Tag Archives: art deco fabric

“Size 16 Years.” What Does That Mean?

When you’re looking at vintage magazines, catalogs, or patterns, sometimes you run across an item that says “Sizes 14 to 20 years” or “Size 16 years” — as if all 16 year-olds were the same size! Surprisingly, even magazines that sold patterns by mail, like Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal, rarely explained pattern sizes in terms of measurements. Often you have to look at an actual pattern envelope to find a chart of size, bust, waist, and hip measurements.

This McCall pattern from the 1930's says Size 18. In the 30s, women would have known that this is a "Misses" pattern, rather than a "Ladies" pattern, and that it was for ages 14 to 20 years.

This McCall pattern from the 1930’s says “Size 18.” But what does that mean?

Back of envelope, McCall #6815.

Back of envelope, McCall #6815.

Here are the “Corresponding Measurements:”

Corresponding Measurements chart from McCall #6815

Corresponding Measurements chart from McCall #6815. McCall, unlike Butterick, did not say “Misses” and “Ladies,” but notice the sizes: 14, 16, 18, then 36, 38, 40, 42. Size 18 and Size 36 both have a 36″ bust.

This particular design was available in both Misses’ (14 to 18 years) and Ladies’ (Bust measurement 36 to 42 inches:)

Enlargement of "Corresponding Measurements" and Sizes chart, McCall #6815

Enlargement of “Corresponding Measurements” and sizes chart, McCall #6815. The only difference given between Size 18 and Size 36 is 1/2 inch in skirt length. There are no waist measurements — a hold-over from the 1920s, when they were irrelevant.

This McCall pattern assumes that, even in those narrow-hipped thirties’ fashions, the average woman would have hips three inches bigger than her bust.

Note that the smallest size, 14, is two inches shorter  (46″) than the 16 and 18 (both 48″ long), and the Ladies’ sizes are mostly 48 1/2″ long. I wonder if size 18 had a shorter “nape to back waist” measurement than size 36, which had the same bust (36″) and hip (39″) measurements; issuing two different patterns for the sake of a 1/2 inch skirt length measurement seems silly.

Every pattern company (and catalog company) had its own version of “Misses” and “Ladies” sizing.

Size and Measurement chart from Ladies' Home Journal pattern #1583, early 1920s.

Size and Measurement chart from Ladies’ Home Journal pattern #1583, for a Ladies’ Dress, very late 1910s or early 1920s.

The Ladies’ Home Journal made all of its Ladies’ patterns the same length regardless of size: “Center-front skirt length from normal waistline is 39 inches.”

This Standard Designer pattern from the 1920’s . . .

Standard Designer pattern #8626, 1920s.

Standard Designer pattern #8626, 1920s. (I love that fabric design!)

. . . assumes that a 15-16 year old girl will be 2 inches shorter than a 17-18 year old, and four inches shorter than a grown woman:

Measurement and size chart from Standard Designer pattern #2826

Measurement and size chart from Standard Designer pattern #8626. Notice the difference in “Skirt Length Finished at Center Front below Normal Waistline;” 28 inches for size 16 Years, and 32 inches for all Ladies.

Pattern sizes were not standardized among companies until the late 1960’s, which is why the dark pink “New Sizing” box on an envelope is sometimes used for dating vintage patterns.

Simplicity pattern #7528, dated 1968. "New Sizing" box at upper left.

Simplicity pattern #7528, dated 1968. “New Sizing” box at upper left.

By the 1960s, the word “Misses” on a pattern meant what “Ladies” or “Women” used to mean:  bust sizes from 34 to 40 inches. (The larger sizes, 42 and 44, had disappeared. )

Size and measurement chart from the back of the envelope for Simplicity #7528, dated 1968.

Size and measurement chart from the back of the envelope for Simplicity #7528, dated 1968. “Juniors” is now the term for smaller, shorter sizes.

Misses’ Sizes for Butterick in the Nineteen Twenties

In the 1920s, Butterick sized its Misses’ patterns from 15 to 20 years, and Ladies’ patterns from 33″ (or 34″) bust to 44″ or larger. From comparing many pattern descriptions in Delineator, I’ve gleaned that Butterick’s Misses’ patterns used the following bust measurements in the 1920’s :

Butterick’s 15 years = 32″ bust

Butterick’s 16 years = 33″ bust

Butterick’s 17 years = 34″ bust

Butterick’s 18 years = 35″ bust

Butterick’s 19 years = 36″ bust

Butterick’s 20 years = 37″ bust

What’s more, Butterick often used the phrase “for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women,” which made me wonder,

“What was the difference between a Miss with a 34 inch bust, and a Lady with a 34 inch bust?”

You have probably already deduced that skirt length has something to do with it, but I got my first hint from the Ordering page of the 1917 Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog. [Women’s and Children’s Fashions of 1917:  The Complete Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, from Dover Books.]

Perry, Dame & Co. catalog, 1917:  "How to Order Your Right Size." p. 146.

Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917: “How to Order Your Right Sizes.” p. 146.

Like Butterick, Perry Dame & Company distinguished between Misses’ and Women’s sizes. And, like Butterick, Perry, Dame also added the phrase “and smaller women” to some of its listings for Misses.

These dresses are for “Women:”

Women's Stylish Dresses, Perry, Dame & Co. catalog for 1917.

Women’s Stylish Dresses, Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog for 1917.  “Sizes: 32 to 46 bust measure.”

Like Butterick and other pattern companies, Perry, Dame & Company sold Women’s dresses by bust measurement — “32 to 46” in this case.

These dresses are for “Misses and Small Women:”

1917 Perry, Dame catalog; dresses for Misses and Small Women.l

1917 Perry, Dame Catalog, p. 28; dresses for Misses (14 to 20 years) and Small Women.

All the dresses on this page are sized “14 to 20 years.”

Text of Dresses for Misses and Small Women, p. 28, Perry, Dame catalog.

Text of Dresses for Misses and Small Women, p. 28, Perry, Dame Catalog.

For the costumer, knowing whether a dress was meant to be worn by a teenager or an older woman is very important. However, it’s clear that it is the size range, not the style, that marks these dresses as suitable to Misses, since they are also appropriate for Small Women.

These Perry, Dame skirts are also offered in both Women’s and Misses’ sizes:

Women's and Misses Skirts, Perry, Dame catalog 1917, p. 51

Women’s and Misses Skirts, Perry, Dame Catalog 1917, p. 51 [“Wash” or “tub” means “washable.”]

The catalog assigns different numbers to this skirt, depending on whether it is in Misses' or Women's sizes. p.51

The catalog assigns different numbers to this skirt, depending on whether it is in Women’s Sizes or “Misses’ and Small Women’s Sizes.” p.51

A woman with a waist between 22 and 28 inches would order either skirt #5A32 or #5A62, depending on the length she needed. Women’s lengths ranged from 36 to 43 inches. Misses’ and Small Women’s lengths ran from 33 to 35 inches, a considerable difference — 6 or 7 inches — if you had a 28″ waist.

Deduction:  Misses Are Shorter Than Ladies

Women's Dress Sizes vs. Misses' Dress Sizes,  Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Exerpted from page 146

Women’s Dress Sizes vs. Misses’ Dress Sizes; Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Exerpted from page 146. All Women’s dresses have a 40″ skirt length measurement. All Misses’ dresses are shorter.

Each company had its own size and measurement ideas, but the common assumption seems to be that women with a larger bust measurement will also be taller — which is not necessarily true.  In fact, in the nineteen twenties and thirties (and later), older women — women born before the end of the 19th century — were more likely to be short, because of a less nutritious diet during childhood. (Many families lived on bread and soup for several months each year.) And most older women are aware of our tendency to burn fewer calories and to put on weight after menopause. Lynn, at American Age Fashion, has been following the question of patterns and ready-to-wear suited to the needs of the short and rotund. You can follow her research by starting with “Hunting for Half Sizes” (Lynn has made this into a multi-part series. Just search her site for “half sizes.”)

I’ve also noticed that, in the 1920’s, younger women were not necessarily shorter; but they wore shorter skirts than older women. To some extent, the 1920’s styles which seem most attractive to us today are the ones initially worn by Misses and teens.

Two Ladies' patterns and a Misses' pattern, Dec. 1925. Butterick fashions from Delineator magazine.

Two Ladies’ patterns, left, and a Misses’ pattern, Dec. 1925. Butterick fashions from Delineator magazine. The Miss is showing a lot more leg.

(Teens had been called “flappers” as early as the 1910’s.) You can see more Misses’ styles for 1925 by clicking here.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Winter Fashions for Women, 1926

Paquin model imported by Hattie Carnegie; Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Paquin model imported by Hattie Carnegie; Delineator, Dec. 1926.

The lavish use of fur in the twenties and thirties may be repellent to us now, but these fashions for December, 1926, are undeniably glamorous. They are all from Delineator magazine. Two images illustrate clothes in the stores — very exclusive stores — and the rest illustrate Butterick patterns (Delineator was a Butterick publication.) The suit pictured above  is a Hattie Carnegie copy of a wine red velvet suit trimmed with beige fox, from the house of Paquin (French designer Jeanne Paquin had retired in 1920.)

Original model by Frances Clyne, in green and gray. Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Original model by Frances Clyne, in green and gray. Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Titled “Green and Gray,” the caption says “The New York version of the Paris ensemble is made by Frances Clyne in sea green bordered with dyed gray fox. The coat of green French wool swings slightly from the shoulder and is made with the new double animal collar. The frock is of green satin opening over lighter green crepe Elizabeth.” Frances Clyne operated an exclusive New York dress shop; in the 1930s, it was on Fifth Avenue.

This Butterick advertisement showed women how similar styles could be made at home, or by your own professional dressmaker.

Ad for Butterick patterns from Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Ad for Butterick patterns from Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“She has Paris taste and knowledge of clothes, and her Frock is Butterick Design 1155 and her Coat is Butterick Design 1105 made with the aid of the Deltor — a dressmaking chart in pictures for cutting, putting together, and finishing.” [punctuation added.]

Butterick was one of the first companies to offer a separate sheet of written instructions with its patterns. At the start of the twentieth century, patterns came with only the minimal instructions that would fit on the outside of the (usually quite small) pattern envelope.  “By 1920, Butterick referred to the [illustrated] instruction sheet as the ‘Deltor,’ short for Delineator.” [Joy Spanbel Emery in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry.]

I love the bold Art Deco fabric on this sporty coat:

Butterick patterns, Dec. 1926; A Chanel suit, January 1925. Both  illustrations are from Delineator.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Dec. 1926; A Chanel suit, January 1925. Both illustrations are from Delineator.

The dress shown with the coat (left) shows the lasting influence of Gabrielle Chanel’s outfit from January 1925. The proportions of the tops are slightly different to balance the skirt length, which has risen drastically in just two years.

Here are four more styles from Butterick, featured in the same December 1926 issue.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick 1174 and 1157, Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick 1174 and 1157, Dec. 1926.

The deep armholes of the dress at left required a similarly constructed coat:

Back views and description of Butterick patterns 1185 and 1158. Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick patterns 1185 and 1158. Dec. 1926.

[Fine ‘Plaits’ means fine pleats, not braids.] The backs of many 1920s dresses and coats were straight and plain, but this coat is snugged to the hip with tucks in front and back.

So far, I have not seen any mention in Delineator magazine of how women obtained the furs which were so often an important design element in Butterick coats. (Working with real furs is not the same as sewing with fabrics, and where would a small-town dressmaker find whole skins?)

Also, notice how similar many of these 1926 cloche hats are, with pinched or dented crowns.

Four cloche hats from Dec. 1926 Delineator.

Four cloche hats from Dec. 1926 Delineator.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

Five 1920s Bathing Suits

I intended to make this a short post about two bathing costumes from 1926, but then I worked backward to some swim suits from 1925….

Two Bathing Suit Patterns from 1926

Butterick patterns # 6809 and # 6822. Delineator, 1926

Butterick patterns # 6809 and # 6822. Delineator, 1926

Although knit bathing suits were already popular, these two patterns for the summer of 1926 use printed textiles, with separate fabric or knit shorts or trunks.

The pattern for #6809 includes a wrap skirt, pictured above right. #6822 calls for a blouse of printed silk crêpe, which would have been very revealing when wet. Perhaps it was intended more for sunning than swimming, since it was available up to bust measurement 48 inches, and came in children’s sizes, too. Pattern #6809 was also illustrated in a very Art Deco print version (see below.) 1926 june p 38 prob june text bath suits 6809 1926

Art Deco Swim Suit , 1926

Butterick pattern #6809, 1926

Butterick pattern #6809, 1926

The striking Art Deco fabric illustrated here is also used to trim the trunks, which seem to be made of satin. Her bathing shoes appear to close with snaps, and are probably made of rubber.  These illustrations are from Butterick’s magazine The Delineator; pattern #6809 was illustrated two months in a row. (Click image to enlarge.)

1926 june p 38 prob june bathing suit 6809 text

Three Swimsuits from 1925

Butterick Patterns #6014, #5210, #5204; from 1925

Butterick Patterns #6014, #5210, #5204; from 1925

The pattern on the left, # 6014, looks very old-fashioned next to the two knit suits on the right. The two 1926 bathing suits discussed above are clearly descended from this style, but in one year have become much shorter, simpler, and sleeveless. The little girl’s one piece wool knit suit, #5210, is as un-fussy as the adult’s bathing-suit  on the right, #5204. With hindsight, we know that this is the style that would dominate for the next few years.

1925 july 6014

6014  “Printed surf silks, printed surf satin, foulard or chintz with plain to match; plain surf satin, plain surf filk or taffeta with contrasting are used for this new two-piece bathing costume with its attractive handkerchief cap. Or use wool jersey, or any of these materials plain, without the tucks at the side, and with a belt…. The bathing costume is becoming to ladies 33 to 48 bust; also misses.”

This description mentions fabrics I had never heard of: ‘surf silk’ and ‘surf satin.’ Wet silk would have been very clingy, but 1920s brassieres (flattening, not uplifting) were sometimes advertised as suitable for wearing under bathing costumes. Taffeta, wool, and sturdy cottons had been used in the dress-like bathing costumes of the early 1900s. This costume was also available in sizes up to 48″ bust, so it was expected to appeal to older, larger, and/or more conservative women.

1925 july 5210 swim

5210  Another bathing-suit that plans to give the ocean hard wear this Summer is for the younger feminine members of the family. This practical suit buttons on the shoulders and has attached tights. The suit is both new and smart and should be made of heavy wool jersey. Parents will appreciate the fact that it puts wool next to the youngster’s skin. A simple suit of this type can be very easily made…. The bathing-suit is practical for girls and little girls 2 to 14 years.

This suit is a miniature version of # 5204, with its buttoned shoulders and attached tights. “Parents will appreciate the fact that it puts wool next to the youngster’s skin;” woolen underwear, like Jaeger’s, was part of the 1880s dress reform movement.  (Having worn wool-lycra bathing suits myself in the 1950s and 60s, I think that sending a small child into the ocean wearing “heavy wool jersey” was insane. If you have ever hand-washed a wool cardigan, you know how absorbent and heavy wet wool can be.)

1925 july 5204 swim july 1925

5204  Ready for an active life on the ocean wave is a simple, straight bathing-suit that has nothing in its make-up that might impede or hamper the swimmer. This very good-looking and practical suit is in one piece and the tights are attached. It can be made very easily, and the materials suitable for this style are heavy wool jersey and heavy jersey tubing. It buttons on the shoulders. The bathing-suit is good style for ladies 33 to 44 bust, also misses.

One-piece knit wool suits, without the (modesty) skirt, had been pioneered by Annette Kellerman, “the Diving Venus,” “the Million-Dollar Mermaid,”  who was arrested for wearing one in 1907,  and were used in competitive swimming in the 1920s. Imagine the water-resistance those Olympic swimmers had to overcome!

Notice that the woman in this illustration is wearing a rubber swimming cap – and rolled stockings!

A 1920s Bathing Beauty

If anyone doubts the influence of fashion illustrations, here is a family photo of a young woman wearing a purchased wool knit bathing suit, accessorized with a parasol and a handkerchief cap. If you look closely just above her knees, you can see that she has recently removed her rolled stockings.helenparasolalone

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Filed under 1920s, Bras, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes