a crossed, tucked piece in front that becomes a belt in back.

The Du Barry bodice uses simple gathers or ruching for the bodice and the sleeve heads.

However, the Du Barry pattern has a soft pleat in the center front of the skirt.

The Butterick skirt is more flared and cut in several panels.

Butterick 8556.

Even the sleeve heads are more tailored; both dresses are consistent within their own aesthetic.

At this point, I realized that I have a third, contemporaneous store flyer: Simplicity Prevue, August 1939. It, too, shows a sheer black dress pattern. In fact, Simplicity showed two!

Simplicity 3129, a sheer black dress. August 1939.

Simplicity 3150, sheer black dress, August 1939.

Both of the Simplicity patterns have yokes at the shoulders (diagonal in the case of No. 3150, and horizontal on No. 3129. Both were shown made in opaque fabrics, too.

Two views of Simplicity 3150.

Simplicity patterns cost 15 cents each, more than Du Barry (10 cents) and much less than Butterick (45 cents.)

Simplicity pattern information for 3139 and 3150.

Although the Simplicity patterns did not come in larger-than- usual sizes, they had this caption:

Simplicity recommended these two patterns (3150 and 3139) as “slenderizing.”

Maybe because they could be made in black? Lynn Mally at American Age Fashion found this photo:

Ashville, Ohio, July 4th 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn, Library of Congress.

Ashville, Ohio, July 4th 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn, Library of Congress.

If it seems odd that older women were wearing see-through dresses, perhaps they were the generation that wore  lingerie dresses twenty-odd years before?

P.S. Does this post seem familiar? My bad. I was trying to be sure I had scanned all my department store fashion news flyers, found two of these flyers missing from my picture files, and consequently didn’t realize that I had written about some of these patterns before! So, you are not having a deja vu experience…. Click here for “More Sheer Dresses from the Late 1930s” or “Sheer Black Dresses, Fall 1930.”  That’s where you saw these pictures before….

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hats, Musings, Shirts and Blouses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Zippers

What Made a Blouse a Shirt-Waist in 1909-1910? I Don’t Know.

Shirt-waist from Delineator article, February 1910, p. 97.

I wish I could give a definitive answer to “What’s the difference between a ‘shirt-waist’ and a blouse or ‘waist?’ ”

But: fashion writing…. (sigh.) It’s not the most precise art.

A mixture of “Shirt Waists” and “Waists” (sometimes called blouses.) Top of page 54, National Cloak & Suit catalog, 1909.

I thought I could pick out the “Shirt Waists” from this catalog at a glance. I was wrong. This page of women’s “waists” and “shirt-waists” from the National Cloak & Suit Company for 1909 (Dover Books: Women’s Fashions of the Early 1900s: An Unabridged Republication of New York Fashions, 1909) shows the confusion. (You can also find it as a PDF online.)

My instinct after pouring through books and magazines was to think that, if it unbuttons down the front, it’s a “shirt-waist.” But that’s probably because of the shirtwaist dresses I wore in the 1950s and 1960s. Those didn’t necessarily (or usually) button all the way down the front to the hem, but they always closed with buttons at least to the waist in front.

Left, Shirt Waist 4614. That’s what I was expecting.

I think most of us would recognize that No. 4614 (top left) is a “tailored shirt-waist,” “nattily mannish.” It visibly buttons down the front, and the collar opens in the center front, too. But what, exactly, makes it a Shirt Waist?

No. 4616 (on the same page) is also described as a “Shirt Waist.” [Although those buttons are purely decorative….]

No. 4616 is a “Tucked Shirt Waist of India Lawn.” “The front displays groups of tiny pearl buttons.” Does it actually open down the front? No. It “buttons in back.”  Does the collar open in front? No. (Collars were often connected to the garment at one side, and opened at the side neck or back neck, being finished and hanging free where not attached. So the collar opening is inconclusive.) What makes it a Shirt Waist?

Shirt Waist 4614 and “Waist” No. 4613. What’s the difference? I don’t know.

No. 4613 (right, next to Shirt Waist 4614) has a “visible button closing in front” and a “detachable turn-over linen collar.” But it’s a “Waist.” Apparently a stiff detachable collar isn’t the criterion, either.

Maye I’m putting too much faith in the copy writer…. Or maybe it has to do with tucked pleats…?

Right, Shirt Waist 4625. But No. 4630, left of it, is described as a “Waist.” Page 56. Both are pleated…. And both really do button down the front — somehow.

Above: No. 4625 (at right) is a “Shirt Waist of Pure linen… mannishly finished with detachable stiff linen collar….” This one looks like a shirt-waist to me, too!

Below: a blouse waist and a shirt waist.

Right, Shirt Waist No. 4633. Left, Waist 4635.  Yes! To me, No. 4635 looks like a blouse waist and 4633 looks like a shirt waist. (Page 57.) If only it were this simple.

No. 4633, above right, is a “Shirt Waist.” It “closes visibly with pearl buttons through a box-plait…..” and has “stiff link cuffs of the [striped shirt] material. Detachable linen collar.” And it’s pleated/tucked.

“Shirt Waist” No. 4641, from page 58.

No. 4641 is another “Shirt Waist” with button front opening and detachable collar. Embroidery and other feminine touches do not disqualify a “waist” from being a Shirt Waist. A Shirt Waist can even have a side front closing, like the one below. But it does seem to need full length sleeves, like a man’s business shirt.

No. 4611 — with its asymmetrical closing, is still a Shirt Waist. Page 53.

On the other hand….

“Waist” No. 4607, page 58.

No. 4607, which “closes visibly with pearl buttons ” down the tucked front, and has a “detachable stiff linen collar”  — [surely this is a shirt waist?] — is a “Waist of fine quality Linene.” A “Waist!”

At this point I began to consider the “all the news that fits the print” principle; the copy writer is required to squeeze the selling points into the available room for text, because this is a catalog. The word “Shirt” might be edited out to fit the space available. However, there seems to be plenty of room in that listing for more than one additional word! (That’s a long series of dots!)

So I went back to good old Delineator magazine. There, the same pattern may be described both ways, as is No. 3754, which is a “waist” in the illustration and a “shirt-waist” in the accompanying text.

Butterick waist 3754, Delineator, April 1910, p. 294.

Butterick 3754 pattern description, Delineator, April 1910, page 294. “A new style of shirt-waist. No. 3754….”

Alternate views of Butterick 3754. Delineator, April 1910, page 294. So many variations!

At least the Butterick “Waist” and “Shirt-Waist” patterns in Delineator have some justification for being described both ways: unlike a store-bought waist, a blouse/waist pattern could be made more than one way. The same blouse pattern might be made with the soft collar option or a stiff, detachable, turn-down collar. (And a collar like the one at left might be made separately and basted into place when wanted.) Other options were gathers instead of tucks, and either long or 3/4 sleeves.

Butterick shirt-waist pattern 3595; two versions from February 1910.

Two views of Butterick 3595: with attached collar (L) and ready for a detachable collar (R).

Notice the buttonhole in the back of the version on the right; it is ready to have a stiff, detachable collar secured with a collar button or stud, just like men’s business shirts.

Butterick Shirt-waist 3757, two views from April 1910. Page 297.

Another incarnation of Butterick Shirt-Waist 3757. The frill is probably a “button-in” option, as it was on No. 3754.

In this version, it opens down the front with a row of visible buttons, it has a stiff, detachable collar, it has stitched-down pleats or tucks, and long sleeves with French cuffs. But, as shown in its other views, … not necessarily!

One other thing to keep in mind: men’s shirts did not always open all the way down the front in the early 1900s. So the complete center front button opening on women’s waists may not be key to defining a “shirt waist.”

This man’s shirt has a CF button placket, but it doesn’t reach the bottom hem.

This man’s pull-on shirt has a striped bib with button placket, on a plain knit shirt.

Man’s knit shirt with striped fabric bib.

In conclusion (and confusion) I present:

Caption for illustration of Butterick 3716. Delineator, April 1910. p. 295.

Is that what they were thinking? Delineator, April 1910, p. 295.

I’m looking forward to comments from anyone who can definitively define the women’s “shirt waist” for me 🙂

Click here for the Fashion Institute’s essay on shirtwaists.   [EDIT 5/30/19;  I asked and I received: for some very helpful suggestions — and the information that men’s shirts could also be called “shirt-waists” — see the comments below from Peter Pane!]

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Edwardian fashions, Hairstyles, Musings, Shirts and Blouses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Time Traveling Again

This week I’ve been attending the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (seeing movies from the 1920s in a theater that opened in 1922!) and also visiting the Bound Periodicals collection at SF Main Library. Their earliest copies of Butterick’s Delineator magazine are July to December 1907.

One pleasant surprise: a 1907 monthly feature illustrated by fashion photos instead of drawings!

Shirt-waists and blouses (called waists) photographed for Delineator, July 1907. The article is from a series called “Dressing on Dimes.”

I’m also “visiting 1912” at the moment.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, July 1912, p. 23.

I’m trying to prioritize photographing color images, since color is what was lost when so many magazines were microfilmed (and then discarded by libraries) years ago. Even issues that have been scanned by Google and made available online lose a lot of information, because these old magazines used very small type with a serif font on very large pages; automated scanners have to make a choice between legible text, legible drawings, and accurate color illustrations — not always very successfully. [Link added 5/6/19] (Nevertheless, Hathi Trust makes many issues available that would otherwise be very rare and hard to find.) When I visit the bound copies of Delineator, I usually take 3 or 4 photos of each fashion page: whole page, top half, bottom half, and closeups of images. That allows a different camera exposure for text and images, but it’s not a fast process…. Even photographing a small ad requires an “establishing shot” with the page number on it, then a close-up.

I’m finding wonderful color illustrations…

Butterick pattern illustration, Delineator, April 1907, p. 27.

Butterick illustration for waist [bodice] 5188 and [separate] skirt 5189. Delineator, February 1912, p. 105.

… accompanied by useful line drawings…

Line drawings like these are easier to “figure out” for reproduction than full color paintings. Butterick waist 5514 with skirt 5515, showing front and back views. (Hard to realize this is not a dress! Bodice and skirt do not necessarily open in the same place.)  Delineator, July 1912, p. 24.

…and I photograph those (to me) irresistible ads for corsets, bust improvers, hip padding (!) and other products for women.

W.B. Corsets ad for the Reduso corset. Delineator, September, 1907.

Just looking at that corset makes my back ache! It seems that advertisers always think women are either too fat or too thin, and in need of “improvement:”

Ad for H & H Pneumatic Bust Forms, Delineator, July 1907, page 147.

Pneumatic seems to mean “inflated”– “For bathers at the sea-shore they are indispensable; … acts as a buoy to the bather and makes swimming easy.” [Unless you want to swim face-down?

Hats are always tempting me to photograph them:

Butterick waist 5312 with skirt 5313 and a hat that would keep people at arm’s length…. Delineator, April 1912.

Hat featured in fashion article for December 1907. I think it resembles the foliage from a Christmas Cactus….

Don’t sit behind her at the movies.

I do try not to photograph everything that captures my attention, but limiting myself to color images is not easy.

A suit photographed for the “Dress for Dimes” series. Delineator, October 1907.

Being able to see clothing, accurately dated, without the distorted proportions of fashion illustrations is a treat. Delineator‘s fashion photos from the 1920s were not as good as the ones from 1907.

On the other hand, this story illustration is lovely, and I’m surprised by that low-backed gown at left.

Painting illustrating fiction in Delineator, August 1912. Men in white tie: maximum formality.

Edited  5/7/19: A closer look at that low-backed blue-green evening dress hints that a layer of whitish lace was visible above the deep V.

Detail; I think / expect that sheer white or ecru lace covers her camisole and is visible above the deep V back. I also see ermine tails on the white-haired lady.

After seeing that [illustration], I’m thinking maybe 1912 would be a good year for My Fair Lady / Pygmalion.

Ladies’ coat and jacket outfits, Delineator, April 1912, p. 297.

As usual, it’s astonishing to see how rapidly fashions changed. Just two years later:

Butterick patterns from May 1914. The slender lines of 1912 are gone.

Once I have five or six hundred photos downloaded, I have to label them all (year, month, page, pattern numbers,) which takes quite a while. Of course I want to post as many as possible right away, but an orderly process is absolutely necessary to keep images and their information together. So I may be taking a week or so off from posting blogs!

Back soon!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Coats, Coats, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Dresses, Edwardian fashions, Foundation Garments, Musings, Shirts and Blouses, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

April 1914: Pygmalion Costumes and Stories

Most people know the play Pygmalion in its musical comedy version, My Fair Lady.

From the jacket of Huggett’s book, The Truth About Pygmalion. Left, Sir Herbert Beerbom Tree as Henry Higgins; Right, Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Eliza Doolittle.

George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion first opened in London in April, 1914. There are lots of photos of this production and of the original costumes.

1914 photos of Mrs. Pat as Eliza Doolittle. She was wearing the costume on the right (in Act III) when Eliza shocked London by uttering the phrase, “not bloody likely!”

Contemporary cartoons show Eliza wearing a feathered hat more like this one with that printed suit from Act III. Delineator, January 1914

Shaw directed the play himself; the stars were Herbert Beerbohm Tree (a successful actor-producer who owned the theatre where Pygmalion opened,) and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, known as “Mrs. Pat” (or, to Shaw, who was attracted to her, “Stella.”) A very entertaining account of this production is The Truth About Pygmalion, by Richard Huggett. Three massive egos were at work; at 49, the leading lady was much too old to be playing young Eliza Doolittle, which led to insecurity and bad temper; as Henry Higgins, Beerbom Tree hadn’t mastered his lines, so he pinned notes to the backs of furniture all over the set; and since both Shaw and Mrs. Pat were famous wits, the pre-production discussions and rehearsals were rather amusing [if you weren’t involved!] This 2004 article cites some of the backstage details (but does not mention Huggett’s book.) For example, Tree (and audiences ever since) expected a romantic ending for Eliza and Higgins. Shaw, writer and director, was adamant that his play did not end that way.

As Samantha Ellis wrote in The Guardian: ‘…Shaw returned for the play’s 100th performance, but was horrified to find that Tree had changed the ending; Higgins now threw Eliza a bouquet as the curtain fell, presaging their marriage. Now that [Shaw’s] affair with Campbell was over, the romantic ending was particularly galling. “My ending makes money; you ought to be grateful,” scrawled Tree. “Your ending is damnable; you ought to be shot,” snarled Shaw.’ ***

At a time when Shaw and Tree were barely speaking, Shaw sent him a long letter filled with directorial suggestions. Tree wrote, “I will not go so far as to say that all people who write letters of more than eight pages are mad, but it is a curious fact that all madmen write letters of more than eight pages.”  Tree was not a bystander in the battle of wits.

Act III, making small-talk: Eliza (carefully pronouncing her ‘aitches’) is telling Mrs. Eynesford-Hill (left) and her daughter (right) about her suspicions that her gin-drinking aunt was “done in.”

In 2014, a century after that first night, the Guardian newspaper ran a 100th anniversary article showing photos from many productions. Click here. This photo is from the original 1914 production; it’s interesting because Shaw specified that Eliza is wearing a Japanese kimono when her father comes to call. (He’s actually hoping to extort money from Professor Higgins.) Her appearance in a kimono leads her father to assume that she is Higgins’ mistress. The shocking, undressed, quality of Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s luxurious  brocade costume is not obvious from the script:

Shaw wrote:

[(Doolittle) hurries to the door, anxious to get away with his booty. When he opens it he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady in a simple blue cotton kimono printed cunningly with small white jasmine blossoms. Mrs. Pearce is with her. He gets out of her way deferentially and apologizes]. Beg pardon, miss.

THE JAPANESE LADY. Garn! Don’t you know your own daughter?

DOOLITTLE [exclaiming] Bly me! it’s Eliza!

The photo shows that Mrs. Pat’s costume was not quite the prim cotton kimono which Shaw described!

Two original color sketches for Mrs. Pat’s Eliza Doolittle costumes are in the collection of the V&A museum. They were made by/designed by Elizabeth Handley Seymour. Click here for a color sketch of that Act III [yellow] suit, and here for Eliza’s Act V costume, adapted from a design by Poiret.) 

Photographs of Eliza’s first “flower girl” costume could be purchased by fans; this is a costume from later in the play.

Eliza’s evening gown is suggested in this sketch:

Eliza, in evening dress, throws a slipper at Higgins. In rehearsal, Mrs. Pat accidentally hit him. Tree had forgotten she would throw a slipper at him, and burst into tears.

Butterick evening costume made from waist (bodice) 6688 and skirt 6689. Delineator, Feb. 1914.

If you are interested in the long relationship between Shaw and Mrs. Pat, a “two-hander” play called Dear Liar, by Jerome Kilty, is based upon the letters exchanged by George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Pat at the time when he was in love with her, and for decades after.  (She had surprised him painfully by getting married to someone else two nights before Pygmalion opened.)  There is a good review of a 1981 Hallmark TV production here.

There are many anecdotes about Mrs. Pat; when she was young, beautiful, and at the height of her success, a playwright who wanted her to appear in his next production made the mistake of insisting that he read his entire script aloud to her. He had not lost all the traces of his Cockney accent. Mrs Pat listened for over two hours. When he finished and asked her opinion of the play, she said, “It’s very long… even without the ‘aitches.’ ”

When she was old and broke, she was devoted to her pet dogs, which she carried everywhere with her. When one of them left a mess on the floor of a taxi, she assumed her most impressive demeanor and said, in a voice that had once thrilled thousands, “It was me!

Sexually liberated, she is credited with saying (about a notorious divorce case,) “It doesn’t matter what you do [in the bedroom] as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”  When asked why she married George Cornwallis-West in 1914, she said, “He’s six foot four — and everything in proportion.” There is plenty of entertaining reading about Shaw, Beerbom Tree, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell.

Eliza Doolittle sold bunches of violets, like this one. Delineator, 1914.

Many people only know the musical adaptation of this play, My Fair Lady by Lerner and Lowe, which was made into a movie with famous costume designs by Cecil Beaton. Beaton was inspired by the “black Ascot” of 1910, when all of high society wore black or white in mourning for King Edward VII. (This also allowed Beaton to avoid the wide-hipped gowns of 1914.) In fact, Shaw finished his original script of Pygmalion in 1911, so setting the play (or musical) a few years earlier than 1914 is perfectly logical. In 1914 it had to look fashionably up-to-date. That’s not a problem any more!

In case you are costuming either the straight play or musical version, I’ll share some inspiration from 1914, although you may prefer the styles of 1910…. It’s up to you (and the director….)

Two outfits from January, 1914. Butterick patterns from Delineator.

One of Mrs. Pat’s Pygmalion costumes had a dark mid-section rather like this one:

The dark “sash” at the waist would flatter a portly figure like Mrs. Pat’s. Butterick coat 667 with skirt 6664, February 1914.

A range of styles from March 1914; National Catalog. (The skirt on the green one? Arrrrgh!)

Below are real fashion photos from 1914. They may make you think twice about those 1914 silhouettes….

French couture fashions in Delineator, April 1914.

Dresses from 1910 are curvy — but perhaps a little stodgy…. On the other hand, those 1910 white lingerie dresses would be quite a transformation for Eliza.

Left, a lingerie dress. Butterick princess gowns “appropriate for dressy wear.” Delineator, January 1910.

1910 gowns and a suit from the National Cloak Co. catalog.

The two on the left could be Mrs. Eynesford-Hill and her daughter. Mrs. Higgins also has to show mature elegance. Butterick patterns, 1910.

In the 1992 production at London’s National Theatre (RNT,) Mrs. Higgins wore a marvelous, artsy teagown that epitomized the “Liberty” fashion reform/Arts and Crafts look (– the equivalent of being a “hippie” in the 1880s.) It made perfect sense that she could have accidentally raised a self-centered man-child like Henry Higgins. (Designer: William Dudley.) As Higgins, Alan Howard flew into tantrums like an overgrown 2-year-old. Very funny. Sadly, I can’t find that photo today.

Perhaps it’s just her pose that looks so self-assured. January 1910. Eliza could wear that skirt with a simple blouse in Act II.

This lace-trimmed ensemble is from a fabric ad: Himalaya cloth from Butterfield & Co. February 1910. Is that Eliza’s facial expression — asserting her independence — from Act V?

*** Once a play opens, the director moves on to other jobs and the stage manager is left to make sure every audience sees the same play that opening night critics saw. Probably my favorite story about the propensity of actors to “improve” the production as time goes by is: After a few weeks, the director returned to watch the play, standing quietly behind the audience. The leading man had expanded his role considerably. At intermission he received a telegram from the director: “Am watching the play from the back of the house STOP Wish you were here.”

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