Tag Archives: fashion transition changes 1920s to 1930s

Directoire Sleeves, 1929 and 1930

Butterick dress pattern 3196 from May, 1930; Delineator. The sleeves were a new style.

I was so fixated on waistlines rising and hemlines falling in the short time period 1929-1930 that I was overlooking other fashion changes. One is the short (i.e., mid-bicep length) or “one-quarter” sleeve (click here); another is the introduction of a short, puffy sleeve on dresses for adult women.

The dress on the right, Butterick 3141, has sheer sleeves which are smooth at the shoulder and puffed at the cuff. Delineator, April 1930.

These sleeves were sometimes described as “Directoire.”

Butterick 3227, from May, 1930. Delineator, p. 32. It was available in sizes for both teens and women.

“Directoire” refers to the period of French history called the Directory, which was brief: 1795 to 1799. It ended with the rise of Napoleon to political power. However, fashion vocabulary is often used very loosely. For many writers, “directoire” and “empire” are used interchangeably.

Portrait of Empress Josephine Bonaparte by Massot, 1812, courtesy of The Hermitage. To see the full painting, click here.

The gigantic painting of the Coronation of Napoleon, by Jacques-Louis David, shows Josephine and other ladies of the Imperial court wearing sleeves that are puffed at the shoulder as well as the cuff, but this may reflect an attempt to evoke earlier royal outfits, or as a result of the painting being completed in 1807, three years after the coronation took place (and seven years after the Directory ended.) By 1807, the trend for puffy gathered sleeves was in progress.

I recommend tiffanyslittleblog for excellent close-up views and identification of the characters in the painting. She shows a preliminary sketch of Josephine wearing sleeves that are puffed at the bottom, but not at the top, as well as a close-up of her coronation dress, for comparison. Napoleon’s sisters also wear puffed sleeves.

Which brings me back to the description of this image:

Butterick dress pattern 3196 from May, 1930; Delineator. The sleeve is “the Directoire pouf.”

American women were already wearing these sleeves, as seen in this advertisement which ran in April, 1930:

“Women of America” in an ad for Air-Way, April 1930.

It appears that the sleeve which is not noticeably gathered at the shoulder is closer to the original “directoire sleeve.”

English fashion plate dated 1796, courtesy of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum.

Another directoire sleeve from May 1930. Butterick 3231, for sizes 32 to 44. Delineator.

“The position of the high waistline depends on how you wear your belt.” For women who were reluctant to abandon the low waistline of the 1920s, some dresses were made without a waist seam.

This blouse, which could be made with long sleeves, still has a 1920’s silhouette — except for its sleeves. Butterick 3185 from April, 1930.

Because I grew up in the 1950s, I associate the puffy sleeve with dresses for little girls. This is how I was dressed for elementary school:

Dresses for little girls, Butterick Fashion News flyer, January 1951.

Older girls also wore puffy sleeves to school in the Fifties. BFN flyer, 1951. I remember a wearing a plaid dress with puffy sleeves in 1954.

However, except for “peasant” influenced smocked dresses, little girls didn’t usually wear puffed sleeves in the Nineteen Twenties.

1926 fashions for very young children. Delineator, September 1926.

Dresses for schoolgirls, May, 1926. Delineator. They do not have puffy sleeves.

I did find a few examples of puffed sleeves on girls’ dresses from the late 1920’s:

Puffed sleeves on a party dress for girls 8 to 15, from January 1928.

A 1920’s dress with puffed sleeves for a girl 6 to 10. January 1929, Delineator.

Nevertheless, the reintroduction of the puffed sleeve for women, teens, and little girls was called “new” in 1930.

The girl on the left has “quaint” “old-new” sleeves. Delineator, June 1930.

Even in 1930, puffed sleeves could be associated with youth.

The puff sleeved dress on the left is recommended for a sixteen year old. Butterick 3254, June 1930.

Another dress with directoire sleeves for young women. Butterick 3298, from July 1930.

The dress on the left is definitely for a teen rather than a sophisticated adult. Butterick 3202, May 1930.

This dress, Butterick 3120 from March 1930, is for teens 14 to 20. Delineator.

Right, Butterick 3572 from December 1930. “A frock from Kate Greenaway’s Almanac.” Kate Greenaway wrote picture books for children, often dressing them in  empire styles.

The alternate view shows dress 3572 made sleeveless.

This little flower girl definitely shows the Kate Greenaway influence:

An Empire dress for the flower girl at a wedding in September 1930 “makes her look like a miniature nineteenth century belle.” It wouldn’t look out of place at a wedding today.

But these sleeves were also worn by older members of the wedding:

From blouses to evening gowns, the “quaint” directoire sleeve made a modest appearance around 1930.

Blouse 3111, from March 1930, has short puffed sleeves –“very new and … having a tremendous vogue.” In sizes 32 to 44.

Butterick 3988 from September, 1931.

Puffed sleeves on a “simple frock” at a picnic; advertisement, July 1930.

Sleeve heads became enormous later in the thirties — especially after the 1932 movie Letty Lynton. Did their inflation start with these “quaint” styles from 1930?

Butterick Fashion News flyer, cover, May 1938.

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s-1830s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1950s-1960s, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 19th century, Mid-Victorian fashions, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Fashion Transition: From 1920’s to 1930’s

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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:

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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

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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.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/1929-jan-cartoon-skirt-length-delineator.jpg?w=500

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

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