Tag Archives: Companion-Butterick pattern

Dinner Suit for Summer or Cruise, late 1930s

A dinner suit, linen or rayon, late 1930s. From a private collection.

A dinner suit, linen or rayon, late 1930s. From a private collection.

After writing about 1936 swimsuits and dresses for a cruise to Cuba or Bermuda, I remembered this vintage suit which was collected by a friend. It was white linen (or linen-look rayon) with a medium-large navy floral print. It has a low, square-cut back, like the evening dresses for a 1936 cruise. It’s fresh and young-looking, but the cut is quite conservative (you could easily wear a low-backed corset under it, whereas more dramatic 30s evening gowns require the wearer to go bra-less.)

A dinner suit and evening dress to wear on a tropic cruise. Ladies' Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

A dinner suit and evening dress to wear on a tropic cruise. Ladies’ Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

Here are front and back views of the linen-look dinner dress:dress front and backThe bodice has a triangular insert that creates a squarish neckline. There is fullness in the front rather than darts, so it may have had a slight blouson when worn. Like this black and white gown from the cruise article, there is more fullness in the skirt back than in the front:

Ladies' Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

Ladies’ Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

The jacket is longer in the back than in the front, which looks graceful in profile, and its short, loose sleeves are very comfortable for an evening in a warm climate.suit jacket front side backThe puffy sleeves probably date this to the late thirties; here are some sleeves (1937) with a similar silhouette, but different construction:

Butterick-Companion patterns from Woman's Home Companion, January 1937.

Butterick-Companion patterns from Woman’s Home Companion, January 1937.

This suit did not have a manufacturer’s label; the jacket and bodice were lined, but the skirt was not. The dress closed with snaps at the side, plus a hook at the waist — always a good idea!

Side underarm bodice closing. Some female snaps are missing. The skirt (right) is unlined.

Side underarm bodice closing. The female snaps are not visible. The skirt (right) is unlined.

Here’s a closer look at the princess-line jacket:lg V173 jacket frontThe buttons are self-covered and the buttonholes were hand-bound: lg V173 jacket buttons

Karen at Fifty Dresses has been writing marvelous posts about Moygashel linen (she even found a 1955 advertisement picturing one of her vintage fabric purchases!) Click here to read her post and see the clever dress she made from a very small remnant.)

I think this dinner suit was made by the wearer — or her dressmaker — and I wouldn’t be surprised to come across the pattern someday!



Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Dresses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Change-Abouts for Teens and Twenties: 1937

Change-About Fashions, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937

Change-About Fashions, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1937

Companion-Butterick patterns often emphasized that they were economical because the dresses featured could be worn several ways, giving the look of a large wardrobe with only a few garments. These three patterns from the April 1937 Woman’s Home Companion are intended for teens and young women. (Sizes run through Junior Miss size 12 to a Ladies’ Bust size 38″) The text, by Fashion Editor Ethel Holland Little, says:

“If there is one rule that you Teens and Twenties can put at the top of every clothes list, it is: seek variety. You can wear so many of the new fashions. Why not arm yourself with all the season’s hits – the boleros, the bright prints, the colored sashes, the novelty piqués, the hats with fabric crowns? You can do this without stretching your clothes allowance too much – if you go in for change-abouts.

One day you wear it one way, the next, another – the simple dress that you vary by adding or subtracting a jacket, by substituting a belt for a sash. Try it; try all three of the change-abouts pictured here if you are looking for an economical way to put yourself on the fashion map.”

Companion-Butterick pattern #7296, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern #7296, April 1937.

Pattern # 7296 looks demure with its jacket on; the surprise comes with the jacket off – revealing a back bare to the waist. 1937 april p 78 changebackless 500 7296

“No. 7296 is the beach dress you are practically forced to acquire if you want to build a reputation for knowing what’s what. Wide short skirt, cut-out back, and brief bolero – these are the three fundamentals of a style that looks right at the country club with its little jacket, on the sand without. Make both dress and jacket in a splashy surrealist print [popularized by Schiaparelli] or in this new combination of white linen with polkadot silk crepe. But in any case don’t forget your matching rubber-soled sports shoes (they’re cotton and remarkably inexpensive) and your big-brimmed fabric-crowned straw.

Was it a coincidence that rubber-soled Kedettes were advertised in the same issue?

Kedettes rubber-soled shoes ad, 1937. Keds and Kedetttes were made by United States Rubber Company.

Kedettes rubber-soled shoes ad, 1937. Keds and Kedetttes were made by United States Rubber Company.

“Kedettes are made by the makers of Keds and Gaytees. At the better stores… $1.29 to $2.25.”

Companion-Butterick pattern #7924, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern #7924, April 1937.

“No. 7924 makes a good weekday school cotton – one that you can wear with or without the jacket according to the weather and your mood. It is perfect for a novelty piqué (the new ones are called by such pat names as boxbar or hexagon) and for a non-soiling shade such as this wine red, printed and plain.” [Note: She seems to be wearing a pair of the Kedettes featured in the ad.]

Companion-Butterick pattern #7298, April 1937.

Companion-Butterick pattern #7298, April 1937.

“No. 7298 is your silk daytime dress – made to order for club gatherings and monopoly parties. Wear it on Friday the ninth with the printed collar and peplum. Appear on Friday the sixteenth with a tricolor ribbon sash. The crowd won’t know it’s the same dress at first, and when they do, they’ll applaud your sorcery.”

If you look closely, you’ll see that there is no jacket – the same print fabric is used for the detachable collar and peplum, and the peplum is attached to a belt. 1937 april p 79 change abouts teens twenties peplum



Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear

Living on $18 per Week, 1930s

“Marrying on so small an income is a courageous undertaking….’I can’t allow a cent more than $8 a week for food,’ says Mrs. Green.”

Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1935, p. 35. Royal Baking Powder

Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1935, p. 35. Royal Baking Powder

"No Need for Self-Pity." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937, p. 112

“No Need for Self-Pity.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937, p. 112

By chance, I came across two advertisements from the late 1930s that referred to living on eighteen dollars a week (above), and I also found a clothes’ budget article for a young college woman which confirms that her wages after graduation would be about $20 per week. (I will go into detail about each of these later.)

"What Can A Girl Live On?"  Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1936

“What Can A Girl Live On?” Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1936

Sharing the History of Everyday Fashions and What They Cost

It’s difficult to get a sense of what things really cost in the past, but theatrical costumers need to be able to place fashions not only in time, but in social class.

We ask, “What kind of woman could afford $6.50 shoes in 1936? Are they cheap or expensive?”

Red Cross Shoe Ad, Delineator, April 1936

Red Cross Shoe Ad, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936

“Would these dresses have been worn by the wife of a clerk, or the wife of the company president?”

Companion-Butterick Patterns from WHC, March 1937

Companion-Butterick Patterns from WHC, March 1937

Even information from the same magazine can be contradictory; a September 1937 advertisement seeking women to sell subscriptions to Woman’s Home Companion magazine (“No Need for Self-Pity”) implies that a working girl will struggle to get by on $18 a week; an editorial in the same magazine, October, 1936, said she would be able to afford vacation travel, and still put money into savings, while earning just $20 a week.

What Can A Girl Live On? A College Girl’s Clothing Budget, 1936

I have broken this brief editorial (one column from Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936) into sections so that it will be large enough for you to read it yourself: 1936 oct college girl's budge theadline1936 oct college girl's budget number only1936 oct working college grad woman budget paragraph top1936 oct working college grad woman budget end

I’m posting it in the hope that some enterprising economist or women’s studies researcher will find it of interest.  I’ll try to limit my comments, but…

1. Note that items with an asterisk are expected to last two or three years: coats, pull-on rubber shoe covers, an umbrella, bedroom slippers.

2. She is expected to get by on four dresses ($5 each), and four pairs of shoes ($3 each), per year. (Walk-in closets were not needed in the 1930s.)  This explains the many 1930s patterns for dresses that were easy to transform with a change of collar, or sash.

Wardrobe Dress, Companion-Butterick Pattern 7579, Oct. 1937

Wardrobe Dress, Companion-Butterick Pattern 7579, Oct. 1937

Companion-Butterick offered a series of patterns with “button-in” features, like this one, # 7579, which can be worn with three separate button-in vestees. “If you are an executive’s secretary you may want two vestees for the office — one in the dress material perhaps, with a tiny piqué collar, the other in plaid taffeta – and a third, for after-hours parties, in sparkling gold lamé.”

3. A pair of stockings is expected to last a month (15 pairs per year.)

Ad for Lux Soap, Oct. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Oct. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1937

“Runs cost money.” A run in her stocking could be enough to drive a working woman to tears – she might have to choose between eating and buying a new pair of stockings, and she was expected to wear stockings to work.

4. A “smock” is a puzzling item, but could be required in certain college classes, such as chemistry, art, or home economics. When you only have four dresses, protecting them would be important, and an apron or housedress would only be worn while doing work at home.

Women wearing smocks in Sealtest laboratory kitchen, 1930s

Women wearing smocks in Sealtest laboratory kitchen, 1930s

Living on Twenty Dollars – or Less – a Week

The 1936 article confirms that “The average University of Washington co-ed who steps into the working world earns an average of eighty dollars a month.”

"No Need for Self-PIty." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937. p.112

“No Need for Self-PIty.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937. p.112

This advertisement – purportedly quoting a letter from a subscriber – says “If you have ever known the need for extra money you can understand how I felt when I found, on starting my business career, that for several years I could not expect to earn more than $18 a week…. Therefore my small salary would just about pay my room and board and keep me in lunches and carfare with nothing left…. I needed new clothes and I often felt like crawling into the darkest corner of the office because my dress was so shabby…. My heart fairly ached.” Her problem was solved when – like “ten thousand” others, “girls and women in offices and homes, …even sweet-faced grandmothers” — she began selling subscriptions to the Woman’s Home Companion [or so says the ad.]

On the other hand, Royal Baking Powder ran a series of Great Depression advertisements, like the one at the top of this post, featuring true-life stories about people who were coping with low or lost income:

"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

"Getting married on $20 a month takes courage these days." Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1934

“Getting married on $20 a week takes courage nowadays.” Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1934

The house this couple lives in (pictured at top of ad) looks rather impressive to me.

Home of the couple who married on $20 a week. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1934, p. 43

Home of the couple who married on $20 a week. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1934, p. 43

Maybe a single woman earning $20 a week could afford a vacation.

A Summer Wardrobe for $34.33

Make Your Wardrobe for Summer for $34.33. Delineator, May 1934

Make Your Wardrobe for Summer for $34.33. Delineator, May 1934

This home-made summer wardrobe (Delineator, May 1934, p.71) was analyzed as costing $34.33 – including patterns, not including thread. 1934 may p 71 prices summer wardrobe 5623 5686 34 33At first glance, it seemed much more than the $20 for four dresses per year allotted to the University of Washington co-eds. However, the $34.33 total included a coat ($8.13) and a shorts and shirt outfit ($3.06.) The four dresses (one a jacket dress) could be made for $23.14 (or less, if you made the striped dress from cotton instead of silk. ) If you didn’t sew, you could buy a dress, or a suit, or a skirt and two blouses from the Sears catalog for about $5 in 1937. [Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs, by Stella Blum.] But a secretary probably could not afford to buy those $6.50 shoes.

POST SCRIPT (July 2018): Related posts are “The Great Depression Reflected in Ads from the Back of Womens’ Magazines”,   “A Woman’s Clothing Budget for 1924 versus 1936”, and Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925.”


Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns

Who Would Ever Guess?

Companion-Butterick Triad pattern #6948, 1936

Companion-Butterick Triad pattern #6948, 1936

These Are Maternity Dresses from 1936

Woman's Home Companion, August 1936

Illustration by Ernst. Woman’s Home Companion, August 1936

I look at those slim 1930s hips, those flat 1930s bellies, and, even after reading the full text, it’s hard to imagine how these dresses expanded to cover the ninth month of pregnancy.

However, it’s important to remember that women did try to conceal their pregnancies as long as possible in this time period.

How to Look Smart Before the Baby Comes

1936 aug p 62 maternity pattern 6948 dress jacketThe text says “You can be just as smartly dressed as ever and perhaps a little prettier than usual in a maternity wardrobe that is well-chosen and carefully planned.  All you need as a guide is Triad Pattern No. 6948.  The style is a straight concealing wrap-around with three flattering necklines and a separate jacket.  One version is your afternoon dress of dark pure silk with a soft shirred blouse and pastel collars.  The second dress of sheer wool has a more tailored look with a squared-off button bib.   The third gives you a simple and attractive house dress of sanforized shrunk cotton.  Add to these essentials comfortable kid oxfords, soft all-Lastex brassieres, one of the special new adjustable elastic girdles and underwear that is wrap-around or two sizes larger that usual. Be sure that your coat has a wide lap-over and your hat a becoming brim.  You’ll be surprised to find how well you look.”

1936 aug p 62 closup back 6948 back tiesThe back views of pattern #6948 show that all three versions tied with a sash behind, and there is a deep pleat or fold of material which presumably could be released to expand the dress as needed. (I wish there was a pattern layout illustration! Exactly how it worked is not very clear, since the fold seems to run up into the bodice only on the dress at left.)

A Lane Bryant Maternity Dress, 1934

This 1934 catalog from the Lane Bryant company, which had pioneered maternity clothing in 1904, shows that Companion-Butterick patterns were not alone in designing clothes which expanded only from the back and tried to look as much as possible like normal fashions for as long as possible. “Designed to conceal condition. . . .”1934 march p 80 lane bryant maternity catalogFashion-incubator.com discusses the early Lane Bryant Maternity catalogs and how they handled sizing — ingeniously!


Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Maternity clothes

Companion-Butterick Triad Dress Pattern for Women after Fifty, May 1937

Companion-Butterick pattern # 7353, May 1937

Companion-Butterick pattern # 7363, Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937. Illustrated by ERNST

7363 Triad Dress. Sizes, 34 to 52 inch bust measure. Size 40 requires 4 1/4 yards 35-inch material for house dress; 4 ½ yards 35-inch material for sports dress; 4 1/4 yards 39-inch material for afternoon dress. Price of pattern, 45 cents.

“You cannot be too particular about lines, colors and fabrics – when you are on the after side of fifty. Everything you wear must look as if made to your special order.  That is why this Triad pattern is a perfect solution for the three new dresses you will undoubtedly need this summer.

“The lines of 7363 are all part of a plot to make you look younger, slimmer. The darts which let in fullness at the top, the three different blouse fronts, each long-lined, the straight pleats in the skirt, stitched down above the knee and extending above the waist in two versions, the perfectly smooth shoulders – all these are flattering and new.” — Woman’s Home Companion

Afternoon Dress

Afternoon Dress

Afternoon Dress

“So are the fabrics and colors illustrated here.  Try a soft gray and white silk print as a change from navy and touch it up with a luscious medium blue.”

Sports Dress

Spectator Sport Dress

Spectator Sport Dress

“Keep to pink or any other becoming pastel for your spectator sports linen, set off with this season’s saddle stitching.”

House Dress


Green Housedress in a Modernistic Print

“And then let yourself go, practically to modernism, in a gay cotton for the house.”

Women over Forty in Advertisements from the Woman’s Home Companion

In addition to the Triad Pattern for women “after fifty,” the  May, 1937 issue had the usual ads and articles; Mother’s Day was probably the inspiration for the article about Mother/Daughter Hair styling. Women’s magazines had a wealth of shoe advertisements, many stressing comfort and good arch support, and aimed at the older woman.

White Shoes for Summer, 1937

Florsheim Shoes for Summer, May 1937 ad

Florsheim Shoes for Summer, May 1937 ad Click to enlarge

The model for Pattern #7363 is wearing shoes very similar to these in white kid, “Juliette, W-364” shown in a Florsheim ad in the same issue of the Woman’s Home Companion. These shoes cost $9.50 to $10.50 – definitely middle-class. [Summer shoes from Sears cost about $2.00 in 1936. A nurse earned $20 to $35 per week.]

Foot Saver Shoes, ad from May 1937

Foot Saver Shoes, ad from May 1937  Click to enlarge

These Foot Saver shoes were even more expensive, costing up to $14.75. The model looks young, but young women were more likely to choose strappy, white sandal-type shoes than lace-ups.

Hair Styles for Older Women

This one was done at the Marshall Field store’s salon: “How a daughter would like her mother to dress her hair — and vice versa.”

Hairstyles for Mother and Daughter, Chicago, 1937

Hairstyles for Mother and Daughter, Chicago, 1937

I can’t resist ending with a less glamorous picture of  middle-aged women, as well. A more natural hairdo — and a less rosy view of life after forty — is presented in this ad for Scot Bathroom Tissue:

Ad for ScotTissue: "Are You Past Forty?"

Ad for ScotTissue: “Are You Past Forty?”

“Are you past forty? It is estimated that 65% at middle age suffer from rectal ailments. Then the comfort of Luxury Texture is doubly appreciated.” Oh, dear.  Time to count my blessings…. I do like the casual hair style in this ad; you can believe the model did it herself. Her crisp collar and print dress are quite chic for a housedress.


Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hairstyles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes