Category Archives: Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

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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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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April 1928 Ad for Belding’s Silks

Part of an ad for Belding’s “Pure Dye” Silks, Delineator, April 1928.

I don’t have a picture of the entire page, but this ad interested me because it shows dress patterns from several companies:  Vogue, McCall, Butterick and Pictorial Review. It also shows a range of women’s styles for 1928, and it shows the cost of the fabric to make them.

Belding’s “Pure Dye” silk was not weighted “or in any way adulterated” to make it seem more substantial than it was. In other words, this was not the cheapest silk fabric available. In fact, at $3 to $6+ per yard, it was relatively expensive.***

(The Belding Brothers of Michigan established a successful business manufacturing silk thread and silk fabrics, with factories in four states.  They also built housing to attract the best female employees, as well as libraries and a hospital for their workers. “Belding Brothers & Company merged with Heminway Silk Company in 1925 and did business as Belding-Heminway. Soon after, the company was acquired by Corticelli Silk Company and did business as Belding-Heminway-Corticelli. The last mill in Belding closed in 1932.” This 1928 ad also mentions Belding’s silk stockings.

Butterick 1904 was featured in the ad; here it is shown in striped silk.

The Butterick Publishing Co. illustrated it in a different fabric in Delineator magazine:

Butterick 1904 made in dotted fabric. Delineator, June 1928. a “frock for mornings or sports” in sizes from 32 to 48 inch bust.

McCall pattern 5168 in Belding’s Silk ad, Delineator, April 1928. This 100% “radium weave” pure silk was washable “Vanette.”

(“Radium silk” was not radioactive.)

Butterick pattern 1906, Belding’s Silk Ad; Delineator, April 1928. “Simple crepe frocks like this have a smartness that belies their small price.” This is made of Belding’s Crepe Iris, “guaranteed washable crepe.”

This Art Deco (or Moderne) dress doesn’t strike me as especially “simple” to make; I love its geometry (“plaits in an architectural outline,”) but I’d be tempted to hire a “little dressmaker” to deal with all those interlocking pieces.

Butterick’s own illustration of dress 1906, from Delineator, March 1928.

This dress is more formal, with a jeweled “buckle” centered on the hip yoke, and a draped neckline.

Another McCall pattern, 5157. Belding’s Silk ad, Delineator, April 1928. This afternoon frock was made in Belding’s “Satin Ciree.”

Top center in the ad was this jacket and dress combination made from Vogue patterns. The plaid dress is topped with a plaid scarf — not an easy combo to bring off well!

Vogue jacket 9273 is combined with Vogue dress 9261. Belding’s ad, April 1928. The “sport silk” fabrics are “Washable Broadcloth” and “Crepe Cashmere” for the jacket — “heavy enough to tailor crisply.”

Pictorial Review pattern 4229, Belding’s ad, Delineator, April 1928. The asymmetrical dress has a soft jabot/drape running down the bodice.

The relatively simple dress is made of Belding’s silk printed crepe “in a distinctive modern design — a summery pattern suggesting the lovely modernism of Paris.” (The “Style Moderne,” which we also call “Art Deco,” was introduced at the Paris Expo of 1925  (Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes)

This classic 1920’s evening dress is Vogue pattern S 3191.

It is sleeveless, with low armholes; a surplice closing (thought to be slenderizing;) an under layer seen at the neck opening; and a big bow forming a side drape. At first I thought it had a (very unexpected) short sleeve, but a close view shows that the model is wearing an arm bracelet, along with two necklaces and very long dangling earrings.

Detail of jewelry in the Belding’s ad illustration. 1928. Note the low armhole.

The next gown is surprisingly bare:

Pictorial review pattern 4159 is an evening dress made in sheer silk Georgette. Belding’s ad, Delineator, April 1928.

This gown is notable for its narrow jeweled straps and its asymmetric shoulder (or neck) line.

A woman really could not wear much underwear under this dress — just knickers and stockings. (And maybe a girdle….)

Details of the diagonal neckline and shoulder straps of Pictorial Review evening pattern 4159.

Georgette is usually a sheer fabric, so this dress is probably built over a straight, opaque silk lining, which would also support the blousing and hip decoration. That neckline would still be worth copying, if you have the figure for it!

*** The Sears catalog (Fall 1928) offered washable silk satin yardage for 74 cents a yard.

Washable silk satin from Sears, 1928.

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Boleros Part 3: Day and Evening, 1930s

A bolero jacket tops an evening gown, center, in this editorial illustration by Leslie Saalburg, Delineator, November 1931. The Nineteen Thirties’ bolero was often used with evening wear…. [But boleros continued to be a daytime option, too.] If not actually used as a separate jacket, a bolero might be suggested….

Left, Butterick 4093 from October 1931; right, a vintage dress circa 1929 -31 has the same bolero effect built into its bodice.

Butterick 4093: the width of the bolero enhances the slenderness of the waist and hips. This bolero “runs to a point at the back, is split and tied with a bow.”

A bolero built into the dress contrasts with the slender hips and belted waist. Butterick 3696 from Delineator, February 1931.

This pattern for a tied bolero reminded me of a vintage tied jacket (not a bolero) that I also love.

Right, a bolero for evening is tied at the waist. (Usually, but not always, daytime boleros were tied near their neckline.) Butterick 3460, Delineator, October 1930.

Although this vintage velvet jacket is hip-length, not a bolero, the tie at the waist has the same effect.

Vintage 1930s evening jacket with front-waist tie and dolman sleeves.

The sleeves taper from very full to tight at the lower arm.

This 1931 lamé evening jacket stops at the waist, like a bolero, and has curved fronts, like many boleros — but the word “bolero” is not used:

Another glamorous, but simple, waist-length evening jacket. Butterick 4076 from September 1931. Delineator.

The fad for huge, ruffled “Letty Lynton sleeves” can be seen in this bolero from 1933:

Bolero illustrated for a fashion column, Delineator, April 1933.

In 1936, boleros over evening gowns added versatility to the fashions, which could be worn with or without the jacket, creating two different looks.

A bolero with a long, twisted tie changes this evening gown from daringly bare (left) to chic but modest; the covered-up look was suitable for dinner and night-clubs. Vogue 7507, from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1936.

[It’s also a reminder that a gown which appears to be black and white in a movie might really be green, or some other intense color.]

A white gown could be “dressed down” for dinner by a colorful bolero jacket. LHJ, July 1936.

This gown in soft silk or chiffon with printed green organza [or some other fairly stiff fabric] has a low back, covered on a cruise ship by a hooded bolero. Convenient for moments when you step out onto the deck in the moonlight. LHJ, February 1936.

Another article on cruise wear also emphasized the bolero jacket — by packing several boleros, you only needed to pack one long evening gown.

Butterick 7407 shows a halter dress in sheer blue printed fabric — topped with a white bolero. Woman’s Home Companion, June 1937.

From a fashion editorial describing a Companion-Butterick cruise wardrobe. WHC, June 1937.

Below right: this sheer bolero over an evening gown appeared in Ladies Home Journal, July 1936:

Vogue 7403, 7369, and 7386. LHJ, July 1936. A corsage doesn’t have to be worn on the shoulder…. Click here for a closer view of the bolero.

Right, a dignified lace dress with matching bolero; Butterick 7998 from 1938. Butterick Fashion News flyer.

That lace gown is probably for mature women, since the size range is 34 to 52 inches (bust.) But evening gowns for teens also showed them with bolero tops.

A bolero tops a prom dress; WHC, May 1937.

A long dance dress for teens, with bolero jacket. Butterick 7354.

This reminds me that wedding dresses for church ceremonies — and prom dresses in conservative schools — could not reveal bare arms (at Roman Catholic weddings) or have strapless tops or “spaghetti straps” as late as the 1960s, so this jacket would satisfy the chaperones. A girl could take it off when she was alone with her date….

Butterick evening gowns, August 1938 pattern flyer.

Butterick 8004, left, and Butterick 7997, right, with removable bolero top. The bodice of 8004 (“molded to slim your waist”) has a sort of false bolero effect, being larger than the gown below it.

Buttterick 8004, 7997, and 8010. BFN, August 1938. No. 8004 was available in sizes for teens and for women up to 44″ bust. The two on the right are for Junior Misses, up to bust 38.”

Another bolero with coordinating evening gown, left, Butterick 8461, from July 1939. BFN.

A Junior Miss evening gown with bolero jacket. From Butterick Fashion News flyer, July 1939. ” ‘Straps’ on the dress tie in a halter effect….”

However, older women might also buy a pattern that included the versatile bolero in 1939.

Right, Vogue 4128, Vogue Fashion Flyer for May 1939.

Designer Lucile Paray was featured in an article about Paris fashion revivals (i.e., “retro-inspired) — like leg-o-mutton or “Directoire” sleeves — in 1937. Paray’s evening suit was inspired by the turn of the century garment (with bolero) illustrated beside it.

Lucile Paray designer evening suit; illustrated for Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937.

The bolero doesn’t get much simpler than this one, from June, 1937:

Butterick 7405, an evening ensemble with bolero jacket, Woman’s Home Companion, June 1937.

Meanwhile, bolero jackets for daytime use were also seen throughout the Thirties.

In fact, Butterick 7405 had many casual and sporty variations for daytime!

Boleros were not just for evening wear in the 1930s. Click here for more about 7405.

To be continued as “Boleros Through the 1930s, Part 4.”

 

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The Big Hem Drop: 1929 to 1930

Only one year separates these Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. This is rapid fashion change.

The change in fashion that took place between Fall of 1929 and Spring, 1930 — just a few months — fascinates me. The fact that a completely different fashion silhouette was adopted during a time of economic crisis  — when pennies were being pinched — makes it even more astonishing.

Just to get our eyes adjusted and refresh our memories of 1929 before the change, here are several images of couture and of mainstream Butterick sewing pattern illustrations from July 1929.

French couture sportswear, illustrated by Leslie Saalburg in Delineator, July 1929. Short and un-fussy.

These fashions are unmistakably late 1920s. Note the hem length, which just covers the knees. There is a crisp, geometric quality about many of these outfits.

Couture sportswear illustrated by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, July 1929.

Patterns for home use:

Spectator sportswear; Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. The dress at left is soft and flared, a hint of things to come. The dress at right is crisply geometric. Both are short.

1920’s day dresses, Butterick patterns 2697 and 2707. Delineator, July 1929. Mostly straight lines.

Butterick patterns for sportswear, Delineator, July 1929. Simple, pleated, short.

Whether we look at French couture or home sewing patterns, the silhouette and the length are  definitely “Twenties.”

In the 1929 Fall collections, couturier Jean Patou showed longer skirts — well below the knee — and took credit for changing fashion from the characteristic Twenties’ silhouette to the longer, softer, Thirties’ look. (A few other couturiers also showed longer dresses, but he took the credit for being first.)

French couture fashions sketched for Delineator, November 1929. The large illustration at left is an ensemble by Patou — noticeably longer than the other designers’ hems.

“Paris revolutionizes winter styles.” Compare the hem on the dress by Patou, second from left, with those from Molyneux (left, very “Twenties”) Cheruit (third from left,) and Nowitzky (also “Twenties” in spirit, far right.)

Below is the Fall 1929 version of Chanel’s famous black dress. (In the original, from 1926, hems had not reached their shortest length.)

This variation on Chanel’s famous little black dress — with a slightly different placement of tucks –falls just below the knees in 1929, the season when Patou was pioneering longer dresses.

By Fall of 1929, Chanel’s “little black dress” (a sensation in 1926) is just below the knee. It also has a natural waist.

You may have noticed that waistlines are rising as hems are falling; that’s a topic deserving an entire post, but….

Delineator, October 1929, p. 25. “Higher Waists, Longer Skirts.”

The flared dress at left has a softer, less geometric look, and shirring near the natural waist instead of a horizontal hip line. Delineator, October 1929. This dress seems to be “in the stores” rather than a Butterick pattern.

Between July couture showings and October, 1929: That is how fast commercial manufacturers picked up on the new trend for longer skirts and natural waistlines.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1929.

Delineator (i.e.,Butterick Publishing Co.) had offices in Paris where the latest couture collections were sketched (and copied.) In this case, longer skirts appeared on patterns for sale very quickly. (The process of issuing a pattern took several weeks, and the magazine had a lead time of a month or so, as well.)

When these patterns appeared in April, 1930, nothing was said about their length. Old news!

Dresses for women, up to size 48. Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1930, p. 31. From left, “tiny sleevelet,” “flared sleeves,” “white neckline,” and “short kimono sleeves.”

By April 1930, what was notable about these dresses, to the editors of Delineator, was the variety of their sleeves!

Back views of Butterick 3143, 3179, 3173, and 3180. Delineator, April 1930, p. 31.

Longer styles had been in the news for several months.

Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1930.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1930. Hems have fallen. Waists are in transition.

The most interesting article I found about this change from “Twenties” to “Thirties” was in Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1929, pp. 66 and following.

In “Smart Essentials of the Winter Clothes,” fashion editor Helen Koues wrote:

“They differ from any we have had since the war…. To be sure, last season Patou and a few houses tentatively raised the waistline, and we talked about it and made predictions. But now the normal or above normal waistline is here, and anything remotely resembling a low waist is gone. We have had it a long time, that low waist and short skirt, and it is only fitting and logical that it should make way for some sort of revival. [“Directoire, Victorian, Princess….”] We have worn high waists and long skirts before — both higher and longer. But coming with a greater degree of suddenness than any change of line has come for some years, it is an inconvenient fashion.  What are we going to do with our old clothes? [My emphasis.]

“The new silhouette will be taken up just as fast as the average woman can afford to discard her old wardrobe…. The average woman will replace what she needs to replace with new lines, but she will take longer, because she will wear out at least some of her old clothes.  In three months, however, all over America the tightly fitted gown, the longer skirt, the high waist will have superseded the loose hiplines of another season. and the main reason for the speed of this change is that we are ready for it. We are bored with the old silhouette, for we have had it too long — so long, in fact, that… we were beginning to think that we would wear short skirts and low waists till we die…. The psychological moment has come….

“Skirt lengths are particularly interesting: for sports, three inches below the knee is the right length; for street clothes, four inches below, and for the formal afternoon gown about five inches above the anklebone. Evening, of course, right down to the ground… and probably with as much length in front as back…. These are the average lengths.

“Skirts are slimmer than ever, if that is possible, or at least the effect is slimmer, because with the added length the flare necessarily begins lower down. But the flare is still there in full force….”

Colors for Spring, 1930. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1930. Flares, softness, and a coat that is shorter than the dress.

Koues also noted that the new three-quarter coat, “that strikes the gown just above the knee” was in style, although she did not mention that this, at least, was a break for women who could afford a new dress but not a new winter coat. Koues recommended wearing longer knickers (underwear) in winter to make up for the shorter coat.

Short coats or long jackets, February 1930, Delineator.

Vogue, October 26, 1929 reminded readers “We told you so!”

If you have access to Vogue magazine archives you may enjoy a timeline of Vogue fashion predictions from October 26, 1929. It began, “We told you so! If you are one of the many women who are complaining that the new mode means a completely new wardrobe, that you were caught unawares, we take no responsibility. For two whole years, we have been reiterating and reiterating a warning of the change to come.”

Here are some highlights of Vogue‘s predictions:

JANUARY 1, 1928:  “The Waist-Line Rises as the Skirt Descends…”

JANUARY 13, 1928:  “Skirts ….. Will Be Longer” — “Waist-Lines Will Be Higher” — “Drapery and the Flare Will Be Much in Evidence.”

APRIL 13, 1929:  “What looked young last year looks old this season — all because longer, fuller skirts and higher waist-lines have been used so perfectly that they look right, smart, and becoming.”

JUNE 22, 1929: “The hemline is travelling and so is the waistline. One is going up, and the other is coming down.”

Vogue ended, “Need we say more? Surely, Vogue readers are well prepared.”

This is what designers in Paris were showing in Spring, 1930.

Paris Couture, sketched for Delineator, May 1930. Every one has a long skirt and a natural waist.

I began with several images of patterns and couture from July 1929. Here are some dresses from July 1930, showing how completely the Twenties’ look had been “superseded” by the Thirties — in one year.

The Twenties are over. The Thirties are here. Patterns from Delineator, July 1930.

Naturally, in 1929-1930 some women thought the new long skirts made them look “old” while some thought they looked “youthful;” but that is a story for another day!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Coats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Sportswear, Underthings, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Paris Ideas, Butterick Pattern, 1926

Soulie’s sketches of Paris designer fashions, Delineator, January 1926.

Two designers showing strongly banded dresses were featured in Delineator‘s January report from Paris. And a strongly banded Butterick pattern appeared in the same issue.

Butterick dress pattern 6543 (right) shows Paris influence.

The designer dress by Lanvin has a “silver girdle” molding the hips and its “divided front tunic” is trimmed with silver, perhaps silver stitching. (Custom embroidery is still a mark of couture.)

A closer look at the Lanvin design, which features silver bands on a black dress. Winter, 1925-1926.

Striking, contrasting bands down the center front give impact to this Butterick pattern (right) from January 1926:

Butterick 6543, right, offers a charming solution to “authentic Twenties style” for women who don’t want to exaggerate the width of their hips.

“Crepe satin used with its reverse side” would give a very subtle effect; here, chiffon velvet seems to be suggested, although applying those straight bands to velvet would not be easy sewing. Heavy crepe de Chine would be an easier-to-handle choice.

Right, a good example of the subtle effect of reversible crepe satin; this 1927 dress uses the matte and shiny sides of the same fabric.

The flared sleeves of Butterick 6543 are very like the Lanvin couture design, although the bands ate placed differently.

Here is the alternate view of patterns 6561 and 6543:

Alternate views of Butterick patterns 6561 and 6543.

Note the short-sleeved summer version of 6543; the suggested border print fabric would make a dress that looked very different from its dark winter version.

Happy New Year, 1926!

This banded evening dress by Jenny was also illustrated in January 1926 — It’s not for the timid:

A banded evening design by Jenny, a very successful couturier in the 1920’s. For more about those deep armholes, click here.

In “orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls and blue flowers worked at hip and shoulder,” it would be modified to suit the woman who ordered it. It was probably available in other color choices — and with a sheer “modesty” insert in the deep V neckline, if required.

Click here for another daring neckline by Jenny. UK vintage clothing dealer and blogger Blue 17 wrote a good, illustrated Jenny tribute: Click here to read it.

For a much less elaborate Butterick dress from 1926 — which used a slimming contrast tie to good effect, see 6553, at right:

Butterick 6559 and 6553, Delineator, January 1926. Cape optional.

The long ties are important to the effect of these dresses, distracting from the horizontal line at the hips, adding the illusion of width to the shoulders and drawing our eyes up, closer to the face.

Butterick 6559 (left) makes good use of a border print.

Wishing you a very happy 2019!

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Party Dresses for January 1926

Afternoon and evening dresses for women, Delineator, January 1926, page 28.

Evening dresses for teens (ages 15 to 20) and small women. Butterick 6535 and 6482, Delineator, January 1926, p. 27.

Details of evening dresses for young women. The proportions of the blue dress — and its flaring circular skirt — do not scream “Twenties.”

The lower edge of the “two piece circular skirt” stands out because it is scalloped and bound with bias. This dress has an underarm closing in the side seam, which would have used a row of snaps with a hook and bar at the top and at other points of stress.

Pattern magazines like Delineator came out ahead of the month on the cover, so you probably could have made these dresses in time for New Year’s Eve parties in 1926.  Dresses for adult women were shown longer than those for teens. If you want to make a Twenties’ dress shorter, you should shorten the pattern at the waist, not the hem. Click here for a 1926 article about dress alterations.

Butterick 6498, 6497, and 6527, Delineator, January 1926.

Butterick 6498, January 1928. The model is holding a huge feather fan that matches the  trim on her dress. The dress is as simple as they get! Notice the easing in the side seam instead of a bust dart. The side panel is sheer Georgette.

Details of Butterick 6497 and 6527, January 1928.

A slip with optional sleeves and a higher neckline would convert this to an afternoon dress as seen in the back view. It was illustrated in a “Lanvin green” border print.

This dress would be super-easy to copy using modern patterns. (Yes, bust darts were used in the 1920s! But they didn’t come so far toward the bust point. [Busts weren’t pointed.] Click here.) The circle skirt is attached to an under slip, so the skirt does not start at the waist, but at the hip.

The very long top on the”pervenche blue” metallic brocade dress was also seen on this pattern with “troubadour sleeves,” 1926.

Another very long-torsoed pattern from 1926. They were not as popular as the usual mid-hip waistline.

Butterick 6549, January 1926. (A good style for those who don’t appreciate a hip band.) This is an afternoon dress, with embroidered sleeves. Perhaps they have sheer appliques on them. The shirred godets go all around the dress — nice for tea dances. Bois de rose (rosewood) was a chic tan/rose pink color, not as orange as it looks here.

If made sleeveless, it would be an evening dress.

Butterick dresses 6517 and 6531; Delineator, January 1926.

“Princess dress” in the Twenties doesn’t mean it’s close-fitting, as in some other periods. The gold lining on an “Amazon green” dress below adds interest to the attached circular flare.

Details of Butterick 6517 and 6531. The vertical “circular frills” on 6517 were often used in the 1920s.

If you are wondering why the vertical frills are called “circular,” I’ll explain.

This is one of those things that made pattern making — draping and drafting patterns — such an interesting class. I urge you to experiment with it, because, although you can learn this principle, every tiny change you make to the pattern will change the way the fabric behaves, drastically!

The basic idea is this: if you want to create a cascade of ripples in a jabot or a flounce or a frill or whatever you want to call it, you need to cut the fabric with a curve on the side you will attach to the garment. It has to be cut to the right length, but not in a straight line. When you force that curve into a straight line, as has been done on Butterick 6517, ripples will form!

The “circular frills” at left and the overskirt at right are both based on circles.

Twenties’ dresses that depend on the “cut a curve and straighten it out” principle. Delineator, July 1925.

The long drape on the left is probably just a long rectangle. If cut on a curve, I think it would ripple more. The skirt on the right is based on a section of a circle. The ruffled V shaped neckline trim in the middle shows the soft ripples you get when you attach a curved frill in a straight line.

The more curved the line is, the more ripples you get when you straighten it out.

Butterick 2387 is meant to flutter. Dark fabrics are suggested, which does not rule out red....

The curves in these diagrams are greatly exaggerated, just to give the general idea!

A flounce based on a fairly tight curve.  When the blue half circle was straightened out, the flounce would have many ripples.

The gentler the inside curve, the fewer ripples the flounce will have.

That is the basic pattern for a 1920s dipping hem. (Of course, the waist is not really a circle…. This is just the starting point for a muslin.)

Left, a typical dipping hem for evening, September 1928; Butterick pattern.

Evening gown by Lelong, sketched for Delineator, May 1929. Getting all those flounces right took a lot of experiments in muslin! (Draping at 1/2 or 1/4 scale saves a lot of money.)

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes