Tag Archives: Fall 1933 Butterick pattern catalog

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 5: Helen Twelvetrees Wears Travis Banton

Butterick Patterns designed by Travis Banton for Helen Twelvetrees in Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933.

Butterick Patterns designed by Travis Banton for Helen Twelvetrees in Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933. “Below is the gown that brings forth all the ‘Oh’s’ and “Ah’s” when Miss Twelvetrees models it in ‘Disgraced.’ “

Today, costume designer Travis Banton is more remembered than actress Helen Twelvetrees. (No, that was not the name she was born with.) These patterns from August, 1933 are the last two Starred Patterns in the Butterick series that began in May of 1933. Butterick’s Delineator magazine had so much faith in this wedding gown design that it was the star of its own article a month later.

Disgraced is a Pre-Code melodrama. In it, Miss Twelvetree’s character, a fashion model named Gay, begins living with a rich wastrel in the belief that he will marry her. Instead, he plans to marry wealthy Julia, and Gay only discovers his plan when she has to model Julia’s wedding dress. Murder ensues. See the movie poster here.

Butterick pattern 5297, Delineator, August 1933. Designed by Travis Banton for the Paramount movie Disgraced.

Butterick pattern 5297, Delineator, August 1933. Designed by Travis Banton for the Paramount movie Disgraced.

The text of the article says that Butterick 5297 can be worn without the cape collar, but I’m afraid that the alternate view was not illustrated.

1933 aug p 53 Helen Twelvetrees 5297 textTravis Banton des btm text

“Change-about” dresses were popular in the heart of the Great Depression.) Vintage Pattern Wikia has a larger image of this design, from the Fall 1933 Butterick catalog. The Delineator article was also printed in Butterick Fashion News.

Butterick 5299, designed by Travis Banton for the film Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933, p 53.

Butterick 5299, designed by Travis Banton for the film Disgraced. Delineator, August 1933, p 53.

Helen Twelvetrees modeling wedding gown No. 5299 in Disgraced, 1933.

Helen Twelvetrees modeling wedding gown No. 5299 in Disgraced, 1933.

The wedding dress, Butterick 5299, was described in the Delineator in August:

“If, by any chance, you’re contemplating marriage, and you’re in the ususal dither about what to wear for the Big Moment, we urge you do do just one thing. Take yourself on the run to the nearest theater showing Helen Twelvetree’s latest picture, ‘Disgraced.’

“In this picture — in which there’s plenty of excitement besides the clothes, you can take our word for it — Miss Twelvetrees wears a wedding gown that is our idea of a wedding gown. It had us practically in a swoon. All that blond loveliness of course helped, but even a plainer girl, we imagine, would look pretty glamourous in such a gown. It’s a satin affair, with a yoke of fine net, and a tulle veil that is like a cape and quite the most lovely one we’ve seen in years of weddings, on- and off-stage. The idea is to wear it down, all around, until after the ceremony, and then to toss it back off the face for the recessional.” — Delineator, August 1933, p. 53.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5299, a wedding gown designed by Travis Banton for the movie Disgraced. Detail.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5299, a wedding gown designed by Travis Banton for the movie Disgraced. Detail.  Delineator, August, 1933.

There’s a larger image from the Butterick Fall catalog, 1933, at Vintage Pattern Wikia.

Detail, Butterick wedding dress pattern 5299, Delineator, Sep. 1933.

Detail, Butterick wedding dress pattern 5299, Delineator, Sep. 1933.

Description of Butterick 5299 from September Delineator, 1933.

Description of Butterick 5299 from Delineator, September 1933.

From Delineator, August 1933. P. 53.

From Delineator, August 1933. P. 53.

Travis Banton, Costume Designer

When you think of Marlene Dietrich in extravagant and improbable 1930’s costumes, you’re thinking of Travis Banton. They first worked together on Shanghai Express, in 1932. [Her most famous line from the movie is, “”It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”] Click to see Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932.)

“Travis did more than any single person to make Marlene Dietrich the clothes horse of the movies.” — Hedda Hopper, quoted in Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

Born in Waco, Texas, in 1894, Travis Banton grew up in New York. After serving in World War I, he worked for a custom fashion house, where he designed a lavish bridal gown which was seen by silent mega-star Mary Pickford. She wore it for her 1920 wedding to the equally famous Douglas Fairbanks. Banton remained in New York, working for top design house Lucile  (Lady Duff-Gordon). He started his own salon, while also designing costumes for Broadway shows. He moved to California and signed a contract with Paramount Studios in 1925, where he worked happily (and often uncredited) for Chief Designer Howard Greer.

In 1927, Banton designed Clara Bow’s costumes for the movie It, a picture with plenty of advance publicity (or notoriety.) Here are several clips of Clara Bow in It, which must have inspired ambitious shop girls to try to look just like her. (Note that some of her 1927 costumes have natural waists….)

Marlene Dietrich in Angel, 1937. Costume by Travis Banton. Imaage from Creating the Illusion by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

Marlene Dietrich in Angel, 1937. Costume by Travis Banton. Image from Creating the Illusion, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

According to Creating the Illusion, Banton became known for form-fitting, lavishly embellished gowns. This heavily beaded dress for Marlene Dietrich in Angel (1937) cost the studio $8,000 ($135,000 in 2015 dollars.)

At the time, Banton’s salary was $1,250 per week. Paramount refused to increase it when his contract expired, so he left.  [After watching a short commercial, you can see many more of his costumes from Angel at the IMDb site. Click here.]  

Around 1940, Banton moved to 20th Century Fox, and in 1945 he moved to Universal. In the nineteen fifties he co-produced a clothing collection under the label “Marusia-Travis Banton.”

Carole Lombard in a beaded gown by Travis Banton. My Man Godfrey, 1936. Photo from Creating the Illusion.

Carole Lombard in a beaded gown by Travis Banton. My Man Godfrey, 1936. Photo from Creating the Illusion.

The classic thirties comedy, My Man Godfrey (1936), featured Carole Lombard as a wealthy madcap in costumes by Travis Banton. [She wears this beaded outfit on a scavenger hunt to the city dump.]  Here is that glittering gown in color.

If you have nine minutes to spare, this short film, “The Fashion Side of Hollywood”–  which was made to publicize Travis Banton’s designs for several movies — is a treat.  If you want to see a top model at work, watch the final segment; Marlene Dietrich poses in costumes that would look ridiculous on anyone else, and she looks wonderful. She clearly understood how to make the camera and lighting work for her!

This is the last of a series on Butterick Starred Patterns. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns from the movies

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 2: Kay Francis in The Keyhole

Orry-Kelly, who designed the costumes for Bette Davis in forty-two movies (see Part 1,) was also credited with these designs for Kay Francis in The Keyhole. Butterick chose two designs from the movie to copy as Butterick Starred Patterns 5102 and 5113. This article introduced the Starred Patterns idea in April of 1933, in Butterick’s Delineator magazine, although the term “Starred Patterns” was not used.

Delineator, page 74, from April 1933. This is the first mention of Butterick Starred Patterns.

Delineator, page 74, from April 1933. This is the first mention of Butterick’s exact copies of clothes from the movies. Patterns  5102 and 5113 were featured.

Although she’s not remembered as well as Bette Davis, who displaced her at Warner Bros., Kay Francis was a very big star in the early thirties.

“Despite a slight lisp, she was one of Hollywood’s most glamorous and highly paid stars in the 30s, … typically portraying stylish, worldly brunettes in romantic melodramas and occasional comedies…. By the early 40s she had been mostly relegated to B pictures.”  — Ephraim Katz, in The Film Encyclopedia.

Here is the text of the Delineator article which introduced the concept behind Butterick Starred Patterns:

Butterick Starred Patterns; Text of Delineator article, April 1933, p. 74

Text of Delineator article, April 1933, p. 74. “The patterns for these two frocks reproduce the Kay Francis dresses exactly, as the sketches … show.”

“Each month Delineator will present fashions from motion pictures. Each month two or more dresses, worn by the stars who are noted for their chic, will be chosen. Butterick will make patterns of them, and Delineator will illustrate them, and bring you news of the new motion pictures.” In previous decades, Butterick bragged about its copies of Paris fashions. In 1933, there were more references to New York styles, and to the influence of the movies.

Butterick 5120 was an exact copy of this brown evening gown worn by Kay Francis in the movie The Keyhole. 1933.

Butterick 5102 was an exact copy of this brown evening gown worn by Kay Francis in the movie The Keyhole. Delineator, April, 1933.

The caption read “Kay Francis in the role of ‘Anne,’ a dancer, in the mirror scene from her new picture, The Keyhole.”  (Click the link to watch it.) The article said, “Throughout her troubles [bigamy and blackmail] — her taste for stunning clothes remains intact.”

Butterick Starred Patterns 5113 and 5102. Delineator, April 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5113 and 5102. Delineator, April 1933.

[Note: No. 5102 is a dress for those with perfect posture, or with toupee tape on their shoulders. If your napkin slips off your lap at dinner, don’t reach down to retrieve it in a backless, sideless bodice like this….] “The evening gown is made of brown lacquered satin, and the jacket frock of chartreuse wool and white pique.”  Here is a closer view of the bodice details:

Butterick 5113 and 5102, details. Delineator, April 1933.

Butterick 5113 and 5102, details. Delineator, April 1933. The dress on the left was lime green and white.

The photos from the film show how precisely Butterick’s patterns copied these dresses.

Butterick 5113 was a close copy of Orry-Kelly's design for Kay Francis. 1933.

Butterick 5113 was a close copy of Orry-Kelly’s design for Kay Francis. 1933.

You can see larger images of Butterick 5113 and 5102 at the Vintage Pattern Wikia, where their images from the Fall 1933 Butterick pattern catalog can be found. You can see the pattern envelope for 5102, with a very different bodice, by clicking here. It says nothing about “Starred” patterns, so perhaps that title wasn’t conferred until later. These are actually the first two patterns in the series of twelve, and do appear as a group in the 1933 pattern catalog.

After watching a lot of clips on YouTube, I discovered that Kay Francis is much more attractive in motion than she appears in studio portraits. Those downward-slanting eyebrows make her look morose in still photos, but in movies her face seems lively, and her fleeting expressions strike me as more natural and genuine than run-of-the-mill thirties’ acting. She was equally at home in comedy and melodrama.

Leonard Maltin’s Classic Film Guide describes The Keyhole as a “seedy romantic drama with Francis anguishing in a variety of elegant Orry-Kelly gowns.” Well, isn’t suffering supposed to make you beautiful? In the movies, it could.

You can read more about glamorous Kay Francis at the TCM site. Costume designer Orry-Kelly is the subject of a new documentary film, Women He’s Undressed (2015). See the trailer here. (It’s Australian, like Orry-Kelly, so may not yet be available in the U.S.  I love that trailer! No wonder he won three Oscars *TM*!)

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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns from the movies