Category Archives: Coats

Two Vintage Evening Wraps, 1920s

Three evening capes, 1922. From Olian's Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties.

Three evening capes, 1922. From Olian’s Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties.

Capes and wraps were often worn with evening dress in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s. Coats with dolman sleeves — or fur trimmed coats of various shapes — took over in the later twenties. Here, I want to share two vintage wraps — one is especially luxurious.

Back detail of gold evening wrap, early 1920s. Private collection.

Back detail of vintage gold evening wrap, early 1920s. Private collection.

High, crushed or textured collars were usually a feature.

Cape and dress pattern, Butterick No. 5072. Delineator, March 1924.

Cape and dress pattern, Butterick No. 5072. Delineator, March 1924. This dress is not an evening dress, and was included in the pattern.

Evening cape, Butterick 4919, Jan. 1924. Delineator.

Evening cape, Butterick 4919, Jan. 1924. Delineator.

Evening cape pattern, Butterick 4963. Delineator, Feb. 1924.

Evening cape pattern, Butterick 4963. Delineator, Feb. 1924.

Trousseau dress, Butterick 5291, and matching cape 3788. Delineator, June 1924.

Trousseau dress, Butterick 5291, and matching cape 3788. Delineator, June 1924.

One of the most difficult things about wearing these wraps was that most of them had to be held closed to stay on.

These are not hands-free fashions. Three capes, Butterick patterns 5116, 5559, and 4963.

These are not hands-free fashions. Three capes, Butterick patterns 5116, 5559, and 4963. All from 1924. Delineator magazine. Note the shoulder yoke at right.

Imagine trying to climb into a taxi while holding your clutch purse in one hand and keeping your cloak from falling off with the other!

This vintage garment carries the problem to an extreme; there are no fastenings and no slits for the arms.

Vintage evening wrap circa 1920's; It has a shaped shoulder yoke, but has to be held closed.

Vintage evening wrap circa 1920’s; it has a shaped shoulder yoke, but has to be held closed. (I used a silk pin for the purpose of this photo.)

It was very heavy, and may have been built on a base of wool. It cleverly gives the impression of fur by using cream lace over a thick, slightly darker (duvetyn?)fabric at top and bottom; in the middle is a rectangle of golden-tan velvet, gathered to fit. Perhaps it had a matching lace, or lace and velvet, gown.

Front and back views of lace and velvet wrap. At some point it was stored over a hanger, which left a nasty creased line in the velvet.

Front and back views of lace and velvet wrap. At some point it was stored over a hanger, which left a nasty creased line in the velvet.

Paris was showing equally hard-to-wear open capes for daytime in 1925:

Couture by Molyneux and Patou, Jan. 1925. Sketches in Delineator.

Couture by Molyneux and Patou, Jan. 1925. Sketches in Delineator.

A Gold Lamé, Gold Lace and Metallic Bullion Cape

I do not have a photo of the front of this spectacular gold lamé and gold lace, cape/wrap with gold tassels and bullion fringe. It was awesomely heavy, very dusty, in need of restoration, but originally of very fine quality. (No label.)

Gold evening wrap, circa early 1920s. Gold lace is layerd over gold lame, with some heavy fabric (wool coating?) sandwiched between the outside layers and a pale green lining.

Gold evening wrap, circa early 1920s. Gold lace is layered over gold lame, with some heavy fabric (wool coating?) sandwiched between the outside layers and a pale green lining.

It has slits for the arms, an interior pocket, and buttons at the neck and chest. You can get some idea of the front from these details:

Detail of center front closing; the spirals end in heavy metal tassels.

Detail of center front closing; the spirals end in heavy metal tassels.

Tassels made of bullion fringe, like that used on the shoulders of military uniforms. shoulders.

Tassels made of bullion fringe, like that used on the shoulders of military uniforms.

You can see the slit for the wearer’s hands, and a bit of the Nile green lining.

V101 bullion fringe 72

My hand gives you an idea of the size of these tassels:

V101 tassel bullion 72

This is the base of the collar in front. You can see that there are two covered buttons on the yoke, between the collar and the decorative fringe trim.

Base of collar and yoke, which is hidden by the collar in back.

Base of collar and yoke. There are two practical buttons.

The collar, the top third, and bottom third of the cape are covered with metallic gold lace in a floral pattern:

Upper back, covered with metallic gold lace.

