Tag Archives: 1920s advertising

Winter Underwear, 1880s to 1920s

Detail from and ad for Munsingwear knit undergarments, Delineator,  September, 1927.

Frau Buttonbox asked what women wore under those 1920’s dresses in the winter — and how they protected their dresses from sweat and body oils. I have some ads to share!

Just for vocabulary, in the U.S., a one piece knit suit like this was called a “union suit” (proper name) or “long johns” (common name.)

This wool union suit was recommended by dress-reformer Annie Jenness-Miller in 1888.

In 1880’s England, Dr. Jaeger’s theory that wearing wool next to the skin (instead of plant fibers like linen or cotton) was good for health was championed by dress reformers and George Bernard Shaw.

My uncle Bert (like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers”) came from a generation (b. 1899) that believed that a hot bath would “open your pores” to admit disease, so he wore long johns from September to March. My stepmother insisted that he wash them (and himself) from time to time if he wanted to eat dinner with us. Whew!

Women’s union suit from Sears catalog, Fall 1918.
By 1916, skirts were getting shorter, but lace-up boots would have hidden the legs of this underwear. Notice the short sleeves.

Ladies’ shoes from Sears catalog, 1918.

Wool, needed for army uniforms, was hard to get in the U.S. in 1917-1918. Note the overlapping “open” back.

The problem with fashionable clothing is that it is usually the opposite of practical clothing — so women who want to be fashionable usually have to sacrifice some comfort — and common sense.

By the mid-1920s, skirts were reaching the knee, and bare arms were expected with evening dresses and dinner dresses. Nevertheless, many dining rooms (even in mansions) were unheated.

Ad for Forest Mills long underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The union suit on the left could be worn under day dresses. These models look like teens.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/1925-oct-p-27-500-dpi-whole-color-page.jpg

Winter clothes for teens and small women, October 1925. Delineator.

Under evening dress, your torso could be warm, but your arms had to be bare.

Combed cotton knit underwear from Sears, 1927 catalog. You could wear a silk or rayon slip over these, under your dress.

Butterick 5755, 5714, 5713, Delineator, January 1925, page 29.

Evening dresses for teens, January 1925.

“It s no longer necessary to shiver through the long winter months in order to be stylishly dressed.”

“Keep your body warm.” Ad for Forest Mills knit underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The ad doesn’t state fiber content, but knits made for a smooth, “no bumps” fit.

“Underwear that will not only absorb perspiration, but will keep your body from being chilled.”

The Forest Mills underwear shown in the photograph is not much different in style from silk underwear (slips, camisole and bloomers) sold by Sears, but knit underwear fit more smoothly.

Silk underwear from Sears catalog, Fall 1927. Silk or rayon bloomers came to just above the knee.

Carter’s, a company that made rayon knit underwear, ran a whole series of ads that showed couture fashions next to pictures of models (in the same poses) wearing Carter’s underwear. I don’t now how warm it was, but it did fit very closely.

Detail of an ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear, Delineator, November 1926. Premet and Poiret were famous Paris Couturiers. That’s a Poiret model above.

Detail of 1927 ad for Carter’s underwear. The model wears Poiret; at right she poses in her Carter’s underwear.

“Poiret’s black and gold gown” and silk cape, pictured in an ad for Carter’s underwear, November 1927. Poiret was very influential in the 1910’s, but falling out of favor by the late 1920’s.

Detail from an ad for Carter’s knit underwear, November 1927. Smooth, one-piece fit.

Right, back view of a one-piece union suit; left, a camisole “vest” and bloomers. Carter’s rayon knit undergarments, ad from 1926.

Premet’s “Vampire” dress, with Carter’s combination underwear to go under it. April, 1928. That dress would have permitted a much warmer undergarment.

The gold and white brocade hostess gown is by Drecoll; the underwear is Carter’s “vest and bloomer” of rayon knit. Ad from May 1927. The House of Worth also participated in this ad campaign.

As to keeping clothes free of perspiration stains and odor, deodorants were available (and ruined the armpits of many a vintage garment….) A solution still used in theatrical costumes, and by those allergic to certain chemicals, is the dress shield.

1910 ad for Kleinert’s dress shields. Delineator.

Ad for OMO dress shields, a rival to Kleinert’s. March 1910, Delineator.

Dress shields were usually safety pinned or basted into place in the armholes of a dress or jacket.

1920 Kleinert’s dress shield ad. You can see that this shield is curved at the top to follow the shape of the bottom of the armhole; it folds over the underarm seam, extending into the dress and into the sleeve.

Costumers sew in snaps so the shields can be changed and washed.  Some women preferred to wear a bra or guimpe-like washable garment which included the shields.

Top of a Kleinert’s dress shield ad, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

The Kleinert’s website (the company is still in business) explains:

“Before The Advent Of Deodorants & Antiperspirants The Dress Shield Was The Way To Protect Your Garments From Sweat & Odor. In 1869 Kleinert’s Invented the Dress & Garment Shield Category Which Is Still In Use Today Protecting Our Clothes & Saving Us From Embarrassing Situations Due To Sweat Stains & Odors. Trust Kleinert’s Quality & History To Keep You Dry Throughout The Day. Choose Below From Our Selection Of Fine Dress Shields.” Kleinerts.com

The shields come in different shapes for differently cut armholes. Now you can get disposable ones — and in a costume emergency I have cut self-adhesive pantiliners to stick in the underarms of a costume.

Bottom of Kleinert’s dress shield ad from March 1937, WHC.

I’ve mentioned this before: actors sweat, and stage actors have to wear their costume(s) for eight performances per week. It’s not good for a wool suit to be dry-cleaned every week; underwear protects the costume, but a changeable shield under each arm keeps the suit from getting wet at all. Undershirts and shirts, etc., are laundered daily — in fact, Equity actors have duplicates supplied so they don’t ever have to put on a shirt that is still damp from the matinee performance. (Ditto for all other items that touch the skin.)

Full page, full-color Kleinert’s ad, March 1924. Delineator.

Unsexy as a dress shield may be, it’s preferable to ruining a $2000 dress or destroying it by too-frequent dry cleaning. Bonus: you can raise your arms and never show a sweat ring.

Camisole and bloomers from Munsingwear ad, September 1927, Delineator.

P.S. [Edited 1/6/2019] Liza D at BVD sent a photo of the Kleinert’s dress shields she found in a vintage garment (Thanks, Liza!) :

Liza D found these used dress shields in a vintage garment. Those ugly stains would have been on the blouse if the woman who wore it hadn’t used these in the underarms. Click here for Liza’s post about it.

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Late Victorian fashions, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Not What We Think of When We Say “Twenties’ Fashions:” 1920

A couture evening dress by Parisian designer Georgette, illustrated in Delineator, February 1920, p. 111.

It would be convenient if fashions changed only when a new decade began — boring, but convenient when assigning dates to fashion history. But that’s not how it worked.
When invited to a “twenties’ ” costume party, not many women would show up dressed like this:

Left, Butterick waist 2056 with skirt 2046; right, dress 2100. Delineator, January 1920, p. 76.

Butterick 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Front views, Delineator, p. 113.

Butterick dresses 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Alternate views. From the rear, 2366 really exaggerates hip width.

Of course, twentieth century fashion was always in transition; these dresses from 1920 are still showing the influence of the big-hipped styles of the 1914-1918 war era.

Two outfits from April 1917. Left, a “tonneau” or barrel skirt (Butterick skirt 9064); right, a skirt with protruding pockets rather like 1920 dress No. 2336, above.

The odd skirt on this 1920 dress echoes a style detail carried over from 1917. Butterick 2272, April 1920.

Butterick 8929, from February 1917. The skirt hangs from widely spaced cartridge pleats, also called “French gathering.”

A dress on the cover of Delineator magazine, April, 1920. Cartridge pleats again — but these are near the natural waist. They seem to be secured with buttons.

This rear view, from an advertisement for satin, is jaw-dropping:

Illustration from an ad for satin fabrics; Delineator, April 1920. It suggests the (attempted) return of the bustle.

Well… that is not the direction that 1920’s fashion eventually took!

To be honest,  I’ve been deliberately showing dresses that don’t fit our preconception of “the Twenties.” In fact, we can see the seeds of later nineteen twenties’ style in both of these dresses:

Gradual change in fashion: the waist is getting lower in 1920; the bodice extends to the hip; and the familiar late Twenties’ dropped waist is seen in the low attachment of both skirts.

This is transitional fashion: there is a dropped waist (where the skirts are attached) and a more or less natural waist, where the dress is belted in.

Often, fashions leaning toward the past and fashions prefiguring the future were shown side by side.

Two patterns illustrated on page 152, Delineator, April 1920. Left, Butterick 2278 has a long bodice and looks more “twenties”; right, 2239 has the wide-hipped, peg top look of the previous decade.

[Thanks to Sophia for explaining that “pegged-top” “refers to the child’s spinning toy ‘pegtop’ which is narrower at the bottom than the top like the skirts.”]

Butterick patterns 2060 and 2097, Delineator, January 1920.

If a woman got rid of the belt and shortened No. 2060, she could have worn it for several years in the Twenties:

These dresses from 1925 are not too different from 1920’s No. 2060. One has a similar bodice; one has a similar skirt.

The truth is that twentieth century fashion usually changed incrementally [which is why the rapid change from 1929 to 1930 is so extraordinary.]

Three Butterick patterns from February 1920. One of them looks more “Twenties” than the others.

All the following dresses are from early 1920:

Two patterns from Spring of 1920.

Butterick patterns from June, 1920. Waist 2383, skirt 2336, and dress 2371.

The long, lean look was also worn:

Butterick 2351 from May 1920. Delineator, p. 152.

But it’s probably the sporty, youthful quality of this summer dress that gives me that “Twenties'” feeling.

Butterick dress 2410 from Delineator, June 1920.

I have to remind myself that all these 1920 dresses would have been seen at the same time — and probably for several years.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

A Subtle Change in Fashion, 1920s to 1930s

Short sleeves on a very dressy dress; Delineator, February 1930. Butterick pattern 3032, for [Misses age] 14 to 20.

I’m not claiming that short sleeves were never seen in 1920’s clothing, but the short set-in sleeve — mid-bicep length — was usually associated with house dresses and work uniforms in the Twenties. [EDIT 12/27/18:  I goofed! I was mislead by all the references to the “New” short sleeves in 1930. I’ve just noticed that many “alternate views” at the back of a 1926 Delineator show a short sleeve option on dresses that were illustrated with long sleeves in larger pictures…. So they were available if women wanted them.]

A short sleeved-house dress worn while washing dishes in February 1930. Super Suds soap advertisement.

The woman on the left in this picture wears a work uniform with short, set-in sleeves.

Left. a servant or waitress uniform, June 1929. Ad from Delineator.

The short-sleeved work dress below probably has kimono sleeves — cut in one with the top of the dress and finished with bias tape, like the neckline. This was a fast, cheap way to make a dress by eliminating facings and separate sleeves.

Woman ironing with a mangle while wearing a short-sleeved house dress. Ad, June 1929. Delineator.

Short kimono sleeves — that is, sleeeves not cut separately from the dress bodice — were very common, and contributed to the ease of making the typical twenties’ dress.

Two casual dresses from April, 1929. Butterick 2573, left, and 2541, right.

The alternate views are interesting: even in its long-sleeved version, 2573 has kimono sleeves at the shoulder. 2541, on the other hand, has short, set-in sleeves.

Alternate views of 2573 and 2541. April 1929. Waists are still low, and lengths are still short.

Full length views of Butterick 2573 and 2541. Delineator, April 1929.

2573 is for wear in the “country,” for sports like tennis [!], or “at home in the morning.” [The phrase “porch dress” was sometimes used instead of “house dress.” Either way, the dress stayed at home.]

Perhaps 2541 has set-in sleeves because it was available in very large sizes — up to 52 inch bust.

However, older and larger women were also offered these kimono sleeved dresses in early 1930:

Both Butterick 3028 and 3067 from February 1930 have kimono sleeves, but they reflect the rising waistlines of 1929-1930. 32″ to 44″ bust was the normal Butterick size range, but these models are not youthful.

[Period detail: Both of those dresses have bias tape bindings or accents. The scallop button closing was very popular.]

These dresses from June 1929, illustrated side by side, show a long (or short) close-fitting sleeve (left, No. 2648) or a kimono sleeve (right, No.  2668. )

Two typical dresses from the first half of 1929. Butterick 2648 (in sizes up to 48) has set-in sleeves. 2668 has kimono sleeves “for sun-browned arms”. Delineator, June 1929. These short dresses with low waistlines were on the verge of extinction in summer, 1929.

Close-fitting wrist-length sleeves, cut and sewn separately from the bodice, were usual for street clothes in the Twenties.
But I notice that the short sleeve, as we know it, was increasingly used on “dressy” dresses in 1929 and 1930.

The caption for this page was “Mature Grace.” The sheer dress on the left  (Butterick 3168) has the new, short sleeves — and it is suggested for older women in the normal size range. April, 1930. The name “one-quarter sleeve” is useful.

Two Butterick dresses from February 1930. I showed a detail of the one on the left at the top of this post — but I think it deserves a full-length view, too. [The Twenties are over.]

Many of the new, shorter sleeves were decorated with a non-functional tie or bow.

Butterick 3058 from February 1930 has short sleeves trimmed with decorative bows.

Right, another bow-trimmed short sleeve, from March 1930. This is definitely not a house dress. Butterick patterns from Delineator.

Left, a dress from Saks; right, Butterick blouse pattern 3282. Delineator, June 1930. Notice how long the dress is; both dress and blouse have natural waistlines. Bows on short sleeves were not just a Butterick pattern idea.

However, not all short sleeves from 1930 are set-in; the easier-to-sew kimono sleeve sometimes got longer:

All four of these dresses from June 1930 have the new short sleeve look, but, incredibly, they all have kimono sleeves — described as the key to an “easy to make” dress.

(Sewing tip: In my experience, a close-fitting, longish kimono sleeve is very likely to tear under the arm unless you add a gusset; if you don’t, it’s a good idea to use a stretchable stitch — like a narrow zig-zag — on the curved part of the underarm seam. Fabric cut in a curve will stretch — but only if the seam can stretch, too. An oval gusset is safer.)

All these 1930 dresses have set-in sleeves:

Dresses with short, set-in sleeves. Butterick patterns in Delineator, July 1930.

Bows on the sleeves were not obligatory.

Butterick patterns for young women, July 1930. Delineator.

But they are very “summer of 1930”!

A princess line dress with short sleeves trimmed with decorative bows. Butterick 3349 from August 1930.

All Butterick patterns pictured are from Delineator magazines.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Ladies’ Pajamas from 1920

These pajamas were featured in an ad for Rit Dyes. Delineator, April 1920.

I found several images of women’s pajamas (or pyjamas) in this April issue of Delineator. Only one was a Butterick pattern; the others appeared in advertisements. They all had this in common:

These pajamas from 1920 are gathered at the ankle.

Constriction at the ankle must have been a “thing” that year. (It wasn’t new….)

Butterick patterns for April 1920 include the “pajamas or lounging robe,” center, No. 2055.

This pajama pattern was sized for misses and for women up to 44 inch bust measure — so it was not aimed at teens and college girls only.

One-piece pajamas, also sleeveless, were shown in an ad for Dove Undergarments and Lingerie.

An empire waist nightgown or pajama could be purchased from the Dove lingerie company. Delineator, April 1920.

A one-piece pajama, April 1920. Dove ad.

Another stylish pajama can be seen in the upper right corner of this fabric ad:

These college girls are wearing print kimonos and lounging pajamas in an ad for Serpentine Crepe. Delineator, April 1920. The wall is decorated with pennants from East Coast universities, including Smith, Wellesley, and Radclifffe — women’s colleges.

Serpentine Crepe was made by Pacific Mills, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. That’s their circular logo on the wall, below.

Pajamas, detail of ad for Serpentine Crepe, 1920. I do like the pattern of flying birds.

Gathering around the ankles was not new; I’ve seen it in 1917…

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

… and in new patterns issued as late as 1925 and 1926.

Lingerie for Christmas, Delineator magazine, December 1925. Pajama pattern 6031 is lacy and ruffled, and gathered at the ankle.

Butterick pajama 6947 is scalloped, with gathered ankles trimmed in Valenciennes lace. Delineator, July 1926.

The sleeveless, V-necked 1926 top is similar to the 1920 pajama pattern No. 2055.

In 1920, there was considerable variety in the pajama tops.

The high-waisted top of this one-piece pajama has a square neckline and short kimono sleeves.

The long top of these lounging pajamas is rather like the tunic dresses of the nineteen-teens. The bands of trim look like fagoting or insertion lace.

This sleeveless pajama top, Butterick 2055, looks cool and summer-y. [Notice the very different hairstyles on these women!]

But the alternate view of 2055 shows a version with sleeves and collar variations — and pajama bottoms that hang straight and loose at the ankle.

Alternate views of Butterick “pajama or lounging robe” No. 2055. Delineator, April, 1920.

It’s possible to imagine this sailor-collared pajama venturing out onto the beach — eventually.

Butterick 5948, pajamas from April of 1925, can be worn as beach pajamas. Delineator.

When did women start wearing pajamas? The Vintage Traveler wrote about that question here. Sweet dreams, everyone!

 

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Filed under 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Hairstyles, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Women in Trousers

Designer Watches from the Twenties

From an ad for Elgin watches designed by leading French couturiers.  Ad from Delineator, June 1928.

A very moderne wrist watch for ladies, designed by Premet for Elgin. From an ad dated June 1928.

You can see a copy of the Premet “Garconne” dress here. There is an excellent article about the history of Premet, by Randy Bigham, at Past Fashion.

Jenny was another very successful French designer of the 1920s. From an ad for Elgin Watches, June 1928. “The case is fashioned with jade, black, or ruby enamel.”

Here, from an older post, you can see the Premet, Jenny, and Agnes watches in color.

Randy Bigham has also written about Jenny (look for “Chanel’s Rival: The roaring ’20s designer you’ve never heard of”) at Past Fashion.

An Elgin watch designed by Madame Agnes, better known for her chic hats. Ad from June 1928.

Although Madame Agnes is now best remembered as a designer of hats, Mme Agnes Havet first worked for Doucet as a dress designer, and later her own couture house joined the house of Drecoll as “Agnes-Drecoll.”

I love the Art Deco looks of these watches, and would gladly wear any of them! They sold for $35, in an era when that was a week’s wages for a man. Notice that the watch band shown is usually a simple band of black grosgrain ribbon with a buckle clasp.

Want to Read More About Art Deco Designer Watches?

A few years ago I posted two other articles about these early, mass market designer watches, a line Elgin called “Parisienne.” Additional famous couturiers were featured. In 1929, some Parisienne watches were diamond-studded and cost $75.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/1929-june-top-elgin-diamond-watches-callot-soeurs.jpg

From an ad for Elgin’s Parisienne watches, Delineator, June 1929. Click here to read the entire post that first appeared in 2015.

This ad, from December 1928, showed the biggest selection of Elgin watches for men and women, and gave their varied prices.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/1928-dec-elgin-watches-ad-top-96dpi.jpg

From an ad for Elgin Parisienne watches that ran in Delineator, December 1928. Click here to read the entire post written in December, 2013.

If you are lucky, you may find one of these find these vintage watches from such designers as Callot Soeurs, LelongLanvin,  Molyneux, louiseboulanger, Jenny, Agnes  and Premet.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, watches

Vintage Kodak Ads and Vintage Photos

Family photo:  Isabel Porter and Dot Barton in car, dated 1919. Isabel is wearing an embroidered dress, but Dot is wearing hiking clothes:  knickers and a middy shirt.

Imagine how dreary costume history in the 20th century would be without photographs — not just posed studio photographs, but the millions of pictures taken of and by ordinary people. Small, simple to operate, “pocket” cameras really did give us a window into the past.

Four teenaged girls from Redwood City, California, pose in a back yard on May 5, 1918. From left, Edith Nicholls, Ruth Cross, Dot and Helen Barton. Edith and Ruth are wearing fashionable dresses; Dot wears her school uniform and Helen adds a sleeveless sweater to hers.

I have written before about the importance of informal snapshots during  World War I, made possible by the development of small, light-weight, portable “pocket” cameras. Click here for that post.

“Snap-shots from Home” enhance morale for soldiers in World War I. Kodak ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917, p. 91.

Soldiers also took photos with the “vest pocket” Kodak and mailed them to the their families and friends.

Kodak was also developing innovative cameras for use at home. This 1917 advertisement is for the Kodak Autographic camera, which allowed you to record when and of whom the picture was taken on the negative: a 1917 time stamp!

Ad for the “Autographic Kodak”, from Delineator magazine, July 1917.

“And to make an authentic, permanent record, on the negative, is a simple and almost instantaneous process with an Autographic Kodak.” 1917.

This ad appeared seven years later, but the “family” focus is the same.

Ad for the Autographic Kodak from Delineator, May 1924.

The Autographic Kodak was still being advertised in 1924, but, sadly, no one in my family seems to have had one — so they wrote on the pictures, sometimes long after they were developed, and not always accurately.

The folks in this group photo are named in ink on the margin of the picture.

Isabel and Dot visit an Aviation School, dated 1919.

Dot in the cockpit and Isabel beside the plane, dated 1920. Was this picture really taken in a different year? Did they take flying lessons? Some women did — quite successfully.

By 1927 you could take your own moving pictures:

Home movies taken with a Cine-Kodak, from an ad in Delineator, March 1927.

From an ad for the Cine-Kodak, Delineator, May 1927. The cost of a camera, plus a “Kodascope C  for projecting,” and a projection screen, was $140. “The price of Cine-Kodak film, amateur standard (16 mm.), in the yellow box, includes finishing.”

My Uncle Mel had a movie camera in the late 1940s, and, as the only toddler in the family, I was filmed so often that when my parents took me to a movie theater for the first time, I watched for several minutes and then began shouting, “Where’s Me? Where’s Me?”

My Uncle Mel as a teenager, with Ruth Cross. Ruth wears a pinafore. WW I era.

How I wish I could watch those family movies today — to see my parents and grandma and aunts and uncles in motion, wearing their ordinary clothes, doing ordinary things….

Family and friends at a party in the early 1930s. I recognize many of these faces, although I was born many years later. The photo is about this small, since it was a contact print.

The McLeods pose for a snapshot. The mother is dressed very differently from her daughters. 1920s.

Three men pose in La Honda, CA, in the 1920s. Yes, people did wear those golf outfits, [matching sweater and socks!] even when not playing golf. 1920s.

In the late 1920’s, pocket cameras were so common that Kodak advertised them in different colors, to match your outfits. Obviously, women were taking a lot of the pictures that we treasure today.

Ad for Vanity Kodaks in colors to match your outfit. Delineator, June 1928.

Top of ad for Vanity Kodaks. 1928.

“Vanity Kodaks come in five lovely colors [“Redbreast, Bluebird, Cockatoo,  Seagull and Jenny Wren”] to harmonize with one’s costume.” 1928 ad.

My Aunt Dot took to photography early. You can see her shadow as she takes this photograph of young Azalia Dellamaggiore in front of the Redwood City courthouse in 1918.

Here Dot and a soldier are photographed by someone else, but Dot has her camera in her hand.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, World War I

Whoopee Booties, 1929

Whoopee Booties, Sears catalog, Fall 1929, p. 63. They came in red with gray or black with red trim.

Last week The Vintage Traveler reminded me that shoe illustrations, being fashion illustrations, are not always truthful. As a vintage buyer and dealer, she observed that real 1920’s shoes generally do not have super-high heels. That sent me to the ever-useful Sears Roebuck catalogs at Ancestry.com. And that is where I was distracted by these “Whoopee Booties” from 1929.

Sears Whoopee Booties, 1929. “Modern as youth itself!” Do they lace all the way up, or do they “flap?” Rain boots from 1928 looked like this.

And before discussing heel height, I want to recommend one of the best articles on “Flappers” that I’ve ever seen; the Silent Film site Silent-ology devoted the month of March 2018 to Flappers and wrote this brilliant essay to set the theme. Click here for The History (and Mythology) of 1920s Flapper Culture.

And Now, Back to Heel Heights from 1929

Sears did offer one pair of 4 inch heels:

Four inch heels from Sears’ Fall catalog 1929, page 66. “Patent leather d’Orsay pump, made on the Follies last, featuring the new 4-inch covered spike heel and short vamp which make the foot look smaller.”

Women from the twenties (like my mother and my aunt) were proud of having small feet (or, more precisely, of wearing small shoe sizes, which is not quite the same thing….) It’s interesting that in 1929  “smaller feet,” not “longer legs,” was the selling point for higher heels.

But, as The Vintage Traveler predicted, in most of these ads showing high heels, the heel height — even when described as “spike heels” — is two and a half inches.

Two and a half inch “spike heels.” Sears catalog, Fall 1929, page 67.

Purple heels from Sears, Fall catalog , 1929, page 63. Available in Antique Purple kid or black patent leather; as illustrated, the heels look  high, but they are “2 1/2 inch covered spike heels.”

These pumps were available in black satin (for evening) or black patent leather. They have 2 1/2 inch “spike heels.” Notice the range of sizes.

The Savoy style was “an actual copy of a high priced model” — and these heels were only 2 inches high.

Ditto for The Parisian:

The Parisian shoe from Sears. Fall of 1929, p, 66.  These are actually 2 inch heels.

The heels of these green shoes are just 1 3/4 inches high, but they don’t aspire to be “spike” heels. Sears, Fall of 1929, p. 64.

These surprisingly asymmetrical shoes have a delicate braided T strap which seems to un-braid on to the toe of the shoe. The 1928 article in Delineator remarked on the unusual asymmetrical style of a shoe by Perugia.  These chic shoes also have a modest 2 1/2 inch spike heel.

And, to return to those youthful Whoopee Booties, they have a 1 and 3/4 inch “military” heel.

Whoopee Booties from Sears, 1929. They have 1 3/4 inch heels.

If you have any doubt what “whoopee” is …. There was a hit song about it in 1928:
“Another bride,
Another groom,
Another sunny honeymoon,
Another season,
Another reason
For making whoopee.”
“The chorus sings, “Here comes the bride.”
Another victim is by her side.
He’s lost his reason cause it’s the season
For making whoopee.”
“Another year or maybe less
What’s this I hear?
Well, can’t you guess?
She feels neglected so he’s suspected
Of making whoopee.”

Detail: ad from Delineator, May 1929.

“She sits alone most every night.
He doesn’t phone or even write.
He says he’s busy.
But she says, “Is he?”
He’s making whoopee.”

The song ends in the divorce court, where the judge says,

“You better keep her.
You’ll find it’s cheaper
Than making whoopee.”

You can see Eddie Cantor perform his 1928 stage hit song, “Makin’ Whoopee” in this movie clip from the 1930 color (!) film musical Whoopee!

Co-produced by Florenz Ziegfeld (Jr.) and Samuel Goldwyn, this film is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing a Ziegfeld show — with musical numbers staged by Busby Berkeley. Set “out west,” the film quality is poor, the plot is silly, but the costumes are fabulous — if you can stand dozens of half-dressed women of European ancestry wearing enormous feather headdresses, and Eddie Cantor wearing blackface….(truly nauseating.) If you’re designing a revival of Will Rogers Follies, it’s a must-watch bit of research. Besides, tap-dancing cowboys!

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