Tag Archives: Dora Stroeva

Le Smoking: Nothing New Under the Sun

Although Yves Saint Laurent is (rightly) credited with popularizing the tuxedo for women, called “Le Smoking” (click here for his 1966 version,) it was an idea that had been explored before, in other decades when women began to assume traditionally masculine roles.

"Le Smoking" for women, illustrated by Humberto in 1926. From Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties, ed. Joanne Olian.

“Le Smoking” for women, illustrated by Humberto in 1926. From Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties, ed. JoAnne Olian.

The singer Dora Stoeva, Delineator magazine, March 1924. Her jacket seems to have a satin lapel, worn over a vest with white piping, but no shirt.

The singer Dora Stoeva, Delineator magazine, March 1924. Her jacket seems to have a black velvet lapel and cuffs, worn over a vest with white piping, but no shirt.

The boutonniere and pocket hanky were usual in male evening dress. The first versions of le smoking may have appeared before the nineteen twenties. In fact, this Punch cartoon reprinted in The Way to Wear-em, by Christina Walkley, deserves more research:

Cartoon by Sambourne, 1880, from Walkley's book The Way to Wear'em.

Cartoon by Sambourne, 1880, from Walkley’s book The Way to Wear’em.

The caption purports to be a quotation from Journal des Modes, 1st April, and says:

” ‘Man or Woman?” — A toss up. ‘Dresses are still universally cut en coeur. A very dressy toilette, and one, much worn now, for the Evening, is of black Broche or cloth material cut en Habit d’Homme, with plain or kilted skirt, very tight; for fair ladies it is very becoming to omit a tucker, and have the black and white with no softening.”

Anyone with access to Journal des Modes, from about 1879 to 1880, might have fun looking for the page that inspired the cartoonist — and the original illustration, if any.

Meanwhile, here’s a closer look at those “smokings” for women from 1926:

Les Smokings de 1926.

Les Smokings de 1926.

From the left:

Black "grain de poudre" "smoking," silk revers, wide-ribbed gray ottoman waistcoat. 1926

Black “grain de poudre” “smoking,” silk revers, wide-ribbed gray ottoman waistcoat. 1926

She is also wearing a Victorian-looking ruffled tuxedo shirt with a simply tied black ribbon in place of a bow tie. The skirt appears to have a center front pleat.

Don’t be misled by the black and white illustrations; this “smoking” is not black, but ivory white.

"Ivory silk serge 'smoking,' gold lame waistcoat, gold gardenia."  1926

“Ivory silk serge ‘smoking,’ gold lame waistcoat, gold gardenia.” 1926

It also is worn with a pleated skirt. The “smoking” below is not black, either:

"Light gray rep 'smoking," satin shawl collar, white silk rep waistcoat." 1926

“Light gray rep ‘smoking,’ satin shawl collar, white silk rep waistcoat.” 1926

Under it, there’s a woman’s V-neck shawl collared blouse with French cuffs. She wears a monocle on a ribbon, rather than a necklace.

"Plum colored woolen 'smoking,' matching silk revers, cream silk waistcoat." 1926

“Plum colored woolen ‘smoking,’ matching silk revers, cream silk waistcoat.” 1926

A man’s tuxedo shirt would not have as many buttons as this pleated shirt has;  it has a slight standing collar instead of a wing collar, and has a silk ribbon tied once, rather than a bow tie. I especially like the strip of braid at the side of the skirt; men’s tuxedo trousers always had such braid at the side seams.

In the nineteen twenties and thirties, men’s formal evening dress and tuxedos were sometimes navy blue, instead of black. It was thought that navy looked better under the lighting at dances and dinner parties. [This is a problem for theatrical costumers drawing from real period stock; navy blue wool can turn surprising colors under stage lights, including brown, maroon, or cranberry red.]

The illustration by Humberto is taken from JoAnne Olian’s Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties, page 108, dated February 27, 1926. It’s available in paperback or as a Nook Book.

The woman’s tuxedo suit has longevity. This one, by Yves Saint Laurent, in the collection of the Metropolitan museum, dates to 1973-77.

Yves Saint Laurent "Smoking," 1973-77. Photo courtesy of Metropolitain Museum.

Yves Saint Laurent “Smoking,” 1973-77. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

This one, from Donna Karan, appeared in 1998:

Vogue pattern 2165, Donna Karan, 1998.

Vogue pattern 2165, Donna Karan, 1998.

And these celebrities all wore tuxedo suits to the same event in 2011. (Click here.) Described at popsugar.

Marie Claire showed this (undated) version even more recently. Click Here.

Viva le smoking!

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Filed under 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

To Bob or Not to Bob Your Hair: 1925 (Part 2)

Getting a pointed shingle haircut, Delineator Nov. 1926. Illustration by Leslie Saalsburg.

Getting a pointed shingle haircut, Delineator, November 1926. Illustration by Leslie Saalsburg.

“If your hair grows so that a point can be made in the center of the back, have your barber cut it in a point.” — Celia Caroline Cole, in her article “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker,”  Delineator magazine, January 1924.

I exerpted the first part of “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker” in Part 1 of this post. (Click here to read it.) (And thank you to Dinah and Cristina , et al, for their really informative comments!) If you watch Downton Abbey, you have probably seen the episode where Lady Mary gets her hair cut into a sleek bob with a point in the back. [After looking at many images from 1924 through 1925, I realized that the thick point above her nape was not what was bothering me; it was the length of her hair in front.]

Louise Brooks probably had the most iconic sleek bobbed hair in the movies (click here), but she didn’t have the pointed back shown in the illustration above, which, as Celia Cole says, was only possible for about one in fifty women. The really “slicker ‘n’ slicker” hair that “looks like paint” probably belonged to elegant Josephine Baker, the American girl who became a legendary star in France. (Click here.) She even marketed a hair preparation called “Bakerfix.”

More from “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker,” January 1925

"The friendliest shingle is to have it cut long on the sides so as to cover the ears. . . . A lovely little sloping curve from behind the ear down to the sharp little point." Two pattern illustration modesl from May, 1925. Butterick's Delineator magazine.

“The friendliest shingle is to have it cut long on the sides so as to cover the ears. . . . A lovely little sloping curve from behind the ear down to the sharp little point.” Two pattern illustration models from May, 1925. Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

from the friendliest shingle to head of young boy

“And long or short, the hair must be very neat — no more tousled heads — brushed until it shines, and for most faces waved in large, loose undulations.”

A Gallery of Mid-Twenties Hair Styles from Delineator Illustrations

April 1924, Paris fashion sketches by Soulie.

April 1924, Paris fashion sketches by Soulie.

March 1924, Delineator. Butterick pattern illustrations.

March 1924, Delineator. Butterick pattern illustrations.

A few months later, in  January, 1925, the girl above left would have been among those who were advised to have the hair in back tapered or thinned “with a razor so that it does not stand out.”

October 1924. Delineator.

October 1924. Delineator.

March, 1925. Delineator.

March, 1925. Delineator. Paris models.

The blonde on the right has her hair cut almost like a man’s, long in front and tapered in back. She has tendrils falling on her cheek, like these other Paris models:

Very short hair on Paris models. The two on the left are from January 1925; the one on the right is from April, 1924.

Very short hair on Paris models. The two on the left are from January 1925; the one on the right is from April, 1924.

A haircut like this gave you the option of pulling a lock from the front down to curl on your cheek on each side, or you could brush it straight back, like singer Dora Stroeva, pictured in Delineator, March, 1924.

Singer Dora  Stroeva wears a severly mannish "Eton crop" in the "New in New York" column; Delineator, March 1924.

Singer Dora Stroeva wears a severely mannish “Eton crop” in the “New in New York” column; Delineator, March 1924.

The “Eton crop,” named after the prestigious English boys’ school Eton College, was the subject of cartoons like this one:

The woman on the right, admiring a photograph of the man the woman on the left is engaged to, says, "Well, God bless you, my dear, congratulations and all that. He certainly looks twice the man that you are." March, 1928, Punch magazine.

The woman on the right is admiring a photograph of the man the woman on the left is engaged to marry.  March, 1928, Punch magazine, reprinted in The Way to Wear’em by Christina Walkley.

The caption says, “Young woman (looking at a photograph of friend’s fiance).  ‘Well, God bless you, my dear, congratulations and all that. He certainly looks twice the man you are.’ ” (For more “fashion” cartoons from The Way to Wear’em and other books, click here.)

However, most women felt the need for some hair near the face to “save it from that utterly revealed look.”

1925, Delineator.

1925, Delineator. The woman in the center has had her hair thinned a little at the bottom, as advised in “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker.”

October 1924, Delineator.

October 1924, Delineator.

December 1924, Delineator.

December 1924, Delineator. Styles for wavy hair.

Having some hair around the face looked better with a hat.

Hair Styles That Are “Nice to Buy Hats For”

“Any one who has had short hair knows the joy of it — cool and free, easy to care for and nice to buy hats for.”

March, left, and January, right, 1925. Hair styles meant to look good under a cloche hat.

March, left, and January, right, 1925. Hair styles meant to look good under a cloche hat.

Hats, story illustration, September 1924. Delineator.

Hats and hair, story illustration, September 1924. Delineator.

It’s hard now to remember that women once wore hats whenever they went out in public, but through the 1920’s and 1930’s photographs of crowds rarely show a person without a head covering of some kind. The tight-fitting, head-hugging hats of the 1920’s required hairstyles that could survive being compressed, and still look presentable when a woman took her hat off at work or at home. No wonder hairstyles got “slicker ‘n’  slicker.”

from gray bobbed to arrange for herself

It didn’t matter whether the hat was a turban, or a cloche, or a hat with a brim; part of the twenties look is those little poufs or curls or “guiches” that fill in the hollow of the cheek. Without them, a cloche hides all your hair, and the look is austere and rather grim. As Celia Cole put it, ” The dressing of the hair means to the face and head what shrubbery and trees mean to a brand-new house: they save it from that utterly revealed look.”

Four Hats for Spring, April 1925. Delineator.

Four Hats for Spring, April 1925. Delineator.

Hats illustrated with dress patterns, February 1925. Delineator.

Hats illustrated with dress patterns, February 1925. Delineator. Imagine how different they would look with no hair visible.

Even a tiny wisp of hair on the cheek softens the hat and sculpts the face.

Hair cut to a point in back, February 1925. Delineator.

Sleek, shiny hair cut to a point in back, February 1925. Delineator.

Which brings me back to Lady Mary’s haircut. Because the front was longer than any of the styles shown in these 1924-1925 illustrations, her haircut didn’t work very well with the hat of her riding habit.  Her hair didn’t fit neatly into the hollow of her cheek. It got messy. That bothered me, like getting a piece of popcorn stuck to a back tooth.

Two hats -- with wisps of hair showing at the cheeks. February 1924, Delineator.

Two hats — with wisps of hair showing at the cheeks. February 1924, Delineator.

Of course, when it comes to dressing actors, the rule is , “The physical attractiveness of the actor to the audience outweighs all other considerations.” It doesn’t apply to all characters — and not to extras — but it does apply to leading actors playing physically attractive characters. Sometimes we search through incredible amounts of research, until we find one example that justifies the style that best becomes the actor. Molly Ivins said that there is nothing so dangerous as a man who has only read one book.”  I probably haven’t found the right book — and “I’m always hungry for more.”

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Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture