Tag Archives: 1930s

Bathing Suits for July, 1938

McCall’s coverage of summer fashions for 1938 included articles on choosing a flattering bathing suit — perhaps made of rubber — and the importance of wearing sunglasses.

Photo from McCall's magazine, July 1938. Peach colored bathing suit and matching swim cap.

Full-page photo from McCall’s magazine, July 1938. Peach colored bathing suit and matching swim cap.

McCall’s was a large format magazine, so I had to scan the top of the page, then the bottom and join them. This image was the “cover” of the style and beauty section, and didn’t have a description. Her waffle-weave swimsuit has a matching peach and white cap — or is it a scarf? There seems to be a tie peeking out from behind her head. Her coral lipstick and nail polish match.

Swimsuits and Sunglasses, 1938

"If the Sun's in Your Eyes" article, McCall's, July 1983. Sunglasses and print bathing suits.

“If the Sun’s in Your Eyes” article, McCall’s, July 1983. Sunglasses and print bathing suits.

Bathing suits, July 1938.

Striped and flowered bathing suits, July 1938.

The striped suit has a bra-like shaped top. The ethnic basket/beach bag is impressive. Like other late 30’s swimsuits, the legs are as long as modern shorts. This article stressed that sunglasses keep you from squinting, and, therefore, prevent wrinkles around the eyes. However, not all sunglasses were equal:

“Ordinary colored blown glass has wavy imperfections in it which distort the vision. . . . Science has perfected sunglasses that do not distort vision or darken the landscape. Even at a moderate price good sunglasses are now constructed so that they scientifically screen out most of the infra red and ultra violet rays. . . . Good sungogggles, not optically ground, of course, cost about fifty or seventy-five cents a pair, sometimes more.  But the extra cost over the cheapest type is small compared to the comfort you get. Such glasses are usually a blue or green tint, they’re well made, and come in handy carrying cases.” — Hildegarde Fillmore, writing in McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?

That was the question posed by this two-page article:

"How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?" article, McCall's, July 1938

“How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?” article, McCall’s, July 1938

“If your hips and thighs aren’t exactly streamlined, a dressmaker suit with a skirt will do more for you than a skin-tight maillot.” [But these long swimsuits do make the models’ legs look short and chunky.]

1938 halter necked bathing suit in "jungle print" with zipper front. McCall's, July 1938.

1938 halter-necked dressmaker bathing suit in “jungle print” with zipper front. McCall’s, July 1938.

p 70 bathing suit top 500 with text

“Is a bra-topped suit your love? Then be sure your bustline is pretty perfect and that no ‘spare tire’ mars your midriff.”

1938 bathing suit of elastic lace, "designed by a corset manufacturer."

1938 bathing suit of elastic lace, “designed by a corset manufacturer.”

1938 bathing suit: "The brassiere gives a good uplift, and front and back panels do a flattening job." McCall's, July 1938.

1938 bathing suit: “The brassiere gives a good uplift, and front and back panels do a flattening job.” McCall’s, July 1938.

To my surprise, two of the featured bathing suits were made of rubber. “Do you covet a skirtless rubber model? You’d better see to it that your tummy is practically concave.”

1938 white rubber bathing suit. McCall's, July 1938.

1938 white rubber bathing suit. McCall’s, July 1938.

White rubber bathing suit, McCall's magazine, July 1938.

White textured rubber bathing suit “starred in red and blue”, McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

“This crepe textured rubber maillot ‘swims’ like a second skin and dries in an instant. Its comfortable wool shoulder straps are adjustable at the back.”

(Below) “Tailored as a man’s waistcoat, this very brief bra-and-shorts suit is of ivory-white rubber in a neat jacquard self pattern. The points of the bra snap securely to the shorts, and a row of buttons form the trimming.”

1938 ivory rubber bathing suit. McCall's magazine, July 1938.

1938 ivory rubber bathing suit. McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

p 70 bathing suit btm text 500

I’m not sure how popular rubber bathing suits turned out to be, because, frankly, I didn’t want to do a search for them! Many years ago, while helping to organize a workshop on making dancewear, an online search for stretch fabrics taught me more than I really wanted to know about people who love spandex. Passionately. (Ahem.) I like to think that “nothing human is alien to me,” but I just don’t feel that curious about rubber clothing.

However, given how hard it is to find vintage rubber swim caps in good condition, I doubt that many rubber bathing suits survived.

1917 bathing cap made by Faultless Rubber Co. Ad from Ladies' Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

1917 bathing cap made by Faultless Rubber Co. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.  A pretty cap like this would be quite a vintage collector’s item.

