Tag Archives: frock

Was Vionnet the First Couturier to Use a Zipper? Spring 1929

Vionnet Spring 1929, Sketched for Delineator magazine, March 1929, page 27

Vionnet for Spring 1929, Sketched for Delineator magazine, March 1929, page 27

Delineator Magazine Reports on Paris Fashions, March 1929

The Butterick Publishing Company, which published Butterick patterns and also the Delineator magazine, maintained an office in Paris for the purpose of reporting on couture and other Paris fashions.

“…Butterick keeps a staff of experts in Paris all the time. Wherever new modes are launched there is a Butterick expert noting each successful model.  Quickly that expert cables the news. Sketches, details follow by the fastest steamers. Immediately patterns are made for each of the successful new modes.” — Butterick Advertisement in Delineator, August 1924, p. 67.

Couture for Spring, 1929,  Article in Delineator, March 1929, page 27.

Paris Fashions for Spring, 1929, Article in Delineator, March 1929, page 27.

The top left sketches show designs by Cheruit and Vionnet. Designs by London Trades and Mary Nowitsky at right. The evening gown is by Louiseboulanger.

Dress and jacket by Cheruit; Blouse, skirt, and coat ensemble by Vionnet, Spring 1929

Dress and jacket by Cheruit; Blouse, skirt, and coat ensemble by Vionnet, Spring 1929

The sketch and caption for the peach satin blouse by Vionnet show that it closes with a slide fastener – i.e., a zipper.

Delineator, March 1929, page 27.

Delineator, March 1929, page 27.

Butterick Pattern #2526: Culotte Blouse with Zipper; Wrap Skirt

Left, design by Vionnet; Right, Butterick pattern #2526

Left, design by Vionnet; Right, Butterick pattern #2526

When I turned to page 28 of the same issue, I found Butterick patterns which are nearly line-for-line copies of the Vionnet blouse, wrap skirt, and coat ensemble.

Butterick culotte blouse & skirt pattern #2526 on left, Coat pattern #2495 on right.

Butterick culotte blouse & skirt pattern #2526 on left, Coat pattern #2495 on right.

Back views, Butterick patterns #2526 and #2495

Back views, Butterick patterns #2526 and #2495

The name of Madeleine Vionnet does not appear on this page, but the idea for the culotte blouse is typical of her ingenuity. The problem of wearing a 1920s wrap skirt which rides far below the natural waistline (the skirt over a satin blouse would have a tendency to migrate around the body as you walk), and the problem of keeping the blouse tucked in when you sit and stand, or raise your arms, are both neatly solved by the “culotte blouse,” known much later in the 20th century as a bodysuit, as popularized by Donna Karan. The 1929 blouse is made-in-one with panties, like a camisole & panties underwear “combination” or “teddies”, also called “cami-knickers;” the crotch keeps the blouse from riding up and twisting around.

Here are the pattern descriptions:

Pattern descriptions for Butterick #2526 and # 2495.

Pattern descriptions for Butterick #2526 and # 2495.

1929 march p 28 vionnet zipper pattern blousePhoto Left of pattern #2526 “The Elegant Version of the Culotte”: This is Paris’ newest idea on the ensemble frock. The blouse is not only a blouse but a step-in, which gives it these advantages; it stays in place and it eliminates a piece of lingerie. It closes with a slide-fastener under the tied neck-line. The skirt is a graceful one-piece tie-around, holding the hips snugly. Designed for sizes 32 to 42. [bust measure]
1929 march p 28 coat pattern # 2495

Photo right of pattern #2495 “The Ensemble with Casual Coat”: The coat-and-frock ensemble has reached new peaks in the mode. There is no smarter example of it than this with a seven-eighths length coat, which hangs casually open, has moderately wide sleeves and a shawl collar, and the frock described above….Designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years); 36 to 44. [bust measure]

The Vionnet culotte blouse was described on page 27 as ending “in brief trousers with the new sliding fasteners at each side.” The Butterick culotte blouse pattern described on page 28 only mentions a slide fastener down the front. It’s difficult to say from the tiny back illustration (unfortunately on the curve of a bound volume) whether we are seeing a side seam or a side zipper. [Using the Ladies’ Room while wearing a bodysuit was always awkward, but I’m not sure side zippers would help much.]

I have not searched the library for other reviews of Vionnet’s collection for Spring of 1929, but it certainly deserves more investigation.

If you search for “Schiaparelli zipper” you may find sites claiming that she was the first couturier to use zippers (then called ‘slide fasteners.’)  She was among the first; and she pioneered (and even encouraged the development of) colored plastic zippers in women’s clothing.  But, unless Butterick invented the designs sketched in its March 1929 issue of Delineator, Vionnet deserves the credit for the first zipper used in couture.

#2526 is not the first Butterick dress pattern to use zippers; # 2365 appeared in December of 1928, and no designer was mentioned.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Zippers

A Dress Trimmed with Zippers, 1928

Dresses from Butterick patterns, December 1928

Dresses from Butterick patterns, December 1928

There’s something very unusual about the dress on the right.

Talon Zipper Advertisement, March 1929

Advertisement for Talon Slide Fasteners, March 1929

Advertisement for Talon Slide Fasteners, March 1929

This full-page advertisement for Talon slide-fasteners, made by the Hookless Fastener Company, appeared in Delineator magazine in March, 1929. (They were not called zippers, yet, because in 1929 a “Zipper” was a trademarked rain boot made by the B. F. Goodrich rubber company.)

Slide fasteners had been used in clothing, money belts, sleeping bags, etc. by the military in World War I, and in some men’s sportswear after the war, but they were not yet associated with women’s clothing. Many references will tell you that Elsa Schiaparelli pioneered the use of zippers in womens’ clothing in the 1930s, but in fact, she was not the first or the only designer who used them. [She does deserve credit for pioneering the use of colored plastic zippers, and for generating the most publicity about zippers being used in women’s wear in the mid-thirties.] 1929 march talon zipper ad color btm text 500dpi

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

From 1924 to 1927, the Hookless Fastener Company had been selling seventy per cent of its output to B.F. Goodrich to use in ‘Zippers.’

Then, suddenly, the novelty wore off (or the market was saturated), and Hookless was forced to find other markets, and other uses for its products. Hence, this campaign to introduce slide fasteners to home stitchers.

We take zippers so much for granted now that this ad bears close examination:

Top of Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, 1929

Top of Talon Slide-Fastener Ad, 1929

How to Find a Zipper

The mid section of the advertisement shows women what the display case — “Talon Cabinet” — at the fabric store will look like:1929 march talon zipper ad color middle too

. . . and what a zipper in a package looks like, too.1929 march talon zipper ad color close of pkgs

The women shopping for zippers are wearing dresses that close with zippers. 1929 march talon zipper ad name on slide

1929 march talon zipper ad color middle tooThe fine print in this ad is what sent me pouring through old Delineators: “Frock illustrated can be made with Butterick Pattern No. 2365. Note the Talon Slide-Fasteners used as a smart style feature.”

Here it is, featured in the December 1928 issue of Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

Butterick patterns 2251 & 2365, December 1928

Butterick patterns 2377 & 2365, December 1928

Butterick Pattern No. 2365, a Dress with Zippers, 1928

1928 dec #2365 dress with zippers bigger

#2365: “A two-piece frock adds the metal trimming touch of slide fasteners that deftly close the turn back collar, pockets, and cuffs of the slip-over blouse. There is a narrow belt, and the one-piece straight skirt is plaited [i.e., pleated] in front and plain in back. The frock is designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and 36 to 48 [bust measurement.]”

Of course, it’s impossible to know if any home stitchers actually made pattern #2365 in 1929. Zippers were relatively expensive — probably why the ad mentions that they will outlast the garments they’re put into — and this pattern uses six of them. The design does reinforce the message that Talon slide fasteners come in “10 lengths and 6 colors of tape.” And, as in many Schiaparelli designs of the 1930s, there is no attempt to conceal the zippers; they are used as trim as much as for convenience.

The same issue of Delineator  (March 1929) featured a line-for-line copy of an ensemble by Madeleine Vionnet which also uses zippers. But that deserves an entire post to itself!

Two good sources for information on the history of the device we now know as the zipper are Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, by Robert Friedel, and The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski.

Three Dresses from Butterick, December 1928

The white dress next to the zipper dress is so attractive I feel obliged to give more information about it, and about the one on the far left.

Three Butterick Patterns from Delineator, December 1928, page 34

Three Butterick Patterns from Delineator, December 1928, page 34

The white dress, # 2377 : “Bow knot trimming of selvage border at the V neck, close sleeves, and belt are extraordinarily smart. A skirt in front has pairs of plaits while the back is one piece, with tucks at the neck. The frock is especially good for borders. It is designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years) and for sizes 36 to 44 [bust measurement.]

The dress on the left, # 2251: “A tailored frock of light-weight wool or flannel to start the day has the new starched collar and cuffs. It is cut in one piece and trimmed with two smart pockets, tie and belt, and may be made without the inserted plaits in front, if you wish to use a heavier material. Designed for 32 to 35 (15 to 18 years); and for sizes 36 to 44 [bust measurement.]

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers