Tag Archives: Art Deco

More Princess Line Dresses (and Styling Tricks) from the Nineteen Twenties

These princess line dresses from the 1920’s do not have the characteristic horizontal hip band of most twenties’ fashions.

In my post about Butterick styles for October 1927, I wrote,

Not all 1920’s dresses had a strong horizontal line across the hip. Princess-seamed dress patterns were available for several years and didn’t change much — except for their length.

Left, Butterick 1683, a princess line dress; Delineator, October 1927, page 31. These 1927 hemlines are just below the knee.

The rear view of the princess dress (1683) shows the characteristic princess seams, which can be shaped to follow the lines of  the body without any waist seam. The front and back are each divided into three panels. A princess line dress usually skims the body — at least, they did before the use of stretch fabrics and elasticated knits.

More Princess Line Dresses from the Nineteen Twenties

Here are some other princess line patterns from 1925 to 1928. Some combine fur and velvet for evening, but one is a day dress.

Left, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6424, Delineator, December 1925. For a young woman or teen.

Left, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6506, from December 1925.

Also from December 1925, Butterick princess line dress pattern 6428. Dresses for adult women were slightly longer than those for teens.

In 1928, the princess line evening gown has a hem that dips low in the back. So does the neckline.

Butterick princess line pattern 2257, from October 1928. Delineator.

Putting Twenties Styles on Modern Bodies

A chenille or ribbon shoulder decoration draws our eye up toward the face on these formal dresses from December 1927. Butterick patterns 1734 and 1753.

I think I’ve mentioned this before: a director once told me that he wanted “absolutely authentic 1920’s costumes” — but added, “Just don’t give me any of those dresses with the waists down around the hips!” In times (like the 1980’s) when contemporary fashion insists on narrow hips and wide shoulders, making an actress feel confident in a dress with natural shoulders and a horizontal line across her hips can be difficult — especially if she isn’t slim-hipped or is self-conscious about her figure.

Trim or fur leads your eye to focus on the top of the body in these styles from December 1928. Butterick patterns 1761 and 1757.

But theatrical designers also have to consider audience expectations — I would not do a twenties’ show in which every woman wore princess line dresses! However, the princess line dress is among the authentic possibilities for one or two characters, or for a re-creator who doesn’t have a “boyish” figure.

Illustration by Helen Dryden, Delineator cover, September 1928. A band of deep pink on the scarf lends a touch of bright color to her head and face area.

The most flattering twenties’ styles balance the hip interest with interest near the face. Butterick patterns 1745 and 1735, from December 1927.

For plays and operas, we try to draw attention to the face and upper body. (It sounds crazy, but audiences can’t hear the lines if they can’t see the faces. Humans lip-read much more than they realize.) Accessories that create a vertical line, such as lighter or brighter colors near the face, those looooong 1920’s necklaces, and those often-seen 1920’s shoulder decorations are flattering and authentic twenties’ tricks.

A scarf or bows with long ties add interest to the top of the body and, in the case of the bows, create a vertical line to balance the hip interest. June 1928, Delineator.

These three couture sketches are undoubtedly twenties’ styles, but they use a variety of styling tricks to move our attention up the body, toward the face, and to deflect interest from the hips.

French designer fashions from May 1928. 1) Renee, 2) Jane Regny, 3) Jenny. Sketches for Delineator. The coat by Jenny suggests princess lines.

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Musings, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

Formal Frocks for the Holidays, December 1928

Two Formal Frocks from Delineator, December 1928. Butterick patterns 2379 and 2287.

Two “Formal Frocks” from Delineator, December 1928. Butterick patterns 2379 and 2287.

If you love a challenge in sewing chiffon, Butterick 2287 looks like a great opportunity. (I believe those flounces were were curved, which means they’d start stretching the minute you removed them from the pattern paper.) Hems were still short in 1928, but some formal evening gowns were long — in places:

Butterick evening patterns 2347 and 2367, Delineator, December 1928

Butterick evening patterns 2347 and 2367, Delineator, December 1928.

Many late twenties’ hemlines combined long and short looks. (Click here for more examples.) For young women, a fuller skirt was also an option.

Butterick 2366, evening or bridesmaid's gown for young women. Dec. 1928.

Butterick 2366, evening or bridesmaid’s gown for young women. Dec. 1928.

2366-text1928-dec-p-33-formal-evening-text-2347-2367-2379-chanel-2287-2366-lingerie-strap

The shorter, close-to-the-body under layer is visible through the sheer tulle top layer. This dress is also notable for the bareness of its shoulders.

2366 has "lingerie straps;" usually these slip straps were only visible when veiled by a more substantial chiffon or lace dress shoulder, as in Butterick 2287.

Butterick 2366 has “lingerie straps;” usually such thin straps were only visible when veiled by a more substantial chiffon or lace dress shoulder, as in Butterick 2287. December, 1928.

Such thin straps were previously seen on slips and chemises, so using them to hold up a dress was provocative. The girl who wore No. 2366 as shown was presumably not wearing any underwear above the waist, although she could opt for the more conservative, sleeveless version of the dress as shown in the back view. A metallic tulle (see-through) skirt with a metallic tissue lame bodice would have made a less demure gown than the model’s expression suggests. Another lingerie strap evening dress was illustrated in February of 1929.

Butterick 2387 is meant to flutter. Dark fabrics are suggested, which does not rule out red....

Butterick 2387 is meant to flutter. Dark fabrics are suggested, which does not rule out shades of red…. December 1928.

2287-text-1928-dec-p-33-formal-evening-text-2287

The ripple of such flounces is achieved by cutting them on a curve.

Butterick 2379 , with a long “bustle” drape in back, supposedly shows the influence of Chanel.

Butterick formal evening gown pattern 2379; Dec. 1928.

Butterick formal evening gown pattern 2379; Dec. 1928. Note the very low back.

2379-text-1928-dec-p-33-formal-evening-text2379-chanel

The long end of the bow “gives the one-piece frock an uneven hem and a down-in-back movement…. The low flare of the tiers [is] in the Chanel manner.” Such bustle bows were seen in 1928 and into the early thirties; The Vintage Traveler recently shared a photo of one originally made in 1932.

Also influenced by Chanel was this “minaret” gown (which looks more like a pagoda to me):

Starched lace stands away from the body in Butterick formal evening dress No. 2347. December 1928.

Starched lace stands away from the body in Butterick formal evening dress No. 2347. December 1928.

2347-text1928-dec-p-33-formal-evening-text-2347

Delineator had illustrated a similar tiered lace dress by Chanel in November:

Lace dress by Chanel, illustrated in Delineator, Nov. 1928, p. 114.

Lace dress by Chanel, “stiffened at the edges,” illustrated in Delineator, Nov. 1928, p. 114.

It’s interesting to think that some (now) droopy, vintage lace gowns might once have been stiffened like these.

Butterick 2367 is asymmetrical, long in places, shown in a metallic brocade fabric, and graced with two enormous, back-to-back fabric flowers at the hip. (Note the very short, close-to-the-head hairstyles in some of these illustrations.)

Butterick evening gown 2367 from December 1928. Delineator.

Butterick evening gown 2367 from December 1928. Delineator.

2367-text1928-dec-p-33-formal-evening-text-2367

This dress seems to be gathered — or more probably ruched, like its flowers — at the side seam under the bow. (Perhaps an underslip supported the weight of this trim?)

The same December issue of Delineator magazine illustrated many beautiful evening shoes to wear with these gowns. Click here for “Dancing Shoes, December 1928.”  And I never get tired of Designer watches from the late twenties. Click here for diamond evening watches, and here for sporty Art Deco Designer watches in color.

Best wishes to everyone who plans to party like it’s 1928! (Oh, wait…. 1929 wasn’t such a good year…. Let’s just set the time machine to 1928.)

Note: I have shown some of these dresses before, but without the details or accompanying descriptions.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hairstyles, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

The Twenties in Color

Ad for Kellogg's Pep Cereal, Delineator, April

Ad for Kellogg’s Pep Cereal, Delineator, April 1927.

As much as I love watching old black and white movies, I’ve always enjoyed reading vintage magazines because of their colorful advertisements.

From an ad for Mazola corn oil, Delineator, June 1927.

Colorful evening dress from an ad for Mazola corn oil, Delineator, June 1927.

It’s hard not to think of the 1920’s and 1930’s as “black and white,” because they were usually photographed in black and white, but the people who lived then did not see their world that way.

A colorful world in an ad for Durkee's salad dressing. Delineator, JUne 1928.

A colorful world in an ad for Durkee’s salad dressing. Delineator, June 1928.

I first embarked on my exploration of vintage Delineator magazines when I discovered over 400 bound copies in storage at my public library. Since I am really interested in everyday fashions, I would have preferred a stack of old McCall’s Magazines, but so many old fashion magazines have been converted to black and white microfilm that I’m happy to have found any bound periodicals in color.

"How do you like your coffee?" A family eating breakfast, Delineator, May 1927. Advertisement for Borden's condensed milk.

“How do you like your coffee?” A family eating breakfast, Delineator, May 1927. Advertisement for Borden’s condensed milk.

Back in 1980, I found a bound volume of Delineator, January to June of 1925, at a library book sale. It had formerly been in the research library at Columbia Studios. I intended to sell it a few years ago, but when I really examined it I was amazed by the number of full color fashion illustrations, so I kept it. As it turns out, 1925 and 1926 were the last years when Delineator printed so many pages in full color.

This amazing shawl is not a fashion illustration, but a soap advertisement from 1927:

This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

This “Aztec” pattern painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

As times got harder, The Delineator cut its cover price, decreased its size from large format to the size of a modern magazine, and eliminated color except for full page advertisements like these. By 1933, even ads were scarce, and the magazine was mostly black and white.

But, if you were alive in the nineteen twenties, this was the world you saw.

Woman golfer in an ad for Bromoquinine laxative. Delineator, April 1928.

Woman golfer in an ad for Bromoquinine laxative. Delineator, April 1928.

Casual clothing in an ad for Camel Cigarettes. Delineator, September 1928.

Casual clothing in an ad for Camel Cigarettes. Delineator, September 1928.

This woman washes her fine fabrics in Ivory Soap Flakes, Ad from Delineator, May 1927.

This woman washes her fine fabrics in Ivory Soap Flakes. Ad from Delineator, May 1927.

Ivory Flakes were also recommended for woolens:

Wash your woolen clothing in Ivory Flakes.... An ad from Delineator, October 1928.

Wash your wool clothing in Ivory Flakes…. An ad from Delineator, October 1928. Notice her stockings, which match her suit.

The text at the left tells the story of Biltmore Industries of North Carolina, preserving the craft of hand weaving; “In order to protect the sensitive woolen fibre, we allow no cleaning substance other than Ivory to touch it.”

From an ad for Puffed Wheat cereal, August 1928.

From an ad for Puffed Wheat cereal, August 1928.

That red and blue outfit would look much more sedate in black and white:

The same puffed wheat ad in grayscale.

The same puffed wheat ad converted to  grayscale. 1928 ad.

Even ads for household appliances can be illuminating:

A cheery interior in an ad for Johnson's Paste Wax. March, 1928.

A cheerful and expensive interior in an ad for Johnson’s Paste Wax. March, 1928.

Lavish interiors in silent movies always look dark and heavy — but they were not really black and white.

This woman may have gotten a little too colorful — but it’s an ad for Valspar paint, with “before” and “after” images:

Kitchen colors in an ad for Valspar paint. October, 1928.

“She thought she had a model kitchen, but ….” Kitchen colors in an ad for Valspar paint. October, 1928.

An up-to-date kitchen, October 1928 ad for Valspar paint. Delineator.

An up-to-date kitchen, October 1928 ad for Valspar paint. Delineator. Note the pink sink.

A white kitchen transformed. Valspar paint ad, October 1928.

A white kitchen “modernized” with color. Valspar paint ad, October 1928.

Although the sink appears white in the second illustration, pink sinks were available. This bold yellow and black dress — from an ad for window shades — would be drained of its power in a 1920’s photograph:

"Restful Rooms" thanks to window shades, in an ad from March, 1928. Delineator.

“Restful Rooms” thanks to window shades, in an ad from March, 1928. Delineator.

A lovely rose colored dress in an ad for Feen-a-Mint laxative. March 1927.

A lovely rose-colored dress in an ad for Feen-a-Mint laxative. March 1927.

"Grandmother is still dancing," thanks to Feen-a-Mint. Detail of ad from Delineator, May 1927.

“Grandmother is still dancing,” thanks to Feen-a-Mint. Detail of ad from Delineator, May 1927. Grandmother is wearing a flattering, not-black (!) gown.

Grandmother's secret: Feen-a-Mint. Ad, May 1927.

Grandmother’s secret: Feen-a-Mint. Ad, May 1927.

Digression: There was a time in the 1980’s when directors of Shakespeare’s comedies thought it amusing to costume them completely in black and white and gray to evoke old movies. These black and white “silent movie”/”Fred and Ginger” productions quickly became so commonplace that they signaled “desperate director.” After sitting through one-too-many of these productions, I was delighted to discover that the first English play to be costumed entirely in black and white was A Game at Chess, by Thomas Middleton. It played at The Globe theatre in London in 1625 — long before black and white movie film was invented. It was quite a novel idea.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

Classic French Fashions of the Twenties, a Dover Book

Two plates from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties, Atelier Bachwitz. A Dover Book.

Two plates from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties, Atelier Bachwitz. A Dover Book. Sporty Styles for 1929. Images from this book are used for purposes of review only. Please Do Not Copy.

I have had hours of pleasure studying the images in this book.

My first real design job, in grad school, was a production of The Royal Family, a play about a multi-generational family of actors [any resemblance to the Barrymore family was definitely intended]. It was originally performed December 1927 through 1928. Here are the real Lionel Barrymore and his brother John acting together in the film Grand Hotel, 1932.

Lionel and John Barrymore in Grand Hotel, 1932. Image from Pinterest.

Lionel and John Barrymore in Grand Hotel, 1932. Image from Pinterest.

A digression:  This generation of the Barrymores successfully transitioned from stage to film: Ethel as a mature actress, her brother Lionel as a character actor; and John, who was the American Hamlet of his era, was a matinee idol in the twenties and also a notoriously successful ladies’ man.

 A Shakespeare student, hoping to get some insight into the characters’ motivations, once asked  John Barrymore, “Did Ophelia sleep with Hamlet?”

“In my company, always,” Barrymore replied.

Ophelia (Mary Astor) and Hamlet (John Barrymore), 1925. Photo by Albin from Vanity Fair.

Ophelia (Mary Astor) and Hamlet (John Barrymore), 1925. Photo by Albin from Vanity Fair. This Ophelia did, as revealed in Mary Astor’s very frank autobiography.

Now, back to designing costumes for a play set in 1927:

My first meeting with the director was going very well; I hadn’t owned many books as a teenager, but one, which I read over and over, was Vanity Fair: A Cavalcade of the 1920s and 1930s, edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee. I loved the twenties, as I knew them. I “got” the references to popular culture in the play. I knew who the characters were, read “their” biographies and understood the character types. I even knew that a man who appears partially undressed in a 1927 comedy would be wearing stocking garters — good for a laugh in 1980.

Boston Garter ad for man's stocking garter; Delineator, Jan. 1917.

I knew how a successful theatrical producer — or actress — in the twenties might be dressed.

Producer Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife, actress Billie Burke, from Vanity Fair, 1927.

Producer Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife, actress Billie Burke, from Vanity Fair, 1927. Photo by Steichen.

I was delighted when the director told me he didn’t want “musical comedy” costumes; he wanted real, authentic-looking 1920’s clothes — absolutely true to 1927-28. And then, just as I packed up my notes and put my hand on the doorknob, he said,

“Just don’t give me any of those dresses with the waist down around the hips.”

Three Hattie Carnegie outfits from July 1928. Delineator.

Three Hattie Carnegie outfits from July 1928. Delineator.

I couldn’t help thinking about this experience while looking through the beautifully illustrated collection of styles from Beaux-Arts des Modes, 1929, which is published by Dover Books as Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The author credited is Atelier Bachwitz. (Was it a sketch studio or a magazine publisher? The Met has another Atelier Bachwitz publication.) The fashion plates, with each design given an entire page in full color, are lovely, and so detailed that you can study their construction. From sporty outfits like those white pleated dresses at the top of this post, to afternoon dresses, fabulous coats, and evening wear, you can dream about an entire 1929 wardrobe —  and how you’d make it — while studying these pages.

Plate 31 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. This ensemble has a 3/4 length coat to harmonize with the skirt's asymmetrical hem.

Plate 31 from Dover’s Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. This ensemble has a 3/4 length coat to harmonize with the dress’s asymmetrical hem. The sleeve cuff echoes the pocket.

I’m glad I bought this book, just for the pleasure of analyzing lovely renderings like this one. The vertical seam lines down the back of the coat are a slenderizing touch….

…Which just goes to show that the costume designer probably studies them with a skewed viewpoint. For one thing, you are “Shopping in Character,” trying to think like the characters in the play or script, and choosing appropriate clothes for them. You think about their age (and how they feel about their age,) and their personalities. You think about what happens in the play to the woman wearing this dress. You think about her budget (the women who could afford these dresses were not shopgirls or schooteachers.) And you think about the actor’s figure, and how the audience will perceive her clothes. After all, “Costume Communicates” is a First Principle, and the audience will have a smaller style “vocabulary” than a costume historian. You try to remain true to the period, while keeping audience expectations –based on modern clothing  — in mind.

I’ve shown this picture before, and asked, “If you were an actress — whose next job might depend on being shapely — which would you prefer to wear?”

These three outfits from a 1917 catalog not only express different personalities — the girl on the right seems super-feminine, compared to the less fussy clothes on the left — but only the center outfit would not make the actress look overweight to modern eyes. [It has a long, vertical jacket opening, and the belt doesn’t create a horizontal line across the semi-fitted waist.]

That problem — making the star attractive to modern eyes — is always at the back of your mind when designing for real bodies, especially when looking at research from the 1920’s. I think it’s natural to look through a book like Classic French Fashions of the Twenties searching for ways the original designers dealt with the same problem.

One way was to introduce vertical design lines:

Authentic 1929 designs with strong vertical lines. From Classic French Fashions of the Twenties

Authentic 1929 designs with strong vertical lines. From Classic French Fashions of the Twenties.

Another good idea, especially for actors and singers, is to attract attention upward, toward the face.

Plates 9 and 39 from lassic French Fashions of the Twenties. The center of interest in these dresses is close to the face, not the hip.

Plates 9 and 39 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The center of interest in these dresses is close to the face, not the hip.

The seam lines on the left dress are ingenious, literally pointing toward the center of the body, away from the hip width.

plate 4 scarf297

“Focus on the face” is the reason we see so many bright scarves and contrasting collars on 1920’s and 1930’s clothing.

On the two dresses below, the area near the face and shoulders is much lighter than the area near the hips. Cleverly, in front the designer has avoided “cutting the body in half” with a horizontal color change at the waist or hip.

Plate 44 and plate 14 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The top part of each dress is lighter than the bottom hip area.

Plate 44 and plate 14 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The top part of each dress is lighter than the bottom part. Again, the eye is led toward the face. The dress on the left doesn’t have to be made in red….or have such a wide buckle.

I was delighted to find this very similar dress — via Instagram (thank you, Vintage Traveler!) — from the NYUCostumeStudies site. It has a strong family resemblance to these dresses, which bridge the seams between dark and light fabric with coordinating embroidery. The evening dress from Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens belonged to etiquette maven Marjorie Merriweather Post. Their online dress collection is superb.

I just have to share this Art Deco coat design. It is much simpler to make than it looks.

This coat is made of "silk rep, with incrustation forming scallops. Open sleeves, shawl collar."

This coat is made of “silk rep, with incrustation forming scallops. Open sleeves, shawl collar.” 1929.

“Incrustation?” Also used about other designs in the book, “incrustation” appears to be a translation meaning “applied trim.” The “scallops”, which I would call zigzags, would be absolute hell if they were seam lines. But this coat is not pieced together; the lines appear to have no structural purpose (see its back view) except, perhaps, on the collar. Again, look how tall and slender she appears in the back view. (Vertical lines….)  And there is no “waist down around the hips,” either. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this book in grad school, but I did solve my problem back then by asking the director to move the date of the play to 1929! By then, some dresses had belts at the natural waist.

Another thing to keep in mind:  If a dress seems too frilly, too silly, or too fattening for the leading lady, it might be perfect for another character — like the 50-ish matron who wears clothes that are too young for her, or the scatterbrained socialite who moves in a cloud of fluttering chiffon. Classic French Fashions from the Twenties has plenty of ideas that might not be right for everybody, but which may be perfect for somebody.

Three versions of a frilly chiffon dress/ Left, as drawn, center, on a more realistic figure, and right, as it might look on a character who overdoes everything.

Three versions of a frilly chiffon dress: Left, as drawn; center, on a more realistic figure; and right, as it might look on a character who overdoes everything.

I wasted way too much time playing with that in a photo program!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade

Designer Watches for 1928 and 1929

Elgin watch ad, showing designer wristwatches by Callot Soeurs, a Paris couture house. Ad from Delineator, June, 1929.

Elgin watch ad, showing designer wristwatches by Callot Soeurs, a Paris couture house. Ad from Delineator, June, 1929.

Here are some Art Deco wristwatches to dream about. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find one of these “Parisienne” Designer watches in your Christmas Stocking, or in a gift box on your plate at breakfast some morning?

Top of ad for Callot Soeurs designer wristwatches, June, 1929.

Top of ad for Callot Soeurs designer wristwatches, June, 1929.

These Elgin watches, for the summer of 1929, are designed by Callot Soeurs (June ad) and Lucien Lelong (May ad)  — just in time for graduation and wedding gifts.

The watches designed by Callot Soeurs have diamonds on their faces, and cost $75.00 each.

Elgin watch with diamond, Callot Soeurs, 1929.

Elgin watch with diamonds, Callot Soeurs, 1929.

Elgin watch by Callot Soeurs, 1929.

Elgin watch by Callot Soeurs, 1929.There are two diamonds on the case. The black cord wristband was new in the twenties.

Elgin watch by Callot Soeurs, 1929. Note the bracelets on the model.

Elgin watch by Callot Soeurs, 1929. Note the bracelets on the model’s arm.

“Bright with the frozen fire of fine selected diamonds . . . set in solid 14 karat gold . . . three new Elgins whose cases are Callot-designed. One of the greatest style names of Paris, one of its most exclusive houses. . . . Exquisite jewelry, but more than that. Accurate, unfailing, time-true. Paris on the face of it, but each a true American watch at heart. . . . Besides these Callot models there are other Parisiennes both plain and enamel at $35 designed by all the important Paris couturieres. And other diamond watches ascending to the glory of 20 diamonds at $250.”

Callot Soeurs was a long-established House (since 1895,) and their watches are more conservative and less like costume jewelry than the enameled Elgin watches by other designers. In May, Elgin advertised designer watches by Lucien Lelong. They cost $35.00 — no diamonds.

Ad for Elgin watches designed by Lucien Lelong. Delineator, May, 1929.

Ad for Elgin watches designed by Lucien Lelong. Delineator, May, 1929.

You can see the full ad by clicking here. It can be enlarged by clicking here. You can see Elgin watch ads from 1869 to 1972 at Elginwatches.org.

Two Elgin wristwatches designed by Lelong, 1929 ad.

Two Elgin wristwatches designed by Lelong, 1929 ad.

Two Elgin wristwatches designed by Lelong, 1929 ad.

Two Elgin wristwatches designed by Lelong, 1929 ad.

Two Elgin wristwatches designed by Lelong, 1929 ad. Delineator, May 1929.

Two Elgin wristwatches designed by Lelong, 1929 ad. Delineator, May 1929.

The Lelong watches came in “red and blue or black and ivory enamel;” the last watch shown above has a geometric, Art Deco case, but is not enameled. Back in 1928, Elgin sold Designer watches (“Parisiennes”) by several of the most famous couturier houses: Lanvin,  Molyneux, louiseboulanger, Jenny, Agnes (famous for her hats,) and Premet.

Elgin wristwatches designed by Lanvin, Molyneux, and louiseboulanger. Ad, Delineator, Nov. 1928.

Elgin wristwatches designed by Lanvin, Molyneux, and louiseboulanger. Ad, Delineator, Nov. 1928. “New silken thong instead of ribbon” wristband.

Elgin wristwatches designed by Jenny, Agnes, and Premet, Ad, Delineator, Nov. 1928.

Elgin wristwatches designed by Jenny, Agnes, and Premet, Ad, Delineator, Nov. 1928.

$35.00 was a week’s income for a man (or two weeks’ income for a woman) in 1925. (If you have a yen — or many thousands of yen) two of these watches are for sale from Strickland Vintage Watches. The Premet now costs about $1300 and a later version of the Molyneux, about $2000. Browsing through the Strickland collection, I found many lovely things…. They’re not $35.00 any more, of course, but one of these watches in working condition is much rarer now than it was in 1929!

These same six “Parisienne” watches were shown in a color advertisement in the December, 1928, Delineator magazine, along with many other Elgins for men and women. Click here  to see that entire ad in detail. The louiseboulanger watch looks quite different in color! I wish we could see the full color range of all of them. What a collection that would be!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Hems Going Down Part 1: 1926

"Eloise, go and look in Delineator! Maybe it would be safe to have it a little longer?" January 1929, Delineator magazine. Cartoon by Helen Hokinson.

“Eloise, go and look in Delineator! Maybe it would be safe to have it a little longer?” January 1929, Butterick’s Delineator magazine. Cartoon by Helen Hokinson.

Sometimes it seems like 1920’s hems began falling even before they had finished rising.

Nineteen twenties’ hems reached their shortest — in some cases above the knee — lengths near the end of the 20’s; some historians date their high water mark to 1927, but above-the-knee dresses can be seen in films released in 1929. Pauline Weston Thomas has written about “The Short Skirt Misconception of the Twenties” at Fashion-Era. Click here.

Two Hems for the Price of One

One of her points is that the mid to late twenties were years of change, reflected in the many dress styles that strove to be both long and short at the same time. Afternoon and evening dresses often had a style feature that dropped below the normal hemline. A side drape, flared godets or “handkerchief hem” panels, and dresses that were short in front and longer in back —  all allowed a transitional “two hem” option.

Three dresses for Misses aage 15 to 20, Butterick, April 1925. Delineator.

Three dresses for Misses age 15 to 20, Butterick, April 1925. Delineator.

In 1925, skirts were still below the knee, but the sheer dress on the left, above, with its “handkerchief hem” has a shorter opaque underskirt (or costume slip.)

This similar dress, left,  from August of 1926, has a sheer lace or printed chiffon top layer:

"Young Parisienne" styles from Butterick, patterns 7026 and 6999. August, 1926.

“Young Parisienne” styles from Butterick, patterns #7026 and #6999. August, 1926.

It’s also much shorter than its 1925 counterpart. The scalloped hem on the right was also seen in late twenties’ styles.

These evening patterns, from December 1926, carry your eye below the hem with side drapes. The one on the left actually has two hemlines:

A side drape dangles below the rest of the hem in these evening patterns from Dec. 1926. Delineator.

A side drape dangles below the rest of the hem in these evening patterns from Dec. 1926. Delineator.

This dress, No. 1118 from November, 1926,  also has a “tunic” [sometimes called an “apron] that hangs below the hem at the front sides.

Butterick 1118, Nov. 1926.  Sheer blue velvet was recommended.

Butterick 1118, front and back views. Nov. 1926. Sheer blue velvet was recommended.

The dress on the left, below, for “Larger Women,” has floating panels for sleeves  and curving inserted panels that make the sides longer than the front or back.

"French Dresses for Larger Women." Butterick patterns 6957 and 6962, July 1926. Delineator.

“French Dresses for Larger Women.” Butterick patterns 6957 and 6962, July 1926. Delineator. The shirring at the shoulder (left) would allow for a fuller bust.

Although these 1926 dresses are for mature women, the “dress and slip” on the center figure is not much below the knee.

This glittering dress, by French designer Renee, is also longer at the sides than it is in front.

French designer Renee showed this evening dress in Fall, 1926. Delineator sketch by Soulie. Sept. 1926.

French designer Renee showed this evening dress in Fall, 1926. Delineator sketch by Soulie. Sept. 1926.

Pour troubler” is Renee’s name for a most disturbing frock of white faille silk with a design of trailing leaves, flowers, and dew drops crystallized in brilliants on the dress and fluttering draperies. A girdle of green chiffon does a half Nelson clutch at the side.”

This Paris gown from Cheruit — also 1926 — has longer panels of a different color:

A "Summer dancing frock" from Cheruit. Sketched for Delineator , August 1926.

A “Summer dancing frock” from Cheruit. Sketched for Delineator , August 1926.

Panneaux evases [Literally, “panels widened at the top” — which does not seem to be what the picture shows] of gold gauze set in a white frock of the same material make a Summer dancing-frock that calls to mind pale flowers by moonlight. From Cheruit.”

One style that became very popular among young women — and which was adopted by older women by the end of the decade — was the afternoon or evening dress that was much longer in back than in front.

Paul Poiret made this early, sophisticated version of black velvet with a sequinned bodice in 1926.

"An uneven swirl of black velvet below a sequinned bodice" by Paul Poiret. drawn by Lages for Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“An uneven swirl of black velvet below a sequinned bodice” by Paul Poiret. drawn by Lages for Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“An evening frock from Paul Poiret is an uneven swirl of black velvet below a sequinned bodice on which multicolored flowers are worked in brilliant shades of blue and rose and green. Ends of Chartreuse velvet fall from the bows at the hip and the hem is faced with silver ribbon.” [Since the back is longer than the front, the inside of the hem is visible, so Poiret has decorated it with silver ribbon.]

Because the model is sitting (apparently on thin air), it’s hard to be sure that Poiret’s hem is longest at the back, rather than the side. But that’s definitely the case with this 1928 dress from Hattie Carnegie:

Hattie Carnegie dress with large-scale print and scalloped hem, much longer in back than in front. Delineator, July 1928.

Hattie Carnegie dress with large-scale print and scalloped hem, much longer in back than in front. Delineator, July 1928.

Among teens and very young women, the short front / long back dress, with a full skirt based upon the robe de style, must have been popular, because within a couple of years it was widely adopted by older women, too.

These are some 1926 patterns “for misses 15 to 20, and small women.”

Two views of Butterick 6935. Delineator, July 1926.

Two views of Butterick 6935. Delineator, July 1926. The version on the right is shockingly short, since the hem is see-through, exposing the entire knee.

Butterick patterns for young women, Sept. 1926. Number 7065, left, and 7024, right.

Butterick patterns for young women, Sept. 1926. Number 7047, left, and 7063, right.

Here, the same dress is trimmed with hand-beaded art deco flowers:

Butterick dress pattern 7047, beaded using transfer pattern 10472. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Butterick dress pattern 7047, beaded using transfer pattern 10472. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

The bodice on a robe de style could fit quite snugly, and usually fastened with a line of snaps under the left arm. (Movie flapper Colleen Moore, wearing snug bodices, could be seen dressing and undressing several times in Why Be Good? from 1929.)

By 1929, these high-low hems had become acceptable for daytime wear.

Day dresses for January 1929. Butterick patterns 2395 and 2392. Delineator, January 1929.

Day dresses for January 1929. Butterick patterns 2395 and 2382. Delineator, January 1929.

“2395 — The scalloped frock. This is a dress that can only be worn by the very young and the very slender. The new molded body is seen in the basque to which a straight skirt is gathered. All the edges are scalloped and the hem rounds down slightly longer in back. The deep cape collar takes the place of sleeves and matches the background of the dress. Designed for 32 to 37 [bust] (15 to 20 years ) and 38.”

It appears that the same dress, with a darker bias-bound hem, was later featured in this ad for shoes:

"They flatter the foot and keep it young." Shoe ad, Delineator, March 1929.

“They flatter the foot and keep it young.” Shoe ad, Delineator, March 1929.

The high/low hem appeared on older women in afternoon (dressy) dresses, too:

Afternoon dress, July 1928. Butterick pattern 2140, Delineator magazine.

Afternoon dress, July 1928. Butterick pattern 2140, Delineator magazine.

Delineator, January 1929.

Butterick patterns 2418, 2347, 2402, 2367. Delineator, January 1929.

Delineator, Nov. 1928.

Butterick patterns 2269, 1785, 2307. Delineator, Nov. 1928.

More about high/low hems and other transitional variations to come. . . .

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Filed under 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Changing the Foundations of Fashion: 1929 to 1934

"Make us look like this!" Sears catalog, Spring 1934, featuring Lastex two-way stretch girdles.

“Make us look like this!” Sears catalog, Spring 1934, featuring Lastex two-way stretch girdles: “Boneless! Bulgeless!”

Many changes in fashion were taking place between 1929 and 1934, in addition to the fall of the hemline and the rise of the waistline.

For the first time in centuries, fashions followed the natural shape of a woman’s body. Bias-cut dresses, which clung to every curve, were already chic in 1929.

November, 1929. Form fitting gowns from French designers Louiseboulanger and Jean Patou. Delineator sketches by Soulie.

November, 1929. Form fitting gowns from French designers Louiseboulanger and Jean Patou. The Delineator.

Makers of bosom-flattening brassieres — such as the “Flatter-U” and “Boyshform” bandeaux — were losing younger customers to companies like “Maiden Form” and G.M. Poix’s “A-P Uplift.” The word “uplift” was applied rather freely.

"Uplift bandeau" and Foundation with "Uplift rayon jersey top. Seaers catalog, Fall, 1929. Page 218.

“Uplift bandeau” (left) and Foundation (right) with “Uplift style bust.” Sears catalog, Fall, 1929.

Farrell-Beck and Gau, authors of the book Uplift:  The Bra in America, point out that in previous centuries, corsets pushed the breasts up from below; now, brassieres with shoulder straps lifted the breasts up.

After the mono-bosom years earlier in the 20th century, the word “uplift” seems to include the idea of separation. Women were finally acknowledged to have two breasts, one on either side of the sternum.

"Empire Gown" with "uplift line of the bodice." Butterick pattern # , Nov. 1931.

“Empire Gown” with “uplift line of the bodice.” Butterick pattern #4175 , Nov. 1931.

The garment that had been called a “corset” (or “corselette,” if it was unboned) became a “foundation.”

This illustration of the latest foundation garments appeared in The Delineator as early as March, 1929.

This illustration of the latest foundation garments appeared in The Delineator as early as March, 1929.

“Out went the whalebone. In went elastic. . . . The ‘foundation garment’ or ‘costume foundation’ . . . has definitely supplanted the word ‘corset’ and earned universal approval.”  — Editorial in The Delineator, March 1929.

Several months later, this article appeared, with illustrations more typical of 1929 undergarments:

"Facts and Figures About the strikingly feminine new silhouette." Article by Lucile Babcock in Delineator, October 1929.

“Facts and Figures about the strikingly feminine new silhouette.” Article in The Delineator, October 1929.

“Gone are the days of the straight-line, belted-about-the-hips frock which concealed many of our figure deficiencies. Snug fitting hips, slightly raised and occasionally nipped-in waists, a frank recognition of the bust line, are characteristic of autumn styles.” — Lucile Babcock, in The Delineator, Oct. 1929.

Two mid-twenties' corsets: La Camille ad, 1924, and Bien Jolie ad, 1925. Both Delineator.

Before the change: two mid-twenties’ corsets. Left, a La Camille corset ad, 1924, and right, a Bien Jolie corset ad, 1925. Both from The Delineator.

The corset went through other changes after 1929.

Bias-cut satin dresses like these would have revealed every bump, boning channel, and lacing of an old-fashioned corset.

Bias-cut gowns from August and October, 1921. Butterick patterns 4039, 4093, and 4097. Delineator.

Bias-cut gowns from August and October, 1931. Butterick patterns 4039, 4093, and 4097. Delineator.

In 1929, the Sears catalog shows “boyish”/bust-suppressing corsets on the same page as corsets with soft, non-flattening tops. 1929 sears Fall p 218 page 500

 

The foundation on the left  is a typical 1920's corselet, turning the body into a tube shape.

The foundation on the left is a typical 1920’s corset;  bust-flattening boned seams and no waist indentation turn the body into a tube shape.

Significantly, the 1929 corset on the left below has rayon jersey (knit) in the bust area. Although not truly cup shaped, the soft fabric was not designed to flatten the breasts,  unlike the boned garment on the right.

Fall 1929 Sears catalog, p. 223. (Look at that deco fabric!)

Fall 1929 Sears catalog, p. 223. (I love that art deco fabric on the right!)

Several of Sears’ 1929 corsets/foundations use soft rayon jersey over the bust.

Foundation with "uplift" rayon bust; Fall 1929 Sears catalog p. 218

Foundation with “uplift style” rayon bust; Fall 1929 Sears catalog, p. 218. It’s hard to believe that this did much “lifting.”

But the chief problem of late 1920’s corsets (or foundations, as they were now being called)  was that their stretch panels had to be made from something like surgical elastic (similar to the Ace bandages used for sprained wrists and ankles.) At the time, elasticized fabrics were limited in size, so the fronts and backs of corsets had to be made of traditional, non-stretch corset materials, like coutil or thick satin; they needed hook-and-eye or  zipper closings, and the seams (and fastenings) were never smooth enough for wearing under thin, bias-cut gowns like this one:

Bias-cut satin gown in a Kotex ad, July 1931. Delineator.

Bias-cut satin gown in a Kotex ad, July 1931. Delineator.

Lastex Changes Corsetry

The revolution came in the early 1930’s, when a new method for processing rubber was invented. According to Elizabeth Ewing’s Fashion in Underwear, before 1930 the sap of rubber trees (latex) was dried and compressed into bricks for shipping. When it reached England, the bricks were liquified, and long sheets of rubber were made. These sheets would then be cut into strips and incorporated into fabrics, but the strips were never long enough to be effectively woven into material suitable for the mass production of corsets.

Fall 1930 Sears catalog. Before the invention of Lastex, elastic panels had to be used sparingly. (However, the bust is back!)

Fall 1930 Sears catalog. Before the invention of Lastex, elastic panels had to be used sparingly or pieced together. (However, by 1930 the bust is definitely back in style.)

“About 1930,” a new chemical process allowed latex to be shipped in its liquid form. The liquid latex could then be extruded into fine threads — called Lastex —  which were as long as threads of traditional materials, which meant that elasticized yardage could finally be made in lengths and widths suitable for mass produced garments. As soon as weaving and knitting machines had been adapted to use Lastex, a new kind of undergarment became possible.

Munsingwear's 'Foundettes' two-way stretch girdle ad, March 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

Munsingwear’s ‘Foundettes’ two-way stretch girdle ad, March 1937. Woman’s Home Companion.

My question was, “How much time did it take for undergarments made with Lastex to become available — and affordable — to working class women?”

The answer: Hardly any time at all! The Sears, Roebuck catalog for Spring 1932 proudly introduces Lastex and “Clingtex” garments made of “new, cloth-like elastic (Lastex.)”

Sears catalog for Spring 1932, introducing "Sensational new garments of marvelous Lastex ."

Sears catalog for Spring 1932, introducing “Sensational new garments of marvelous Lastex .”

Early Lastex foundations combined the new stretch fabric with traditional corset materials —  for extra control over the abdomen, for example.

Clingtex foundation, Spring 1933, Sears Catalog.

Clingtex foundation, Spring 1933, Sears Catalog.

By Fall of 1933, however, Sears was offering “Two-Way Stretch Softies” made entirely of stretch fabric.  The “roll-on” girdle, which required no fastenings,  “dates from 1932 in England and probably a year earlier in the U.S.A.” [Ewing]

"New Two-Way Stretch Softies." Seamless girdles and foundations from Sears Catalog, Fall 1933.

“New Two-Way Stretch Softies.” Seamless girdles and foundations from Sears Catalog, Fall 1933.

These “step-in” stretch foundations, which pull on, were made on a circular knitting machine; not only did they have no zippers , they had no seams. 

A foundation garment that made a woman look firmer, smoother, and younger — which improved her natural figure without distortion — was perfect under the bias gowns of the 1930s. This 1933 “Softie” All-in One from Sears (on the left) )looks very much like the Spandex “smoothers” available in stores in 2015.

A seamless, Lastex knit foundation garment, Sears, Fall 1933. This foundation cost $3.69; the "roll-on" girdle cost just $1.98.

A seamless, Lastex knit foundation garment, Sears, Fall 1933. This foundation cost $3.69; the “roll-on” girdle (right) cost just $1.98.

Literally for the first time in hundreds of years, the purpose of a corset was not to distort a woman’s body.

The purpose of the nineteen-thirties’ foundation garment was to create the impression of a perfect, nude body under the clothes. It firmed the hips, flattened the belly, and supported the breasts, but all in imitation of nature, giving its wearer the firm, flexible figure of a healthy young woman.

Softies, Fall 1934. Sears catalog. "Not a bone! Not a bulge!" Seamless, circular-knitted two-way stretch foundation.

“Softies,” Fall 1934. Sears catalog. “Not a bone! Not a bulge!” Seamless, circular-knitted, two-way stretch girdle or foundation.

The End of the Boyish Figure

One more (less encouraging) thing about changes in fashion after 1929:

By Fall of 1932 women were already made to feel self-conscious about having small breasts.

1932 fall sears 500 help for flat chested pushup

"Are you boyishly flat-chested? . . . Wear our 'Form Bust' and be neat, smart, up-to-the minute, and so be happy." Sears catalog, Fall 1932.

“Are you boyishly flat-chested? . . . Wear our ‘Form Bust’ and be neat, smart, up-to-the minute, and so be happy.” Sears catalog, Fall 1932.

That didn’t take long, did it?

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Zippers