Tag Archives: First World War

Official Uniform: Members of the Food Administration, 1917

Article explaining the need for food conservation in World War I, LHJ, Sept. 1917.

Article explaining the need for food conservation in World War I, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Linda Przybyszewski’s The Lost Art of Dress (after reading several very favorable reviews, including this one from The Vintage Traveler). I had barely started reading the book when I found a paragraph on page 4 about the importance of home economists to the war effort in World War I:

“With the help of the home economists, the US Food Administration recruited some 750,000 women to help teach the rest of America’s women about food conservation . . . .  The recruits got a pin, a badge, and a pattern for an apron. The white apron was named after Herbert Hoover, who was then head of the Food Adminstration. The Hoover apron’s claim to design fame was that it completely wrapped around your dress and protected it from spills, opening in the front with a large overlap. . . .”

“I’ve seen one of those,” I thought. And here it is, from Ladies’ Home Journal, September, 1917.

The Official Badge and Uniform of Members of the Food Administration of the United States, WW I. From an official article in Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

The Official Badge and Uniform of Members of the Food Administration of the United States, WW I. From an official article in Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

“. . . .Since it could overlap in either direction, you could wear it twice as long as a regular apron before it was too filthy to wear. It was practical, and sort of disgusting, but it became a popular design.  Renamed “Hooverettes” or “bungalow aprons,” done up in perky prints with ruffles at the neck and sleeves, they were sold in stores as dresses over the next two decades.” — Linda Przybyszewski, The Lost Art of Dress, p. 4.

Przybyszewski cites an article by Joan Sullivan from Dress 26, “In Pursuit of Legitimacy:  Home Economists and the Hoover Apron in World War I,” which I have not read. It’s available from The Costume Society of America.

I’ll print the picture of the uniform again,  in two sections, so the text and details will be more legible:

lhj 1917 sept p 27 Food uniform top 500 w

lhj 1917 sept p 27 Food uniform btm 500 dpi wIn spite of Dr. Przybyszewski’s description, the official apron was not white, but “of blue chambray.”  The fact that the pieces all “open out flat” for ironing must have been a great point in its favor, like the removeable cuffs.  Notice that “any woman who signs the Hoover pledge is entitled to wear” this uniform. The Hoover Pledge appeared in the August Ladies’ Home Journal and other women’s magazines. lhj 1917 aug woman and war hoover pledgeHere are the rules these women were agreeing to follow: lhj 1917 aug woman and war 500 hoover asks box

Boxes explaining the food conservation rules appeared in many articles in the Ladies' Home Journal. Aug. 1917 .

Wartime illustrations explaining the food conservation rules appeared throughout the Ladies’ Home Journal. Aug. 1917 .

American women had been reading about the sacrifices made by European women during the twenty months that passed before the United States entered the war. The women’s magazines showed pictures of women in uniform in England, of women filling previously male occupations, and American women were eager to do their part. Judging from the fashion illustrations and patterns available, they were also depressingly eager to wear uniforms, or clothing that looked like uniforms, as if one couldn’t volunteer to host a war relief fund-raiser until dressed like a pseudo soldier.

Butterick patterns for women and teens, Delineator, August 1917.

Butterick patterns for women and teens, Delineator, August 1917.

Aprons and House Dresses

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A “Hoover apron,” 1917.

It’s a little surprising to modern eyes to see this all-covering, sleeved garment described as an apron, but the distinction between aprons and house dresses remained blurry into the 1920s.  The “Hoover apron” was very similar to these 1917 house dresses from Butterick — dresses which preceded the Food Administration uniform:

Butterick House Dress pattern, June 1917.  Delineator.

Butterick House Dress pattern, June 1917. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, January 1917.  From left, a negligee, a house dress, a wrap house dress, and a negligee. From Delineator magazine..

Butterick patterns, January 1917. From left, a negligee, a house dress, a wrap house dress, and a negligee. From Delineator magazine.

However, in the 1920s, aprons that we would call dresses, and which pulled on over the head, appeared equally with sleeveless aprons that primarily covered the front of the body.

Two Butterick aprons, 1924. #5156, left, is dress-like; #5096, right, is recognizably an apron.

Two Butterick aprons, 1924. #5156, left, is dress-like; #5096, right, is recognizably an apron.

[For those who do not remember the house dress, it was a dress — often with pockets — that was easy to launder and was worn while doing housework. Even in the 1940s, no woman with pretensions to the middle class would wear a house dress outside her own yard. In 1917, they were also called “porch dresses.”]

Butterick patterns from February 1924. The flowered garment is called an apron. The wrap dress on the right is a house dress.

Butterick patterns from February 1924. Center:  Apron #5026. Right: House dress #5043.

The floral garment in the center is described as an apron. The wrap dress on the right is a “house dress.” Perhaps some women would have called them Hooverettes?

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

Recycling, Paisley, and Shawls

A pink paisley printed dress, from Elegance, Fall 1965-66.

A pink paisley printed dress, from Elegance, Fall 1965-66.

I was a sixties girl. Paisley patterns were worn by hippies and Vogue readers alike.

Indian textiles on the Beatles. Ringo, at right, is wearing a paisley print shirt. Public domain photo from www.brandeis.edu

Indian textiles on the Beatles. Ringo, at right, is wearing a paisley print shirt. Public domain photo from http://www.brandeis.edu

In the 1960s, Western manufacturers adapted the pattern into double-knits, like this jacket. . .

A paisley knit suit jacket, Elegance magazine, Fall 1965-66.

A paisley knit suit jacket, Elegance magazine, Fall 1965-66.

. . . and created subtler prints based on Indian designs, like this light pink wool.

pink paisley close upI owned several paisley dresses, with patterns ranging from ‘dark and subtle’ to ‘psychedelic and enormous.’

Simplicity pattern 6729 for a Jiffy dress, illustrated in Paisley on the left. 1966

Simplicity pattern 6729 for a Jiffy dress, illustrated in Paisley on the left. 1966

But I never made the connection between the pattern I called “paisley” and the Scottish cloth-manufacturing town of Paisley until this month. This was a good month for learning about paisley. I had been reading a book about Jane Austen, which included an illustration of a “paisley” shawl; then I read a magazine from 1917 which showed examples of clothing made out of old paisley shawls.

A coat, hat, & bag, and a dress made from old paisley shawls. Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

A coat, hat, & bag, made from one Victorian  shawl, and a dress made from another old paisley shawl. Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

To me, it seemed like sacrilege to chop a huge, [already] 60-year old wool or cashmere shawl . . .

A cashmere shaw, mid-1800s, from Wikipedia.

A cashmere shaw, mid-1800s, from Wikipedia.

. . . into ugly 1917 clothing, but, of course, such fabric recycling is an old tradition. The Metropolitan Museum has examples of Victorian Paisley shawls converted into mid-Victorian bathrobes, and dolman jackets, 1920s coats, and rather chic 1920s suits.

Finding the History of Paisley Patterns and Paisley Shawls

I found two excellent articles online about the history of the paisley pattern (called “boteh” in India) as it was adopted and adapted for mass manufacture during the 1800s. Threads of History gives a marvellous illustrated history of the development of both the shawl and the Paisley/boteh pattern (click here.) In Victoriana, Meg Andrews also discusses the fashion history of paisley, with many different illustrations, and explains why this luxury item eventually went out of style and into attics. (click here.)

The Real Jane Austen and Her Shawl

Rectangular Indian shawls were fashionable in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Image from Wikipedia.

Rectangular Indian shawls were fashionable in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Image from Wikipedia.

I recently enjoyed reading The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne. This is not a conventional birth-to-death biography, but an exploration of Jane Austen’s world via several objects connected with her daily life: her portable writing desk, a silhouette of her family, a topaz necklace purchased for her by one of her sailor brothers, etc.  Chapter Two uses an East Indian Shawl as a springboard into her family connections with India, trade, and a family scandal (Like her character, Emma, Austen knew a young woman born out of wedlock. In Austen’s case, it was a near relation whom she knew quite well.) You can read detailed and very informative reviews of The Real Jane Austen in The Telegraph (click here), or by [Dickens expert and actor] Simon Callow (click here.)

Paisley Shawls Recycled, 1917

Having just read Paula Byrne’s Austen book, I had paisley shawls on my mind when I found these ‘recycled’ paisley shawls in the Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917:

A coat, hat, & bag, and a dress made from old paisley shawls. Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

It took one shawl to make this coat, hat, & bag;  a dress made from another Victorian Paisley shawl.  Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

When the United States entered World War I, in 1917, women expected fabric shortages. Women’s magazines like Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal, both in the business of selling sewing patterns, began to write about ways that new clothing could be made from materials on hand. Women had always utilized dresses from the attic, and their own family’s used clothing, for children’s clothes, quilts, etc. (A bodice from the 1850s or 1860s is still relatively easy to find; finding an 1860s bodice with its matching skirt is much harder, since the skirts contained several yards of easily re-useable fabric.) Wool and silk Paisley shawls were among the garments frequently remade into robes, dresses, handbags and 1920s suits and coats.  (You can see the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of paisley shawls, and clothing made from shawls, by clicking here.)

More Creative Recycling, 1917

The Vintage Traveler has written about remade shawls and vintage clothing. Collectors of vintage clothing will probably cringe at this chiffon gown (pictured at right) converted into a couple of blouses:

A "terribly old-fashioned"  chiffon evening dress converted into a blouse. Ladies Home Journal, 1917

A “terribly old-fashioned” chiffon  dress converted into a blouse. Ladies Home Journal, 1917

But I give full marks for creativity to this handbag — made from a scrap of black velvet and a pair of old, long, white leather gloves with black stitching!

Handbag made from old gloves, Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

Handbag made from old gloves, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Vintage Accessories

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