Category Archives: vintage photographs

Curling Iron Memories

A curling iron like this one was not heated with electricity. Illustration from Delineator, February 1934.

A curled hair style with ringlets over the ears, from 1838. From La Mode, in the Casey Collection.

Novelist and fashion historian Mimi Mathews has written another wonderful post about Victorian women’s hairstyles and beauty products. Click here for her latest, and then follow the links at the bottom of that post for the answer to many other “how did they do that?” questions about beauty and hair styling products from the 1800s.

In 1920, Silmerine hair curling liquid, applied with a toothbrush, was used to set curls in women’s hair.

Ad for Liquid Silmerine hair setting lotion, 1920. It could probably be used to set hair in rag curls.**  The chemicals it contained varied, but some would have been cousins to the Victorian hair preparations Mimi Matthews researched.

The Silmerine ad says that “You’ll never again use the hair destroying heated iron.”

I have personal knowledge of the heated curling irons — sometimes called curling tongs — like the ones below, because my mother used them on me almost daily until I was about eight years old.

An old fashioned curling iron (in three sizes) from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

Ad for the Lorain gas stove, 1926. The stove we had in the 1940s was similar.

This kind of curling iron didn’t plug into an electric outlet; my mother turned up the flames on one burner of the gas stove in our kitchen and stuck the metal part of the tongs into the fire for a while.  (Our curling iron had wooden handles.)  I was sent to the bathroom to bring her several sheets of toilet paper. I sat on a stool in the middle of the kitchen. If the curling iron curled the paper, but did not burn it, it was ready for my hair. (Our toilet paper was not soft and quilted.)

I hated the ordeal of the curling iron, and I hated having to wear a bow in my hair to school every day, too. This picture is probably 1952 or 1953 — and these curls were not in style!

Girls in the combined 2nd & 3rd grade class, Redwood City, CA, 1952-53. Only one (me) with long sausage curls. My best friend, Arleen, wasn’t fussed over; her Mom had 5 daughters to get off to school.

Once I started school and discovered that other girls — like my friend Arleen — did not have long ringlets, this daily ordeal became an ongoing battle. I hated it. But my mother’s idea of how her perfect child should look was unshakeable. We fought, I cried, I begged, but I was only allowed to leave for school once — that I remember — without being curled with that hated hot iron. (I remember skipping with joy, and then feeling the ringlets bounce into their usual shape before I had gone half a block.)

My mother frequently told me, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.”  I doubt that the saying originally referred to curling irons.

[I should make it clear that I wasn’t especially afraid of getting burned, although my squirming must have made it more likely. Getting snarls combed out of my hair was worse, as my mother got increasingly exasperated with me. It was the whole, time-consuming, pointless (to me) process that I hated.  At least I often got out of the house with just a brushing and a barette on the weekends.]

Once, I was allowed to stay overnight with my Uncle Mel and his beautiful wife, Irene. Aunt Irene had naturally bright red hair that fell in waves to below her waist. She coiled her thick braids on top of her head for the office, but one night Uncle Mel brought me to her house just after she had washed her hair. She was sitting on the sofa in a pale blue satin robe, brushing her red hair as it dried. It was so long she could sit on it. She told me about having her hair set with rags when she was a girl my age, and that night she offered to give me rag curl.** In the morning, when she brushed my hair, I was amazed and happy to have curls without any pain! I told my mother about this wonderful way we could stop using the curling iron. She wasn’t impressed — and I was never allowed to stay overnight with Aunt Irene again.

My mother as a teenager, with her own Mary Pickford curls.

Maybe Mary Pickford was to blame for our battles about the curling iron.  And Shirley Temple.

I was an only child, born after twelve years of marriage to parents who were forty years old. My mother had had a long time to dream about the child she hoped for. I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her that her child, and especially her daughter, would not be exactly like her — a perfectible extension of herself. She was always surprised — and saddened or angered — by every sign that I was my father’s daughter, too. I remember her disappointment when she discovered that my skin, even where the sun never touched it, was not as milky white as hers, but halfway between the whiteness of hers and the cream-white of his.  And the lunch when she suddenly exclaimed, “Dammit, Charles! She’s got your mouth!” (instead of her shapely one.)  My mother was so worried that I would take after his family and be taller than the boys in my class, that she lied about my age and enrolled me in first grade instead of kindergarten. I heard her tell a friend that she had decided to do it after driving past a school and seeing my older cousin in the playground with other children: “She looked like a G**-dammed giraffe!”  So instead of being the youngest child in kindergarten, I was (secretly) the youngest child in first grade and in every grade until high school.  It was lucky that reading came easily to me, and I had plenty of experience in being quiet and obedient, so my first teachers never realized that I was so young in other ways.

My mother had been pretty and popular; she loved to dance; so she never noticed that I was bookish and uncoordinated. I certainly never asked to be entered in a Beautiful Baby contest!

“Crowned Supreme Royal Princess Better Baby Show, Dec. 7, 1947.” I hope I didn’t wear the cape and tinsel crown to the contest! (She was sure I’d win.)

I came in second, but she made this outfit and put this picture on her Christmas cards. (The trophy said that I was “99 1/2 % perfect….)

She was certainly proud of me — or, proud of herself for having me. Relatives have told me that she treated me like a doll. She kept me dressed in frilly dresses that she washed and ironed and starched, and changed twice a day. (I got my first pair of jeans when I stayed with her mother, because Uncle Mel said Grandma was too old to cook and clean and look after a child AND do all that extra laundry.) I was completely happy at Grandma’s house. And Grandma didn’t try to turn me into Shirley Temple or Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford shows her famous long curls in this ad for Pompeiian face cream. Delineator, November 1917.

In the 1920s, movie star Mary Pickford played little girls with long curls well into her thirties. Here she is in “Little Annie Rooney” in 1925. Pickford was born in 1892, and was only five feet tall. (She was also a formidable movie producer.) It was big news when she finally bobbed her hair in 1928, partly because she wanted to play an adult role for a change.

She would have been a megastar when my mother was a teenager.  (Pickford made 51 silent movies in 1910 alone!) These pictures of hairstyles for girls from 1917 show the kind of ringlets Pickford wore, probably achieved with a curling iron. Did my mother always dream of having a child who looked like these girls?

Hair styles for girls, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

Hair in ringlets; Ladies Home Journal, November 1917.

Girl with ringlets, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917.

The disadvantage of curling irons was that you couldn’t curl the hair closest to your scalp — the hot iron would burn you.

My 1920s’ curling iron ringlets, done in the late 1940s.

Ringlets from 1924. Delineator, May 1924.

The Pickford influence can be seen in these fashion illustrations from 1924, when my mother was twenty.

Fashion illustrations of girls, Delineator, February 1924.

Perhaps my mother formed her idea of the perfect little girl back then, although she was forty when she finally had a baby. That’s a long time, but she still had her curling iron and knew how to use it….

My curling iron curls, late 1940s.

By 1933, when my parents were married, there was a new super-star named Shirley Temple, age 5. Shirley was famous for her curls, although hers were shorter than Mary Pickford’s.

Shirley Temple in Rags to Riches, 1933. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shirley Temple could sing. I could sing.   Shirley Temple could tap dance. I suffered through lessons in “Tap, Ballet, and Acrobatics.” Shirley Temple had a full head of curls. Click here for a picture of Shirley Temple in Curly Top (1935.) And I was given a permanent wave as soon as the beautician said I was old enough ….

These curls were the result of a permanent wave, although they needed to be kept in shape with a curling iron.

What I remember about this trip to the beauty parlor was how incredibly heavy the rollers were.

This is what getting a permanent looked like in 1932. The process was similar when I was a child in the late 1940s.

This Nestle home permanent machine had only one curling device. It took “a few” hours!

But the professional Nestle machine could curl a whole head in an hour … or three….

Professional Nestle permanent waving machine, from  An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

I was fortunate that the home permanent arrived around 1950. The smell was so terrible that my mother once took me to the Saturday matinee show at the movies just to get that smell out of the house! Ah, Peter Pan in 1953! My one happy memory associated with those hated curls.

There were other, much more serious problems poisoning our relationship,  but I sometimes wonder: if my mother had known that she would die when I was nine, would we still have spent morning after morning after morning fighting about my hair?

[Sorry to write such a personal post, but I mention this as something for other mothers to think about….]

** Putting your hair up in rags required some strips of clean cloth four or five inches long. You wrapped your moistened hair around a finger, slid the finger out, put the rag strip through the center of the coil, and tied it. No hairpins were needed. And you didn’t have to sleep on wire rollers, as we did in the 1960s. Sleeping on rollers should have proved that suffering doesn’t guarantee beauty!)

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Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

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

Christmas Dolls, 1924

A young teen with a boudoir doll, December 1924. You could buy a pattern for the girl’s dress or a pattern for her “French doll’s” dress from Butterick.

Thanksgiving signals the last chance to start making Christmas presents.

Half of page 28, from Delineator magazine, December 1924.

Butterick offered plenty of patterns for making dolls and doll clothes in Delineator magazine’s November and December issues.

Butterick French Doll pattern 10296 on a page of dresses for misses aged 15 to 20. December 1924.

It may seem odd that doll patterns were so prominent with illustrations of patterns for girls 8 to 15 and “misses 15 to 20,” but Boudoir dolls were popular with grown women, too — my Aunt Dot still had one decorating her bedroom in the 1980s.

My Aunt Dot with a friend, about 1919.

You could buy the heads for home-made boudoir dolls separately, and just make the doll’s body and clothing. I was surprised to see that the “French doll” pattern also included a Pierrot costume:

Butterick pattern 1026 in the Pierrot variation. 1924.

This exact pattern showed up for sale, so we know that it could be made with four different looks:

Doll pattern 10296, one version.

Doll pattern 10296 in a version with long, sheer sleeves.

Butterick

Butterick French Doll pattern 10296 in a third “French” costume.

Pierrot is also a French character…. Doll pattern 1026 in its fourth view.

So many doll patterns were illustrated on one page of the December issue that I have to divide them into more than one blog post. I couldn’t find the pattern description for doll 10296, but I did find one for this set of stuffed animal dolls:

Butterick doll pattern 10302, Delineator, December 1924.

The faces are embroidered onto the fabric of your choice.

Butterick 10302; Delineator, December 1924.

“Old Dog Tray” was the “ever-faithful” hero of a song by Stephen Foster; Peter Rabbit was the star of many Beatrix Potter stories. [Her Peter Rabbit wore a blue coat, so I guess the red vest on No. 10302 was easier to make and an attempt to avoid copyright infringement…. I was the kind of child who would have been silently disappointed that he didn’t look right.] It’s also confusing to me that the “Ugly Duckling” is a full grown duck, not a swan, while the fuzzy yellow chick gives new meaning to “Chicken Little.” (In my little 1940-ish book, Henny Penny was illustrated as an adult hen wearing a bonnet and shawl, but this earlier illustration sides with Butterick.)

Oh, Dear:  time for me to think about the dreaded Christmas shopping….

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs

Autumn Hats from Paris, 1912

A Paris hat from couturiere Georgette, Delineator, October 1912, pp. 272-273.

It’s hard to imagine some of these hats as suitable for fall and winter, but High Fashion isn’t supposed to be practical. The wind wouldn’t dare disturb a wealthy Parisienne.

Paris hat from Jeanne Lanvin, Delineator, October 1912. “Hat of black antique satin with a soft crown of white taffetas [sic] trimmed with pink roses.”

Most of these hats from Paris designers were featured in a two-page photo spread in Delineator, October 1912, pages 272 and 273.

A Paris hat from Suzanne Talbot. Delineator, October 1912. She was a noted milliner and couturier in the 1920s. Hat of auburn velvet, self-colored tulle, with white and brown roses.

A bigger, sheer layer softens the brim of several hats.

Like Talbot, Lanvin also used a layer of sheer fabric [“frills of black tulle”] to make the hat even wider.

Georgette covered this hat with lace, which seems [to me] an odd choice for fall /winter wear. I had to put this through a photo enhancer to show the detail.

“Evening hat of black and white Chantilly lace turned up at the back. The black lace is used over the white.” Two layers of Chantilly lace? Very extravagant! [This is the first time I have seen an evening hat this large! And the model is not dressed for evening, is she?]

The fabric called Georgette, a crepe-like chiffon, was named after this designer. Georgette de la Plante, who was quite popular in the 1910s and 1920s.

Another very wide hat from Georgette. Delineator, October 1912. “Bell-shaped hat of black velvet rolled up at the back and trimmed with roses.”

Those gigantic hats got my attention, but there were more practical hats from chic designers:

Hat from Lanvin, Delineator, Oct. 1912. “…Black velvet with a trimming of ‘Marquis’ feather.”

“Hat of black satin with real old lace border. Soft black satin crown and ‘Neron’ rose under the brim. By Suzanne Talbot. [It’s rather like a Tam o’ Shanter.]

Flowers or feathers worn under the brim instead of on top of it  could be very charming.

“Brim of black silk sponge tissue, with crown of black satin. White Prince of Wales feather at the right side. By Jeanne Lanvin.” Delineator, Oct. 1912, p. 272.

This relatively simple hat from Suzanne Talbot must have been very annoying to sit next to, or behind. “Panne velvet hat with a piping of white cloth and trimmed with two curled ostrich quills.”

If you weren’t attracted by extremely wide hats, extreme height was also an option:

“White plush hat with black satin brim rolled at the edge and trimmed with two raven’s quills in front. By Suzanne Talbot.”

“Tailor-made hat of black satin with turned-back brim and shaped bands stitched with cords. By Georgette.” [To me, it looks like a shaped felt hat, but perhaps my photo program changed its texture.]

I do like the delicate sheer frill at her wrist, in contrast to her suit. All those photographs were taken by l’Atelier Taponier.

This hat from Doeuillet is another that must have required wearers to calculate the clearance on doorways and cabs very carefully.

Paris hat by Doeuillet; Delineator, November 1912.

Naturally, the illustrators working for Butterick’s Delineator magazine tried to keep up with the latest hat styles.

Hat with a sheer overlay, like many Paris hats shown in the same issue. Delineator, October 1912.

Wide hat with curved brim, drooping feather at one side; Delineator, Oct.1912. Her coat is corduroy.

Hats shown with Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1912.

But the hat shown in the cover illustration for October 1912 was much simpler and smaller (and sportier) than the Paris hats inside the magazine.

Delineator cover painting by Augustus Vincent Tack. October 1912.

Detail of cover illustration, Delineator, October 1912. Enhanced to show detail

Edit 9/18/19 Here is a full length picture of the blue suit and hat from October pictured above:

500 1912 oct p 229 color 5664 k 5665 w 5668 sk 5669 blue 500 (3)

Illustration from Delineator, October 1912.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs, World War I

Three Gymnastic Costumes, 1912

Three gymnastic costumes for women and girls, Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, 1912.

There were no gymnastic competitions for women in the 1912 Olympics, and it would be hard to imagine Simone Biles (or anyone else) spinning through the air in one of these “Gymnastic Costumes” from 1912. [If you click on that link you’ll have to watch a short commercial first, but I can’t stop marvelling at the things this young woman can do. Uneven bars isn’t even her best event!]

For some reason, Butterick offered three different women’s gym “costumes” in 1912.

January 1912: Butterick 5169

Butterick gymnastic costume 5169 is based on the classic middy blouse. Delineator, January 1912, p. 46.

Details and back view, Butterick 5169. The bloomers (pleated or gathered) are separate.

For girls, misses, and women, in seven sizes for bust measure from 26 to 38 inches. The bloomers and middy could be made in matching fabric for winter, or a cooler summer middy could be made of linen, etc., and worn with a skirt.

Four children, about 1916. My aunt, at right, wears a middy and a skirt.

March 1912:  Butterick 5256

One piece gymnastic costume; the under-blouse is called a guimpe. Butterick 5256, March 1912.

Here’s a close-up of the stitching:

Butterick 5256 is sleeveless, but worn with an easily washable guimpe under it.

Top text for Butterick 5256, a gym suit for “ladies, misses, and girls. March 1912.

This gymnastic costume was available in nine sizes, from 26 to 42 inch bust measure. It does not have a fitted waist, so there is not even “the slightest pressure on the organs.”

September 1912: Butterick 5625

Butterick gymnasium suit 5625, from September, 1912. Delineator, p. 159.

Butterick 5625 could be made with separate bloomers and middy, if preferred.

Note her black stockings — and imagine the underpinnings needed to keep them from falling down during active sports.This time, the option to gather or pleat the bloomers is clearly illustrated:

Alternate versions of Butterick 5625.

Girls who were going away to school or to college would be relieved to know that their home-made gym suit  “will be entirely presentable and like the best that other girls wear.” [Unless the school required pleats, or a specific pattern or color or fabric, as schools often do.] Available in seven sizes, for girls, misses, ladies with bust measure from 28 to 44 inches.

None of these gym suits looks suitable for the kind of gymnastics women do now, but, in 1912, “We’ve got you covered.” These were also the clothes worn by American girls who took over farm work to free men for military service in 1917-18.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/1918-oct-college-girls-vassar-milk-platoon.jpg

College students from Vassar wore their gym costumes while doing farm work.

In 1915, there was a debate over whether girls wearing gym clothes like these should be allowed to play baseball in public parks. As I wrote in a long-ago post,

“The San Francisco Chronicle runs an article every Sunday called The Wayback Machine,  by Johnny Miller, who goes through ‘the archives of 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago to bring us glimpses of the past.’ On January 4, 2015, he found this article from January 8, 1915, heralding the end of the bloomer ban:

“As far as the Park Commissioner is concerned, ‘the bloomer girls will be allowed to play ball in Golden Gate Park, notwithstanding Mrs. Grundy to the contrary. For some time these young misses have been an attraction on the park diamonds where they could be depended upon to put on a stirring game. And then Mrs. Grundy appeared on the scene and the games ceased. But now they will resume for the park Commission sees no harm in young girls, attired in their gymnasium suits, disporting on the park greens.”

When I first shared this article from the Chronicle, I wrote, “A less sexually provocative outfit would be hard to imagine. Perhaps the fact that the female baseball players’ stocking-clad legs were visible was the reason “Mrs. Grundy” objected to games in Golden Gate Park in 1915.”

Imagine Mrs. Grundy’s reaction to 21st century gymnastic costumes!

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Jumbled Musings and Fashion Surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris hat designed by Virot, Delineator, March 1912.

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

Speaking of hats….

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

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

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

I started with the intention of writing about this:

When is this? (No, not 2012….)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couture gown by Martial et Armand, Paris, 1920.

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

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

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

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

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

The editors of Delineator had a suggestion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couture details on a 1920 gown. Undeniably luxurious.

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

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

Evening coats from Butterick patterns, November 1920.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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