Tag Archives: housedress

More About Wrap Dresses

Simplicity wrap dress pattern #5449, 1964. Photo: RememberedSummers.

Simplicity wrap dress pattern #5449, 1964. Photo: RememberedSummers.

As often happens, a comment on one post — about the Official Uniform of the Food Administration in 1917 — led me to some new information.  The Vintage Traveler mentioned the “Swirl” dress of the 1940s, which was also a wrap dress, perhaps a direct descendant of the “Hooverette” wrapped apron dress. According to Fuzzie Lizzie, the Swirl dress dates back to 1944. Visit her fascinating and well-illustrated article by clicking here.

That reminded me of other wrap dress patterns — more like house dresses than the “uptown”  Diane von Furstenberg knitted jersey dresses that were ubiquitous in the seventies and are still with us today. There’s no doubt that the wrap dress, which preceded the Herbert Hoover wrapped apron dress, is a style with longevity!

Ladies' Home Journal Apron Pattern #1135, November 1917.

Ladies’ Home Journal Apron Pattern #1135, November 1917.

This wrap-around apron from 1917 closes with buttons, rather than ties. So does the 1952 version below.

Butterick B4790 Retro 1952 Pattern

Butterick B4790 Retro '52 pattern. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Butterick B4790 Retro ’52 pattern. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

This wrap dress, like the “swirl” dresses that preceded it, looks ready to wear out of the house. It has a button fastening, rather than a tie. It’s a long way from the Ethel Mertz look. [Vivian Vance, who played Ethel, was contractually required to look more dowdy than Lucille Ball.]  A copy of a 1952 Butterick pattern, the envelope shows the dress open and laid out flat.

Butterick B4790 unfastened and laid out flat.

Butterick B4790 unfastened and laid out flat.

It looks like the wearer of this wrap dress would be well covered, avoiding a very embarrassing — and ass baring — experience I had with a 1960s back wrap skirt, which blew open while I was walking down a busy commercial street. I didn’t realize what was happening until cars started honking at me. Lesson learned:  never wear a wrap dress that doesn’t wrap all the way to the side on the underlap!

Simplicity Pattern #5449, dated 1964

Photo: RememberedSummers.

Photo: RememberedSummers.

To me, the bias binding on dresses like this one put them more in the “apron” family than in the housedress family. I have strong memories of bias bound dresses at the local dime store. They were usually made of very cheap fabric, heavily sized, and they turned limp and cheap-looking after their first washing. However, Simplicity # 5449 could be made of a good quality cotton fabric, and the envelope says that the “dress front laps to back fastening with tie ends,” so it would cover the wearer completely, fore and aft, even in a high wind.

Construction details of Simplicity #5449. RememberedSummers.

Construction details of Simplicity #5449. RememberedSummers.

Simplicity Pattern #8278, dated 1969

Simplicity pattern 8278 dated 1969. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Simplicity pattern 8278 dated 1969. Photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

This wrap dress from 1969 couldn’t possibly be mistaken for an apron or a housedress. It can also be made as a tunic and worn over flared trousers. But that’s the only way I would have worn it, because the back of the pattern shows that the front pieces are symmetrical.

Simplicity #8278 pattern back. Photo by RememberedSummers on EBay.

Simplicity #8278 pattern back. Photo by RememberedSummers on EBay.

When you sit down, this kind of wrap dress pulls open and exposes your knees and usually some underwear.  Of course, a good dressmaker could alter the pattern and extend the skirt underlap to the side seam, and tie or button it in place, but I didn’t have that kind of patience or expertise in 1969.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Uncategorized, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Companion-Butterick Triad Dress Pattern for Women after Fifty, May 1937

Companion-Butterick pattern # 7353, May 1937

Companion-Butterick pattern # 7363, Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937. Illustrated by ERNST

7363 Triad Dress. Sizes, 34 to 52 inch bust measure. Size 40 requires 4 1/4 yards 35-inch material for house dress; 4 ½ yards 35-inch material for sports dress; 4 1/4 yards 39-inch material for afternoon dress. Price of pattern, 45 cents.

“You cannot be too particular about lines, colors and fabrics – when you are on the after side of fifty. Everything you wear must look as if made to your special order.  That is why this Triad pattern is a perfect solution for the three new dresses you will undoubtedly need this summer.

“The lines of 7363 are all part of a plot to make you look younger, slimmer. The darts which let in fullness at the top, the three different blouse fronts, each long-lined, the straight pleats in the skirt, stitched down above the knee and extending above the waist in two versions, the perfectly smooth shoulders – all these are flattering and new.” — Woman’s Home Companion

Afternoon Dress

Afternoon Dress

Afternoon Dress

“So are the fabrics and colors illustrated here.  Try a soft gray and white silk print as a change from navy and touch it up with a luscious medium blue.”

Sports Dress

Spectator Sport Dress

Spectator Sport Dress

“Keep to pink or any other becoming pastel for your spectator sports linen, set off with this season’s saddle stitching.”

House Dress

Housedress

Green Housedress in a Modernistic Print

“And then let yourself go, practically to modernism, in a gay cotton for the house.”

Women over Forty in Advertisements from the Woman’s Home Companion

In addition to the Triad Pattern for women “after fifty,” the  May, 1937 issue had the usual ads and articles; Mother’s Day was probably the inspiration for the article about Mother/Daughter Hair styling. Women’s magazines had a wealth of shoe advertisements, many stressing comfort and good arch support, and aimed at the older woman.

White Shoes for Summer, 1937

Florsheim Shoes for Summer, May 1937 ad

Florsheim Shoes for Summer, May 1937 ad Click to enlarge

The model for Pattern #7363 is wearing shoes very similar to these in white kid, “Juliette, W-364” shown in a Florsheim ad in the same issue of the Woman’s Home Companion. These shoes cost $9.50 to $10.50 – definitely middle-class. [Summer shoes from Sears cost about $2.00 in 1936. A nurse earned $20 to $35 per week.]

Foot Saver Shoes, ad from May 1937

Foot Saver Shoes, ad from May 1937  Click to enlarge

These Foot Saver shoes were even more expensive, costing up to $14.75. The model looks young, but young women were more likely to choose strappy, white sandal-type shoes than lace-ups.

Hair Styles for Older Women

This one was done at the Marshall Field store’s salon: “How a daughter would like her mother to dress her hair — and vice versa.”

Hairstyles for Mother and Daughter, Chicago, 1937

Hairstyles for Mother and Daughter, Chicago, 1937

I can’t resist ending with a less glamorous picture of  middle-aged women, as well. A more natural hairdo — and a less rosy view of life after forty — is presented in this ad for Scot Bathroom Tissue:

Ad for ScotTissue: "Are You Past Forty?"

Ad for ScotTissue: “Are You Past Forty?”

“Are you past forty? It is estimated that 65% at middle age suffer from rectal ailments. Then the comfort of Luxury Texture is doubly appreciated.” Oh, dear.  Time to count my blessings…. I do like the casual hair style in this ad; you can believe the model did it herself. Her crisp collar and print dress are quite chic for a housedress.

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hairstyles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes