As much as I love watching old black and white movies, I’ve always enjoyed reading vintage magazines because of their colorful advertisements.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Ivory Flakes were also recommended for woolens:
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.”
That red and blue outfit would look much more sedate in black and white:
Even ads for household appliances can be illuminating:
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:
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:
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.