Category Archives: vintage photographs

Fashion Advice for Summer, 1933 (Part 2)

Beach pajamas [aka pyjamas]; detail from Delineator cover, August 1933.

When we think of summer fashion, we usually think of loose clothes, cool dresses with bare arms and backs, and sporty clothing suitable for vacation activities. Here is Part 2 of summer fashion advice from Marian Corey, writing in Delineator,  June 1933. [Click here for Part 1.]

For Tennis

Butterick 5182, at right; “The pinafore frock that buttons down the back is THE tennis dress.” Delineator, June, p. 61. (This is the only illustration of it that I found.)

Delineator, June 1933, p. 61.

Like dress 5182, Butterick 5025 buttons in back:

“Bermuda” is the name given to this dress (Butterick 5025) which, like tennis dress No. 5182, buttons down the back. “…Known technically as a beach dress although it is far more apt to be worn off the beach than on.” Delineator, April 1933.

Notice the bare backs and chic suntans of these blonde models.

“Hello Everybody” is the name given to Butterick 5021, at right. From Delineator, April 1933.

Bicycle Clothes

Clothes for bike riding and skating, Delineator, June 1933.

I didn’t find any illustrations of divided skirts in this issue, but there were good-looking slacks or beach pajamas, and shorts sets, too,

Butterick 5219 could be made as trousers or shorts. Delineator, July, 1933.

The Talon fastener — a slide fastener or “zipper” — was still new in 1933; many dressmakers would not know how to install one.

Butterick slacks pattern 4884 had a sailor influence in its double row of buttons. The shirt pattern was included.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/1934-june-p-17-sea-sun-sand-4884-5219-pants-500.jpg?w=423&h=498

Left, Butterick 4884 photographed for Delineator in June, 1934. The reclining model wears Butterick 5219.

Shorts (or slacks) pattern 5219 was featured again in July; this time No. 5219 was christened “Eight Bells.”

Slacks pattern 5219 (“Eight Bells”) pictured with a bathing suit, 5215 (“Seawothy.”)  Delineator, July 1933, p. 60.

For those too young to remember, this was what roller skates looked like in the 1930’s; they were the same in the 1950’s, when I learned to skate:

You could earn a pair of skates like this by selling subscriptions to Ladies’ Home Journal. Ad from LHJ, August 1936. My skates could only be used with leather-soled shoes; the clamp at the front was adjusted with a “skate key,” but slipped off of tennis shoes.

The Pretty and the Kitsch blog happened to show this photo of women roller skating in trousers (like Butterick 4884 or 5219) or beach pajamas. The photo is not dated precisely, but it’s apt! Thanks, Emily Kitsch.

Bathing Suits

“Don’t get a wool jersey bathing suit — the wool suit isn’t enjoying its usual popularity. The rubber bathing suit and the cotton ones are making it look sick.” Marian Corey, Delineator, June 1933. p. 61.

Wool bathing suits in an ad for Ironized Yeast, Delineator, March 1933.

A wool bathing suit — and especially a heavy, soaking wet, wool bathing suit — did not camouflage any figure faults:

Wet wool bathing suits, late 1920’s or early 1930’s. All (well, nearly all) is revealed as the weight of the cold water pulls the knit suits tight against the body.

This cotton bathing suit was designed by Orry-Kelly for Bette Davis, seen wearing it. Butterick briefly offered line-for-line copies of clothing worn in the movies, as “starred patterns.” This one is from June, 1933; Delineator.

Marian Corey recommended cotton bathing suits, like this one, Butterick pattern 5215. June 1933.

Two versions of Butterick bathing suit 5215, from July and June, 1933.  “Jersey tights” were worn under the skirt  or shorts.

[You can read more about Butterick Starred Patterns from several movies: costumes for Bette Davis by Orry-Kelly, Katharine Hepburn by Howard Greer, Mary Astor by Orry-Kelly, Kay Francis by Orry-Kelly, and Helen Twelvetrees by Travis Banton.]

If you’re curious about the “beguiling” drawstring neckline dress mentioned by Marian Corey, here it is:

Butterick 5173, a dress with a drawstring neckline; Delineator, June 1933, p. 62.

And here are two rubber bathing suits featured in McCall’s Magazine, July 1938. In case Ms. Corey piqued your interest: “We know you can think of dozens of reasons why a rubber suit wouldn’t suit you, but even so and nevertheless! You see, they’re good-looking, and so nice and cheap, and they give one quite a figure.”

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/p-70-bathing-suit-btm-text-500.jpg?w=500&h=405

Rubber bathing suit pictured in McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/p-71-bathing-suit-top-500-text-rubber.jpg?w=500&h=351

Rubber bathing suit pictured in McCall’s Magazine, July 1938.

Beach Pajamas

Gingham beach pajamas and bare shouldered sundress. Butterick 5133 and 5075 , Delineator, May 1933.

In “Gingham Girl” one can crawl about on hands and knees and get in the way of the garden hose without any harm being done. “Gingham Girl ” takes housework in its stride, too, doing away with bulky and unattractive aprons.” “New Low” is the thing for tennis, for there’s nothing to hinder the most smashing serve.” — Delineator, May 1933, p. 52.

Now I’m ready for July.

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Filed under 1930s, Bathing Suits, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns, Vintage patterns from the movies, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, Zippers

Ollie

Can a dress change a life? Probably not, unless you’re Cinderella. But a dress can mark a turning point in your life…. I inherited many photos of a young woman named Ollie Cornelius. Often, there is an air of sadness about her.

Studio portrait of Ollie Cornelius, taken in Colusa, CA.

I’ve been trying to find out more about her from an ancestry site, with limited success. Ollie Cornelius and my mother became friends as young teenagers, and they were still writing to each other in 1950.

Ollie, left, and my mother, right (with ukelele) in a school playground, Redwood City, CA, circa 1918.

Ollie posing in a schoolyard. She is wearing a corduroy jacket over her school uniform. Circa 1918.

Young Ollie on a bench in Redwood City, CA. Although posing for a friend, she doesn’t look happy.

Ollie looks sad in the next photo because, having made friends in a new city — Redwood City, California — she was uprooted when her family moved again, to Colusa, 148 miles away.

Ollie in Colusa, CA, about 1919.

On the back she wrote, “When I had this picture taken I was thinking of Redwood City [That’s] why I look so sad.”

Today friends exchange photos instantly; then, people also kept in touch by mailing photographs back and forth. Luckily for us, these pictures often have writing on the back.

Ollie posing on a bridge, about 1919. This is not a period for flattering fashions…. but she knew how to wear an enormous black tam-o-shanter.

In her later teens, Ollie’s sadness had a more serious cause: she was diagnosed with tuberculosis — the “consumption” that killed so many in Victorian times.

On the back of the bridge photo, Ollie wrote, “This was taken before I was sick.”

Ollie is wearing the same dress in this photo taken at Weimar TB Sanatorium.

Ollie on the steps of her ward at Weimar Joint Sanatorium.

In 1919 there were no antibiotics; the usual treatment for TB was a move to a place with “better air” and complete rest for several months. Obviously, for working class people, quitting work and spending months in a private sanatorium was not an affordable option. Often, they continued working, incidentally spreading infection, until they literally dropped in their tracks.

Another tam-o-shanter. Ollie did not come from a wealthy family.

For a young office clerk like Ollie, TB could be a death sentence. Among men receiving treatment, the mortality rate was 50%.

Ollie and Claude (another TB victim) on the steps at Weimar Sanatorium.

Given America’s current attitude toward healthcare, it’s disconcerting to read that one hundred years ago, public health officials realized that an epidemic of this frequently fatal, contagious disease could only be prevented by treating the poor as well as the wealthy.

The Weimar Joint Sanatorium was created by the State of California and subsidized to give working class people the same chance of recovery as people who could afford private care.

Ollie at Weimar Sanatorium. The back of this photo says, “Where I used to live.” Dated 1919.

Fresh air was considered necessary for TB patients; Ollie is standing by a screened-in sleeping porch — unheated.

Three patients at Weimar; Ollie is on the right. The photo was dated 1919 by my aunt, who received it in the mail.

Ollie made friends with other women in her ward; in spite of their grim situation, they were still young and tried to cheer each other up.

Fellow patient Mrs. Alice Smith with Ollie Cornelius, about 1919.

On early photos, Ollie respectfully called her “Mrs. Smith.” “She was just married above a month,” [when she was diagnosed with TB] Ollie wrote. Apparently, Mr. Smith came to visit, still in his First World War military uniform.

Ollie with Mrs. Smith, who is clowning in her husband’s tunic and hat. “It is her husband’s uniform; her name is Mrs. Alice Smith.” I wonder if he took the photo.

Nevertheless….

Ollie and other young women at Weimar Sanatorium knew they might be facing death.

“…Patients frequently became depressed due to the severity of their infection and the hopelessness of a cure or because of separation from their families. In many cases it was difficult for families to visit either due to the cost of travel or because of the fear of becoming infected themselves. Seeing other patients die was another cause of despair.” — read more.

But a change came for Ollie. Was she really feeling well again? Had her doctors given her hope that she might be able to go home? These pictures of Ollie in a pretty new dress seem to mark a turning point:

Ollie next to her bed on the sleeping porch at Weimar Sanatorium.

Ollie modeling her new dress. Did it come from a catalog? Was it a gift?

Ollie reading in a common dining area. She still has dark circles under her eyes, but this is a different Ollie. She’s happy.

Ollie did recover, at least for many years. Trivial as it sounds, taking an interest in fashion may signal the end of her physical illness and resulting depression.

Ollie in Colusa, CA, about 1920.

Also, her friends had not forgotten her.

Ollie in a chic, sheer-brimmed hat, with my mother. About 1920.

My mother and her friend Ollie, 1920s.

Ollie fell in love:

Ollie and Lloyd Jennings, about 1920.

She got married:

Ollie and her husband. Note her Marcelle-waved hair. 1920s.

Ollie and my mother on a vacation, late 1920s.

Thanks to low-cost care during a public health crisis, Ollie survived TB and returned to active life:

Ollie, second from front, in the snow, circa 1931.

Ollie fashionably dressed (including necktie) for the snow; this photo was printed in February 1931.

Ollie with my Uncle Holt, 1930’s.

How wonderful that she had a future!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hats, Musings, Sportswear, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces

I know where this picture was taken, but not when, or who it is. Monaco, Excelsior Art Gallery, 183 Main Street, Stockton, Cal. “The most artistic photographic work guaranteed, at moderate prices.” Ben Batchelder owned several photo galleries in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but not necessarily the Excelsior at 183 Main…. So the picture is still undated.

Once a year (usually in December) I try to remind readers to use family get-togethers as an opportunity to bring out that box or scrapbook full of old family photos and go through them with the eldest members of the family. Try to put names to the faces. Someday, someone might thank you. (And you might hear some surprising stories….) If you’re lucky, more than one person will be able to put a name to the faces in the photos.

Photograph taken by Elliott and Harkness in Stockton, California. On the back the sitter has written, “Drunk when taken.” (I think he was kidding….)

I’d like to identify this man — he seems to have had a sense of humor. And he really was better looking than the “drunk” photograph implies:

Great hat. Now, who and when was he? A member of my family? or a friend who gave his picture to a pretty girl or to a member of the same fraternal organization? There’s no name on the back.

I’d also like to date his suit, hat, etc. If I knew his name, I could probably find out what he did for a living, and where he fit in the socio-economic scale. Did he live in Stockton, which was quite a large city by the 1880’s? Or was he a farmer who came into town so rarely that he had his picture taken to commemorate the event?

These children were also photographed in Stockton. I used Pioneer Photographers of the Far West to date these photos.

Two photographs taken at the Pioneer Gallery, 198 Main St., Stockton, CA.

A photographer named Ben Batchelder was active in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but he only had the Pioneer Gallery at this address for three years: 1884 to 1887. It’s a clue; it eliminates some possible relatives because they were too old or too young to be this age in those years. It’s nice to be able to date these photos — but it would be nicer to know more about them. The date is not enough to identify this boy and girl.

Unknown boy in suit with short trousers, big bow. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

Unknown girl in a wool dress that looks home-made. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

By the 1980’s I had only one relative I could ask about family photos from the 1880’s and early 1900’s: my Aunt Dorothy, also known as Dot. (We can usually identify our close relatives, even if the picture was taken before we were born.) However, as I try to verify names and dates from public sources, I am discovering that — in the words of literary critics — she was an “unreliable narrator.” And, since I have been using photos she identified and dated to identify other photos, I made a serious error.

I had already figured out that some of the photos I inherited from Dot were probably labeled years after they were taken.

This photo — and many taken on the same weekend — says Monte Rio, July 4, 1921. Dot is 3rd from left, and my mother is on the far right.

She seems to have had many weekend getaways in 1921: in Monte Rio, in Santa Cruz, in Truckee, plus a trip to Washington State…. Or perhaps she just remembered having a good time in 1921, and wrote that on all of them (?)

Dot (back to camera) and The Gang from the Office, Truckee, CA, 1921.

Four women in Santa Cruz, CA, 1921. Dot is third from left. For more about their clothes, click here.

Dot in Granite Falls, Washington, 1921 (She wrote.)

I’m not blaming her — doesn’t everybody have a shoebox full of (pre-digital) photos that we finally get around to putting into a scrapbook years later? Her scrupulousness about writing dates on photos and on the scrapbook pages made me too trusting. I can recognize my Great Aunt Alice, because she was still alive (and lively) when I was a child. (That impish smile in the lower left photo captures the Alice I knew: shrewd and witty.)

Alice Barton: 1900’s, 1930s, 1950s.

My very young Aunt Dot is sitting on the steps with her brother Mel (in sailor suit.) The woman in stripes, center, is her Aunt Alice (my great-aunt.) But — is the woman in white her Aunt Cora or her Aunt Laura? I’m no longer sure.

Dot said this was Aunt Laura, but I’m no longer certain. Is it Laura or Cora? (That is a terrific coat — with an enormous hat — whoever is wearing them. Note the mud splashes around the coat’s hem.)

I believed that my Aunt Dot could tell the difference between her Aunt Laura and her Aunt Cora — they were still alive when she was an adult. But… trusting her identification of photos, I think I wrote a post about the wrong one!

I thought this was Great Aunt Cora, with an unknown man, and my Great Aunt Alice, in the 1930s. Their dresses are short and sleeveless, with belts at the waist: after 1925, probably close to 1930. (Other photos I have examined recently suggest that the man is their brother, John, who died in 1934. Three surviving siblings; that makes sense.)

My research in local sources [The San Mateo County Genealogical Society has amazing databases online!] finally located Cora and Laura’s death dates: Cora died in December of 1924; Laura lived until 1936. Therefore, the woman in glasses in this photo is probably Laura, the unmarried librarian, instead of Cora, the widow. (Oops!)

I subscribed to Ancestry.com a few years ago only because I wanted to access its collection of Sears, Roebuck catalogs. (And I would recommend this to anyone who needs to research “everyday clothing” instead of couture. You’ll get more information for $20 a month than from a dozen books.) But, once I noticed that Dot’s spelling of names was quite variable, I began using Ancestry.com to try to find the correct spelling of names for the people in her photos.

Azalia Dellamaggiore (as spelled on census records) on the courthouse lawn in Redwood City, CA, dated 1918. Dot’s shadow as she takes the picture is included.

Again, Dot did her best. If you asked me to spell the last names of everyone I have met in social situations, — well, I couldn’t. Also, after you meet people several times, and think of them as friends, it’s embarrassing to have to ask them what their last names are! What was Dot — a girl with an 8th grade education — to make of a name like Dale Lucchesi — or Luchese? or Luchassi… or Lucassi? (She pronounced it Loo chee’ zee.)

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Lucassi here] sent this photo of himself to my aunt. Early 1920s.

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Luchessis this time] sent this charming photo of “my little brother and I” to my aunt around 1921. (Look! A sleeve garter! and a tiny boy still in a dress!)

If Dale had given her a studio portrait with his signature on the back (as many of her old beaux did) she would have figured it out. Caston Popescul signed  his:

Studio portrait of Caston Popescul mailed from Columbus, Georgia, dated 1920. (He’s retained his WW I military haircut. For reasons I don’t understand, this haircut was back in fashion in 2017!) Caston was a soldier in the American Army when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1918.

C. Popescul and Dot Barton in Santa Cruz, 1921. (That’s what she wrote.)

Then there’s a military man sometimes identified as “Val:” Volowsky or Walasky or Walisky ….

“Volouskey” (or “Valowskey”?) changes a tire while Jack and Dot look on.

“Walasky” with a tank, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA; dated 1920. There was a WW I military camp, Camp Fremont, in nearby Menlo Park.

Nick and “Walisky” at Neptune Beach. Dated 1920.

Dot and the soldier-with-the-hard-to-spell-name at Neptune Beach, Alameda, California. Dated 1920.

(Is that a box camera in her hand?)

Census Name Variations

I’m finding some wild spelling variations on census reports, too — possibly the fault of the census taker, or the person who happened to be at home to answer questions when the census taker knocked on the door — or a transcription error made when the hand-written census forms were typed into a database.

You wouldn’t think a four-letter name like Lipp would be a problem — but I found some Lipps under the name Siff. And Sipp. And Gipp.  Barton showed up as “Baldhoe” in 1940. So just imagine the variations I’ve found for the family of Augustus Feodorovich Moosbrugger, who emigrated from tzarist Russia at the age of 19 and married one of the Lipp girls; the name on her tombstone is “Alice Moosberger” — and my aunt Dot pronounced it “mooseburger.” Tasty!

I’m so glad someone identified this couple; it’s my mother’s father with Emma Emerson, whom he did not marry.

Dorothy’s father (b. 1862) with Emma Emerson — their names were written in pencil on the back. He married my grandmother in 1893, so this is earlier — probably 1880’s, as the dress suggests. [Taken in Stockton at Monaco Excelsior Art Gallery.]

It was a delight to find this picture:

Signed on the back, “Geo E. Meekins, Menlo Park, California.” It also says, “Age 25.” I found him in the Register of Voters: he was 25 in 1890. How satisfying!

The back of Meekins’ portrait is inscribed — in elaborate writing — “Geo. E. Meekins … Compliments to Miss Lillie M. Lipp,” Dorothy’s mother (my maternal grandmother.) Below, my Aunt Dot wrote, “Mama’s first fellow.” I think she got that one right.

Unknown woman in the snow, white fur muff and stole,  probably 1917 to 1922. I’m still looking for a photo that will identify her….

P.S. Thank you, Aunt Dorothy, for hundreds of photos!

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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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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

Great Aunt Cora: From Victorian to 1930s

EDITED 4/14/2018: Well, this is awkward…. Weeks after writing this post, based on photos identified by my late Aunt Dot, I finally located information about when my Great Aunt Cora and her sister Laura died. Cora, Mrs. McGarvey, died on December 31, 1924. Laura, the city librarian, died in an automobile collision in 1936. That means that the woman in glasses in this photo, whom I identified as Cora, is actually Laura.

Cora [Laura], an unknown man, and Alice, in the 1930s.

So it was Laura who wore short skirts in the 1920s, and horn-rimmed glasses, and worked outside the home for most of her life. Cora was not the merry — or at least, cheerful — widow that I thought she was. It was Laura who took road trips and adapted to changing fashions as shown in these photos.

This is definitely Cora, because she wrote the inscription on the back of the photo herself — “To Sister, From Aunt Cora.”

Cora as a young woman; there is a pretty comb or hair decoration in her bun. Her strong profile is one way I can distinguish her from her sister Laura, but it’s not always easy. [EDIT 4/17/18: No kidding! I often got it wrong — and so did my aunt, who still knew them when she was an adult.]

EDIT 4/17/18: Beyond this point — beware of unreliable identifications and deductions regarding Cora!

Left, my Great Aunt Alice; right, her older sister, Cora. Early 1900s. The unexpected bow in Cora’s hair may be an early indication of her un-stodgy fashion sense.

As I try to sort family photos, I am also trying to sort out their stories. At dinner last night, my husband gave me a strange look and said, “It’s hard to realize that you knew people born in 1875.” Well, I only knew them insofar as a child can know an adult, but I have vivid memories of my Aunt Alice in her seventies, still witty and clever. I wish I had known her older sisters, Cora and Laura.

Cora was the eldest, born in 1867.

Cora Barton as a child. She was born in California in 1867, the eldest child of five. [EDIT 4/17/18: this may not be Cora, in spite of what my aunt Dot wrote on the back of the photo. It was more common to photograph the firstborn child, especially if it was a boy: Cora’s brother Charles was born in 1862, when very young boys were sometimes dressed like this.]

When you think of the rapid change of Euro-American fashions in the 20th century (and before) it is extraordinary how often women had to adapt to new ideas — in clothing, and in concepts of modesty and propriety. [EDIT 4/17/18: At least this — the point of sharing all these photos — is true.]

Cora and Laura came into their teens in the era of outrageous 1880’s bustles. As the daughters of a Methodist Episcopal minister, they didn’t have a big budget, and it must have been important to look “respectable.” Here, they are reclining informally with a friend at a photographer’s studio:

Cora and Laura Barton with their friend Alice Mason. Probably late 1880s. [EDIT: No reason to doubt this photo — although the names of the sisters may not be in order….]

In 1920, she sent this old portrait photo of herself to her niece Dorothy, nicknamed “Sister” or “Sis” because she came along after two brothers. The back says, “To Sister, from Aunt Cora, July 1, 1920,” but the hair style is much earlier.

Cora as a young woman; there is a pretty jeweled comb or hairpin in her bun.

At the time of her marriage, the local newspaper reported that she had “had charge of the city library” for a number of  years. (Did they confuse her with her sister Laura, or did one replace the other as librarian?) [EDIT 4/17/18: Maybe everyone had trouble telling them apart?]

[Probably] Cora — who became Mrs. William McGarvey in 1896 — sitting on a porch hammock; probably early 1900’s.

She is wearing a shirtwaist with a collar that could accommodate a mannish, detachable stiff collar. They often appear on turn-of-the-century American women drawn by Charles Dana Gibson.

And she looks very sad.

Cora Barton McGarvey [EDIT: or this could be Laura….] in a shirtwaist blouse. I don’t have the expertise to date it precisely. This is one of the few pictures in which she looks like the eldest of the three sisters.

EDIT 4/17/18: Anything about Cora from this point on is suspect; she was married to Mr. McGarvey; the 1900 census information is correct; but she is not the woman identified as Cora in these photos.

I can’t say that her marriage was an unhappy one, but, as you will see, widowhood seemed to suit her. In the 1900 census, her two adult sisters were living at the same address as the McGarveys. William McGarvey, accountant, was listed as head of household, Cora as wife, and her sisters Laura and Alice as “servants.” There was one male “servant” or farmworker, and no mention of children. Cora’s husband died in 1918.

In the 1920 census, Cora was a widow, Laura was the city librarian, and Alice was a clerk at the county courthouse. Laura was listed as head of household, and her sisters were listed as her “partners.”

At 54, Cora [no, Laura], top left, looks quite fresh and modern in her checked dress in this photo from 1921. Her youngest sister, Alice, is holding their baby nephew. Do Cora and Laura [No, Cora] (in sweater) have cropped hair? It’s more likely that they have just cut bangs.

From this point on, Cora [Laura] wears glasses — and not “old lady” wire-rimmed glasses — “modern-in-the-twenties” horn rims.

Cora [No, Laura] eating watermelon on a road-trip vacation, 1920s.

Here’s another photo from the same vacation:

My mother, center, flanked by, on the left, her Aunt Alice (born in 1875) and right, her Aunt Cora, (born in 1867)  [EDIT: no, it’s Laura, born in 1869] climbing a hillside on their trip to Catalina Island, 1920’s. They don’t look at all like the stereotyped older women in 1920’s advertising or movies — no long skirts, no dark dresses, no lace collars. (However, their skirts are not as short as their 20-something niece’s.)

A reminder of the drastic changes in fashion they experienced —

Here are Cora [?] and Alice as they looked in their thirties:

The Barton sisters wearing the “pouter pigeon” look of the S-Bend era, probably before 1910.

And here they are in their fifties:

Left, Alice (b. 1875;) center, their sister-in-law, also born in 1875; and right, Cora, born in 1867 [EDIT: It is Laura, born in 1869.] These “late Victorian” women have all adopted short skirts and bobbed hair during the 1920’s.

And they kept right on wearing up-to-date clothing. Here, they have even adopted sleeveless dresses — these women who grew up wearing high collars, long sleeves, and floor length skirts.

Cora, an unidentified man, and Alice, in the 1930’s. [CORRECTION: Laura, probably her brother John, and Alice — the three surviving siblings. John died in 1934.]

They looked like they were having a good time on that vacation with my mother….

Cora [No, Laura], on the left, enjoying watermelon from a roadside stand, 1920’s. Cora/ Laura almost seems to be flirting with the camera. My mother is on the right.

I liked Cora’s playful pose so much that I tried to paint her:

“Watermelon Stop No. 2”

I wish I’d known her.

Cora, a sister-in-law, Laura, and Alice dressed as hoboes; note the little brown jug in Cora’s hand. Probably before 1910. [Edit: Or: Laura, a McGarvey sister-in-law, Cora, and Alice.]

P.S. If the story of fashion for older women interests you, be sure to visit the American Age Fashion blog.

 

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Hairstyles, Late Victorian fashions, vintage photographs

Fun in the Snow, 1921

A group of office workers from the Southern Pacific Railroad headquarters in San Francisco on a weekend trip to the snow; taken in Truckee, California, February, 1921. That’s the base of the Donner Party monument behind them.

I’ve spent many hours of the past two weeks scanning and sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge accumulation of photographs. It’s taking even longer than I expected because, thanks to modern computer technology, I can now see details that would only have been visible with a magnifying glass a few years ago. I end up trying to revive faded or underexposed prints that were tiny to begin with, and saving faces and clothing details. Also, I am trying to put names to as many faces as possible. So, while I am time-traveling through thousands of images, I will share a few “postcards from a time-traveler.”

Dot Barton (my Aunt Dorothy,) with Jen, Spurr, and Dot Robinson at Truckee, 1921.

Dot B. is wearing a very hairy sweater, and she’s borrowed a huge Tam-o-Shanter from her friend Dottie Biggs.

Dottie Biggs and Dorothy Barton in Truckee, 1921.

It was only by enlarging this section of the photo that I saw the shawl and huge tam on the woman standing behind them.

The woman in the middle is Dottie Biggs, wearing a long, thick sweater. 1921.

Dot Barton and Lloyd Muller in 1921. She is wearing the full-legged knickers that many women wore for sports. Her sweater is not too different from those of 1917. He’s wearing his cloth cap turned backwards…. like a baseball cap in the nineties.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson in 1922.

My Aunt Dorothy, nicknamed Dot, worked in an office with Dot Robertson, Dot Robinson, and Dottie Biggs. It must have been a relief when Adeline and Gladys were hired!

For those who live where snow is a normal event, I should explain that it only snows in San Francisco a couple of times per century.  Some people “go to the snow” on the mountainous eastern side of the state every winter — just to see snow. It seems odd today to think a sweater would be enough protection when the snow is falling, but that’s what all these women are wearing, along with knickers or riding pants.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson face the cold in sweaters and wool twill riding pants. 1921.

Dot Barton’s long sweater has pockets big enough to hold her gloves. She has probably laced gaiters over her legs, with turned-down socks.

Dottie Biggs in a sweater vest over a dark shirt, plus a long, thick sweater. And that wonderful hat…. 1921.

I can’t get enough of that Tam-O-Shanter — and her attitude.

A giant Tam-o-Shanter — very chic in the late teens and early twenties. Notice that she’s wearing earrings and … is that lipstick?

It’s lovely to see the fun they had — almost a hundred years ago.

Why did they want to sit on the roof? Probably because it was there.  Donner Lake, 1921.

Because these young people worked for the SP railroad, they probably took advantage of cheap tickets for weekends at Russian River (in the summer) and at Truckee or Lake Tahoe in the winter. The train from San Francisco through the Sierra Nevada mountains still goes through Truckee on its way to Reno, Nevada and points east.

The “gang” from the SP office may be thinking of some liquid refreshment….  Especially that guy wearing just a shirt and bow tie over his sweater. Sadly for them, Prohibition went into effect in January of 1920. But the sign on the rock was still there in 1921.

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Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Hats, Makeup & Lipstick, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers