Tag Archives: Delineator magazine

Vacation Needed

Illustration from Delineator, 1925. This rural schoolteacher was tired out.

I’m not quitting — but after more than 500 posts, I do need a vacation!

I started writing witness2fashion in 2013, partly inspired by my discovery of more than 400 bound copies of Butterick’s Delineator magazine in storage at my public library. I was stunned by the color illustrations, and fascinated by the pattern illustrations and the advertisements. Very few of these magazines have been digitized or microfilmed — the latter is a blessing, in a way, because so many color magazines were preserved in black and white and then discarded by libraries during a wave of microfilming that took place just before digitization in full color became possible. That seems incredible, but…. [Recommended reading: Double-Fold: Libraries and the Asssault on Paper, by Nicholson Baker.] 

Hikers. Color illustration from an ad for Ivory Flakes soap, Delineator; October 1928.

Because of my interest in “everyday” fashions and working class clothing, Butterick’s “middle-class,” Paris-oriented Delineator would not have been my first choice — I was hoping to find McCall’s magazines. I used to own a few from the 1930’s, so I know they had color illustrations. But my last inquiries — assisted by a reference librarian — didn’t turn up any actual bound volumes of old McCall’s within 200 miles of me (and I am surrounded by universities!) The Los Angeles public library seems to have some from the 1920’s — but whether they are actual, bound magazines or black and white films, the librarian couldn’t tell me — and I’d have to take a vacation to visit them.

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Delineator cover by Dynevor Rhys, 1933. Who knew green and orange could look so sophisticated?

So, it’s time for me to spend a few weeks visiting the bound periodicals I love so much right here in San Francisco — a working vacation, but overdue.  I particularly want to research and document the sudden transition in styles between 1929 and the early thirties — but if you have a favorite year between 1900 and 1920 I could dip into, I do enjoy a bit of variety! Please use the comments section for suggestions (no promises, but….)

Meanwhile, Oldies but (I Hope) Goodies

Five years ago I found those magazines were full of things that really excited me, so I shared them — not just patterns, but articles and ads about everything from breast flattening corsets to family budgets, and new items like Knee-High stockings (1930s) and paper towels (people had to be taught what to do with them!) If you’re curious about a woman’s clothing budget in 1924 and in 1936, click here. For a family budget in 1925, click here. From the Great Depression year of 1936, I found a budget and related items about “Living on $18 per Week.” Click here.

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I’m hoping that new followers (bless you, every one!) will enjoy getting links and brief introductions to some of those blog posts from the past — so I will post a group of links regularly instead of writing entire new posts for August. I’ll try to group them by topic.

For a start, here are a few posts that highlighted the unexpected color combinations of the 1920’s:

A Lament for Bound Periodicals  (posted in February, 2015)

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A bridal party in shades of orange, 1924. Delineator magazine.

Orange and Blue in the Mid-Twenties  (posted in December 2015)

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Blue and orange are complementary colors — they make each other look more intense, as in this illustration. Right, orange and black are combined in a young woman’s dress; Delineator, February, 1925.

1920’s Orange and Black: Not Just for Halloween   (from October 2014)

Colorful Fashions for April, 1926  (from April 2017)

This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

The Colorful Past  (from February 2014)

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And so to bed…. Do you dream in color? I do.

I’ll have many new images to share by September!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

Fashion Advice for Summer, 1933 (Part 1)

Five tips for summer fashions from June 1933. Left is Butterick 5149. Delineator, page 61.

I seem to be spending a lot of time in 1933 lately. Marian Corey, writing in Delineator, June 1933, offered a full page of advice about summer fashions:  Five ideas starting with “Yes” and five with “No.”

As the really hot weather approaches, here’s one topic Corey thought we all have on our minds: Gloves!

Glove advice from Delineator, June 1933.

“… Gloves of all sorts of queer fabrics. Printed silk gloves to match your frock and sometimes sold with the dress! White organdy gloves to wear with your dark dress that has white organdy touches on it. White piqué gloves to wear with your tailored suit. Lastex gloves. Fit? They don’t have to . It’s smart to wear them big.” (Lastex stretch fabrics were introduced in the early 1930s — which is different from Latex, which was sometimes used for rubber bathing suits!)

Matching print fabric gloves, hat and bag — all made from Butterick patterns. Delineator, August 1933, p. 52.

Organdy gloves and handbag, “to wear with your dark dress that has organdy touches on it.” August 1933, Delineator, p. 52.

Three Butterick dresses with organdy accents, Delineator, June 1933, p. 64. Notice the sheer areas in the sleeves. 5186 used a heavier, stiffer organdy.

It should be noted that fashion advice from Delineator magazine — not coincidentally –often mentioned Butterick patterns. Delineator was part of the Butterick Publishing Co. empire.

White piqué hat (Butterick 5256,) gloves (Butterick 5225,) and bag (Butterick 5274.) Delineator, August 1933.

Maybe Ms. Corey mentioned that gloves no longer needed to fit [“like a glove?”] because making gloves is difficult. Store-bought gloves used to come in a wide range of sizes, not just S, M, and L. Here’s what she said in a longer article:  “…Don’t worry if your gloves do not fit closely. They are not supposed to.”

Glove advice from Marian Corey, Delineator, August 1933.

Butterick glove pattern 5225 from July 1933, Delineator. This pattern was featured in both July and August.

“At first the loosely fitting glove seems clumsy…. All are worn big.” The gloves worn with these summer dresses are more like gauntlets:

Dresses worn with gloves made from Butterick 5225, July 1933. Delineator.

Gloves and a bag made from taffeta; Butterick patterns, August 1933.

More accessories made of piqué ; Butterick patterns from Delineator, August, 1933, p. 52. The illustrator is Myrtle Lages.

OK, I confess, the “No” paragraph about gloves was not really the first paragraph of the article about Summer fashions. The first paragraph was a “Yes” — about fur!

“Silver fox and blue fox are the furs” for trimming summer dresses,” or rabbit if your budget is more modest. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick summer outfits trimmed with fur: From left, patterns 5176, 5178, and 5168. Delineator, June 1933, page 62.

Another “Yes” for summer was the white piqué swagger coat:

Butterick coat pattern 5164 from June 1933.

Everyone who owns a dark printed silk dress… should have a white piqué swagger coat to wear with it.” Butterick 5164; Delineator, June 1933, p. 62.

This style was only available in smaller sizes — an early use of “Junior Miss” patterns.

So, fur and gloves aside, what more practical fashions for summer were recommended in 1933?

Bicycle clothes, tennis dresses, beach pajamas, slacks and shorts — all coming up in Part 2.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, bags, Gloves, handbags, Hats, Purses, Vintage Accessories

The Great Depression Reflected in Ads from the Back of Women’s Magazines

Ad from Womans’ Home Companion, March, 1936.

“My husband is out of employment and has been for some time…. Our savings are gradually disappearing, and I am so helpless. I don’t know a thing I can do to earn money….” The Woman’s Home Companion invited her to sell magazine subscriptions.

One of the fascinations of vintage women’s magazines is their “time capsule” quality. While reading through them for fashion information, I can’t resist the advertisements, which give me a idea of the era’s preoccupations (zeitgeist is the correct word, I suppose.) What was new — from zippers to steam irons? What did advertisers want people to worry about, from halitosis and pyorrhea to underarm hair? In the Thirties, massive male unemployment found many women desperate to help support their families.

Women’s magazines had many such ads, promising that women could make money at home — “no experience needed.” Ad from Delineator, February 1931.

Before color photography was widespread, black and white photos were hand tinted — “We instruct you by our new simple Photo-Color process and supply you with work.”  Coloring printed images was already “women’s work.” In the 19th century, some women had earned money by hand-painting fashion plates with watercolor.

I realize that researchers tend to notice what they expect to find, so it’s not surprising that, as the child of people who married in 1933 — in the heart of the Great Depression — I noticed these little ads crowded into the backs of magazines.

A few ads from the back of Delineator magazine, October 1931.

Here is a selection of ads which promised women that they could earn money at home, with no experience or skills. Some of them were probably preying on the desperate — but perhaps I’m just cynical….

Top of an ad for Brown Bobbys, Delineator, February 1931.

Text of Brown Bobby ad, February 1931. Brown Bobbys were doughnuts. I suspect that the Food Machine Display Corp. was willing to sell families the equipment for a home doughnut business.

Women might also try to start a candy business….

Open your own candy business? “Making and sales equipment furnished.”  Delineator, February 1933. The American School of Home Economics was already publishing home economics study courses and books in the 1920’s, including Cooking for profit: catering and food service management.

Or sell clothing…

“Women — Sell Fashion Frocks…. Earn up to $22 a week and get all your own dresses without a penny of cost.” Ad from Delineator, April 1936.

Sell Silk Hose: “Startling money-making proposition…. enormous earnings…Your own hose free of cost.” Ad from Womans’ Home Companion, November 1936. Wilknit Hosiery Co. ad. [Do you think that guaranteed stocking replacement might be a problem?]

“Women wanted” to sell fabric, sheets, handkerchiefs, blankets… Mitchell & Church Club ad, Delineator, February 1934.

“Do  you want to make money? … Sell Fashion Frocks.” Ad from WHC, March 1937. “We are appointing a few more ambitious women to act as our representatives.”

[I don’t think it would be easy to sell dresses or anything else to your friends and relatives if you were all equally broke….]

October, 1934; Delineator. “Start earning at once. Thousands of prospects near you.” General Card Co., Chicago.

Was there really such a demand for hooked rugs? From a series of ads for Hollywood Studio Stores, Inc., Ltd., Delineator, December 1934. “Women… Earn extra money at home making beautiful hooked rugs…. Make money the first week! …We furnish complete instructions, tools, and materials.”

Another “Hooked rugs” ad, November 1936. “No experience necessary.”

Fireside Industries said there was a market for hand-painted decorative items:

“Make extra money at once” — after you learn to “decorate clever art gifts at big profit per piece. No experience needed … No tedious study… You don’t even have to leave the house.” October 1931, Delineator. Fireside Industries ad.

Fireside Industries ad, March 1935. Delineator. “Everything furnished including supply of Novelties, for you to decorate and Homecrafters outfit.” “Openings in every locality.” “FIRST LESSON FREE.” [And then?]

Selling greeting cards, stationery, and especially Christmas cards, was advertised as a way to make money.

Ad for Wallace Brown, Inc. greeting card sales, Delineator, February 1937. “Show samples to friends and neighbors. Everybody buys.”

Bluebird Studios ad, WHC, Sept. 1936. “Sells on Sight. Box on approval.” The text looks very similar to that Wallace Brown ad, above.

The words “Earn,” “Easy,” and “Extra Money” appear again and again, often with the promise that women can work from home..

Process Corporation ad, August 1931. ” Thousands of women — many without experience — turn their spare minutes into dollars…. Permanent, big-paying position, if you make good.”

Process Corporation sought women and men to sell greeting cards” imprinted to customer’s order.” October, 1931, Delineator. Jeanette Maumus of New Orleans “Earned $78.20 in 45 minutes. $87.50 just a day’s sales for Mrs. H.H. Castle, Burke, Idaho.”

Janes Art Studio ad for card sellers. Sept. 1934. This ad admits that the pay is on commission — which makes Mrs. H.H. Castle’s $87 in sales look a little less lucrative.

From my own experience in door-to-door sales, sometimes you have to sell a “quota” amount before you qualify for the commission. In 1967, if I didn’t sell enough children’s encyclopedias to meet my weekly sales quota, I didn’t get paid at all. I believe some car salesmen still face this problem.

Ad for John A. Hertel Co. Christmas card sales, September 1931. Delineator. “No experience needed.”

Other ads [which I regard less cynically] offered educational opportunities leading to a new career — in hotel management, dressmaking, or nursing.

Ad for Lewis Hotel Training Schools, October 1934, Delineator.

Women could “Be a Hotel Hostess” or possibly manage an apartment house — a good job for a single mother. Lewis Hotel Training School ad, October 1931. Delineator. In the ad just below, you could make $2 by tipping the Denver Optic Company off to potential artificial eye customers….

Back in the 1920’s, Lewis would teach you how to run a tea room, so this was an established business school:

Ad for the Lewis Tea Room Institute, Delineator, January 1924. “Fortunes are being made in this big new industry….”

Ads for nursing schools were also traditional, and little changed from 1924 to 1937 — except for the potential salary and the hats.

Ad for Chatauqua School of Nursing, January 1924. This school offered a home-study course.

Ad for Chicago School of Nursing, February 1935.  “You can learn at home in spare time.”

Ad for Chicago School of Nursing, WHC, March 1937. “High School not required. Easy tuition payments.”

Ads for the Woman’s Institute have a long history, but during the Depression, the ads emphasized using your sewing skills to earn money. March, 1934.

I have some respect for the ads that suggested professional training for women who, like this one from the ad I began with, had never expected to work outside the home.

“I am nearly 35 years old and have no business experience…. My husband is out of employment and has been for some time.” Woman’s Home Companion ad for subscription sellers, March 1936.

And I can’t resist sharing (again) the “ad from the back of a magazine” that startled me into collecting them:

Ad from Delineator, March 1937. Courtesy Remembered Summers. Who wouldn’t leap at the chance to raise giant frogs for the American Frog Canning Company?

Now, that is desperation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Woman's Institute

Palm Beach Resort Wear by Lelong, January 1928

Two couture tennis dresses by Lucien Lelong, January 1928. Imagine the background in green, and the coat on the right in tucked scarlet crepella. Wow.

Lelong discusses color in the first part of this article on resort wear for America’s brighter sunlight. Delineator, top of page 32, January 1928. It’s a pity that the Delineator ran this article in black and white!

Couturier Lucien Lelong explained to the Delineator magazine how his resort wear for Palm Beach differed from the colors he would have used for French clients.

Colors for Palm Beach: “vied with the parrot and the bougainvillea flower” because the “sub-tropical sunshine … subdues the strongest colors.”

For evening he suggested lighter shades:  greens, grays, coral, pink, amber, ivory, and black and white.

Two evening gowns by Lelong, January 1928. Left, black with rhinestone bands; right, mauve pink chiffon.

His bathing costumes for Palm Beach are colorful in greens and blues:

Left, Lelong uses “green jersey banded with darker green and worn under a sponge cloth coat of string beige.” Right, “blue and white printed crepe de Chine with chartreuse bands and beach coat.”  Both have “tunic tops and shorts.” January, 1928.

For daytime, Lelong’s dress shows the graded colors popular in 1927-28. Costumes using blocks of colors were called “compose” [with an accent aigu on the e : kom-poh-zay.]

Left: Lelong’s blue two-piece sports frock with bands of graded colors. Right, a three piece ensemble in two shades of blue. January 1928 resort wear.

Let’s not forget those sleeveless tennis frocks by this extraordinary French designer:

Two sleeveless and collarless tennis frocks, plus a scarlet coat of tucked crepella. Lelong resort collection, January 1928. Delineator. Illustration by Muriel Lages.

“Design grows more and more simple in appearance, tho [sic] inner cuts are complicated. And of course, all these models, as is usual with me, induce slenderness in the appearance of their wearers. That sums it up.”– Lucien Lelong on his resort collection, in Delineator, January 1928.

When I called Lelong “extraordinary,” I wasn’t exaggerating. As head of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture during the German Occupation of Paris, Lelong managed to thwart the Germans’ plan to move the center of couture to Berlin. You can read “The Man Who Saved Paris” by clicking here.

Further reading:  The Encyclopedia of Fashion has a bibliography of books about Lelong. Click here.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bathing Suits, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

“Service Suits” for Girls, Boys, and Women in 1917

Military uniform for boys aged 6 to 16. Butterick pattern 8070, August 1917.

“In these times, boys of all ages like to be ready for service.” He is “ready to do ‘his bit.’ “

Butterick pattern 8070 for a boy’s “military suit” from 1917 was part of a trend: “service suits” and military dress for civilians.

Butterick 9334 for girls, September 1917. Delineator. This girl has long, “Mary Pickford” curls.

Right, Ladies’ Home Journal “military dress” pattern 1067 for girls 6 to 14, October 1917.

Butterick “military suit” pattern 9365, September 1917. For girls 10 to 15 years old.

Butterick coat pattern 9315 from August, 1917. Delineator. Sized for young girls  and adult women, it was “sometimes called the trench or military coat….” For “active  service.”

“Service suits” and a military dress for women from Butterick patterns, August 1917. Delineator. For more information about these patterns, click here. The blue and tan dress, like the tan suit, has “service pockets.”

Butterick offered so many variations on “Service uniforms” for adult women, I worry that some women spent more time making an outfit to wear while volunteering than they actually spent doing war work.

Three out of four patterns on this page are “uniforms” for civilian women aged 14 to 19. August 1917, Delineator, page 50. “When Johnny comes marching home he will find his sister all turned out in a new military suit.”

The phrases used to describe these outfits use plenty of military jargon.

It’s not surprising that young women heading off to college expected that they would spend time aiding the war effort in some way.

A traveling suit that is also a service suit, for college-bound women. Butterick coat 9324 with skirt 9374. Delineator, Sept. 1917. Pleated “service pockets” came in large, practical sizes and in sizes that were purely “fashion.”

“So many women are doing relief work of all kinds, and they drop into restaurants for tea and luncheons in this type of suit.”

Right, a Butterick military-influenced suit uses coat pattern 9324 with skirt 9309. August 1917.

Left, Ladies’ Home Journal patterns 1059 (jacket) and 1099 (skirt), November 1917. The majority of patterns were less military looking.

The military look was a new fashion option, among more traditionally feminine styles for women. Left, Ladies Home Journal pattern 1061; right, LHJ pattern 1050. October 1917.

Even Chanel showed a service suit:

A service suit designed by Gabrielle Chanel, illustrated in Butterick’s Delineator in October 1917.

That is not to say that women were just playing dress-up. The “women’s magazines” were an important channel of communication for official government notices, from food conservation to Red Cross needs and instructions for volunteers.

Knitting for sailors; a form from Delineator, August 1917. Those who could knit — or learn to knit — were asked to do so; those who couldn’t were asked to donate money to buy wool yarn.

Knit Your Bit for the Navy. Delineator, August 1917.

From a Red Cross article about knitting for servicemen. It appeared in Delineator, November 1917. The Ladies’ Home Journal printed similar articles by the Red Cross so that readers could volunteer to make everything from “comfort kits” to hospital gowns, bandages, and hot water bottle covers.

EDIT 9/10/17: Synchronicity/serendipity brought me this link via Two Nerdy History Girls to a fine article at “Behind Their Lines” about women knitting for the war effort.

The Butterick Publishing Company received such an outpouring of knitting for the troops that it briefly became a problem, before standardization of size and color was imposed.

Sweater pattern 9355 from Butterick, August 1917. It was sized for boys or men. A short time later, the Red Cross issued standardized patterns for the military.

Nevertheless, the patterns for “service uniforms” for children seem to me to be a little silly. (I certainly didn’t wear my Girl Scout uniform every minute I spent earning badges….) On the other hand, now that even young children carry a cell phone to school, some big “service pockets” on school clothes would come in handy!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

Back to School Clothes, Fall 1927

“All Aboard for School or College: Butterick patterns for young women, Delineator, August 1927,  top of page 28.

“The Smart Mode on Campus:” Butterick patterns for young women and girls, Delineator, August 1928, top of page 29.

“For the Young and Younger Student:” Butterick patterns for girls, teens, and women. Delineator, August 1927, top of page 32.

“Semi-Formal Frocks for College:” Butterick patterns from Delineator, August 1927, top of page 33.

There’s a lot to like about these outfits; for one thing, they have the proportions I think of as “Twenties’ Style.” I was pleased — and surprised — to find that many of these patterns were also sized for mature women. In fact, it’s very hard to distinguish between 1927 styles for girls and styles for adults on these pages. For those who are deeply interested in the 1920’s, the descriptions of the dresses remind us of a more formal and structured society — the wildness of the “Roaring Twenties” notwithstanding. I’ll include closer views, alternate and back views, and the full text that appeared on these four pages.

Book recommendation: British author Elspeth Huxley attended Cornell University in the U.S. in 1927. Her memoir Love Among the Daughters: Memories of the Twenties in England and America is an insider’s/outsider’s view of American college life.

Butterick 1526, is a “frock for the classroom” for ages 8 to 15 years;  1544, is also for 8 to 15 years;  and 1589, for 15 to 18 years and adults to bust 44″. August 1927. The young girls’ dresses are as stylish and complex as those for adults.

Butterick 1569, for women aged 15 to 20 and in sizes 38 and 40. For football games “this is the frock to wear beneath your fur coat.” Butterick 1566, for girls 8 to 15, has a square neckline attributed to Vionnet. The blouse has a chic monogram. August 1927.

Butterick pattern 1562 is for young girls 8 to 15; 1556 is a coat for young girls and women 15 to 18 years and women with bust 36 to 44 inches. No. 1519 is for teens 15 to 18 and women all the way up to size 48! August 1927.

Butterick coat 1550 has a “mushroom shawl collar” and was available in sizes 15 to 18 years and sizes 36 to 44. For an explanation of “Size 16 Years,” click here. “School costume” 1583 is a two-piece outfit in sizes 15 to 18 years and women’s sizes 38 and 40.

The second dress, No. 1563, is very similar to 1569, for smaller women. The fourth outfit, No. 1532, is a girl’s variation on 1589.

Similar fashions from August 1927. There is no indication of anything “childish” in No. 1532; were children dressing like women in the twenties, or was it the other way around?

Butterick 1554 is “for the boarding-school girl” aged 8 to 15 years. Butterick 1563 was available from size 15 years to women’s size 44, and 1553 was also sized for 15 year-olds to women with a 44 inch bust. Its belt glides in and out of the skirt.

Butterick 1532 is “correct for school wear” for girls 8 to 15,  and “school coat” 1586 is also for girls 8 to 15 years. August 1927.

“Semi-formal” dresses for college women. 1927.

Butterick 1575 “for the formal occasions of school or college” has a “straight Vionnet neckline” and opens under the left arm, so the bodice can fit closely. For 15 to 18 years and in sizes 38 and 40. No. 1565, seems much more sophisticated (or is that because of her severely cropped hair?) It was intended for teens and for adult women up to size 44. Butterick 1581 is also suitable for teens or adults. “Concerts and that important institution, the ‘Sunday-night supper’ of schools and colleges, require a formal frock on this order.” From 1927. (Even in the 1960’s, at my women’s college we were required to “dress” for dinner, and to be back on campus by Sunday evening. Luckily, “dressing” in 1965 just meant wearing high heels and stockings with our normal school clothes.)

Butterick dress 1541, for teens and small women, is a versatile pattern; depending on the fabric used, it could be a day dress or a semi-formal one. Butterick 1577 could be made “without sleeves and with an evening neckline” to be worn to proms. As shown, it’s an afternoon dress.  For teens and small women. 1927.

Did women really dress this formally for school or college? Didn’t most female students usually wear a skirt and blouse or sweater for attending classes? Well, Delineator aimed at a middle-class readership, and it should be noted that all these dresses are for women going away to school, to boarding schools or colleges, and not to a public institution close to home.

I also wonder if this way of showing Butterick’s new dresses was really a good idea; did all readers realize, by reading the descriptions, that many of these styles were suitable for mature women, and came in sizes equal to a modern size 22, or bigger? (See dress 1589, coat 1556, coat 1550, dress 1519, dress 1563, dress 1565, and dress 1581.)

That many styles were considered suitable for mature women and college girls does emphasize the importance of a youthful look in 1927.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

The Second Dart: A 1920’s Pattern Alteration for Busty Women

“The Reason for the Second Dart,” by Sarah Churchill. From a series about sewing pattern alterations that appeared in Butterick’s Delineator magazine in the 1920’s. This is from the July 1927 issue, page 26.

We tend to think of nineteen twenties dresses as shapeless tubes, but that’s not necessarily true. Dresses might have shirring or smocking or pintucks to create a small amount of fullness over the bust, or they might have a small bust dart — or even two!

This brief article from Butterick’s Delineator magazine shows how to alter a dress pattern to accommodate a full breasted figure.

The woman with a lorgnette (!) advises her friend on the way to eliminate a fitting problem caused by a larger than average bust.

The cut out dress is pinned together and tried on inside out. You can see that the pattern does have a bust dart in the side seam, but the dress fits poorly. The side seam curves toward the front. (And the dart seems too high….)

” ‘I cut this dress by those instructions you are always cheering for,’ announced the young woman of the illustration, ‘but it scoops in under me in the back and sticks out in front, and whatever does this queer long wrinkle mean?’ It meant, that ‘queer’ wrinkle, running from the bust to the underarm seam in a long curving sweep, the the frock was pushed out of place by the bust. This in turn, meant that the bust is larger than is average. The type of figure which is very full in the bust is often correspondingly narrow through the back, and the sum total of inches registered by the tape measure will indicate an average size for a figure not actually average.” — Sarah Churchill

This reminds me of the fitting room saying that “The wrinkle points to the problem;” that long wrinkle starts at the side seam and points up, toward her bust point.

This woman does not have an “average” twenties’ figure. (And clearly, she is not wearing a bust flattener.)

The problem of buying patterns (or, worse, brassieres) by the measurement taken around the fullest part of the bust is not new to me. A friend who is 5′ 10″ and athletic wears a size 38 A bra. She has a big ribcage (37″), a broad back, and small breasts. But another woman who also measures 38 inches around the fullest part of the bust may have a narrow back, a 34 inch ribcage and large breasts. Her bra size would be 34 D. And that is the kind of figure that the woman in these illustrations has.

“However, all is not lost. The frock merely needs a little adjusting — another dart to the front at each side.”

The extra fabric that created the long wrinkle is pinched out by unpinning the side seam and creating a second bust dart, which pulls the side seam into a line perpendicular to the floor. Delineator article, July 1927.

“This gives the bust the room it needs and the frock falls as it should. The back is now an inch or so longer than the front. We shall cut this off with a free hand swing since it is a one-piece frock and no complications to be encountered, and all will be well. The frock now hangs smartly. In this case, chic depended on a little dart!” — Sarah Churchill, Delineator, July 1927, p. 26.

After the second dart is created, the side seam hangs correctly and the full bust does not distort the dress.

“To those who wonder why I did not deepen the dart already in the frock, I would point out that a second dart distributes the fullness with better effect. [W2F: I also suspect that, since the dress is already cut, there might not be enough seam allowance for one, deep dart.] However, if the frock had started out with two darts, I would have deepened both evenly…. For the depth of the dart, experiment until the frock hangs straight.” — Sarah Churchill

Churchill goes on to explain that, if the back of the dress were not one, simple piece — [if, perhaps, it had a hip girdle or a separate, pleated skirt piece] — then the whole back would need to be recut, eliminating the extra inch by placing the pattern on top of the fabric and recutting the neck, shoulder, and armholes to raise the back by an inch (or whatever length the extra dart had removed in front.)

Voila!

Before and after the dress alteration which added a second dart. Delineator, July 1927, p. 26.

For anyone who has ever struggled to recreate 1920’s styles — under the assumption that bust darts were never used — this advice from 1927 should make you feel better. Here’s a 1925 illustration of a suit from Chanel — with a bust dart.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/1925-jan-designers-chanel.jpg?w=500

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade