Tag Archives: costume research sources online

Sears Catalogs Online (and More Suspender Skirts)

A page from the Fall 1925 Sears catalog, now accessible online at Ancestry.com.

A page from the Fall 1925 Sears catalog, now accessible online at Ancestry.com.

When I wrote about Butterick’s “suspender skirts” from 1925, I found another example online in the Sears, Roebuck catalog from Fall 1925, but I wasn’t able to convert the image to a JPG file. Today I found a work-around. I also learned how wonderful the Sears Catalog archive at Ancestry.com really is.

For years, costumers and others interested in the history of everyday fashions treasured the exerpts published by Stella Blum and her successors in the “Everyday Fashions from Sears and Other Catalogs” series of Dover books. Now, you can see complete Sears Catalogs from 1896 to 1993 at Ancestry.com. Every page is scanned, it is searchable, and you can set it for a full page view and skim through several pages easily. When you find something you want to examine closely, you can zoom in as much as you want. And you can print your own copies of a page or part of a page.

The bad news is that you have to join Ancestry.com to access them. The good news is that you can get a free trial subscription to Ancestry.com and explore this resource before you commit to a $19.99 per month subscription. Lynn at American Age Fashion wrote about this resource in January, so I tried it, but I had to phone for help finding the Sears catalogs, so I’ll tell you how to find them, later.

More 1920s Suspender Skirts

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

Misses’ suspender skirt #6017, with blouse #5903. Butterick, May, 1925.

This suspender skirt for misses and small women appeared in the Sears catalog in Fall 1925, proving that the fashion was not limited to Butterick:

A suspender dress (note the deep armholes) from Sears. It is called the "Pretty Peggy." Fall 1925 catalog.

A suspender skirt (note the deep armholes) from Sears. It is called the “Pretty Peggy Skirt” in the Fall 1925 catalog.

pretty peggy text sears 1925 fall catalog 500

A search for “Pretty Peggy” led to song lyrics, a kind of doll, and — so far — no other suspender skirts. A “Peggy” skirt was also popular in the 1950s — in England, it looks like a full skirt — with no suspenders.

The same Sears catalog had this “suspender dress” for girls:

Sears catalog, Fall 1915. "Girls' suspender dress."

Sears catalog, Fall 1915. “Girls’ suspender dress.”

Sears also sold a suspender skirt sewing pattern (left, below) :

Spring 1926 Sears catalog pattern 39E7061 for a suspender skirt.

Spring 1926 Sears catalog pattern 39E7061 for a suspender skirt.

A search for  “suspender skirt pattern” in Google images brought up versions going back to 1910s  and many from the 1940s, 50s, and later, but not these 1920s versions.

Sears Pattern Illustrations

I find it interesting that the pattern illustrations for Sears used a more realistic human figure than those from Butterick.

Sears pattern illustrations  from Spring 1926.

Sears pattern illustrations from Spring 1926.

Pattern illustrations from Sears catalog, Spring 1926.

Pattern illustrations from Sears catalog, Spring 1926.

Sears pattern ilustrations from Spring 1929 catalog.

Sears pattern illustrations from Spring 1929 catalog. Even Lane Bryant catalogs were not this honest about size 52.

Here’s a bit of useful information about women’s sizes I found skimming through Sears’ pages; 1920’s hips were larger than you would expect from fashion illustrations:

Women's pattern measurements from Sears, Spring 1929.

Women’s pattern measurements from Sears, Spring 1929. Page 146.

Using Sears Catalogs for Costume Research

Here is a simple demonstration of how useful these online catalogs can be; I wanted to find out how quickly hems dropped in the mass market — as opposed to high fashion — between 1929 and 1931.

1929:  Misses dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 127.

1929: Misses’ dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 127. Hems are at mid-knee. Kneecaps exposed.

1930: Misses' dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p.44.

1930: Misses’ dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 44. Hems are one or two inches below the knee.

1931: Misses' dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 35.

1931: Misses’ dresses from the Fall Sears catalog, p. 35. Hems are approaching  mid-calf.

Here they are, side by side:

Misses' Dresses from Sears catalogs one year apart: 1929, 1930, 1931.

Misses’ Dresses from Sears catalogs one year apart: 1929, 1930, 1931.

I decided that, as a research tool which includes clothing for all ages — men, women, boys and girls; occupational uniforms; shoes; underwear and hosiery; nightwear; hats, purses and other accessories; and prices for all of them, access to 97 years of these catalogs is worth $20 per month.

How to Find the Sears Catalogs at Ancestry.com

After you sign up for a trial membership, look for Search on the horizontal bar. The Sears link is in Ancestry.com under “search” > card catalog > collections > newspapers and publications > periodicals and magazines > Historic Catalogs of Sears Roebuck and Co. Once there, you can search by keywords, year (exact or plus/minus 1 year, etc.) You can print a zoomed image of any page — there’s a tiny, olive green printer icon next to the facebook icon. The Gentleman’s Magazine Library (1700s to mid 1800s) and Illustrated London News up to 1900 are also available, along with access to a vast number of newspapers.

My workaround:  The images in this post were printed on paper and then scanned to get them into JPG format. The print quality is very high.

NOTE:  If you don’t want to commit to paying monthly membership dues to Ancestry.com, be sure to opt out before your free trial deadline expires!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Children's Vintage styles, Resources for Costumers

Online Research Tool: UCLA’s Digital Fashion and Costume Collections

Image from Godey's Magazine, 1841, found through UCLA's Digital Image Collection. Casey Fashion Plates  rbc2847

Image from Godey’s Magazine, April 1841, found through UCLA’s Digital Image Collection. Casey Fashion Plates rbc2847

UCLA Library Digital Image Collection: Online Collections Related to Fashion and Costume

While following up recommendations for online Museum collections, I accidentally discovered this wonderful site, which I have barely begun to explore.  It acts as a portal to many online collections and research materials. The entire UCLA Library Digital Image Collection must be huge (click here  to see the Fashion home page), since there are dozens of sites (with descriptions and live links) related to just the site for Fashion and Costume (click here).  For a list of accessible fashion magazines and newspapers, click here. Below you’ll find just a small selection of the extraordinary collections you can find through the Digital Image Collection.

Casey’s Fashion Plates

The image at the top of this page is from the collection of Casey’s Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Library — over 6200 images of hand-colored fashion plates. (Click here.)

“The Joseph E. Casey Fashion Plate Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library contains over 6,200 handcolored fashion plates from British and American [and other] magazines dating from the 1790s to the 1880s. All of the plates are indexed and digitized for online viewing.” It includes thousands of dated images from early 1800’s sources, including Ackerman’s Repository, Godey’s Magazine, Ladies’ Museum, Ladies’ Magazine, La Belle Assemblee, Petit Courrier des Dames, and many, many more.

This digitized collection is really user-friendly, grouping the plates by date instead of by source. (You could search by magazine name if you wanted to.) You can search by date, too. Type in a year and pages and pages of plates appear. I chose 1815; this is one of many images that I found.  (Let’s pretend it’s Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra.)

Fashions for March, 1815; image rbc0500 in the Casey Collection.

Fashions for March, 1815; image rbc0500 in the Casey Collection.

Brooklyn Museum’s Henri Bendel Fashion and Costume Sketch Collection

From the Bendel collection: Design by Lanvin, 1917.

A typical digitized sketch from the Bendel collection: Design by Lanvin, 1917.

Another wonderful collection accessible through the UCLA site is the Henri Bendel Fashion and Costume Sketch Collection 1912 to 1950. (924 images are online at present) This archive is in the possession of the Brooklyn Museum, but you don’t have to go to Brooklyn to see hundreds of sketches of dresses (and even bathing suits), including many designer names. (Click Here.)

It’s also well-thought out: when your mouse hovers over the thumbnail image, a description and date appears. Click to get a larger view and more data. There are over 11,000 sketches in the Bendel Collection, but most of the 924 that are online are for the era 1912 to early 1920s. (They are gorgeous, and most are in color! If you are a fan of styles from the Titanic era and the first years of Downton Abbey, prepare to spend hours here.) I saw designs attributed to Doucet, Worth, Callot Soeurs, Lanvin, Premet, and many other “name designers.” Among the few sketches from the 1930’s that have been put online was this evening gown by Schiaparelli:

From the Henri Bendel Collection online; Schiaparelli, 1934.

Image from the Henri Bendel Collection online; Schiaparelli, 1934.

Bonnie Cashin Collection of Fashion, Theater, and Film Costume Design

“The collection contains Bonnie Cashin’s personal archive documenting her design career. The collection includes Cashin’s design illustrations, writings on design, contractual paperwork, photographs of her clothing designs, and press materials including press releases and editorial coverage of her work.”

Lovers of Bonnie Cashin designs will enjoy the photos and design sketches of many of her classic coats, knits, etc.  (Click here.) The images are under copyright, but you can see a sample sketch for a characteristic tweed coat by clicking here. If you searched a little longer, you could probably find a photo documenting the finished coat. This is a huge archive.

You can also see more about Bonnie Cashin at the next online collection I’ve chosen from UCLA’s Digital Image Collection:

The Drexel Digital Museum Project Historic Costume Collection

The collection is searchable, (and images are under copyright) but this link will take you to the Galleries page — which includes slide shows of Bonnie Cashin clothes and Villager Sportswear textiles! Click here.

“The Drexel Digital Museum Project: Historic Costume Collection (digimuse) is a searchable image database comprised of selected fashion from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), designs loaned to the project by private collectors for inclusion on the website, fashion exhibitions curated by Drexel faculty and fashion research by faculty and students. To best present and create access to this online resource, the image standards of the Museums and the Online Archive of California initiative and the metadata harvesting protocols of the Open Archive Initiative have been implemented to insure sustainability, extensibility and portability of the digimuse digital archive.” —

A World of Riches, Digitized

I will add some of these links to my sidebar of “Sites with Great Information,” so they will be easy to locate in the future. But first, I’m going take a coffee break and read a copy of the French Vogue, February 1921 (click here) thanks to the UCLA Library’s Digital Image Collection!

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs