Viewing Recommendation: Craft in America

"Portrait of a Textile Worker;" art quilt by Terese Agnew. Image from tardart.com

“Portrait of a Textile Worker;” art quilt by Terese Agnew. Image from tardart.com

One of my favorite, most relaxing series to watch is Craft in America, a PBS show that visits four different artists/craftpersons in each episode. To my delight (and heaven knows why) many episodes are currently available on YouTube!

I just watched (for the third or fourth time in several years) the episode “Craft in America: THREADS.” A feast for the eyes and food for the brain: artist Faith Ringgold’s quilt/paintings ( I see new details every time,  and she is an extraordinary teacher with stories to share;) weaver Randall Darwell and his partner Brian Murphy (the colors! the textures! the partnership!) fiber artist Consuelo Jiminez Underwood (weaving with safety pins, and wire, and a message for our times;) and quilter Terese Agnew, whose “Portrait of a Textile Worker” I wrote about here.  Agnew uses a traditional form (quilting, piecing and embroidery) to make beautiful textile art with thought-provoking content. (In one quilt, cedar waxwings congregating in a parking lot were the inspiration — but the employees crossing the parking lot have pink slips in their pockets, because that’s what happened to them while she was making the quilt.)

I was one of the thousands who sent Agnew an envelope full of clothing labels…

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… which she stitched together to make “Portrait of a Textile Worker;” the finished quilt measures 98 by 110 inches. This photo gives you an idea of its size:

Teres Agnew with "Portrait of a Textile Worker;" from article about Craft in America series, SFgate.com

Terese Agnew with “Portrait of a Textile Worker;” from an article about the Craft in America series, at SFgate.com

I’ve been sheltering in place for over a month now; armchair travel, beautiful, hand crafted things, and inspiring conversation come to me via Craft in America.

Even episodes featuring crafts that don’t usually excite me (like furniture making or wrought iron making) are a trip out of myself — something different, something new, and something inspiring.

Did I mention beauty?  The work of  Chugach Aleut jewelry artist Denise Wallace is a good example of where Craft in America may take you. Wallace is featured in Craft in America: COMMUNITY.  Find a complete list of episodes at Craft in America or, for episodes you can watch  on YouTube, here.

Note: I do wish the episode titles gave more detail about content (Is Terese Agnew in THREADS or in QUILT? — Is Denise Wallace in LANDSCAPE or ORIGINS or COMMUNITY? but that’s a quibble.)

 

 

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Filed under Exhibitions & Museums, Musings, Uncategorized

Book Recommendation: Three Books by Ruth Gordon, plus Vanity Fair

I am indulging an old addiction by re-reading all of Ruth Gordon’s non-fiction books. Most people know her from the movie Harold and Maude, (in which she is perfectly cast!) but she was already a well-known stage actress. (She started in 1915, flunked out of drama school, wouldn’t give up; by the 1930s she was a huge hit in London and on Broadway; she gave 1,078 performances as Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker, and was nominated for a Tony award in 1956.)
She was a playwright (selling an autobiographical play to MGM for $100,000 in 1952 — it’s called The Actress, and Spencer Tracy plays her father;) a screenwriter (5 Oscar nominations with her husband Garson Kanin, including the Tracy/Hepburn comedies like Adam’s Rib.)
And she won her first Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in Rosemary’s Baby in 1968-69. (She was 72 years old; she’d been acting since 1915.)  Accepting it, she said, “I can’t tell ya how encouragin’ a thing like this is….) See her acceptance speech here:
She published three books in her 70s and 80s; won an Emmy when she was 83 ….  In other words, a good role model for all of us!
I want some of her zest for life to rub off on me. (And her memory for funny stories. Among her many, many friends: Harpo Marx, Thornton Wilder, Charles Laughton, Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Parker, Walter Matthau …. A lot of laughter!)

Typical story: In the 1910s, Ruth was still a nobody, but she was friends with a Broadway star who asked her to keep her company on the way to a movie audition. The would-be movie actress was asked to improvise a scene. She was shown a movie set which contained a table with a vase of flowers, a letter, and a pistol. As Ruth described the try-out, (I’m paraphrasing:) The actress enters the room. She goes to the table. She sees the letter. She opens the letter. It’s bad news. It’s terrible news! She sees the gun. She picks up the gun. She shoots the letter.

And she didn’t get the part! I guess the studio already had a comedienne.

Another story: When Gordon was a Broadway star herself and a member of the Algonquin Round Table (along with writers and wits  Robert Benchley, Alexander Woolcott, Dorothy Parker…,) she was also a friend of silent movie and stage star Lillian Gish and her sister, Dorothy. The Gish sisters were living in an apartment in New York. The apartment was on an upper floor, and the Gish sisters had a pet parrot. Its wings were clipped, so it was free to wander around indoors. One summer day, they forgot that the window was open and let the parrot out of his cage. It hopped on to a chair, then on to the table, and then, to their horror, it hopped up on the windowsill and flew out the window — and immediately realized that it couldn’t fly.

“Oh, dear!” it cried, flapping its wings,
                                                                      “OH dear!,”
                                                                                                 “OOOOH DEAR!” all the way down.

Luckily it landed on a canvas-covered truck, rode to New Jersey, and was returned to the Gish sisters, a sadder but wiser bird.

Top left, Ruth Gordon, with Raymond Massie and Pauline Lord on Broadway in Ethan Frome, 1936. Photo by Steichen from Vanity Fair.

But I don’t read Gordon’s autobiographical books just for the laughs. She writes as if the reader is an old friend, so reading her is like chatting over lunch with a fabulous friend who is wise and shrewd and full of stories, with 80 years of life experience and still interested in everything.
She’s very honest about her life — triumphs and failures, happy memories and regrets. Her first husband died when he was only 36; (she was several years younger.) Later, after an affair with a married man,  she chose to raise her illegitimate son, rather than pretend he was adopted, as other stars did in the same situation. She was often broke, embarrassed by owing money to her more successful friends. When she was successful — as an actor and a writer — she wore couture and loved it. (Of course she wrote about the experience of shopping couture; the pink satin gown she wore while accepting her Oscar was a Givenchy.)
She has total recall of every dress her mother made for her or that she wore early in her career. (And I wonder, exactly what was “tango-colored” in 1913?)
But she also writes about poverty in her teens, when she and her factory-worker father sold everything — including her few childhood books — to pay for her mother’s care after a stroke. Struggling to get a start in her acting career, she was hungry enough to consider the “casting couch” route. If you want to know what it was like to tour with a play that opened in a different city every day, Ruth can tell you. (Some hotels didn’t accept actors, so she claimed to be a traveling saleswoman for Onyx Hosiery.)

Onyx Hosiery ad, 1910.

She made headlines during World War II:
“‘Actress forty-six marries film director thirty.” Her husband said he liked the headline. “If it said ‘Actress forty-five’ a lot of people would say ‘She’s fifty if she’s a day,’ but when an actress says she’s forty-six, you have to believe her.” It was a long, happy, successful marriage and writing collaboration. And the snappy exchange of dialogue in those Spencer Tracy/Kathrine Hepburn movies was the work of Ruth Gordon and her husband, Garson Kanin. (Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike, etc.)
Incidentally, the only award she usually mentions was that Oscar in 1969.  In 1915, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts told her “Don’t come back. You don’t show any promise.” In 1968, they asked her to come back to give her an Award for Achievement and to make a speech to the students. Boy, did she!
Here’s Ruth:
“I think what it takes is don’t give up! DON’T GIVE UP! Just don’t give up and that sounds like a put-down, but it isn’t. And it sounds as though it’s easy and it isn’t. DON’T GIVE UP! I learned that at the Academy and it was all I did learn. It wasn’t what my father paid four hundred dollars [tuition] for, but it may be the best lesson I was ever taught. DON’T GIVE UP! …. At the end of the year [Mr. Sargent] said, “Don’t come back. You don’t show any promise….”
I was scared. I was scared I wouldn’t find out how to be an actress because in that year the school hadn’t taught me. I’m smart and I can learn, but the school hadn’t given me a clue. Four hundred dollars and all I got for it was fright, because even to myself I didn’t show any promise….  ‘Don’t come back,’ he said. That’s a terrible thing, you could drop dead…. You could kill yourself…. You could give up….
Or you could learn something. Isn’t that what we came to the Academy for? So I learned something and what I learned here was and is DON’T GIVE UP…. When somebody says to you,”You’re not pretty enough,” “You’re too tall,” You’re too short,” “Your personality’s not what we’re looking for,” DON’T GIVE UP!’ “
I bet she enjoyed saying every word of that! And she said a lot more, too…
“Most every moment along the way takes courage. Courage is like a strain of yoghurt culture, if you have some you can have some more.” (From An Open Book.)
Start by reading My Side, her autobiography. Published in 1976, available in paperback or hardback. Her style is conversational; she skips from topic to topic and memory to memory as if she was chatting with you, but once I decided to go with her flow, it was wonderful! And, if you want to know more about shooting movies, Ruth tells you the details of filming Harold and Maude.
Next, An Open Book,  published in 1980. (It includes that lecture at The Academy.}

Then, if you’re hungry for more,   Myself Among Others , published in 1971. You probably haven’t heard of many of the early 20th century celebrities Gordon knew well and writes about. Luckily for me, I bought an anthology of articles and celebrity photos from Vanity Fair magazine in the 1920s when I was a teenager in 1960 and didn’t own many other books. This photo of Leslie Howard permanently warped my idea of “an attractive man.”

How to wear a top hat, white tie, and tails: Leslie Howard photographed by Steichen for Vanity Fair, 1934.

Not only did this book prepare me for many of the plays I have designed costumes for, it acted as my first door into a different era, with jokes and essays by many writers and critics who were household names in the 1920s and 1930s.  If you love those decades, it’s full of photos and articles — not about the 1920s and 1930s but from the 1920s and 1930s. Many copies are available online, from under $4.

So, in addition to Ruth Gordon’s various memoirs,  I also recommend Vanity Fair: A Cavalcade of the 1920s and 1930s, edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee.

Clara Bow, photographed by Dyer for Vanity Fair in 1928.

And if you haven’t seen Ruth Gordon at work as an actress, forgive Harold and Maude for being so “Seventies” and just watch a genius at work. (It’s on YouTube and on Prime.) A big part of acting is listening — I just watched a brief clip and now I want to watch the whole movie again. Gordon also gave a Golden Globe-winning (and Oscar nominated) performance as Daisy Clover’s mentally ill mother in Inside Daisy Clover. (1966) It is not a good movie, but Gordon is truthful and real in every scene she has.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Musings

Two Butterick Hat Patterns from 1926

Butterick hat pattern 6810, May 1926, Delineator.

Butterick turban pattern 6634 from Delineator, February 1926.

Usually, Butterick would feature its hat patterns repeatedly, showing the Butterick hats in Delineator pattern illustrations over several months, worn with a variety of other Butterick patterns.  I was surprised by how often this turban (6634) appeared, and how few times the six gored cloche (6810) was shown.

Hat 6810 was shown with a coat and dress ensemble in May, 1926.

Here, it seems to be made of one dark material and one lighter material, or one shiny and one matte. The band-like brim turns up and is tied at the side back.

Butterick hat pattern 6810, May 1926, Delineator.

The two tone effect could be subtle, the result of using a ribbed fabric like faille with the grain running either up and down or crosswise, as in another cloche hat from Butterick:

Butterick cloche hat pattern 5952 from 1925.

(I am surprised how many cloche hat patterns for home stitchers were available.  Click here to see two from 1925. Here’s one, with trim variations, from 1924. Butterick 5128 was shown with many trim variations — which could be adapted for any simple cloche hat you buy, if you’d rather not make a gored hat pattern.

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This trim is just strips of grosgrain ribbon woven together. Circa 1924.

Back to hat 6810 from 1926:

Left: here Butterick hat 6810 was made in one shiny, solid-colored fabric to match a sheer green georgette dress. 1926.

Turban pattern 6634, on the other hand, was illustrated many times.

Butterick turban pattern 6634, from Delineator, February 1926.

The turban is worn by two models in this illustration.

Left and right, Turban 6634. The hat in the middle is not 6810.

What to wear with your turban. These clothing patterns are in the normal ladies’ size range: bust 32 to 44 inches.

Left, turban 6634 on a page of “Paris Patterns.” March 1926. The commercially made cloche on the right is nearly brimless.

Not all fashion drawing is perfect…. but this shows turban 6634 with a matching gray ensemble of cape and dress.

Turban 6634 with cape 6618  and dress 6642.

The same dress (6642) was featured on another page, without the cape or turban. The turban (right) topped a different dress.

Right, turban 6634. Delineator, March 1926. (“Jewel” placement could vary to taste.)

Butterick patterns, Delineator, March 1926, page 34. Left is dress 6642 again. The other dresses use border prints.

I think of turbans as aging, rather than youthful, since they can cover the hair completely. But these 1926 fashions are not necessarily for older or stouter women; they are in the normal size range, and the turban pattern itself was “for ladies and misses [ages 14 to 20.]” And there is usually a glimpse of hair at the cheek.

A glimpse of hair softened the turban look.

Those two dresses on the right above make clever use of border prints:

Left, a dress with its own light coat, worn open. This used to be called a “redingote” style, and it’s flattering to women who feel they aren’t thin enough to wear authentic 1920s’ styles.

But turban 6634 was also shown on patterns for the stout: Dress sizes up to 52 inch bust.

Turban 6635 was shown on this page of fashions for large or stout women, Delineator, March 1926, page 36. Left: Note the clever tucks giving fullness over the bust.

Again, turban 6634 worn with a large size dress pattern. May, 1926.

Butterick turban pattern 6634 from Delineator, February 1926.

The turban is always shown with some kind of pins or buttons as decoration; they could be placed to suit the wearer.

Tying the turban. Right: Dead fox optional.

witness2fashion: One of the disadvantages of attending church in the 1950s was the possibility of sitting behind a woman wearing a fox stole, with its literally beady eyes — made of glass — reproaching you throughout the service.

 

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Hairstyles, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Prudery in Advertising Used to Confuse Me

Girdles from Sears Catalog, Fall 1958.

Costume researchers of the future, given only this image, might deduce that girdles were worn on the outside of our clothes…. And that the stocking suspenders/garters were purely decorative. There was a time when manufacturers who wanted to use the same ad in “family newspapers” and in women’s magazines had to be careful how they showed women’s underwear, lest they incite lustful thoughts and corrupt the young….

I’ve mentioned before that I was a “motherless child” — raised after her death by a loving father. We managed very well, except when it came to my clothing. Luckily my Aunt Shirley, and old (female) friends of our family, and sometimes the mothers of my school friends stepped in. Mrs. Betty P., who helped me sort through my mother’s closet when my father couldn’t bear to do it, eventually told him that it was long past time for me to start wearing a bra. (Fathers are often reluctant to admit that their little girls have grown up.) She was right. She took me to a department store (along with her own daughter) to have us fitted. My first bra (age 11) was a 34 B.
However, Betty’s daughter Janie and I used to puzzle over the lingerie ads in the backs of magazines, trying to make sense of them.

If the garters attach to your stockings, and you wear the garter belt over your bouffant petticoat…. How could that work? Sears catalog, Fall, 1958.

Full circle bouffant petticoat from Sears catalog, 1957. Janie and I knew you couldn’t bunch that up to make your garters reach your stocking tops….

This was 1957 or so — when huge crinoline petticoats were all the rage. Girls wore them in layers –preferably two bouffant petticoats at a time.
But this was also before pantyhose were available — women wore stockings held up by a garter belt, if they didn’t need “more control.”

Garter belts, 1958. Sears Fall catalog.

If you were going to wear a very fitted dress, a girdle or panty-girdle was needed so you would have a (relatively) smooth line from waist to thigh without bulges that outlined the garter belt.
But: my 11 year-old friends and I looked at ads like this one …

“How could this work?” my 11 year old self wondered.

… and asked each other how the garter belt could reach your stocking tops, if you wore it over your bouffant petticoat?

Advertising Undies Without Offending….

In the 1920s, advertising underwear was a tricky business. What did you do about that awkward top-of-thighs area at the bottom of the corset? Should the advertiser show the long bloomers (sometimes called knickers) which most women wore?

Ladies’ bloomers (also loosely called knickers or drawers), 1925. Butterick pattern 5705.

Would a family newspaper run an ad showing underpants? Or worse, a woman’s thighs or crotch? And isn’t it possible that, however they were shown in corset ads,  women sometimes wore their long underpants over their corsets, so they could be pulled down for a visit to the toilet (or outhouse, or chamberpot?)

Corsets illustrated as worn over bloomers, as shown in Sears catalogs, From Blum’s Everyday Fashions of the 1920s.

Well, 19th c. bloomers or drawers were often two separate legs, attached only at the waist. You could say Queen Victoria wore crotchless panties….

Open drawers, circa 1860, illustration from Ewing's Fashion in Underwear.

Open drawers, circa 1860, illustration from Ewing’s Fashion in Underwear. You could wear these under a corset and still answer the call of nature.

 In the 20th century, many women’s underpants/drawers/knickers were made with an open crotch, or a crotch that opened with tiny buttons, so those could be worn under the corset/girdle.  Awkward, but do-able.)

1917 underwear choice: open-crotched drawers (left) or a long “envelope” chemise with a button crotch. Delineator.

Pretty vintage lingerie with a button crotch.

Lingerie from Delineator, June 1924. Left, a “step-in;” right, a button crotch “chemise.”

Keep in mind that the 1930s Motion Picture Production Code in the U.S.A. had been written by men who said, “If it’s objectionable to a child, it’s objectionable, period.” (My 12th grade term paper was about movie censorship — so I’m quoting from memory.) Among other forbidden things (as reported): the inside of a woman’s thigh could never be shown in films. (An idea parodied here.)  For context, here’s the article accompanying that image.

Too hot for the Motion Picture Production Code? Corset illustrations from Delineator, 1929

That nervousness about female anatomy made it difficult for advertisers show exactly how corsets and stockings were worn. Often they were shown as if the garters were purely decorative, and had nothing to do with holding up your stockings.

Message: “There are suspenders attached to our corsets.” Women would know the suspenders were for holding up stockings, but the ads didn’t show how.

Some advertisements showed the corset superimposed on a clothed figure.

Corsets over clothing, in ads from 1912 and 1924.

Note to the future: Ordinary 20th century women did not wear their corsets over their dresses. (Although a few performers and young women with a desire to shock eventually did….)

For corset ads, a nebulous frill or draped fabric was also useful for propriety.

Sketchy lace frills or a delicate drapery avoid showing bare thighs between corset and stocking.

Some ads did show suspenders attached to stockings — but, does this mean women tucked their underwear into their stockings, as shown?

Thighs covered by long bloomers or drawers. 1926.

More voluminous undergarments tucked into stocking tops, 1922.

This company went bold — The photographer blurred out the crotch area: (Yes, photos were being altered almost as soon as they were invented.)

The area at the top of the model’s thighs has been blurred in this photo. 1926. She may have been wearing tight knit undies to start with.

Remember, in the Fifties,  TV wouldn’t allow a married couple to occupy the same bed (see The I Love Lucy Show.) (And Lucille Ball, who really was expecting a child, was “Enceinte,” not “Pregnant.”)

But the 1958 Sears catalog wasn’t censoring its pages — some photos are realistic, with bare thighs appearing between girdles and stockings, as they were worn in real life. I suspect that it was up to the manufacturer to decide whether his customers were easily upset by women’s bodies…

Sorry, boys. Nothing titillating to see here!

… or not:

Models wearing bras and girdles, Sears catalog Fall 1958.

Girdle worn over bare skin, although the photo is poor quality. Inside of thigh visible! Sears catalog, 1958.

A Sears model shows how a girdle and stockings were really worn. 1958 Sears catalog.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Hosiery, Hosiery, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie

Loungewear, Hostess Gowns and Negligees, 1926

Left, “Hostess gown or Negligee” 6627; Right, negligee 6568. Butterick patterns in Delineator, May 1926.

What could a woman wear at home during her moments of leisure in the 1920s? AllWays in Fashion recently offered very good advice (for these weeks when we are “socially isolating” ourselves): Even if you don’t leave the house, get dressed. I’m a retiree whose arthritic knees have been complaining a lot recently, and it’s much too easy for me to stay in pajamas all day. (I do put on my medical compression hose, but loose, casual trousers and pajamas feel better over them than the static-prone, dressier fabrics I’d wear to a lunch date.) But I really ought to make more of an effort to dress nicely for my spouse!

Butterick negligee / robe 6568, from January 1926.

Negligees from Butterick patterns, May 1926. Left 6197, right, 6828.

Hostess gown (or negligee) 6393 from May 1926.

These 1926 robes or negligees  and “hostess gowns” are a little surprising. Some are descendants of the “tea gown,” but a little too much like sleepwear for me to wear while greeting invited guests! Let’s just consider them as robes or pajamas (but I’ll include their original pattern descriptions….)

These pajamas are rather fun, with their bias bound, pointy hems:

Pajama 6031 is easy to imagine on a beach….

The bottoms of the pants don’t have to be gathered — they have a pointed hem like the pj top.A bit like a masquerade costume is this Asian-influenced pajama set:

Embroidered “French pajama-negligee;” Butterick 6093 pictured in May 1926.

This “hostess gown” was featured repeatedly. It is actually a robe with a side-closing (“surplice” style.) I imagine a few concealed snaps down the front would be necessary!

No. 6627 from Delineator, March 1926.

No. 6627 illustrated in March 1926.

Left, No. 6627 illustrated in May 1926. Right, Negligee 6568, in sizes up to 52 inches!

Text for 6627, from April 1926.

One of my stranger 1926 discoveries, also featured in more than one month, was this “dressing sacque,” Butterick 6558.

Dressing sacque from Delineator, May 1926.

Dressing sacque 6558 from Delineator, April 1926.

Description of No. 6558 from May 1926.

The illustration below gives a good idea of when you’d wear a dressing sacque:  you’re dressed except for your dress and shoes; now’s the time to put your sacque on over your underwear and slip, and do your hair, powder your face, and apply mascara, eyebrow pencil, lipstick, and rouge, keeping your dress free of powder spills and stray hairs. Click here for an 18th century painting of two ladies, one dressing and one dressed.

Dressing sacque 6558 from Delineator, January 1926.

In previous centuries, women might own a “combing jacket”  or “peignoir,” [from “peigne,” the French for “comb”] worn while putting up their hair (or having their hair powdered in the 1700s.) Sew Historically posted about a lovely Edwardian combing jacket. Click here for an 1887 dressing sacque. “Negligee” is another word borrowed from the French; it’s come to suggest a fragile or see-through boudoir garment, but originally a lady might receive guests while “en negligee,” meaning she was dressed informally, rather than dressed to go out. In this painting by Hogarth, the lady of the house is having her hair styled, en negligee,  while entertaining a room full of visitors:

https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/marriage-c3a0-la-mode-the-countesss-morning-levee1.jpg

“The Toilette,” by William Hogarth, from Marriage a la Mode, circa 1743. National Gallery, Via Wiki Media.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, lingerie, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings

Pantyhose from Sears, Roebuck. 1960.

The Pantyhose Revolution and Supermarket Stockings

Further reading: I am indebted to this excellent article about the history of L’Eggs and pantyhose in general by Jake Rossen at Mentalfloss. For the story of how pantyhose were invented, see this article in Smithsonian.

1959: McCall 4936, maternity pattern. According to Smithsonian, panty hose were invented because pregnant women found the garter belt or girdle too uncomfortable.

Pantyhose (sheer, stretch tights) were available in 1959, but not in all markets, and not in all sizes. There wasn’t much demand for them, because skirt hems were still mid-calf in the late fifties, so the thick stocking tops and garters we wore were not likely to show.

Dresses this long hid the tops of our stockings and “garter bumps” quite adequately. No need for pantyhose.

Also, really stretchy stockings didn’t exist yet.

Seamless stretch nylon stockings from Sears; Spring 1958.

Opaque tights from Sears, Fall 1959 catalog.

Opaque tights from Sears, Fall 1959 catalog. Popular for winter sports and dance classes.

Opaque tights were available before 1959, but for most women of my generation (and those before) wearing sheer stockings with seams up the back marked the beginning of adulthood. In 1958, I was in eighth grade, and “dress up” clothing suddenly included seamed stockings (held up by a garter belt) and shoes with “high” heels.

If you were born in the 1960s or later, you may not believe how hard it was to buy stockings in the 1950s (and earlier.)

1) Most stores were not open on Sundays. In a country where most citizens were nominally Christian, Sunday was the official Sabbath, and most businesses (except for essential services like hospitals) did not buy or sell products or require employees to work on the Sabbath. Buying or selling on the Sabbath was generally against the law. Saturday had been the “market” day for centuries; weekdays were also shopping days, but not as they are now because….

2) Even in big cities, stores were not open after 5:30 or 6 p.m. “Designated shopping nite” was a very Big Deal in my childhood circa 1950 when all the major department and clothing stores in downtown San Francisco agreed to stay open until 8 p.m. — every Thursday night. (That’s right, they were open late once a week.)

Working women might have a chance to shop during their lunch break, if they worked near the stores. But a run in your last pair of stockings was a small crisis: When and where could you buy new ones?

“It was 1968, and the recently-appointed president of Hanes Hosiery Mill Co. observed a growing number of pantyhose customers were grabbing cheap stockings at grocery stores for the sake of convenience. While a woman might shop for food multiple times a week, she would likely only head to a department store once every month or two. Rather than wait, she would purchase undergarments when it was most convenient.” — Jake Rossen

When grocery stores and supermarkets began staying open at night, and they began to sell hosiery, the lives of working women took a turn for the better. This was mostly possible because improved technology gave us really stretchy stockings and tights.

Cling-alon seamless stretch pantyhose from Sears really were stretchy: only three women’s sizes were needed.

Cling-alon size chart, Sears, 1968. The women’s sizes are Petite, Average, and Tall. (The sizes at top are for girls.)

Improved stretch meant that stores no longer had to carry stockings in eighteen sizes.

Companies like Hanes made L’Eggs pantyhose specifically packaged to be sold in supermarkets. The improved stretch meant you no longer needed to sell stockings in seven sizes and four lengths. Basic L’Eggs came in just four sizes, but they fit a really big range of heights and weights. Stores were happy that a display of the full range of L’Eggs colors and sizes took up less shelf space than a display of canned olives or jelly. And working women like me could pick them up any night on the way home from work! No more Saturday trips to a department store. No more panicky mornings when I got a run in my last pair of hose.

Cotton Crotch Introduced

One problem: women who adopted the new stretch-nylon pantyhose soon began advising their friends that the nylon did not let moisture evaporate as silk or cotton underwear did. We advised each other to wear cotton briefs under nylon pantyhose to avoid unpleasant rashes and worse. Soon the manufacturers figured it out, and began making pantyhose with “cotton crotch” proudly specified on the package labels.

Thigh Bulge and Garter Bumps Eliminated

Pantyhose did eliminate a problem for women whose legs were not slim and muscular: with the old stocking suspended from one garter in front and one in back, the stocking top would sag, leaving an unpleasant bulge of flesh at the top.

Stocking tops sag at the sides in this illustration from 1930.

This model has lovely legs, but you can see how the stocking top is curving downward at the inside of the thigh. For women who didn’t have slim, firm thighs, the flesh bulged out over the stocking tops. In hot weather the bulges rubbed together, which was especially unpleasant.

Also, the garters themselves had a rubbery part that went inside the stocking, and a metal part that went outside the stocking.

When you sat, the metal dug into your leg at the back, and the rubber part created a bump in front that was visible through light-weight dress fabrics.

Garters could be purchased separately and attached to elastic loops on the girdle.

The metal garter was detachable and inserted through these loops.

With pantyhose: Bliss! — no more garter belts or panty-girdles.  And no bulges.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Maternity clothes, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Home-Made Masks: Patterns for Making and Donating

During World War I, the Red Cross invited home stitchers to make needed medical masks and gowns. Patterns were issued through women’s magazines.

NOTE: I am not a qualified medical practitioner. I am merely reporting on the work being done by a group of people I know. I’m going to share some of the websites they discovered.

EDITED April 17, 2020:   Some of the links in this post no longer go where they used to go:  After completing a batch of masks for Kaiser hospital, I discovered that the link no longer takes me to mailing instructions.  I’m currently in contact with another organization in the SF Bay Area.  I chose to make masks for Kaiser because I’m currently not only housebound (sheltering in place) but physically limited by a knee problem, so just going up and down stairs or driving a car is a challenge. I wanted to mail them! Sigh…. The thing is, when I make the same masks for friends and neighbors, I make a few improvements — like cutting the face lining from 100% cotton T-shirt knit, or using twill tape for the ties, which saves a lot of time. I can even substitute elastic ear loops for the ties if I want. Much faster construction! The T-shirt lining has 2 purposes: 1} it’s comfy and perspiration absorbent next to your face and 2) (something many of my friends making masks advise) the inside of the mask cannot be mistaken for the outside if you remove it and put it on again. It’s still completely washable, just not washable in a hospital autoclave!

ADDED April 18, 2020: In the San Francisco Bay Area, the<a href=”https://sites.google.com/view/makemeppebayarea/home”&gt; MakeMePPEbayarea</a> site has a constantly growing spreadsheet of shelters and institutions that need non-medical quality masks. (non-elastic preferred)  Now that we’re legally required to wear masks when leaving our homes, the need will probably grow…. (If you visit the MakeMePPE bayarea site, be sure to click on the icon at the top right of the spreadsheet to expand it. Some listings have “urgent need.”)

From an article in Delineator, December 1917. It asked, “What Can You Do?”

The community of theatrical costumers in the San Francisco Bay Area has been making masks for distribution to shelters and to other people who need a face mask, but whose need for surgical quality masks is not as great as that of doctors, nurses, and first responders — Those on the frontlines need surgical quality, medical masks. But others — including other hospital staff — are better off with a good quality home-made mask than no mask at all. The non-profit Kaiser Permanente hospital chain has issued a clear, easy to follow, well illustrated pattern for a pleated, all-cotton face mask. Click here to read about it: it’s a pdf pattern which you can print. Follow all instructions carefully — like prewashing the 100 % cotton fabric several times in hot water before you start making anything. (And maintain sterile conditions in your work area, of course.) Masks like these can be used by people who need to leave their shelter-in-place to carry out necessary tasks. They are not as effective as disposable medical quality masks, but they are better than nothing, and they are washable and re-useable.  (Remember, wearing a mask helps to protect others from people who do not yet know they are infected.)

Kaiser wrote: “While the CDC does not consider homemade masks to be effective personal protective equipment inside our clinical environments or for those caring directly for people with COVID-19, staff members in nonclinical areas may use their own personal masks.

“This is where you can help. Kaiser Permanente has developed step-by-step instructions for making masks at home. Please look at these instructions and consider making masks to donate. (A how-to video will be added shortly.) Your time and talents will be much appreciated by the Kaiser Permanente family.”  To see the full letter, click here.

(For a good study of fabric effectiveness in home-made masks, click here.) (There’s a trade-off between effectiveness and the necessity for breathing normally….)

If you are feeling useless (or helpless) stuck at home, and you have a sewing machine, you might try making masks. Contact a senior citizen community, a rest-home, a homeless shelter, a food bank — even some hospitals in your community, and be sure they will accept home-made masks before you start making them. If so, what kind do they want? Figure out how you will deliver them, too. The Deaconess website, from Indiana, even has a way for groups in need to contact mask-making volunteers. Click here.

Kaiser Hospital has even set up a way for these masks to be mailed to Kaiser at Kaiser’s expense.

Other hospitals that my costumer friends have contacted require different types of mask. Some want a seam over the nose. Patterns are available. Some masks use 1/4 inch elastic instead of ties. 

That’s why you need to contact the hospital or group that you will send them to before making masks, to be sure you are supplying what they really need.

The mask pattern from Kaiser is easy to make from cotton fabrics and supplies you probably already have, which is why I featured it. (Is there a stitcher or quilter who doesn’t have a stash?)

I haven’t used my sewing machine in several years, so I don’t know yet if it will even work! But I wanted to spread the word about what a remarkable group of costumers is doing right now.

And, since we can always use a bit of humor, I’m sharing this image from a vintage ad:

A nurse examines toilet paper in this ad from 1935.

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Filed under Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Colorful,Textured Hose in the 1960s

Opaque, colored pantyhose shown in Elegance magazine, Fall/Winter 1965-66 issue.

Opaque and fishnet-textured hose from Sears, 1968.

1968: Sears was selling both textured stockings and textured pantyhose. And suggesting the layered look.

“Fishnet” mesh pantyhose from Sears, 1968.

Catniphill commented on a previous post: “I could sew, so I made all my own outfits for school. I was in Jr High from 1966 to 1968 and wore a garter belt with opaque hose covered with fishnet hose in a contrasting color. I certainly flashed a lot of elastic during those days and always crossed my legs and sat crosswise on the school attached chairs. Suddenly pantyhose was available and dubiously I tried wearing something that looked like it would fit a doll–but it stretched amazingly. So I switched to opaque tights with fishnet pantyhose for some outfits and regular pantyhose for others. One of my favorite outfits was a fine-wale yellow corduroy babydoll worn with brown tights with yellow fishnets. I had matching daisy jewelry for this outfit. I still have all my patterns.”

[Ah, yes: Daisy pins and other big, painted floral pins! I used to find lots of them in thrift stores — but when I wanted one for a play set in 1967, I couldn’t find one.]

Center: dark semi-opaque hose (probably pantyhose) went well with the rising skirts of 1969. Simplicity pattern 8365. [I wore my brown tights with a dress very like the one on the left.]

As skirt lengths rose to several inches above the top of the knee, stockings became more varied, and more attention-getting. Instead of “flesh” or “suntan” hosiery, brilliant colors and textures from lace to “chickenwire” appeared on women’s legs.

Textured stockings from Sears, 1968 catalog.

The textures here are “Fishnet, [2] ” “Chicken-wire [3],” and “Diamond [5]” pattern.

Sears’ colors included bright yellow, neon pink, bright orange, bright grass green, pale blue, light pink,  and more conservative navy, deep brown, and parchment white.

Simplicity pattern 7622 from 1968.

Simplicity 7622 worn with heavily textured white pantyhose. 1968.

Simplicity 7755 from 1968.

Textured hose worn with Simplicity 7755. Stripes.

Even conservative “Jackie” style suits like this one …

McCall’s 7981 from 1965.

… could be worn with textured hose:

Vogue pattern with textured hose, Elegance, Fall/Winter 1965-66.

Textured or patterned stockings had also been popular for casual wear in the 1920s, another “leg-conscious” era:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/textured-hose-from-an-article-about-rainwear-delineator-april-1929.jpg

Textured hose from 1929. Delineator, April 1929.

So were wild colors:

The dropped waists of the 1920s (and very long Twenties’ style necklaces) also reappeared in the Sixties.

McCall’s 8135 from 1965.

So it’s not surprising that colorful, attention-getting stockings reappeared, too.

Pink opaque pantyhose or tights, in Elegance, Fall/Winter 1965/66.

Simplicity 7236 dated 1967. Opaque white pantyhose or tights. (Good if your legs were thin….)

“Trapeze” dresses also went well with opaque pantyhose, although these models are wearing sheer pantyhose. Butterick 4873 from 1968.

In theory, men didn’t like the trapeze style because it concealed a woman’s shape. However, it was a great time for “leg” men. Click here for a photo of Sixties’ supermodel Twiggy in a shape concealing, thigh revealing dress. (Very modest, from the hem up….)

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Filed under 1960s-1970s, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Nose Shapers, 1920s

Detail of ad from Motion Picture Magazine, Dec 1921.

My local newspaper regularly runs large ads from a plastic surgery clinic, showing before and after photos. The ads that annoy me the most are ones suggesting that a tiny, turned-up nose on women is preferable to an “ethnic” nose — regardless of how it would relate to her other features.

This focus on the “perfect” nose isn’t new. I found ads for two competing “nose shapers” in the same issue of this Motion Picture Magazine from December, 1921.

Which is the “Before” and which is the “After?” Trilety ad from Motion Picture Magazine, Dec. 1921.

Other ads for the Trilety Nose Shaper clarify the problem: Pug noses were not in fashion with M. Trilety.

Ad from Motion Pictures Magazine, 1923. (To be fair, actor Michael Caine*** has also advised that no one wants to see inside your nostrils in a close-up on the giant screen.)

Trilety nose shaper ad, Motion Picture Magazine, 1923.

The Anita Nose Adjuster was not specifically concerned with pug noses:

Anita Nose Adjuster ad, December 1921. Motion Pictures Magazine.

“Refined features attract; misshapen features repel. Such is nature’s law. If your nose is ill-shaped, you can make it perfect with ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER. In a few weeks in the privacy of your own home and without interfering with your daily occupation, ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER shapes while you sleep — quickly, painlessly, permanently and inexpensively. There are many inferior imitations, but the ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER is the ORIGINAL and ONLY comfortable adjuster highly recommended by physicians for fractured or mis-shaped noses. Write to-day for free booklet, “Happy Days Ahead.” No obligations.

“SPECIAL SIZES FOR CHILDREN.”

Another Trilety ad from Motion Picture Magazine, 1923.

More from the “How the Shape of My Nose Delayed My Success” Trilety Nose Shaper ad, 1923.

Model 25 “has six adjustable pressure regulators, is made of light polished metal, is firm and fits every nose comfortably. The inside is upholstered with a fine chamois skin and no metal parts come in contact with the skin. Thousands of unsolicited Testimonials ….”

It’s incredible how long this company lasted, considering its offer of “your money refunded if you are not satisfied.”

One of the concepts that got me through my teen years was the realization that there is a difference between being pretty and being beautiful. The bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin shows a woman who is beautiful by the standards of almost any nation and era.  Many girls are pretty, at least for a brief time when they have youth and health working for them. But mere prettiness is much more common than beauty, which may require a certain amount of maturity and experience of life. Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn were inspiring to me in the 1960s, because they were beautiful, rather than pretty. They didn’t have blonde hair or tiny, turned-up noses, or perfectly regular features. They were not “cute.” Neither was Greta Garbo. Maybe confidence, and feeling comfortable being who you are, is more important than trying to conform to “the norm.” Josephine Baker from St. Louis, MO, made herself the most glamourous woman in Paris — couturiers sent her free dresses and begged her to wear them.  Would Frida Kahlo have been more beautiful with a tiny nose and plucked eyebrows?

*** Sir Michael Caine has written more than one book about acting on film, as well as making an entertaining Video in which he explains why a simple thing like smoking a cigarette while delivering lines in a movie is much harder than you’d think.

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Filed under 1920s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Early Thirties’ Hats & Patterns

This big-brimmed hat was shown on the cover of Delineator, August 1930. Illustrated by Dynevor Rhys. It may be based on Butterick pattern 3816, shown later in this post.

The transition from 1920s to 1930s was more gradual in hats than in dresses. The cloche was still around, but tiny hats and huge hats were also featured.

Five different hat styles appeared on the same page in Delineator, August 1930.

Above, Hat B is a familiar cloche, Hat C clings very tightly to the head, Hats A and D have wide brims, and Hat E is cut away in front, with most of the brim at sides and back.

You would expect these wide brims in summer; August 1930.

By summer of 1930, the natural waist is everywhere.

Delineator cover for June 1930. Detail.

I find 1930 hats with a pleated brim very attractive:

Left, a medium-width pleated brim. August 1930.

Another pleated brim from August 1930.

Wide-brimmed hats were especially seen with afternoon dresses:

A long, formal afternoon dress is topped with a very wide brim. August 1930. You can imagine this woman is a guest at a wedding.

Another afternoon ensemble; Delineator cover, June 1930.

This socialite was photographed in an afternoon dress by Paquin and a Reboux hat with unusual brim. Delineator, August 1930. Click here for another asymmetrical Reboux hat dated 1928.

However, wide brims were also worn for sun protection with casual dresses and even pajamas:

Fashion editorial illustrations; Delineator, May 1930.

Detail from a Delineator cover, February 1931. Thanks to Lynn at Americanagefashion.com for this image! [Thong shoes!]

Butterick offered this versatile hat pattern in 1931.

Butterick pattern 3816 for hats with and without a brim. Delineator, April 1931.

The one second from left doesn’t have a brim, just a “binding.”

Butterick hat patttern 3816; back view of two versions.

This pattern is also in the collection of the Commercial Pattern Archive.

Butterick 3816 image from pattern envelope. CoPA.

The version at lower left resembles the hat featured on the August 1930 Delineator cover.

Very similar to Butterick 3816, but with added trim inside and outside the hat.

The shapes of the pattern pieces for Butterick 3816, courtesy of CoPA.

Once you create a log-in for the Commercial Pattern Archive, you have free access to this and other patterns.

McCall hat pattern 1879 from 1931. CoPA archive.

Pattern pieces for McCall 1879, a hat from 1931.

This beautiful hat from the CoPA collection dates back to 1924:

McCall pattern 1362 envelope illustration, courtesy of Commercial Pattern Archive.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to copy those flowers and add them to a purchased straw hat!

A big hat was still appropriate for summer in 1933:

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, Women in Trousers