Tag Archives: 1920s fashions

Great Aunt Cora: From Victorian to 1930s

Left, my Great Aunt Alice; right, her older sister, Cora. Early 1900s. The unexpected bow in Cora’s hair may be an early indication of her un-stodgy fashion sense.

As I try to sort family photos, I am also trying to sort out their stories. At dinner last night, my husband gave me a strange look and said, “It’s hard to realize that you knew people born in 1875.” Well, I only knew them insofar as a child can know an adult, but I have vivid memories of my Aunt Alice in her seventies, still witty and clever. I wish I had known her older sisters, Cora and Laura.

Cora was the eldest, born in 1867.

Cora Barton as a child. She was born in California in 1867, the eldest child of five.

When you think of the rapid change of Euro-American fashions in the 20th century (and before) it is extraordinary how often women had to adapt to new ideas — in clothing, and in concepts of modesty and propriety.

Cora and Laura came into their teens in the era of outrageous 1880’s bustles. As the daughters of a Methodist Episcopal minister, they didn’t have a big budget, and it must have been important to look “respectable.” Here, they are reclining informally with a friend at a photographer’s studio:

Cora and Laura Barton with their friend Alice Mason. Probably late 1880s.

In 1920, she sent this old portrait photo of herself to her niece Dorothy, nicknamed “Sister” or “Sis” because she came along after two brothers. The back says, “To Sister, from Aunt Cora, July 1, 1920,” but the hair style is much earlier.

Cora as a young woman; there is a pretty jeweled comb or hairpin in her bun. Her strong profile is one way I can distinguish her from her sister Laura, but it’s not always easy.

At the time of her marriage, the local newspaper reported that she had “had charge of the city library” for a number of  years. (Did they confuse her with her sister Laura, or did one replace the other as librarian?)

Cora — who became Mrs. William McGarvey in 1896 — sitting on a porch hammock; probably early 1900’s.

She is wearing a shirtwaist with a collar that could accommodate a mannish, detachable stiff collar. They often appear on turn-of-the-century American women drawn by Charles Dana Gibson.

And she looks very sad.

Cora Barton McGarvey in a shirtwaist blouse. I don’t have the expertise to date it precisely. This is one of the few pictures in which she looks like the eldest of the three sisters.

I can’t say that her marriage was an unhappy one, but, as you will see, widowhood seemed to suit her. In the 1900 census, her two adult sisters were living at the same address as the McGarveys. William McGarvey, accountant, was listed as head of household, Cora as wife, and her sisters Laura and Alice as “servants.” There was one male “servant” or farmworker, and no mention of children. Cora’s husband died in 1918.

In the 1920 census, Cora was a widow, Laura was the city librarian, and Alice was a clerk at the county courthouse. Laura was listed as head of household, and her sisters were listed her as “partners.”

At 54, Cora, top left, looks quite fresh and modern in her checked dress in this photo from 1921. Her youngest sister, Alice, is holding their baby nephew. Do Cora and Laura (in sweater) have cropped hair? It’s more likely that they have just cut bangs.

From this point on, Cora wears glasses — and not “old lady” wire-rimmed glasses — “modern-in-the-twenties” horn rims.

Cora eating watermelon on a road-trip vacation, 1920s.

Here’s another photo from the same vacation:

My mother, center, flanked by, on the left, her Aunt Alice (born in 1875) and right, her Aunt Cora, (born in 1867) climbing a hillside on their trip to Catalina Island, 1920’s. They don’t look at all like the stereotyped older women in 1920’s advertising or movies — no long skirts, no dark dresses, no lace collars. (However, their skirts are not as short as their 20-something niece’s.)

A reminder of the drastic changes in fashion they experienced —

Here are Cora and Alice as they looked in their thirties:

The Barton sisters wearing the “pouter pigeon” look of the S-Bend era, probably before 1910.

And here they are in their fifties:

Left, Alice (b. 1875;) center, their sister-in-law, also born in 1875; and right, Cora, born in 1867. These “late Victorian” women have all adopted short skirts and bobbed hair during the 1920’s.

And they kept right on wearing up-to-date clothing. Here, they have even adopted sleeveless dresses — these women who grew up wearing high collars, long sleeves, and floor length skirts.

Cora, an unidentified man, and Alice, in the 1930’s.

They looked like they were having a good time on that vacation with my mother….

Cora, on the left, enjoying watermelon from a roadside stand, 1920’s. Cora almost seems to be flirting with the camera. My mother is on the right.

I liked Cora’s playful pose so much that I tried to paint her:

“Watermelon Stop No. 2”

I wish I’d known her.

Cora, a sister-in-law, Laura, and Alice dressed as hoboes; note the little brown jug in Cora’s hand. Probably before 1910.

P.S. If the story of fashion for older women interests you, be sure to visit the American Age Fashion blog.





Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Hairstyles, Late Victorian fashions, vintage photographs

Fun in the Snow, 1921

A group of office workers from the Southern Pacific Railroad headquarters in San Francisco on a weekend trip to the snow; taken in Truckee, California, February, 1921. That’s the base of the Donner Party monument behind them.

I’ve spent many hours of the past two weeks scanning and sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge accumulation of photographs. It’s taking even longer than I expected because, thanks to modern computer technology, I can now see details that would only have been visible with a magnifying glass a few years ago. I end up trying to revive faded or underexposed prints that were tiny to begin with, and saving faces and clothing details. Also, I am trying to put names to as many faces as possible. So, while I am time-traveling through thousands of images, I will share a few “postcards from a time-traveler.”

Dot Barton (my Aunt Dorothy,) with Jen, Spurr, and Dot Robinson at Truckee, 1921.

Dot B. is wearing a very hairy sweater, and she’s borrowed a huge Tam-o-Shanter from her friend Dottie Biggs.

Dottie Biggs and Dorothy Barton in Truckee, 1921.

It was only by enlarging this section of the photo that I saw the shawl and huge tam on the woman standing behind them.

The woman in the middle is Dottie Biggs, wearing a long, thick sweater. 1921.

Dot Barton and Lloyd Muller in 1921. She is wearing the full-legged knickers that many women wore for sports. Her sweater is not too different from those of 1917. He’s wearing his cloth cap turned backwards…. like a baseball cap in the nineties.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson in 1922.

My Aunt Dorothy, nicknamed Dot, worked in an office with Dot Robertson, Dot Robinson, and Dottie Biggs. It must have been a relief when Adeline and Gladys were hired!

For those who live where snow is a normal event, I should explain that it only snows in San Francisco a couple of times per century.  Some people “go to the snow” on the mountainous eastern side of the state every winter — just to see snow. It seems odd today to think a sweater would be enough protection when the snow is falling, but that’s what all these women are wearing, along with knickers or riding pants.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson face the cold in sweaters and wool twill riding pants. 1921.

Dot Barton’s long sweater has pockets big enough to hold her gloves. She has probably laced gaiters over her legs, with turned-down socks.

Dottie Biggs in a sweater vest over a dark shirt, plus a long, thick sweater. And that wonderful hat…. 1921.

I can’t get enough of that Tam-O-Shanter — and her attitude.

A giant Tam-o-Shanter — very chic in the late teens and early twenties. Notice that she’s wearing earrings and … is that lipstick?

It’s lovely to see the fun they had — almost a hundred years ago.

Why did they want to sit on the roof? Probably because it was there.  Donner Lake, 1921.

Because these young people worked for the SP railroad, they probably took advantage of cheap tickets for weekends at Russian River (in the summer) and at Truckee or Lake Tahoe in the winter. The train from San Francisco through the Sierra Nevada mountains still goes through Truckee on its way to Reno, Nevada and points east.

The “gang” from the SP office may be thinking of some liquid refreshment….  Especially that guy wearing just a shirt and bow tie over his sweater. Sadly for them, Prohibition went into effect in January of 1920. But the sign on the rock was still there in 1921.


Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Hats, Makeup & Lipstick, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Two Piece Dresses from 1926

Two-piece dresses from Butterick, Delineator, February 1926. These are for teens and small women.

Iin 1926, as far as Butterick patterns were concerned, a dress could be either one piece or a separate top and matching skirt. In fact, some one-piece dresses were made to look like they were two-piece!

The dress on the right, Butterick 6575, has a deep band near the hip (with buttons), simulating the look of a separate blouse and skirt.

“Many slip over one-piece frocks give the effect of a two-piece costume….” Delineator magazine, February 1926.

The pattern on the right, Butterick 6637, is another dress pretending to be a skirt and blouse. Notice the line of stitching that marks a deep tuck at the hip.

Left: one-piece dress 6533 pretends to be a two-piece. Both these dresses make good use of use border prints.

Real two-piece dresses were available for all ages, from pre-teen to adult.

On the right, Butterick two-piece dress pattern 6582. The separate skirt has a lively flare. (6605 is a one-piece dress.)

“The circular skirt is attached to an underbody.” The underbody (also called a “camisole body or yoke”) was one of the tricks of making a Twenties’ skirt and top work well together. I’m going to re-show the two outfits that started this post so you can compare them easily with two very similar skirt patterns that have underbodies:

Two-piece dresses from Butterick, Delineator, February 1926. Left, Butterick 6545; right, Butterick 6562. For misses 15 to 20 and small women.

If you could see through their blouses, you’d see that the skirts have no waistband. They hang from the shoulders, like this:

Butterick skirt patterns 6601 and 6658, also from the February issue of Delineator.

The circular skirt (6588) “may be worn under blouses or as a slip under frocks.” It’s for ladies 35 to 52 inch hip –quite large.

Alternate views of Butterick skirts 6601 and 6588 show a “hanging from the waist” option, with the underbody option shown in dotted lines.

Although some nineteen-twenties’ skirts did have a waistband, the skirt with underbody didn’t need darts or other shaping for a natural waist that might be ten inches smaller than the hips. In fact, the woman aiming for a boyish figure tried to pretend that she had no waist.

Foundation garments (or corselets) designed to minimize the difference between waist and hip. Delineator, February 1926, p. 24.

Obviously, if you turn your figure into a tube shape, any skirt which hangs from your waist will tend to slide down. (And twist around as you sit and walk.) The underbody solved this problem by making the skirt and top move independently of each other. However, as seen above, pattern illustrations did show a waistband option for those who still had a waist….

Alternate views of Butterick skirts 6601 and 6588. Feb. 1926. These are skirt patterns, but 6588 has several lines of stitching at the hem, which would make it stiffer when used as a petticoat.

I’ve been looking for a good underbody illustration for some time. Making a Twenties’ costume this way means that the actors’ clothes will fall neatly into place when they stand after sitting.

Now for some more Twenties’ two-piece dresses:

Butterick 6522 is simple and charming (don’t forget those important long ribbon ties!) Designed for a youthful wearer, 15 or under, the skirt is shorter than for a mature woman — giving it the knee-length proportions that look “right” to modern eyes. The skirt looks much like No. 6601 (and  dress 6545.)

The use of the word “juniors” surprised me.

The dress featured with this girl’s coat is pattern 6582, illustrated in blue above.

You could make this entire outfit from Butterick patterns: Coat 6609, two-piece dress 6582, and hat 5952. February 1926. Butterick also sold the embroidery transfer, No. 10383.

A closer look at that coat and hat:

Butterick coat pattern 6609 with hat embroidered to match.

Butterick two-piece “dress” 6577 uses double-sided, reversible fabric:

Butterick two-piece dress pattern 6577, from February 1926. “The straight skirt, with its inverted plait at each side front and at the center back, is attached to an underbody with a camisole top.” For teens and small women.

Having grown up wearing cotton flannel pajamas, I have to remind myself that flannel can mean wool.

Right, two-piece dress 6597. Left, a simple one-piece dress that uses a border print for impact. February 1926.

Butterick two-piece dress 6581. The stripes are probably a border print. For teens and small women.

“Its straight skirt, attached to an underbody,” has inverted pleats. This particular skirt style keeps reappearing. Dress skirts from the early 1920’s often had all the pleats or fullness in the front, with a perfectly “plain back,” but now the back of the skirt is also pleated or gathered.

Right, the two-piece dress for average-sized women is shown a few inches longer than dresses for under-twenties. These stripes are definitely a border print (See description of its color illustration, below.) Butterick 6608, February 1926, p 32.

The same pattern was illustrated in color on page 29, and without the stripes:

Butterick 6608 from page 29. “The straight skirt, gathered at the front, is attached to an underbody.”

It has a plain back:

Oops: I never supplied the pattern descriptions for these dresses.  Back views of other patterns appear at the end of the post.

Butterick 6545 and 6562 from February 1926. You might not want to include the cutesy animal embroidery, but those decorative pocket hankies appear constantly in fashion illustrations from 1925 and 1926, including several shown in this post.

Bois de rose (rosewood) was a popular color introduced in couture; it’s a neutralized, slightly tan, rose pink — hard to photograph!

Back views of dresses for girls 15 or under. 1926. 658s is a girl’s version of 6562, above.

Back views of one-piece dresses pretending to be separates. Delineator, February 1926.


Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Sportswear, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

A Wedding Party in the 1920s

The bride and groom sit informally on the grass in front of a home, surrounded by a group of young men and women in late-1920’s clothing. (It does look like the bride was trying to avoid grass stains on her light dress.)

While sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge collection of photos, I found these charming pictures of an informal wedding in the nineteen twenties. The skirt lengths suggest 1927-28 to me.

Happy faces (for the most part) and real-people hairstyles and clothing from the late 1920s. Left side of group photo. The men’s hair looks natural, not slick or oily.

More wedding guests, this time from the right side of the photo.

Although my aunt knew a great many women called “Dot,” — and she herself was called Dot — I haven’t been able to match “Dot the Bride” to any other photos, so I can’t find her last name, or date her wedding exactly.

Dot Richardson and Dot Robinson, on an office outing to Monte Rio, California, circa 1921.

Dot was the usual nickname for women called Dorothy.

There’s a good chance that like my aunt, the bride or her groom and most of the wedding guests worked at the Southern Pacific Railroad Headquarters in San Francisco. They all seem to be in their twenties or thirties.

Dot and her husband. I love his pocket square. Like the bride, many of the female guests are wearing their Marcelle-waved hair loose, longish, and full. Dot wears dark lipstick, too.

The bride and groom have a sense of humor, judging by the toy bulldog on a leash in the foreground.

Her pale, short dress, worn with almost opaque white silk stockings, has a lace “bolero” jacket and lace flounces. Her feet are swollen; brides don’t get to sit down much at weddings. [When their feet hurt, people used to say, “My dogs are barking.”]

Here the newlyweds pose with the honeymoon car, decorated with a “Just Married” sign and several big, tin cans to make noise as they drive away.

Their friends have tied several cans tied to the bumper to ensure that everyone notices the “Just Married” sign on newlyweds car as it clatters down the road.

Her huge corsage must mean “Maid of Honor.” She wears a light coat over a knee-baring print silk dress; big bows trim her shoes. As sometimes happens with informal weddings, not everyone got the “not too casual” message. (Yes, I mean you, Mister Sweater and No Necktie.) His boutonniere says he’s part of the wedding party.

Even this guest caught in the background wears a dress with a graceful, curving pleated flounce:

I wish we could see more of this dress on a Bette Midler look-alike….

Whether she’s gaining a son or a daughter, this mother looks happy.

The mother of the bride (or groom) looks very up-to-date in her short dress, worn with dark stockings and low shoes. The bride’s dress appears to be waistless, possibly a princess style with a bow and drape at her left side.

The white-haired lady’s dress has a V-shaped lace insert in the bodice, and a two-tiered skirt that just covers her knees. She hasn’t bobbed her hair, however.

I hope this bunch of pleasant-looking young people had very happy lives, and many equally pleasant celebrations.

It’s easy to imagine enjoying their company.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Coats, Dresses, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Makeup & Lipstick, Menswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Wedding Clothes

Fashions for Girls and Teens, February 1927

Butterick patterns for girls, Delineator, February 1927. A young teen (up to age 15) would probably be happy to wear a dress (right) so much like adult fashions of the day. The button detail on the child’s outfit at left is a nice touch, too. Their silhouettes are very different, however.

Butterick styles for teens 15 to 19 years; Delineator, February 1927. There is nothing babyish about these.

There was often a distinct style difference in dresses for young girls and those for adults in the Twenties (and in the early Fifties, for that matter), but Butterick patterns sold for size “age 15 to 20” were often described as designs for teens and “small women.” In fact, since those styles were usually shorter (what we might call “petites,”) the proportions of styles for teens often look quintessentially “nineteen twenties” to modern eyes.

Butterick patterns for teens 15 to 19, from Delineator, February 1927, p. 27. Jacket 1229 was also illustrated in women’s sizes in the same issue. Nos. 1274 and 1288 were sold as dress patterns, although they look like separates.

Dresses for little girls usually were fuller, with no hip belts, and those for very young girls often include matching knickers or bloomers.

Dresses for girls up to 10 years old: Butterick 1261 and 1277; Delineator, February 1927, p. 28. Young girls were not sexualized by dressing them in adult styles.

Smocked and embroidered “peasant” dresses were popular adult styles, too. You can see smocking on dress 1267, below.

These dresses for older girls are mainstream fashions.

Dresses for teens 15 to 19 years old. Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1927. The robe de style in the middle was often suggested for bridesmaids, but older women sometimes wore more sophisticated versions.

A closer look at these hairstyles:

Three hair styles, 1927. I have no idea what is going on with the two-tone hairdo in the middle [a silk hat?], but the one on the left could be worn in 2018.

An asymmetrical cropped haircut, 1927. Tres chic. The back is shingled.

More about these patterns for teens:

Butterick 1272 has a sheer yoke and sleeves on a darker silk dress. Delineator, February 1927. It was also available in women’s bust sizes 38 and 40.

Coat 1256 has a curved hem, revealing a pleated dress beneath. The scalloped sleeves and embroidered collar add complexity to a simple style.

Details of Butterick coat 1256, from 1927. Embroidery on the inside of the collar is a clever touch, but isn’t mentioned. “For women and young girls 33 to 48 bust” — a larger than usual size range. The back of the collar is scalloped, too.

Butterick patterns for teens 15 to 19; Delineator, Feb. 1927.

This compose dress, Butterick 1269, uses three shades of the same color, or three different colors. This back view shows a long, vertical scarf tie in back, which creates a more slender rear view.

Another compose dress, in two colors. Like most dresses with a basque top, which could fit quite tightly, Butterick 1279 closes with a snap and/or hook and eye opening under the left arm.

Another dress using three colors, Butterick 1267, is essentially a tube cinched with a belt at the hip, and would have been unflattering to almost every woman, in spite of its long vertical stripe.

Outfits for young women 15 to 19, these are “very twenties.” The pleats on each skirt are treated in a different way — quite a variety.

The skirt of Butterick 1274 has inserted pleated godets — plaid cut on the bias, in this illustration. The skirts of two-piece dresses like this one often hung straight from a sleeveless underbodice, so there was no shaping needed at the waist.

Right, below, is another view of coat/jacket 1229, this time lined with the same fabric as the dress bodice.

Here, jacket 1229 combines with dress 1298 to create a suit. It is lined with the same fabric as the dress bodice, although the illustrator seems to have colored in one lapel by mistake.

Butterick 1288 shows a Russian influence in its asymmetrical closing.

Below, these dresses for younger teens do reflect adult styles, although dresses with a Bertha collar like 1271 were usually recommended for very young women.

Two Butterick patterns for girls up to 15 years. Left, No, 1259; right, dress 1271 with a Bertha collar. Delineator, February 1927.


The dress on the left, with a cape-like Bertha collar (from 1926) is much more girlish than the one on the right, although both are for teens.

Beside Butterick 1271, for girls aged 8 to 15, is Butterick 1242, for a girl six or younger. Her doll, Butterick 426, is dressed in matching fabric.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage patterns

Fashion Transition: From 1920’s to 1930’s


Hem length from 1929 to 1931, from Sears catalogs. In 1929, the hem is above the kneecap; two years later it has dropped to mid-calf, and the belt has returned to the natural waist.

Higher Waists and Longer Hems

In 1929, hems were already on their way down. An article by Pamela A. Parmai at Love To Know cites an article in the New York Times from October 27, 1929 — two days before the Black Friday stock market crash — which said, “some women claimed that the effort to put them back in long skirts was ‘an insidious attempt to lure women back into slavery.’ ” Parmai implies that, since skirts had already been at the knee for two or three years, clothing manufacturers were eager for a change. It seems the stock market started down after skirts did.

“The waist-line continues to rise,” Delineator magazine, November 1929, p. 33.

However, in November of 1929, Delineator’s fashion editors weren’t completely focused on longer skirts; this article was about rising waists. [The lead time which put magazines in stores by November meant that articles and illustrations had to be ready long before the end of October, and the stock market crash on October 29th. Longer hems are mentioned, but not in the title of this article. ]

Butterick 2891 has a belt near the natural waist. November, 1929, Delineator.

The next dress has a two-layer skirt, with one layer ending above the knee (where dresses ended in 1928) and one below the knee, a transitional fashion to longer skirts.

Butterick frock 2923 from November 1929. Delineator. Note the belt, which is just at the hipbone [and I bet it didn’t stay there easily, even with belt carriers.]

This dress has “three of the very newest features:” greater length, higher waist, snug hips and a dipping hem. [Wait — isn’t that four? Not really. Dipping hems were well-established by 1928.]

Butterick 2924 shows a longer hem and a shirred waist that sits on the hipbone rather than the hip. Delineator, November, 1929. It covers the knees completely.

“The line is longer, as it must be this season,” and the waist line is higher.

[“Pans” is probably a typo for “Panels.”]

Butterick coat 2857 shown over dress (frock) 2903. Delineator, November, 1929. The rising girdle [hip band] is a subtle change.

“The higher waist-line is indicated on the frock by the girdle top.” The “girdle” is that band of fabric around the hips. It does look a little higher than these earlier “snug hips” of June 1929:

A snug-hipped dress and matching jacket from June of 1929, Delineator. Butterick 2646.

Back in June, 1928, these dresses showed a tight, low hip girdle:


Butterick patterns in Delineator, June 1928, show a low hip girdle, expecially the one on the left, which appears to be far below the hip-bone.

The elongated torso of 1920’s fashion illustration makes the waist hard to locate on this blouse.

Butterick blouse 2884 with wrap skirt 2745, from November 1929, Delineator. The blouse is gathered to the hip just below the natural waist –where many women’s trousers rested in the 2000’s.

Blouses from the early 1930’s (see below) were often overblouses, not too different from blouse 2884.

Butterick blouse 3968, July 1931.

Tunic Blouses for Transition — Again


Tunic blouse outfits from Butterick; Delineator, December, 1924. Within three years, dresses were shorter than these “blouses.”

I do find transitional fashions interesting. Back in 1924 — 1925, these tunic blouses eased the transition to shorter hems by providing two horizontal lines — one near the knee (the coming fashion) and one at low mid-calf (the early Twenties’ length.)

I’ve found a few tunic styles easing the transition from late Twenties to early Thirties, too.

Butterick 3644, “the smart tunic line,” has a tunic ending near the knees over a longer 1930’s hemline. Delineator, February 1931.

The natural waist, accented by a belt, is taken for granted by 1931.

Right, below,  is a “tunic blouse” and skirt combination; this “blouse” is as long as a late Twenties’ dress.

Right, tunic blouse 3666 with skirt 3643; Delineator, February 1931.

The tunic blouse is shown in mid-thigh (back view) and knee lengths.

It’s surprising how brief the period of knee-length twenties’ fashion really was — as this cartoon from January, 1929 implies.


It’s more evidence that early in 1929, skirts were already on their way down.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s

Palm Beach Resort Wear by Lelong, January 1928

Two couture tennis dresses by Lucien Lelong, January 1928. Imagine the background in green, and the coat on the right in tucked scarlet crepella. Wow.

Lelong discusses color in the first part of this article on resort wear for America’s brighter sunlight. Delineator, top of page 32, January 1928. It’s a pity that the Delineator ran this article in black and white!

Couturier Lucien Lelong explained to the Delineator magazine how his resort wear for Palm Beach differed from the colors he would have used for French clients.

Colors for Palm Beach: “vied with the parrot and the bougainvillea flower” because the “sub-tropical sunshine … subdues the strongest colors.”

For evening he suggested lighter shades:  greens, grays, coral, pink, amber, ivory, and black and white.

Two evening gowns by Lelong, January 1928. Left, black with rhinestone bands; right, mauve pink chiffon.

His bathing costumes for Palm Beach are colorful in greens and blues:

Left, Lelong uses “green jersey banded with darker green and worn under a sponge cloth coat of string beige.” Right, “blue and white printed crepe de Chine with chartreuse bands and beach coat.”  Both have “tunic tops and shorts.” January, 1928.

For daytime, Lelong’s dress shows the graded colors popular in 1927-28. Costumes using blocks of colors were called “compose” [with an accent aigu on the e : kom-poh-zay.]

Left: Lelong’s blue two-piece sports frock with bands of graded colors. Right, a three piece ensemble in two shades of blue. January 1928 resort wear.

Let’s not forget those sleeveless tennis frocks by this extraordinary French designer:

Two sleeveless and collarless tennis frocks, plus a scarlet coat of tucked crepella. Lelong resort collection, January 1928. Delineator. Illustration by Muriel Lages.

“Design grows more and more simple in appearance, tho [sic] inner cuts are complicated. And of course, all these models, as is usual with me, induce slenderness in the appearance of their wearers. That sums it up.”– Lucien Lelong on his resort collection, in Delineator, January 1928.

When I called Lelong “extraordinary,” I wasn’t exaggerating. As head of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture during the German Occupation of Paris, Lelong managed to thwart the Germans’ plan to move the center of couture to Berlin. You can read “The Man Who Saved Paris” by clicking here.

Further reading:  The Encyclopedia of Fashion has a bibliography of books about Lelong. Click here.



Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bathing Suits, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs