Category Archives: Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Arctic Down Quilted Victorian Petticoat by Booth & Fox

A quilted, down-filled petticoat made by Booth & Fox, English, late Victorian era.

For those who wonder how Victorians survived the winter in badly heated houses (or snowy streets,) this down-filled petticoat is one answer.
I don’t know how this red, Victorian, quilted down petticoat from England found its way to California.  This week I found the pictures I took of it many years ago, before it was sold, and discovered that its older sister is in the Costume Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum!

Booth & Fox quilted petticoat, image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This one is circa 186o.

I only photographed the one in California for inventory purposes, but even a low resolution picture is better than none.

The “California” petticoat has a shape that is less like a crinoline, with the rows of down starting lower, and a flat yoke and down-free area in front.

Note how the rows of quilting taper in at the sides.

  • The front yoke is flat and V shaped. The label is in the same place in various museums’ Booth & Fox Down Skirts.
  • The gathering string (a modern replacement) forces all the fullness toward the back.

Deduction: This petticoat is later than the one in the V&A Museum, since skirt fullness began moving toward the back in the late 1860s.

1868 fashion plate from the Tessa collection at Los Angeles Public Library.

The Cut site has a good view of the back of the petticoat in the V & A. Click here.

There are two of these petticoats in the John Bright Collection, also located in the U.K. Click the site’s + sign for Additional Images.

The label (see Additional Images) in the John Bright Collection is also located center front, and is easier to read than the one I photographed.

Booth & Fox’s Down Skirt label from a petticoat in the John Bright Collection. The company won medals in London, 1862, and Dublin, 1865. This petticoat apparently cost 14 shillings and sixpence.

The label for the “California” petticoat, enhanced for legibility. It has a patent number. Is it possible that it cost 2 pounds, 4 shillings and…  I don’t recognize the number that looks like a “t” ….

The labels say the filling on the petticoats is “warranted pure Arctic down.” Red underwear doesn’t really keep you warmer, although several collections have quilted Victorian petticoats in various shades and patterns of red calico. My search for “Booth & Fox” led to a Scottish museum site about red calico, like the fabrics used in these down-filled skirts.

In Yorkshire, The Quilt Museum has one. Click here.

I wonder if the person who bought the “California” collection knows that one of the earlier Arctic Down Skirts made by Booth & Fox sold at auction in 2009?

The hem on the one I photographed had been repaired in back. You can see that the lining was a solid red, rather than printed calico, and a tiny feather was peeking out.

The hem had been mended in back, where it was most likely to drag on the ground.

It would certainly keep you toasty-warm from knees to hem.

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, Costumes for the 19th century, Late Victorian fashions, lingerie and underwear, Mid-Victorian fashions, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

French Lining

French lining pattern 6933 from Butterick. Delineator, June 1914, p. 74. It has princess seams and many neckline options.

As far as I can tell, a French lining is a closely fitting interior structure that is usually not the same shape as the finished garment we see. It is different from “flat lining,” or a “dropped in” lining shaped like the dress or skirt, or a coat lining that merely allows the coat to slide over other fabrics more easily.

“A French lining gives a perfection of fit that can be attained by no other means…. It makes an excellent foundation for the draped waists [blouses] now in vogue…. For stout figures a French lining is almost indispensable, and this design will prove most welcome, for it conforms to the newest lines. When made of thin material it may be used as a foundation for Summer dresses or waists, and when made of lawn or silk it is also an excellent foundation for the draped evening dresses now worn.” — Delineator, June 1914. p. 74

Delineator, June 1914, p. 74.

When you have a garment that is tightly fitted, “flat lining” [a lining whose pieces are the same shape as the fashion fabric and are sewed at the same time] will take some of the stress off the seams and the fashion fabric. But when you see a vintage garment that fits very closely in back, but appears to be loosely fitted in front, expect a French lining.

Inside this apparently loose-fitting bodice is a tight-fitting inner structure. Vintage garment.

This vintage bodice has no visible opening. The tight lining prevents “pull” on the fashion fabric’s concealed closure.

When you have a garment that is draped, or bloused, or which has complicated concealed closures, it will behave better with an invisible, body-hugging lining.

This vintage dress does not have a visible opening in front or down the back. It does not have a snap opening in the side seam.

How do you get into it?

Back of vintage lingerie dress. It doesn’t open down the back. Clue: There is a hook and eye closing on the left shoulder.

This sheer lingerie dress with a blouson top has a simple French lining made of net.

How do you get into this dress?

The bias cut lining, which takes the strain of the hooks and eyes, fastens at the center front.

The pattern for the inside of the dress is not the same shape as the pattern for the fashion layer. I would class this as a simple French lining.

The lining fastens at center front; the fashion fabric layer fastens with hooks and bars at the side and shoulder! The sleeves are attached to the French lining. The skirt opens at side front.

The “French Lining” pattern could be purchased separately, but was often included in a dress or blouse pattern.

The Commercial Pattern Archive has this Butterick pattern from 1914.

Butterick 7317; information from the pattern envelope, courtesy of CoPA (The Commercial Pattern Archive.) Notice how different the French lining pattern pieces (top center) are from the fashion fabric pieces (at the bottom.)

Left, the French lining is an 8 piece princess line pattern which fits closely to the body.

The French lining was meant to fit very tightly, and is the support for the fashion fabrics. It ensures that the weight of the dress is suspended from the shoulders, that the folds and blousing aren’t pulled out of place, and that the wearer always looks neat as a fashion plate. In No. 7317, the cross-over drape in front ties at center back.

Changing Body Shapes Seen in French Lining Patterns

These French lining patterns reflect the changing body shape as corsets changed.

1910: Butterick French lining pattern 3527, January 1910. Note the “sway back” shape caused by 1910 corsets. This princess seamed lining has 4 panels in front and 6 in back.

1914: Butterick French lining 6933 from June 1914. The lower bust and larger waist reflect a change in corset shape.

1917: Far right, French lining pattern 1042 from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. The womanly torso is losing its curves.

1924: A French lining pattern from Butterick, July 1924. “…An excellent dress lining or… it can be used to cover a dress form.” It probably was intended for older or “stout” women, since 1920’s dresses were lighter and less structured than previous styles. It has a long, hip-length, waistless shape, like most Twenties’ dresses. Butterick 5361 came in sizes 32 to 48 bust.

French Lining Included in Patterns

The French lining is often based on a princess seamed pattern (like all of those above,) since this permits an extremely tight fit, perfectly contoured to the body. (A French lining also looks very much like the covering of a professional dressmaker’s mannequin.) When you are draping on a professional dress form, you can feel the underlying seams through your muslin — very handy for locating the exact bust point or side seam, or placing a dart.

Once the French lining was perfectly fitted to a woman’s body, she could also use it to figure out (Oops, accidental pun!) alterations to commercial patterns.

[I was taught to call an individually fitted basic pattern a “sloper;” they’re handy to have if you are making multiple costumes for the same actor — or several pairs of trousers for yourself! Fitting patterns are still sold.]

Butterick waist 6791; Delineator, April 1914.

Incredibly, the Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island has the pattern for this waist! (If you just create a Log-in, you can use this wonderful site  — over 64,000 patterns and growing! — for free.) There’s always a link to CoPA in my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar.

Pattern pieces for Butterick 6791; Commercial Pattern Archive.

It’s no surprise that Butterick 7971 includes a French Lining.

You can almost guess from the illustrations which garments need a French lining: if you think, “That dress defies gravity! How can that be possible?” or “How did she get into that?” you are probably looking at a dress that has a French lining.

Fashion Plate, 1888-1889 from Metropolitan Museum Costume Plate collection. Below the wrapped outer bodice is a concealed side-front closing.

There are no visible openings on these late 1880’s dresses. Met Museum collection.

They definitely did not have a zipper down the back! A tight fit in back and a concealed opening usually means a French lining; you can probably deduce the rest….

Vintage garment with very full front. The lace was accented with large French knots. It does not have a visible opening in front or in back.

Butterick 3816, Delineator, May 1910.

Butterick 3816, May 1910. The gathers are stitched to the lining; they won’t slide around or come untucked, and the V’s in back and front will never gape.

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Costumes for the 19th century, Dresses, Edwardian fashions, Late Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

Unusual Capes, 1912 to 1920

Cape by Reville and Rossiter of Hanover Square, London.

Many years ago I encountered this cape with an unusual criss-cross front.

Detail of front of vintage cape.

I was reminded of it by two different Butterick patterns.

1914: Butterick 6975

This one is Butterick cape 6975 from June 1914. Delineator.

Note: I often have to crop images to show details because they would otherwise be too tall to see on a computer screen. Tall hats make it a real challenge. This page was 16 inches high.

Those very tall aigrettes on the hat make it hard to photograph the entire ensemble. [The word “aigrette” is etymologically related to “egret.”]

Let’s hope those are heron feathers and not the endangered snowy egret, or osprey. (Egrets and Herons are members of the same family.)

Here’s a description of Butterick cape 6975:

One pattern included several versions of cape 6975. “The cape may be in any of three outlines….”

1920: Butterick 2319

In 1920, Butterick issued a another cape pattern, even more similar to the vintage cape:

Detail of front of vintage cape.

Butterick cape 2319, Delineator, April 1920.

Two illustrations of Butterick cape 2319 from 1920. Images via Google and the Hathi Trust.

I even found a story illustration showing a young woman wearing a simple criss-cross cape on board a ship.

Story illustration from Delineator, 1920.

Of course, that cape doesn’t really look very good, because the narrow criss-cross front straps conflict with the look of the dress under it. The high-end vintage cape, on the other hand, covers most of any blouse that would be worn under it.

Cream and black cape by Reville and Rossiter of Hanover Square, London.

This very high quality wool cape, which I found in a private collection, was made of tightly woven, creamy white wool, with a black silk lining and black accents. It reminded me of doeskin — but I think it was slightly brushed wool.

Detail of vintage cape fabric, showing damage.

Back of Reville and Rossiter cape. Part of the collar is black.

The cape was probably intended to be worn and kept on, like a suit coat, because it was held in place by ties in back, near the waist. This cape would not be something you casually slipped in and out of during a visit; I think you would want to be standing in front of a mirror as you settled it on your shoulders and then reached behind you — under the cape — to tie the silk ties like apron strings.

The pleated white bands end behind the wearer’s body in black silk ties, which have shattered.

The silk ties, like the lining, were very damaged.

However, there is no problem dating this cape, because it is the British equivalent of couture. The date, 1912, is on the label:

The label in the cape says Reville & Rossiter, (1912) Ltd. Hanover Square W. — a posh London address.

I said this was a very high-end garment;  Reville and Rossiter of Hanover Square also made the custom coronation gown worn by Queen Mary in 1911. (Click the link to see more views and close-ups.)

Back view of Queen Mary’s coronation dress, 1911. The embroidery represented flowers and leaves from England, Ireland, Scotland, and India. Image courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust.

They made this court dress (Click here to see full information and an enlarged image) in the collection of the Victoria and Albert museum, …

Reville & Rossiter made this Court dress with train, worn in September, 1913. Image courtesy of V&A museum.

Detail of bodice on court gown by Reville & Rossiter, 1913. Notice the superb lace and the tassels at the waist. Courtesy of V&A museum.

… and this 1919 evening dress, also at the V & A.

The front of the Reville & Rossiter cape. The black buttons and buttonholes echo the back collar, also black.

I suppose it’s possible that the cross-over front of this designer cape inspired copies, which became available as sewing patterns by 1914 — and the style was copied even more closely in 1920. According to The Royal Collection Trust, “Reville and Rossiter was a London couture house made court dressmaker to Queen Mary. It gained the royal warrant in 1910 and in 1911 designed the queen’s coronation robe. By the 1930s they were no longer in business.” You could say that our vintage cape, made in 1912, was fit for a queen.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Coats, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, World War I

Underneath Those Twenties’ Fashions

Fashions for May, 1924. Undergarments flattened the bust and hips and eliminated the waist. Delineator, May 1924, p. 27.

[This is another post in a series offering links to posts some followers may have missed, while I take time to visit the library and collect more photos.]

Some of the most exciting discoveries I made when I started reading old magazines from the 1920’s had to do with underwear. In addition to fashion advice about what to wear to achieve that “boyish” figure, I found dozens of advertisements — a veritable window into the past. In one article I read,

“To be smart this season one must be more than slim. The figure must defy nature and be as flat as the proverbial flounder, as straight as a lead pencil, and boneless and spineless as a string-bean. One must be straight like a boy and narrow like a lady in a Japanese print.” – Delineator magazine, February 1924.

I happened to read a 1925 article by Evelyn Dodge about the new, boneless corselets: “Not all women need corsets. Women with young, slender figures find that the corselet, which is a combination brassière and hip-confiner, is sufficient. It is unboned and is therefore as soft and flexible as the natural figure.”  I was delighted to find this one illustrated in an ad:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/1925-may-treo-corset-corselet-p-82-ad-girdle.jpg?w=367&h=500

Treo “Brassiere Girdle — a combination garment” ad from Delineator, May 1925. The Treo brand was sold through Sears catalogs, as well as in stores.

You can read more about it in “Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets.”  Click here.

These corselets reshape a woman to look like a tube (or maybe a sausage?) https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/1925-corselette-pattern-1925-bien-jolie-corsette.jpg?w=500

Another thing that struck me while reading so many 1920’s ads was that the boyish silhouette meant that women aspired to be flat in back and flat in front. This was actually a feature of the “tubular Twenties,” not the late nineteen twenties.

Women shaped like test tubes, probably thanks to their corselets. A blouse (left) and a tunic blouse, right, from the “tubular twenties.” Delineator, 1924. I used to wonder how a thin young woman (right) could possibly have a bust that low! [It was mashed by her undergarment.]

If you didn’t want to wear a corselet, you could opt for a separate girdle, worn with or without a bandeau to flatten your breasts. Corsets and girdles of the 1920s were designed to flatten your posterior: “Underpinning  Twenties Fashions: Girdles and Corsets.” Click here to read.

If you are curious about “bust flatteners” or “bound breasts” in the nineteen twenties,  click here for “Underpinning the Twenties: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners.”  It has lots of illustrations.

If  you are curious about what 20th century women wore before the modern brassiere, these two posts give  a quick review of brassieres, and their transition from the 1910’s to the 1920’s.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/sears-1917-spring-catalog-brassieres-with-boning500.jpg?w=500&h=407

The fact that women have two, separate breasts was hidden by these “monobosom” brassieres. WW I Era. Older women probably continued to wear these in the 1920s.

To read Part 1, “Uplift Changes Brassieres: 1917 to 1929, Part 1” click here.

For Part 2, “Uplift Changes Brassieres: Late 1920s Brassieres,” click here.

The monobosom of the early 1900s slowly gave way to the more natural look — with support — of the 1930s:

From a Maiden Form brassiere ad, Womans’ Home Companion, 1936. “For that all-important line of separation.”

The Book, “Uplift: The Bra in America,” by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau covers other decades in addition to the Twenties.  Learn more about this fascinating book here.

Of course, not all women were “bound” to be boyish. Click here to read “Not All Flappers Wanted to Be Flat in the 1920s.”

Between the dress and the flattening girdle, corset, bandeau, or corselet, — or between one’s skin and the dress — were sometimes very delectable silk or rayon undergarments.

Trousseau lingerie from Paris, the house of Doeuillet- Doucet. Illustrated for Delineator, June 1929.

There were also some very awkward looking combination garments. See: Envelope Chemises, Step-ins and Other Lingerie. That post elicited wonderful comments about vocabulary and links for further research.

My mother models her one piece camiknickers and her rolled stockings. About 1918.

Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 with “envelope chemise” 5059. Delineator, April 1924.

Women also wore some not very sexy drawers or knickers….

Right, knickers for 1924. You can often get a glimpse of these in silent movies — especially in comedies, when a woman does a pratfall or climbs into a vehicle. These knickers have elastic at the waist and above the knees — for undergarments, the words “knickers,””bloomers,” and “drawers” were sometimes used interchangeably.

See “Theda Bara’s Bloomers” for a distinctly un-sexy pair — on Cleopatra!

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bras, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, vintage photographs

Work Clothes: Bib Overalls and Coveralls

Story illustration by George Giguere, Delineator, February 1924. A young man in bib overalls receives a visit from two pretty girls. Notice the house across the street. This is not necessarily a farm.

When I began writing witness2fashion, I wanted to focus on everyday clothes, clothing for working class people. All the men in my family did manual labor — skilled labor, but impossible to do without getting dirty.

My mother (in light dress) with her older sister and her two brothers. About 1913, judging from their ages. My Uncle Harris, wearing a coverall on the right, would have been working in his family’s ice house by then.

I grew up seeing bib overalls on my father and my uncles. This is not a scholarly history of overalls, but a little tribute to a 20th century classic.

Both overalls [the word I use to refer to bib overalls] and coveralls [by which I mean mean a one piece garment with sleeves which covers the body from neck to ankle] have been around for a very long time. Early Levi jeans were called “waist overalls.”

Waist overalls from Sears, Spring 1896. The construction is like that of men’s wool trousers, with a high back and a buckle for adjusting the waist fit. “Overalls” meant a work pant — with or without an “apron” or “bib,” front. The top two were also available in a bib version: “Same as above, with apron front … and strap suspenders.”

For farmers and other men (and sometimes women) doing manual labor, the bib overall was almost synonymous with “work clothes.” It was also an ideal garment for active children.

My great-aunt with my Aunt Dorothy, my Uncle Mel, and my Uncle Harris. Dorothy was born in 1901, so this is probably before 1906. My grandmother has very sensibly dressed her boys in bib overalls.

Sears Roebuck sold overalls for children “4 to 14” as early as Spring of 1896. They called them “Brownie suits.” The model is not wearing a shirt: “Let your boy play in the healthy outdoor air this summer, dressed in a Brownie Suit. They are all the style this season.”

In 1907 the style had changed slightly.

From a Sears catalog, 1907. Overalls were made of durable fabrics and allowed a boy to “play without being afraid of spoiling his best clothes.”

The pockets seem a bit small to me, but a boy wearing these could answer the call of nature without adult assistance, since the bib suspenders unhooked from the front.

In 1907, the boy who didn’t wear overalls might wear something like this:

Clothes for boys from Sears catalog, 1907. Not really suitable for playing in the dirt.

Since overalls were made of heavy fabrics, and available at low prices from catalogs, I was a little surprised to see Butterick sewing patterns for them:

Butterick pattern 5410, for men’s overalls/coveralls, and Butterick 5365, a very similar “play suit” for young boys. Both from Delineator, 1924. Note: the word “jumpsuit” dates to World War II and is American in origin; in England they were called siren suits.

Butterick pattern 5780 for men’s bib overalls [also called apron overalls,] Delineator, January 1925. This man is a mechanic carrying a pipe wrench. My Uncle Mel, a plumber, still wore striped overalls in the 1940s and 1950s.

Overalls for boys two to twelve; Butterick 5258 from June 1924. He may be gardening, but professional farmers wore overalls, too. [And, more than 20 years later,  my Grandma bought me sandals exactly like those he is wearing. Mine were always red, bought new at the start of each summer.]

Some children wore overalls as a matter of course:

A farm family in 1934; photo from a Nujol ad in Delineator, April 1934.

For a well-illustrated article on bib overalls, as worn by farmers and others, click here.

Overalls for a “youth” and a grown man, from Sears, Spring 1929. “Fellows! The real thing! … just like Dad’s!” Left, bib overalls and a matching jacket in “Sturdy 2.20 white back denim.”

My uncle, the plumber, wore dark, denim, indigo blue overalls with narrow white stripes — and a matching jacket — in 1950. Unlike modern plumbers who wear jeans, he could crawl under a sink without exposing cleavage in back.

Sears overalls and matching jacket, Spring catalog, 1929.

“Heavy reinforcements where reinforcements are needed. Securely bar tacked at all points of strain.”  Levi Strauss used rivets to reinforce stress points — and held a patent.

One of the great things about bib front overalls was the specialized pockets.

From the Sears Catalog, Spring, 1950. Carpenters overalls, left, have ample pockets for nails, a carpenter’s rule, carpenters’ pencils, and a loop on the side seam of the leg for carrying a hammer. Painters’ and paperhangers’ overalls have room for paint rags, etc. House painters traditionally wore white overalls.

Sears overalls for painters and paperhangers, 1897. “Two pockets and knife pocket.”

If you’ve ever hung wallpaper, you’ll appreciate the knife pocket.

My father wears [once white] carpenter’s overalls in 1950. His foreman, at left, preferred dungarees and a blue work shirt. Note the foreman’s felt hat.

1956: Sears’ coveralls and overalls from Everyday Fashions of the Fifties. Coveralls were favored by auto mechanics; they had to lie on their backs to reach the undersides of cars. There’s not a baseball cap to be seen on these working class men from the 1950’s — they are wearing their old “good” felt hats.

In this illustration, a traveling salesman shows his wares to a woman he (understandably) mistakes for the farmer’s wife:

Story illustration, Delineator, February 1936.

However, overalls could be beach pajamas or play suits for women in the 1930s:

Masthead illustration by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, March 1932. She’s not wearing a top under her overalls.

These pajamas were suggested for tennis in an ad from Delineator, June, 1932. They look like a trip hazard to me.

Women had worn men’s overalls when doing factory work in the First World War.

American woman in Ladies' Home Journal, August 1917.

American woman, Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917.

They also wore them during World War II, but this 1940’s sewing pattern is for work or play:

Anne Adams sewing pattern 4350 circa 1942.

My father still wore overalls from time to time after he retired in the 1970’s. This striped pair have big, removable pockets attached with a zipper.

Striped overalls worn on a fishing trip, 1970s — better than gutting fish in your good trousers and shirt!

He’s  standing in a basement laundry room. Automatic washing machines may explain why many workers now wear chinos or jeans instead of overalls.

Here are some overalls for children from the 1940’s:

Overall-styled play suit (with matching jacket) from Butterick Fashion News, October 1943.

An overall/play suit very like the back-baring beach pajamas of 1932, with narrower legs. Butterick Fashion News, August, 1948.

Overalls for children continue to be popular. These brand new striped overalls from OshKosh are faded and aged before being sold.

I don’t remember these, but here’s proof that I used to wear overalls, too:

Witness2fashion in overalls, early 1950s. The curls and the hair bow were my mother’s idea.

What’s with the dirt piles? My father was a housemover; the house behind me is “up on blocks” and on its way to a new location.

A house being moved from one location to another, California, 1950s.

In England, “housemovers” move furniture, but in my part of the world, where wooden houses survive earthquakes better than stone or brick ones, housemovers could separate a house from its foundation and move it to a new location, often miles away, while keeping it perfectly intact. It was definitely skilled work.

P.S. The Vintage Traveler supplied a link to the article in Paris Review: The Jumpsuit That Will Replace All Clothes Forever. We’re not convinced.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

A Trip to Mount Lowe, 1920’s

I found this souvenir group photo of a trip up the Mount Lowe electric railway, apparently taken in the late 1920s.

A group photo of visitors to Echo Mountain, on the Mount Lowe scenic railroad. Late 1920s.

“At the top of the incline was perched Charles Lawrence, the official photographer, on a special scaffold from which he would take pictures of the arriving visitors.[30] For 25 cents, visitors could purchase a souvenir photo of their arrival on the incline car, with everyone else aboard, of course.” — From Wikipedia, which has a thorough history and some excellent images. Click here.

Front cover of Mount Lowe souvenir photo from the late 1920’s.

The scenic railway provided views of Los Angeles, thousands of feet below. Between 1925 and 1936, there was a restaurant/tavern on the summit. (It burned down.)

Inside cover of Mount Lowe photograph. Late 1920’s.

Parts of the rail trip would definitely result in an adrenaline rush: click here.

Of course, what fascinates me are the faces and clothes of this group of ordinary people on holiday — even if it’s just a day trip. Thanks to the magic of computer scanning and photo enlargement, (and the sharpness of Lawrence’s original photo) we can see them in some detail.

I’ve cropped the picture to show just the people. Echo Mountain, Mount Lowe, 1920’s.

I was about to mention that all the women are wearing hats — until I saw one who isn’t: my mother.

Top row, from left, my mother’s mother, her aunt Alice, and, Marcelle-waved but hatless, my mother.  Notice her “bee-stung” lips. The woman in the pale cloche wears a necktie, and so do other women, as you’ll see.

A group from the top right side of the photo. We see several women wearing horn-rimmed glasses, which were replacing glasses with thin gold or silver rims — or no rims at all. The woman at center wears the older stye of glasses.

It’s apparently summer, since many men wear light colored hats or boaters. Women are evenly divided between cloche hats and hats with brims. Love that striped sweater!

The center of the photo. The boy in the front row also wears a lively, patterned sweater.

At the back, we see a boy in a cloth cap (a big one) next to a woman in a turban-like hat; 1920’s printed dress fabrics include the Art Deco one at right. The man’s tie is short, stopping inches above his waist.

Another short necktie, and a pleasant-looking woman wearing horn rim glasses and a ribbon-trimmed dress.

A good sample of hats — and a woman who clearly wore large sized dresses. The striped hat on the right is my favorite — and it’s worn by a mature lady in a print coat.

I like this dignified older couple. (The girl in the middle doesn’t seem to be having a good time.)

The gray-haired woman in the light-colored cloche at lower right must have seen many changes in fashion during her lifetime — and she’s adapted well.

In the front row we can see a variety of hem lengths, depending on age and taste. Late 1920s.

The older woman at left has a long hemline (and I think her slip is showing,) while the mature but stylish woman on the right shows her legs up to the kneecap.

In this group, the woman on the right wears a shorter skirt than the oldest woman pictured above, but not as short as the woman in the Art Deco print dress. The young girl has bare legs and exposed knees. The boy proves that not all great sweater and knicker combinations were reserved for the golf course.

Hope you enjoyed the trip! Visitors to Mount Lowe in the late 1920’s.

A similar crowd photo, found on Flicker, is dated 1922. It includes four young women woman (front row, far left) in hiking trousers and boots. The ruins of the Mount Lowe Railway are a hiking trail today. It is near the city of Altadena, California.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Hats, Hats for Men, Men's Haberdashery & Accessories, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Work Clothes Patterns: Doctors and Dentists

An artist’s idea of an operating room, Delineator, Sept. 1934.

Anyone who grew up — as I did — watching the 1931 movie Frankenstein every time it was on TV will probably associate these long surgical gowns with Colin Clive shrieking, “It’s alive! It’s aliiiiive!

But it never occurred to me that Butterick would offer sewing patterns for surgical gowns and dentists’ smocks. We now order such things from specialty uniform supply houses.

Butterick pattern 5306 is a doctor’s operating gown and cap. From Delineator, June 1924.

I hope no doctor operated in his spats…. And — maybe it’s the test tube — but there’s a touch of Gene (Young Frankenstein) Wilder in his eyes.

Butterick suggested it was “much less expensive” to make gowns like this than to buy them.

During World War I, Red Cross Volunteers made surgical gowns, robes for hospitalized soldiers, specialized pajamas for hospital and convalescent use, hot water bottle covers, bed linens, and surgical dressings, among other things.

Patterns for these officially approved hospital supplies were available for ten cents; this article ran in Ladies Home Journal, Delineator, and other women’s magazines in the fall of 1917. These images are from Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917.

LHJ, Dec. 1917. The urgent need for such hospital supplies brings home some of the horror of the war, in spite of government censorship at the time.

From LHJ, December 1917.

“Already the needs are greater than the supplies available….” American women wanted to help, but their efforts needed to be directed toward the most urgent medical needs in 1917 and 1918.

So the idea of sewing home-made operating gowns was not at all strange in 1924.

A pattern for a dentist’s gown was also offered by Butterick:

Butterick 5426, a pattern for a dentist’s gown from Delineator, August 1924.

The basic dentist’s gown didn’t change much, except that short sleeves were introduced….

A dentist and his nurse in an ad for citrus fruits. Delineator, June 1934.

Although Butterick assumed that dentists were male in 1924, my friend Barbara collected this interesting vintage garment for a woman, thinking it would have suited a pharmacist or other woman working in a medical field:

This looks like a woman’s work uniform top; the 3/4 sleeves suggest the World War I era. The neck is plain, and it’s easy to wash and iron.

Do you think she was right?

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shirts and Blouses, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, World War I