Rubber for Reducing

Another reason the rubber swimsuits surprised me is that rubber corsets had been advertised as reducing aids since at least the 1920s. They were still being advertised in womens’ magazines about the same time as the rubber swimsuits, and it’s hard to imagine that no one made the connection. (The swimsuits were not perforated, of course. You would just have to swim in your own sweat.)

Kleinert's New "All-in-One" of Sturdi-flex rubber fabric is a perfect marvel! Ad, 1937.

Kleinert’s New “All-in-One” of Sturdi-flex rubber fabric is a perfect marvel!” Ad, 1937.

“Kleinert’s Sturdi-flex Reducers are sized to bust measure. . . . It’s ODORLESS, perforated for coolness, and can be washed in a moment.” And only two dollars!

The Perfolastic rubber reducing garments must have been more expensive, because their price was never given.

Perfolastic rubber reducing garment advertisement from Woman's Home Companion, MArch 1937.

Perfolastic rubber reducing garment advertisement from Woman’s Home Companion, March, 1937.

And Another Thing About 1930s Bathing Suits . . .

I wasn’t expecting to see so many swimsuits with tight “boy-shorts” legs. Late Thirties’ bathing suits are long, by modern standards. [No French cut legs on the beaches then!] But even in the 1950’s, many women’s bathing suits still had a sort of “modesty panel” in front that concealed the crotch.

Esther Williams in an ad for Cole bathing suits, from her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Esther Williams in an ad for Cole bathing suits, from her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Here are some suits from the 1958 Sears catalog, two decades after the 1938 bathing suits pictured in McCall’s.

Sears' catalog bathing suits for Spring 1958. all three have a modesty panel hiding the crotch area.

Sears’ catalog bathing suits for Spring 1958. They are still rather long, and all three have a modesty panel hiding the crotch area.

Swimsuits from 1938 might be long, but some of them had legs:

Bathing suits from Sears' catalog for Spring 19238.

Bathing suits from Sears’ catalog for Spring 1938.

Bathing suits shown in ads in McCall’s are very similar to the conservative styles at the top of this post.

Bathing suit in and ad for Underwood's Devilled Ham. McCall's, July 1938

Bathing suit in an ad for Underwood’s Deviled Ham. McCall’s, July 1938

Swimsuits from an ad for Palmolive soap, McCall's, July 1938.

Swimsuits from an ad for Palmolive soap, McCall’s, July 1938.

Skirted bathing suits from a Palmolive ad, McCall's, July 1938.

Skirted bathing suits with low backs and bra tops, from a Palmolive ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Note the attractively striped shoes, too.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Zippers

Fun with Stripes: A Gallery of 1930’s Styles

Fifty years ago, I saw this 1930’s photo of actress Gertrude Lawrence in a striped suit. The creative use of striped fabric struck me and stayed in my memory.  The joy of these nineteen thirties’ dresses is the way that a striped fabric is turned in different directions — horizontally, vertically, on the bias — to create the interest of the design.

Butterick pattern after Jacques Heim, Butterick Fashion News, July 1939.

Butterick pattern after Jacques Heim, Butterick Fashion News, July 1939.

Simple Striped Dresses

Striped dresses in many variations appeared throughout the 1930’s. I’m not talking about dresses that simply use striped material, charming as these are:

Butterick patterns from The Delineator, 1934. Left, June; right, July.

Left:  Stripes cut on the bias.   Butterick patterns from The Delineator, 1934. Left, #5599 from June.  Right, #5767 from July.  This fabric was probably printed with diagonal stripes and used on the straight grain.

I’m trying to imagine jumping over the net in one of those tennis dresses.  Actually, #5599 isn’t so simple; getting stripes to match and form chevrons on the bias takes patience.

Striped dresses were usually summer wear. This one is punningly named after Lucky Strike Cigarettes.

"Lucky Stripe;" Butterick pattern from June, 1932.

“Lucky Stripe;” Butterick pattern #4600 from June, 1932.

The dress below is a three piece set:  blouse (with or without sleeves) plus skirt and shorts.

The stripes are all used simply on straight of grain here, both they would make cutting and assembly more difficult! Butterick pattern #3785 from April, 1931. This is a three piece set:  blouse, skirt, and shorts.

Butterick pattern #3785 from April, 1931.

The stripes are all cut simply on straight of grain here, but pattern matching would make cutting and assembly more difficult! Matching stripes is a challenge for the dressmaker.

Stripes in Different Directions

The dresses that delight me turn the stripes in different directions.

Butterick patterns, The Delneator, April 1931.

Butterick pattern #3769, The Delineator, April 1931.  [Two of these early 30’s dresses have both a low hip and a natural waist.]

Pattern with a slenderizing center front panel, Butterick Fashion News, September 1939. It came in sizes 34 to

Pattern #8583 has a slenderizing center front panel, Butterick Fashion News, September 1939. It came in sizes 34 to 52.

A simple dress with bias skirt and playful pocket:

Butterick Fashion News, September 1939. Butterick pattern #

Butterick Fashion News, September 1939. Butterick pattern #8566

Sometimes the interest comes just from the flattering contrast between a horizontally striped yoke and a vertically striped dress.

Far right, Butterick pattern # in The Delineator, February 1936.

Far right, Butterick pattern #6622 in The Delineator, February 1936.

Butterick pattern #5201 makes a striped cruise dress, January 1934, The Delineator.

Butterick pattern #5201 makes a striped cruise dress, January 1934, The Delineator. The horizontally striped pocket flaps carry the yoke design to the skirt.

Here, the yoke is on the bias, and echoes the diagonal lines of the pockets:

Bias cut yoke on #7743, Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938.

Bias cut yoke on #7743, Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938.

When the yoke continues into sleeves, there is added interest:

Horizontal stripes on yoke and pockets, vertical stripes on the body of the dress. Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938.

Horizontal stripes on yoke, pockets, and belt; vertical stripes on the body of the dress. Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938. By 1938, the center front zipper was no longer news.

This yoked dress and jacket combination (at right) has an interesting dress, too.

Jacket dresses from February, 1935. The bias stripes change direction on the sleeves. Butterick pattern 6074.

Jacket dresses from February, 1935. The bias stripes appear to change direction as they follow the sleeves. Butterick pattern #6074.

This dress with chevron striping goes under coat # . Butterick pattern from February 1935. The Delineator.

This dress with chevroned stripes goes under coat # 6074 . It also has “yoke and sleeves in one.” Butterick pattern from February 1935. The Delineator.

The ensemble below is pretty straight forward, but the lapels, bow, and belt turn the stripes in a different direction:

Striped jacket dress from May, 1934. Butterick #5634.

Striped jacket dress from May, 1934. Butterick #5634.

The play of stripes also appeared in thirties’ evening wear:

Striped evening dress, Butterick, February 1934; striped gown and matching jacket, Butterick, July 1934.

Striped evening dress, Butterick, February 1934; striped gown and matching jacket, Butterick, July 1934. #5780 has beautiful, complex striped sleeves.

Advanced Play with Stripes

But the play of stripes gets really interesting when used as the focus of the design.

Berth Roberts Semi-Made dress, Spring, 1934.

Berth Robert Semi-Made dress, Spring, 1934.

 

Butterick pattern 5678, May, 1934. The Delineator.

Butterick pattern #5678, May, 1934. The Delineator.

The more complex, the more fun -- or at least, the more challenging for the dressmaker. Butterick #4089, October, 1931.

The more complex, the more fun — or at least, the more challenging for the dressmaker. Butterick #4089, October, 1931.

Illustration from Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1936.

Illustration from Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1936.

“The zigzag dress to the left is made of muffler woolen, soft to touch, and in wonderful two-tone colorings. Leather belt and buttons, and a scarf barely peeking out above the collar.” — Ladies’ Home Journal, September, 1936.

This one has contrasting shapes inserted in the sleeves, a tucked bib, and buttons in graduated sizes.

Wearfast sports dress, Berth Roberts Semi-Made dress catalog, Spring, 1934.

Wearfast sports dress, Berth Robert Semi-Made dress catalog, Spring, 1934.

Stripes were often used on “bib” dresses:

Butterick pattern 5760, May 1934, and Butterick 5822, August 1934.

Butterick pattern #5760, May 1934, and Butterick #5822, August 1934.

"Housedresses" from December, 1931. Butterick patterns.

“Housedresses” from December, 1931. Butterick patterns. The one on the right was actually a “pull on” dress with mostly decorative buttons.

Ribbed wool or corduroy was also used for a more subtle play of stripes:

Butterick Pattern for a dress with silk crepe bodice and skirt of ribbed wool, with matching coat. February 1932. Delineator.

Butterick Pattern #4316 for a dress with silk crepe bodice and skirt of ribbed wool, with matching coat. Contrast yoke, bow, cuff trim, and belt. The Delineator. February, 1932.

1932 feb p 87 text 4316 doat and dress vionnet coat

Corduroy was also suggested for this lightweight coat:

Corduroy coat, Butterick pattern, January 1932.

Corduroy coat, Butterick pattern #4290, January 1932.

Bold stripes give lots of “Bang for the buck.”

Butterick pattern, May 1932.

Butterick pattern #4530, May 1932.

Berth Robert Semi-made dress #932, Spring 1934 catalog.

Berth Robert Semi-made dress #932, Spring 1934 catalog.

McCall's pattern 9815, July 1938.

McCall’s pattern 9815, July 1938.

Floral stripes were popular in 1938.

Resort dress, Butterick Fashion News flyer, July 1939. Butterick

Resort dress, Butterick Fashion News flyer, July 1939. Butterick #8473.

What a difference the stripes make:  Two versions of Butterick #8557, Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.

What a difference the stripes make:  Two versions of Butterick #8557, Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.

Does anyone feel inspired to rework a basic pattern — by playing with contrasting stripes? Maybe a sewing group would like to have a “stripe challenge.”

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

Striped Prints, Spring 1938

Companion -Butterick patters Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion -Butterick patterns Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

The dress on the right, Companion-Butterick pattern 7733, is both a floral print and a stripe. What’s more, it’s a horizontal stripe. Not just the fabric, but the high waist and the draped V top reminded me of something familiar:

My mother with her mother, 1938.

My mother with her mother, 1938.  The woman on the left is in her 30s; the older woman is in her 60s.

Of course, it’s not exactly the same dress, but it’s very similar. The photograph is dated 1938, and I happen to have several Butterick Fashion News flyers from 1938.  Large scale prints were becoming popular in women’s dresses, under the influence of Elsa Schiaparelli. This Schiaparelli blouse, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, has a floral/horizontal striped print, too.

Schiaparelli print evening blouse, Metropolitan Museum. Winter 1938-1939.

Schiaparelli print evening blouse, Metropolitan Museum. Winter 1938-1939.

It has some elements in common with the dark fabric on the dress shown by Butterick, #7733.

Companion -Butterick patters Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion-Butterick patterns Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7733 (right):  “A soft, simple dress just right for the new striped prints. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion-Butterick pattern 7734 (left):  “A tiny lace frill on a new scalloped neckline. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]

Another horizontally striped floral print is used for Companion-Butterick 7745, below. “Peasant influence, laced bodice, puffed sleeves, square neck. Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 40 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion -Butterick pattern No. 7745, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Companion -Butterick pattern No. 7745, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

“Tyrolean” fashions were popular until World War II broke out. Lantz of Salzburg dresses — very popular with young women in the 1950s  — were known for these floral stripes. (Now, those floral stripes — used lengthwise — are associated with flannel nightgowns.)

Companion-Butterick patterns 7781 (seated) and 7791, Butterick Fashion News , April 1938.

Companion-Butterick patterns 7781 (seated) and 7791, Butterick Fashion News , April 1938.

The dress on the left  looks youthful, but the pattern goes to size 42″.

Companion-Butterick No. 7781 (left):  “The neckline outlined with flowers is fresh. Size 36 takes 3 1/2 yards rayon crepe 39. Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 42 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion-Butterick No. 7791 (right):  “A peasant dress in bayadere print. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]” The Design Fabric Glossary defines “bayadere” as “brightly coloured stripes in a horizontal format characterized by strong effects of colour. A Bayadere is an Indian dancing girl, trained from birth.”

Although this dress does not technically have striped print fabric, the floral pattern is distributed in chevrons, rather than randomly:

March 1938 cover of Butterick Fashion News, featuring Butterick pattern No. 7757.

March 1938 cover of Butterick Fashion News, featuring Butterick pattern No. 7757.

Butterick 7757:  “One of the new prints in a dress with softly shirred bodice.  Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 42 [inches bust measurement.]

This dress, whose top is made of striped print fabric, appeared in Woman’s Home Companion in November of 1937:

Companion-Butterick pattern 7626. Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7626. Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Strong colors and stripes were certainly used by Schiaparelli in this blouse from 1936:

Schiaparelli blouse, summer of 1936; Metropolitan Museum collection.

Schiaparelli blouse, summer of 1936; Metropolitan Museum collection.

(It could have been worn in the 1980s — or now — but it dates to 1936.)

The woman who couldn’t afford to make a new, print dress could add a print halter top over a solid dress, as in this Butterick accessory pattern (No. 7792), which included “collars and cuffs, gilets and sashes to make a small wardrobe seem extensive:”

Butterick "Quick Change" accessory pattern 7792, Butterick Fashion News April 1938.

Butterick “Quick Change” accessory pattern 7792, Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Taking a closer look at my mother’s dress from 1938, I can see that the pattern in the fabric is not actually floral; it is more like a negative pattern made by using lace to bleach out a solid color.

Close up of print dress, 1938.

Close up of print dress, 1938.

I can also see that there is a little white chemisette filling in the neckline.

Daughter and mother, 1938.

Daughter and mother, 1938.

Note:  Pictures from the Metropolitan Museum should not be copied from a blog and posted elsewhere — The Met graciously allows their use for writing about fashion history. If you want to use them, please get them from the Met’s Online Collection site, and credit the Museum.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Companion-Butterick Patterns, vintage photographs

More “Button-On” Patterns from the Thirties

"Another Button-on, " Woman's Home Companion, August 1937

“Another Button-on,” Woman’s Home Companion, August 1937

I confess that I am fascinated by the many “button-on” patterns I’m finding in 1930s magazines. They reflect a completely different way of thinking about clothes than we have today, in our “cheap and disposable” clothing culture. As a teenager, I lived in a house built in 1908; it had 12 foot ceilings and leaded glass windows in the china cabinet doors, but the bedroom closets — one to a room — were three feet wide and barely one coat hanger deep. I am sometimes appalled by the “House Hunters” who demand two walk-in closets. Does anyone really need that much stuff? The average 1930s wardrobe for women would have fit in a very small closet.

Depression-Era Budget Savers

Companion-Butterick pattern 7515, August 1937, sizes 12 to 20 and bust 30 to 42."

Companion-Butterick pattern 7515, August 1937, sizes 12 to 20 and bust 30 to 42.”

Although Butterick patterns were historically more expensive than Simplicity, DuBarry, and Hollywood patterns (and were aimed at middle to upper middle-class women) Companion-Butterick patterns often tried to give real value for money by emphasizing the versatility of their designs. (For more about Companion Butterick Triad patterns, click here .) [You can see more 1930s ideas for giving one dress many looks in my post “One Good Dress in the 1930s.” Click here.   Edited 11/22/14 to add link.]

Companion-Butterick Pattern 7255

In March of 1937, this button-on dress, # 7255, was designed “to give you six day-time dresses at practically the price of one.”

Companion-Butterick pattern 7255, WOman's Home Companion, March 1937. Available in sizes 12 to 20 and bust 30 to 44;" this pattern cost 45 cents.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7255, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937. Available in sizes 12 to 20 and bust 30 to 44;” this pattern cost 45 cents.

“The various trimmings which make this miracle possible can be buttoned or slipped into the foundation dress with lightning speed. Suppose you make 7255 in brighter-than-navy crepe. Then you may like the look of a sturdy white pique vestee on Monday; of linden-green linen at neckline and belt on Tuesday; of sober scallops of the dress material on Wednesday; of crisp plaid taffeta on Thursday; of pink Bengaline on Friday; of the grand climax of embroidered batiste and cerise red velvet bow on Saturday. One pair of blue shoes and one blue bag … may serve with all these trimmings.”

There is a copy of this pattern in the Commercial Pattern Archive.

The comment that you would need ony one pair of shoes for all six looks reminds us that, in the 1930s, most women had to pinch every penny. Click here for Living on $18 per Week, which explains that a college girl or office worker was expected to buy no more than four dresses and four pairs of shoes each year.

Companion-Butterick Pattern 7515

In August of 1937, the pattern at the top of this post appeared. Here are some enlarged views:

1937 aug p 56 button on 7515 500 51937 aug p 56 button on 7515 31937 aug p 56 button on 7515 500 21937 aug p 56 button on 7515 500 41937 aug p 56 button on 7515 500I’d be curious to see the construction of this dress, since the last two views show that there has to be a fairly large opening between the yoke and the bodice. I’m guessing there was some sort of tab or underlap on the bodice section which held the single, large button which fastened through a buttonhole on the yoke.

Companion-Butterick 7579

In October of 1937 another button-on frock appeared; number 7579 also suggested plaid taffeta or self-fabric for the office, with a gold lame vestee for “after-hour parties.”

Companion-Butterick pattern 7579, October 1937, was suggested for secretaries' or debutantes' wardrobes.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7579, Woman’s Home Companion, October 1937, was suggested for both secretaries’ and debutantes’ wardrobes.

“For years some of the Companion’s most successful designs have been dresses with a series of easily buttoned-on trimmings, each planned to give the dress a different look. And now this ever-practical idea has become a real fashion fad, made by the smartest dressmakers, worn by the smartest women.”

Companion-Butterick Pattern 8597

This rather similar version — also with a plaid option — appeared two years later, in October 1939:

Companion-Butterick 8597, Butterick Fashion News, October 1939.

Companion-Butterick 8597, Butterick Fashion News, October 1939.

companion butterick 8597 Oct 1939All those buttons give a slightly military or western frontier look to pattern 8597.

Butterick 5948

The button-on idea was still around in 1951, when Butterick offered this convertible “round the clock dress” for days when you want to go from the office to a date:

Butterick No. 5948, Butterick Fashion News flyer, December 1951.

Butterick No. 5948, Butterick Fashion News flyer, December 1951.

“It’s covered up for daytime . . . decollete for date-time.” The sparkly buttons can be made “of jet, rhinestone, mock-pearl, or tortoise-shell so that, with the yoke off, the buttons become a decorative ‘jewelry’ accent.”

Butterick 'Round the Clock dress pattern, December 1951.

Butterick ‘Round the Clock dress pattern No. 5948, December 1951.

Suggested fabrics were faille, crepe, corduroy, or velveteen. Available sizes 12 to 20 and up to bust size 38 inches.  I can imagine this design also being popular with women who dressed up to play bridge one afternoon a week, or who couldn’t justify the expense of a rarely worn cocktail dress. Many faille or taffeta afternoon or “bridge” dresses turn up on vintage racks.

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Sheer Black Dresses, Fall 1939

Butterick No. 8556, Cover of Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.

Butterick No. 8556, Cover of Butterick Fashion News, September 1939.

I bought some counter catalogs at an estate sale, and found, tucked inside, two copies of Prevue, a newsprint pattern flyer, for August 1939. One featured Du Barry patterns, and the other showed Simplicity patterns for the same month.

Du Barry Prevue, August 1939 cover.

2 Du Barry Fashions Prevue, Cover, August 1939.

 

Simplicity Fashions Prevue, Cover, August 1939.

Simplicity Fashions Prevue, Cover, August 1939.

I already had the Butterick Fashion News for September 1939, so it was fun comparing the styles from three companies. (Incidentally, DuBarry patterns were made by Simplicity, specifically for sale at Woolworth stores. The designs were not the same. Woolworth wanted to offer a ten cent pattern, at a time when Simplicity patterns sold for fifteen to twenty-five cents. Patterns with the Simplicity name were sold at Woolworth’s competitors, like S.S. Kresge and Sears and Roebuck.  Source: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery, pp 119 – 122.)

The Sheer Black Dress from Du Barry

In the Fall of 1939, patterns for the sheer black dress were being offered by all three companies, DuBarry, Simplicity, and Butterick. This dress, from the cover of the Du Barry Fashions Prevue, was also pictured in a violet print and as a sheer afternoon frock:

Du Barry Pattern 2319B made in lemon yellow print fabric.

Du Barry Pattern 2319B made in lemon yellow print fabric. Love that hat! The belt is clever, too.

Du Barry pattern #2319B as a sheer afternoon dress and in purple print fabric.

Du Barry pattern #2319B as a sheer afternoon dress, and in purple print fabric.

The length is just below the knee:

Du Barry #2319B, two versions. Aug. 1939.

Du Barry #2319B, two versions. Aug. 1939.

“Choose this sheer afternoon frock for sheer flattery. Sizes 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42. Slide Fastener for side placket 9″.”

Simplicity’s Sheer Black Dresses, August 1939

Simplicity showed two different patterns made up as day dresses or as sheer afternoon frocks:

Simplicity pattern No. 3139, August 1939.

Simplicity pattern No. 3139, August 1939. In sizes 32 to 44.

Simplicity pattern 3150, August 1939.

Simplicity pattern 3150, August 1939. In sizes 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 40.

Patterns 3139 and 3150 were shown under the caption “Slenderizing Dresses.” Style 3139 came in sizes for bust 32″ to 44.” Style 3150 came in young women’s sizes 12 to 20; the largest bust measurement available was only 40 inches. However, sizes 12 to 20 were generally for a shorter woman than the sizes sold by bust measurement. Both patterns came with either long or short sleeves. Pattern 3139 is shown in a sheer print fabric, which might be either black or navy — the flyer doesn’t mention color. It has a slenderizing line of buttons down the front from neckline to hem. The other (3150) has that clever, slenderizing bow — not too wide — at the center of the waist, plus a V-neck. It’s amazing how sophisticated it looks without the ruffled trim.

Companion-Butterick’s Sheer Black Dress for September, 1939

Butterick No. 8556, September 1939.

Companion-Butterick No. 8556, September 1939.

“Companion-Butterick 8556:  Sheer stark black — smart and as new as tomorrow’s newspapers. Soft surplice forms a belt in back. . . . Sizes 12 to 20, 30 to 44.”

That unusual bodice detail — the “surplice” — appears in Butterick pattern number 8557, too:

Butterick pattern 8557, Sept. 1939.

Butterick pattern 8557, Sept. 1939. Two views.

However, the surplice drape appears to be topstitched when the dress is not sheer, and the back treatment is different on this dress:

Companion -Butterick # 8556 and Butterick 8557. Back views. Sept. 1939.

Companion-Butterick # 8556 and Butterick 8557. Back views. Sept. 1939.

For more about Companion-Butterick patterns, click here.

 

 

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A Pattern for Mother, Daughter, and Grandmother, 1937

Companion-Butterick Triad Pattern #7553, for Three Generations. From Woman's Home Companion, September 1937.

Companion-Butterick Triad Pattern #7553, for three generations. From Woman’s Home Companion, September 1937. Illustration by ERNST

Companion-Butterick “Triad” patterns usually were marked by their versatility: patterns with day and evening versions, or patterns that could be made in several ways to create a larger wardrobe. This is the first I’ve noticed that was versatile because it was equally suited to young, middle-aged, and older women. (There would be no savings in buying this unless all three wore the same size… and were still the same shape….)

“Pattern 7553 is designed for the family — a find for teas, luncheons, and bridge. To see it at its best you will want to make it up in an exciting new fall fabric and color.  For you mothers, we suggest a wool-like silk, bound in green grosgrain. It is a perfect foil for kid-trimmed brown suede shoes and a felt toque.” 1937 sept p 82 family triad pattern 7553 3 ages illus“For you daughters, very sheer wool is new in cranberry, a vibrant fall shade. Add high-cut black suede pumps, a felt calot, and you are dressed for any special occasion. You grandmother will like the heavy drape of satin-back silk  in soft blue tinged with lavender — a color flattering to gray hair. With this dull and shiny combination, no shoe could be nicer than one in black suede trimmed with patent leather.  And to complete your costume we suggest a felt hat in matching blue.”

1937 sept p 82 family triad pattern 7553 tops bodices 3 ages 500
The daughter’s calot is a close-fitting cap without a brim.  The styling of the bodices is varied, but, except for having shorter sleeves, the daughter’s version is not noticeably youthful. Grandmother’s heavy satin-backed silk is made with the matte side out and the shiny side used only as trim.  It also has ruching on the shoulders, perhaps to provide a little more bust fullness, and less puffy sleeve caps. Mother’s wool-like brown silk bound in green grosgrain strikes me as a bit too “Robin Hood.” (To be fair, the Errol Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood wasn’t released until May of 1938.) I’m hoping that’s a gorgeous Art Deco emerald clip on her neckline.

To my eyes, the most youthful-looking shoes are worn by the grandmother, not the granddaughter. 1937 sept p 82 family triad pattern shoes 500 7553 3 ages

From an Air Step Shoe Ad, September 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

From an Air Step Shoe Ad, September 1937. Woman’s Home Companion. “Most styles $6.00. Slightly higher in Far West.”

Notice how high and relatively narrow the heels on the “Fay” model are. Mother might also wear the “Stroller” heels, which are equally high, but not as thin. “Fernwood,” with a lower heel, looks more grandmotherly to me, and as recommended, they are suede or gabardine with patent leather trim. Perhaps the daughter is wearing “high-cut black suede pumps” with a zipper front, but these Air Step “Dianne” shoes would also do.

Air Step shoes, "Dianne" model, Sept. 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

Air Step shoes, “Dianne” model, Sept. 1937. Woman’s Home Companion.

The pattern information and back views of Companion-Butterick #7553: 1937 sept p 82 family triad pattern 7553 3 ages text back view

 

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“Tattoo Your Lips” Ads for Tattoo Brand Cosmetics, 1930s

Tattoo Lipstick Ad, detail. from Woman's Home Companion, March 1937.

Tattoo Lipstick Ad, detail, from Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

“The New Tattoo gives lips exciting South Sea redness that’s transparent, pasteless, highly indelible . . . yet makes them moist, lustrous, smooth, soft . . . endlessly yielding. . . . How his heart will pound at the touch of lips so smooth, so caressingly soft!”

When I tried to find out more about the Tattoo makeup brand, I discovered that these Tattoo ads which appeared in black and white in Woman’s Home Companion appeared in full color in other magazines, such as Vogue. It was called “the New Tattoo” in the ad dated 1930, but here is an ad with only four colors, so it may be even earlier.

Tattoo lipstick ad, Woman's Home Companion, March 1937.

Tattoo lipstick ad, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

To see this ad in color, click here.

This ad for Tattoo brand lipstick stresses that the color is “highly indelible” — although not, fortunately, as indelible as a tattoo. It’s a lip “stain,” available in five colors:  coral, exotic, natural, pastel, and Hawaiian. (Don’t you wonder what “exotic” and “Hawaiian” meant? Presumably one of them was darker than coral red.) There’s a lot to like in this ad:  shoes that would be impossible to walk in on a beach; the cutout below the bow on the reclining woman’s swimsuit (I bought a suit like that in 1978); the man’s tank-top swimsuit (men had begun to bare their chests by 1937; I’ve even seen a man’s transitional swimsuit with a top that zipped off!)

Me's bathing suits in an illustration by Cordrey, Woman's Home Companion, april 1937.

Men’s bathing suits in an illustration by Cordrey, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937.

The Tattoo lipstick case had a topless, grass-skirted dancer on it:

Tattoo lipstick tube from ad, 1937.

Tattoo lipstick tube from ad, 1937.

I didn’t find a history of Tattoo makeup online, but the earliest dated color advertisement I found was from 1930. (Click here) It included a coupon for a trial sample in your choice of color. The latest dated color image online was from 1949 (Click here.) Both were posted on flikr by totallymystified.

Tattoo lipstick ad, Woman's Home Companion, April, 1937.

Tattoo lipstick ad, Woman’s Home Companion, April, 1937.

“The New Tattoo gives lips a strangely intoxicating redness; a sweetly tempting moistness and luster that only South Sea colors have…. There’s a magical ingredient blended into the New Tattoo that give lips a thrilling new kind of softness . . . an endlessly yielding softess!”

Pacific Tourism Grew in the 1930s

Tourism to Hawaii, via luxurious cruise ships, increased in the 1930s. The “white ships” of the Matson Line sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii and the South Seas. Quite a few movies with a tropical setting were made in the thirties, including Mutiny on the Bounty (1935),  The Hurricane (1937) and Her Jungle Love (1938) — both starring queen-of-the-sarong Dorothy Lamour, Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938), and Honolulu (1939). Bing Crosby and his movie Waikiki Wedding (1937) popularized the song “Sweet Leilani,” written in 1934.

Tattoo lipstick ad, Woman's Home Companion, February 1937.

Tattoo lipstick ad, Woman’s Home Companion, February 1937.

I can’t help noticing (Grrrr….)  that the “South Seas Enchantress” in these ads is always subordinated to the one with fair skin, even though a “healthy” tan was very fashionable in the 1930s.

"Don't worry darling, you'll look quite respectable in a day or two." Sept. 1936; from The Way to Wear'em.

“Don’t worry darling, you’ll look quite respectable in a day or two.” Sept. 1936; from The Way to Wear’em.

Perhaps a tan made darker lipstick more generally acceptable and less artificial looking.

Tattoo Waterproof Mascara

Ad for Tattoo Mascara, Woman's Home Companion, April 1936.

Ad for Tattoo Mascara, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936.

“Needs no water to apply.” By the 1940s, Maybelline also sold mascara in a tube . . .

Maybelline products from an ad in Vogue, August 1943.

Maybelline products from an ad in Vogue, August 1943.

. . .but, well into the 1950s, mascara was more familiar in that red plastic tray —  as solid-form mascara which you moistened with the included brush. You were supposed to use water, but many women used spit. (Ugh!)

Maybelline Mascara ad, from Delineator, 1924.

Maybelline Mascara ad, from Delineator, 1924.

By 1929 Maybelline sold both this familiar “matchbox” of mascara, and a waterproof liquid mascara in a bottle; both came in brown or black.

Mabelline liquid mascara with round brush, 1929.

Mabelline waterproof liquid mascara with round brush, 1929.

Tattoo’s waterproof mascara came in a tube in the 1930s:

Tattoo waterproof mascara in a tube. Women's Home Companion, April 1936.

Tattoo waterproof mascara in a tube. Women’s Home Companion, April 1936. It cost 50 cents, but you could get a 30-day sample for a dime.

Tattoo mascara in a tube came in three colors: black, brown, and blue (!)

Read More About the Development of Lipsticks:

My search for “Tattoo” ads led me to a really excellent Australian site: Cosmetics and skin.com

For their well written and beautifully illustrated article on lipsticks, click here.

Readers of Moby Dick may be interested to learn that spermaceti was a major ingredient in 1930s lipsticks….

Actual lip tattooing in 1933

The modernmechanix blog found this article from 1933, headlined “Lip Tattooing Is the Latest Fad” in Hollywood, and commented, “I hope she doesn’t change her mind.”  A reminder to anyone thinking about getting “permanent makeup:” your face will change as you age, your eyebrows won’t stay in the same place, and fashions in makeup will change, too. Imagine if Lucille Ball had had her lipstick permanently tattooed all over her upper lip in 1950; she’d have been stuck with it for the next 39 years!

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Bathing Suits, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Swimsuits