Ice skaters in an ad for Ivory Flakes laundry soap. Delineator, January 1920, page 4.
One hundred years ago, the January Delineator offered Butterick patterns, advice for the working girl (and her mother), sketches of Paris couture, and all kinds of advertisements. Enter the time capsule:
French couture from Doucet and Paquin. January 1920.
Butterick sewing patterns inspired by French designer styles.
Butterick sewing patterns, January 1920.
These are not what we usually think of when we hear “Twenties’ style,” but the decade was just getting started. Page three began an essay on the dangers awaiting naive young women who went out to work in offices….
“A Warning for Business Women…”
The “young, ignorant girl” applies for a job….
Her boss tells her that “he would go mad unless he could find a young girl who could understand him and care for him….”
Here, he offers her alcohol….****
And then, he escorts her home….
Her mother needs to warn her…. (Author: Josephine Stricker)
It was 100 years ago, but all of this sounds painfully familiar in the 21st century. At least we now acknowledge that saying ‘no” isn’t always enough.
If you had to work as a housemaid, the difficulties might be considerable. This little article about the life of a housemaid in England shows that even Delineator was shocked by their working conditions:
Delineator was aimed at middle and (aspiring) upper class women, but the plight of British housemaids was shocking.
Back to fashion: These Butterick patterns for misses (age 14 to 19, in most cases) show a hint of what women wore in the later 1920s:
A selection of Butterick patterns for misses in their teens. The schoolgirl’s outfit at right shows the straight, low-waisted trend of the future.
Dresses for grown women also offered some styles without exaggerated hips:
Daytime styles for women from Butterick, January 1920.
The bare arms of evening dresses, even for girls in their teens, surprised me. For more “very bare” gowns from 1920, click here.
For young men returning from WW I, these uncorseted young women in bare-armed dresses must have been a pleasant surprise.
What did women do about underarm hair?
Ad for DeMiracle hair remover, January 1920.
A prized gift in 1920 was a “Spanish comb,” often made from celluloid, “the first synthetic plastic material.“ In this ad, a celebrity endorsing fingernail powder (yes, nails were buffed to a shine by most women) wears a Spanish comb:
Actress Kitty Gordon wears a Spanish comb in her hair while endorsing Graff’s Hyglo powder nail polish.
More Spanish combs. These are from 1922.
You could order your camisoles, nightgowns, bloomers, and combinations from Dove and other companies.
Ad for Dove Undergarments, January 1920.
WW I had made knitting more popular than ever; this is an ad for Fleischer yarns:
Knit yourself this aqua sweater with Fleischer Yarns.
The obsession with boyish figures has not yet appeared.
You could wash your woolens and fine lingerie with Ivory Soap Flakes.
Well into the Twenties, women shaved their own soap flakes from bar soap, so this was a modern convenience product.
Also convenient: Rubber shoe covers.
Later in the 1920s, the B.F.Goodrich rubber company introduced a winter shoe cover with a slide fastener closing, giving us the word “Zipper.”
Mothers could find ads for maternity corsets in 1920:
The H & W maternity corset ad, January 1920.
And safety pins had been around for over a century:
Changing diapers was easier after the rust-proof safety pin became widely available. January 1920 ad.
It was appropriate that a magazine designed to sell sewing patterns should have ads for sewing machines.
The Davis sewing machine was portable and electric.
The Davis portable electric sewing machine was operated by a foot pedal. [I made clothes on a (non-electric) treadle sewing machine in the 1960s. Wish I still had one, even though it took up a lot of room.]
This ad should hold a special interest for all us who love Daphne DuMaurier’s novel Rebecca.
In a scene often described as the most un-romantic marriage proposal
ever, Maxim de Winter includes the information that “I prefer Eno’s.”
Ad for Eno’s Fruit Salts, a laxative. January 1920.
(Let’s hope it wasn’t the Washington Monument in this ad that attracted his attention.)
Eno’s Fruit Salts ad, January 1920.
To see the marriage proposal scene from the excellent (and faithful) 1979 TV adaptation of Rebecca, starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett, click here.
**** I am irresistibly reminded of the limerick about “the young lady of Kent/ who said that she knew what it meant/ when men asked her to dine/ over cocktails and wine….” Perhaps her mother had explained it to her after reading the article in Delineator.