Category Archives: Women in Trousers

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.




Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Pajamas for Girls and Women, 1920’s

Lingerie for Christmas, Delineator magazine, December 1925. Pajama pattern 6031 is lacy and ruffled, clearly for indoor wear only.

I was working on these images of 1920’s pajamas when The Vintage Traveler showed this photo of 1920’s pajamas at the beach, dated 1929. Lizzie said she is tracing the progress of pajamas from bedroom to beach in the Twenties, so this seems like a good time to share 1920’s patterns for pajamas (also spelled pyjamas) from Butterick. These are in roughly chronological order.

I have already written about pajamas from 1917, like these. The gathered ankles were also used on work overalls for women at the time. (Butterick 6031, above, has similar gathered ankles.)

Butterick pajamas from 1917. No. 9433 for girls or women.

Below: the deep, open armholes on this pair of pajamas from 1923-24 were also seen on day dresses.

Pajamas from Butterick, January 1924. Meant for lounging as well as sleeping, they have an oriental scene embroidered on the front; the pajamas have pockets, with contrasting bands at the top, the hem, and at the pants’ hems. Butterick 4639, illustrated among Christmas gifts in January 1924.

These seem to have a close relationship — except for the delicate fabric — to  the beach pajamas of 1929. Below: a pair of PJ’s from 1924 is banded with lace — for a bride’s trousseau.

Butterick pajama pattern 5309, June 1924. The trousers expose her ankles.

Below: strictly practical — but attractive, with contrasting collar and frog closings — are these pajamas for girls.

Butterick 5388, pajamas for girls aged 4 to 15; August 1924.

Much younger children might wear warm, one-piece night-drawers/pajamas with optional hood.

Night-drawers, Butterick 5506, for children 1 to 12. 1924.

Girls’ tw0-piece pajamas, Butterick 5529, from October, 1924. Pajamas for girls 4 to 15 years old.

Meanwhile, in Paris….

Glamorous lounging pajamas by Molyneux; couture sketched for Delineator, January 1925.

This 1925 pajama pattern was recommended for beach wear:

“Pajamas are smart for sleeping garments, or for the southern beaches.” Butterick 5948, April, 1925.

Here, Butterick pajama pattern 5948 is shown with satin bindings — sleeves, collar, and cuffs. The beach pajamas in The Vintage Traveler’s 1929 photograph appear to have satin binding at the hip and print binding at the ankles.

The Vintage Traveler found this picture, dated 1929, which shows beach pyjamas very similar to Butterick 5948, although I don’t see any pockets, and these pants are banded with the print fabric instead of the solid, shiny fabric used at the hip [and collar?]  Photo used with permission.

I don’t think they were made using Butterick pattern 5948, but, if I had Butterick 5948, I could make those beach pajamas.

Pajamas from Butterick: left, a lace-free version of pajamas 6031; center, pajama negligee 6093. Right: negligee 6107. Delineator, June 1925. Mid-twenties’ pajamas stop inches above the ankle.

About the “pajama negligee:” If you grew up in the nineteen fifties, you probably picture a “negligee” as a see-through robe worn by femmes fatales on the covers of  paperback detective stories. However, Yahoo mentions that the origin of “negligee” is “mid 18th century (denoting a kind of loose gown worn by women in the 18th century): from French, literally ‘given little thought or attention,’ feminine past participle of négliger ‘to neglect.’”  Encyclopedia Britannica explains: “Negligee, ( French: “careless, neglected”) informal gown, usually of a soft sheer fabric, worn at home by women. When the corset was fashionable, the negligee was a loose-fitting gown worn during the rest period after lunch. Women’s dresses were also referred to as negligés after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, when the trend was toward loose fashions characterized by ‘studied negligence.’ “

In the twentieth century, such “at home” clothes were sometimes called “lounge wear.”

TwoNerdyHistoryGirls blogged about a painting of an 18th c. lady receiving a visitor while finishing her toilette. She wears a short, sheer combing gown (which gave us the word “peignoir.”) Peignoir, negligee, lingerie, boudoir — my, we owe a lot of words to the French!

“Pajama negligee” No. 6093 appeared more than once.

Butterick 6093, the pajama negligee, left; and pajamas 6178, right. Illustration from September, 1925. “Negligee” can mean a short robe.

Alternate version of Butterick pajama 6178, illustrated in August, 1925. Also called a “lounging-robe.”

One thing all these straight-legged pajamas have in common is their ankle-baring hems.

Butterick pajama-negligee 6093 in a short-sleeved summer version. July 1925.

Here, a luxurious, lacy version of pajama 6031 is suggested as a Christmas gift.

Lingerie for Christmas, Delineator magazine, December 1925. In this version, pajama pattern 6031 is lacy and ruffled, clearly for indoor wear only.

Pajama 6947 is scalloped, with gathered ankles trimmed in Valenciennes lace — Not for the beach. July 1926.

Butterick pajamas 6975, and child’s night-drawers, 6993. August 1926. Is it just the pattern of rectangles that gives “lounging-robe” 6975 such a wonderful twenties’ flavor? Maybe it’s the low pocket placement, too.

In 1927, Molyneux showed this lounging set:

A sketch of Molyneux’ luxurious velvet and chiffon pajamas for entertaining at home. Delineator, November 1927. In black chiffon and vermillion [red-orange] velvet, with [vermillion?] poppies and green leaf embroidery. The ankles are unusual.

These ready-to-wear pajamas have the more customary banded ankles.

Carter’s rayon knit pajamas, in an ad from November 1927.

Butterick pajama pattern 2143 was featured in the December 1928 issue. The pajamas are powder blue, trimmed in apple green — another unexpected 1920’s color combination.

[Edited 8/30/17: This color ad for Hoosier cabinets appeared in Delineator magazine, October 1925. I used it in a post about Orange and Blue in the 1920’s.]

A different Butterick pajama pattern was the centerpiece of an advertisement for Belding’s fabrics in September 1928.

This ad for Belding’s silk suggested patterns from Pictorial (dress no. 4337,) Butterick ( pajamas no. 2103,) and McCall (dress no. 5345.) Delineator, September 1928. “Two contrasting shades of Belding’s Crepe Iris make these cunning negligee pajamas.”

So: “negligee pajamas” were for lounging, and did not necessarily have the robe-like top of pajama-negligee 6093.

This three-piece lounging ensemble of pajamas and short robe was featured in the December 1928 issue of Delineator. They have “wide trousers” –something new.

My collection of images from 1929 and 1930 is not complete. I need to get back to the library, because, by 1931, pajamas had moved from boudoir to beach and even to public dances.

“Fascinating Pajamas,” Delineator, August 1931. For lounging, leisure, loafing or working. Second from the left is a special slip to wear under your pajamas.

For more about 1930’s pajamas, see The Fascinating Pajama, 1931.

The pajamas for dancing are on the right. Delineator, August, 1931.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Vintage Couture Designs, Women in Trousers

Summer Halter Dresses and Pantsuit Patterns from Vogue, 1966

Cover of Vogue store flyer, June, 1966. Vogue pattern 6797.

These breezy summer fashions are fifty-one years old, but I can’t really remember a summer since then when halter styles were not worn. In 1966, Vogue patterns offered several halter-style dresses, plus a pantsuit with a halter top included.

Vogue halter dress patterns 6766 (left) and 6787 (right;) June 1966 flyer.

Alternate views of Vogue 6766 and 6787.

The only thing that separates these dresses from current styles is that they have more structure: darts, linings, interesting seams — details that we don’t find in garments mass-produced as cheaply as possible, using stretch fabrics and sewing shortcuts.

Depending on fabric choice, these two could be very dressy — cocktail dresses rather than casual dresses. Vogue patterns 6793 (left) and 6789, from 1966.

The dress on the right has a sixties’ stiffness that requires some lining or flat-lining to hold its shape. The pattern includes a matching jacket.

The pattern for the long, bare-shouldered beach cover-up on the left included a two-piece swim suit:

Vogue 6771 included a swim suit whose straps are perfect for wearing under it. Right, the short dress with a flounce, Vogue 6772, also conceals a swim suit. From 1966.

Another swim suit and “sun-shelter” dress:

Vogue 6772, a beach cover-up with bathing suit included. From 1966.

This pantsuit has a halter-topped blouse under it:

A pantsuit with long, slim trousers or conservative shorts. Vogue 6795 from 1966. The “spare little jacket, belted high in back, covers a turtleneck blouse with cut-in armholes.”

The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) at University of Rhode Island has this pattern, Vogue pantsuit 6795 .  It’s illustrated in a Villager-flavored floral print. Although not mentioned in the store flyer, the pattern also includes a skirt and a dress, in day or evening length.

A caution about pantsuits in the sixties: I graduated from college in this year, 1966. Women students were not allowed to wear trousers on outdoors on campus unless they wore a coat over them. These pantsuits are sportswear, not worn to school or to the office. (The big-city bank where I worked allowed us to wear matching trousers and jackets to work in 1970.)

A “smock-like” fabric pullover top with matching above-the-knee shorts. Vogue pattern 6727, from 1966.

A  bit “kookie” is this dress trimmed with ball fringe (optional).

Vogue 6726 is a dress with a little Mod/op art influence and some hippie ball fringe…. To see it in color, click here.

To the right of 6726 is a much more sophisticated bare-backed dress — I think it has an Emma Peel flavor.

In black, Vogue 6751, a side-baring, back-baring “patio dress” from 1966.

Notice the low-heeled shoes. The hairstyles illustrated were often seen on television, worn by Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”) and Barbara Feldon (“Get Smart.”) 








Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Bathing Suits, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Asian-Influenced Maternity Pattern, 1956

This chic maternity pattern appeared in the Butterick Fashion News store flyer in June, 1956.

Butterick 7795, a maternity pattern from June, 1956. Available in three versions.

[I apologize for the poor quality photos — my new computer won’t run my old photo program!]

Pattern description for Butterick 7795, from 1956.

The sleeveless version of Butterick 7795 was illustrated in pale green. The dress at left was for “Expecting company.”

The “Party time” version was a skirt and blouse with three-quarter sleeves and side slits; brocade material was recommended.

A glamorous Asian-influenced brocade maternity outfit for parties. 1956.

These 1950’s outfits — which assume that the mother-to-be will lead a normal life, entertaining, shopping, attending parties — are a refreshing contrast to the attitude of previous decades, which suggested that pregnancy should be concealed as long as possible, and that a pregnant woman should try not to attract attention in public. (See Who Would Ever Guess? (1930’s), Some Maternity Clothes of the 1920’s and 1930’s, and Maternity Fashions for December 1942, etc.)

1934 march p 80 lane bryant maternity catalog

“Designed to conceal condition,” 1934.

I remember the maternity fashions of my own childhood, the fifties, as being pretty — and making the wearer look pretty, too — distinct from the tight-waisted dresses of those days, but available in many versions, from “suitable for church” to “picnic in the back yard,” which included trousers instead of the narrow pencil skirts worn in public. (Trousers were strictly casual — not for school or PTA meetings.) This McCall pattern is from 1959.

McCall maternity pattern 4936, dated 1959. A pencil skirt, tapered “Capri” pants, and Bermuda shorts were included.

Back of pattern envelope, McCall 4936. From 1959. The “kangaroo” front of the pencil skirt and the waist of the trousers are adjustable.

There is no nonsense about concealing pregnancy in these fifties’ outfits. Hooray!

1 Comment

Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Maternity clothes, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Pajamas and Sleepwear from 1917

Pajamas for girls and women, Butterick pattern 9433, Delineator, October 1917, p. 89.

Pajamas for girls and teen women, Butterick pattern 9433, Delineator, October 1917, p. 89.

Some pajamas from 1917 were really “onesies,” since the part below the waist was attached to the top. I inherited a pair of these-all-in one pajamas, made of peach-pink cotton and embroidered with a few little flowers, but donated them to a university collection without taking a photo.  As I remember, the crotch from waist in front to back was open, and closed with little snaps.

Pattern description of Butterick 9433, Oct. 1917.

Pattern description of Butterick 9433, Oct. 1917. Made in sizes from 4 to 18 years.

How you get into and out of these pjs, Butterick 9433, is hard to say; the girls’ version obviously unbuttons down the front, but whether the “bloomers” are attached at the waist isn’t clear. I think they were attached, just like pajama pattern number 9400, which is pictured and described next.

In fact, pattern 9433, for girls and teens,  looks identical to 9400, except that 9400 came in women’s sizes. Butterick pajama pattern 9400 is explained more thoroughly:

Butterick negligee 9279, boudoir cap 9523, and pajama 9400. September, 1917. Delineator.

Left, Butterick negligee 9279, boudoir cap 9523; Right, Pajamas or Lounging-robe 9400. September, 1917. Delineator.

Pattern description, Butterick 9400, from 1917.

Pattern description, Butterick 9400, from 1917. The bloomers are “sewed to the belt.” Recommended for lounging or sleeping.

The word “houri” is used here in the sense of  “beautiful woman” in vaguely Arabic dress.

Baby, It’s Cold Inside….

One reason for wearing a sleeping cap — or boudoir cap — was added warmth. These advertisements for Brighton Carlsbad Sleepingwear are from winter months.

Ad for Brighton Carlsbad Sleepingwear, Ladies' Home Journal, October, 1917, p. 141.

Ad for Brighton Carlsbad Sleepingwear, Ladies’ Home Journal, October, 1917, p. 141.

These pajamas for both women and men are called “pajunions” — a combination of “pajama” and “union suit.” (“Union suit” was the proper name for long, neck-to-ankle undergarments, familiarly called “long johns.” They were worn by both  men and women.)

A teen-aged daughter wears warm flannel "pajunions.' YOu can see the stitching at the waist which attaches the bottoms to the top. LHJ, Oct. 1917.

“When the dance-card is read/ then to Brightons and bed.” The teen-aged daughter wears warm flannel “pajunions.’ You can see the stitching at the waist which attaches the bottoms to the top. LHJ, Oct. 1917.

Buttoned ankles of Brighton Carlsbad Pajunions. 1917 ad.

Buttoned ankles of Brighton Carlsbad Pajunions. 1917 ad.

Ad for Brighton Carlsbad Sleepingwear, Ladies' Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

Ad for Brighton Carlsbad Sleepingwear, Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

Text of Brighton Carlsbad ad, October 1917.

Text of Brighton Carlsbad ad, October 1917. The pajunion, “a pajama in one piece,” had “no binding draw-string” because the trousers hung from the shoulders.

The child’s sleepers show the “trap door” in back which was necessary for using a chamber pot, or visits to the outhouse.

The posterior could be unbuttoned.

The posterior could be unbuttoned.

This child’s sleeping garment is not unlike Butterick’s pattern 1330, here called a “nightgown.”

Butterick child's "nightgown-with feet" number 1300, from December 1918.

Right, a Butterick child’s “nightgown” with feet, number 1330, from December 1918. Delineator.

The footed sleeping suit includes a hood. So did the Sleepers from Brighton Carlsbad — they had a “detachable helmet.”

From A Brighton Carlsbad ad, Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917.

From a Brighton Carlsbad ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

So did this sleeping suit for adults:

Brighton Carlsbad Union Sleepers for an adult. 1917.

Brighton Carlsbad Union Sleepers for an adult. “If preferred, without cap or feet.” 1917. “Cold cannot creep in. Just the garment for healthful out-door or open window sleeping.”

Think about living in a house without modern insulation, or heating. I remember Laura and Mary Ingalls, in one of the Little House books, waking up in a bed which was strangely warm for once — because there were several inches of snow on top of their blankets.

A nightgown with "foot pockets" for winter warmth. Brighton Carlsbad ad, October 1917.

A nightgown (Night Robe) with “foot pockets” for winter warmth. “For men, women and children…. With or without hood.” Brighton Carlsbad ad, LHJ, October 1917.

At least you would be able to shuffle around the bedroom with two separate “Foot pockets.” If they weren’t separate, walking would be more like a sack race.

Many men still wore night shirts in 1917:

Man's nightshirt, Brighton Carlsbad ad, Ladies' Home Journal, October 1917, p. 141.

Man’s nightshirt, Brighton Carlsbad ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917, p. 141. Fabric “Also [in] summer weights.”

I have a Silent Film Festival memory — both my husband and I noticed the same thing. In a short comedy, a pair of  newlyweds take a room in a boarding house. To our surprise, the woman is wearing mannish striped pajamas when other boarders invade their room. She grabs a rug from the floor and wraps it around her waist and hips — clearly more concerned about strange men seeing her lower body in pants than she is about them possibly seeing her breasts through her top.

New Search Category:  “Women in Trousers”

As a young adult in the 1960’s, I have clear memories about when and where women were not allowed to wear trousers. I find that I write about this topic fairly often, so I decided to add a “Women in Trousers” category to this blog — and updated three years worth of blog posts to include it whenever applicable to images or text. (Since “pants” can refer to underpants or panties in British English, I chose “trousers” to refer to slacks, culottes, pajamas, shorts, overalls, gym bloomers, golf knickers, and all other bifurcated outer garments for women.) This should make it a little easier to find relevant posts without “getting your knickers in a twist.” (Another British phrase which evokes a different garment on each side of the Atlantic 🙂 )


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Women’s Work Overalls, circa 1917

Quite apart from work clothes worn by women doing war work (See “College Girls Become Farmers”), Butterick offered “bloomer dress” patterns in 1917.

Bloomer Dress Overalls, 1917

The woman with the mop is wearing Butterick pattern 9294, called a "Bloomer Dress." Delineator, July 1917, p. 52.

The woman with the mop is wearing Butterick pattern 9294, described as a dress, which resembles the “Bloomer dress,” of 19th century dress reformer Amelia Bloomer. Its “overalls or bloomers are soft and pretty.” Delineator, July 1917, p. 52.


“The design is also delightful for negligee wear” in washable silk or satin. Butterick  pajamas for 1917  were also  gathered  at the ankle.

During World War I, fashion magazines used many military terms in a punning way –“over the top” fashion, the “dress parade,” etc. Here, “home-reserve” and “active service” are not meant to be taken literally, although many American women did take active roles in formerly male occupations, from farms to factories, in 1917. (Although World War I  began in Europe in August of 1914, the United States did not enter the war until April 6, 1917.)

Like the original Bloomer outfit of the 1850’s, Butterick dress No. 9294 conceals the trousers above the knee with an ample overskirt.

The month before, in June, a more daring “Bloomer dress” was shown; without a concealing overdress, it is more like a boiler suit or coverall.

Center, Butterick Bloomer dress pattern 9235, Delineator, June 1917, page 62.

Center, Butterick Bloomer dress pattern 9235, Delineator, June 1917, page 62.


“The next step in the woman movement is into the bloomer dress.” Butterick pattern 9235 is suggested for domestic duties, with no mention of volunteer work. “If you would sprinkle the lawn or clean out the attic you might as well be practical about it as well as feminine.”

The Ladies’ Home Journal suggested equally revealing outfits for women taking on traditionally male jobs in 1917, but did not offer patterns for them.

Ladies' Home Journal, September 1917.

Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917. Not all of the Journal’s suggestions had overskirts.

Of course, some women factory workers simply adopted men’s overalls for their war work.

American woman in Ladies' Home Journal, August 1917.

American woman in Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1917. Women doing previously male jobs freed men for military duty.

Other women workers wore variations on gym clothes, usually voluminous — and shape disguising — bloomers.

College girls working at a dairy, Delineator, October 1918. They are literally wearing their gym suits.

Butterick’s Delineator magazine formed its own “Women’s Preparedness Bureau”…

Delineator magazine's Women's Preparedness Movement, July 1917, p. 22.

Delineator magazine’s Women’s Preparedness Bureau, July 1917, p. 22. “There are many kinds of service, from coursing on the clouds as an aviator to managing a spirited steed or a modern rifle.”

From Delineator's Women's Preparedness Bureau, July 1917

From Delineator’s Women’s Preparedness Bureau, July 1917.

“Businessmen are realizing that they will have to employ women in positions where formerly only men were to be found….”

The Woman's Preparedness Bureau offered to match women with suitable war jobs. Delineator, July 1917, p. 22.

The Woman’s Preparedness Bureau offered to match women with suitable war work. Delineator, July 1917, p. 22.

However,  The Ladies’ Home Journal published a much more practical multi-page article in November 1917. You can read it online thanks to the Hathi Trust. Here is the link. It may be slow to load, but it is interesting reading in women’s history.

Top of the first page of a long article on War Work for women in the United States. Ladies Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

Top of the first page of a long article on War Jobs for women in the United States. Ladies Home Journal, November 1917, top of page 39.

This long article names government offices and civil service testing opportunities. If an army moves on its stomach, it also moves on a flood of clerical work.

One part sounds all too familiar…

From "War Jobs for Women," Ladies' Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

From “War Jobs for Women,” Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917, page 39. “All the facts he gives are from government sources.”

Given the current political climate, I found this paragraph — about the women who took those unglamorous jobs — quite interesting. They were often first generation Americans, the daughters of immigrants.

From The Ladies' Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

From The Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917, page 39.

Of course they had an economic incentive, but many of these first generation American women must have come from cultures not accustomed to letting their daughters work outside the home or family farm, away from the watchful and protective eyes of fathers and brothers.

A Disturbing Sidelight on Women in Trousers, 1920

At a Silent Film Festival, watching Oscar Micheaux’s historic 1920 silent film Within Our Gates, I saw female members of a lynch mob wearing variations on these wartime work outfits.

The movie, Micheaux’s response to the glorification of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation, shows the lynching of a black family. Just after their little boy escapes, a mob including women surges toward the gallows. One of the women is wearing a suit; one wears a light, summery dress; at least two others wear voluminous gym knickers with middy blouses tucked into the waist. Whether they are farm workers or young women in gym suits isn’t clear.  The film is very grainy, but shows women appearing in a crowd of men while wearing trouser-like work clothes. Click here to see them in motion.   (It is grim.) Note that Micheaux has included women of all social classes in his lynch mob. This two-minute scene is powerful. Incidentally, his leading lady Evelyn Preer wears an extensive nineteen-teens wardrobe in the course of the film, so we can see period clothes in motion on a lovely but real woman’s body, instead of a fashion illustrator’s fantasy.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers, World War I

Ski Clothes for Women, January 1927

Eighty years ago, Delineator magazine showed the latest styles seen at Lake Placid, NY, and offered Butterick patterns for skiers and skaters. (Lake Placid hosted the winter Olympics in 1932.)

Skiers at Lake Placid, January 1927. Leslie Saalburg illustration for Delineator, p. 15.

Skiers at Lake Placid, January 1927. Leslie Saalburg illustration for Delineator, p. 15.

The woman at left wears a beret, long trousers, and a heavy jacket with big pockets:

Woman skier in heavy jacket, January 1927, Delineator.

Woman skier in belted jacket, January 1927, Delineator.

In spite of twenties fashions, the belt must have “ridden up” to her natural waistline with movement.

Behind her, a woman wears a matching checked top and knickers:

Detail, Ski Resort, January 1927. Delneator, p. 15.

Detail, Ski Resort, January 1927. Delineator, p. 15. I’m curious; was that outfit true-to-life or artistic license?

A few pages later, Butterick patterns for winter sports were featured.

Costumes for Winter Sports: Butterick patterns for skiing and skating, January 1927.

Costumes for Winter Sports: Butterick patterns for skiing and skating, January 1927.

“7062 — 4147 — Back of the north wind is the windbreaker with knitted or fabric collar and cuffs and a hip band that buttons snugly. For skis with their horrid trick of doing a treacherous double cross reinforced knickers fitted at the knee are worn with wool hose and socks.” The knickers button tightly at the knee and were available up to waist size 38 inches. It looks like she is wearing two pairs of socks, one rolled at the ankle.

Butterick ski jacket pattern 7062 with heavy wool knickers, pattern 4147. Delineator, Jan. 1927, p. 22.

Butterick windbreaker ski jacket pattern 7062 with heavy wool knickers, pattern 4147. Delineator, Jan. 1927, p. 22.

Butterick windbreaker pattern 6991 and pleated skirt 1175 from Delineator, January 1927, p. 22.

Butterick windbreaker pattern 6991 and pleated skirt 1175 from Delineator, January 1927, p. 22.

Duvetyn was a brushed fabric, usually wool; suede was also suggested for the jacket. The skirt, with its top-stitched pleats, would have been too tight for some skaters’ moves, but “contrives to be both slim and roomy.” This being the twenties, when some skirts hung from the shoulders on an underbodice,  the skirt was sold by hip size. Does “waistcoat style” mean the belt was adjustable, like the back of a vest? Her striped stockings are probably wool. Textured and patterned stockings were popular for casual winter wear.

Textured stockings in an editorial article about rainwear. Delineator, April 1929, p. 85.

Textured stockings in an editorial article about rainwear. Delineator, April 1929, p. 85.

For more illustrations of colorful stockings in the 1920’s, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1920s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers