Cover of Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.
The cover of the Butterick Fashion News flyer for September 1939 showed a sheer black dress over a matching slip. It has the puffy sleeves of the era, and a V neck.
The Du Barry store flyer for the previous month showed a similar dress.
Du Barry pattern 2319 B. DuBarry store flyer August 1939.
In fact, it was on the cover of the Du Barry flyer, in a yellow, printed, non-sheer fabric version:
Du Barry Prevue cover, August 1939. Pattern 2319 B.
Du Barry showed it a third time, in purple:
Du Barry 2319 B.
Butterick (and Companion-Butterick) patterns were sold in fabric stores, and, before the Great Depression, Butterick was aimed at middle and upper-middle class shoppers. Du Barry patterns were sold only at Woolworth’s — the five and dime store. “Du Barry Patterns are 10 cents Each — For Sale Exclusively by F. W. Woolworth Co.” By contrast, Butterick pattern 8556 cost 45 cents.
In fact the two sheer black dress patterns are not identical — just two different expressions of a current look.
The Butterick bodice is probably more difficult to make, since its curved seams end in a crossed, tucked piece in front that becomes a belt in back.
The Du Barry bodice uses simple gathers or ruching for the bodice and the sleeve heads.
However, the Du Barry pattern has a soft pleat in the center front of the skirt.
The Butterick skirt is more flared and cut in several panels.
Even the sleeve heads are more tailored; both dresses are consistent within their own aesthetic.
At this point, I realized that I have a third, contemporaneous store flyer: Simplicity Prevue, August 1939. It, too, shows a sheer black dress pattern. In fact, Simplicity showed two!
Simplicity 3129, a sheer black dress. August 1939.
Simplicity 3150, sheer black dress, August 1939.
Both of the Simplicity patterns have yokes at the shoulders (diagonal in the case of No. 3150, and horizontal on No. 3129. Both were shown made in opaque fabrics, too.
Two views of Simplicity 3150.
Simplicity patterns cost 15 cents each, more than Du Barry (10 cents) and much less than Butterick (45 cents.)
Simplicity pattern information for 3139 and 3150.
Although the Simplicity patterns did not come in larger-than- usual sizes, they had this caption:
Simplicity recommended these two patterns (3150 and 3139) as “slenderizing.”
Maybe because they could be made in black? Lynn Mally at American Age Fashion found this photo:
Ashville, Ohio, July 4th 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn, Library of Congress.
If it seems odd that older women were wearing see-through dresses, perhaps they were the generation that wore lingerie dresses twenty-odd years before?
P.S. Does this post seem familiar? My bad. I was trying to be sure I had scanned all my department store fashion news flyers, found two of these flyers missing from my picture files, and consequently didn’t realize that I had written about some of these patterns before! So, you are not having a deja vu experience…. Click here for “More Sheer Dresses from the Late 1930s” or “Sheer Black Dresses, Fall 1930.” That’s where you saw these pictures before….