Tag Archives: 1940s fashions

When Pantsuits Were “Slacks Suits:” 1938, 1940, 1948

Play dresses and a pants suit, Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938.

Beach wear and a pants suit, Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1938.

All the “pant suits” for women —  actually trousers with matching jackets (called slacks suits) —  in this post are from Butterick Fashion News flyers, given away for free in pattern stores. Trousers with matching jackets for women are always shown with other resort wear or beach wear, as in the illustration above.

Butterick 7756

Butterick 7736, March 1938.

Butterick 7756, March 1938. Pattern for slacks, jacket and shirt, sizes 12 to 20 and 30 to 40 inches bust.

This trim jacket would also look at home with a skirt; sharkskin fabric was recommended. The cuffed trousers have full, straight legs.

Butterick 7796

Butterick pants suit 8796, February 1940.

Butterick (pantsuit) slacks suit 8796, February 1940.

To be worn “where it’s fair and warmer,” this mannish chalk-striped trouser suit is shown with very broad shoulders and casual sandals — and painted toenails. The evening gown on the right, Butterick 8798, is shown with a snood on the model’s hair — possibly the influence of 1939’s blockbuster movie, Gone with the Wind.

“With the increasing approval given to slacks by fashionable women everywhere, you can wear the pants in the family.  These have a band with suspenders attached (optional) and a fitted, classic tailored jacket. Sizes 12 to 20 and bust 30 to 42 inches.” Flannel (i.e., wool flannel) was the recommended fabric.

Butterick 4458

Butterick slack suit with optional long shorts. March 1948.

Butterick “slacks suit” # 4458 with optional long shorts. March 1948.

The waist is nipped in with eight darts, and the slacks are narrower in this post-war, New Look-era suit. The model on the right has a bicycle, but these are called “long shorts,” not “pedalpushers.”

This ensemble was the centerfold in a two page spread of “sun fashions for resort wear.”

Butterick Fashion Newsflyer, March 1948.

Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1948.

The “sea sprite” bare-midriff bathing suit (top left) has shorts that draw up on the sides, probably inspired by Claire McCardell’s Pantung Loincloth swimsuit of 1946.

Again, it’s clear that these trouser suits are not to be worn in the city, nor to restaurants except in resorts. (There’s a story that Marlene Dietrich, refused admission to a city restaurant because she was wearing a suit with trousers, simply stepped out of them and was escorted to a table wearing only her jacket. Well, she had famously great legs. . . .)

Butterick 8454 trousers

Butterick trouser pattern , July 1939.

Butterick trouser pattern #8454 , July 1939. The playsuit to the left is a different pattern, #8475, as is dress #8494, on the lower right.

These long, full-legged and high-waisted trousers evoke Katharine Hepburn, and come back into fashion every once in a while. When they do, I always buy a pair!

“The pattern includes long and short-sleeved shirt, and slacks, and a culotte, to scramble as you choose. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20, 30 to 38.”

Sadly, the culottes are not illustrated.


Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Finding an Old Friend: McCall Sunsuit #1030

What are the chances of seeing a child’s sunsuit pattern from the 1940s and finding a photo of myself wearing that exact outfit? It happened.

McCall Sunsuit pattern 1030, catalog, December 1946. Girl wearing sunsuit, circa 1949.

McCall Sunsuit pattern #1030, pattern catalog, December 1946. Witness2fashion wearing sunsuit, circa 1949.

I remembered that picture of myself wearing a sunsuit because the pose — so coy! — is so cringe-worthy. But it was quite a surprise to find that it not only resembles the sunsuit pattern, it is identical except for the choice of fabric.

McCall Sunsuit pattern 1030, McCall store catalogs, late 1940s.

McCall Sunsuit pattern 1030, McCall store catalogs, late 1940s.

I have seen this pattern, #1030, in three McCall Needlework Catalogues (December 1946, May 1950, and November 1950.)  Like most clothing for children, styles remained constant over several years. It qualified for the Needlework catalogues because of its applique trim.McCall pattern 1030 text960

At first I thought I was wearing a different sunbonnet than the one shown, but another photo, although overexposed, shows the same squarish shape:

A squarish bonnet is included in pattern 1030.

A squarish bonnet is included in pattern 1030.

You can see the bonnet's dark band on this photo.

You can see the bonnet’s dark band on this photo.

I have no memory of this playsuit. I don’t think many of my clothes were home-made, although my mother was a good seamstress. I would guess that it was a gift from my grandmother or my aunt; both of them had friends who sewed very professionally. Posing in a new outfit was a family tradition. My mother — whose friends called her ‘glamourpuss,’ loved the camera. I usually hated being photographed (note the resentful scowl in one photo) and still do.

"Glamourpuss" posing in a new dress, 1932. There sems to be a Marlene Dietrich influence....

“Glamourpuss” posing in a new dress, 1932. There sems to be a Marlene Dietrich influence….


Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Hats, Sportswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs

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