Tag Archives: fashion history

Hair Styles for American Girls, World War I Era (Part 1)

Three hairstyles from Delineator, February 1917. One is very high, one has bangs and side-puffs, and one may be — but probably isn’t — a bob.

My usual approach to this blog is to collect a lot of images with something in common, and then thread them together — often with plenty of meandering into by-paths….

The top of a full page of hairstyles for women, Delineator, April 1917.

I  ended up with so many images of 1917 hair styles for European-American women that I’m having trouble dividing them into several posts.

One stream has to do with the remarkable height of some 1917 hairstyles. [And hats.]

A model for Paquin (1917) sports a hair style as extreme as any seen on a runway today.

Another has to do with bobbed hair — pre-1920’s — popularized by dancer Irene Castle and necessitated in Europe by women’s war work in munitions factories. (The U.S. was a late-comer to WW I, so American women didn’t need to adopt shorter hairstyles for safety until 1917.)

Mrs. Vernon Castle  (Irene Castle) was credited with setting the fashion for bobbed hair. From an ad campaign for Corticelli Silks, Delineator, October 1917.

Another view of Irene Castle’s famous bobbed hair; Delineator, ad for Corticelli Silks, November 1917. Both photos are probably from the same photo shoot; she is wearing the same dress.

A third idea I’m wrestling with is the gradual steps toward the bob — from a “fringe” (bangs) in the 1880’s to cutting some of the front hair short (1917) while retaining long hair in back. I suspect that most women took this conservative approach, making the change in increments.

From the Sears, Roebuck catalog, Fall 1917. From the front, the woman on the right appears to have bobbed hair, but her reflection in the mirror shows that her back hair is long and gathered into a bun, secured with a large, fan-shaped comb.

And then I have some ads for products related to hair styles….

The image used with this ad resembles the Paquin model above. It offers to transform your own hair combings into “switches” which could be used to increase the size of your hairdo. Anna Ayers ad from Delineator, March 1917.

A Digression About Hair Combings and Rats

One item often included in an early 20th century Vanity set — or dresser set — was a hair receiver.

A vanity set from Sears, Roebuck, 1917. The hair receiver is at upper right.

It was a jar with a hole in the lid, into which women put their “combings.”

Along with nail files, button hooks, brushes, and containers for cotton balls (No. 8K8744,) containers for hair combings (Nos. 8K8745 and 8K8723) appeared on a lady’s dressing table. Sears, 1917.

That is, when women cleaned hair out of their brushes and combs, they put it into the hair receiver, and, when they had collected enough, they made it into a “rat,” encasing it in a hairnet that matched their hair color and then combing their long hair over the rat to create huge turn-of-the-century hairstyles like those illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson.  The huge hairdos of the 1940’s used them too.

Those Tall 1917 Hair Styles

From an ad for Fashionette hairnets, Delineator, April 1917.

A similar conical style, called the “beehive,” was popular in the 1960s:

“The higher the hair, the closer to Heaven” was a popular saying when “bouffant” hairdos were in fashion. We supported these styles by “ratting” our hair (see “rats,” above). Hairdressers called it “back-combing,” but we always called it “ratting.” You took a strand of hair, pulled it up toward the sky, and, with your other hand, repeatedly ran a comb down it toward your scalp. Any loose hairs were pushed into tangles at the base. Spray with “Aquanette.” Repeat. When your ratted hair was a complete, tangled mess, you carefully brushed the outer layer smooth  and sealed it with a final layer of hairspray. I remember a classmate who had a conical “beehive” hairdo done before a prom. By carefully wrapping it in a scarf at night, she preserved it for several days. It gradually deflated, though, so by Friday, her light brown beehive looked like she had a cow patty on her head….

High Hair, 1917

High hair for evening, accented with a jeweled comb, from an article in Delineator, April 1917. The waves are probably a Marcel.

Back in 1917, you could also use Silmarine to set your hair — it probably increased volume, too.

Ad for Silmarine hair setting lotion, Delineator, March 1917.

The Sew Historically website has an extensive set of recipes for shampoos and for Bandoline, the 19th century predecessor to hair spray.  In 1917, you could wear an invisible hairnet:

Another big hair style from a Fashionette hairnet ad. Delineator, August 1917.

The blonde woman with a similar gravity-defying hairstyle is wearing a house dress, not an evening gown. Delineator, January 1917.

Two high hairdos flank a less extreme style in April 1917. Delineator magazine.

A high, conical hairdo from an article in Delineator, April 1917. “The high hair-dressing is new, and adds a generous cubit to your stature.” This was not just a style for evening, as seen from other illustrations.

Did any ordinary women get their hair to look like this? Yes.

This pretty girl with a lap full of kittens posed in the homely back yard of my grandmother’s house. Circa 1917.

Not all hairdos were tall enough to “add a cubit to your height.”

This woman’s long, Marcel-waved hair [her “crowning glory”] is worn close to her head, and caught in a large chignon at the nape of her neck. This style persisted into the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Delineator, April 1917.

The next photo contains a mysterious reference to eating “bread crusts to make your hair curl.”

Her low hair style has a cluster of curls in back. April, 1917. Delineator.

Are they real, or did she buy them?

A “switch” in the form of a “string of curls” was offered in this ad from Delineator, February 1917. Ad for Frances Roberts Co. –“The Mail-Order Hair House.”

Gradually Working Your Way Toward Bobbed Hair

Two women from a Sears’ catalog, Fall 1917. Although at first glance their hair appears as short as Irene Castle’s, a closer look shows a small bun at the back.

In the 1920’s the bun was eliminated:


Short, “shingle” haircuts from October, 1925; Delineator. The front of the hairdo is much like that of 1917.

Short Hair on Women Marked a Social Change

Long hair used to be the only option for most women. Delineator, March 1917.

A woman’s long hair was said to be “her crowning glory.”  In Victorian times, cropped hair was often a sign that a woman had suffered a severe illness (as in Conan Doyle’s story, “The Copper Beeches.“)

Dresses for girls 8 to 15, Delineator, May 1924. The one on the left has long “Mary Pickford” curls, associated with innocence.

Men saw long hair paradoxically, as both sexy and innocent: young girls wore their hair loose and long, and young ladies “put up their hair” around sixteen, as a sign that they were now adults — and ready for marriage.

Cutting it all short at one time — like Irene Castle — took a lot of courage, especially in 1917. My mother and her best friend shocked their families when they bobbed their hair around 1922. They were the first girls in town to do it.  Back in 1918, my mother was working up to it gradually — and that is a story for another day. (Part 2)

My mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, circa 1918-19.

She has done her best to simulate the high hair and cheek puffs of fashion illustrations — without cutting her hair.




Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs, World War I

Fashion Transition: From 1920’s to 1930’s


Hem length from 1929 to 1931, from Sears catalogs. In 1929, the hem is above the kneecap; two years later it has dropped to mid-calf, and the belt has returned to the natural waist.

Higher Waists and Longer Hems

In 1929, hems were already on their way down. An article by Pamela A. Parmai at Love To Know cites an article in the New York Times from October 27, 1929 — two days before the Black Friday stock market crash — which said, “some women claimed that the effort to put them back in long skirts was ‘an insidious attempt to lure women back into slavery.’ ” Parmai implies that, since skirts had already been at the knee for two or three years, clothing manufacturers were eager for a change. It seems the stock market started down after skirts did.

“The waist-line continues to rise,” Delineator magazine, November 1929, p. 33.

However, in November of 1929, Delineator’s fashion editors weren’t completely focused on longer skirts; this article was about rising waists. [The lead time which put magazines in stores by November meant that articles and illustrations had to be ready long before the end of October, and the stock market crash on October 29th. Longer hems are mentioned, but not in the title of this article. ]

Butterick 2891 has a belt near the natural waist. November, 1929, Delineator.

The next dress has a two-layer skirt, with one layer ending above the knee (where dresses ended in 1928) and one below the knee, a transitional fashion to longer skirts.

Butterick frock 2923 from November 1929. Delineator. Note the belt, which is just at the hipbone [and I bet it didn’t stay there easily, even with belt carriers.]

This dress has “three of the very newest features:” greater length, higher waist, snug hips and a dipping hem. [Wait — isn’t that four? Not really. Dipping hems were well-established by 1928.]

Butterick 2924 shows a longer hem and a shirred waist that sits on the hipbone rather than the hip. Delineator, November, 1929. It covers the knees completely.

“The line is longer, as it must be this season,” and the waist line is higher.

[“Pans” is probably a typo for “Panels.”]

Butterick coat 2857 shown over dress (frock) 2903. Delineator, November, 1929. The rising girdle [hip band] is a subtle change.

“The higher waist-line is indicated on the frock by the girdle top.” The “girdle” is that band of fabric around the hips. It does look a little higher than these earlier “snug hips” of June 1929:

A snug-hipped dress and matching jacket from June of 1929, Delineator. Butterick 2646.

Back in June, 1928, these dresses showed a tight, low hip girdle:


Butterick patterns in Delineator, June 1928, show a low hip girdle, expecially the one on the left, which appears to be far below the hip-bone.

The elongated torso of 1920’s fashion illustration makes the waist hard to locate on this blouse.

Butterick blouse 2884 with wrap skirt 2745, from November 1929, Delineator. The blouse is gathered to the hip just below the natural waist –where many women’s trousers rested in the 2000’s.

Blouses from the early 1930’s (see below) were often overblouses, not too different from blouse 2884.

Butterick blouse 3968, July 1931.

Tunic Blouses for Transition — Again


Tunic blouse outfits from Butterick; Delineator, December, 1924. Within three years, dresses were shorter than these “blouses.”

I do find transitional fashions interesting. Back in 1924 — 1925, these tunic blouses eased the transition to shorter hems by providing two horizontal lines — one near the knee (the coming fashion) and one at low mid-calf (the early Twenties’ length.)

I’ve found a few tunic styles easing the transition from late Twenties to early Thirties, too.

Butterick 3644, “the smart tunic line,” has a tunic ending near the knees over a longer 1930’s hemline. Delineator, February 1931.

The natural waist, accented by a belt, is taken for granted by 1931.

Right, below,  is a “tunic blouse” and skirt combination; this “blouse” is as long as a late Twenties’ dress.

Right, tunic blouse 3666 with skirt 3643; Delineator, February 1931.

The tunic blouse is shown in mid-thigh (back view) and knee lengths.

It’s surprising how brief the period of knee-length twenties’ fashion really was — as this cartoon from January, 1929 implies.


It’s more evidence that early in 1929, skirts were already on their way down.


Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s

Beach Pajamas for a Little Girl

Butterick 3801, Delineator, April 1931. Some rather sophisticated beach pajamas for girls aged 4 t0 15 years. These were definitely for outdoor wear — and how relieved little girls must have been to play in trousers instead of dresses.

Beach pajamas were worn by ordinary women in the Thirties, not just those who could afford vacations at resorts, the Lido, or the South of France. The Vintage Traveler shared images of beach pajamas from a 1930 Montgomery Ward catalog. (Montgomery Ward was a rival of Sears. It was not an upscale store — my uncle, the plumber, bought his overalls there.) Lynn at American Age Fashion just shared a 1933 photo of my family’s close friends in beach pajamas, with a wonderful eye for the differences between the generations.

These pajamas (or pyjamas) were intended for lounging, but many of them were worn as beachwear  if the fabric was not obviously lingerie material.

Butterick pajamas for big and little girls, December 1931. Left, 4177; right, 4223.

Beach pajamas were so important that even dolls needed them.

Butterick doll wardrobe pattern 440, Delineator, December 1931.

These pajamas were sleeveless, like the ones on the little girl in this painting, and trimmed with bias tape.

A little girl wears beach pajamas in this painting based on a 1930’s photograph. Detail, “Bobbie with Marbles.” Used with permission of the artist.

McCall doll clothes pattern 525 from 1937, with the original photo on which the painting was based. Both outfits have bias tape binding.

Butterick girl’s play pajamas, No. 5181, from 1933. The dots make them look a bit clown-like, and the ruffles are sheer organdy, more for lounging than sleeping..

“Cotton pajamas are one of the most practical things in the world to play in;” cotton is appropriate for the beach, but shantung seems more like an indoors lounging option [and rather sophisticated casual party wear for a girl aged 2 to twelve.]

The dots and ruffles are not so different from these lounging pajamas for grown women:


Lounging Pajamas, Butterick patterns 4014 and 3937. Delineator, Sept. 1931.



Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

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.



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

More Blouses from the Early 1930’s

Two versions of the same blouse, Butterick 4420, from April 1932, Delineator.

These blouses from 1932 and 1933 continue to popularize the use of separates, possibly for office wear, possibly because a blouse is easier to launder in a wash-basin than a dress,  and probably because a blouse takes less fabric. The ability to get several looks from the same two or three blouses and one or two skirts might be another attraction in the scarce-money days of the 1930’s.

A few of the blouses shown below, all from 1932 or 1933, plus two or three skirts or suits, would combine to make a really extensive wardrobe. The skirts of 1932 -1933 were long.

Here, two Butterick blouse patterns are shown with skirt 4908. February 1933, Delineator.

First, Butterick blouses and tops from 1932:

Butterick blouse 4420 was shown in long or short-sleeved versions. Delineator, April 1932.

Butterick blouse 4420 in a more casual version, with short sleeves, a peek-a-boo front, and in dotted fabric. Notice the triple darts that shape the waist and control the fullness. Clever! [Did it have a side opening?] April 1932.

A more “strictly-business” attitude for Butterick 4444 and 4368. April 1932, Delineator. The striped blouse has a “shirtwaist front.” 4368 has a peplum.

Although this next set of tops are called jackets, they are so brief they might be worn with skirts or beach pajamas.

Butterick “bell-hop” jacket 4436, which comes only to the waist. April, 1932.

A young man wearing a bell-boy or bell-hop’s uniform. Story illustration, Ladies’ Home Journal, Jan. 1936.

This version of the “bell-hop jacket”  has “a strict, tailored air.” Butterick 4436, April 1932.

Jacket 4436  was available in a bolero version which “makes a blouse and skirt look like a frock and gives a frock a dress-up air.” 1932.

In case you noticed, three fabric hats made from Butterick pattern 4472 accompany the jacket illustrations.

1933 was also a good year for blouses, beginning in January. All are Butterick patterns featured in Delineator magazine.

Butterick blouse 4882 looks complicated — I’d like to see the pattern pieces! It was also shown in two versions. January 1933. [Sorry about the fuzzy lines — it was a small illustration, not a hairy blouse.]

Butterick 4882 with long, fancy sleeves. January 1933.

[In the interests of space and legibility, I moved the blouse illustration from right to left.] Match your skirt and blouse colors.

Two Butterick blouses for February, 1933. Left, pattern 4922 (“Aboveboard”); right, pattern 4914 (“Half and Half.”) Full sleeves with fitted lower portions  — reminiscent of the 1890’s –were chic.

The February report on Paris Fashions says dressy blouse 4922 in “saffron yellow rough crepe” would look good  “over any table, bridge or luncheon.” Blouse 4922 in “light gray lawn … with a schoolboy collar and tie” is paired with a dark gray wool wrap-around skirt, 4914.

The cover of Butterick Fashion Quarterly showed another short jacket, Butterick 4888, and a wonderful pair of button front beach pajamas, Butterick 3884.

Detail from cover of Butterick Fashion Quarterly, from an ad in Delineator, February 1933.

Here is a clearer image of both, from Delineator, July 1933.

Resort wear: Butterick jacket 4888 in a longer version, and beach pajamas 4884 (right) and 4404 (left.) July 1933.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself; more blouses were shown in the April issue of Delineator:

Butterick blouses 5060 and 5030. April 1933, page 86. 5030 has “cowl sleeves,” an expression I’ve never heard before. 5060 has a sort of built-in weskit or vest.

[Full at the top, fitted at the bottom: 1890’s sleeves.]

Metropolitan Museum Collection. Gigot or “leg of lamb” sleeves. 1890’s.

Digression: I’ve written before about the popularity of collars which could make one dress look like a wardrobe. On the same page was Butterick collar pattern 5072. Imagine these Depression Era collars transforming  a simple dress or a sweater.

Butterick collar pattern 5072 — an inexpensive way to “boost morale.” Delineator,  April, 1933, p. 36

Some Thirties’ dress patterns even came with interchangeable collars.

Back to Blouses: In May, Delineator was writing about borrowing masculine styles for feminine clothing:

Left, Butterick blouse 5090; lower right, Blouse 5116. May 1933. Notice the little darts on 5090, insuring a neat waistline. 5116 is the first of many garments with the look of a man’s vest or weskit. “Note the square buttons.”

Sleeves, 1893. They are very full at the shoulder but tight on the lower arm. Met Museum fashion plate collection.

Blouse (jacket?) 5084 was shown in two versions. This one seems like a wild topper — in taffeta — for an evening skirt, a dark velvet one, perhaps. Below, it’s barely recognizable as the same pattern:

Butterick 5084 is both feminine, in the sleeves, and masculine, in its weskit, which is essentially a man’s formal white evening vest. It is worn over a blouse or dress. May 1933.

For men, there was a brief fad for short mess jackets — copied from the military — in 1934.

I’ll leave blouses from 1934 for another day.


Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Women in Trousers

Blouses from 1931

Butterick blouses 4225 and 4198, December 1931. Delineator magazine.

The blouses of the early 1930’s are varied and, to my eyes, attractive.  They take their interest from unusual cuts and soft fabrics, like silk or rayon crepe, or, in one case, “triple georgette.”

It’s notable that, although these blouses can be worn tucked into the skirt, wearing them as shown gives a dressy effect. Only three years earlier, 1920’s styles broke the silhouette at the hip, so these may be transitional to the natural-waisted styles of the 1930’s, offering a familiar low line and a fitted waist.

This soft blouse with a shawl-like bertha collar was featured in April, 1931. It is Butterick 3758. It looks lovely in white, but watermelon pink was suggested.

Butterick blouse 3778 from Delineator, April 1931. Those openings on the upper arm seem to be popular again, but these end interestingly, with a tie.

Butterick blouse 4158 would easily go from office to date. November 1931, Delineator. Reversible (aka double-sided) crepe satin was suggested.

Butterick blouse 4164, November 1931. The slightly flared bottom is now a “peplum” and echoes the flared wrists.

Three elegant blouses were illustrated in December — perhaps in time for office parties….

Left, another rather formal blouse that would turn a simple skirt into a dressy dinner outfit: Butterick 4217 from December 1931. Sleeves became more complex and sometimes have a “cuff” at or above the elbow while the sleeve continues to the wrist. The dark outfit is a dress.

Butterick blouses 4225 and 4198, December 1931.  These overblouses could be tucked in, or worn as illustrated.

“…Note its length, for blouses are creeping up on us.”

Alternate views of Butterick 4217, 4225, and 4198, from December 1931. 4198 is shorter than the others.

Next: More Blouses from the early 1930’s — 1932 and 1933.


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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Envelope Chemises, Step-ins, and Other Lingerie, 1924-25

An ad for Royal Society embroidery “package outfits;” Delineator, November 1924, p. 78. It seems that these were kits, ready to be embr0idered.

The variety of lingerie — and the names — from Butterick’s 1924 underwear patterns is amazing to me. It’s a specialized area that doesn’t really make me want to hit the reference books. However, for those of you who love or collect vintage undies, here are some images and pattern descriptions from 1924 and 1925.

The two garments on the right are called “combinations;” The one with birds is Butterick 5030; the one on the far right (“drawer skirt combination”) is Butterick 5050. Delineator, February 1924.

A closer look at combination 5030 and drawer skirt combination  5050. No. 5030 seems to form into legs, but in fact the front and back hems are connected with a strip of fabric.

The back view implies that 5050 has a crotch strap running from front to back [and closed with buttons]. The text doesn’t really explain how number 5050 is constructed. “Tub” means “washable.” 5030 is a “dainty step-in combination chemise and drawers.”

These two patterns were illustrated repeatedly, but not together, with varied descriptions. I arbitrarily referred to this pale green one-piece as a “teddie” in a previous post, but I’m no longer sure that’s the correct term. It might be  “combinations” or a “step-in” chemise. [See comments.]


This pale green, tucked teddy [or step-ins? or combinations? ] has a crotch strap, barely visible. It stops at the edge of the netting lace. You can see a straight line of stitching where it attaches to the garment, about an inch or so above the lace trim.

Edit 1/17/18: thevintagetraveler says this green envelope chemise is not a step-in, because step-ins don’t have a button crotch. See her very helpful comment for more clarifications. That makes this a step-in:

Vintage step-ins; the crotch has no buttons, the sides are open below the waist, and they would not be easy to step into, because your hips would have to fit through the waist — or, rather, the waist has to be as big as your hips.

Detail of leg on vintage combination step-ins. It would not be easy to answer the call of nature while wearing these.

[End of edited section….]

Butterick “Step-in” 4112 and “Envelope Chemise” 5059, pictured in Delineator, June 1924. You can see the button crotch in both of these. But how does a “combination” differ from a “step-in?” Or a “step-in combination” as it says here?

The very low crotch looks uncomfortable to a woman who grew up wearing knitted briefs, but there was probably a notion that “the parts need airing,” as was sometimes claimed by wearers of kilts.

Butterick “cami-knickers” 5124 with “envelope chemise” 5059. Delineator, April 1924.

Munsingwear offered this unfussy, step-in version of a “woven union suit with closed gore, step-in style.”

Ad for Munsingwear knitted underwear for women; Delineator, June 1924. If the crotch strap was close to the hem, that “wide opening at the side” [see below] would be needed.

And the Munsingwear ad mentions bloomers among its underwear selections.

Below, a pair of “knickers” held by a young woman wearing an “envelope chemise.”

The model wearing “envelope chemise” 4137 is holding a pair of “knickers,” pattern 3197. In the U.S., “Knickers” sometimes referred to undergarments in January 1924, and still does in England. Delineator, January 1924. [And Delineator was published in England as well as in the U.S.]

Knickers? Bloomers? Confused? That’s OK. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist….” Incidentally, the pattern numbers give you an idea which were slightly earlier styles that were being continued (3000’s and 4000’s) and newer styles (5000’s and 6000’s.) This knickers pattern (6194) — clearly an undergarment — was new in 1925:

Butterick knickers pattern 6194 was brand new in August of 1925 — and these knickers are definitely underwear.

But, to add to my confusion, Butterick offered knicker pattern 3496 as outdoor wear, also in the summer of 1925.

Woman golfer wearing knicker pattern 3496, from Delineator, July 1925, p. 35.

The number series suggests knicker pattern 3496 was issued back in 1922 or 1923 and still popular in 1925.

Butterick pattern 3496, knickers to wear for sports. Delineator, January 1925, p. 34.

Knickers? Bloomers? Drawers?

Butterick pattern 4974, for step-in “Drawers” was probably issued in 1923 or early 1924. These have elastic in the waist, making them easy to step into and draw up.

Butterick “step-in drawers” pattern 5564, from October 1924. “Under the new narrow dresses you should wear lingerie cut on correspondingly narrow lines.”

This set (“chemise and drawers”) was featured in June, 1924.

A “French chemise” and one-piece step-in drawers, Butterick 3826, illustrated in June 1924. I’m guessing that the pattern contained  a camisole-and-drawers version and an all-in-one version as shown at right. “Width at bottom of each leg 30 inches.”

This vintage step-in [1/17/18 edit: Combination] chemise would look different on a human body. This silky beauty has no waist seam. It does have a button crotch.

“Drawer-skirt combination” (5050, at left,) camisole 4957, and envelope chemise 5059. Delineator, May 1924.

This lovely vintage set of camisole and drawers shows its button crotch clearly:

This vintage set — I love the contrasting lace and embroidery color — has a separate camisole and [not step-in] drawers. Since the waist is not elastic, the “drawers” need to have a button crotch.

A camisole, which covers only the upper body, could be worn with drawers, like the camisole and drawers (or step-ins?)  shown in this Royal Society ad:

Detail from Royal Society ad, November 1924. The camisole costs $1.25 and the drawers [?] cost $1.50.

Different patterns for drawers were issued:

Butterick 4974 was called ” step-in drawers” in January 1924. They have an elastic waist, so they might not need a button-crotch. For hips 35″ to 52.”

A new set of step-in drawers “in a skirt effect” is illustrated in October, 1924: Butterick pattern 5565. These would need a strap-type crotch of some kind. [They don’t have separate legs, so why are they called “drawers?”]

Drawers and knickers were different from bloomers, which tended to be fuller:


Bloomers, Butterick 5705; Delineator, March 1925. To read about boneless corselettes, click here.

But bloomers, like knickers, could also be outerwear:

Butterick “combination” 5030 (again) and bloomers for a little girl [or girls 2 to 16 years!] Butterick 5065. Delineator, March 1924. These bloomers are attached to an underbodice, very practical for the years when little girls have tummies bigger than their hips. [I remember needing suspenders on my skirts in first grade….]

Often, “bloomers” were intended to be seen, and were worn by almost all girls as part of their gym suits, or for any active pursuits. The middy blouse would cover the underbodice:

Middy blouse 3849 was a classic. I have photos of my aunt and friends graduating from high school wearing a middy-blouse-plus-white-skirt uniform in 1917. Gym bloomers (“for girls or misses 2 to 18”) were very full, often pleated. Delineator, February 1924. The Vintage Traveler shared a whole middy catalog from the 1920’s here.

Did I learn anything from this adventure in undergarment nomenclature?  Only to avoid making absolute pronouncements about bloomers, knickers, drawers, teddies, chemises, camisoles, combinations, and step-ins! [Please see helpful comment from thevintagetraveler!]









Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes