Tag Archives: fashions First World War

“Original and Becoming” Work Clothes, 1917

Work clothes for women suggested by Ladies Home Journal, Sept. 1917

Some work clothes for women suggested by Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917. Illus. signed Sheldon.

This article suggests seven different work outfits suitable for American women in wartime. One of them, surprisingly, is a dress with a divided skirt — what would later be called a culotte skirt. Sadly, although the Ladies’ Home Journal sold its own mail order patterns, none of these outfits has a pattern number. The article is “editorial,” suggesting that outfits which would have been rather shocking a few months earlier may now be “safely” worn on the streets and in the stores of an America at war. I’ll show an overview first, and then describe each outfit with its accompanying text. Except where noted, all illustrations are from the same Ladies’ Home Journal article, dated September 1917. 1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants ctr 5001917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants btm text 500

Women in Trousers, 1917

Women were already wearing bloomers for gym classes and jodhpurs or riding breeches when on horseback. In July of 1917, a rival fashion magazine, Delineator, had suggested that a sort of trouser outfit might be worn for housework:

Butteric pattern No. 9294 for a smock dress over bloomers. Delineator, July 1917.

Butterick pattern No. 9294 for a smock dress over bloomers. House-dress No. 9288 is on the right. Delineator, July 1917.

“For the home-reserve corps comes this new costume (design 9294) suited to the woman who wants to go on active service — either at home, out camping, or for gardening.” The house-dress next to it shows a typical hem length for women. As skirts became shorter, they were usually worn with opaque stockings or boots.

The bloomer outfit above, with gathered cuffs, is a close relative of women’s pajamas like these, also from 1917 :

Butterick pajama pattern No. 9400, Sept 1917. Delineator magazine.

Butterick pajama pattern No. 9400, Sept 1917. Delineator magazine.

The Ladies’ Home Journal Suggests Some Trouser Outfits for 1917

“Even the most inveterate feminine ‘slacker’ will be lured into laborious occupations if such fascinating uniforms as these are to be worn.” [After World War I began in August, 1914, women in Europe began filling traditionally male occupations in order to free men for military service. “Land girls” worked on farms; women became train and street car conductors, munitions workers, heavy equipment operators, etc.]

1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants top left breeches“[These] trig knee-buttoned trousers …, worn with a laced skirted blouse, tam and laced high boots, were designed for an ardent motorist. Surely even the most stubborn opposition could be overcome at sight of these!” For an official Red Cross Motor Corps Woman’s Uniform, click here.1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants top right“It may be that the fair farm maid . . . has paused dissatisfied with her work, but surely no doubt could lurk in her mind as to the fitness of her well-made olive-drab khaki suit. Side fullness given by plaits [pleats] begins at the underarm and ends at the hem.” lhj 1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants ctr rake“[Above] One may rake, pile, and burn autumn leaves  in the serene consciousness that no flickering flame will catch on the strapped leggings worn with [this] pocketed bloomer suit. . . .” 1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants ctr“Indoors expediency demands simplified dressing, and the adoption of such an attractive combination — apron, blouse, divided skirt — as shown above . . . made of ticking, may do much to encourage women to take up their housework seriously.” [Note the unusual “divided skirt!” In 1917, the word apron could refer to a garment we would now call a dress.] 1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants btm left shopping“When marketing is part of the day’s routine, a long tucked smock of khaki with wide-bottom trousers… makes a work outfit one could safely venture out in.” [Think about what is implied by “safely.” The government encouraged women to collect their own groceries rather than having them delivered, freeing the deliverymen for active service.] lhj 1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm pants ctr right“Strapped leggings, a high buttoned collar, hip pockets and wrist straps effectively suppress any loophole which may hint of feminine softness in [this] public service uniform.” Oh, really ? Her pose makes me wonder exactly what public service she is performing! For official Red Cross service uniforms, click here. 1917 sept p 89 work clothes farm btm rt outfit“Indoors or out, one could find many reasons why and times when just such a quaint smock and short skirt as [these] could be worn.”  I don’t know what the editors of Ladies’ Home Journal were thinking, but the Red Cross did not allow women younger than 23 to serve coffee and doughnuts to the troops. They had their reasons. Although artistic, this leg-baring outfit might be subject to misinterpretation.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers, World War I

Tam-o’-Shanters for Women, 1917

Tams for Women. Ladies' Home Journal, 1917; Delineator, Sept. 1917.

Tams for Women. Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917; Delineator, Sept. 1917.

Tam o’ shanters have been popular hats for women at several periods, including the turn of the century . . .

Women in tams, as pictured in Punch Magazine, 1896 and 1901.

Women in tams, as pictured in Punch Magazine, 1896 and 1901.

the World War I era . . .

Young woman in a fashionable velvet tam, about 1918.

Young woman in a fashionable velvet tam, about 1918.

the twenties, the thirties, the nineteen sixties, and into the twenty-first century:

Tam "Beret" pattern, Vogue # 7980, 2004.

Tam “Beret” pattern, Vogue # 7980, 2004.

Origins of the Tam o’ Shanter

The Tam-o’-Shanter (or Tam o’ Shanter) was originally a hat worn by Scottish men.

Two Scotsmen, as drawn by Charles Keene in Punch Magazine, 1880.

Two Scotsmen, as drawn by Charles Keene in Punch Magazine, 1880.

With them it entered the military . . .

A private in Crawford’s Highland Regiment, 1740, Illustrated by Pierre Turner. From Michael Barthrop’s British Infantry Uniforms Since 1660.

A private in Crawford’s Highland Regiment, 1740, Illustrated by Pierre Turner. From Michael Barthrop’s British Infantry Uniforms Since 1660.

and became part of the official uniform of some regiments, like the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Tams and Berets

In its simplest form, a tam is just a round or oval piece of cloth gathered into a band around the head.

Some tams are made of two round pieces, or a round piece and a cylinder, stitched together around the circumference; the round hole in the lower piece can be eased into the band with or without gathering. This can produce a crisp look, as in this Vogue pattern illustration from 2004.

Vogue pattern 7980, dated 2004.

Vogue pattern 7980, dated 2004.

Vogue called this a beret in 2004; “tam-o-shanter” had disappeared from the current fashion vocabulary by then. Today, you can find tams – some with a 1920s look – at hats.com, but they are classified as berets, not tam o’ shanters.

A beret.

A beret.

Sometimes the words “tam ” and “beret” are used interchangeably, but a beret usually has a very narrow binding around the head, and a relatively small crown.

Tam, 1917.

Tam, 1917.

The tam o’ shanter usually has a wider band.

Also, the crown of a tam is much bigger than the band, and the tam is rarely symmetrical when worn by women; it tilts or droops to one side or to the back.

Both berets and tams can be worn with the band turned to the inside, where it isn’t seen:

Tam o' shanter, 1925.

Tam o’ shanter, 1925. Delineator.

Tams for Women, 1917

Tams were very popular with women’s fashions during the First World War. This Paris design “for very young women” is by Paquin, as famous in her day as Poiret or Patou:

A chic Paris costume for a 'very young lady" by Mme. Paquin, 1917. Delineator.

A chic Paris costume for ‘very young women” by Mme. Paquin, 1917. Delineator.

Here, a Butterick coat pattern is accessorized with a tam (left):

On the left, a tam worn with a coat by Butterick, Sept. 1917. Delineator.

On the left, a tam worn with a coat pattern by Butterick, Sept. 1917. Delineator.

In 1917, tams could reach rather extreme sizes, something like a chef’s toque (technically, a ‘toque” is any hat without a brim; since tam o’ shanters have no brim,  the line between tams and toques can blur. Most fashion hats described as “toques” are more vertical than horizontal, lacking these huge crowns.)

Women in tams, Sept. 1917. Delineator.

Women in tams (one is like a chef’s toque), Sept. 1917. Delineator.

A tam made of fur and a tam made of velvet; Ladies' Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

A tam made of fur and a tam made of fur or velvet; Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

Tams were also popular because they could be knitted or crocheted:

Delineator crochet patterns, Sept. 1917.

Delineator crochet patterns, Sept. 1917.

Ad for Bear Brand Yarn, Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

Ad for Bear Brand Yarn, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

This young lady got really carried away and made a matching tam, scarf, and handbag trimmed with Vari-colored cross-stitch:

Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

A knit tam could be rolled up and stuck in a pocket, which made them handy for wearing to school.

Both Delineator magazine and Ladies’ Home Journal encouraged their readers to economize during the First World War by making new clothes from worn-out or out-moded clothing.  One Home Journal reader bragged that she salvaged enough fabric from her old velvet skirt to make tams for both of her daughters and a “small toque” for herself:

Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Her examples look very much like this soft tam (or toque?) from Delineator magazine:

Delineator, Sept 1917.

Delineator, Sept 1917.

Perhaps the model on the right is explaining that her clever mother made this soft velvet hat from an old skirt.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

World War I Creates Fabric Shortages, Remade Dresses; 1918

“It is part of the spirit of the times that we see, not that we are deprived of linen, but that we have gained something gay and charming in the revival of cotton.”

The Green Peace of Summer:  “It is part of the spirit of the times that we see, not that we are deprived of linen, but that we have gained something gay and charming in the revival of cotton.” Garden Smock, 1918

Many people are aware that, during World War II, such products as silk, leather, rubber, and nylon were needed for the war effort. In the 1940s, the silk was needed for parachutes. 1943 wartime ad for synthetic fabrics

Wool and Linen Needed for the War Effort, 1918

World War I apparently caused different shortages – of linen and wool. Vast numbers of silk parachutes were not yet needed; war planes were still a new idea. During the First World War, the wool was needed for uniforms, and the linen was needed for airplanes.

Two Soldiers, World War I. Wool was needed for their uniforms.

Two American Soldiers, World War I. Wool was needed for millions of uniforms.

An editorial article, “The Green Peace of Summer,” which appeared in Delineator magazine in July of 1918, contrasted the way the war was experienced in the United States with its much greater impact in Europe. It also refers to the substitution of silk dresses for wool and linen, which may explain why silk dresses for daytime were so popular in the late teens and early twenties.

M. La Rue in a beaded satin day dress, circa 1921.

M. La Rue in a beaded satin day dress, circa 1921.

Young Woman, circa 1918

Young Woman, in silk taffeta (?) dress circa 1917

The War in Europe, Seen from America

“To-day [July, 1918] the green peace of our summer… fills us with… amazement, viewing it, as we all must do, against the somber background of the war. Over there gardens and fields and meadows are torn and gutted by giant shells…. Our world still goes about its business little changed outwardly for all the tragedy of the battle-fields abroad.

“There are many reasons why the war has not made as great and immediate a change in our lives as it has done abroad. So many of our men are left, so many even of draft age have been excused because of dependents and because of war industries, that no revolution of work and life has taken place here comparable to what has happened in England and France. Of course, we have our women street-car conductors. In every country this has been the profession that women have turned to first.

Women Tram Conductors in Scotland, 1915, from E. Ewing’s History of Twentieth Century Fashion

Women Tram Conductors in Scotland, 1915, from E. Ewing’s History of Twentieth Century Fashion

“… In these serious times, clothes have become a serious subject…. We study clothes as we have never studied them before…. We jump at the chance to save a bit of material by following the vogue of the sleeveless blouse and the sleeveless coat…. We [gladly] wear gingham and calico. We wear them in place of linen, knowing that there is little linen left in the world and that it is being used for new wings for our avions.” — Delineator editorial, July 1918

Biplanes at Varney Field, California, about 1919

Biplanes at Varney Field, California, about 1919

Before aluminum was widely used, airplane wings were a framework covered with stiffened cloth canvas. You can see a bit of cloth-covered wing in the upper right of this photograph, taken in the early 1920s:

Young Woman at Flying School, about 1921

Young Woman at Flying School, about 1921. Used with permission of RememberedSummers.

“But it is part of the spirit of the times that we see, not that we are deprived of linen, but that we have gained something gay and charming in the revival of gingham, that the difference in price between cotton and linen means many thrift stamps and comforts for the Red Cross.

“Salvation Army Lassies Start to Carry Doughnuts and Coffee to Soldiers at the Front,” Delineator, 1918

Dresses Made of Silk Instead of Wool Serge

Silk Dresses from an Article About Remaking Clothes, Nov. 1918.

Silk Dresses from an Article About Remaking Clothes, Nov. 1918.

“We are enchanted with the substitution of silk and satin for our old friend serge, and the disappearance of fine woolens from the shops becomes not a hardship but an endowment policy, for whereas old clothes used to give us rather an abused feeling, we now find ourselves quite rich with an out-of-date French serge or fine gabardine that can be remodeled.”

Silk Soutache Braid and Glass Beading on a Brown Wool Dress, 1910s to early 1920s

Silk Soutache Braid and Glass Beading on a Brown Wool Dress, 1910s to early 1920s

A Remade Dress, First World War Era

Three views of a brown wool dress, remade. 1910s to 1920s

Three views of a brown wool dress, remade. Note the depth of the hem, which showed signs of soil at a previous hemline.  1910s to 1920s

This beaded dress in cinnamon brown wool is hard to date precisely, because it shows signs of having been remodeled as well as shortened. The hem was turned up several inches, which suggests that it was originally from the early 1910s.

Front Detail. One tassel is missing.

Front Detail. One tassel is missing. Note the way the extended lapels are looped under, and the odd, wrinkled strip that fills in the top of the neckline. Of course, this mannequin does not have a period bustline to fill it out.

Some of the fabric (perhaps formerly a belt?) was used — rather crudely — to fill in the neckline, but it was hand-stitched in place with rotting thread and had to be removed.

A bulky piece of wool, folded to fit in the neckline, and closed with snaps, was hand-stitched to the top of the neckline.

A bulky piece of wool, folded to fit in the neckline, and closed with snaps, was hand-stitched to the top of the neckline. Here it is partly removed.

The quality of the wool, the overall condition, and the lovely soutache and beading trim made it a prime candidate for remaking during the war years. If anyone can supply more detective work, please share! [I no longer know the whereabouts of the dress.]

Fringe at the bottom of the long panel which ends the peplum.

Fringe at the bottom of the long panel which ends the peplum. See side view.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Dresses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, World War I