Tag Archives: Butterick Starred Patterns

Serendipity: 1933 Wedding Gown & Its Rare Pattern

Left, Butterick Starred Pattern 5299, a copy of the wedding dress worn by actress Helen Twelvetrees in Disgraced; right, a vintage wedding dress made from this pattern.

Some time ago I wrote about Butterick Starred Patterns. As far as I know, only twelve Starred Patterns were issued; they were exact copies of movie costumes by top film designers.

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Left, still photos from a Bette Davis movie; lower right, two Butterick “Starred” sewing patterns that are exact copies of her costumes. Delineator, 1933.

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Star Helen Twelvetrees modeled a wedding gown designed by Travis Banton in this Paramount movie. Delineator, 1933.

Wonderful Liza D at Better Dresses Vintage recently acquired a vintage wedding gown …

Vintage wedding gown discovered by Liza D, photographed on a very tall mannequin.

…along with the Butterick pattern used to make it.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5299, from 1933. Someone wrote “Dots Wedding Dress” on it. (Dot = Dorothy)

Back of Butterick pattern 5299, used with permission of Better Dresses Vintage.

Image from the Deltor (sewing instructions sheet) inside the pattern envelope. The corsage hides the shirring (“gathers”) on the bodice.

Shape of pattern pieces from the back of the envelope.

I am very grateful that Liza shared these photos with me! As if that connection with a rare Butterick pattern weren’t enough, this was the “cherry on the cake:” the bride had torn a page from Delineator magazine on which this wedding dress was illustrated, and saved it inside the pattern envelope!

Liza D found this page from Delineator, September 1933, folded inside the pattern envelope.

Here is a clearer image of that wedding gown illustration.

Butterick 5299 wedding dress illustration from Delineator, September 1933.

It was originally featured in an article which showed the gown as worn in the movie — these illustrations come from Delineator’s August 1933 issue:

5299 pattern illustration from August, 1933.

Helen Twelvetrees models the wedding gown designed by Travis Banton. Delineator, August 1933.

Liza realized that “Dot’s Wedding Dress,” as it says on the pattern envelope, was made for a small woman, not the six-foot fashion mannequin she originally photographed it on. (Look at the sleeve length:)

The dress on a too-tall mannequin; those sleeves should be wrist length.

… so she asked her 14-year-old daughter to try it on. Her daughter is 5’2″ and the dress is lovely on her:

The 85-year-old dress on a model the right size is still beautiful. Cream colored satin dresses were a chic Thirties’ choice.

Puffy “Directoire” sleeves made a comeback in the early 1930s.

It’s not often that a vintage gown can be dated this precisely when we don’t even know the full name of the bride, or her wedding date. [Edit 1/27/19: Liza says, “I know the bride’s name and who she was, because I asked the family I acquired it from. She was their mom’s cousin. Yes, I’ve asked them to share a photo of her in it if they come across one.”  We can hope!]  We do know that she read Butterick’s Delineator magazine 🙂

Butterick 5299 was used for this 1933 wedding dress, beautiful enough for a movie star.

Liza D says it was made without a train, “perhaps for an in-home or informal wedding? There was no veil included.”

I am very grateful that Liza D remembered reading about Butterick Starred Patterns in this blog, and that she was willing to share these photos of her unusual vintage find! Check out this dress (and the pattern) and her other items for sale by clicking here. Thanks to her daughter, too.

P.S. If you missed my five posts on Starred Patterns, here they are: (Sorry I about the font size!)

Butterick Starred Patterns: Actual Fashions from the Movies (Part 1)

Bette Davis wears designs by Orry-Kelly.

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 2: Kay Francis in The Keyhole

Also designs by Orry-Kelly.

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 3: Mary Astor

More designs by Orry-Kelly.

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 4: Katharine Hepburn and Helen Chandler

Designs by Howard Greer.

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 5: Helen Twelvetrees Wears Travis Banton

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, Dresses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns from the movies, Wedding Clothes

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 5: Helen Twelvetrees Wears Travis Banton

Butterick Patterns designed by Travis Banton for Helen Twelvetrees in Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933.

Butterick Patterns designed by Travis Banton for Helen Twelvetrees in Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933. “Below is the gown that brings forth all the ‘Oh’s’ and “Ah’s” when Miss Twelvetrees models it in ‘Disgraced.’ “

Today, costume designer Travis Banton is more remembered than actress Helen Twelvetrees. (No, that was not the name she was born with.) These patterns from August, 1933 are the last two Starred Patterns in the Butterick series that began in May of 1933. Butterick’s Delineator magazine had so much faith in this wedding gown design that it was the star of its own article a month later.

Disgraced is a Pre-Code melodrama. In it, Miss Twelvetree’s character, a fashion model named Gay, begins living with a rich wastrel in the belief that he will marry her. Instead, he plans to marry wealthy Julia, and Gay only discovers his plan when she has to model Julia’s wedding dress. Murder ensues. See the movie poster here.

Butterick pattern 5297, Delineator, August 1933. Designed by Travis Banton for the Paramount movie Disgraced.

Butterick pattern 5297, Delineator, August 1933. Designed by Travis Banton for the Paramount movie Disgraced.

The text of the article says that Butterick 5297 can be worn without the cape collar, but I’m afraid that the alternate view was not illustrated.

1933 aug p 53 Helen Twelvetrees 5297 textTravis Banton des btm text

“Change-about” dresses were popular in the heart of the Great Depression.) Vintage Pattern Wikia has a larger image of this design, from the Fall 1933 Butterick catalog. The Delineator article was also printed in Butterick Fashion News.

Butterick 5299, designed by Travis Banton for the film Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933, p 53.

Butterick 5299, designed by Travis Banton for the film Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933, p 53.

Helen Twelvetrees modeling wedding gown No. 5299 in Disgraced, 1933.

Helen Twelvetrees modeling wedding gown No. 5299 in Disgraced, 1933.

The wedding dress, Butterick 5299, was described in the Delineator in August:

“If, by any chance, you’re contemplating marriage, and you’re in the ususal dither about what to wear for the Big Moment, we urge you do do just one thing. Take yourself on the run to the nearest theater showing Helen Twelvetree’s latest picture, ‘Disgraced.’

“In this picture — in which there’s plenty of excitement besides the clothes, you can take our word for it — Miss Twelvetrees wears a wedding gown that is our idea of a wedding gown. It had us practically in a swoon. All that blond loveliness of course helped, but even a plainer girl, we imagine, would look pretty glamourous in such a gown. It’s a satin affair, with a yoke of fine net, and a tulle veil that is like a cape and quite the most lovely one we’ve seen in years of weddings, on- and off-stage. The idea is to wear it down, all around, until after the ceremony, and then to toss it back off the face for the recessional.” — Delineator, August 1933, p. 53.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5299, a wedding gown designed by Travis Banton for the movie Disgraced. Detail.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5299, a wedding gown designed by Travis Banton for the movie Disgraced. Detail.  Delineator, August, 1933.

There’s a larger image from the Butterick Fall catalog, 1933, at Vintage Pattern Wikia.

Detail, Butterick wedding dress pattern 5299, Delineator, Sep. 1933.

Detail, Butterick wedding dress pattern 5299, Delineator, Sep. 1933.

Description of Butterick 5299 from September Delineator, 1933.

Description of Butterick 5299 from Delineator, September 1933.

From Delineator, August 1933. P. 53.

From Delineator, August 1933. P. 53.

Travis Banton, Costume Designer

When you think of Marlene Dietrich in extravagant and improbable 1930’s costumes, you’re thinking of Travis Banton. They first worked together on Shanghai Express, in 1932. [Her most famous line from the movie is, “”It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”] Click to see Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932.)

“Travis did more than any single person to make Marlene Dietrich the clothes horse of the movies.” — Hedda Hopper, quoted in Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

Born in Waco, Texas, in 1894, Travis Banton grew up in New York. After serving in World War I, he worked for a custom fashion house, where he designed a lavish bridal gown which was seen by silent mega-star Mary Pickford. She wore it for her 1920 wedding to the equally famous Douglas Fairbanks. Banton remained in New York, working for top design house Lucile  (Lady Duff-Gordon). He started his own salon, while also designing costumes for Broadway shows. He moved to California and signed a contract with Paramount Studios in 1925, where he worked happily (and often uncredited) for Chief Designer Howard Greer.

In 1927, Banton designed Clara Bow’s costumes for the movie It, a picture with plenty of advance publicity (or notoriety.) Here are several clips of Clara Bow in It, which must have inspired ambitious shop girls to try to look just like her. (Note that some of her 1927 costumes have natural waists….)

Marlene Dietrich in Angel, 1937. Costume by Travis Banton. Imaage from Creating the Illusion by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

Marlene Dietrich in Angel, 1937. Costume by Travis Banton. Image from Creating the Illusion, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

According to Creating the Illusion, Banton became known for form-fitting, lavishly embellished gowns. This heavily beaded dress for Marlene Dietrich in Angel (1937) cost the studio $8,000 ($135,000 in 2015 dollars.)

At the time, Banton’s salary was $1,250 per week. Paramount refused to increase it when his contract expired, so he left.  [After watching a short commercial, you can see many more of his costumes from Angel at the IMDb site. Click here.]  

Around 1940, Banton moved to 20th Century Fox, and in 1945 he moved to Universal. In the nineteen fifties he co-produced a clothing collection under the label “Marusia-Travis Banton.”

Carole Lombard in a beaded gown by Travis Banton. My Man Godfrey, 1936. Photo from Creating the Illusion.

Carole Lombard in a beaded gown by Travis Banton. My Man Godfrey, 1936. Photo from Creating the Illusion.

The classic thirties comedy, My Man Godfrey (1936), featured Carole Lombard as a wealthy madcap in costumes by Travis Banton. [She wears this beaded outfit on a scavenger hunt to the city dump.]  Here is that glittering gown in color.

If you have nine minutes to spare, this short film, “The Fashion Side of Hollywood”–  which was made to publicize Travis Banton’s designs for several movies — is a treat.  If you want to see a top model at work, watch the final segment; Marlene Dietrich poses in costumes that would look ridiculous on anyone else, and she looks wonderful. She clearly understood how to make the camera and lighting work for her!

This is the last of a series on Butterick Starred Patterns. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

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Butterick Starred Patterns Part 3: Mary Astor

This is the third set of patterns based on Orry-Kelly’s designs for movie stars and featured in The Delineator magazine. (Click here for Part 1, Bette Davis and more about Orry-Kelly.) (Click Here for Part 2, Kay Francis.) Butterick had permission to make exact copies of the clothes worn in certain movies in 1933.

Two Frocks from The Little Giant; Delineator, July 1933, p. 55

Two Frocks from The Little Giant; Delineator, July 1933, p. 55.

One of these Butterick Starred Patterns was a dress for Mary Astor, who really was a star in the twenties, thirties and forties, and the other was for Shirley Grey, a lesser-known actress.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5271, designed for Shhirley grey by Orry-Kelly. Delineator, July 1933.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5271, designed for Shirley Grey by Orry-Kelly. Delineator, July 1933. Partly open sleeves were seen on several designs in 1933.

“Shirley Grey’s dress [Butterick 5271]  is one of those “frocks with ideas,” ideas for making itself into several. You can do things to it and obtain at least two frocks, possibly three. Made just as you saw it in the picture, it is simply a lovely afternoon dress consisting of a black satin skirt, on a thin underbody, and a white crinkled satin blouse. But made another way (and the pattern made of this dress provides for this version, too) it still looks just as you see it here except that the skirt is longer, instep length.”

Oddly, although Mary Astor’s dress was illustrated again, in a different fabric, in a later issue of Delineator, the alternate views of dress 5271 were described, but not pictured.  Perhaps they thought this lengthy verbal description was enough:

Shirley Grey dress 5271 LIttle giant text

However, you can see this dress without the “blouse” at the Vintage Pattern Wikia. Click here.

Mary Astor in a dress by Orry-Kelly that was copied as Butterick 5267. Delineator, July, 1933.

Mary Astor in a dress by Orry-Kelly that was copied as Butterick 5267 . Delineator, July, 1933.

Description of Butterick Starred Pattern 5267, from July 1933.

Description of Butterick Starred Pattern 5267, from July 1933.

This dress was illustrated in another version in the next issue of Delineator, August of 1933. It didn’t mention Mary Astor or the movies:

Butterick 5267 as drawn in July and August, 1933.

Butterick 5267 as drawn in July and August, 1933.

Buttrerick 6267 as described in the August 1933 Delineator.

Butterick 5267 as described in the August 1933 Delineator.

You can see a larger illustration of 5267 at the Vintage Pattern Wikia.

About Mary Astor and Edward G. Robinson

Mary Astor was a child actress whose career lasted well into middle age. She played Ophelia to John Barrymore’s Hamlet on the stage,  transitioned easily from silents to talkies, survived a huge scandal, and graduated to mature roles (and an Oscar *TM*) in the 1940’s.  She is best remembered as the temptress in The Maltese Falcon, the mother in Meet Me In St. Louis, and Marmee in Little Women.  The list of her credits (155 movies and TV episodes) at The Internet Movie Database pretty much defines “working actress.”  She also wrote two books: My Story and My Life on Film.  You can get a tiny sampling of her work in this one minute Tribute from Turner Classic Movies.

Edward G. Robinson and Mary Astorin The Little Giant, Delineator magazine, July 1933.

Russell Hopton, Edward G. Robinson and Mary Astor in The Little Giant, Delineator magazine, July 1933.

The real star of the picture was Edward G. Robinson, who had a blazing hit in 1931 playing a ruthless gangster in Little Caesar. The Little Giant allowed him to play a gangster in a comedy. Here he is explaining that he is “crawling with culture.” [In fact, Mr. Robinson was a deeply cultured, educated man, but, as beautifully explained at the Pre-Code movie site, his physical appearance made him an unlikely movie star.]

“You definitely can’t build a star like Edward G. Robinson. A Jewish-Romanian who’d studied to be a Rabbi before trying law school and eventually working his way to the theater, Robinson worked on Broadway for fifteen years and made his first appearance in a silent film in 1923. But when the talkies came, so came Robinson’s voice to the masses– a distinctly New York-ian snappy piece of work, a raspy growl that signifies a great deal of soon-to-come fury. Little Caesar is the movie that made Robinson a star, a role that allows him to embody a character of unstoppable, aggressive malice. His character of Rico, AKA Little Caesar, is a bully in search of the American dream, all too eager to find the next guy to squeeze it out of. He’s not just a thug– he’s charismatic and clever. And, most importantly, he’s ruthless.” — Pre-Code.com

The TCM tribute to Edward G. Robinson is six minutes long, but a reminder of his versatility. Click here.

Next: Butterick Starred Patterns Part 4: Katharine Hepburn and Helen Chandler in designs by Howard Greer.

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Butterick Starred Patterns Part 2: Kay Francis in The Keyhole

Orry-Kelly, who designed the costumes for Bette Davis in forty-two movies (see Part 1,) was also credited with these designs for Kay Francis in The Keyhole. Butterick chose two designs from the movie to copy as Butterick Starred Patterns 5102 and 5113. This article introduced the Starred Patterns idea in April of 1933, in Butterick’s Delineator magazine, although the term “Starred Patterns” was not used.

Delineator, page 74, from April 1933. This is the first mention of Butterick Starred Patterns.

Delineator, page 74, from April 1933. This is the first mention of Butterick’s exact copies of clothes from the movies. Patterns  5102 and 5113 were featured.

Although she’s not remembered as well as Bette Davis, who displaced her at Warner Bros., Kay Francis was a very big star in the early thirties.

“Despite a slight lisp, she was one of Hollywood’s most glamorous and highly paid stars in the 30s, … typically portraying stylish, worldly brunettes in romantic melodramas and occasional comedies…. By the early 40s she had been mostly relegated to B pictures.”  — Ephraim Katz, in The Film Encyclopedia.

Here is the text of the Delineator article which introduced the concept behind Butterick Starred Patterns:

Butterick Starred Patterns; Text of Delineator article, April 1933, p. 74

Text of Delineator article, April 1933, p. 74. “The patterns for these two frocks reproduce the Kay Francis dresses exactly, as the sketches … show.”

“Each month Delineator will present fashions from motion pictures. Each month two or more dresses, worn by the stars who are noted for their chic, will be chosen. Butterick will make patterns of them, and Delineator will illustrate them, and bring you news of the new motion pictures.” In previous decades, Butterick bragged about its copies of Paris fashions. In 1933, there were more references to New York styles, and to the influence of the movies.

Butterick 5120 was an exact copy of this brown evening gown worn by Kay Francis in the movie The Keyhole. 1933.

Butterick 5102 was an exact copy of this brown evening gown worn by Kay Francis in the movie The Keyhole. Delineator, April, 1933.

The caption read “Kay Francis in the role of ‘Anne,’ a dancer, in the mirror scene from her new picture, The Keyhole.”  (Click the link to watch it.) The article said, “Throughout her troubles [bigamy and blackmail] — her taste for stunning clothes remains intact.”

Butterick Starred Patterns 5113 and 5102. Delineator, April 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5113 and 5102. Delineator, April 1933.

[Note: No. 5102 is a dress for those with perfect posture, or with toupee tape on their shoulders. If your napkin slips off your lap at dinner, don’t reach down to retrieve it in a backless, sideless bodice like this….] “The evening gown is made of brown lacquered satin, and the jacket frock of chartreuse wool and white pique.”  Here is a closer view of the bodice details:

Butterick 5113 and 5102, details. Delineator, April 1933.

Butterick 5113 and 5102, details. Delineator, April 1933. The dress on the left was lime green and white.

The photos from the film show how precisely Butterick’s patterns copied these dresses.

Butterick 5113 was a close copy of Orry-Kelly's design for Kay Francis. 1933.

Butterick 5113 was a close copy of Orry-Kelly’s design for Kay Francis. 1933.

You can see larger images of Butterick 5113 and 5102 at the Vintage Pattern Wikia, where their images from the Fall 1933 Butterick pattern catalog can be found. You can see the pattern envelope for 5102, with a very different bodice, by clicking here. It says nothing about “Starred” patterns, so perhaps that title wasn’t conferred until later. These are actually the first two patterns in the series of twelve, and do appear as a group in the 1933 pattern catalog.

After watching a lot of clips on YouTube, I discovered that Kay Francis is much more attractive in motion than she appears in studio portraits. Those downward-slanting eyebrows make her look morose in still photos, but in movies her face seems lively, and her fleeting expressions strike me as more natural and genuine than run-of-the-mill thirties’ acting. She was equally at home in comedy and melodrama.

Leonard Maltin’s Classic Film Guide describes The Keyhole as a “seedy romantic drama with Francis anguishing in a variety of elegant Orry-Kelly gowns.” Well, isn’t suffering supposed to make you beautiful? In the movies, it could.

You can read more about glamorous Kay Francis at the TCM site. Costume designer Orry-Kelly is the subject of a new documentary film, Women He’s Undressed (2015). See the trailer here. (It’s Australian, like Orry-Kelly, so may not yet be available in the U.S.  I love that trailer! No wonder he won three Oscars *TM*!)

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Butterick Starred Patterns: Actual Fashions from the Movies (Part 1)

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156 5154, Delineator May 1933. P. 71

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156, Delineator May 1933. P. 71 From the movie Christopher Strong.

As far as I can tell, in 1933 Butterick decided to take advantage of the movies’ influence on fashion by issuing a dozen patterns that were exact copies of the clothes worn in films. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly, Travis Banton, and Howard Greer for actresses Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Kay Francis and Mary Astor, among others. The series was called Butterick Starred Patterns. The movie studios cooperating with Butterick were Warner’s, R.K.O., and Paramount.

These patterns are not to be confused with the Hollywood Pattern company; Hollywood Patterns only had movie studio tie-ins, with pictures of stars and starlets appearing on the pattern envelopes. The patterns were not exact copies of movie costumes. As explained in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery:

“Hollywood pattern styles were not of the garments worn in films, for as stated in the April/May Hollwood Pattern Book, ‘[The designs] are inspired by the clothes of the smartest stars, not copied from them. The dress which may be perfect for the camera may be too dramatic in the office or home. Our staff studies the best previews, then creates clothes in the same spirit, but easier to wear.’ ” — Joy Spanabel Emery, p. 126. [Movies were often previewed a month before general release.]

SoVintagePatterns.com has many Hollywood patterns for sale. Click here and see if you find your favorite actress. Click here to see the Hollywood pattern version of a Scarlett O’Hara dress, translated into a 1939 evening gown or day dress.

Butterick Starred Patterns

Because of their rarity and their genuine movie and celebrity tie-ins,  Butterick Starred Patterns are collectors’ items now. Butterick No. 5215, a pattern for the bathing suit worn by Bette Davis in The Working Man, sold on Ebay in December, 2015, for $113.50 (unused.)

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and Butterick Starred Pattern. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and  Butterick pattern 5215, a halter top bathing suit. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns only appeared in the Butterick catalog for one year: 1933. (Joy Spanabel Emery, p 127.)

As it happens, I have just finished going through all 12 issues of Butterick’s Delineator magazine — in which “Starred” Patterns were publicized — from 1933. From April through August, The Delineator featured a different movie each month, with illustrations of the patterns on the same page as photographs of those exact outfits being worn in the film.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orr-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orry-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

I’ll separate the patterns by designer, starting with Bette Davis in four costumes designed by Orry-Kelly for the Warner Brothers’ film, The Working Man. Here is the text of the article “Four Costumes Worn by Bette Davis.”

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 left TEXT

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 btm half TEXT

Bette Davis’ bathing suit 5215  in The Working Man is searchable as Butterick 5215 C in the Vintage Pattern Wikia. The pattern envelope shows another, pleated version, too. That view was featured in Delineator’s July issue. It’s been named “Seaworthy,” and there is no mention of Bette Davis or the movies.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 -- "Seaworthy" -- in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 — “Seaworthy” — in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

In June, Delineator said, “The plaid gingham bathing suit is fashion news, for the cotton suit is the suit of the summer, much, much smarter than the wool one.” In July, the same suit, in an alternate view with pleated skirt, was described this way:

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Two designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. Jule 1933, Delineator.

Two Orry-Kelly designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. June 1933, Delineator.

Bette Davis wore Starred Pattern No. 5204 for her role as a secretary:

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a "four pocket" dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a “four pocket” dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

“It was a grand dress to get fired in.” 5204  is not in the Vintage Pattern Wikia, but click here to see the envelope.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orr-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orry-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred pattern 5214 is described in the June article as the “two color dress [which] tends to reduce one’s ‘Boss’ to a state where he will eat out of one’s hand.”

Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Right: Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis Starred Pattern 5214 is listed in the Vintage Pattern Wikia as 5214 B. Patterns 5204 and 5214 had long or short sleeved versions, so buyers could make an exact copy of the movie dresses.

The “jabot frock” on the left, above, “would make the best possible Saturday dress.” Bette Davis Starred pattern  5212 is also in the Vintage Pattern Wikia.

Costume designer Orry-Kelly first worked with Bette Davis in 1932, when she still thought of herself as “a mousy, twenty-two year old virgin with knobby knees, a pelvic slouch, and cold blue bug eyes….”

“Davis credited Orry-Kelly’s designs for giving her a certain amount of chic, a quality that she did not feel she possessed…. During her eighteen years at Warner Bros.,  Davis came to rely on Orry-Kelly to help her build the characterizations for which she became so famous.” — Creating the Illusion, p. 170

Orry-Kelly and Bette Davis didn’t like each other, according to Jorgenson and Scoggins in Creating the Illusion, but they realized that they complemented each other’s work.  They made forty-two movies together in a period of fourteen years.

“Working with Bette Davis isn’t easy, but she’s worth it. She’s honest and outspoken. She’s one of the very few actresses I know who can look in the mirror and tell herself the truth. When I’m ready to give up and throw out a dress, she’ll give it a hitch or a twist and turn it into something great.” — Orry-Kelly, quoted in Creating the Illusion, p. 171.

Orry-Kelly has an astoundingly long list of movie design credits  (Filmography) at the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), but he didn’t design all the costumes in all those movies. Studios often listed a department head or supervisor as the “designer” on films. Much of the work was done by assistants. However, established stars developed working (and sometimes fighting) relationships with studio designers. In addition to all those Bette Davis pictures, you may remember Orry-Kelly’s costumes for Gold Diggers of 1933,  Casablanca and Some Like It Hot. 

Next:

Butterick Starred Patterns, Part 2: Orry-Kelly designs costumes for Kay Francis, and Butterick makes patterns from his designs.

 

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