Category Archives: 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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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Capes, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs, World War I

Time Traveling Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m finding wonderful color illustrations…

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

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

… accompanied by useful line drawings…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hats are always tempting me to photograph them:

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

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

Don’t sit behind her at the movies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back soon!

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

Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s: Jenny (Part 2)

Red and white tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

Jenny in the 1920s

Jeanne Adele Bernard (married name, Jeanne Sacerdote) worked as “Jenny” — an oddly British sounding name. (There were other designers in Paris named Bernard.)  The name “Jenny” became as well known as “Georgette” or “Lucile.” She had been hugely successful in the late 1910s, and she adapted to the 1920s just as well.

Afternoon gown by Jenny, photographed by O’Doye for Delineator February 1924.

Do check out this luxurious evening coat by Jenny, sold by Carolynforbestextiles.com. Amazing 1920’s colors. Simple — but dazzling — is this mid-twenties dress from Jenny:

Evening dress by Jenny, 1925 to 1928; courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

The Peabody Essex Museum has a superb Jenny evening dress circa 1926, more elaborate that the one above and photographed on a mannequin. Click here.

Jenny combined both ivory and black lace with black satin and a beaded belt on this very feminine gown, sketched for Delineator, April 1924.

What struck Delineator’s editors was the full sleeves,  “which have been neither seen nor heard of for evening for several seasons.”

Ivory lace tops the off-the-shoulder bodice [how did that work?] and peeks out from below the black lace skirt. Bare arms were standard on evening dress in 1924.

This sleeveless Jenny design from 1926 has the low armholes and bare arms expected in formal evening gowns.

Jenny’s ruffled evening frock in pink taffeta trimmed with turquoise ribbons; matching cape trimmed in turquoise ribbon and feathers. Sketch in Delineator, July 1924.

In 1924, Jenny was not afraid of the play of patterned fabrics and severely geometric details:

A three piece suit from Jenny; the cashmere printed crepe de Chine “blouse” is a tunic almost reaching the hem of the coat, which is shorter than the long gray skirt. In Delineator, April 1924.

Jenny suit, 1924. The applied trim is bands of self-fabric. See the book Classic French Fashions.

This Jenny ensemble puts a 7/8 length beige coat over a beige, rose, and green plaid dress. The plaid also trim the coat. Delineator, July 1924.

When the very narrow “tubular” silhouette came in, Jenny was ready:

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September, 1924.

In 1925, one of Jenny’s designs was this coat and dress ensemble. Her hems were rising rapidly, but she went against the tide with this very high collar, and a dress trimmed with tiny gold buttons.

Jenny puts this green velvet coat over a dress of rose-beige crepe de Chine, trimmed with hundreds of little gold buttons. Delineator, September, 1925.

1926 shows Jenny still among the top-ranked couturiers:

Three couture ensembles from Delineator, June 1926. Jenny shows a short flared coat over a “just to the knees” dress.

Earlier in the 1920s skirts tended to be straight in back; now these are flared all the way around.

Jenny again catches the mode: a bloused top. Sketched for Delineator, September 1926.

A very bare evening dress with a flared skirt. It was orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls. Jenny design, sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Evening dresses by Jenny and Chanel, Sketched for Delineator, February 1927.

There are a lot of 1960s’ and 70s’ “Twenties” costume dresses out there, covered with tiers of fringe, but this is what beaded fringe looked like in the hands of a couturier like Jenny; on a pink dress, a deeper pink “fringe of crystal beads that touch it with rosy frost.”

Beaded fringe in geometric patterns on an Art Deco evening dress by Jenny, Delineator, February 1927.

Top of beaded dress, Jenny, 1927. I like the way beaded fringe partly covers the deep V neckline — it’s subtly sexy.

I’m not as impressed by every one of her 1927 creations, although closer study usually reveals a little extra creativity. (Remember these are just a tiny fraction of her output.)

Left, Jenny, for evening; right Vionnet day dress. From Delineator, August 1927.

This black and white (?) satin dress comes with a heavily sequinned black chiffon bolero. Jenny in Delineator, October 1927.

Her more tailored coats and suits really are wonderful, with many subtle touches.

One-button suit by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator, June 1927.  The button suggests “a high waistline,” the style of the 1930s, which was just starting to appear.

Lovely lines and pocket detail on the left; astrakhan (unborn lamb) is used on the collar and — unexpectedly — on the back skirt of the coat at right. [Photo distorted by the curvature of the page.]

Her very flared, collarless 1927 coat is a fore-runner of 1940s’ and fifties’ styles.

If you can ignore the scarf, this is a coat decades ahead of its time, from the “Swing” of its flare to the curved seams running into the pocket; note the curved detailing on the cuff. Illustrated for Delineator, May 1927.

It’s quite a change from the tubular coats she made in 1924! Just three years had passed.

Two long, narrow “tubular” coats by Jenny, illustrated in Delineator in September 1924.

In 1928, Delineator was still enchanted with Jenny’s flower-printed underwear, which she had been showing since 1917, or possibly earlier.

Poppy printed chemise by Jenny, in Delineator, April 1928.

In 1929, Jenny was showing asymmetrical fashions. These are dramatic and unusual.

These 1929 gowns from Jenny play with asymmetry and two-toned color schemes. Delineator‘s Paris report, November 1929.

The short satin gown is very unusual. I wish we could see all around it.

Where does the dark begin? Where does it end? What happens in the back? I don’t know.

By this time, Jenny was in her sixties. She continued making up-to-date gowns in the 1930s. Thanks to Elizabeth Handley Seymour’s desire to make and sell copies to her London clients, the V&A museum has a color sketch of a slinky, broad-shouldered Jenny gown, 1936.

Jenny was one of the couture houses that did not re-open after closing during World War II. For a time line of Jenny’s life, click here.

For French fashion illustrations of Jenny modes, visit the wonderful blog A la Recherche des Modes Perdues [lost] et Oublies [forgotten]. There is a search box and a language translator option.

[Added on 4/21/19] And one for the road: A Jenny evening dress with a complex  skirt and a high, cross-over front. It was Reseda green crepe Romain; the long ties in back gave a flattering rear view, or could be worn with one tie brought to the front.

500 jenny GH 1929 april pg 69 Jenny evening crossed front

Gown by Jenny, from Good Housekeeping, April, 1929, page 69.

The poor image quality is what happened when many magazines were converted to microfilm to save library space.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Slips and Petticoats, Sportswear, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

April 1914: Pygmalion Costumes and Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaw wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eliza’s evening gown is suggested in this sketch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French couture fashions in Delineator, April 1914.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Hats, Menswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, World War I

Riding Habits, 1910

Horseback riding, cover of Delineator magazine, May 1910.

Riding coat pattern 3773, Butterick; from Delineator, April 1910. It is not very different from an ordinary suit jacket, except for the fuller skirt.

Butterick coat 3765, Delineator, April 1910.

This girl wears a long or 7/8ths coat to cover her riding breeches.

Riding coat (and breeches) for a teen-aged girl, left, and a sailor suit for her little brother. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1910.

A woman on horseback had formal and informal clothing choices in 1910. This riding habit in the Victoria and Albert Museum was made by a leading London tailor/designer in 1911:

A lady’s riding habit made by Redfern for Mrs. James Fraser, 1911. Courtesy V&A museum.

London Society Fashion is beautifully illustrated with garments from one young lady’s wardrobe: Heather Firbank. Read about the surprising life of Heather Firbank and see some of her designer clothing at the blog of Tessa Boase. Click here.

Detail of magazine cover by P. E (?) Williams, Delineator, May 1910. Notice the lady’s erect posture as opposed to the man’s forward slouch.

It’s possible that the illustrator of the magazine was more interested in the graphic possibilities of white than in accuracy, but Delineator did feature patterns for women’s riding habits in 1910.

Butterick riding suit for girls 8 to 16, pattern 3636. March 1910.

I find it interesting that this teenage girl is riding astride, while the adult woman shown in April is riding sidesaddle.

Riding coat and matching breeches, Butterick 3636 for girls 8 to 16.

The riding coat and skirt for adult women (up to size 42 bust) were sold separately:

Butterick riding coat 3773 was shown with a specialized skirt for riding sidesaddle.

Delineator, page 304, April 1910.

Delineator, page 304, equestrian skirt detail; April 1910:

Safety Equestrian Skirt 3717, for riding sidesaddle. Does it have a breakaway strap?

Detail of the inside of the safety equestrian skirt. Delineator, April 1910.

If you can figure out how this skirt appears very full (as in top image) and very narrow (as here,) you are way ahead of me. But then, I know nothing about riding sidesaddle! However, The Vintage Traveler shared this photo from a 1903 sports book. [Link added 2/27/19.)\]

Is it possible that she is wearing long underwear instead of riding breeches under the skirt? In that case, she will not be safe from embarrassment if she’s thrown. At any rate, no breeches are included in the pattern.

The boy shown riding a donkey is not actually dressed for riding — he is probably at a beach resort where donkey rides were a seaside attraction. The sailor suit in many variations was standard clothing for boys.

A boy enjoying a ride — presumably a slow, easy ride — on a donkey. Delineator, March 1910.

Butterick pattern 3688 shows two variations on a sailor or pseudo-military suit for boys ages 4 to 10. March 1910.

The swastika is an ancient symbol with religious meaning for people in India and for Native Americans. It’s used facing both directions on the back of the sailor collar. In 1910, it had no association with Nazis.

Here is my uncle, Harris Barton, in a sailor suit His father was a tinsmith, or plumber. (It might be my Uncle Mel, born a few years later….)

Probably Frank Harris Barton of California, born 1894.

(Yes, my uncle,  in spite of those luxurious curls!) Harris was born in 1894.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Edwardian fashions, Hairstyles, Sportswear, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers