Tag Archives: 1917 fashions in color

The Twenties in Color

Ad for Kellogg's Pep Cereal, Delineator, April

Ad for Kellogg’s Pep Cereal, Delineator, April 1927.

As much as I love watching old black and white movies, I’ve always enjoyed reading vintage magazines because of their colorful advertisements.

From an ad for Mazola corn oil, Delineator, June 1927.

Colorful evening dress from an ad for Mazola corn oil, Delineator, June 1927.

It’s hard not to think of the 1920’s and 1930’s as “black and white,” because they were usually photographed in black and white, but the people who lived then did not see their world that way.

A colorful world in an ad for Durkee's salad dressing. Delineator, JUne 1928.

A colorful world in an ad for Durkee’s salad dressing. Delineator, June 1928.

I first embarked on my exploration of vintage Delineator magazines when I discovered over 400 bound copies in storage at my public library. Since I am really interested in everyday fashions, I would have preferred a stack of old McCall’s Magazines, but so many old fashion magazines have been converted to black and white microfilm that I’m happy to have found any bound periodicals in color.

"How do you like your coffee?" A family eating breakfast, Delineator, May 1927. Advertisement for Borden's condensed milk.

“How do you like your coffee?” A family eating breakfast, Delineator, May 1927. Advertisement for Borden’s condensed milk.

Back in 1980, I found a bound volume of Delineator, January to June of 1925, at a library book sale. It had formerly been in the research library at Columbia Studios. I intended to sell it a few years ago, but when I really examined it I was amazed by the number of full color fashion illustrations, so I kept it. As it turns out, 1925 and 1926 were the last years when Delineator printed so many pages in full color.

This amazing shawl is not a fashion illustration, but a soap advertisement from 1927:

This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

This “Aztec” pattern painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

As times got harder, The Delineator cut its cover price, decreased its size from large format to the size of a modern magazine, and eliminated color except for full page advertisements like these. By 1933, even ads were scarce, and the magazine was mostly black and white.

But, if you were alive in the nineteen twenties, this was the world you saw.

Woman golfer in an ad for Bromoquinine laxative. Delineator, April 1928.

Woman golfer in an ad for Bromoquinine laxative. Delineator, April 1928.

Casual clothing in an ad for Camel Cigarettes. Delineator, September 1928.

Casual clothing in an ad for Camel Cigarettes. Delineator, September 1928.

This woman washes her fine fabrics in Ivory Soap Flakes, Ad from Delineator, May 1927.

This woman washes her fine fabrics in Ivory Soap Flakes. Ad from Delineator, May 1927.

Ivory Flakes were also recommended for woolens:

Wash your woolen clothing in Ivory Flakes.... An ad from Delineator, October 1928.

Wash your wool clothing in Ivory Flakes…. An ad from Delineator, October 1928. Notice her stockings, which match her suit.

The text at the left tells the story of Biltmore Industries of North Carolina, preserving the craft of hand weaving; “In order to protect the sensitive woolen fibre, we allow no cleaning substance other than Ivory to touch it.”

From an ad for Puffed Wheat cereal, August 1928.

From an ad for Puffed Wheat cereal, August 1928.

That red and blue outfit would look much more sedate in black and white:

The same puffed wheat ad in grayscale.

The same puffed wheat ad converted to  grayscale. 1928 ad.

Even ads for household appliances can be illuminating:

A cheery interior in an ad for Johnson's Paste Wax. March, 1928.

A cheerful and expensive interior in an ad for Johnson’s Paste Wax. March, 1928.

Lavish interiors in silent movies always look dark and heavy — but they were not really black and white.

This woman may have gotten a little too colorful — but it’s an ad for Valspar paint, with “before” and “after” images:

Kitchen colors in an ad for Valspar paint. October, 1928.

“She thought she had a model kitchen, but ….” Kitchen colors in an ad for Valspar paint. October, 1928.

An up-to-date kitchen, October 1928 ad for Valspar paint. Delineator.

An up-to-date kitchen, October 1928 ad for Valspar paint. Delineator. Note the pink sink.

A white kitchen transformed. Valspar paint ad, October 1928.

A white kitchen “modernized” with color. Valspar paint ad, October 1928.

Although the sink appears white in the second illustration, pink sinks were available. This bold yellow and black dress — from an ad for window shades — would be drained of its power in a 1920’s photograph:

"Restful Rooms" thanks to window shades, in an ad from March, 1928. Delineator.

“Restful Rooms” thanks to window shades, in an ad from March, 1928. Delineator.

A lovely rose colored dress in an ad for Feen-a-Mint laxative. March 1927.

A lovely rose-colored dress in an ad for Feen-a-Mint laxative. March 1927.

"Grandmother is still dancing," thanks to Feen-a-Mint. Detail of ad from Delineator, May 1927.

“Grandmother is still dancing,” thanks to Feen-a-Mint. Detail of ad from Delineator, May 1927. Grandmother is wearing a flattering, not-black (!) gown.

Grandmother's secret: Feen-a-Mint. Ad, May 1927.

Grandmother’s secret: Feen-a-Mint. Ad, May 1927.

Digression: There was a time in the 1980’s when directors of Shakespeare’s comedies thought it amusing to costume them completely in black and white and gray to evoke old movies. These black and white “silent movie”/”Fred and Ginger” productions quickly became so commonplace that they signaled “desperate director.” After sitting through one-too-many of these productions, I was delighted to discover that the first English play to be costumed entirely in black and white was A Game at Chess, by Thomas Middleton. It played at The Globe theatre in London in 1625 — long before black and white movie film was invented. It was quite a novel idea.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

A Lament for Bound Periodicals

Cover of Delineator magazine, April 1917. Color illustration by Maud Humphrey.

Cover of Delineator magazine, April 1917. Color illustration by Maud Humphrey.

I am still amazed to the discover full color fashion illustrations in magazines that are 98 years old, or even older.

Look at the unexpected notes of muted red in the embroidery on this blue dress:

Detail, Delineator cover, April 1917.

Detail, Delineator cover, April 1917.

Hem embroidery, April 1917.

Hem embroidery, April 1917.

The Past Was Not Dressed in Black and White

Most of the movies and photographs that we have for the early 20th century are in black and white. It’s hard not to think of the nineteen twenties and early thirties in shades of gray, because, in the photos we have, we can’t see that a “black” dress is actually red, or burgundy, or blue, or green; or that a pale dress is not white but peach, yellow, or aqua, etc.

This is how a page from a 1925 copy of Delineator magazine would look on black and white film or microfiche:

Delineator, April 1925, photographed in gray scale.

A page from Delineator, April 1925, photographed in gray scale.

But this is what those old Delineators really looked like;  there were several pages of full-color fashion illustrations in every issue:

A color page from Delineator, April 1925.

The same page as it actually appeared in Delineator, April 1925.

When you see it in black and white, the suit on the lower right seems to actually be black and white — but the blouse is vivid yellow. The hem of the red dress “reads” as black when you can’t see the color. The beading on the black dress is reddish, too.

Bound Periodicals Replaced with Black and White Film

There is a wealth of costume history and color information in old periodicals, but sadly, many libraries got rid of their bound periodical sections and replaced them with microfilm and microfiche about ten years before the digital revolution. Today, it’s possible to make full-color scans of old magazines (if you still have any), but the big, old, heavy, bound volumes of magazines are long gone; often black and white photos of their pages are all that libraries have.

When you can get your hands on a vintage fashion magazine, many of the illustrations look like this:

Delineator, June 1926, p. 29, photographed from a bound periodical in the library.

Delineator, June 1926, p. 29, photographed from a bound periodical in the library.

But this is what they look like when you read them on microfilm:

The way it would look on microfilm.

The same illustration converted to black and white. Would you guess that one dress has green roses on it? That the dress in the lower left is not black?

Why I Became Witness2Fashion

Originally, I thought I would write mostly about the 1950s and 1960s — because I was a “witness” to the fashions of those years. I was just becoming aware of clothing and its social impact then; I can remember exactly when I wore certain outfits, because I was young and had many milestones — first dance, first capri pants, first grown-up suit, first jobs, important interviews, etc. I can also remember which styles from the period looked stodgy and middle-aged to me at twenty, and what occasions called for hats and gloves.

McCall's pattern 7981, 1965.

McCall’s pattern 7981, 1965. Classy, but by 1965 a little “mature” for a college senior like me. The models are young, but chic women in their fifties also wore suits like this.

I handle a lot of clothing patterns, not always dated, and I expected to verify the memories they evoked by going to the library and looking through magazines from my youth: Seventeen, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Vogue, etc. I have access to both a major urban library system and a large university library. But . . . .

Information Was Lost in Translation to Black and White

. . . most of those magazines are now only available as microfilm or microfiche! They’re preserved in black and white — color fashion magazines, stripped of their colors. Knowing that half the information that used to be there is missing really takes the pleasure out of a library visit. (Neither library subscribes to Vogue online.) And black and white versions of color fashion photos do lose much of their information. If you need proof that red and green look the same when reduced to black and white :

Cover of Maureen Valdes Marsh's book 70s Fashion Fiascos. Converted to black and white, the lettering is all the same gray.

Cover of Maureen Valdes Marsh’s book 70s Fashion Fiascos. Converted to black and white, the lettering is all the same gray, and the caftan loses most of its impact.

Also, for the benefit of anyone under forty, I’ll explain that it is very uncomfortable for those of us who wear glasses with bi-focal or graded lenses to read a vertical microfilm screen. With all graded lenses, you’re expected to look down to read and straight ahead to focus on things that are far away. This works for driving — but not for reading a vertical screen one foot away! I physically can’t spend hours reading that way.

So I switched my focus — in both senses — to the remaining vintage fashion periodicals that I could find.

Butterick’s Delineator Magazine, 1900 to 1937

Delineator cover, February 1933.

Delineator cover, February 1933. The illustrator is probably Dynevor Rhys. Vintage color combinations are sometimes unexpected, like this hat. Makeup styles are also documented in color.

At the main library I discovered a huge treasure trove of really old Delineator magazines still in the form of full-size bound periodicals that had not been converted to microfilm. My library has a complete set of Butterick’s Delineator magazines from 1900 to 1937. They were not converted to microfilm, possibly because The Delineator stopped publication in 1937. The library stores them in a basement off-site, but will bring volumes to the reserve desk with one day’s notice.

I also discovered that, from the early 1920’s to 1937, Butterick put a list of each month’s new pattern numbers at the back of Delineator magazine,  which meant that those “undated” Butterick patterns could be dated — something not possible before. I made it my project to collect the numbers and publish my research online. (See Dating Butterick Patterns 1920s to 1937 by clicking here.)  The results can be found at witness2fashion.com.

Of course, I couldn’t help reading some of the magazines! At first I intended to photograph a few of the the color pages;  then I became fascinated by the ads, and the black and white pattern illustrations; I started taking photos of some of the longer articles to read later . . . .

My project kept growing. Trained to do academic research,  I wanted to compare the Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator with contemporary patterns pictured in other available bound periodicals, like Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Home Companion. My computer is getting very full of images!  I’ll share as many as I can.

“Got Anything Valuable?”  in Vintage Advertisements

I was taught to regard advertisements as a valuable source of primary research, because they often show occupational dress and stereotypical clothing far removed from high fashion. Here are a few informative ads in color:

"Customs Inspector: 'Got anything very valuable in this trunk?' The Traveler: 'I should say so . . . . A whole carton of Chesterfields." Cigarette ad, July 1928. The Delineator.

“Customs Inspector: ‘Got anything very valuable in this trunk?’ The Traveler: ‘I should say so . . . . A whole carton of Chesterfields.’ ” Cigarette ad, July 1928. The Delineator.

Her big, orange scarf with green accents transforms a quiet camel suit and matching shoes. I expect The Vintage Traveler to covet that travel blanket. Could it be a Pendleton?

Camel Cigarette Ad, July 1928.

Camel Cigarette Ad, July 1928. This ad offers a fantasy of country club life. Ads are aspirational, always implying that using the product will improve your life and possibly raise your social status.

A costumer will note the different shades of blue (not gray or black) on the gentlemen’s jackets, worn with light tan or gray slacks, and a pink pocket square.

Ford was later than other manufacturers to introduce closed cars. This is one of a series of Ford advertisements aimed at women:

April 1924 Ford Ad for Closed Car.  Delineator. A "Woman in Business."

April 1924. Ford Ad for a Closed Car. A “Woman in Business,” but not a secretary; this is her office. From Delineator.

“Her habit of measuring time in terms of dollars gives the woman in business keen insight into the true value of a Ford closed car for her personal use. . . . inexpensive operation and upkeep convince her that it is a sound investment value. And it is such a pleasant car to drive. . . .”

Ad for Elgin watches, December 1928.

Full color ad for Elgin watches, December 1928. Costumers need to know about period accessories.

If you’ve just started reading witness2fashion, it may seem like I hop around from era to era.

I do, on purpose, following whatever trail catches my eye — zippers, corsets, makeup, accessories . . . . I like them all!

I Love the Colors of the Past

There are fashions in color, as well as in styles. Some color combinations or seasonal colors may surprise us.

To end where I started, here are several color illustrations from Delineator, 1917 —  almost a century old.  Images like these are a reason I treasure (and want to share bits of) those bound periodicals that escaped conversion to microfilm.

February 1917, Delineator, page 51.

February 1917, Delineator, page 51. The dress on the right looks like blue-violet changeable taffeta.

Up close, you can see the pastel print on the black dress, and the pink tassels on the blue one. Orange chiffon dresses with black and white trim are not a common sight nowadays:

Details, February 1917, Delineator, page 51.

Details, February 1917, Delineator, page 51.

The ladies below wear cocoa, tan, brilliant blue-green or reddish brown, no longer “Spring” colors to us,  with some rather remarkable hats:

Feb. 1917, Delineator, p. 52.

Feb. 1917, Delineator, p. 52.

Up close, you can see the colors in the prints lining the white stole and used in the rust-red dress and hat:

Detail of color illustration, Feb. 1917.

Detail of color illustration, Feb. 1917. Is that a Valkyrie on the right?

These are fashions for January, 1917. It’s nice to know that the blue hat and bag are blue,  not black.

January 1917, Delineator, page 40.

January 1917, Delineator, page 40. The vivid red and blue contrast would be lost in a black and white photo.

Detail, Jan. 1917, Ddelineator. The red and blue dress has embroidered pockets.

Detail, Jan. 1917, Delineator. The red and blue outfit has embroidered pockets; so does the pumpkin-brown dress.

“Here’s Looking at You, Kid”

Delineator, Feb. 1917.

Hats from Delineator, Feb. 1917.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, bags, Dating Butterick Patterns, handbags, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Vintage Accessories