Tag Archives: Inc.

Too Fat or Too Thin — 1933 & 1934

"You'd never guess they once called me SKINNY." Ad for yeast supplement, Delineator, 1934.

“You’d never guess they once called me SKINNY.” Ad for ironized yeast, 1934. Breasts are prominently featured.

Nineteen thirties’ fashion illustrations show tall, impossibly narrow-hipped women, but magazines also ran ads humiliating women for being “too skinny.” Sometimes I encounter an “Are you too fat?” ad, turn the page, and encounter an “Are you too skinny?” ad. One explanation is that, in times of famine, looking too thin implies poverty and hardship. And many people really did go hungry in the 1930’s.

Feeding a big family on $9 a week, January 1934. Ad for Royal Baking Powder.

Feeding a big family on $9 a week, January, 1934. Ad for Royal Baking Powder. Delineator.

(In modern America, cheap, poorly nutritious food — a tasty and addictive combination of fats, carbohydrates, salt and sugars — has created a historically unique situation: now, obesity is often a sign of poverty, while a lean, fit body is a sign of wealth and leisure:  it signals enough money to afford fresh foods, along with time — and a safe place — to exercise.)

Certainly the emphasis on a “boyish” figure favored the young and slender in the mid-nineteen-twenties.

But 1933-1934 was a time of mixed signals for the average woman.

Delineator, March 1933, page 81.

Delineator, March 1933, page 81. “Safe Way to Lose FAT.” Ad for Kruschen Salts.

“How would you like to lose 15 pounds of fat in a month…?” That was on page 81.

Or maybe you should gain 15 pounds? The following ad was on page 97 of the same magazine:

Delineator, March 1933, page 97.

Delineator, March 1933, page 97. “Dangerous to be skinny.” Ad for Ironized Yeast, which “adds solid, healthy flesh quicker than beer.”

“I’m so lonely and unhappy.  Nobody likes a skinny girl.”

“There’s no need to be skinny now.  I’ll tell you a quick way to gain.”

“New discovery adds solid, healthy flesh quicker than BEER…. For years doctors prescribed beer to put flesh on these scrawny, weak, nervous people.”

The ad urged readers to compare their weight and measurements with the “solid, healthy” model on the left.

March 1933: The model's measurements are given as 5' 3.5" tall, 118 lbs, 34"-25"-36."

March, 1933: The model’s measurements are given as 5′ 3.5″ tall, 118 lbs, 34″-25″-36.”

“Selected as having the best figure in the U.S. for her height, according closely to measurements favored by a famous theatrical producer and a great artist.” [Both anonymous…. She’s a long way from the 1930’s fashion illustrators’ ideal!]

The same Ionized Yeast company offered different models’ measurements in each ad:

June 1933 ad for Ionized Yeast. The model's measurements are

June, 1933 ad for Ionized Yeast. The model’s measurements are given as 5′ 4″, 120 lbs, 35″-26″-36″.

“Skinny girls listen to this! … Adds pounds quicker than beer.”

May 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. The model's measurements are given as

May, 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. “Now no need to be thin…. New easy way adds pounds so fast you’re amazed.” The model’s measurements are given as 35″-26″-36.”

Six weeks ago she was jeered at, but Ionized Yeast “gives 5 to 15 lbs. in a few weeks.”

June 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. The model's measurements are

June, 1934 Ionized Yeast ad. “…Get lovely curves fast!” The model’s measurements are height 5’5″, weight 130 lbs., 35″-27″-38″.

In some of these ads, “curves” seems to be code for “full breasts.” By modern standards, the models are all well within the range for a healthy BMI [Body Mass Index], which cannot be said for many of today’s fashion models. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine most of these women being chosen to model slinky 1930’s dresses like these:

Ads for Kruchen Salts, sold for weight loss. Delineator ads from May and April, 1933.

Ads for Kruchen Salts, sold for weight loss. Delineator ads from May and April, 1933. The word FAT is dominant.

Text of ad for Kruschen Salts. April 1933.

Text of ad for Kruschen Salts. April 1933. E. Griffith Hughes, Inc.

Ginger Rogers appears in an add for Kellogg's All Bran, Delineator, April 1934.

“Ginger Rogers is just the type to wear this difficult but delightful gown.” Ad for Kellogg’s All Bran, Delineator, April 1934. “Watch your figure. Modern fashions are built around youthful curves.”

(If you didn’t recognize her, remember that Ginger Rogers was called “Ginger” because she had red hair.)

Laxative salts were advertised for weight loss, as were breakfast cereals. “Two tablespoonfuls [of All-Bran] daily are usually sufficient…. Isn’t this better than risking unpleasant patent medicines? Kellogg’s All-Bran is not fattening.”

"A curve is the smartest distance between two points." Ad for Kellogg's All Bran cereal, June 1934.

“A curve is the smartest distance between two points.” Ad for Kellogg’s All Bran cereal, June 1934.

“Figures must be graceful, slim, and rounded in the right places…. To look well in the new gowns, many of us must reduce. We must exercise. We must watch our meals.”

Ad for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, May 1933.

Ad for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, May, 1933. “When you begin to think about light summer clothes….”

There’s no promise that Corn Flakes will help you lose weight, just the suggestion of lightness.

However, the cover of the July 1933 Delineator shows the appeal of sugary temptations.

Delineator magazine cover, July 1933. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys.

Delineator magazine cover, July 1933. Illustration by Dynevor Rhys.

Ounce for ounce, ice cream will also “add pounds quicker than beer.” Alas.

True story: A hand-lettered sign appeared taped to a lamppost in my neighborhood: “I LOST 40 lbs of ugly fat! Call: (it gave a phone number.)” The next time I passed, someone had added a smaller sign:  “Found @ corner of Sunset & 37th: 40 lbs of ugly fat. Call (a different phone number) to claim.”

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, Bathing Suits, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Vintage Mail Order Patterns: One Big Family?

Four Vintage Mail Order Pattern Envelopes; different names, but similar style.

Four Vintage Mail Order Pattern Envelopes; different names, but similar style.

I’m a relative novice to vintage patterns, but I’ve had enough pass through my hands to recognize the typeface and visual style of the “Progressive Farmer” pattern (see below), which American Age Fashion wrote about recently as “Becky Stott’s pattern.” Read the blog  here.

A "Progressive Farmer" Pattern. Photo courtesy of AmericanAgeFashion.com

Becky Stott’s “Progressive Farmer” Pattern. Photo courtesy of AmericanAgeFashion.com

 

Photo of mailing envelope, courtesy of AmericanAgeFashion.com

Photo of mailing envelope, courtesy of AmericanAgeFashion.com

Doesn’t it seem a little odd that The Progressive Farmer has a “pattern department” in New York City? 

Visually, the appearance of that “Progressive Farmer” pattern is a very close relative of these:

Marian Martin mail order pattern courtesy of rememberedsummers on Ebay.

Marian Martin mail order pattern courtesy of rememberedsummers on Ebay.

Marian Martin mail order pattern, courtesy of rememberedsummers, Ebay.

Marian Martin mail order pattern, courtesy of rememberedsummers, Ebay.

Anne Adams half-size mail order pattern, courtesy of rememberedsummers, Ebay.

Anne Adams half-size mail order pattern, courtesy of rememberedsummers, Ebay.

Anne Adams mail order pattern for a wrap dress or apron, from rememberedsummers on Ebay.

Anne Adams mail order pattern for a wrap dress or apron, from rememberedsummers on Ebay.

Those patterns only seem to come from different companies. I’ve noticed that there was at least one pattern company in New York that specialized in making patterns that would be sold through regional newspapers. Sometimes they bore the name of a pattern company like “Marian Martin” or “Anne Adams,” which were possibly the names of individual designers. But the illustration style, the lettering, and the instruction sheets’ layout and typeface are nearly identical, and, although they were mailed in envelopes with different (but stylistically similar) designs on them, the return address was almost the same for many companies.

Return Address for Marian Martin and Anne Adams Patterns.

Return Address for Marian Martin and Anne Adams Patterns.

RoseButtons wrote about this 2009, but sadly, the site is no longer active.

Rose Buttons quoted Barbara Brackman’s book Women of Design:

Quilt Historian Wilene Smith has determined that Nathan Kogan, Max Levine and Anne Bourne formed a business called Needlecraft Service, Inc. in 1932. As yet pattern historians know nothing about the actual designers who created the innovative patterns and drawings. To add to confusion about company history, Smith found that Needlecraft Service set up two competing branches to make the most of cities with competing newspapers. Laura Wheeler might offer patterns in one newspaper and Alice Brooks in another. Each “designer” had a different New York city address, which Smith thinks were mail drops to distinguish the bylines. The company also used regional names such as Carol Curtis in the Midwest and Mary Cullen in the Northwest. Marian Martin and Ann Adams [sic] were additional bylines, [primarily] for clothing patterns.

Apparently, some newspapers would sell such sewing patterns under their own names, e.g. “The Progressive Farmer.”

"Own Name" pattern for Tap Shorts, courtesy of rememberedsummers on Ebay.

“Own Name” pattern for a Dance Set, courtesy of rememberedsummers on Ebay.

This pattern from the 1930s was listed on Ebay; it says “Own Name” at the bottom:

"Own Name" on bottom of pattern; courtesy of rememberedsummers on Ebay.

“Own Name” on bottom of pattern; courtesy of rememberedsummers on Ebay.

It took me a long time to realize that it was a sample — meant to be sent to a newspaper, which would have its “own name” printed on the patterns it chose to feature! [At least, that’s my guess.]

photo courtesy of AmericanAgeFashion.com

photo courtesy of AmericanAgeFashion.com

The Vintage Traveler  confirmed in a comment  on americanagefashion.com that The Progressive Farmer was a regional newspaper. It’s possible that Becky Stott’s Progressive Farmer pattern was also sold under other newspapers’ names. The mailing address, Old Chelsea Station, NY, is the same as that on an “Alice Brooks” pattern that was listed on Ebay, and on “Needlecraft “patterns, like this transfer pattern for an embroidered quilt. Only the box numbers — 147, 162, 163 — are different.

Allice Brooks Design mail order pattern, courtesy of rememberedsummers.

Alice Brooks Designs mail order pattern, courtesy of rememberedsummers.

 

Needlecraft mail order pattern from Reader Mail, Inc. courtesy of rememberedsummers.

Needlecraft mail order pattern from Reader Mail, Inc. courtesy of rememberedsummers.

When I checked the locations of all these addresses (for Alice Brooks, Anne Adams, Marian Martin, Needlecraft, and the Progressive Farmer pattern) on a map of New York City, I found that 243 W. 17th Street (Anne Adams) and 232 West 18th Street (Marian Martin) were on the same block and may have been two entrances to the same building. The Old Chelsea Station Post Office (Needlecraft, Alice Brooks, & Progressive Farmer) was right across the street, at 217 West 18th.

I think Wilene Smith was right – all these addresses were mail drops for one company, Needlecraft Service, Inc. The separate mailing addresses just made it easier to sort the pattern orders received from all over the country. Of course, this is a theory; I would welcome comments, additions, and corrections from people with more expertise.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1960s-1970s, Vintage patterns

Garters, Flappers, Rolled Stockings, and Other Stocking Stories

 Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

Four Young Women Showing Rolled Stockings, 1921. Used with Permission of RememberedSummers

It wasn’t till Lynn at americanagefashion.com asked how 1920s roll-on garters worked that I realized many women have never worn stockings, much less rolled garters or garter belts. So I’ll repeat some of my reply, this time with lots of illustrations.

My grandmother still wore 1920s style garters (click link for image)  in the 1950s, when she was in her 70s. The rubber of the garter was tube-shaped, covered in pinkish-tan (knit?) fabric, and sealed into a ring shape with a tubular metal crimp. What this kind of garter  — utterly un-sexy, nothing like a flat, lacy wedding garter — did to the circulation in women’s legs, I don’t want to think about.

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator,  July 1925

Rolled Stockings with Bathing Suit, Delineator, July 1925

Grandma rolled the ring-type garter up to the top of the stocking, and then rolled stocking and garter, as one, down to a point above or below her knee. The stocking rolled itself around the garter and created a ridge or bump, but this technique saved women from the runs you can get when you kneel while wearing stocking suspenders attached to the corset and clasped onto the stocking. (Rolled stockings also allowed women the comfort of not wearing a girdle….)

Suspender Style Garters

A Girdle form the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

A Girdle from the 1920s and a Corset from the 1930s; when the suspender ran directly from the corset toward the knee (right) it was easy to get a run in the stocking.

If those traditional garters (correctly called “suspenders” by the British) weren’t long enough, or you were tall, nylon (and rayon) stockings often “popped” at the knee when you knelt down. I remember coming out of church with my entire knee bulging out of my nylon stocking in the early 60s.

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

Onyx Hosiery Ad, 1924

This 1924 ad for Onyx Silk Stockings claims that other silk stockings, although naturally more elastic than rayon, popped at the knee, too. “Bending the knee like this puts a heavy strain on any silk stocking.”

Lady’s Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1936; Lux Soap Ad.

“Costly runs:”  as discussed in my “Living on $18 a Week” post, women with white collar jobs were expected to wear stockings to work, but stockings were fragile and a constant drain on their budget. (The Great Depression made this problem quite serious. In 2014 it’s widely reported that your chance of getting a job interview is better if you already have a job; in the 1930s, a person who was unemployed long enough to start looking shabby was much less likely to get the same kind of job as the one she had lost.)

Knee-Highs to the RescueLHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high stockings 500 dpi ad

I was surprised to find this advertisement for Holeproof  Knee-Highs in The Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936. “Most good hosiery counters now feature the original Knee-High by Holeproof. In Chiffon, Service, or Dancing Sheer. See it during National Holeproof Knee-High Week, June 13-20.”

[As the writers of Third Rock from the Sun realized, women like me always regarded our knee high stockings as rather embarrassing. There’s plenty of evidence that a woman slowly removing her stockings can be quite erotic, but slowly removing my knee length sox  – or support pantyhose, for that matter – is the opposite of seductive.]

Nevertheless, with the long dresses of the 1930s, knee length stockings made sense.  When you were standing, the tops wouldn’t show. (Although I don’t think many women flaunted them as they do in the top photo below!) Stockings that never had to bear the strain of being stretched between a metal stocking clasp and a girdle were likely to last much longer. And garters of any kind were not necessary with the new Knee-High.

The development of Lastex – thin threads of rubber encased in fabric –  revolutionized undergarments after 1931, and made a self-supporting knee high stocking possible.

LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high top 2 pix stockings ad

“. . . Gives the knee-freedom of rolled hosiery in a smartly styled way. . . The self-supporting Holeproof Knee-High. . . . No more garter runs. . . this revolutionary new-type stocking eliminates knee-strain and garter pull. You can bend, twist or kneel without straining your sheerest chiffons. No garter bumps to show ‘neath sheer frocks.” LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high next 2 pixstockings ad“Air-conditioned knees. If you pursue an active life you’ll find cool comfort in Holeproof Knee-High . . . and amazing economy! With garter runs eliminated, 3 pairs outwear 4 or 5 of long hose. Knit-in ‘Lastex’ garter top keeps stocking trimly in place.”LHJ 1936 july p 63 knee high bottom of ad stockings ad“Full-fashioned silk hosiery (knee-length) with knit-in ‘Lastex’ garters.”

Also Introduced in the 1930s: Peds

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

Peds Ad in Delineator, July 1934

The fine print says “elastic edge” and “non-slip heel.” “Wear PEDS for the beach, sportswear, street wear, around the home.” Peds, which could be worn with shoes while you were cleaning house, etc., were also suggested not just as a replacement for stockings, but as stocking savers: “If wearing stockings, use Peds under or over them! Stops wear and mending.” If your problem was that your toenails wore through your stockings, this might actually work.

Update, 6/29/16: There’s a great post with lots of photos of 1920s rolled stockings with bathing suits at  the Frontline Flapper Vintage blog. Click here.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1940s-1950s, Corsets, Girdles, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, vintage photographs