Tag Archives: Jean Desvignes

Glamour from the 1920s, Goodness in 2020

Art Deco illustration by Jean Desvignes for Butterick’s Delineator magazine, November 1926.

Detail of an illustration by Jean Desvignes, January 1927, Delineator.

To celebrate the New Year, I’d like to share some glamourous gowns from the 1920s, and also something that gave me hope whenever the news from 2020 seemed too bleak.

Masks made for donation to a shelter, March 2020.

Most people realize that it’s hard to make a living in the performing arts under the best of circumstances. Here’s an old joke.

Q: An actor graduates from a top drama school and gets his first job. What are the first words he will speak in public?

A: “Would you like fries with that?”

Once, I was working in the costume shop at Stanford University. A student came in for a costume fitting, and mentioned that he had changed his major from Economics to Drama. “But my parents wanted me to have something to fall back on,” he said, “so I’m minoring in Art.” After he left, the theatre professionals agreed that he wouldn’t have much of a future in Economics….

For costume designers and technicians, the first months of the year are traditionally difficult. After the Nutcrackers and Velveteen Rabbits and Christmas Carols at the end of the year, there’s not much work for wardrobe, part-timers and overhires until March or April. But in 2020, theatres and performing arts companies shut down in March, and with COVID-19 still spreading they have not reopened. Suddenly, all the theatre workers I know were facing months of uncertainty and unemployment just when they were already at the end of their “off season savings.”

Immediately, the Costumers’ Alliance yahoo group I subscribed to began exchanging information about what organizations and hospitals needed facemasks, where you could find patterns online, who was willing to share elastic and other sewing supplies, and where you could donate masks. Hundreds of people who had just lost their income set to work as volunteers, using their skills and supplies. It was the same in most theatre communities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York…. (And those are only the ones I’m in touch with.) Home stitchers and quilters were also pitching in by donating thousands of hours of labor to supply communities in need.

Whenever I began to lose hope in our democracy, I thought of all those people who pitched in, and kept at it, during the darkest months of our lives. The instinct that says, “Let me help” is still alive.

And now, since we’re not going to any New Year’s parties this year, we can fantasize about wearing this couture from the past:

Two evening dresses by Chanel, illustrated by Desvignes in January 1927. Delineator.

Lavishly beaded couture gowns by Doeuillet and Patou. Delineator, November 1926.

It’s hard to show the detail of this bodice. The skirt is equally ornamented in a different pattern.

For more detailed images and information about these and other Chanel gowns from the same issue of Delineator, click here.  Wishing you a Happy and Healthy 2021!


Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Jewelry, Vintage Couture Designs

An Art Deco Fringed Dress, November 1926

nov 1926 butterick  ad pattern #1090In this illustration by Jean Desvignes for The Delineator, Butterick pattern #1090 is a classic of Style Moderne, the repeated curves of the lines of fringe accented by the repeated triangles in the model’s jewelry – and in the shape of her fingers, her stockings, and the elongated triangle formed by her legs. Even her shingled hair, worn smooth over the crown, curves to expose her earlobes and dangling earrings; the curves of the stylized 1920s rose in her hand and the curves and angles of the constructivist sculpture on the table echo the fringe.

The Chrysler Building's Curves and Tringles

The Chrysler Building’s Curves and Tringles

The tout ensemble reminds me of the Chrysler Building.

Here are some closer views of her Art Deco bracelets and the necklace cascading down her back (very 1920s!) details of  jewelry, heels, fringe

Desvignes has given her a jeweled belt to echo her rhinestone-studded high heels – perhaps it was woven, like a necklace, of black and silver beads – or it may be artistic license, since it ties like a ribbon. It was possible to buy jeweled heels like this  and have them put on your shoes.  Here’s a closer view of the curves of her dress: 1926 fringed dress detail butterick #1090 ad

Another View of the Same Pattern (#1090)

1926 dec #1090 version 2 front p 46 alt croppedDevignes’ illustration was part of an advertisement for Butterick patterns, so it’s interesting to compare his version with this conventional pattern illustration, which appeared elsewhere in the same issue of this Delineator magazine.

“# 1090: Pale dawn-blue georgette spattered with crystal stars is intended for the night life that begins one day and ends the next. The uneven line of the tiers and the backward flutter from the shoulder are extremely chic. The frock is in one piece and may be trimmed with tiers of fringe and made with a higher neck and a sleeve for afternoon. [The version with sleeves was probably illustrated on the pattern envelope.] The design is beaded with sequins. [Butterick embroidery pattern #10422] Designed for women 32 to 44 bust.”

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Filed under 1920s, Vintage patterns