Tag Archives: influence of the Letty Lynton dress 1932 thirties 1930s

Butterick Vacation Wardrobe for $25, 1933

You could make a complete summer vacation wardrobe — six outfits — for just $25 from a set of Butterick patterns. Delineator magazine, May 1933, p. 69.

The Butterick company’s target market in the 1920’s was upscale; there were regular reports on French fashions, and even a new column giving women financial advice during the stock market boom of the late twenties. But in this Depression Era article from May, 1933, the emphasis is on economy.

The accessories suggested include some rather elegant shoes, a sweater, and, as explained in the text, only one hat that you couldn’t make for yourself.

I’m not surprised that those shoes were expensive.

A Store-bought black straw hat for summer, 1933. Delineator, May 1933, p 69.

A store-bought sweater and a home-made hat, May 1933; Delineator.

Other gloves and hats could be made from Butterick patterns:

Butterick glove pattern 5135, hat pattern 5126, and clutch purse No. 3131. Delineator, May 1933.

Notice the extended shoulders on most of these clothes.

Butterick Skirt 4908, worn with a sweater and coat 5043; next, dress 5019  in a fine print; “tennis dress” 5104 made in white; and afternoon dress 5095 in a floral print voile fabric. May, 1933. Delineator magazine.

In addition, a print suit (a dress plus jacket) and a “Letty Lynton” – influenced evening gown were part of the twenty-five dollar wardrobe.

Butterick evening gown pattern 5069 from May, 1933.

The stiff, sheer layered sleeves show the influence of Adrian’s design for Joan Crawford in the film Letty Lynton.

Butterick jacket dress 5107, 1933.

The $25 budget didn’t include accessories, not even the ones made from Butterick patterns.  However, there is an emphasis on the need for wardrobe planning:  coordinating your pieces so that they can all be worn with either black or white accessories. (And, if you could afford a vacation in 1933, setting some limits would definitely make packing easier.)

The cost per outfit of making the $25 wardrobe. Delineator, May 1933. Page 69.

The cost of the Butterick patterns themselves ranged from fifty cents (the jacket dress or the evening gown) to thirty-five or forty-five cents for the other dresses, and twenty-five cents for the hat pattern, which included three styles. I wonder if the big, stylish buttons were included in the price estimates.

In 1936, a woman fresh out of college could expect to earn about $80 per month. According to one article, on this salary, she could even afford to take a vacation…. https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1936-oct-working-college-grad-woman-budget-end.jpg?w=500

She can “join a savings club and see the world. Happy landing, we say.” — Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, bags, Gloves, handbags, Hats, Purses, Shoes, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

Butterick Starred Patterns Part 4: Katharine Hepburn and Helen Chandler

The movie-linked patterns issued by Butterick in May of 1933 were designed by Howard Greer, for the movie Christopher Strong. Hepburn played an aviatrix in love with a married man, British MP Christopher Strong,  and Helen Chandler played his daughter, Monica Strong.

Katharine Hepburn and Helen Chandler wearing Howard's Greer's designs, copied as Butterick Starred Patterns. Delineator, May 1933.

Katharine Hepburn and Helen Chandler wearing Howard’s Greer’s designs, copied as Butterick Starred Patterns. Delineator, May 1933.

This was only Katharine Hepburn’s second movie.

After a New York stage success, “… she was cast in A Bill of Divorcement (1932), opposite John Barrymore. The film was a hit, and after agreeing to her salary demands, RKO signed her to a contract. She made five films between 1932 and 1934. For her third, Morning Glory (1933) she won her first Academy Award. Her fourth, Little Women (1933) was the most successful picture of its day.” — Internet Movie Database (IMDb.)

Helen Chandler, a successful stage actress, is probably best remembered in films as a victim of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931), although she appeared in over two dozen movies. Her later life was a sad one.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5156 and 5154, from Delineator, May 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5156 and 5154, from Delineator, May 1933.

Here is Delineator raving about young Katharine Hepburn:

1933 may p 71 Katharine Hepburn ttrend setter 5156 5154 designer Howard Greer text

Delineator is especially interested in Katharine Hepburn because of the way she wears clothes. She has that thing called chic…. What she wears in a picture to-day has a good chance of being what Young America is going to demand tomorrow.” By 1933, fashion magazines like Delineator were beginning to appreciate that movie costumes might have more influence on young women’s clothing choices than Paris fashions. (The “Letty Lynton dress”of 1932 had created a great demand for copies.) Butterick entered into agreements with three studios — Warner Bros., R.K.O., and Paramount — which allowed Butterick to make exact copies of dresses worn in their movies. This was quite different from the Hollywood Pattern Company’s approach. However, for whatever reason, only a few of these Butterick Starred Patterns were ever issued.

This one, designed for Katharine Hepburn by Howard Greer, was Butterick 5156. It included a pattern for the tucked hat. The open sleeves were seen on other dresses in the 1930’s. You can see the pattern envelope, with alternate views, by clicking here.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5156 from May, 1933. Delineator.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5156 from May, 1933. Delineator.

Helen Chandler’s gown, No. 5154, was made of organdy — like the Letty Lynton dress — and trimmed with lace.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5154 was designed for Helen Chandler by Howard Greer. Delineator, May 1933.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5154 was designed for Helen Chandler by Howard Greer. Delineator, May 1933.

1933 may p 71 helen chandler text 5156 5154 designer Howard Greer text

The “lace is sewed along one edge only;”  i.e., it is not labor-intensive insertion lace.  A variation of this evening pattern, made in plaid organdy, was illustrated two months later, in the July issue of Delineator. There was no mention of its movie connection.

Butterick pattern 5154 as illustrated and described in Delineator, July 1933,

Butterick pattern 5154 as illustrated and described in Delineator, July 1933. “Pin some huge red poppies at the point of the neckline.”

Details of Butterick 5156 and 5154, May 1933.

Details of Butterick 5156 and 5154, May 1933.

You can see the Starred Pattern envelope for Butterick 5154 at the Commercial Pattern Archive; Click here.

Howard Greer, Costume Designer

Designer Howard Greer had been working in the movies since the 1920’s.  Jay Jorgenson and Donald L. Scoggins, authors of Creating the Illusion, put their chapter about him in the Silent Era. For a while, he was head of the wardrobe department at Paramount Studios, but he said he did his best work in three dimensions, while his friend and associateTravis Banton had a genius for what would look good on the screen. In 1927, Greer left Paramount to start his own custom clothing salon in Los Angeles. Many of his clients were movie stars. He obviously moved back and forth between his work for private clients and his film costume design, usually only designing gowns for the star. One of his later films was Bringing Up Baby, also with Katharine Hepburn. In the 1940’s, he started a ready-to-wear business. His last film credit was lingerie for Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952).  He was also a mentor to Edith Head, giving her her first job at Paramount Studios.

Greer’s most famous costume from Christopher Strong was Katharine Hepburn’s metallic lame “moth” outfit; in this scene, she’s on her way to a masquerade ball:

Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, wearing a Moth Costume by Howard Greer. From Creating the Illusion.

Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, wearing a Moth Costume by Howard Greer. From Creating the Illusion.

TCM has a great 2 minute video that shows her making an entrance in it — Wait for it! “Forgive me if I keep staring at you,” says Colin Clive. No kidding.

This is Part Four of a Series about Butterick Starred Patterns. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 were patterns based on designs by Orry-Kelly, for Warner Brothers movies.

Next: Butterick Starred Costumes Part 5: Helen Twelvetrees and Designer Travis Banton

 

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The Letty Lynton Dress, Adrian, and Joan Crawford’s Shoulders: Part 2

Part 1 of The Letty Lynton Dress, Adrian, and Joan Crawford’s Shoulders discussed one of the first movies Adrian designed for Joan Crawford:  Letty Lynton (1932,) and its fashion influence. Here’s the Letty Lynton dress again:

Joan Crawfrod in "the Letty Lynton dress" designed by Gilbert Adrian. 1932. Image from Creating the Illusion, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

Joan Crawford in “the Letty Lynton dress” designed by Gilbert Adrian. 1932. Image from Creating the Illusion, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

The legend is that, because Joan Crawford had very broad shoulders, costume designer Gilbert Adrian decided to exaggerate them, instead of trying to distract us with styling tricks, and incidentally started the fashion for padded shoulders on women. And it is true that broad, padded shoulders for women came into fashion in the 1930’s and lasted through the World War II years.

Butterick Fashion Flyer, April 1938. Broad, padded, shoulders on women.

Butterick Fashion Flyer, April 1938. Broad, padded shoulders for women — and impossible hips.

Butterick Fashion News, Sept. 1943. Broad, padded shoulders for women.

Butterick Fashion News, Sept. 1943. Broad, padded shoulders for women.

I’ve always been a little skeptical that Joan’s broad shoulders were ever a problem. This photo shows her in another evening dress from Letty Lynton.

Joan Crawford in another dress from Letty Lynton. Adrian often made bare- shoulder dresses for her.

Joan Crawford in another dress from Letty Lynton. Adrian often made bare-shouldered dresses for her. From Creating the Illusion.

You wouldn’t say she looks unattractive, or unfeminine…. In fact, she often wore costumes that bared her shoulders, like this one. from 1934.

Here she is in the 1920’s:

Joan Crawford in the 1920's. From Pinterest.

Joan Crawford in the 1920’s. From Pinterest.

Crawford had been making movies since the 1920’s, and the truth is, if you want your hips to look smaller, it’s a good idea to make your shoulders look wider. (Or stand sideways….) A woman’s hips are not — in nature — inches narrower than her shoulders, although that is the way women were drawn in fashion illustrations from the twenties and thirties.

Fashion illustration, July 1928. Delineator. Nobod has hips that narrow.

Fashion illustrations, July 1928. Delineator. Women don’t have hips that narrow.

Most women’s hips are as wide as, or wider than, their shoulders. Even Norma Shearer, “the Queen of MGM,” didn’t look fabulous photographed straight on in this twenties’ outfit.

Butterick fashion illustrations, Jan 1934. Delineator.

Butterick fashion illustrations, Jan 1934. Delineator. Even wearing a really tight girdle will not make normal, childbearing hips that small.

The ruffled shoulders of the famous “Letty Lynton” dress are twice as wide as her hips. In this film clip, as Crawford is seen from the back, standing against a ship’s railing, her waist and hips look very narrow — like a fashion illustration.

Wide shoulders and full sleeves were also used to enhance the illusion of a tiny waist in the 1830’s and the 1890’s.

Wide shoulders and full sleeves create the illusion of a tiny waist, in 1832 and in 1895. Left Casey Collection; right, Metropolitan Museum.

Wide shoulders and full sleeves create the illusion of a tiny waist, in 1832 and in 1895. Left Casey Collection; right, Metropolitan Museum.

The same “trick” reappeared in the 1980’s, to make waists and hips look smaller. Click here.

McCall's bridal pattern 9452 (1985) and Vogue 9816 (1987). Full sleeves, wide shoulders.

McCall’s bridal pattern 9452 (1985) and Vogue 9816 (1987). Full sleeves, wide shoulders.

I do believe another story that Adrian told — as quoted in Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins. They mention that Adrian designed the costumes for Joan Crawford in more than thirty-two movies, “…and in the process, created the padded-shoulder silhouette that defined the 1940s.”

“Crawford insisted on a free range of movement in her clothing. During fittings, she would rotate her shoulders with arms outstretched to ensure the fabric in her costumes could move with her. When Adrian was not designing in jersey or a fabric that stretched, he would let the clothes out across the back. He heavily padded Crawford’s shoulders to take up the slack in the fabric….” He said, “She is constantly in motion. When she is in the fitting room, she is always walking around, swinging her arms above her head to be sure she has freedom.” — Adrian, quoted in Creating the Illusion.

I’m certainly not in Adrian’s league, but I remember fitting an 1840’s bodice on an opera singer who kept crossing her arms in front of her body as far as possible, hunching her back, and popping the back of the muslin open.

“It fits all right, but I can’t do that!” she complained.

“Do you need to do that on stage?” I asked.

“Uh, no….” Luckily for me, she was a lot more reasonable than Joan Crawford.

Joan Crawford’s broad shoulders were probably an asset when she was wearing 1920’s styles.

Joan Crawford in the 1920's. From Pinterest.

Joan Crawford in the 1920’s. From Pinterest. If you want to look thin in a twenties’ dress, stand sideways.

Joan Crawford first rose to stardom playing a series of flappers in Our Dancing Daughters; Paris; Sally, Irene and Mary; The Taxi Dancer;  The Duke Steps Out, and Our Modern Maidens. This video shows scenes from Our Dancing Daughters. (Also Pre-Code! note the panties, and her break-away skirt.) In 1932 she starred in Letty Lynton and in Rain (as Sadie Thompson , a prostitute with few illusions,) and appeared in Grand Hotel.

I admire her most in Grand Hotel . She plays a sympathetic role as a stenographer/part time prostitute trying to survive during the Depression. In this clip, she makes her situation clear to John Barrymore.

Crawford wore a “show biz” version of the Letty Lynton dress when she danced with Fred Astaire in Dancing Lady (1933). Here she is in another  1933 version of the Letty Lynton dress.

In this Hurrell photo, from 1934, you can see the padded shoulders on her evening gown. In 1937, her jacket is definitely padded like a man’s. The effect is even broader when done in fur: click here. Finally, here she is with Adrian, in 1939, and in Humoresque, 1946.

Most of these links are to a wonderful site: the photo gallery at joancrawfordbest.com. It’s well worth a visit, because Joan Crawford’s costumes were very influential in the mass market, and because — no matter what the style was,  she could really wear a hat!

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The Letty Lynton Dress, Adrian, and Joan Crawford’s Shoulders: Part 1.

Many people have written about this dress, which Gilbert Adrian designed for Joan Crawford to wear in the film Letty Lynton, in 1932.

Joan Crawfrod in "the Letty Lynton dress" designed by Gilbert Adrian. 1932. Image from Creating the Illusion, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

Joan Crawford in “the Letty Lynton dress” designed by Gilbert Adrian. 1932. Image from Creating the Illusion, by Jorgensen and Scoggins.

The “Letty Lynton dress” is usually mentioned as the first movie fashion to be widely copied and sold all over the U.S. — a sign to manufacturers and store buyers that Hollywood could be more influential than Paris when it came to women’s clothing.

“The first time I became conscious of the terrific power of the movies was some months after Letty Lynton was released. I came to New York and found that everyone was talking about the Letty Lynton dress. I had to go into the shops to discover that of all the clothes I had done for Crawford in that film, it was a white organdie dress with big puffed sleeves that made the success. In the studio we thought the dress was amusing but a trifle extreme. The copies of it made the original Letty Lynton look very modest and shy.” — Adrian, quoted in Creating the Illusion, p. 142.

I don’t have any Butterick pattern photos from 1933, but the influence of the Letty Lynton dress can be found in this 1933 advertisement for the Woman’s Institute dressmaking course:

Woman's Institute ad, 1933. The style chosen for this dressmaking class ad is a Letty Lynton variation.

Woman’s Institute ad, 1933. The style chosen to advertise this correspondence course in dressmaking has Letty Lynton’s ruffled organdy sleeves.

Here are some Letty Lynton-inspired dresses from the Sears catalogs, 1933 and 1934.

Three "Letty Lynton" style dresses; from Sears catalogs, 1933 and 1934.

Three “Letty Lynton” style dresses; from Sears catalogs, 1933 and 1934. “Sheer Romantic Organdy” and “such ruffly sleeves.” “Frivolous and charming.”

Before Letty Lynton, the ideal 1930’s evening gown for young women was usually bare and slinky:

Evening gowns from Delineator, January and March, 1932. Butterick patterns

Evening gowns from Delineator, January and March, 1932. Butterick patterns 4271, 4262, and 4409. Notice how wide the models’ shoulders are drawn in relation to their hips!

In 1932, women’s dresses were clinging to their waists and breasts, in a way that had not been seen since before World War I. The horizontal hip line of the nineteen twenties had made even thin women look wider. In the thirties, bias-cut dresses clung to a natural, curvy body, sometimes improved by the new, soft girdles and bras made with lastex. But the average woman still couldn’t achieve the narrow-hipped ideal thirties’ figure.

Apparently, women who saw Letty Lynton (released in 1932) fell in love with the romantic look of Letty’s dress. And with the way it made her hips look smaller.

Butterick patterns for June, 1934. Nos. 5739, 5726, 5741. The dress on the left has extended shoulders, too.

The dress on the left has extended shoulders, too.

All four dresses have widened the shoulders with ruffles, or a collar, or sleeves.

All four dresses have widened the shoulders with ruffles, or a wide collar, or short sleeves. Butterick patterns 5739, 5726, 5741, 5745.

Butterick pattern 5516, February 1934, has softer ruffles.

Butterick pattern 5516, from February 1934, has softer ruffles at the shoulders.

This is a Letty Lynton look worn in an ad for Lux Soap.

This Letty Lynton-look dress was worn in an ad for Lux Soap; Delineator, June 1934.

More Butterick evening patterns from 1934.

More Butterick evening patterns from 1934. Nos. 5804, 5803, 5780.

A black satin dress with huge, ruffled shoulders. Butterick 5581, from March 1934.

A black satin dress with huge, ruffled shoulders. Butterick 5581, from March 1934. The illustrator has drawn realistic hips!

No. 5581:  “A wear-it-to everything evening frock? It should be dark —  but frivolous!” Delineator, March 1934.

If you already had an evening gown, you could bring it up to date with this cape:

"Pink Maline: Frothy yards of it in a cape that's chic frosting for a dark evening dress." Delineator, May 1934 .

“Pink Maline: Frothy yards of it in a cape that’s chic frosting for a dark evening dress.” Delineator, May 1934 . Maline is netting, like tulle.

The (Pre-Code) plot of Letty Lynton stars Crawford as a woman who leaves the man she has been living with, falls in love, and wants to start a new life — or die. Her white organdy confection of a dress is girlishly innocent, compared to the slinky wardrobe she wears as a sexually uninhibited woman. The organdy dress is extreme, and extremely flattering.

Part 2:  Were the Letty Lynton dress, Joan Crawford’s shoulders, and Adrian’s designs responsible for women’s shoulder pads in the 1940s?

 

 

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