In the 1920’s, people loved masquerade parties, and they didn’t wait for October to play dress-up. However, as Halloween approached, Butterick’s Delineator magazine showed whole pages of costume patterns for adults and children.
Then, as now, some people dressed to look glamorous, or to express their inner child or alter ego. Clown costumes were popular, as were costumes with an international flavor: Spanish, Dutch, Turkish and Japanese are shown here. So is a little girl in a “Ballet Costume” — still a popular choice for little girls after 90 years. And, specifically for Halloween, “fantastic creatures” like brownies and witches appear. The all-white costume at far left is described as a ghost, but called a “domino,” a completely inaccurate reference to the masks and capes worn in Venice in the 18th century.
Starting with the costumes from the top of the post:
Pierette, Butterick pattern 5398
Pierrot and Pierette — usually dressed all in black and white — were popular in fiction and art. Pictorial Patterns offered a Pierette costume with wide-hipped pants, like this one. Click here to see it. So did other pattern companies. Click here. It reminds me of 1917 skirt styles.
“Romper” pattern 4809 and Clown 4006
Dressing like a little girl was easy (and showed your knees.) Comedienne and singer Fanny Brice played a “little girl” character in the 1930’s, and, in a later period, Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann character delighted audiences by telling the truth — as she saw it.
My grown up aunt — far right — was the hostess at this party.
At least one of her guests came in a different costume!
Tommy Tiptoe, Butterick 5584 and Clown 4048
Tommy Tiptoe was a children’s book by Harriet Ide Eager, published in 1924. This costume is based on the book’s cover illustration. Click here.
Butterick offered clown costume patterns 4006 and 4048, both “for men and boys 22 to 44 inches breast.”
Turkish costume, Butterick pattern 4832, and “Ballet Costume” No. 3555.
The Turkish harem pants have a low waist and 1920’s hip sash. A more modern Butterick costume pattern (coincidentally #3555) includes a harem pants outfit. Click here for comparison. A ballet costume which includes a witch’s hat and cats’ heads as trim is certainly unusual!
Butterick embroidery transfer 10934 can be seen here. Perhaps these heads are stuffed, rather than completely flat? This can also be made as a “Pierrette” costume.
Butterick Devil Costume No. 5510
This devil costume was illustrated in September and again in October, 1924.
“If he would look like the very devil, a man or boy should wear the jacket, trunks, cape and hood of this Devil’s costume. Make it of sateen, mercerized fabrics or lining satin with velveteen bands, etc., paper muslin or cambric with contrasting shade of same material for bands, etc. …This costume is for men and boys 28 to 40 breast.”
Dutch costume, Butterick 5522
Japanese Kimono #3847 and Smock and Tam-o’-shanter #4308
The kimono costume’s number shows that it was released before the Halloween season — probably for amateur productions of The Mikado or Madam Butterfly. The artist’s costume — or at least the illustration of it — is absolutely my favorite. That’s not a cigarette holder in her mouth — it’s a paintbrush.
And, speaking of butterflies: Butterick 3326
Pineapple cloth was sheer, and originally made from pineapple fibers. Let’s hope she didn’t have to spend the entire evening holding her arms up like that! This identical Butterick pattern was still for sale in 1929. Click here.
Clown costume, Butterick 4006
Tarlatan is a stiff, loose woven fabric. Heavily sized, it was used for petticoats and costume ruffs. Malines is “a fine stiff net with a hexagonal mesh.” “Silesia” was a twill fabric used for pockets and linings — and therefore, inexpensive.
This unconvincing ghost (with unfortunate hints of the KKK in its pointy head) is quite different from the usual sheet-with-eyeholes ghost. (How disappointing to think that high heels will be required after death….) She is accompanied by a Brownie: the kind of elf that comes and does good children’s work while they’re asleep (If only…!) and a little ballet dancer.
The freedictionary.com says that “paper muslin” is “glazed muslin, used for linings, etc.” Whew! That’s a relief. No Paper Costumes, ever! Please!
Spanish Dancer, Butterick pattern 5625, and Witch costume, Butterick 5613
For an improvised Spanish dancer costume, many people already owned an embroidered Spanish shawl, often decorating the piano, and decorative Spanish hair combs were also very popular around 1920. Rudolph Valentino danced the tango in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), which may have something to do with the craze:
The seated woman has a black mask — a domino — in her hand. In 1924, as in 2015, movies and popular entertainment influenced our Halloween costumes.