Upper back, covered with metallic gold lace.

Detail: lower back of cloak

Detail: lower back of cloak

In this pocket detail, you can see that the entire coat is covered in metallic lace, so that the subtle shine is continuous.

Pocket in lace covered-cloak.

Pocket in lace covered-cloak.

Inside the gold cloak: Sateen lining and a pocket.

Inside the gold cloak: Sateen lining and a pocket.

V101 back 500

Luxurious capes were still being shown in Paris in 1925:

Green velvet and brocade cape, 1925, from Olian's Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties.

Green velvet and brocade cape, 1925, from Olian’s Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties.

But coats with sleeves, much easier to wear, were becoming  more popular.

Butterick "coat wrap" 5621. December 1924. Delineator.

Butterick “coat wrap” 5621. December 1924. Delineator.

Butterick pattern 1086 is a close copy of a coat by Lucien Lelong. Nov. 1926, Delineator.

Butterick pattern 1086 strongly resembles a 1926 coat by Lucien Lelong. Nov. 1926, Delineator. Back and Front views of the same coat.

1926 nov p 50 evening 1086 text

See the Lelong sketched here, with a matching fur-trimmed shawl.

“Tricks of the Trade” Tip:  If you make a cape the simplest way, by gathering fabric into a straight neckband, the weight of the cape will pull against your throat. Make your cape with a yoke, so that the weight of the fabric hangs from your shoulders, not your neck. This cape has a yoke; this one doesn’t.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Coats, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Musings: Airplanes and Fashion

Collage of Women Taking Flying Lessons. Some photos are dated 1919. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Collage of Women Taking Flying Lessons. One photo is dated 1919. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

A fellow costumer recommended a truly remarkable website — Cliff Muskiet’s Stewardess/Flight Attendant Uniform Collection — so in addition to providing a link to it, I thought I’d share some vintage flying-related photos from RememberedSummers, and some links to “helmet” cloche hats, which some people have associated with WW I flying helmets.

Cliff Muskiet’s Flight Attendant Uniform Site, Uniformfreak.com

First, Cliff Muskiet has put together a remarkable source for any one who needs to find out what was being worn by flight attendants at a given airline in many periods. Click here for Cliff Muskiet’s Home page. His uniformfreak website is a treasure house of good photographs of his remarkable collection, which is remarkably well organized, too. Click here to see his alphabetical list of airlines whose uniforms he has photographed. They are organized by date within each airline, although there’s no search availability.  Here are a few of my favorites.  Delta Airlines — very chic in 1970- 73. Braniff International designs by Pucci (scroll down through several years.) Air France had special uniforms for Concorde and for flights to Tahiti. British Caledonian featured plaids; Tyrolean Airways really went for an ethnic flavor. There are over 1400 uniforms on this site, with new ones being added. Brilliant job, Mr. Muskiet!

For more about Emilio Pucci’s designs for Braniff Airlines, click here.

Dressed for Flying, circa 1920.

Next, these photos of two young California women taking flying lessons (or at least, wearing leather flying jackets and helmet and goggles) are dated 1919 and 1921.

Two young women posing with airplane propellers, dated 1919, may be later. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

Two young women with wooden airplane propellers, posing in their normal clothing; dated 1919, may be later. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

"Dot" in flying gear, about 1920. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

“Dot” in flying gear, about 1920. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

Isobel in flying gear, about 1920. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

Isobel in flying gear, about 1920. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

The plane is an open-cockpit biplane, with cloth covered wings.

Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

Young woman and biplane. Photo copyright RememberedSummers.

Helmet Hats, 1920’s

Fascination Street Vintage has just posted a group of marvelous hat photos, including this picture of young actress Loretta Young wearing a cloche trimmed with airplane pins.

Click here for movie star Gloria Swanson in a tightly fitted helmet cloche that is covered with embroidery.

Click here for Fascination Street’s entire 1920’s hat post.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, Hats, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs

Paris Fashions for June 1926, Sketched by Soulié

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie's sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie’s sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Butterick kept an office in Paris, where, among other things, the latest collections were sketched.

“. . . Butterick keeps a staff of experts in Paris all the time. Wherever new models are launched, there is a Butterick expert noting each successful model. Quickly that expert cables the news. Sketches, details follow by the fast steamer. Immediately patterns are made for each of the successful new dresses.”

These sketches by Soulié were a regular feature in Butterick’s magazine, The Delineator. Many of these designers’ names are still very familiar (Worth, Patou, Molyneux) while others are less often mentioned. Jenny and Renée often created lovely fashions in the 1920s.  I photographed these illustrations from a bound copy of six issues of The Delineator, so this image of a gown by Patou is distorted by the curvature of the book, but the details are worth a look.

Jean Patou

Design by Jean Patou sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

Design by Jean Patou sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

” ‘Premier bal’ [first ball] is the charming name of a charming frock from Jean Patou. It is made of pale pink chiffon with a bolero beginning at a yoke and ending over a draped girdle. Petals of pink taffeta weight the full godets.”

I don’t claim a direct influence, but I have seen vintage dresses with similar details.

Fabric flower petals at the shoulder and a "bolero" effect on a vintage twenties' gown.

Fabric flower petals at the shoulder and a “bolero” effect on a vintage late twenties’ gown.

Two vintage twenties' dresses; one has floating side panels; the other has a bolero effect falling all the way to the waist.

Two vintage twenties’ dresses; one has floating side panels that evoke Patou’s bolero; the other has a bolero effect falling all the way to the waist — and self-fabric petals at the shoulder.

A cluster of petals, or a bow, on the left shoulder was often repeated at the right (or left) hip, perhaps with a drapery or cascade of fabric falling from there to the hem or beyond. This was a clever device for attracting attention away from unflattering horizontal lines and making the viewer’s eye travel up and down the dress instead of across it.

Butterick 2450 (Feb.) and 2490 (March), 1929. Trim at the shoulder and hip.

Butterick 2450 (Feb.) and 2490 (March), 1929. Trim at the shoulder and hip.

Renée

Design by Renee, sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

Design by Renee, sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

“Renée puts clusters of fan plaits in the cape and skirt of a Summer ensemble of violine wool poplin trimmed with buttons dyed to match the material. Skirts remain short and sleeves long in Paris street clothes and necks turn up their collar.”

Molyneux

Molyneux design sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

Molyneux design sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

“Molyneux makes a shimmering evening frock of mauve Georgette with the bodice double crossed with lines of mauve celophane [sic] and the same glistening trimming edging the petals of the skirt.”

Cellophane was invented by a Swiss textile engineer named Brandenberger and perfected in time for use in gas masks in WW I. (Click here for a history of cellophane.) I do not recommend dry cleaning cellophane dress trims!

Perhaps the client who bought this 1926 evening dress also bought glittering this Molyneux wrap.

Evening jacket by Molyneux, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Evening jacket by Molyneux, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Detail of Molyneux jacket, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Detail of Molyneux jacket, from 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

To return to the outfits pictured at the top of this post, here they are shown full length, and later, I will show their details.

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie's sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie’s sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Worth (far left, above,)

“Worth puts a bolero and tunic of a reddish pink silk printed with roses over an apple-green front and skirt. The wide sleeves end in a green hem edged with three minute folds of the rose silk.” What a shame we can’t see this in color!

Jenny (center, above)

Jenny makes a rather wonderful Summer ensemble with a flared coat of ash-pink cloth over a smocked frock of silk printed with roses, cyclamen, and white cherries. Touches of Sevres blue trim the neck both of coat and frock.”

Lucien Lelong (Right, above)

“‘Sans atout‘ or “No Trumps” is a grand slam of finely tucked white Georgette used for a soft coat and a still softer frock. Civet fur hems the coat.”

Rose and green outfit by Worth, Ash-pink and blue ensemble by Jenny, and a tucked georgette ensemble by Lucien Lelong, Delineator sketch by Soulie, June 1926.

Pink and green outfit by Worth, Ash-pink and blue ensemble by Jenny, and a tucked georgette ensemble by Lucien Lelong; Delineator sketch by Soulie, June 1926.

“No Trumps:”  Playing bridge was becoming a chic pastime, and evening dresses sometimes included a “bridge jacket.”

This embroidered coat by Jenny, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, also dates to 1926:

Coat by Jenny, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Embroidered coat by Jenny, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

It’s nice to remember how colorful these garments could be. (Click here for more images of this coat.)

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Filed under 1920s, Coats, Dresses, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Button Up Your Overcoat, 1917

Three mail order coats advertised in Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917.

Three mail order coats advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917. Hamilton ad, left; Printzess ad right.

Apparently, 1917 was not a year when women went around asking “Does this coat make me look fat?”

Swagger coat from Bedell clothes catalog, Advertised in Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917. For teens and women.

Swagger coat from Bedell clothes catalog. Advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917. For teens and women.

This ad for the Bedell’s catalog really got my attention, because it is not a “Lane Bryant Stout” ad. This coat is for teens 14, 16, and 18 years old, and for women with bust sizes 34 to 44 — the normal size range until the 1930s. “It is a stunning New York model made of excellent quality Melton cloth, delightfully warm” and trimmed with “silk caracul fur fabric [i.e., simulated fur];” “the wide cape collar . . . may be worn high or low.” The price is $9.98, with free express shipping included.

Sweaters were not very flattering, either. No one had yet realized that the camera can add pounds, so professional models were normal, pretty women. (An average model now is 5’11” and weighs less than 120 lbs. No wonder these models from 1917 seem a bit stocky to us.)

Sweater from an ad for Glossilla crochet and embroidery thread, November 1917. Ladies' Home Journal, p. 36

Sweater from an ad for Glossilla crochet and embroidery thread, November 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal, p. 36.

The coat below, from Wanamaker, was available in black, taupe,  or navy blue and has a large cape collar of “taupe kit coney fur” [rabbit.]  It cost nearly twice as much as the swagger coat from Bedell’s:  $18.75.

Woman's coat from Wanamaker catalog, Oct. 1917. It cost $18.75. Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

Woman’s coat from Wanamaker catalog, Oct. 1917. It cost $18.75. Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

These Hamilton coats are in the same price range as the others; the one on the left cost $9.75,  and the one on the right cost $17.75.

Two coats from the Hamilton catalog, Advertised in Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

Two coats from the Hamilton catalog, Advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

During World War I, women’s suits and coats often showed a strong military influence, like the one above,  right [are those crossed swords on her collar?] — so did their hats.

Coat pattern illustrations, Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917. Note the military  style hat on left.

Coat pattern illustrations, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917. Note the military-style hat on left. She could be leading a marching band.

The very full coat on the left, above, was recommended for an 18 year old girl. The one on the right was for women up to bust 44″.

Very high collars, which could be worn open or buttoned up to the chin, took some rather strange shapes when unbuttoned:

Seventeen year old girl, about 1918. Her collar could probably be fastened into the high, fold-over collar seen in other illustrations.

Seventeen year old girl, about 1918. Her collar could probably be fastened into the chin-high, fold-over collar seen in other illustrations. She wrote her age on the back of the photo.

Butterick coat patterns  9533 and 9535, Nov. 1917. Delineator.

Butterick coat patterns 9533 and 9535, Nov. 1917. Delineator.

Butterick coat pattern 9471, November, 1917. Delineator.

Butterick coat pattern 9471, November, 1917. Delineator. 

The military influence (and a good deal of jingoism) led to ads like this one, for Kenyon coats and suits:

Ad for Kenyon suits and coats, October 1917. Ladies' Home Journal.

Ad for Kenyon coats and suits, October 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal. (They aren’t mud-stained; it’s a printing flaw.)

lhj 1917 oct p 118 Kenyon coats and suits ad text

This coat, made of “high grade Bolivia cloth” and lined with “peau de cygne” [swansdown, either real or artificial] came in five colors, including “wistaria” and cost $55.00! (A Ford Runabout automobile cost $345 in 1917.)

Since most women would not be inspecting battlefields, I wondered why coats were so bulky and heavy in 1917.

Photo of coat from Ladies' Home Journal; Butterick coat pattern illustration. Both from October 1917.

Photo of coat from Ladies’ Home Journal; coat pattern illustration from Delineator. Both from October 1917. As usual, the fashion illustration idealizes the human body.

These two ads from December, 1917, gave me a clue:

“Steer Warms Keep the Hands Warm While Driving.” “Electrically heated grips” for your steering wheel. Ad, Dec. 1917, LHJ. The car has no side windows and no roof.

Ad for Willys-Overland car, Ladies' Home Journal, December, 1917.

Ad for Willys-Overland car, Ladies’ Home Journal, December, 1917.

The Ford Model T, introduced in 1908, was by far the most popular car in America: 734,811 Fords were made in 1916. Willys-Overland was second, with 124,834. [Source: Average Guy’s Car.]

You’ll notice that cars could get very chilly.

For some time, cars were similar to the horse-drawn carriages they replaced — open to the elements.

Haynes car ad, Ladies' Home Journal, July 1917.

Haynes car ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917.

“In 1911, Buick introduced its first closed-body car, four years ahead of Ford,” according to Wikipedia. AfterMarket News says the 1913 Hudson Model 54 was “the first U.S. automobile with a closed body. Previously, cars left their occupants completely exposed to the weather, or, at best, covered by a convertible top.” [Source:  aftermarketnews.com.] 

Whichever is right, in 1917, most Americans who owned a car were driving through winter rain and snow without a hard roof, glass windows, a heater, or any insulation. And American women were definitely driving cars.

Editorial illustration, Delineator magazine, November 1917.

Editorial illustration, Delineator magazine, November 1917.

If it was a winter like 2015, they needed warm coats.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Coats, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, World War I

Lady in Retirement: How Can I Dress Professionally Now That I Don’t Have a Job?

Suit patterns from Butterick Fashion News, Oct. 1943

Suit patterns from Butterick Fashion News, Oct. 1943. The matador hat is probably not suitable for business.

I have been so inspired by reading the Advanced Style book & blog that I wrote a thank-you note to Ari Seth Cohen. [Cohen blogs about older women — some over 100 —  who dress with a sense of chic or a sense of fun, or, preferably, both.]  I am an “older woman” who simply lost interest in how I look,  but after seeing the lively women Cohen photographs, I have been trying to dress better lately — that is, to present myself a little more vividly and accurately. I have always preferred working “backstage” to being “in the spotlight.” However, that’s different from trying to disappear entirely.

Time to Prepare a Face to Meet the Faces That You Meet. . . .

My lack of interest in my public face is probably due to retirement (The recession didn’t help, but I’ve always had one eye on the budget.) When you’re used to working 60 to 70 hour weeks, and juggling several jobs, once you have no schedule at all, and nothing to do that can’t wait until tomorrow, it takes some adjustment. But I should have been equipped for the change.

As I wrote to Ari Seth Cohen,
“It’s ironic, because I am a retired costume designer. I know perfectly well that the way we dress signals the way we expect to be treated.

“I’ve always preferred being backstage, rather than onstage, but I always tried to dress well enough to inspire confidence in actors [and directors] and respect in my students.

“I imagine that a lot of older people have the same problem:  when you have always dressed ‘professionally’ — how do you dress when you no longer have a profession? Having no job creates an [unanticipated] identity crisis  — best dealt with, I suspect, by finding a new ‘career’ that you make for yourself (artist, mentor, grandma, golfer, gardener, volunteer, blogger, traveler, etc.)”

Becoming an Older Woman Doesn’t Always Come Naturally

Older women in a ad for Naptha Soap, Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Stereotypical Older Women as pictured in an ad for Naptha Soap, Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1937.  Arsenic and Old Lace, anyone?

I thought of Lynn, who blogs about fashion and American women over 55 at AmericanAgeFashion, and the “older women” discussions she has started. As she has pointed out, being over 55 also means real body-shape changes for women, even those who have always maintained a healthy BMI. (Which I haven’t.) When I’m overweight — which has been too often — shopping is depressing. A few years ago, when I got my weight and fasting glucose results back to where they should be (after months of diet and exercise,) I decided to treat myself to a shopping spree at Nordstrom’s, where I used to buy the backbone of my professional wardrobe. But the year was 2007, and the store was full of retro-hippie clothes! (I wore my full share of paisley prints in the 1960s, but not see-through, sweat-shop-beaded paisley….) I think it’s usually a mistake to wear vintage clothes from an era that you “wore” when you were young — as if you’ve been wearing the same outfits continuously for 50 years. So I headed back to Ross and stocked up on year-old Liz Claiborne slacks and a coordinating jacket. However, now that I don’t have a job to go to, the jacket didn’t get many wearings, even though I live in a sophisticated city.

Some Women Make the Transition to “Retiree Clothing” More Easily

A group of older women wearing their ''nice" dresses -- not housedresses --in the 1930s.

A group of older women wearing their ”nice” dresses — not housedresses –in the 1930s. My grandmother used to attend Whist parties two afternoons a week.

Women like my grandmother, who always wore housedresses in the morning and ‘nice’ day dresses in the afternoon, didn’t have the “who am I, now that I don’t dress for work?” transition to make.

One friend (now 91),  who retired from work at an electronics factory almost thirty years ago, eagerly adopted the bright colored, silky athletic “warm up” suits of the 1980s. She was very active, walking miles each day, and the matching color-blocked jackets made them dressy enough for trips to the shopping mall, too. They were perfect for her new daily routine.

Financially secure women, who have always owned a sportier wardrobe for the weekend and vacations, probably transition easily to wearing an expensive weekend wardrobe most days.

Artists go on dressing like artists — whether prosperous and expensively and/or ethnically dressed, or paint stained, with interesting jewelry….

But what about those of us who aren’t used to staying home, but are used to pinching pennies? I don’t have an audience (actors, producers, students, or even sales clerks) to dress for any more. I used to meet dozens (sometimes hundreds) of people in a day. Now there are days when I don’t leave the house. I don’t need to impress anyone. So, who am I? And what shall I wear?

Oh, Dear, What Shall I Weaer? a 1946 guide to dress for every occasion by Helen Garnell. Photo courtesy RememberedSummers.com

Oh, Dear, What Shall I Wear! a 1946 guide to dress for every occasion by Helen Garnell. Photo courtesy RememberedSummers.com

Trying to Have Fun with Clothes

Part of my image-improvement project is to think of myself as a person who blogs about fashion history, and to start wearing more vivid colors and more vintage accessories — preferably from the twenties, thirties, and forties.

I used to save this black vintage jacket for opening nights. Now, I’m going to wear it out — literally.

Vintage late thirties or forties wool coat, probably from China.

Vintage late thirties or forties embroidered black wool coat, probably from China. I live in a city with a large Asian population. No label.

Dragons bring good fortune -- and these deserve to be seen.

Dragons bring good fortune — and these have turned a bit greenish, but deserve to be seen. The coat is black.

It’s still hard to spend money on things I don’t need. At my age, I’m trying to de-accession, not acquire more stuff that my executor will have to sift through someday!

Besides, instead of spending money on clothes, I have always saved up for travel — living out a of suitcase for months is easy for me. Anything I buy has to work with something I already have. I love scarves because they weigh almost nothing and put some variety into a limited selection of coordinated slacks, tops, and a good “rain or shine” coat.

Seeking a more colorful me, it’s not surprising that I splurged on a turquoise, cerise and emerald green scarf at a vintage store the other day. I was under the influence of Ari Seth Cohen and Advanced Style. (There is now an Advanced Style documentary film. I haven’t seen it yet; click here for more information.)

I don't care about the vintage or whether it's silk or not; it will add some zing to my existing wardrobe.

I don’t care about the vintage or whether it’s silk or not; it will add some zing to my existing wardrobe. Black slacks + any one of these tops I already owned + this scarf = I’m dressed. Colorfully.

I don’t usually write about personal matters, but it occurred to me that there are probably other women of my generation falling into the “I dressed for my job” quandary. The women who always dressed to be sexually attractive probably have a much harder time getting old, but those of us who wanted to be seen as “a professional who happens to be a woman,” can have adjustment problems, too.

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Coats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

Printzess Week, 1917

Printzess Fashion Ad, Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917

Printzess Fashion Ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917

Omigosh! I almost missed Printzess Week! A “Nation-Wide Fashion Event” October 8th to 13th — 1917.

Printzess Fashion Week, October 8th - 13th, 1917. "Nation-Wide Fashion Event. Visit the Printzess Dealer in your City."

Printzess Week, October 8th – 13th, 1917. “The Nation-Wide Fashion Event. Visit the Printzess Dealer in your City.”

I can’t help liking a company that proudly proclaims itself “The Printz-Biederman Company:  Paris CLEVELAND New York.”

Printzess clothing label: "Distinction in Dress." 1917.

Printzess clothing label: “Distinction in Dress.” 1917. There seems to be a hand (?) holding a spear on the logo.

“The Fascination of French Fashions”

This ad doesn’t give prices, but the Printz-Biederman Company was very successful, with sales of $6.44 million in 1922. You can find a brief company history at The Encyclopedia of Cleveland: click here.

In this advertisement from 1917, the company brags about its ability to copy Paris Fashions:

Printzess:  "The Fascination of French Fashion" Ad

Printzess: “The Fascination of French Fashion” Ad

“The secret of style supremacy enjoyed by the French fashion designers lies in their ability to originate beauty of line and grace of fold and to combine them in a finished garment — which is invariably becoming to the wearer.

“Printzess garments are faithful reproductions of original creations by the great French designers — which the world of fashion has adopted as authentic.

“Thousands of women have learned to accept the name Printzess as an assurance of style and a guarantee of quality, materials and perfect tailoring.

“There is a Printzess dealer in your city — be sure you see his stock of Printzess suits and coats before making your selection for Fall. Ask the Printzess dealer in your city to send you the beautiful Printzess Art Portfolio containing Rotogravure reproductions of the last word from Paris in coat and suit styles.”

 

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

“This beautiful coat, Printzess No. 521 is one of the season’s most striking models. It is box pleated from the deep yoke, a fashion to be much in evidence this season. The large, convertible collar is of Kerami Mole, and the cleverly designed pouch pockets, hanging gracefully beneath the broad encircling belt, are mole trimmed. The material is an all wool Kersey coating of exquisitely soft texture, half-lined with an excellent quality of peau-de-cygne. Colors are: Black, Navy, Green, Brown and Burgundy.”

Printzess suit No. 601, 1917.

Printzess suit No. 601, 1917.

“Printzess suit No. 601 is made of Rib Rodier cloth. A delightfully youthful effect is conveyed by the plaits which extend downward from the belt in the back of the jacket. When worn open, the ample collar drapes gracefully over the shoulders, terminating in tapering points, and is embellished with a curving band of velvet. The cut-in pockets and belt effect are very chic, and the coat is beautifully lined with Persian. The skirt is an excellent example of the straight line silhouette, and has two cut-in pockets. This stunning suit comes in Pekin, Mouse, Taupe, Havana, Russian, Seal, Navy and Black.”

This is proof that making up non-descriptive names for fashion colors is not a new practice. “Havana” is presumably a shade of tobacco brown; perhaps the comma in “Russian, Seal” is a mistake? Valspar paint still has a color called Pekin; it’s a dusty pink-ish beige. These hats are worth a closer look.

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

Printzess coat No. 521, 1917.

Coat No. 521 looks incredibly fattening, with all those bulky pleats, huge hip pockets,  and a thick belt around the waist. (No, it’s not a maternity fashion.) The popular styles of the 1910s can be very unflattering by current standards. It’s hard to believe that chic women ever wanted to buy a dress with a “barrel skirt,” but in 1917-1918, they did.

The Printzess line was still being made in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In 1954,  Printzess employed over 1000 workers, mostly in Cleveland, and had annual sales of $8 million. There are images of several later  Printzess suits online, and a Printzess label. The business closed in 1978.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Coats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Embroidered Wool Jackets, 1950

Embroidered "Mexican" jacket, McCall Pattern 1399. McCall Needlework Catalogue, May 1950.

Embroidered “Mexican” jacket, McCall Pattern 1399. McCall Needlework Catalogue, May 1950.

Someone in my family had a gold-colored embroidered jacket, very much like this one. I remember finding it, sadly moth eaten, while cleaning out an old wardrobe.

I hadn’t appreciated the enormous craze for these jackets until I looked up “embroidered Mexican jacket” online. Plenty of them survived and are available from vintage dealers. In fact, I found a few in the first vintage store I checked — Decades of Fashion, in San Francisco — and took a quick photo or two. coat 72 dpiThis one was made in Mexico, probably brought home as a vacation souvenir.

Img_8530The very helpful clerk reminded me that, during World War II, the United States made an effort to form stronger alliances with our neighbors to the north and south, including trade agreements.

In the 1940s, while the war made it too dangerous to travel to Europe and the Pacific (and with cruise ships turned into military transports,) Americans seeking vacations in exotic locations had an incentive to explore closer to home. Many tourists seeking warmer weather in “Sunny Mexico” discovered a world of brighter colors, brilliant flowers, beautiful embroidery, gaiety, and chunky, handmade Mexican Silver jewelry from Taxco.

Unsigned, chunky Mexican bracelet, probably 1940s -1950s. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Unsigned, chunky Mexican bracelet, probably 1940s -1950s. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

It’s surprising that McCall Patterns would offer several patterns for stay-at-homes who wanted to duplicate the look of souvenir jackets from Mexico, but these patterns for embroidered wool coats — usually unlined — were available for women, teens, and children in 1950.

Embroidered Coat Pattern for Women, McCall #1399

McCall pattern #1399, May Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

McCall pattern #1399, May Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

McCall "Mexican" coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

McCall “Mexican” coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

These coats were usually unlined and could be made from wool fabric or wool felt, so, except for the wool embroidery, they were easy to make. At least one person made one, and it turned up online (click here.)

Pattern #1399 description from McCall Catalogue, Dec. 1950.

Pattern #1399 description from McCall Catalogue, Dec. 1950.

The felt versions that I have seen had edges trimmed with blanket stitch, for definition, but the wool flannel versions had 1/4″ hems turned under and secured with cross-stitch in one or two colors. The red coat I photographed has the same stitching shown in this pattern:

A narrrow hem turned stitched in two colors.

A narrrow hem stitched in two colors.

collar of jacket made in MexicoThe embroidery motifs from McCall include colorful vendors at markets, donkeys and their owners, palm trees, and other stereotyped images, but — happily — not a sombrero-wearing man taking a nap against a seguaro cactus. That was a popular image for 1950s salt & pepper shakers, as I recall; tourists who had never lived in a hot country interpreted the sensible habit of resting during the hottest part of the day — a break in a workday that began before dawn and lasted until dark — as “laziness.” [One more image to file under “painful cultural misunderstandings!”]

McCall Pattern 1327, “Mexican” Embroidered Jacket for Girls 6 to 14

Pattern for Girls 6 to 14 years, McCall # 1327, 1950.

Pattern for Girls 6 to 14 years, McCall # 1327, 1950.

may 1950 p 281girl966I  like the burro loaded with flowers on the back .

McCall Embroidered Jacket Pattern for Boys and Girls Aged 2 to 6

McCall pattern #1464, McCall Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

McCall pattern #1464, McCall Needlework Catalogue, 1950.

Travel-Wise Embroidered Coat Pattern: McCall #1565

“Far away places with strange-sounding names,

“Far away over the sea,

“Those far away places with strange-sounding names,

“Are calling, calling to me….” — song by Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer, 1948

That song was on the Hit Parade for months in the late 1940s. It was sung by Bing Crosby (and others) in 1948 and became a hit; then it was recorded by Perry Como (and others) in 1949 and became a hit again!

One reflection of this travel-lust was McCall’s pattern #1565, from 1950.

McCall "world traveler" pattern #1565, from 1950.

McCall “world traveler” pattern #1565, from 1950.

dec 1950 500 dpi travel coat 1565It could be embroidered in cotton with the names of places you visited — or wanted to — or simplified, with just appliqued images of a plane and a ship on the pockets, and compass points on the sleeves. dec 1950 72 dpi travel coat 1565 plainer front dec 1950 photo travel wise coat975The “nice swingy” back could be covered with images of the Eiffel Tower, a Dutch windmill, etc. dec 1950 72 closeup dpi travel coat 1565 text travel wise coat978

dec 1950 1565 text travel wise coat976

1950s Embroidered Jackets: Who Wore Them?

“Wear it on a cruise or on campus,” says the pattern catalog. However, I suspect that these jackets were most often made as gifts, rather than by the woman who was going to wear them.

I can’t help wondering if the survival of so many embroidered Mexican jackets is due to an experience many travelers have had: The brilliant colors and “peasant” styles that feel liberating in their natural setting often seem loud or “costume-y” when you get them home to your normal, urban or small-town environment.

dec 1950 photo travel wise coat975This “world traveler” jacket — without the place names — looks chic and playful on the model. Would the version with the place names really help you to look sophisticated while sailing on the Queen Elizabeth? Or in Paris?

 

Even this conservative version of the embroidered jacket, with a floral pattern reminiscent of the 1920s, probably did not get very much wear:

Woman in embroidered wool  jacket, circa 1950 -52. Courtesy of  RememberedSummers.

Woman in embroidered wool jacket, circa 1950 -52. She has not changed her 1930s hairstyle. Courtesy of RememberedSummers.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, Coats, Sportswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs