Tag Archives: Depression Era ads 1930s

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

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers