Tag Archives: history of the paper pattern industry

Wrap Skirt Pattern 1480, 1927 to 1930s

Butterick skirt 1480 was first illustrated in June, 1927, with a blouse/step-in combination (No. 1493) and a cardigan jacket (No. 1367.) Delineator.

This very simple wrap skirt pattern first appeared in 1927. Surprisingly, it was still being featured — in a much longer version — in December of 1930. It had survived a major change in fashion. There is only one copy in the Commercial Pattern Archive, so I can’t be sure if the pattern was produced in a longer version after 1929, but it is certainly longer in illustrations from 1930.

Buttrick wrap skirt No. 1480 barely covered the knee in summer, 1927.

A 1928 version — still short, can be seen here. A different combination blouse and step-in — copied from Vionnet — appeared in Butterick’s Delineator in 1929. [And it had a zipper!]

The “one-piece wrap-around straight skirt” really is simple, with just four parts: Front belt [the front waistband,] back belt [waistband,] skirt, and an optional pocket. (The dressmaker would need to figure out linings, facings, etc. )

Butterick 1480 pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive. 1927.

Here is the same wrap skirt illustrated in July 1927 — this time with a sporty striped jacket:

Far right, Butterick skirt 1480 with “coat” 6603 in July 1927. Casual chic!

Upper left: wrap skirt 1480 again. September 1927. These three styles are unmistakably “Twenties.”

This time, skirt 1480 was shown with a jacket-like ; the blouse opening lines up with the flap on the skirt.

By Fall of 1929 the new, longer skirt had been introduced.

Butterick wrap skirt 1480 is shown with overblouse 2802 (still in Twenties’ style) and a flared coat (Butterick 2794.)

The skirt covers the knees completely. (September, 1929.) This coat is about the length that some dresses were just 18 months earlier.

Notice how quickly the longer skirt took hold — there’s a big difference in patterns from September 1929 — above — and October 1929, below:

In October of 1929, skirt 1480 was shown with overblouse tucked in, in the alternate view.

Butterick coat 2847, blouse 2864, and wrap skirt 1480. Delineator, October 1929. Belts are rising. Notice the back view at right.

In 1927, the wrap skirt was described as “mounted on a belt that rests just above the hipbone.” In 1930 it “fits snugly over the hips at a high waistline.” To me, this sounds like two ways of saying the same thing — if the pattern was really much changed, it would have been reissued with a new number.

In her History of the Paper Pattern Industry, Joy Spanabel Emery showed two pattern envelopes of Simplicity 1866 — “first issued in 1946 and reissued in 1947 with a longer skirt. (The fastest and simplest solution was to lengthen existing skirt patterns by three inches.)” [Pg. 164.]

A few months later, by 1930, skirts were well below the knee, and ways to stretch your wardrobe were… creative.

Above: A four piece ensemble made by wearing wrap skirt 1480 with a blouse and jacket, or by wearing it over a dress! The long, waistless top of the dress could be made as an overblouse. (There are four patterns listed: Jacket 2993 (left,) coat 2812 (over her arm) frock or blouse 3002 (center and right, and skirt 1480 (shown three times.)

By Fall of 1930, most traces of the Nineteen Twenties’ look are gone. Skirts are mid-calf; belts approach the natural waist.

Butterick dresses from October 1930. The tunic second from left (3471) is a transitional style, like the tunics [below] that appeared at the end of the Tubular Twenties. Under the 1930 tunic: wrap skirt 1480.


Three tunic blouse and costume slip outfits, 1924. Butterick patterns Nos. 5790, 5455, & 5681. A tunic outfit offers more than one hemline, so the eye can choose the length it prefers — old and long, or new and short. 1924.

For more about the 1920’s long-to-short transition, click here.

Yes, that October 1930 tunic was worn over 1920’s wrap skirt 1480. So was this one, from December of 1930.

Left, Butterick tunic blouse 3560 over wrap skirt 1480; right, frock 3548. Delineator, December 1930.

Stylistically, the “Twenties” are over.

Why a wrap skirt should be the choice for wearing under a tunic (or over a dress!) is a mystery to me. But, as seen, easy wrap skirt 1480 survived a fashion earthquake.

P.S. Looking at the tunic dresses of 1924 and 1930 I was shocked to realize how little time elapsed between them. The short-skirted Twenties were short indeed.


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Filed under 1920s-1930s, Coats, Sportswear

Winter Fashions for Women, 1926

Paquin model imported by Hattie Carnegie; Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Paquin model imported by Hattie Carnegie; Delineator, Dec. 1926.

The lavish use of fur in the twenties and thirties may be repellent to us now, but these fashions for December, 1926, are undeniably glamorous. They are all from Delineator magazine. Two images illustrate clothes in the stores — very exclusive stores — and the rest illustrate Butterick patterns (Delineator was a Butterick publication.) The suit pictured above  is a Hattie Carnegie copy of a wine red velvet suit trimmed with beige fox, from the house of Paquin (French designer Jeanne Paquin had retired in 1920.)

Original model by Frances Clyne, in green and gray. Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Original model by Frances Clyne, in green and gray. Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Titled “Green and Gray,” the caption says “The New York version of the Paris ensemble is made by Frances Clyne in sea green bordered with dyed gray fox. The coat of green French wool swings slightly from the shoulder and is made with the new double animal collar. The frock is of green satin opening over lighter green crepe Elizabeth.” Frances Clyne operated an exclusive New York dress shop; in the 1930s, it was on Fifth Avenue.

This Butterick advertisement showed women how similar styles could be made at home, or by your own professional dressmaker.

Ad for Butterick patterns from Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Ad for Butterick patterns from Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“She has Paris taste and knowledge of clothes, and her Frock is Butterick Design 1155 and her Coat is Butterick Design 1105 made with the aid of the Deltor — a dressmaking chart in pictures for cutting, putting together, and finishing.” [punctuation added.]

Butterick was one of the first companies to offer a separate sheet of written instructions with its patterns. At the start of the twentieth century, patterns came with only the minimal instructions that would fit on the outside of the (usually quite small) pattern envelope.  “By 1920, Butterick referred to the [illustrated] instruction sheet as the ‘Deltor,’ short for Delineator.” [Joy Spanbel Emery in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry.]

I love the bold Art Deco fabric on this sporty coat:

Butterick patterns, Dec. 1926; A Chanel suit, January 1925. Both  illustrations are from Delineator.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Dec. 1926; A Chanel suit, January 1925. Both illustrations are from Delineator.

The dress shown with the coat (left) shows the lasting influence of Gabrielle Chanel’s outfit from January 1925. The proportions of the tops are slightly different to balance the skirt length, which has risen drastically in just two years.

Here are four more styles from Butterick, featured in the same December 1926 issue.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick 1174 and 1157, Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick 1174 and 1157, Dec. 1926.

The deep armholes of the dress at left required a similarly constructed coat:

Back views and description of Butterick patterns 1185 and 1158. Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick patterns 1185 and 1158. Dec. 1926.

[Fine ‘Plaits’ means fine pleats, not braids.] The backs of many 1920s dresses and coats were straight and plain, but this coat is snugged to the hip with tucks in front and back.

So far, I have not seen any mention in Delineator magazine of how women obtained the furs which were so often an important design element in Butterick coats. (Working with real furs is not the same as sewing with fabrics, and where would a small-town dressmaker find whole skins?)

Also, notice how similar many of these 1926 cloche hats are, with pinched or dented crowns.

Four cloche hats from Dec. 1926 Delineator.

Four cloche hats from Dec. 1926 Delineator.




Filed under 1920s, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery

Book cover image from Bloomsbury Publishing site. Please do not copy.

Book cover image from Bloomsbury Publishing site. Please do not copy.

I’ve been looking forward to this book, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, ever since I corresponded with its author, Joy Spanabel Emery, about the Commercial Pattern Archives Site at University of Rhode Island.  Her book  about the history of sewing patterns is now available from its publisher, Bloomsbury, or from Amazon or Abe Books. You can read reviews and summaries on their sites: Bloomsbury Publishing , AbeBooks.com , or at Amazon. I just found out that it is currently available in paperback for $35 or less, or in hardback. 272 pages; 125 colour illustrations and  75 black & white illustrations. Reviews mention that there are also scale reproductions of 9 patterns included for those who wish to enlarge them and make the garments.

Joy Emery is Professor Emerita of Theatre and the Curator of The Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island, USA.  She is also the author of Stage Costume Techniques.

Publisher’s description of  A History of the Paper Pattern Industry:

“This accessible book explores this history, outlining innovations in patternmaking by the companies who produced patterns and how these reflected the fashions and demands of the market. Showcasing beautiful illustrations from original pattern pamphlets, packets and ads, as well as 9 complete patterns from which readers can reproduce vintage garments of different eras, the book provides a unique visual guide to homemade fashions as well as essential exploration of the industry that produced them. ”

Chapters include:

Chapter 1 Tailoring and the Birth of the Published Paper Pattern

Chapter 2 Development of Dressmaking Patterns

Chapter 3 Nineteenth Century Technology

Chapter 4 Early History of Pattern Companies 1860s-1880s

Chapter 5 New Markets and Expansion 1880s-1900

Chapter 6 Shifts and Balances 1900-1920s

Chapter 7 Blossoming Economy 1920-1929

Chapter 8 Surviving the Great Depression 1930s

Chapter 9 The War Years 1940s

Chapter 10 Shifting Trends 1960s

Chapter 11 New Challenges 1960s-1980s

Chapter 12 Reinvention and Renaissance 1980s-2010

9 Pattern Grids 1854-1968

Endnotes, Bibliography, Index

The Commercial Pattern Archive collection, of which Joy Spanabel Emery is curator, has over 56,000 commercial sewing patterns, and is available to the public for research (by appointment.) The enormous CoPA database can be searched online. For full access, you can subscribe for a modest fee (which is used to pay the students who work scanning and entering new patterns into the database). Or you can sample the database for free if you click on Sample. EDITED 10/31/18: CoPA membership is now free. The “Sample” page is gone, since you can use the entire site just by logging in.  It is also now possible to search for a particular pattern number if you want to date it or see the layout, etc.



Filed under A Costumers' Bookshelf, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns