Tag Archives: detachable collars for women 1900s 1910s

The “Gibson” Shirt-Waist, 1910

Shirt-waist “in Gibson style.” Delineator, June 1910.

“In number 3929 we have a very chic tailored shirt-waist or shirt-blouse in Gibson style, suitable for sporting and all other general use. The three narrow tucks in each front mark this waist with a distinctiveness of its own as well as giving a pleasing amount of fullness across the bust. Both the one-seam leg-o’-mutton and regulation shirt-waist sleeves are suitable for a model on this order, and these may be made in the full or three-quarter length.”

Alternate views of Butterick 3929, including a tiny “sailor collar” with bare neck. 1910.

Butterick 3607 is another “Gibson effect” shirt-waist. Delineator, February 1910. Here it has a masculine detachable collar. In back, the shoulder tucks create a slenderizing V shape.

“Probably there is no style of shirt-waist which women like better and find more becoming than the ones in Gibson effect, these making the wearer look broader, besides having a chic style of their own. An especially good shirt-waist, on this order, is shown in No 3607, a model having a very smart front closing. The more elaborate waist would be embroidered in some such manner as shown here, the Dutch collar and French cuffs both offering a splendid opportunity for this handwork, while the plainer model would be finished with the neck-band for wear with separate collars, and the regulation shirt-waist sleeve.”

“Gibson effect” shirt-waist No 3607 illustrated with “Dutch collar,” side front closing, and embroidery.

Charles Dana Gibson drew marvelous pen and ink sketches and cartoons of the American girl, a tall, regal presence who excelled at sports and sometimes dwarfed the men around her. As the term was used in Delineator in 1910, the “Gibson” shirt-waist seems to be one with wide tucks extending over the sleeve cap, like those above.

This Gibson shirt-waist fastens down the back, but has shoulder-widening tucks. Butterick 3624, Feb. 1910.

“A rather plainer model on the shirt-waist order is shown  in No. 3624, and this is a design which offers a splendid opportunity for some very effective embroidery. The tucks, arranged in Gibson style, extend slightly over the sleeves and give that broad effect which every American women desires.”

Variation on Butterick “Gibson” shirt-waist 3624. Delineator, Feb. 1910.

The bare, square “Dutch” neckline was a daring change from the previously high collars. “This is a waist which may be finished with the high neck and standing collar, the neck-band for wear with other separate collars, or the Dutch square neck. With the square neck and short sleeves, the model would be appropriate for home wear….”

This lacy, embroidered vintage blouse has wide “Gibson” tucks at the shoulders.

The very long front allows for the “Pouter pigeon” look when it’s tucked into a skirt.

Butterick 3432 is another “Gibson effect” shirt-waist from 1910.

“Wide tucks on the shoulders give the Gibson effect of waist No. 3532, and the cluster of three narrow tucks on each side make the only trimming that is necessary….”

The tucks are very wide on this vintage blouse, and the back view shows the optical illusion created when they converge in a V shape:

This “Gibson effect” waist would have been worn with a stiff, detachable collar.

Another illustration of Butterick’s “Gibson” waist 3607.

Although shirt-waist 3595 (below) is equally businesslike and tucked, the tucks do not extend over the sleeve head. No. 3595 was not described as a “Gibson” shirt-waist.

Butterick 3595, Delineator, February 1910, pages 102 and 97.

Both men and women wore detachable collars, sometimes made of paper or celluloid.

There is a surprising and well-illustrated article about celluloid collars at the National Museum of American History.  (click here.)

I just discovered the very good National Museum of American History website, which has a section on clothing and American history. As usual, the story of everyday clothing can be a doorway into history — as in this article about hats and shoes in Greensboro: Freedom’s Tally: an African American business in the Jim Crow South.

Digression: while I’m thinking about tiny, everyday objects that bring the past to life…. Some time ago I mentioned mudlarking in Victorian England. (Mudlarks eked out a living by searching for saleable trash in the Thames river.)

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/mudlark-sketched-by-munby-1855-coalheaver-gives-her-remains-of-his-dinner.jpg

“Mudlark girl. Coalheaver gives her remains of his dinner. From life. 1855.” Sketch by Arthur Munby from Victorian Working Women. (All the raw sewage of London flowed into the Thames. Even bits of coal were saleable.)

I often watch videos by Nicola White, a modern day mudlarker and artist. This one brought the past to life for me…. (There may be lots of commercials, but White always researches her finds — like this “forget me not” token inscribed by a 10 year old girl convicted of felony and sentenced to 7 years in prison in 1844.)

As a girl, I hated history classes. I wish I had been shown a doorway into the lives of ordinary people — like the ones available now.

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What Made a Blouse a Shirt-Waist in 1909-1910? I Don’t Know.

Shirt-waist from Delineator article, February 1910, p. 97.

I wish I could give a definitive answer to “What’s the difference between a ‘shirt-waist’ and a blouse or ‘waist?’ ”

But: fashion writing…. (sigh.) It’s not the most precise art.

A mixture of “Shirt Waists” and “Waists” (sometimes called blouses.) Top of page 54, National Cloak & Suit catalog, 1909.

I thought I could pick out the “Shirt Waists” from this catalog at a glance. I was wrong. This page of women’s “waists” and “shirt-waists” from the National Cloak & Suit Company for 1909 (Dover Books: Women’s Fashions of the Early 1900s: An Unabridged Republication of New York Fashions, 1909) shows the confusion. (You can also find it as a PDF online.)

My instinct after pouring through books and magazines was to think that, if it unbuttons down the front, it’s a “shirt-waist.” But that’s probably because of the shirtwaist dresses I wore in the 1950s and 1960s. Those didn’t necessarily (or usually) button all the way down the front to the hem, but they always closed with buttons at least to the waist in front.

Left, Shirt Waist 4614. That’s what I was expecting.

I think most of us would recognize that No. 4614 (top left) is a “tailored shirt-waist,” “nattily mannish.” It visibly buttons down the front, and the collar opens in the center front, too. But what, exactly, makes it a Shirt Waist?

No. 4616 (on the same page) is also described as a “Shirt Waist.” [Although those buttons are purely decorative….]

No. 4616 is a “Tucked Shirt Waist of India Lawn.” “The front displays groups of tiny pearl buttons.” Does it actually open down the front? No. It “buttons in back.”  Does the collar open in front? No. (Collars were often connected to the garment at one side, and opened at the side neck or back neck, being finished and hanging free where not attached. So the collar opening is inconclusive.) What makes it a Shirt Waist?

Shirt Waist 4614 and “Waist” No. 4613. What’s the difference? I don’t know.

No. 4613 (right, next to Shirt Waist 4614) has a “visible button closing in front” and a “detachable turn-over linen collar.” But it’s a “Waist.” Apparently a stiff detachable collar isn’t the criterion, either.

Maye I’m putting too much faith in the copy writer…. Or maybe it has to do with tucked pleats…?

Right, Shirt Waist 4625. But No. 4630, left of it, is described as a “Waist.” Page 56. Both are pleated…. And both really do button down the front — somehow.

Above: No. 4625 (at right) is a “Shirt Waist of Pure linen… mannishly finished with detachable stiff linen collar….” This one looks like a shirt-waist to me, too!

Below: a blouse waist and a shirt waist.

Right, Shirt Waist No. 4633. Left, Waist 4635.  Yes! To me, No. 4635 looks like a blouse waist and 4633 looks like a shirt waist. (Page 57.) If only it were this simple.

No. 4633, above right, is a “Shirt Waist.” It “closes visibly with pearl buttons through a box-plait…..” and has “stiff link cuffs of the [striped shirt] material. Detachable linen collar.” And it’s pleated/tucked.

“Shirt Waist” No. 4641, from page 58.

No. 4641 is another “Shirt Waist” with button front opening and detachable collar. Embroidery and other feminine touches do not disqualify a “waist” from being a Shirt Waist. A Shirt Waist can even have a side front closing, like the one below. But it does seem to need full length sleeves, like a man’s business shirt.

No. 4611 — with its asymmetrical closing, is still a Shirt Waist. Page 53.

On the other hand….

“Waist” No. 4607, page 58.

No. 4607, which “closes visibly with pearl buttons ” down the tucked front, and has a “detachable stiff linen collar”  — [surely this is a shirt waist?] — is a “Waist of fine quality Linene.” A “Waist!”

At this point I began to consider the “all the news that fits the print” principle; the copy writer is required to squeeze the selling points into the available room for text, because this is a catalog. The word “Shirt” might be edited out to fit the space available. However, there seems to be plenty of room in that listing for more than one additional word! (That’s a long series of dots!)

So I went back to good old Delineator magazine. There, the same pattern may be described both ways, as is No. 3754, which is a “waist” in the illustration and a “shirt-waist” in the accompanying text.

Butterick waist 3754, Delineator, April 1910, p. 294.

Butterick 3754 pattern description, Delineator, April 1910, page 294. “A new style of shirt-waist. No. 3754….”

Alternate views of Butterick 3754. Delineator, April 1910, page 294. So many variations!

At least the Butterick “Waist” and “Shirt-Waist” patterns in Delineator have some justification for being described both ways: unlike a store-bought waist, a blouse/waist pattern could be made more than one way. The same blouse pattern might be made with the soft collar option or a stiff, detachable, turn-down collar. (And a collar like the one at left might be made separately and basted into place when wanted.) Other options were gathers instead of tucks, and either long or 3/4 sleeves.

Butterick shirt-waist pattern 3595; two versions from February 1910.

Two views of Butterick 3595: with attached collar (L) and ready for a detachable collar (R).

Notice the buttonhole in the back of the version on the right; it is ready to have a stiff, detachable collar secured with a collar button or stud, just like men’s business shirts.

Butterick Shirt-waist 3757, two views from April 1910. Page 297.

Another incarnation of Butterick Shirt-Waist 3757. The frill is probably a “button-in” option, as it was on No. 3754.

In this version, it opens down the front with a row of visible buttons, it has a stiff, detachable collar, it has stitched-down pleats or tucks, and long sleeves with French cuffs. But, as shown in its other views, … not necessarily!

One other thing to keep in mind: men’s shirts did not always open all the way down the front in the early 1900s. So the complete center front button opening on women’s waists may not be key to defining a “shirt waist.”

This man’s shirt has a CF button placket, but it doesn’t reach the bottom hem.

This man’s pull-on shirt has a striped bib with button placket, on a plain knit shirt.

Man’s knit shirt with striped fabric bib.

In conclusion (and confusion) I present:

Caption for illustration of Butterick 3716. Delineator, April 1910. p. 295.

Is that what they were thinking? Delineator, April 1910, p. 295.

I’m looking forward to comments from anyone who can definitively define the women’s “shirt waist” for me 🙂

Click here for the Fashion Institute’s essay on shirtwaists.   [EDIT 5/30/19;  I asked and I received: for some very helpful suggestions — and the information that men’s shirts could also be called “shirt-waists” — see the comments below from Peter Pane!]

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