I showed one, low-backed evening gown from a 1933 article about Butterick’s “Wardrobe for Young Married Women” and Michele asked to see the rest of the article. When I looked for it, I discovered that the same issue of The Delineator magazine recommended winter wardrobes for The Business Girl, The Clubwoman, and The High School Girl, too. So, for comparison, here are the suggested fashions. I found a few surprises, and, as the highway signs say, “Wide shoulder ahead.”
Butterick’s Wardrobe for Young Married Women, 1933
The “organ pipe” sleeves of No. 5311 and the “loop shoulders” of No. 5315 are among many odd sleeve and shoulder treatments from 1933, when wider shoulders for women were just finding their way into fashion.
Butterick’s Wardrobe for the Smart Business Girl, 1933
Detachable and interchangeable collars were very popular in the nineteen thirties.
No. 5339 has a “rim shoulder,” and No. 5346, a double-sided satin dress which goes from office to date, also has a rather experimental shoulder, perhaps inspired by the Elizabethans. This Elizabethan jerkin, at the Metropolitan museum, shows what I mean.
The evening gown (No. 5325) is the new “mermaid silhouette;” both dresses are designed to make the shoulders look wider. The pointy diagonal accent on No. 5341 was seen in many variations. Click here for Joan Crawford in an extreme version, 1933.
Butterick’s Wardrobe of Patterns for the Smart Clubwoman, 1933.
Members of women’s clubs did not merely play bridge and socialize; in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century they were very much involved in improving their communities. “Women’s clubs founded kindergartens, settlement houses, school-lunch programs, health clinics, museums, and parks” according to this article about the Audubon Society.
“Clubwoman” was also Butterick’s euphemism for women who were older and not especially slender. (Lane Byrant catalogs called them “stout.”)
The Delineator also suggested a Spring and Summer wardrobe for “clubwomen;” click here to read about it.
The coat, like all the others, is enhanced with fur; in this case, the “mushroom collar” adds width to the shoulders, and the cut of the back is flattering to wide hips. These two patterns were available up to a bust measurement of 52 inches.
Butterick’s Winter Wardrobe for the High School Girl, 1933
Just when I think I’m getting a feel for a period, something like this makes my jaw drop. People had to grow up fast in the Depression, but what ever happened to wearing a simple skirt and sweater? These are not “going away to an Ivy League college” clothes; the text says “High School Girl.” Surely dressing like this was cost-prohibitive for most. And, if schoolgirls dressed like this, how could you tell them from adults?
“Flaming red faille taffeta” and “Low in back.” Not the “pretty in pink” innocent look. The school dress (5331) surprises me because it is so memorable — you couldn’t wear a dress like that every day without everyone noticing that you only have one school dress. All four of these styles for high school girls have the new, very wide shoulders and/or puffy sleeves. And they are designed for relatively small sizes.
No. 5333 has unusual off-center “clips” [ buttons (?)] “front and back.”
The hem lengths for the young married woman and the smart business girl are noticeably longer than those for the high school girl and the clubwoman.
This could be because schoolgirls and older women were assumed to be shorter than young adult women. “Sizes 12 to 20” still referred to the old practice of selling young (and/or small) women’s dresses by age rather than by size. Click here for “Size 16 Years: What Does That Mean?” The patterns for older (club) women may say “Sizes 14 to 20,” but that does not equate to bust measurements 34″ to 52″! “Sizes 14 to 20” means “14 to twenty years of age,” and those patterns had different proportions than, and were made in addition to, patterns sold by bust measurement.