Tag Archives: Butterick Publishing Company

Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925

"Can You Afford to Marry?" asks this article from Delineator magazine, September 1925, p. 21.

“Can You Afford to Marry?” asks this article from Delineator magazine, September 1925, p. 21.

In September of 1925, as part of an ongoing series on budgets, Delineator’s Home Economist asked, “Can You Afford to Marry?” in an article titled “When George and Mary Wish to Marry,” by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose. This article suggested a budget for two people, living without any luxuries, but “in comfort and decency:”

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925. This assumes a minimum weekly salary of about $35.00.

Caution: “There is nothing as dangerous as a man who has only read one book.” — Molly Ivins in a radio interview.

Obviously, no serious scholar would base economic deductions on just one source — in this case, a series of articles in a woman’s magazine — The Delineator — published by Butterick. The Butterick Publishing Company emphasized fashions adapted from Paris couture, aimed at an aspiring middle-class reader. (The public areas of its Manhattan office building were decorated in 1903 by Louis Comfort Tiffany)  Consider those facts while reading this article. I’ll share what I have. (Since Delineator was a large format magazine, I broke the long article up into smaller paragraphs in a separate post, for legibility. Click here to read the original article in full.)

Although I was most interested in the clothing budget for a man and woman in 1925, we need to look at the suggested food budget to get an idea of the general standard of living for “comfort and decency,” as envisioned in this article. The authors offered several possibilities. (Later, they did the same for the clothing budget.)

Story illustration from Delineator, April 1929.

Story illustration from Delineator, April 1929.

Food Budget for Two People, 1925:  $30 per month

“What must Mary and George spend for food? To provide a dietary that will give the greatest measure of health and protection from food, not less than eighty cents a day is necessary for raw food materials for two grown persons.”

A) 80 cents per day?  “This small amount spent for right foods means a wholesome diet, but a monotonous, uninteresting and unvaried one. It restricts eating to eating to live.

B) $1.00 to $1.10 per day?  “For two adults with knowledge and skill [this] will buy raw food materials for a simple, plain diet with a few spots of interest.”

C) $1.50 per day? “A dollar and a half per day for raw food materials for two adults will permit some food luxuries….”

D) $2.00 per day? “Two dollars a day, skillfully spent, will provide materials for food luxuries, as well as necessities.”

Conclusion? $30 per month on food for two people.  “To furnish anything like an appealing, and at the same time adequate diet, …these young people should count on not less than fifty cents a day apiece or a dollar a day or thirty dollars a month to buy the raw food materials.”

This lets us know that their total budget of $150 per month, or $1800 per year, is not based on a high standard of living. It is, in the opinion of Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, barely above subsistence level. It also implies that all meals will be prepared at home from raw materials.

From an ad for a Butterick cookbook, June 1925. Delineator magazine

From an ad for a Butterick cookbook, June 1925. Delineator magazine

Clothing Budget for Two People, 1925:  $360 per year

“What shall Mary and George spend for clothes? Nowhere can we find any satisfactory basis for agreement on a clothing standard. All we can do is to summarize the budgets we have had given to us by various friends who are maintaining a fair to good appearance on modest incomes.”

Story illustration by Joseph M. Clement, Delineator, Nov. 1924.

Story illustration by Joseph M. Clement, Delineator, Nov. 1924.

A) $150 per year for Mary’s clothing and $125 for George? With $275 per year, “Mary, if skillful, may maintain the wardrobe decently but meagerly for a hundred and fifty dollars for herself and a hundred twenty-five dollars for George.”

B) $200 per year for Mary and $150 for George? ($350 per year) “With two hundred dollars for herself and one hundred fifty for George, plus her skill in making, making over, and repair, the two may be simply but attractively clothed.”

C) $300 for Mary and $225 for George? ($525 for a married couple) “With three hundred dollars for Mary and two hundred twenty-five dollars for George, they may begin to rise into the well-dressed class; but this amount still means a very modest wardrobe for each.

Conclusion? $360 per year for clothing one man and one woman.  “To maintain a standard of clothes which will give them not only comfort but reasonable satisfaction in looking well, it is hardly safe to plan on less than two hundred dollars for Mary and one hundred fifty dollars for George. If Mary can not sew, they must count on spending very much more than this. Exceptions to this allowance may be made in warm climates, where the cost of clothing may be reduced.”

Sewing. From Delineator, July 1926.

Sewing. From Delineator, July 1926.

Note that the husband’s wardrobe is always less expensive than the wife’s. A white collar businessman could wear the same suit to the office, day after day. He would need a winter coat and a raincoat, a tuxedo, a summer suit and a winter suit, perhaps a blazer and white flannel trousers, at least two hats, and shirts, ties, shoes, etc. His wife’s wardrobe would be driven by four, rather than two, seasons — and would go out of style faster. If he was a rising young businessman, she would need to attend social occasions with him, and look “attractively clothed.”

Of course, Butterick’s Delineator magazine had a vested interest in encouraging home sewing:

Ad for Butterick Patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1924.

Ad for Butterick Patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1924.

In 1925, you could get a treadle sewing machine from Sears for $33, or a portable electric for $43. Singer invented the installment plan, because a sewing machine cost at least a week’s salary (two weeks’ salary for a woman.)

Other appliance sales followed suit:

Hoover vacuum ad, Delineator, Nov. 1925.

Hoover vacuum ad, Delineator, Nov. 1925. “$6.25 down! — that was all I paid to have my Hoover delivered….By the end of the month I had more than enough to meet the small payment.”

Grocery Shopping. Story illustration by S. george Phillips, Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Grocery Shopping. Story illustration by S. George Phillips, Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Apparently the Delineator’s economists assume that “Mary” will have a full time job just looking after herself and George — grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and sewing; some women worked outside the home, however, until they started a family; the wife’s salary would help a couple build up a “nest egg.” The home economists definitely assume that the couple must plan for children, and consequently their expenses for “shelter,” “furnishings,” and “operating” will be the biggest portion (43%) of their income.

Build-your-own-house kits. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens, 1930.

Build-your-own-house kits. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens, 1930. Land and labor extra.

Housing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925

From $1800 a year, $780 is budgeted for Shelter, Furnishings, and Operating Expenses.

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Minimum Budget for a married couple, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Twenty percent of their income will be spent on Food, and another 20% on Clothing. “Shelter, Furnishings, and Operating expenses” are all part of home ownership. This article assumed that the couple will have at least two children eventually, so they would need either a larger apartment than a single person would, or a house of their own. The cost of transportation to and from work (a used car, if necessary) was included under Shelter; Operating expenses included utilities, home and yard upkeep, property taxes, home insurance, cooking and heating fuel, as well as cleaning supplies and appliances, laundry, and “services.”

Ad for Lorain Gas Stove. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Ad for Lorain Gas Stove. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

In 1925, utility expenses included ice delivery, for the “ice box” refrigerator, and a telephone.

A telephone in two rooms. Ad, Better Homes and Gardens, July 1930.

A telephone in two rooms. Ad, Better Homes and Gardens, July 1930. “There are few places where a telephone is needed more than in the kitchen …. Calls can be placed or answered without getting too far from an active and temperamental oven.”

A married couple would either send their laundry out or, perhaps, buy a new “washing machine.”

Article about purchasing a washing machine. Delineator, Aug. 1926.

Article about purchasing a washing machine. Delineator, Aug. 1926.

Washing machines, Delineator, August 1926.

Washing machines, Delineator, August 1926. The woman on the left is filling hers with a hose, and it drains into a hole in the floor. The machine on the right is even more primitive. No wonder many “sent out” their household laundry.

Clothes for a Married Woman versus a Single Working Woman.

What really interested me was how the clothing budget for a married woman,  given in the 1925 article, compared with the clothing budget for a single, working woman from the previous year. In 1924, the Delineator economists allowed a yearly clothing budget of $3.00 a week, about $156 per year,  for a woman earning $18 per week.

Living on $18 per week in 1924. Clothing, cleaning, laundry expenses. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 19.

Living on $18 per week in 1924. Clothing, cleaning, laundry expenses. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 19.

To read the post comparing a woman’s dress budget from 1924 with one from 1936, click here. Both articles agree that a woman should plan to spend between $150 and $200 dollars per year on clothes in 1925. If a single woman’s laundry and cleaning expenses are added to her clothing purchases, her clothing expenditure totals about $200 for the year.

“Mary, if skillful, may maintain the wardrobe decently but meagerly for a hundred and fifty dollars for herself … “With two hundred dollars for herself and one hundred fifty for George, plus her skill in making, making over, and repair, the two may be simply but attractively clothed.”

Butterick patterns, Delineator, Oct. 1925.

Butterick patterns, Delineator, Oct. 1925. By 1927, Mary would need to be shortening or remaking these dresses.

At the end of “When George and Mary Wish to Marry,” the writers acknowledged that many families live on a much smaller amount of money than the $1800 in their “comfort and decency” minimum budget:

“…Hundreds of thousands of families in this country are living on smaller incomes than this…. They have faced and adjusted themselves to the sacrifices which must be made where money is too scarce to provide the amount of comfort we have described as reasonable.”

And, in 1929-1930, the Great Depression put a sudden end to the optimism — and salaries —  of the nineteen twenties.

"Income cut in half... food prices rising... and six hungry mouths to feed." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, 1934

“Income cut in half… food prices rising… and six hungry mouths to feed.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, 1934.

For anyone wishing to read the entire budget article from 1925, which breaks down other expenses, including the cost of having children, it can be found here.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Menswear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers

One Coat, Five Dresses: Wardrobe for March, 1936

Companion-Butterick patterns and fashion advice, page 72, Woman's Home Companion for March 1936.

Companion-Butterick patterns and fashion advice, page 72, Woman’s Home Companion for March 1936.

Planning your wardrobe around your coat (assuming you have only one winter coat) has been good budget and fashion advice for a long time. In the Great Depression, it was fair to assume that most women had only one or two coats, period. And they were expected to last for at least two years. Click here for a 1936 clothing budget. However, The Woman’s Home Companion brightened its readers’ spirits by assuring them that they would be wearing the latest styles from Paris under that coat.

A choice of print dresses to wear with your coat. Companion-Butterick pattens from Woman's Home Companion, page 73, March 1936.

A choice of print dresses to wear with your coat. Companion-Butterick pattens from Woman’s Home Companion, page 73, March 1936.

The advice was to make one dress that matched the coat exactly, another in a contrasting color from the same pattern, and one in a print fabric.

Companion Butterick patterns for a dress, 6649, and a coat, 6655. WHC, March 1936, p. 72.

Companion Butterick patterns for a dress, 6649, and a coat, 6655. WHC, March 1936, p. 72.

The coat is Companion-Butterick Pattern 6655, available in bust sizes 30 through 46 inches.

WHC 1936 mar p 72 500 coat 6655 text

Dress No. 6649 was illustrated in two versions, one in a lively color, like the wine red shown above . . .

WHC 1936 mar p 72 500 two dresses 6649 text

. . . and another version of the same pattern in fabric to match the coat.

Companion Butterick dress pattern 6649, WHC, March 1936, page 72.

Companion Butterick dress pattern 6649, WHC, March 1936, page 72.

Companion-Butterick patterns often advised that you could save time and money by making two or three versions of the same pattern. Here are two bodice variations on No. 6649.

Companion -Butterick pattrn 6649 made in two different versions. March 1936.

Companion -Butterick pattern 6649 made in two different versions. March 1936.

Those square armholes are interesting, and the pockets are also sharply geometrical. The pattern envelope shows the version on the right, but without dress clips at the neckline.

Prints for Spring, 1936

Woman's Home Companion, March 1936.

Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936.

“Prints are as certain to come back with spring as the swallows. All the Paris dressmakers who stress spring clothes are using prints in quantity.” Quite a list of French couturiers are cited as inspiration: Mainbocher, Schiaparelli, Molyneux, Chanel, and Lelong.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6632, MArch 1936. WHC, p. 73.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6632, March 1936. WHC, p. 73.

Companion-Butterick patterns 6642 and 6638. WHC, p. 73, March 1936.

Companion-Butterick patterns 6642 and 6638. WHC, p. 73, March 1936.

WHC 1936 mar p 73 500 prints text 6642 6638

Printed Dresses for Sprint, 1936. Woman's Home Companion, p. 73, March 1936.

Printed Dresses for Spring, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 73, March 1936.

Here’s a pattern envelope for #6642, left.

Butterick and The Woman’s Home Companion

The Butterick  Publishing Company suddenly discontinued its own magazine, The Delineator, in Spring of 1937, but there was already an agreement in place with The Woman’s Home Companion to feature Companion-Butterick patterns in every issue. They debuted in this March, 1936, issue of WHC.  Companion-Butterick patterns usually stressed versatility:  several slightly differing dresses could be made from one pattern. The Delineator had always emphasized Butterick’s “Paris” connection; you can see traces of that attitude in this article by “Paris Fashion Correspondent” Marjorie Howard. The Woman’s Home Companion aimed a little lower on the economic scale, and acknowledged that its readers had to make their money go a long way during the Depression.

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Paris Fashions from The Delineator, 1929. Part 1, Daytime

In November 1929, Butterick’s Delineator Magazine ran two full pages of sketches of Paris Fashions — Vionnet, Chanel, Patou, Schiaparelli, Molyneux, and many other top designers, some of whom are no longer very well known.

Sketches of Paris fashions, Delineator, November 1929. Page 26.

Sketches of Paris fashions, # 1 through 15,  Delineator, November 1929. Page 26.

In order to make these sketches available for further research, I’ll try to show them one at a time, with their original descriptions from The Delineator. And, because there are thirty sketches in all, I’ll show 15 designs for daytime today, and designs 16 through 30 in Part 2.

Couture for evening, Delineator, Nov. 1929, page 27.

Sketches of couture, # 16 through 30, Delineator, Nov. 1929, page 27. Leslie Saalburg, illustrator.

After 1929, hems dropped precipately. Patou claimed the credit, but I won’t pursue that here. Schiaparelli, who wore culottes in the city in 1935, showed a pleated “knicker” skirt with a covering panel here, in 1929. The sketches are accompanied by the original descriptions. Perhaps you’ll find other surprises….

Paris Fashions for Daytime Sketched in the Delineator, November, 1929

Patou coat and dress, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

Patou coat and dress, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

The coat seems to be about the length of the dresses shown by other designers, but it’s hard to tell what is going on with Patou’s pleated skirt. Notice the suggestion of a natural waist, trimmed with buttons.

Sketch of Schiaparelli "knicker skirt" in Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Sketch of Schiaparelli “knicker skirt” in Delineator, Nov. 1929.

The illustrator, Leslie Saalburg, seems to have had a little trouble with this one. As we know from Elizabeth Hawes’ Fashion Is Spinach, illustrators had to make furtive notes and then sketch from memory later.

Coat designed by London Trades, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

Coat designed by London Trades, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

London Trades is one of those designer names, popular in the 1920’s, but rarely mentioned today.

Green cloth coat by Cheruit, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Green cloth coat by Cheruit, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929. Note the natural waist on this fitted coat.

Mme. Cheruit herself retired in 1914, but the House of Cheruit carried on until 1930. This Cheruit tea-gown from 1922 shows strong influence from The Ballets Russes: Big, bold patterns and brilliant, exotic colors.

A caped dress, which looks like a coat, from Molyneux, 1929. Delineator sketch.

A caped dress, which looks like a coat, from Molyneux, 1929. Delineator sketch.

“Captain Molyneux” — he was an Englishman — also produced some spectacular evening wear. Click here for a glimmering dress from 1926-27.

Coat with interesting back detail from Lucien Lelong. Sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Coat with interesting back detail from Lucien Lelong. Sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Burnt orange suit from London Trades, 1929. Delineator sketch.

Burnt orange suit from London Trades, 1929. Delineator sketch.

A caracal is a lynx-like cat with beautiful tufted ears. See more here.

Tweed cape by Lelong. Sketcher for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Tweed cape by Lelong. Sketcher for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Astrakhan is a tightly curled fur, a variation on “Persian” lamb. Click here if you need to know more….

A coat and matching blanket by Elsa Schiaparelli, sketched for Delineator. Nov. 1929.

A coat and matching “rug” (a small lap blanket for wearing in cold cars, while watching outdoor sports, etc.) by Elsa Schiaparelli, sketched for Delineator. Nov. 1929.

Costume by Molyneux, sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Costume by Molyneux, sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Nutria (also called coypu) is a rodent. Raised for fur, some nutria escaped. In 2010, it was being treated as an invasive species in Louisiana. The New York Times explained here.

Day dress by Patou, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Day dress by Patou, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Cheviot is a kind of wool. This dress is slightly longer than other dresses of 1929 shown in the same article. Perhaps more interesting is the belt — worn approximately at the natural waist. Patou was famous for his sportswear in the 1920’s. You can read about his monogrammed sportswear in this article about the influence of tennis on fashion.

A basque blouse outfit from Cheruit, sketched in 1929.

A basque blouse outfit from Cheruit, sketched in 1929.

Duveteen was a napped fabric, often suggested for Butterick patterns in the Delineator . The flared skirt was fairly new, but this Cheruit outfit was soon to be out of style without ever being really in style.

A suti using double-faced tweed, by Nowitsky; 1929 sketch from Delineator.

A coat made from double-faced tweed, by Nowitsky; 1929 sketch from Delineator.

Mary Nowitsky was often mentioned in Delineator’s Paris coverage; I find some of her twenties’ sportswear very attractive. It’s hard to find information about her.

Coat with interesting back by Schiaparelli. Sketched for Delineator, in 1929.

Coat with interesting back by Schiaparelli. Sketched for Delineator, in 1929.

Jersey coat by Chanel, Sketched for Delineator in 1929.

Jersey coat by Chanel, sketched for Delineator in 1929.

Chanel’s striped dress anticipates the 1930’s — except in length. More Chanel in the next post, Part 2 of Paris Fashions from The Delineator, 1929.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Nightclothes and Robes, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs

Paris Fashions for June 1926, Sketched by Soulié

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie's sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie’s sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Butterick kept an office in Paris, where, among other things, the latest collections were sketched.

“. . . Butterick keeps a staff of experts in Paris all the time. Wherever new models are launched, there is a Butterick expert noting each successful model. Quickly that expert cables the news. Sketches, details follow by the fast steamer. Immediately patterns are made for each of the successful new dresses.”

These sketches by Soulié were a regular feature in Butterick’s magazine, The Delineator. Many of these designers’ names are still very familiar (Worth, Patou, Molyneux) while others are less often mentioned. Jenny and Renée often created lovely fashions in the 1920s.  I photographed these illustrations from a bound copy of six issues of The Delineator, so this image of a gown by Patou is distorted by the curvature of the book, but the details are worth a look.

Jean Patou

Design by Jean Patou sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

Design by Jean Patou sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

” ‘Premier bal’ [first ball] is the charming name of a charming frock from Jean Patou. It is made of pale pink chiffon with a bolero beginning at a yoke and ending over a draped girdle. Petals of pink taffeta weight the full godets.”

I don’t claim a direct influence, but I have seen vintage dresses with similar details.

Fabric flower petals at the shoulder and a "bolero" effect on a vintage twenties' gown.

Fabric flower petals at the shoulder and a “bolero” effect on a vintage late twenties’ gown.

Two vintage twenties' dresses; one has floating side panels; the other has a bolero effect falling all the way to the waist.

Two vintage twenties’ dresses; one has floating side panels that evoke Patou’s bolero; the other has a bolero effect falling all the way to the waist — and self-fabric petals at the shoulder.

A cluster of petals, or a bow, on the left shoulder was often repeated at the right (or left) hip, perhaps with a drapery or cascade of fabric falling from there to the hem or beyond. This was a clever device for attracting attention away from unflattering horizontal lines and making the viewer’s eye travel up and down the dress instead of across it.

Butterick 2450 (Feb.) and 2490 (March), 1929. Trim at the shoulder and hip.

Butterick 2450 (Feb.) and 2490 (March), 1929. Trim at the shoulder and hip.

Renée

Design by Renee, sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

Design by Renee, sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

“Renée puts clusters of fan plaits in the cape and skirt of a Summer ensemble of violine wool poplin trimmed with buttons dyed to match the material. Skirts remain short and sleeves long in Paris street clothes and necks turn up their collar.”

Molyneux

Molyneux design sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

Molyneux design sketched by Soulie for Delineator, June 1926.

“Molyneux makes a shimmering evening frock of mauve Georgette with the bodice double crossed with lines of mauve celophane [sic] and the same glistening trimming edging the petals of the skirt.”

Cellophane was invented by a Swiss textile engineer named Brandenberger and perfected in time for use in gas masks in WW I. (Click here for a history of cellophane.) I do not recommend dry cleaning cellophane dress trims!

Perhaps the client who bought this 1926 evening dress also bought glittering this Molyneux wrap.

Evening jacket by Molyneux, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Evening jacket by Molyneux, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Detail of Molyneux jacket, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Detail of Molyneux jacket, from 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

To return to the outfits pictured at the top of this post, here they are shown full length, and later, I will show their details.

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie's sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Paris designs by (from left) Worth, Jenny, and Lucien Lelong. Soulie’s sketches for Delineator magazine, June 1926.

Worth (far left, above,)

“Worth puts a bolero and tunic of a reddish pink silk printed with roses over an apple-green front and skirt. The wide sleeves end in a green hem edged with three minute folds of the rose silk.” What a shame we can’t see this in color!

Jenny (center, above)

Jenny makes a rather wonderful Summer ensemble with a flared coat of ash-pink cloth over a smocked frock of silk printed with roses, cyclamen, and white cherries. Touches of Sevres blue trim the neck both of coat and frock.”

Lucien Lelong (Right, above)

“‘Sans atout‘ or “No Trumps” is a grand slam of finely tucked white Georgette used for a soft coat and a still softer frock. Civet fur hems the coat.”

Rose and green outfit by Worth, Ash-pink and blue ensemble by Jenny, and a tucked georgette ensemble by Lucien Lelong, Delineator sketch by Soulie, June 1926.

Pink and green outfit by Worth, Ash-pink and blue ensemble by Jenny, and a tucked georgette ensemble by Lucien Lelong; Delineator sketch by Soulie, June 1926.

“No Trumps:”  Playing bridge was becoming a chic pastime, and evening dresses sometimes included a “bridge jacket.”

This embroidered coat by Jenny, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, also dates to 1926:

Coat by Jenny, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Embroidered coat by Jenny, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

It’s nice to remember how colorful these garments could be. (Click here for more images of this coat.)

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Filed under 1920s, Coats, Dresses, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Suspender Skirts, 1925

Butterick suspender skirts,, 1925. Left, May, # 5997; right, April, #5979.

Butterick suspender skirts with smocked blouses, 1925. Left, May, #5997; right, April, #5979.

The “suspender skirt” — called the “Pretty Peggy Skirt” in the Fall 1925 Sears catalog — was available in several Butterick patterns for women and girls during 1925. I hate to keep mentioning Downton Abbey, but I remembered seeing suspender skirts in Delineator magazine because Lady Edith recently appeared wearing one. (She was photographed mostly from the waist up, so I can’t be absolutely certain, but it looked like she was wearing a dark suspender skirt with a white blouse in the brief scene where she told Tom that she intended to leave Downton Abbey without talking to anyone.)

Suspender skirt 6079, left, and 6063, far right. June 1925, Delineator.

Suspender skirts #6079, far left, and #6063, far right. June 1925, Butterick patterns in Delineator.

It’s a rather strange fashion, and was sometimes described as a skirt, and sometimes as a dress. In America today, we’d be inclined to call it a “jumper,” meaning a sleeveless dress designed to be worn over a blouse. (“Jumper” is one of those words, like “braces” and “vest,” which mean a completely different piece of clothing in the U.K.)  Sometimes, as above, it was scooped to above the natural waist, but some versions appear to be open so low that the blouse wrinkles.

Designers had already shown one-piece dresses with a curved contrasting “bib,” one of many ploys for adding a vertical element, or a contrasting element near the face, to mid-1920’s fashions.

A dark dress with a contasting bib effect. May, 1924.

A dark dress with a contrasting bib effect. May, 1924. Delineator.

A dress from Dec. 1924, left, and one from Oct. 1925, right. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine.

A ‘bib’ dress from Dec. 1924, left, and one from Oct. 1925, right. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine.

The suspender skirt, however, was a skirt with wide shoulder straps — often bias bound — and a low, curved front, worn over a separate blouse. Patterns were available for women, teens ( called “misses”) and girls. In adult sizes, patterns for the blouse and skirt were sold separately, sometimes with a matching jacket or vest pattern, too. Suspender skirts for girls, however, included the blouse pattern — probably because child-sized patterns used less paper.

Girls' suspender skirt and blouse pattern 6176. August, 1925. Delineator.

Girls’ suspender skirt and blouse pattern #6176. August, 1925. Delineator.

Butterick suspender skirt and blouse #6009. May, 1925.

Butterick suspender skirt and blouse #6009. May, 1925.

Girls' skirt and blouse pattern 6131, July 1925.

Girls’ suspender skirt and blouse pattern #6131, July 1925.

MIsses' skirt 6017, with blouse 5903. Butterick, May, 1925.

Misses’ skirt #6017, with blouse #5903. Butterick, May 1925.  Note the line of slenderizing decorative buttons, seen on many 1925 patterns.

Many of the suspender skirts were shown over blouse pattern 5903, which has a smocked neckline and “folk” embroidery.

Butterick suspender skirt 6079 with blouse 5903. June 1925.

Butterick suspender skirt #6079 with blouse #5903. June 1925.

In 1925, dresses were often shown with a decorative handkerchief hanging out of the pocket, like most of these.

Skirt 5964 with blouse 5498 and coat 5981. May, 1925. The blouse was from 1924.

Skirt #5964 with blouse #5498 and coat #5981. May, 1925.

In this version, the coat is lined with the plaid wool used for the skirt. The blouse, Butterick 5498, first appeared in 1924.

Pattern information for skirt 5964 and the rest of the outfit. April, 1925; Delineator.

Pattern information for skirt #5964 and the coat, #5981. The same coat and skirt were featured two months in a row; this describes them worn a different blouse and hat. From the April, 1925 Delineator.

The pattern descriptions for skirts #5997 and #5979 appear below.

Butterick suspender skirts,1925. Left, # 5997; right, #5979.

Butterick suspender skirts, 1925. Left, #5997 has small pleats in front; right, #5979, has pleats near the hem at CF and side seams, but not in back.

Pattern information for skirt 5997.

Pattern information for skirt #5997, when it was featured in a different magazine issue with the sleeveless jacket, #6001, below.

Suspender skirt #5979, on the right above, was also illustrated in red, with a sleeveless jacket and contrast binding:

Suspender skirt 5979 with blouse 5903. May, 1925. Delineator.

Suspender skirt #5979 with blouse #5903, and  jacket #6001. May, 1925. Delineator.

Pattern information for Butterick skirt 5979. Jacket 6001 was also illustrated with suspender skirt #

Pattern information for Butterick skirt #5979 and jacket #6001; this is the description from a different month, which showed the skirt and jacket with a different blouse and hat.

The vocabulary was not always used precisely; the outfit on the left, below, was called a “suspender skirt” and blouse, but the one on the right was described as a “dress” and blouse. They are shown with two versions of the same blouse, #5508, from 1924.

Suspender skirt #6077 (June) with blouse #5508  and "Dress" 6119 with blouse #5508 (July.) 1925.

Suspender skirt #6077 (June 1925) with blouse #5508 and “Dress” #6119 (July 1925) with blouse #5508. The ‘dress’ has higher armholes.

Another thing worth noting, for the light it sheds on pattern production:  all but one of the suspender skirts have exactly the same back.

Back views of suspender skirts 5964 and

Back views of suspender skirts #5964 and #5979.

Back views of suspender skirts 5979 and 6017.

Back views of suspender skirts #6017 and #5979.

Personally, I suspect that the reason why this style only appeared for a short time was that it’s a bad design; with the back scoop as low as the front scoop, the straps would fall off your shoulder every time  you reached down, especially when you were sitting. Only #5997 solves the problem with a higher scoop in back than in front.  If you make a suspender skirt, copy this back.

1925 may p 102 pattern back view skirt 5997 higher back

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Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

A Lament for Bound Periodicals

Cover of Delineator magazine, April 1917. Color illustration by Maud Humphrey.

Cover of Delineator magazine, April 1917. Color illustration by Maud Humphrey.

I am still amazed to the discover full color fashion illustrations in magazines that are 98 years old, or even older.

Look at the unexpected notes of muted red in the embroidery on this blue dress:

Detail, Delineator cover, April 1917.

Detail, Delineator cover, April 1917.

Hem embroidery, April 1917.

Hem embroidery, April 1917.

The Past Was Not Dressed in Black and White

Most of the movies and photographs that we have for the early 20th century are in black and white. It’s hard not to think of the nineteen twenties and early thirties in shades of gray, because, in the photos we have, we can’t see that a “black” dress is actually red, or burgundy, or blue, or green; or that a pale dress is not white but peach, yellow, or aqua, etc.

This is how a page from a 1925 copy of Delineator magazine would look on black and white film or microfiche:

Delineator, April 1925, photographed in gray scale.

A page from Delineator, April 1925, photographed in gray scale.

But this is what those old Delineators really looked like;  there were several pages of full-color fashion illustrations in every issue:

A color page from Delineator, April 1925.

The same page as it actually appeared in Delineator, April 1925.

When you see it in black and white, the suit on the lower right seems to actually be black and white — but the blouse is vivid yellow. The hem of the red dress “reads” as black when you can’t see the color. The beading on the black dress is reddish, too.

Bound Periodicals Replaced with Black and White Film

There is a wealth of costume history and color information in old periodicals, but sadly, many libraries got rid of their bound periodical sections and replaced them with microfilm and microfiche about ten years before the digital revolution. Today, it’s possible to make full-color scans of old magazines (if you still have any), but the big, old, heavy, bound volumes of magazines are long gone; often black and white photos of their pages are all that libraries have.

When you can get your hands on a vintage fashion magazine, many of the illustrations look like this:

Delineator, June 1926, p. 29, photographed from a bound periodical in the library.

Delineator, June 1926, p. 29, photographed from a bound periodical in the library.

But this is what they look like when you read them on microfilm:

The way it would look on microfilm.

The same illustration converted to black and white. Would you guess that one dress has green roses on it? That the dress in the lower left is not black?

Why I Became Witness2Fashion

Originally, I thought I would write mostly about the 1950s and 1960s — because I was a “witness” to the fashions of those years. I was just becoming aware of clothing and its social impact then; I can remember exactly when I wore certain outfits, because I was young and had many milestones — first dance, first capri pants, first grown-up suit, first jobs, important interviews, etc. I can also remember which styles from the period looked stodgy and middle-aged to me at twenty, and what occasions called for hats and gloves.

McCall's pattern 7981, 1965.

McCall’s pattern 7981, 1965. Classy, but by 1965 a little “mature” for a college senior like me. The models are young, but chic women in their fifties also wore suits like this.

I handle a lot of clothing patterns, not always dated, and I expected to verify the memories they evoked by going to the library and looking through magazines from my youth: Seventeen, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Vogue, etc. I have access to both a major urban library system and a large university library. But . . . .

Information Was Lost in Translation to Black and White

. . . most of those magazines are now only available as microfilm or microfiche! They’re preserved in black and white — color fashion magazines, stripped of their colors. Knowing that half the information that used to be there is missing really takes the pleasure out of a library visit. (Neither library subscribes to Vogue online.) And black and white versions of color fashion photos do lose much of their information. If you need proof that red and green look the same when reduced to black and white :

Cover of Maureen Valdes Marsh's book 70s Fashion Fiascos. Converted to black and white, the lettering is all the same gray.

Cover of Maureen Valdes Marsh’s book 70s Fashion Fiascos. Converted to black and white, the lettering is all the same gray, and the caftan loses most of its impact.

Also, for the benefit of anyone under forty, I’ll explain that it is very uncomfortable for those of us who wear glasses with bi-focal or graded lenses to read a vertical microfilm screen. With all graded lenses, you’re expected to look down to read and straight ahead to focus on things that are far away. This works for driving — but not for reading a vertical screen one foot away! I physically can’t spend hours reading that way.

So I switched my focus — in both senses — to the remaining vintage fashion periodicals that I could find.

Butterick’s Delineator Magazine, 1900 to 1937

Delineator cover, February 1933.

Delineator cover, February 1933. The illustrator is probably Dynevor Rhys. Vintage color combinations are sometimes unexpected, like this hat. Makeup styles are also documented in color.

At the main library I discovered a huge treasure trove of really old Delineator magazines still in the form of full-size bound periodicals that had not been converted to microfilm. My library has a complete set of Butterick’s Delineator magazines from 1900 to 1937. They were not converted to microfilm, possibly because The Delineator stopped publication in 1937. The library stores them in a basement off-site, but will bring volumes to the reserve desk with one day’s notice.

I also discovered that, from the early 1920’s to 1937, Butterick put a list of each month’s new pattern numbers at the back of Delineator magazine,  which meant that those “undated” Butterick patterns could be dated — something not possible before. I made it my project to collect the numbers and publish my research online. (See Dating Butterick Patterns 1920s to 1937 by clicking here.)  The results can be found at witness2fashion.com.

Of course, I couldn’t help reading some of the magazines! At first I intended to photograph a few of the the color pages;  then I became fascinated by the ads, and the black and white pattern illustrations; I started taking photos of some of the longer articles to read later . . . .

My project kept growing. Trained to do academic research,  I wanted to compare the Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator with contemporary patterns pictured in other available bound periodicals, like Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Home Companion. My computer is getting very full of images!  I’ll share as many as I can.

“Got Anything Valuable?”  in Vintage Advertisements

I was taught to regard advertisements as a valuable source of primary research, because they often show occupational dress and stereotypical clothing far removed from high fashion. Here are a few informative ads in color:

"Customs Inspector: 'Got anything very valuable in this trunk?' The Traveler: 'I should say so . . . . A whole carton of Chesterfields." Cigarette ad, July 1928. The Delineator.

“Customs Inspector: ‘Got anything very valuable in this trunk?’ The Traveler: ‘I should say so . . . . A whole carton of Chesterfields.’ ” Cigarette ad, July 1928. The Delineator.

Her big, orange scarf with green accents transforms a quiet camel suit and matching shoes. I expect The Vintage Traveler to covet that travel blanket. Could it be a Pendleton?

Camel Cigarette Ad, July 1928.

Camel Cigarette Ad, July 1928. This ad offers a fantasy of country club life. Ads are aspirational, always implying that using the product will improve your life and possibly raise your social status.

A costumer will note the different shades of blue (not gray or black) on the gentlemen’s jackets, worn with light tan or gray slacks, and a pink pocket square.

Ford was later than other manufacturers to introduce closed cars. This is one of a series of Ford advertisements aimed at women:

April 1924 Ford Ad for Closed Car.  Delineator. A "Woman in Business."

April 1924. Ford Ad for a Closed Car. A “Woman in Business,” but not a secretary; this is her office. From Delineator.

“Her habit of measuring time in terms of dollars gives the woman in business keen insight into the true value of a Ford closed car for her personal use. . . . inexpensive operation and upkeep convince her that it is a sound investment value. And it is such a pleasant car to drive. . . .”

Ad for Elgin watches, December 1928.

Full color ad for Elgin watches, December 1928. Costumers need to know about period accessories.

If you’ve just started reading witness2fashion, it may seem like I hop around from era to era.

I do, on purpose, following whatever trail catches my eye — zippers, corsets, makeup, accessories . . . . I like them all!

I Love the Colors of the Past

There are fashions in color, as well as in styles. Some color combinations or seasonal colors may surprise us.

To end where I started, here are several color illustrations from Delineator, 1917 —  almost a century old.  Images like these are a reason I treasure (and want to share bits of) those bound periodicals that escaped conversion to microfilm.

February 1917, Delineator, page 51.

February 1917, Delineator, page 51. The dress on the right looks like blue-violet changeable taffeta.

Up close, you can see the pastel print on the black dress, and the pink tassels on the blue one. Orange chiffon dresses with black and white trim are not a common sight nowadays:

Details, February 1917, Delineator, page 51.

Details, February 1917, Delineator, page 51.

The ladies below wear cocoa, tan, brilliant blue-green or reddish brown, no longer “Spring” colors to us,  with some rather remarkable hats:

Feb. 1917, Delineator, p. 52.

Feb. 1917, Delineator, p. 52.

Up close, you can see the colors in the prints lining the white stole and used in the rust-red dress and hat:

Detail of color illustration, Feb. 1917.

Detail of color illustration, Feb. 1917. Is that a Valkyrie on the right?

These are fashions for January, 1917. It’s nice to know that the blue hat and bag are blue,  not black.

January 1917, Delineator, page 40.

January 1917, Delineator, page 40. The vivid red and blue contrast would be lost in a black and white photo.

Detail, Jan. 1917, Ddelineator. The red and blue dress has embroidered pockets.

Detail, Jan. 1917, Delineator. The red and blue outfit has embroidered pockets; so does the pumpkin-brown dress.

“Here’s Looking at You, Kid”

Delineator, Feb. 1917.

Hats from Delineator, Feb. 1917.

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, bags, Dating Butterick Patterns, handbags, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Vintage Accessories

Four Blouses and a Hat from January 1924

After showing sketches of Paris fashions for January 1924, it seems only right to show some simpler garments: four blouses and a cloche hat which could be made from Butterick patterns. (The two embroidered blouses are luxurious and not an overnight project, but all four are “do-able” home sewing patterns.)

Butterick blouse patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1924.

Butterick blouse patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1924.

“The long blouse and godet skirt are new entries in mid-year’s styles.”  From the left:

Butterick 4933 blouse pattern, from 1924

Butterick blouse pattern 4933, January 1924.

Butterick blouse pattern 4933, Delineator, January 1924.

1924 jan p75 pattern blouse 4933 500

Like the other blouses in this illustration, it buttons at the hip band. Imagine how fabulous — and relatively easy — this would be in printed velvet, as shown.

Butterick 4941 blouse pattern, from 1924

Butterick blouse pattern 4941, January 1924.

Butterick blouse pattern 4941, Delineator, January 1924.

1924 jan p75 pattern blouse 4941 ctr 500

Butterick sold embroidery transfers and beading patterns as well as sewing patterns. To see a vintage early 1920s blouse, embroidered and beaded on sheer fabric, click here.

Butterick 4935 blouse pattern, from 1924

Butterick pattern 4935, Delineator, January 1924.

Butterick pattern 4935, Delineator, January 1924.

1924 jan p75 pattern info blouse 4935 500

Two of those blouse patterns were available in larger-than-average sizes. (The normal range of Butterick patterns in the 1920’s fit bust sizes 32 to 44 inches.) To see more embroidered garments from the 1920s, click here.

Another blouse from the same issue of Delineator magazine is more tailored, intended to be worn with a suit; Butterick also sold the pattern for making the model’s charming cloche hat decorated with a ribbon cockade:

Butterick blouse pattern 4965 and Butterick hat pattern 4973, Delineator, January 1924.

Butterick blouse pattern 4965 and Butterick hat pattern 4973, Delineator, January 1924.

Butterick 4965 blouse pattern, from 1924

“For wear with the two-piece suit this blouse with a one-button effect is very smart. It may be worn inside or outside the skirt. Make it of silk broadcloth, heavy crepe de chine, pongee, wash silks, or dimity. . . . The blouse is new for ladies 32 to 44 bust.”

Butterick cloche hat pattern 4973, 1924

Butterick's cloche hat pattern No. 4973, for Ladies or Misses. Delineator, January 1924.

Butterick’s cloche hat pattern No. 4973, for Ladies or Misses. Delineator, January 1924.

“One of the newest-shaped hats has a gored crown and hand-made ornaments at the side. One usually sees them in velvet, satin, duvetyn [a brushed wool] or wool jersey. For later wear down South, use chintz or gingham for view C. . . . The hat is attractive for Ladies or Misses.” I never thought of a chintz hat as a twenties’ authentic style, but here it is suggested by the Butterick Publishing Company.  Although Butterick sold many children’s hat patterns, hat pattern No. 4973 is not for children  — even when made from chintz or gingham.

Cloche hat trimmed with a self-fabric cockade, probably bound in ribbon or bias-cut silk. 1924.

Cloche hat trimmed with a gathered self-fabric cockade, probably bound in ribbon or bias-cut silk. 1924.

You can see more 1920’s hat patterns and hat trims by clicking here.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Hairstyles, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes