Tag Archives: 1930s

A Valentine — Be Charming

Woman's Home Companion cover, February 1936

Woman’s Home Companion cover, February 1936

I haven’t been able to find the illustrator’s name. (The writing on the valentine says “Sweetheart.”) I love the way the man, barely visible, is looking at the girl, and the way his dark suit frames her face. She looks too young to have answered this ad from Delineator magazine, 1934:

Be Charming

Ad for a Charm School by Correspondence  Course, 1934

Ad for a Charm School by Correspondence Course, 1934

“Just what impression do you make? Grade yourself with Margery Wilson’s ‘Charm-Test’. This interesting self-analysis chart will be sent on request, with the booklet, ‘The Smart Point of View’ — to acquaint you with the effectiveness of Margery Wilson’s personalized training by correspondence. In your own home, under the sympathetic guidance of this distinguished teacher, you learn exquisite self-expression — how to talk, walk, how to project your personality effectively — to enhance your appeal.  Margery Wilson makes tangible the elusive elements of Charm and gives you poise, conversational ease, charming manners, finish, grace — the smart point of view.”

Margery Wilson is described as “America’s Authority on Charm. Personal advisor to eminent women of society, screen and business.”

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Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Who Would Ever Guess?

Companion-Butterick Triad pattern #6948, 1936

Companion-Butterick Triad pattern #6948, 1936

These Are Maternity Dresses from 1936

Woman's Home Companion, August 1936

Illustration by Ernst. Woman’s Home Companion, August 1936

I look at those slim 1930s hips, those flat 1930s bellies, and, even after reading the full text, it’s hard to imagine how these dresses expanded to cover the ninth month of pregnancy.

However, it’s important to remember that women did try to conceal their pregnancies as long as possible in this time period.

How to Look Smart Before the Baby Comes

1936 aug p 62 maternity pattern 6948 dress jacketThe text says “You can be just as smartly dressed as ever and perhaps a little prettier than usual in a maternity wardrobe that is well-chosen and carefully planned.  All you need as a guide is Triad Pattern No. 6948.  The style is a straight concealing wrap-around with three flattering necklines and a separate jacket.  One version is your afternoon dress of dark pure silk with a soft shirred blouse and pastel collars.  The second dress of sheer wool has a more tailored look with a squared-off button bib.   The third gives you a simple and attractive house dress of sanforized shrunk cotton.  Add to these essentials comfortable kid oxfords, soft all-Lastex brassieres, one of the special new adjustable elastic girdles and underwear that is wrap-around or two sizes larger that usual. Be sure that your coat has a wide lap-over and your hat a becoming brim.  You’ll be surprised to find how well you look.”

1936 aug p 62 closup back 6948 back tiesThe back views of pattern #6948 show that all three versions tied with a sash behind, and there is a deep pleat or fold of material which presumably could be released to expand the dress as needed. (I wish there was a pattern layout illustration! Exactly how it worked is not very clear, since the fold seems to run up into the bodice only on the dress at left.)

A Lane Bryant Maternity Dress, 1934

This 1934 catalog from the Lane Bryant company, which had pioneered maternity clothing in 1904, shows that Companion-Butterick patterns were not alone in designing clothes which expanded only from the back and tried to look as much as possible like normal fashions for as long as possible. “Designed to conceal condition. . . .”1934 march p 80 lane bryant maternity catalogFashion-incubator.com discusses the early Lane Bryant Maternity catalogs and how they handled sizing — ingeniously!


Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Maternity clothes

A Butterick Hat Pattern, 1934

Hats made from pattern 5831, photographed by Toni Frissell

Hats made from pattern 5831, photographed by Toni Frissell

Four New Hats to Make at Home

By 1934, magazines were using photographs as well as illustrations of the patterns for sale. These photos for Delineator magazine were taken by Toni Frissell.  Four very different hats can be made from this one pattern, Butterick #5831 – a white linen hat with a medium brim,  a velvet ‘beret,’ a large cartwheel hat of dark colored organdy, and a wool crepe ‘sailor’ hat.

Hat of white Doreen linen, Butterick #5831, August 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

Hat of white Doreen linen, Butterick #5831, August 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

Peaked beret of velvet, August 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

Peaked beret of velvet, August 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

Note the jeweled clip.

Dark organdy cartwheel hat, August 1934 Peaked beret of velvet, August 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

Dark organdy cartwheel hat, August 1934 (Click to Enlarge)

Two views of a 1934 Sailor Hat

Two views of a 1934 Sailor Hat

Pattern Description for Butterick Hat #5831

“5831 Four hats, very new, very smart. For 22 head, 5/8 yard linen for view C-2; ½ yard 35 or 39-inch velvet for view D, 1 yard 39-inch organdy for view B; and 5/8 yard 39-inch wool crepe view A. Designed for 21 ½ to 23 inches head.”

The description does not mention other supplies, such as linings, stiffeners,  ribbon, and milliner’s wire.  This strikes me as an ambitious project for a home stitcher.  In my experience, making hats is very different from making lingerie, no matter what this article says:

1934 aug p 17 hats pattern  cropped 5831 text

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Perfolastic Reducing Girdle, 1934

Perforated Rubber Girdle, 19341934 feb perfolastic girdle ad p 76It’s not surprising that women who hadn’t paid much attention their waist measurements in the 1920s found themselves desperately trying to reduce their waists and hips when the clinging fashions of the 1930s appeared.

Butterick dress patterns, January 1934

Butterick dress patterns, January 1934  (Click to Enlarge)

The early thirties fashion silhouette was long and lean, and bias cut gowns clung to every figure flaw.

Halter evening gown, 1932

Halter evening gown, 1932

Madame X Reducing Corset, 1924

“A wrap-around all rubber corset, made of sheet rubber and called Madame X, appeared in the U.S.A. in 1923 but was short-lived. Similar garments were launched more successfully in the ‘thirties,… made with perforations and therefore more healthy and comfortable.” — Elizabeth Ewing, Fashion in Underwear.

The dropped-waist fashions of the 1920s exaggerated the width of a woman’s hips, so the Madame X “reducing corset” should have appealed to many women. [1920s dress patterns often ran to size 44, with a hip measurement of 47 1/2 inches, which would look very wide indeed with a horizontal belt running around the hip.]

Front & Back Viewes, Madame X Reducing Girdle, November 1924

Front & Back Views, Madame X Reducing Girdle, November 1924

Ads for Madame X emphasized the reducing properties of “live rubber,” [like a portable sweat-box?] but this 1920s back-lacing reducing corset was intended to be worn over a chemise and bloomers, or a ‘combination” step-in undergarment, which would have absorbed some perspiration.

The Perfolastic Reducing Girdleperfolastic girdle 1934

The Perfolastic Girdle of the 1930s was worn next to the skin, so it was perforated, theoretically allowing some perspiration to escape.  Imagine what your skin would have looked like when you took it off!


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Corsets & Corselettes, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

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.


Filed under 1930s, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

“Make Do and Mend”

Clothing Rationing in World War II 1943 wartime ad for synthetic fabrics

The Vintage Traveler printed a link to Nancy Hill’s very well-done TED lecture on “Make Do and Mend,” a way of life during World War II in the U.S. and in England. Thank you to Worn Through for blogging about this video!

Shoe Rationing

Both countries passed strict laws about how much fabric could be used in a dress or suit, and issued a limited number of clothing coupons per person per year. This included shoes and other garments. When you bought a pair of shoes, for example, you had to pay with money and with the appropriate coupons. Shoes You Love with couponAt the top of this ad, from Vogue magazine, August 15, 1943, is a woman’s hand holding a ration coupon. “Spend it wisely!” reads the ad.

Fabric Rationing and Synthetic Fabrics

Since fabrics like silk and nylon were needed for parachutes, etc., synthetic versions were much in demand. Another ad from Vogue, August 1943 makes that point visually: 1943 wartime ad for synthetic fabricsText for 1943 Textron Rayon ad

The text announces that “This October at your favorite department store, you will be able to buy, in limited quantities, exclusive, luxurious Textron Fabrics in finest Rayon … glorious lengths of lovely weaves in the most flattering and exciting colors.”

Women on the March, Women in Uniform

Many women were taking on jobs normally reserved for men; not ‘just’ shipbuilding and work in munitions factories, but also ferrying military planes, serving as army nurses, etc.

Ad from Vogue, August 1943

Ad from Vogue, August 1943

This ad for Hill and Dale shoes says,

“From Africa to New Guinea, from Boston to Mexico, Hill and Dales are on the march – with women wearing every uniform. So, pet and polish your Hill and Dale shoes, buy them only when you need them. In classic style and long wearing quality, they are the most – for your coupon and your money.” In the case of shoes, “pet and polish” was the equivalent of “make do and mend.”

Even the Duchess of Devonshire Made Do and Mended

Deborah Mitford marries the future Duke of Devonshire

Deborah Mitford marries the future Duke of Devonshire

In England, rationing continued until 1954.  Of course, wealthy people could buy things on the black market, but many women who had sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, and friends serving in the military refused to cheat the system.  Deborah,  Duchess of Devonshire, née Deborah Mitford, tells a lovely story in Counting My Chickens, about her mother-in-law and a friend who had been “Making Do and Mending” throughout the war and after it.  When their husbands were sent to Paris on a diplomatic mission in 1947, these ladies, used to wearing couture before the war, accompanied them.  Christian Dior’s New Look was ‘all the rage,’ so they were eager to see the collection.  But, when they presented themselves at the Dior showroom, wearing the same mended shoes and worn cloth coats they had been using throughout the war, they were refused admission!  So the Duchess of Rutland and the Duchess of Devonshire sadly ‘ate their sandwiches on a park bench’ and returned to the British Embassy.

Dowager Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth

Dowager Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth

If you are not familiar with the marvellous “Debo,” Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, I highly recommend her books. She writes as well – and with as much humor –  as her famous sisters, Jessica Mitford (The American Way of Death) and Pamela Mitford (Love in a Cold Climate, The Pursuit of Love).  If you are a fan of Downton Abbey,  Deborah Devonshire can tell you what it’s really like to live in a great house – Chatsworth— with 200 rooms.  One of her tips: Never forget where you put down your reading glasses or your car keys….


Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes

Fashionable Dress Patterns for Women of All Sizes, 1932

Eight Butterick patterns, June 1932

Eight Butterick patterns, June 1932

New Styles, June 1932

A Delineator page illustrating eight warm weather patterns for June, 1932, mentions several new trends – long, full sleeves, fitted above the wrist, cape sleeves, jacket dresses, Schiaparelli pink…. The dresses all show that the dropped waist of the 1920s  is not only gone, but replaced by a fitted, belted waist that is a little higher than the natural waist, usually with a blouson, rather than a darted, bodice. The jacket of #4593, however, “has this year’s new fitted look.” Even the Great Depression didn’t stop fashion; the bottom of the page says:June, 1932 bottom center p 69

Paris Designs Become Dresses for Ordinary Women

"Lanvin Stripes"

“Lanvin Stripes”

Famous designers are alluded to, but the designs are not actually attributed to them:“Vionnet was the first to drape necklines.” (# 4572) “Lanvin and Mainbocher used cape sleeves.” (# 4584) “It was Lanvin who started this fashion of stripes combined with plain color,” (# 4576) and “Schiaparelli pink” is suggested for the jabot of # 4542. “A famous name sponsors the three-quarter sleeves and wide revers” of # 4593.

Fashions for Larger Women in the Early 1930s

Although the illustrations all show a tall, slender model, five of these designs are for large women, and they are not singled out. All 8 designs were available in size 44 [i.e., for a 44 inch bust measurement], but # 4585 and # 4576 ran to size 48″, and three, # 4572, # 4593, and # 4582 are specifically recommended as slenderizing, reducing the hipline, etc. Those three patterns were sized for women up to a 52 inch bust. One pattern, #4585, is “Specially becoming to short women,” although no adjustments in length are mentioned. The smallest dresses are for a 30″ bust.

Patterns for sizes 48 to 52

Patterns for sizes 48 to 52

Eight Styles for Summer, 1932

Here are all 8 patterns and their descriptions:

#4602, sizes 30 to 44"; #4585, sizes 34 to 48"

#4602, sizes 30 to 44″; #4585, sizes 34 to 48″

# 4602 “Sheer jacket frock”:  The new full-at-the bottom sleeves are, nevertheless, tight at the wrist, and graceful as you can see.  As for the dress, its sleeves are capes. [See back view] The fabric – the big fabric for summer jacket dresses, is semi-sheer crêpe – plain or printed. This dress is designed for sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44.

# 4585 “high tied”:  There are simpler ways of reducing your hipline than dieting and exercising. One of them is the clever hip yoke of this frock.  Its sleeves follow the mode in a manner of their own. Specially becoming to short women. Designed for 34 to 48.

#4572, size 36 to 52"; #4542 for sizes 32 to 44"

#4572, sizes 36 to 52″; #4542 for sizes 32 to 44″

# 4572 “because it’s becoming”: Vionnet was the first to drape necklines. We favor this one because it is becoming to everybody. Two more reasons why this dress is a find for the larger woman are – the sleeves, full enough to be smart but not enlarging, and the yoke, cut to reduce the hips. Designed for 36 to 52.

# 4542 “with Schiaparelli pink”:  Pink is the new accessory color– a nice soft easy-on-the-complexion pink…. for the jabots if the rest of the costume is of navy blue, which it is almost sure to be this season. This is one of the… jacket dresses that Paris has sent….Designed for 32 to 44.

#4584, sizes 30 to 44"; #4593, sizes 36 to 52".

#4584, sizes 30 to 44″; #4593, sizes 36 to 52″.

# 4584 “shoulder capes”: Lanvin and Mainbocher used cape sleeves and so did almost every other dress-maker. Of course nothing could be more perfect for this cool, summery frock of chiffon. It’s young looking but any age can wear it. Designed for sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44.

# 4593 “the jacket urge”: Here’s something to satisfy that jacket dress urge. A famous name sponsors the three-quarter sleeves and wide revers. It’s slightly shorter than last year’s jacket and it has this year’s new fitted look.  The frock specializes in slenderizing lines. It is designed for sizes 36 to 52.

#4576, sizes 34 to 48"; #4582, sizes 36 to 52"

#4576, sizes 34 to 48″; #4582, sizes 36 to 52″

# 4576 “Lanvin stripes”:   It was Lanvin who started this fashion of stripes combined with plain color. And the smart place for them is in blouses. It’s “blouse” in name only here, however, for this is a dress with a jacket – easier on the figure than the costume of skirt, blouse and jacket. Designed for 34 to 48.

# 4582 “lace for the face”: The unsymmetrical dress is the one that does the most for the larger figure. In the first place, it’s interesting, in the second, it’s reducing. We added the lace at the neckline for face flattery. The most slenderizing fabric for this is chalky semi-sheer crêpe. Designed for 36 to 52.


Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Website for Dating Butterick Patterns, Part 2

Dating Butterick Patterns, 1937 to 1977, at witness2fashion.com

Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938, pattern #7757

Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938, pattern #7757

In Part 1, I showed how you can date 1920s-1930s Butterick patterns using a chart at witness2fashion.com that is based on information from the Delineator magazine. Butterick stopped publishing Delineator magazine after the April 1937 issue, so I had to find a different source for dating Butterick pattern numbers.  Butterick Fashion News, an 8 page flyer distributed by pattern stores and through the mail, was used to publicize current Butterick patterns even before the Delineator stopped publication. [Edited 1/10/15:  8 page flyer changed to “a flyer on newsprint, 8 pages or more”]

Using Butterick Fashion News Flyers to Date Butterick Patterns

Butterick Fashion News flyer, February 1948, patterns #4422 & 4428

Butterick Fashion News flyer, February 1948, patterns #4422 & 4428

Butterick Fashion News could appear twice a month – I have seen two different covers for some months – and was printed on poor quality paper. It wasn’t intended to last.

Fortunately, there are still many copies that have survived, and by listing their dates and the number(s) of the pattern(s) featured on the covers, it is possible to see a number progression.

Butterick Fashion News chart from witness2fashion.com

Butterick Fashion News chart from witness2fashion.com

How to Use the witness2fashion Website for Dating Butterick Patterns, 1937 to 1977

Although not as precise as using the chart of Delineator numbers, even in its incomplete state this chart compiled from Butterick Fashion News flyers can be helpful.  The Butterick Fashion News chart shows that pattern # 3288 was on the cover in October 1964.BFN as of Jan 1 2014 marked

It’s reasonable to assume that this pattern,  # 3183, appeared in early 1964 or late 1963.

Undated Butterick pattern #3183

Undated Butterick pattern #3183


Fortunately, the Simplicity company did date its patterns sometimes – either on the envelope or, in some years, on the instruction sheet. Simplicity pattern # 5595 is a double-breasted variation of the same style as my Butterick pattern:

butterick & simplicity side by side

Simplicity # 5595 is dated – to 1964. Our tentative dating of Butterick # 3183 to 1963-1964 is supported.

 When a pattern is hard to date – ‘Late 1930s or early 1940s?’ – just knowing when renumbering occurred can be a big help.
Renumbering began in 1940

Renumbering began in 1940

Can You Help Fill In the Blanks?

I can’t buy every issue of Butterick Fashion News that appears on Ebay, but I do check the listings frequently, and make a note of the cover information whenever it’s legible.

There are some serious blanks in my Butterick Fashion News chart right now, especially between 1961 and 1964.  Renumbering started in this gap, so it’s really desirable to supply some cover numbers from those years.

If you have a copy of Butterick Fashion News that is not on the chart at witness2fashion.com, and are willing to add to this project, please send me the year, month, and number(s) of the pattern(s) on the front cover. You can use the comment section, or contact me through witness2fashion.com. I will update the chart at witness2fashion.com whenever I have several items to add.  Just today I found 5 more issues at Buttons and Bobbins. Ginny has generously posted pages from several issues for lovers of 1940s fashions. Thank you, Ginny! (I will update when I get a couple more.)


Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Dating Butterick Patterns, Dating Vintage Patterns, Vintage patterns

Website for Dating Vintage Butterick Patterns, Part 1

My Website for Dating Vintage Butterick Patterns, Part 1
If you have an undated Butterick pattern from the 1920s or 30s, you can probably use my new website, witness2fashion.com, to find the month and year when it first appeared in Butterick’s magazine, The Delineator.

How to Date a Butterick pattern by Using witness2fashion.com

Vintage patterns are a wonderful resource for researching vintage fashions and costume history, but very few pattern companies used to date their patterns. Butterick resisted dating its patterns for decades. My project is to make dating them easier for collectors and historians.

Here Is a Typical Pattern Chart from The Delineator, January 1933 1933 jan Delineator pattern chart

I have been working on this project for over a year, ever since I discovered that, in the 1920s and 1930s, there was a chart near the back of every Delineator, listing all the patterns illustrated in that issue. This was for the convenience of customers who wanted to order by mail.  I have collected that information from over 150 issues, from January 1924 to March 1937, and published it for the use of vintage pattern collectors and sellers, and of course, for historians who need to track the development of styles.

Rather than try to post all the individual charts, I have summarized, giving the highest pattern number for each month, from January 1924 to March 1937. [I will add earlier years as soon as I have the chance.]

a chart from witness2fashion.com

Part of a chart from witness2fashion.com

If you have a 1920s style pattern with a number between #5721 (December, 1924), and #6507 (December, 1925), you can be sure that pattern was first offered for sale in Butterick’s Delineator magazine in 1925. You can even find the month and issue, which is useful for charting changes in hemlines, etc.

Examples of Patterns Dated Using witness2fashion.com 

Photo used with permission of Bill Walton Antiques

Photo used with permission of Bill Walton Antiques

This pattern, #5493, is currently listed on Ebay by Bill Walton’s Antiques.

It is clearly a 1920s style. Its number — 5493 — dates it to September, 1924.

Finding the date for Butterick pattern #5493

Finding the date for Butterick pattern #5493

And here is a photo of the original listing in The Delineator, September issue, 1924.1924 sept dresses p 31 btm label

Coat Dress #5493 “Twills, wool crepe, wool rep, cashmere, flannel, plaids, stripes, checks, heavy silk crepe, silk alpaca or satin make a very new one-piece coat dress of the straight-line type….Lower edge 48 inches. The coat dress is for ladies 32 to 48 bust.”

Another pattern, #5508, was listed by  connieandcompany

Photo used with permission of connieandcompany

Photo used with permission of connieandcompany

By an amazing coincidence, its number also dates it to September, 1924. This is how it was illlustrated and described: 1924 sept dresses p 31 topBlouse # 5508: The slip-over blouse is smart to wear with a wrap-around straight skirt with set-in pockets, etc….  Initials trim this blouse of heavy crêpe de chine, etc…. Blouse and skirt are for ladies 32 to 44 bust and 35 to 47 ½ hip.”

Collectors Can Date Vintage Butterick Patterns to the Year and Month

[edited 1/10/15 to correct typo Day for Year]

Mr. Walton has said, quite accurately, that his pattern #5493 has a patent date of 1921.  In her excellent article about Mc Call’s patterns, De-coding Vintage Patterns, the Wearing History  blogger explained that a patent date may refer to the pattern’s mechanical process or printing process, not the design itself. It is not the same as the copyright date on a modern pattern.

The witness2fashion.com charts show the month and year when the Butterick Publishing Company first illustrated and described each sewing pattern it was offering for sale. They may have been available in stores a little earlier, but being featured in the magazine means the fashion was current.

More About the Two Patterns from September, 1924

Statistically, the chance of my finding two vintage patterns currently for sale on Ebay which date to the same issue of The Delineator was pretty small, but, incredibly, they also appeared on the same page.  Even more amazing: by pure serendipity, I happen to have photographed the very page they appeared on just last week!

Delineator, September 1924, page 31

Delineator, September 1924, page 31

That is why I was able to supply pictures of them from the magazine. (And thank you to Ebay sellers waltonsjunk  and connieandcompany  for allowing me to use their listings and photographs!)

Four More Fabulous 1920s Blouses

There are so many great blouses on that page that I can’t resist describing them, too, in a later post.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Vintage patterns

Butterick Evening Gowns for 1936

Since my first post showed men’s evening clothes for 1936, it seems only fair to show some women’s evening gowns to go with them. Here are seven gowns to choose from — all illustrating Butterick patterns.

Butterick evening cape and gown, September 1936

Butterick evening cape and gown, September 1936

These Butterick patterns for an evening gown and cape were featured in Delineator magazine in September, 1936, with these descriptions: #7010 Date your evening wrap as brand new with this cape, square-shouldered, collarless, knee-length. Choose black velvet for it and it will be equally effective over white or bright dresses…. For sizes 12 to 20; bust 30 to 42″.  #7015 White crepe shot with gold is a happy choice for a dress so Empire in feeling. There is simple elegance in the lifted waistline, molded skirt. …Designed for sizes 12 to 20; [ bust measurement] 30 to 44.

[Dress patterns in Misses sizes 15 to 20 years usually said “or small women.” “Petiteable” patterns or patterns for women shorter than 5′ 4″  began to appear in the 30s.]

Two Versions of One Pattern, and a Gown ‘After’ Vionnet

Butterick #6665, Feb 1936

Butterick #6665, Feb 1936

At first I thought #6665 also had a cape, but in fact it is a long draped fabric that twists into the neckline of the dress. Here is another view of the same dress:

Butterick #6665 & #6666

Butterick #6665 & #6666

The caption describes #6665 as “A gown for dramatic entrances — with long draperies caught at the neck and flowing almost to the hemline. Notice the new up-in-front line of the skirt. The gown is perfect of heavy sheer, in one of the new spring tangerine shades. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40.”

Take a closer look at the light-colored gown, #6659: “A button-down-the-front dress after Vionnet — ingeniously cut, beautifully molded to the figure. Made in one of the new fresh pastels, this gown will keep heads turning at spring dinners and concerts, as well as more formal affairs. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44.”

Other Long Evening Gowns for 1936

Two evening gowns from March 1936

Two evening gowns from March 1936

Silk or rayon evening gowns in bold prints were also popular in the 30s, although the one on the left might be mistaken for a nightgown in style.

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Filed under 1930s, Vintage patterns