Tag Archives: 1930s accessories

Flattering Styles for Large Women, February 1937

Woman's Home Companion, February 1937, p. 70.

Woman’s Home Companion, February 1937, p. 70.

The Woman’s Home Companion offered four dress patterns for hard-to-fit women in its February 1937 issue. The first two were “designed especially to flatter the large woman,” and the second pair of patterns were a pre-cursor of “half-sizes,” being designed for women under 5′ 4 1/2″ tall and with “hips a little larger than average.” All four Companion-Butterick patterns were available up to size 52″ bust measurement. The articles include period advice on flattering styles, accessories, and color choices for large women; some of it is standard [wear vertical lines, avoid over-large prints] , and some of it – tiny collars? – is a surprise.

Youthful Details for You Who Are Not So Slim [page 70]

Companion-Butterick patterns 7215 &7213, 1937.

Companion-Butterick patterns 7215 &7213, 1937.

“We are sure you feel as we do about the question of youthful clothes for the large but not old figure. You are tired of the staid styles you usually find in the big sizes. You have had an overdose of surplice lines.  You want fresh-looking new-looking dresses – and there is no reason why you shouldn’t have them.

“These two patterns have been planned to solve your problem. Each is cut in sizes up to 52-inch bust measure, each has a way of concealing pounds, yet each has a smart touch that is worthy of size 16. [I.e, a teen dress size.]

Companion Butterick patterns 7215 & 7217, 1937.

Companion Butterick patterns 7215 & 7217, 1937.

“In Pattern 7215 it is the tiny contrasting collar and vest section – such a pleasant change from the usual V. Look at the belt, too. This flatters your figure because it is hidden in front. And note the smooth shoulders – a good idea if you happen to be large through the top of the body. You can make [it] in youthful colors – this flax-blue linen perhaps, with contrasting pink. It is just the type for one of the new medium-high felts [see hat] with a medium-high crown.”

“In pattern 7213 you will like the soft drapery of the jabot – as kind to the face as to the figure. You will fiind too that the sleeves have been cut to give the new broad look to sloping shoulders. Wine is a good color for the long-sleeved version – smart with black suède oxfords delicately trimmed with fine scalloped stitching. In both dresses, as you see, there is a convenient choice of necklines and sleeve lengths.” WHC feb 1937 p 70  stout patterns top left

Add to Your Height and Subtract from Your Hips [page 71]

Woman's Hone Companion, Feb. 1937, p. 71

Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1937, p. 71

“You may be short and your hips may be a little larger than average but you can still wear the new clothes to good advantage. One way is to choose patterns cut to fit your figure. Another is to be sure that every detail of your costume is in proportion to your height.

“Not for you the too-heavy hat, but the small saucy brim and the medium-high crown of this beige felt. Not for you the rough leathers and bulky lines of a peasant’s shoe, but the slender silhouette of these soft blue step-ins. Not for you the overlarge too-vibrant print, but the fine traceries of this monotone floral. Not for you any fluffy trimmings, but this crisp touch of white organdie or the new saddle stitching, used here to emphasize long up-and-down lines.”

Companion-Butterick patterns 7217 & 7219, Feb. 1937.

Companion-Butterick patterns 7217 & 7219, Feb. 1937.

“About the patterns: No.7217 has this season’s raised waistline – and excellent idea because it adds inches to your skirt. You will notice too that there is no belt to break your height and that there is enough fullness above the skirt to conceal any extra pounds about the diaphragm.

“No. 7219 has the flattery of a small collar, a tiny belt, and definitely vertical lines. It is perfect for beige and for piqué, the ribs of the material running up and down except in the blouse section and the sleeves. There the fabric is used cross-ways to add interest from a fashion angle.”

Other views of patterns 7217 & 7219

Other views of patterns 7217 & 7219

 A Pre-Flattened Hat WHC feb 1937 p 70 squashed hat

I’ve seen a lot of 1930s hats in costume storage that look like they got squashed; I never realized that they might have started life that way!

 

Truth in Illustrating?

As usual, Woman’s Home Companion has written about patterns styled for large women, but illustrated the article on standard 1930s fashion figures. [Illustrations by Ernst.] True, these four patterns were available from size 34″ bust all the way up to size 52″, but the illustrations don’t give any idea of how the dresses would look on, say, a size 42. To be fair, however, the illustrations on page 71 did show slightly larger-than-usual hips. WHC feb 1937 p 71 hip comparison

 

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hats, Vintage patterns

One Good Dress in the 1930s

Two Day Dresses from December 1931, Delineator

Two Day Dresses from December 1931, Delineator

Murder, Lust, Ambition, and a Good Black Dress

Fashion History shows up in the strangest places. I’ve been reading a book – Violette Nozière, by Sarah Maza  – about a murder trial in Paris in the 1930s. Maza uses the true story of a woman who tried to kill her parents as a way to examine changes in postwar French society and culture. One point she makes, which I had never really considered before, is that women’s daytime fashions in the 1930s helped to disguise class differences, increasing social mobility and opportunities for mixing,  in a way not possible before World War I.

Fashionable woman, 1912; Photo courtesy of media-cache

Fashionable woman, 1912; Photo courtesy of media-cache

Before the First World War, it was impossible to mistake a working woman for a member of the bourgeoisie, because the fragile, luxurious, and labor-intensive clothing of a middle-class woman could not be imitated more cheaply, or mass produced. The hand-beading, the embroidery, the combinations of fur and chiffon – the very quality of the materials – were not affordable to working women.  Silent movies that show lower class women in “tawdry finery” demonstrate the difference between real luxe and attempts to imitate it.
Simple Was Chic in the 1930s
Maza points out that the fashions of the 1930s, with their use of wool, dark colors, and simpler styling, made it possible for department stores to carry mass-produced dresses of good quality. They were not cheap, but you only needed one. Delineator, Dec. 1931 p 70 dresses, blouses
An ambitious girl like Violette Nozière, pretty, educated, well-spoken, but living in two overcrowded rooms with her parents, could go to a café – in her one good dress – and chat with businessmen and young men of the bourgeoisie, posing as the daughter of a successful man in the railroad business.

One Dress, Many Accessories

 One, really good, daytime dress, varied by scarves and detachable collars, really was an investment. It could get you admitted to chic restaurants and cafes, and was a necessity for a better-paying secretarial or sales position. A well-cut black wool dress from a store like Galeries Lafayette  might not have deceived an upper-class woman, but – for the first time – it allowed any pretty, well-spoken, working class girl with a sense of chic to mingle freely with men of the upper middle classes. She looked like their sisters.  Even thirties hairstyles, covered in daytime with a hat, no longer required the services of a lady’s maid.  A secretary could dress well.

Changeable Collars and Scarves Turn One Dress into a Wardrobe

"If your dress hasn't gotten to the point where it needs a new top, hide its 1931 neckline beneath a collar, one of the new big white ones that make the new dresses look so fresh.... Every one of the collars here was taken from a brand-new dress. They all come right up to the base of the throat and they're all deep enough that even and antiquated deep V neckline can be made to look like a new high one. They all button on,... are smartest in white satin, rough crepe, linen and pique.

“If your dress hasn’t gotten to the point where it needs a new top, hide its 1931 neckline beneath a collar, one of the new big white ones that make the new dresses look so fresh…. Every one of the collars here was taken from a brand-new dress. They all come right up to the base of the throat and they’re all deep enough that even an antiquated deep V neckline can be made to look like a new high one. They all button on,… are smartest in white satin, rough crepe, linen and pique.”

Of course, the problem with having one good dress and a job, is that everyone sees you in the same dress day after day. (Violette was interested in attracting a wealthy man, not working in a office.) The Great Depression meant that many people couldn’t get work, and those who had jobs were often supporting a whole family: parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents…. So fashion magazines offered inexpensive ways to give the impression that you had several outfits. The collars above – and a “make it yourself hat” are patterns from Butterick , 1932.

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

A Butterick Fashion News flyer from 1938 shows what you could do with collars, cuffs, sashes, and even a halter top worn over a black dress. “Collars and cuffs, gilets and sashes make a small wardrobe seem extensive… Price, 25 cents.”BFN variety April 1938 scarves
“Variety…The basic dress worn with either of two necklines. Vary it with striped sash or trim collars and belts if the neck is high, with clips or collar-into-sash if low.” [Jewelry collectors will recognize several types of “duette clips.”]

Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, 1933

Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, 1933

Movie Recommendation: Baby Face, 1933
If you rent the movie Baby Face, from 1933, you’ll see Barbara Stanwyck in many variations of the black dress with accessories, as she literally sleeps her way to the top. This is a Pre-Code picture, a lot more frank about sex than movies were 20 years later! (In some versions, it begins with this teenaged girl’s father clearly prostituting her to the patrons of his dive bar.) Armed with determination, cynicism, and a series of ‘secretary’ dresses, she works her way to the penthouse suite – and a much more glamorous wardrobe.

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Filed under 1930s, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns