Tag Archives: 1930s

Vogue Pattern 7250: The Personality Dress, 1936

"The Personality Dress." Vogue pattern # 7250, featured on Ladies' Home Journal, Feb 1936.

“The Personality Dress.” Vogue pattern # 7250, featured in Ladies’ Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

The Woman’s Home Companion joined with Butterick in 1936 to publicize Companion-Butterick patterns, which often were selected for their versatility with accessories. But, in the grim financial situation of the 1930s, The Ladies’ Home Journal also recognized that many women had to make do with just one or two ‘good’ dresses, adding inexpensive accessories like detachable collars, “Vestees” (also known as “dickies”  — basically just the collar and front part of a blouse, which takes the place of a complete blouse peeking out from your jacket or sweater,) plus an assortment of scarves, belts, and costume jewelry.

Vogue Patterns in Ladies Home Journal

The Ladies’ Home Journal had produced and sold its own patterns earlier in the century, but it featured a few Vogue patterns, instead, in every issue by 1936 — possibly earlier. This particular Vogue dress pattern, # 7250, is described as “a frock that’s hard to find, and we thought it up especially for you!” lhj 1936 feb p 24  a b c d tops vogue 7250Vogue # 7250 has a top-stitched button front from high collar to the waist, with an apparently false placket that continues down to the hem for a very long, slender look. (See top photo) For maximum versatility, preferred colors are black, brown, gray, and navy, but royal blue, dark red, green or yellow, and white “of course” are also suggested. Available in sizes 14 to 42.

“Then you add or subtract, as your mood, the weather, or the occasion dictates. Demure for shopping, you may wear a cleric’s vestee of white sik or linen [A], with handbag, belt, and gloves possibly of red suede. Or, if there’s a dash of derring-do in you, wouldn’t you like brown with black — brown alligator belt and bag, and brown suede gloves faced with kid? On other days, let a pair of rhinestone clips [B] carry the burden of dresing up your frock. A monogram clip fastened to one side of an open white vestee [C] is an individual touch.  A sports handkerchief, [D] knotted or pinned with a wooden or copper scarfpin, will lend dash when you’re running into town some morning on the 10:10. . . .”

lhj 1936 feb p 24 bottom EFG vogue 7250It’s hard to tell whether the one I’ve labeled E is a very large pin or a bunch of flowers.

“For a special luncheon date, baste in a lingerie frill of white [G] and put on a velvet belt with a handsome buckle.  For another day, in the spirit of Salzburg, you may devise an amusing bolero of Tirolese ancestry [F]. Play at being your own designer and you’ll find it’s fascinating to experiment with one dress. . . . It’s a dress that even your best friend won’t tire of!”

Making the Best of Things

Although suede and alligator accessories sound extravagant (and probably most women only dreamed of such luxuries,) this article has a sort of sad gallantry about it. Even as a woman struggles to maintain the image of a person with adequate income, she should think of it as “fascinating” “play.” Her best friend, of course, will notice that she has to wear the same dress every day — but she “won’t tire of” it!

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Filed under 1930s, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Dinner Suit for Summer or Cruise, late 1930s

A dinner suit, linen or rayon, late 1930s. From a private collection.

A dinner suit, linen or rayon, late 1930s. From a private collection.

After writing about 1936 swimsuits and dresses for a cruise to Cuba or Bermuda, I remembered this vintage suit which was collected by a friend. It was white linen (or linen-look rayon) with a medium-large navy floral print. It has a low, square-cut back, like the evening dresses for a 1936 cruise. It’s fresh and young-looking, but the cut is quite conservative (you could easily wear a low-backed corset under it, whereas more dramatic 30s evening gowns require the wearer to go bra-less.)

A dinner suit and evening dress to wear on a tropic cruise. Ladies' Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

A dinner suit and evening dress to wear on a tropic cruise. Ladies’ Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

Here are front and back views of the linen-look dinner dress:dress front and backThe bodice has a triangular insert that creates a squarish neckline. There is fullness in the front rather than darts, so it may have had a slight blouson when worn. Like this black and white gown from the cruise article, there is more fullness in the skirt back than in the front:

Ladies' Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

Ladies’ Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

The jacket is longer in the back than in the front, which looks graceful in profile, and its short, loose sleeves are very comfortable for an evening in a warm climate.suit jacket front side backThe puffy sleeves probably date this to the late thirties; here are some sleeves (1937) with a similar silhouette, but different construction:

Butterick-Companion patterns from Woman's Home Companion, January 1937.

Butterick-Companion patterns from Woman’s Home Companion, January 1937.

This suit did not have a manufacturer’s label; the jacket and bodice were lined, but the skirt was not. The dress closed with snaps at the side, plus a hook at the waist — always a good idea!

Side underarm bodice closing. Some female snaps are missing. The skirt (right) is unlined.

Side underarm bodice closing. The female snaps are not visible. The skirt (right) is unlined.

Here’s a closer look at the princess-line jacket:lg V173 jacket frontThe buttons are self-covered and the buttonholes were hand-bound: lg V173 jacket buttons

Karen at Fifty Dresses has been writing marvelous posts about Moygashel linen (she even found a 1955 advertisement picturing one of her vintage fabric purchases!) Click here to read her post and see the clever dress she made from a very small remnant.)

I think this dinner suit was made by the wearer — or her dressmaker — and I wouldn’t be surprised to come across the pattern someday!

 

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Dresses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Book Review: A Perfect Fit, by Jenna Weissman Joselit

A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character and the Promise of America

A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character and the Promise of America was first published in 2001, but I discovered it at the library this year. This is such a good book that I wish it had a better format. Professor Joselit writes about the way clothing “Americanized” immigrants and helped other Americans — “outriders” by virtue of race or economic status — integrate into the mainstream culture.

Illustration from A Perfect Fit; from the Peter H. Schweitzer collection. Please do not copy this image.

Illustration from A Perfect Fit; from the Peter H. Schweitzer collection. Please do not copy this image.

The chapters can be read as independent essays on topics ranging from “The Mark of a Gentleman” to “The Truth About Fur” (with a necessary side trip into egret feathers and the founding of the Audubon Society) — all researched primarily in periodicals, trade journals, and newspapers. Consequently, there is a lot of information from previously neglected sources. Other chapters discuss changing ideas of modesty (corsets and hemlines), men’s clothing and hats, shoes (“Oh, My Aching Feet”), and other accessories (“Say It with Jewelry.” )

There is much to like about A Perfect Fit — including the extensive use of primary sources that are not on the usual fashion writers’ list:  Hadassah Newsletter, Council Woman, Catholic Citizen, Scientific American, and the records of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, among many others.  But it can also be exasperating, chiefly because of problems that should have been addressed by the editor.  Since the preface says,  “the 1890s, when this book begins, and the 1930s, when it ends,” it’s disconcerting to see undated illustrations from earlier and much later decades.  To Joselin’s credit, the illustrations include Americans of African and Jewish ancestry wearing elegant clothing, in keeping with her theme of “The Promise of America.”

Illustration for A Perfect Fit: Photo of "two unidentified South Carolina women" by Richard Samuel Roberts, NY Public library collection. Please do not copy this image.

Illustration for A Perfect Fit: Photo of “two unidentified South Carolina women” by Richard Samuel Roberts, NY Public library collection. Please do not copy this image.

Her discussion of “fashion shows produced by rural women and their daughters,” between the wars, with the encouragement of 4-H clubs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture was news to me, and fascinating — in spite of this photo illustration that is clearly from the post-war era.

Illustration from A Perfect Fit. From collection of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. Please do not copy this image.

Illustration from A Perfect Fit. From collection of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Please do not copy this image.

The chapter on fur and feathers is very interesting, and answered a question that had been in my mind: How was it possible that photos of the 1930s — the Great Depression — showed so many ordinary women (like secretaries and typists) wearing furs? The answer illustrates the problem of unintended consequences: to eliminate the cruelty of steel-jawed traps, fur farming was encouraged as a more humane solution. “In 1917, there were only four fur farms in the entire United States; by 1930, there were more than forty-five hundred.” This drove down the price of furs — and millions of animals were raised for slaughter.

“A la Mode,” the chapter that best explains the subtitle “Clothes, Character and the Promise of America,” shows the aspiration to “blend in” and the consequent emphasis on materialism that is still [in my opinion] an American plague. It also discusses the revolution in dress that resulted from improvements in mass-produced clothing.

Illustration from A Perfect Fit. From the Peter H. Schweitzer collection. Please do not copy this image.

Illustration from A Perfect Fit. From the Peter H. Schweitzer collection. Please do not copy this image.

There is even a mention of early charity thrift shops and the “I cash clothes!” man who was familiar in many neighborhoods.

Since so many of the sources are periodicals, the lack of a bibliography is perhaps understandable, but the decision to avoid numbered footnotes — or even an asterisk — means the reader has to flip back and forth constantly, trying to track and date the sources. (The footnotes are sorted by page number; until you look for a citation, you don’t know whether there will be one or not. There usually is one — or several — identified by phrases from the text. ) Finding out more about an intriguing statement is not easy. Joselit examines trends, using copious citations but without much regard to strict chronology; it’s possible to find references to articles dating from 1911 and 1925 in the same sentence, e.g., in a sentence on p. 175 about the popularity of  ” ‘interesting insect jewelry’ and strings of pearls.”

[My husband has had several books published, so I’m aware that editing is often up to the writer these days. One publisher even told him to avoid putting dates in the text, because “people don’t like books with lots of numbers.” And some publishers are footnote phobic — but luckily, not Mary Roach’s. Her Packing for Mars would be much less funny without the footnotes at the bottom of the page. I hope other publishers notice that footnotes at the bottom of the page have not discouraged readers from buying her books. ]

I just wish A Perfect Fit had a better format and the quality of editing that it deserves.

The final chapter, “Emphatically Modern,” covers the nineteen forties and the fifties, and ranges to the 1970s ( in spite of the date range set out in the preface.) It covers man-made fibers, zoot suits, women wearing trousers, etc. — and the citations at the back of the book offer some great leads to further research.

A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character and the Promise of America is crammed with marvellous quotations from usually neglected sources. Joselit is concerned with the everyday clothing of Americans, new and old. And she discusses both men’s and women’s fashions. It’s definitely worth reading — but you’ll need to keep a bookmark in the footnotes section; you’ll probably be flipping back and forth several times per page to check the dates. Available in hardback or paperback. You can read more detailed reviews of this book at Houston Chronicle,  Project MUSE, Kirkus Reviews.

Note — photos from the book have been used only to illustrate points made in the review. They are not to be copied, posted, reproduced, etc. without permission of the copyright owners.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Hats, Menswear, Shoes

Change-Abouts for Teens and Twenties: 1937

Change-About Fashions, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937

Change-About Fashions, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937

Companion-Butterick patterns often emphasized that they were economical because the dresses featured could be worn several ways, giving the look of a large wardrobe with only a few garments. These three patterns from the April 1937 Woman’s Home Companion are intended for teens and young women. (Sizes run through Junior Miss size 12 to a Ladies’ Bust size 38″) The text, by Fashion Editor Ethel Holland Little, says:

“If there is one rule that you Teens and Twenties can put at the top of every clothes list, it is: seek variety. You can wear so many of the new fashions. Why not arm yourself with all the season’s hits – the boleros, the bright prints, the colored sashes, the novelty piqués, the hats with fabric crowns? You can do this without stretching your clothes allowance too much – if you go in for change-abouts.

One day you wear it one way, the next, another – the simple dress that you vary by adding or subtracting a jacket, by substituting a belt for a sash. Try it; try all three of the change-abouts pictured here if you are looking for an economical way to put yourself on the fashion map.”

Companion-Butterick pattern #7296, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern #7296, April 1937.

Pattern # 7296 looks demure with its jacket on; the surprise comes with the jacket off – revealing a back bare to the waist. 1937 april p 78 changebackless 500 7296

“No. 7296 is the beach dress you are practically forced to acquire if you want to build a reputation for knowing what’s what. Wide short skirt, cut-out back, and brief bolero – these are the three fundamentals of a style that looks right at the country club with its little jacket, on the sand without. Make both dress and jacket in a splashy surrealist print [popularized by Schiaparelli] or in this new combination of white linen with polkadot silk crepe. But in any case don’t forget your matching rubber-soled sports shoes (they’re cotton and remarkably inexpensive) and your big-brimmed fabric-crowned straw.

Was it a coincidence that rubber-soled Kedettes were advertised in the same issue?

Kedettes rubber-soled shoes ad, 1937. Keds and Kedetttes were made by United States Rubber Company.

Kedettes rubber-soled shoes ad, 1937. Keds and Kedetttes were made by United States Rubber Company.

“Kedettes are made by the makers of Keds and Gaytees. At the better stores… $1.29 to $2.25.”

Companion-Butterick pattern #7924, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern #7924, April 1937.

“No. 7924 makes a good weekday school cotton – one that you can wear with or without the jacket according to the weather and your mood. It is perfect for a novelty piqué (the new ones are called by such pat names as boxbar or hexagon) and for a non-soiling shade such as this wine red, printed and plain.” [Note: She seems to be wearing a pair of the Kedettes featured in the ad.]

Companion-Butterick pattern #7298, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern #7298, April 1937.

“No. 7298 is your silk daytime dress – made to order for club gatherings and monopoly parties. Wear it on Friday the ninth with the printed collar and peplum. Appear on Friday the sixteenth with a tricolor ribbon sash. The crowd won’t know it’s the same dress at first, and when they do, they’ll applaud your sorcery.”

If you look closely, you’ll see that there is no jacket – the same print fabric is used for the detachable collar and peplum, and the peplum is attached to a belt. 1937 april p 79 change abouts teens twenties peplum

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear

Garters, Flappers, Rolled Stockings, and Other Stocking Stories

 Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

It wasn’t till Lynn at americanagefashion.com asked how 1920s roll-on garters worked that I realized many women have never worn stockings, much less rolled garters or garter belts. So I’ll repeat some of my reply, this time with lots of illustrations.

My grandmother still wore 1920s style garters (click link for image)  in the 1950s, when she was in her 70s. The rubber of the garter was tube-shaped, covered in pinkish-tan (knit?) fabric, and sealed into a ring shape with a tubular metal crimp. What this kind of garter  — utterly un-sexy, nothing like a flat, lacy wedding garter — did to the circulation in women’s legs, I don’t want to think about.

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator,  July 1925

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator, July 1925

Grandma rolled the ring-type garter up to the top of the stocking, and then rolled stocking and garter, as one, down to a point above or below her knee. The stocking rolled itself around the garter and created a ridge or bump, but this technique saved women from the runs you can get when you kneel while wearing stocking suspenders attached to the corset and clasped onto the stocking. (Rolled stockings also allowed women the comfort of not wearing a girdle….)

Suspender Style Garters

A Girdle form the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

A Girdle from the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

If those traditional garters (correctly called “suspenders” by the British) weren’t long enough, or you were tall, nylon (and rayon) stockings often “popped” at the knee when you knelt down. I remember coming out of church with my entire knee bulging out of my nylon stocking in the early 60s.

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

This 1924 ad for Onyx Silk Stockings claims that other silk stockings, although naturally more elastic than rayon, popped at the knee, too. “Bending the knee like this puts a heavy strain on any silk stocking.”

Lady’s Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

“Costly runs:”  as discussed in my “Living on $18 a Week” post, women with white collar jobs were expected to wear stockings to work, but stockings were fragile and a constant drain on their budget. (The Great Depression made this problem quite serious. In 2014 it’s widely reported that your chance of getting a job interview is better if you already have a job; in the 1930s, a person who was unemployed long enough to start looking shabby was much less likely to get the same kind of job as the one she had lost.)

Knee-Highs to the RescueLHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high stockings 500 dpi ad

I was surprised to find this advertisement for Holeproof  Knee-Highs in The Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936. “Most good hosiery counters now feature the original Knee-High by Holeproof. In Chiffon, Service, or Dancing Sheer. See it during National Holeproof Knee-High Week, June 13-20.”

[As the writers of Third Rock from the Sun realized, women like me always regarded our knee high stockings as rather embarrassing. There’s plenty of evidence that a woman slowly removing her stockings can be quite erotic, but slowly removing my knee length sox  – or support pantyhose, for that matter – is the opposite of seductive.]

Nevertheless, with the long dresses of the 1930s, knee length stockings made sense.  When you were standing, the tops wouldn’t show. (Although I don’t think many women flaunted them as they do in the top photo below!) Stockings that never had to bear the strain of being stretched between a metal stocking clasp and a girdle were likely to last much longer. And garters of any kind were not necessary with the new Knee-High.

The development of Lastex – thin threads of rubber encased in fabric –  revolutionized undergarments after 1931, and made a self-supporting knee high stocking possible.

LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high top 2 pix stockings ad

“. . . Gives the knee-freedom of rolled hosiery in a smartly styled way. . . The self-supporting Holeproof Knee-High. . . . No more garter runs. . . this revolutionary new-type stocking eliminates knee-strain and garter pull. You can bend, twist or kneel without straining your sheerest chiffons. No garter bumps to show ‘neath sheer frocks.” LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high next 2 pixstockings ad“Air-conditioned knees. If you pursue an active life you’ll find cool comfort in Holeproof Knee-High . . . and amazing economy! With garter runs eliminated, 3 pairs outwear 4 or 5 of long hose. Knit-in ‘Lastex’ garter top keeps stocking trimly in place.”LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high bottom of ad stockings ad“Full-fashioned silk hosiery (knee-length) with knit-in ‘Lastex’ garters.”

Also Introduced in the 1930s: Peds

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

The fine print says “elastic edge” and “non-slip heel.” “Wear PEDS for the beach, sportswear, street wear, around the home.” Peds, which could be worn with shoes while you were cleaning house, etc., were also suggested not just as a replacement for stockings, but as stocking savers: “If wearing stockings, use Peds under or over them! Stops wear and mending.” If your problem was that your toenails wore through your stockings, this might actually work.

Update, 6/29/16: There’s a great post with lots of photos of 1920s rolled stockings with bathing suits at  the Frontline Flapper Vintage blog. Click here.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1940s-1950s, Corsets, Girdles, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs

Dinner Menu from Chinatown, San Francisco, 1939

Since I wrote about Living on $18 Dollars a Week in the 1930s, I thought this menu from a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, dated February 17, 1939, would be appropriate. There are some surprises in addition to the prices; not least is that the cafe featured “Good Music and Dancing Every Evening.” That makes the seventy-five cent, nine course prix fixe American menu with steak or leg of lamb quite a bargain! The Chinese menu, which cost ten cents more, included crab and abalone, which may explain why it was more expensive.

Menu for New Shanghai Cafe, 453 Grant Avenue, February 1939

Menu for New Shanghai Cafe, 453 Grant Avenue, February 1939

The Chinese dinner is clearly aimed at non-Chinese customers (diners from Shanghai might be disappointed), and it was very clever to include an American menu, since 1939 was the year of the World’s Fair in San Francisco, and many tourists who had never eaten Chinese food could be expected. The group of six people whose names were written at the top of this menu included some visitors from Tennessee, probably being “shown the town” by the two San Francisco residents whose names I recognize.

Chinese Menu from New Shanghai Cafe, 1939

Chinese Dinner Offered in 1939

Chinese Prix fixe Dinner Offered at New Shanghai Cafe in 1939

Menu of American Dinner Offered at New Shanghai Cafe, 1939

American Dinner Menu, New Shanghai Cafe, 1939

American Prix fixe Dinner Menu, New Shanghai Cafe, 1939

That’s a lot of food for 75 cents.

The 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island

According to Wikipedia, the Golden Gate International Exposition — as the Fair was officially known –opened from February 18, 1939, through October 29, 1939, and [again] from May 25, 1940, through September 29, 1940.” Here is a picture of my grandmother (left) and other footsore visitors resting in front of the gigantic statue of “Pacifica” in 1940.

Women resting in front of the statue of Pacifica, photo printed July 1940.

Women resting in front of the statue of Pacifica, photo printed July 1940.

"Fountain Court of Flowers and Tower of Sun" -- from backs of photos

“Fountain Court of Flowers” and “Tower of Sun” at Treasure Island Fair, 1939– from backs of photos

Back & Front of Menu, New Shanghai Cafe, San Francisco, 1939

Back & Front of Menu, New Shanghai Cafe, San Francisco, 1939

You can read more about the history of the New Shanghai Cafe and other 1940s nightclubs and restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown in this illustrated article by Harley Spiller at Gastronomica.

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, Exhibitions & Museums, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs

“Silver Hair Fashions”: Spring Styles for Older (and Larger) Women, 1931

“Silver Hair Fashions” from Butterick’s Delineator, April 1931

“Silver Hair Fashions” from Butterick’s Delineator, April 1931

Six “Silver Hair Fashions” for April, 19311931 april p silver hair fashions large sizes labeled top

A closer look at Butterick dress patterns # 3812 & 3797 (Top Right and Top Left):

3812 & 3797

3812   OLD IVORY LACE adds the final touch of distinction to this frock of sheer crêpe. There’s graceful movement in every line of the flared skirt, and the frills at the wrist match the self jabot. Choose this in soft rose if you are slim – if not-so-slim, black. For 40, 4 7/8 yards 39-inch georgette. Designed for 34 to 44. [bust] [I do wish the writers at Butterick Publishing had not repeatedly suggested that black was the only sensible color choice for larger women! How about something really daring – like navy?]

3797   PARIS SAYS GRAY and for the woman with silvery hair, nothing could be more flattering. This afternoon frock with vestee of white georgette  has gracefully molded hips and sleeves of three-quarter length. Flared wrapped skirt. For 40, 4 3/4 yards 39-inch silk crêpe; 3/8 yard 39-inch contrast.  Designed for 34 to 48.

Butterick patterns 3806, 3804, 3814, 3810; April 1931 Delineator

Butterick patterns 3806, 3804, 3814, 3810; April 1931 Delineator

3806   ONE-REVERS FASHION  Every line of this frock is either up-and-down or diagonal, creating the illusion of height and slenderness. Gray tweed would be very smart, with a white piqué collar, white gloves, and a matching tweed hat. . . . Designed for 34 to 52. [inch bust]

3804   IF YOU’RE NOT SLIM  This surplice frock with pleats will do amazing things in the way of slenderizing and lending additional height. The pleats are stitched down so that fullness begins just above the knee. Contrasting jabot. . . . Designed for 34 to 48 [inch bust. The “surplice line,” running diagonally across the bodice, was a favorite suggestion for women who wore large sizes in the 1920s, too.]

3814   PLEATS FOR FLATNESS This is the kind of ‘useful frock’ you’ll wear for everything from marketing to motoring and golf. [!] The points on the yoke match the points on the skirt panel, and there are four kick pleats. One-piece back. . . . Designed for 34 to 44 [bust.]

3810   LONG SLIM LINES For anyone inclined to be a bit overweight. The low V neck and diagonal flare of this frock will subtract pounds from the silhouette. Wear it in a print if you like. One-piece from shoulder to hem. . . . Designed for sizes 34 to 52 [inch bust.]

And a Reality Check from Lane Bryant, 1931

Obviously, all six of these dresses for “mature figures” have been illustrated by Butterick as they would appear on an elongated fashion figure, in smallish sizes, even when the pattern is “for anyone inclined to be a bit overweight,” or “not-so-slim.” Numbers 3806 and 3810 go up to size 52, which is several inches larger than a modern Size 24. [I give Butterick credit for realizing — in the 1930s! —  that many women make their own clothes because they have hard-to-fit figures.]

This Lane Bryant catalog advertisement — from the February 1931 Delineator — doesn’t mince words: “For Stout Women and Misses.”

Lane Bryant "Style Book"/Catalog Ad, February 1931

Lane Bryant “Style Book”/Catalog Ad, February 1931

The Lane Bryant  illustrations give a more realistic idea of how a 1931 dress would look on a woman with 48 inch hips and a good corset. The Lane Bryant styles also have that slenderizing, diagonal “surplice line,” even on the coat.

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Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Spring Styles for Older (and Larger) Women, February, 1931

On Tuesday night I was going through photos I had taken of Delineator fashions from February, 1931. Someone had removed the February 1931 cover from the bound volume at the library – a shame, because the covers in the 1930s were especially lovely. This is the cover from March, by Dynevor Rhys: (Click image to enlarge)

Delineator Cover for March, 1931, by Dynevor Rhys

Delineator Cover for March, 1931, by Dynevor Rhys

I had found a page of spring fashions for older women, so I was thinking about one of my favorite blogs, American Age Fashion: What American Women Wore, 1900 to Now.  Serendipity:  In the next day’s mail, I received a gift from Lynn at americanagefashion.com: a copy on fabric of the missing February 1931 cover of Delineator! (I haven’t photographed it yet.) In return, here are . . .

Four February Fashions “Charmingly Suited to the Dignity of White Hair”

Butterick patterns "Charmingly Suited to the Dignity of White Hair" from Delineator, February 1931

Butterick patterns “Charmingly Suited to the Dignity of White Hair” from Delineator, February 1931

Back Views

Back Views

This text is typed below — the print here is a bit small!

1931 feb p 106 suited to white hair pattern info

Butterick 3363 & 3697

Butterick 3363 & 3697

3663 FLATTER YOURSELF With a deep ivory lace yoke and a lace jabot on your new black frock, and the result will turn other heads than your own.  A bit more lace is added at the cuffs. The angular line of the skirt yoke is flattering also. Notice the hem; it is at exactly the right place for the smart matron. The frock is designed for sizes 34 to 46. [bust measurement]

3697 IF YOU ARE SLENDER Choose raspberry for this frock – it is a new color with dark coats, and a charming one with white hair. If not slender, choose black with white or flesh chiffon vestee. The belt is slightly below the normal line, and both the long collar and the curved insert with a flare have a one-sided trend. Designed for 34 to 48. [bust measurement]

1931 feb p 106 3681 3675f white hair large top

3681 THE SLIMMEST LINE All the important lines in this frock are diagonals – that’s the clever part of it, for they flatter the mature figure. The straight skirt is shirred  on the diagonal. The bodice has a diagonal closing. A long white collar helps to make one appear thin, and soft flares finish the three-quarter sleeves. The frock is designed for 34 to 52. [inches bust measure]

3675 ONE TYPE OF TUNIC  The flared tunic is broken at the center front and back, so that it will not cut any length from the figure, and both skirt and tunic are joined to the long bodice in scalloped outline, Wear the belt where it suits you best. The flared three-quarter sleeves and lace vestee are flattering. The frock is designed for 34 to 48 [inch bust measurement.] “Wear the belt where it suits you best” — in other words, if you are not ready to give up the low waistline of the 1920s.

Lane Bryant Adds a Touch of Reality

Pattern number 3681 is illustrated as if the model were a little larger than the 1930s ideal. However, the three other models appear to be size 34, not size 48 or 52.  This advertisement for the Lane Bryant catalog (Style Book) for Stout Women is also from February 1931 — and a bit more realistic.  The model appears to be wearing a very good corset, with bust support and hip control. There is still a twenties influence in the low waist (or lack thereof.)

Lane Bryant Ad from Delineator, February 1931

Lane Bryant Ad from Delineator, February 1931

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Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Zippers Are Good for Your Children: Ad Campaigns from the 1920s and 1930s

Vanta Self-Help Garments Ad, Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1936

Vanta Self-Help Garments Ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1936

“Your Child’s First Lesson in Self-Reliance is Self-Dressing”

Talon ZIpper Ad, May 1929, Delineator

“Quick Dressing at Camp or Home Is No Longer a Problem.” Talon Zipper Ad, May 1929, Delineator

In Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, Robert Friedel attributes the wide-spread adoption of zippers in children’s clothing in the late twenties and early thirties to the relatively new field of child psychology.  Child psychologists and scientific child-rearing experts began to stress the importance of developing self-reliance and self-confidence at an early age, beginning with children dressing themselves.

Why Children Couldn’t Dress Themselves

Traditional clothing for children in the 1920s made it impossible for a young child, especially a boy, to dress himself. Girls were also afflicted with clothes that buttoned up the back, but little boys needed help several times a day.

Two Butterick Patterns for Boys, 1925

Two Butterick Patterns for Boys, 1925

Little Boy in Skirt, late 1800s. Photo courtesy RememberedSummers.wordpress.com

Little Boy in Skirt, late 1800s. Photo courtesy RememberedSummers.wordpress.com

In the 1800s, young boys as well as girls wore skirts until they were well out of diapers.

Pictorial Review pattern, courtesy of RememberedSummers

Pictorial Review pattern, courtesy of RememberedSummers

But in the 1910s and 20s, boys’ pants buttoned to their shirts, in front and back, where buttons were hard to reach. This eliminated the need for suspenders to hold the pants up, but it must have been impossible for most 4 or 5 year old boys to go to the bathroom — and re-dress — without help.

[Click on images to enlarge.]

Children circa 1924, courtesy & copyright RememberedSummers

Children circa 1924, courtesy & copyright RememberedSummers

Educator Ellen Miller, of the innovative Merrill-Palmer school, wrote that clothing for small boys had “an average of more than seventeen buttons” to be fastened, and some of these buttons were unreachable by small arms and hands. [Cited in Zipper, p. 179.] There could be even more buttons:

Leggings, 1920s

Children Wearing Buttoned Leggings, in a Ford Ad, 1924

Children Wearing Buttoned Leggings, in a Ford Ad, 1924

In the winter, boys and girls wore tight over-the-knee leggings fastened with buttons – lots of small buttons, which little fingers couldn’t fasten by themselves. (I count 11 buttons just on the part of the girl’s left legging that we can see.)

Butterick Pattern for Leggings, Oct. 1924

Butterick Pattern for Leggings, Oct. 1924

Winter months must have been a nightmare for kindergarten teachers.

As sales of zippers to B.F. Goodrich for ’Zippers’ brand boots for women tapered off around 1928,  the Hookless Fastener Company [which later became Talon] decided to develop a new market, and contacted the manufacturers of leggings: “When the New York fabric and corduroy manufacturers Hallett and Hackmeyer were persuaded to enter the market themselves, armed with the Talon fastener to make their offerings distinctive, the market turned around with astonishing speed.” By 1931, salesmen trying to set up a window display that would contrast a new zipper legging with an old-fashioned button legging reported that it was impossible to find a button legging for sale anywhere. [Zipper, p. 176]

Child Psychology and Zippers

Vanta Self-Help Baby Clothes Ad, Ladies Home Journal, October 1936

Vanta Self-Help Baby Clothes Ad, Ladies Home Journal, October 1936

I wish I could find an advertisement that says “4 out of 5 psychologists recommend zippers,” but I haven’t, yet. This 1936 ad for Vanta Baby Garments comes close to saying that children who don’t dress themselves will be psychologically damaged [Vanta did not necessarily use zippers] :

“If you keep on dressing your child when he should be learning to dress himself, you may be forming a habit of dependence upon others that he will never quite overcome. So say leading child psychologists and educators….

“Vanta Self-Help garments are designed to teach children to dress themselves when only two years old. They make a happy game of dressing – a game that the child looks forward to each day. But an important game that teaches him to think for himself, act for himself, do for himself. A self-reliant, resourceful, independent character in the making. ”

Vanta advertised that its buttonholes were large enough for little fingers; all clothes buttoned in the front, never in back; and the red, heart-shaped Vanta label was always on the front and on the outside, so children could tell when their clothes were right-side out. “This famous label is your child’s first guiding mark to independence . . . your own key to precious hours saved for recreation!”

Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, May 1929. Delineator.

Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, May 1929. Delineator.

This 1929 advertisement for Talon Slide-Fasteners also cites psychologists:  “Quick Dressing at camp or home is no longer a problem…. Whether for play or work, all the very young men are dressing themselves these days – and, thanks to Talon Slide-Fasteners, getting pleasure out of it. The reason they enjoy it, psychologists will tell you, is because Talon-fastened garments bring the ‘play-spirit’ into operation. Young minds quickly grasp any plan that affects their daily lives, in which the element of fun is involved…. Even a 4-year-old can quickly and easily work the slider-pull of a Talon Slide-Fastener….You can buy children’s Talon-Fastened garments for all occasions, or you can make them at home, using Talon Slide-Fasteners which you can buy at any Notion Counter.”1929 may zipper boys ad btm text

“Think what a help to busy housewives these features provide….”

Manufactured Items Made with Talon Zippers, Bottom of 1929 Ad

Manufactured Items Made with Talon Zippers, Bottom of 1929 Ad

The bottom of the ad pictures a “Girl’s Play Suit; Child’s Sweater; Ladies’ Hand Bag; Duffle Bag; fitted with Talon Slide-Fasteners.” The smallest Talon zipper available in 1929 was still too large for very small children’s clothing, but by 1933 the #3 Talon zipper was becoming widely used. In the early 1930s a Hookless Fastener employee named Jack Keilly took his four-year-old daughter to stores to demonstrate how easily a child could use a zipper.  She was very impressive — but too young to work! — so eventually a movie was made, and department stores spent as much as $100 a week to show it to their customers. By 1936-37, when zippers began appearing in women’s dresses, they already knew how a zipper worked — so simple, a child could do it!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Zippers

Chew Gum for Beauty – and Be Polite About It! (Part 3)

Wrigley's gum Curve of Beauty ad 1934 julyA Graceful Cheek Line – Thanks to Chewing Gum

Wrigley’s campaign to convince women that chewing gum twice a day would give them shapely lips and firm up their cheeks lasted several years.  This ad is notable for the “sculptured” hairstyle – and the graceful curve of the cheek which “depends very much upon chewing”  for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Here’s a closeup of that hair; the odd thing is that I have yet to see an ad for hair lacquer or styling products in a 1930s magazine.

Hair style, July, 1934; Wrigley Gum Ad, from Delineator

Hair style, July, 1934; Wrigley Gum Ad, from Delineator

Sex Sells… Chewing Gum

This ad, on the other hand, is blatantly sexy – although it says it’s about clear skin, resulting from the improved circulation chewing gum will give you.

Wrigley's Double Mint Gum Ad, Delineator, May 1934

Wrigley’s Double Mint Gum Ad, Delineator, May 1934

Text from May 1934 Double Mint ad

Text from May 1934 Double Mint ad

Chewing Gum Is Socially Acceptable!

By 1934, the idea that chewing gum in public was vulgar – “not done” by the upper classes – was giving way to new manners. Delineator magazine helpfully ran an article on the etiquette of gum-chewing.

Chewing Gum Etiquette by Helen Ufford

“Yesterday may have said ‘Chewing gum is taboo’. . . . Now it’s natural – isn’t it? – when the chewing of gum is taken for granted [on airplanes, during sports, etc.] that the margins should broaden and that we should enjoy chewing gum at other times. ”

from Chewing Gum Etiquette by Helen Ufford, February 1936

from Chewing Gum Etiquette by Helen Ufford, Delineator, February 1936, p. 4

(The rules seem very much like those for smoking cigarettes:  ask permission before you smoke, offer the other party a cigarette/stick of gum, say no politely, don’t throw your refuse on the ground, etc.) 1936 feb p 28 chewing gum top left oneNotice the “college girl” look of a sweater worn with a white collar. And pearls are always a classy touch. 1936 feb p 28 chewing gum top ctr“There’s no one around you who doesn’t approve? Well, then you say, ‘Yes, Thank you.’. . . Finished?  Never put gum where another person can see it or touch it.”1936 feb p 28 chewing gum btm center two

“The plane-hostess provides you with a ration of gum, and you chew it, inconspicuously.”  Flying was still not a common experience, and people got dressed up as if for church when traveling by air.

In 1950 I took a flight to Los Angeles with my aunt, in a propeller plane. The passengers were all given sticks of gum – not for pleasure, but because chewing it during takeoff and landing helped to equalize the pressure in your ears. (Gum makes you swallow more often.) Airplanes have better pressurization now that they fly higher, but I still carry gum when I travel – even though my orthodontist forbids it the rest of the time. How nice to know that Delineator’s Etiquette columnist would approve.

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Filed under 1930s, 1940s-1950s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Hairstyles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc