Tag Archives: Neckline

The Persistence of Fashion

While looking through some family photos, I found a few good examples of the persistence of fashion — a reminder of the variety that can be found within a historical period.

Fashion doesn’t change overnight — and it changes very slowly for some people. There is a theory called “the persistence of fashion” which accounts for the fact that clothing which is twenty or even thirty years out of date can be seen in many illustrations and photographs.

Story illustration, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1936. Thw Woman on the right demonstrates the persistence of an older fashion.

Story illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1936. The hem length of the woman on the right, about right for 1917 or 1923, demonstrates the persistence of an older fashion.

In the 20th century, the persistence of fashion was often associated with older women. (An older man wearing a suit that is twenty years out of date is barely noticeable, because men’s styles change very slowly — and some styles for men have changed very little since the nineteenth century.)

But, in the 20th century, it was older women who were usually depicted as clinging to the styles of their youth — or, at least, of their middle age.

Jeanette Albers, Mrs. McLeod, and Nan Mc Leod, mid-1920's.

“Jeanette Albers, Mrs. McLeod, and Nan McLeod,” late 1920’s.

Mrs. McLeod doesn’t look impoverished, but her dress is probably several years old. (Hems this long were last in style  in 1923.) Jeanette Albers (left) has a hem which barely reaches her knees, suggesting 1927 or later. Nan McLeod (right) has a more conservative — or possibly two or three year old — outfit. It reminds me of this Chanel suit from January 1925 — which was not short.

Three generations. Probably World War I era, or a little later.

Three generations. This picture was in an album, and dated 1921.

Although the youngest woman wears a mid-calf skirt appropriate for teenagers, her mother and grandmother wear much longer dresses — the plaid one could have been seen on a wagon train; she’s dressed like the 19th century prairie pioneers!

Wearing out-of-date styles is sometimes caused by a lack of money, or a body that cannot be made to conform to the current fashion ideal, or conservatism and/or prudery, or the expectations of the local community (the wife of a small-town businessman had to dress “respectably.”) Ageism is also a factor — an older woman who dressed to compete with marriageable younger women was called “mutton dressed as lamb.” [Note: a mutton chop, which comes from a fully grown sheep, does not taste like a lamb chop….]

I captured these two late fifties’ dresses from a clip of the Groucho Marx quiz show, You Bet Your Life. The older woman, a schoolteacher, is wearing a longish, conservative 1950’s dress, probably new, but not very different in style from what she would have worn in the 1930’s. The other woman is a teenager in flat shoes (“flats”) and a full-skirted knee-length dress.

Teacher and teen-aged girl on You Bet Your Life. The oder wman has a longer skirt, sensible high heels, and longer sleeves. 1950s.

Teacher and teen-aged girl on You Bet Your Life, probably 1960. The older woman has a longer skirt, sensible high heels, and 3/4 sleeves that cover her arms. This episode is copyright 1961, the show’s last season.

Female contestants on You Bet Your Life, a TV quiz show which ran throughout the 1950s.

Female contestants on You Bet Your Life, a TV quiz show which ran from 1950 to 1960.

Mothers and grandmothers were not encouraged to present themselves as sexually attractive.

Persistence of Fashion: an Advertisement for Sealy Mattresses, Delineator, Sept. 1917.

Persistence of Fashion in an advertisement for Sealy Mattresses, Delineator, Sept. 1917. The younger woman wears a V-neck blouse, a relatively new fashion in 1917, but the older woman wears a high, 1890’s style collar.

The reasons for the persistence of fashion among older women are many. Magazine illustrations and advertisements make it clear that among prosperous older women, many who could afford to keep up with changing styles chose to have their new clothing made with the high collars and low hemlines of a previous decade. Sewing  patterns from 1918 allowed a choice of neckline.

Illustration of a restaurant, Delineator, Oct. 1924. Notice the persistence of fashion on the older woman in the foreground.

Illustration of women in a restaurant, Delineator, Oct. 1924. The young women are very stylish, with bare arms and necks. Notice the persistence of an earlier fashion on the older woman in the foreground.

The waitress in the background, and the young women in the foreground, are dressed for 1924.

The waitress in the background, and the young women in the foreground, are dressed for 1924, but the older woman would not be out of place in 1910.

The older woman has the hairstyle and the high-waisted dress of the previous decade, although she is clearly a prosperous member of the middle class. She is comfortable wearing an older style that she feels is becoming to her.

The woman on the left in this photograph is dressed up and proud of it — in new-looking clothes that are ten years out of date.

Helen Taylor in 1915. The young woman on the right is not wearing a shorter skirt because she is a girl, but because it is the fashionable length.

Left: Mrs. Taylor and Helen Taylor in 1915. The young woman on the right is not wearing a shorter skirt because she is a child, but because it is the fashionable ankle-baring length.

Obviously, it is not lack of money that prevents this hostess from dressing in the current fashion:

This lady, with her butler at her side, could afford to dress in chic clothes -- but she chooses not to. May, 1932 illustration by W. Morgan.

This lady, with her butler at her side, could afford to dress in chic clothes, like the lady on the right — but she chooses not to. May, 1932, illustration by W. Morgan.

The older woman’s long skirt is a relic of 1923 — or even earlier. She is conservative in hair and hem.

I found this interesting example of the persistence of fashion in an article about women who volunteered to sew for soldiers during World War I:

Full mourning -- circa 1898 -- in a photo from 1917. Ladies Home Journal, Nov., p. 22.

One woman wears “full mourning”– circa 1898 — in a photo taken in 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal, November, p. 22. Poor woman — has she been in mourning for 19 years? [Edit: 9/10/16: Christina reminds me that this woman may be mourning a son lost in the early months of WW I; I failed to consider naval losses.]

Mourning costumes, 1898, from Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazar.

Mourning costumes, 1898, from Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar.

The widow’s bonnet had a long black veil which could be pulled over the face for privacy, or to hide tear-swollen eyes. It’s a little surprising to see that Jacqueline Kennedy wore one at President Kennedy’s funeral — but it was over her normal pillbox hat.

Another extraordinary hold-over appears on the right in this photo:

Persistence of fashion: Right, a turn of the century dress beside a dress from the early 1920s.

Persistence of fashion: Right, a turn of the century dress (or “wrapper”?) beside a dress from the late teens or early 1920s. The older woman has shortened her dress to walking length for housework — or to expose her shoes, which look new. Her throat is exposed, too, so this is a fairly new dress made in an older style, and worn over petticoats!

The Lack of Ready-to-Wear Clothing and the Persistence of Fashion

Today, we take the existence of “off-the-rack” ready-to-wear clothing in a range of sizes for granted. If we need a new coat, we go to a store and buy one, from a range of prices to fit most budgets.

That was not possible until the latter part of the 19th century.  Suiting Everyone, published by the Smithsonian, was the book that made me aware of the importance of the U.S. Civil War (which ended in 1865) in developing the standardization of sizes. The urgent demand for hundreds of thousands of military uniforms, plus the development of industrial sewing machines, created a need for statistics about human measurements — and the war supplied them. For the first time it was possible to predict that a man with a 44 inch chest was statistically likely to have a 38 inch waist, and a man with a 38 inch chest was likely to have a 32 inch waist. Related back and sleeve lengths could also be calculated. [This is not to say that Civil War uniforms fit well!]

Elizabeth Ewing’s History of 20th Century Fashion makes it clear that standardized sizes for women happened later in England than in the U.S.; she says large-scale production of ready-to-wear in the early 20th century happened in America about ten years earlier than in Britain. (p. 122.) There, at the turn of the century, “The only dresses which were ready-made were those produced for window display.” (p. 40) At least one London department store would make up a dress, fully trimmed, and leave the back seam open, for easy “fitting” to the customer. [Note: this is the worst way to alter a dress!] Of course, the simplification of styles and the relaxed fit of women’s wear in the 1910’s and 1920’s made mass-produced clothing for women much easier to sell. A snug fit in the torso was not needed.

Unfitted styles like these, from Delineator, Sept. 1924, made ready-to-wear for women easier to manufacture and sell.

Unfitted styles like these, from Delineator, Sept. 1924, made ready-to-wear for women easier to manufacture and sell.

Before the 1860’s, most fitted clothing was custom made. If you could not afford to have your dresses and coats made for you, or make them yourself, second-hand clothing was all you could find. Sometimes, clothes had been passed through a long line of used clothing sellers and pawnbrokers. “The rag trade” was a literal description of the end of the line. The very poor wore rags. It was a “perk” of body servants in upper class houses to be given their masters’ and mistresses’ old and damaged clothing — sometimes after removing the re-usable trims and lace. The servants could not wear luxurious clothing themselves — at least, not where their employers could catch them in it — so it was sold. And sold, worn, pawned, sold, worn, and sold again. I recommend Diana de Marly’s book, Working Dress for an overview of what was and was not available ready-made before the late 1800’s. Ewing’s book discusses the earliest mass-produced items for women.

Clearly, the lack of ready-to-wear clothing at affordable prices used to have something to do with the persistence of fashion. However, there is a psychological element, as well.

As an older woman myself, I have lots of ten-year-old clothing in my closet. I haven’t reached the alarming proportions of my [Edited from “once beautiful” on 9/5/16] once fashionable great-grandmother, on the right, below:

Three generations, probably about 1910.

Three generations, probably about 1910. The woman on the right has clearly lost all interest in current fashion — and in corsets.

… but I have always worn classic,  straight-legged slacks. Sadly, I have them in sizes 12 through 16…. As I get closer to a healthy BMI, some barely-worn size twelves will return to the front of the closet. I’ll wear them, even if they were bought several years ago. [

Old Body, New Ideas

I’m retired. I don’t have to dress to impress anybody, because I no longer have a job telling other people how to dress. I no longer need to read WWD or fashion magazines, because I no longer design modern dress plays. I used to “shop” for a living (for clothing and fabrics,) so I don’t think of shopping as entertainment. Long ago, I met — and married — “Mr. Right,” so the fantasy of finding the perfect dress — “the one that will make me beautiful” — is over.

When I need something specific, like a new raincoat with a zip-out wool lining, I go to Nordstrom, just as I did when I was working. When I needed a dressy pair of water-and-snow-proof boots for a January vacation in New York City, I paid full price willingly — for the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever bought. (The vacation included reservations at a lot of good restaurants, plus an opera, plays, etc.) But in general I’m now much more likely to shop at Ross than at a major department store. When you prefer simple, classic styles in neutral colors, “last season” and “this season” aren’t very relevant. (And budget is a consideration — I am always saving up for a trip to Europe.)

Like the older women in these photos, I reject some new styles on sight. I’m not going to be buying any leggings or jeggings or any other tight-at-the ankle trousers, because I know from experience that, in them, I look really broad in the beam. I’ve been shopping for myself for 60 years; I know what to avoid by now. I already know what colors I should never wear (like yellow,) and which styles are most flattering to my narrow shoulders and wide hips. Plus, I am trying to get rid of “things,” not acquire them.

Buy Less, but Buy Better.

I admire people who try to limit their purchases of new clothing for ethical reasons. The excellent documentary The True Cost is a real eye-opener. In fact, it has me shopping for organic cottons — and it convinced me they are worth the price. Here’s a good idea: “Buy less, but buy better –” Better quality, and better for the world.

I realize I may end up as an example of the persistence of fashion, because I don’t own any up-to-the-minute fashions. But Fashion doesn’t own me.

It's the 1930s. The woman on far right is wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

It’s the 1930s. The woman on far right is even wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

Sunbonnets are a very old head covering, although the one on the left uses early 20th century fabric.

Sunbonnets are a very old form of head covering. And they protect the back of your neck. The Met has a corded sunbonnet slightly similar to the tan one — dated 1840.

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Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1950s-1960s, Costumes for the 19th century, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

One Suit with Many Blouses: March 1936

Companion-Butterick suit pattern No. 6671, March, 1936.

Companion-Butterick suit pattern No. 6671, March, 1936.

This surprisingly modern-looking flared jacket, with a curved hemline, ought to inspire somebody. [You might want to make it a bit shorter, or inches longer, or add a collar, but the asymmetrical closing, curved hem, and raglan sleeves  are all  worth thinking about.] It was featured in The Woman’s Home Companion as the core of a spring wardrobe for 1936 — varied with several blouses made from a “Triad” pattern.

Pages 70 and 71, Woman's Home Companion, March 1936.

Pages 70 and 71, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936.

A frequent theme in the Great Depression, when people owned fewer clothes than today, was fashion advice on making one basic dress or suit look different by careful planning and accessorizing. (See also One Good Dress in the 1930s.)

“One Suit Can Make a Spring Wardrobe, Given Plenty of Bright Accessories”

WHC 1936 mar p 71 triad blouses 6672 top

The suit, Companion-Butterick pattern No. 6671 was available in sizes “12 to 20, also 30 to 40 bust measures.” [At first, I thought it was a maternity pattern, but it is just “boxy,” worn over a very slim skirt.]

WHC 1936 mar p 70 suit 500 6671

The skirt has a flared godet in front, instead of a kick pleat in back, for walking ease.

WHC 1936 mar p 70 just suit 500 6671

Woman's Home Companion description of current suits from Paris. Mar. 1936.

Woman’s Home Companion description of current suits from Paris, Mar. 1936.

Pattern #6648, which appeared in the same issue, illustrates a similar chamois yellow blouse worn with a black, boxy-jacketed suit, as described above:

Companion-Butterick pattern 6648, March 1936, was for young women sized 12 to 20. Woman's Home Companion.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6648, March 1936, was for young women sized 12 to 20. Woman’s Home Companion.

Companion-Butterick blouse pattern No. 6672 contained several distinctly different blouse styles, “for sports,” “for shopping,” “for parties,” etc.

Companion-Butterick "triad" blouse pattern #6672. March, 1936, WHC.

Companion-Butterick “triad” blouse pattern #6672. March, 1936, WHC.

I confess — I love the version with red top-stitching.

Pattern 6672 in white linen with red stitching and buttons. March, 1936.

Pattern 6672 in white linen with red stitching and buttons. March, 1936.

For sports — a rough white linen shirtwaist trimmed with red stitching and red buttons. Add a bright red hat, the soft fabric kind that sticks on your head and rolls up in your hand.  Find a red bag to match, preferably with a convenient top handle, low heeled black walking shoes, and black or white fabric gloves.”

For parties — a short-sleeved blouse of printed silk in the gayest colors you see. Top it with a huge hat of flattering white straw, your best white suede gloves, black sandals and a large black and white bag. You might try a big chiffon handkerchief in white or a bright color knotted around your throat.”

Two more versions of pattern No. 6672.

Two more versions of pattern No. 6672.

For shopping — a chamois yellow shantung blouse tied high and crisp at the neck. Choose a tailored black straw hat banded in yellow, natural chamois gloves, a neat black seal bag and comfortable black town shoes.”

Bage and gloves, Nar. 1936. WHC, p. 71

Bags and gloves, Mar. 1936. WHC, p. 71

“Just for fun — bright Kelly green in a saucy little hat and a tremendous green alligator bag, green polka-dotted white silk blouse, white gloves and the season’s newest shoes —  square-toed, square heeled, patent leather pumps.”

WHC 1936 mar p 70 suit 500 6671

 

“That is one outline for a colorful wardrobe based on a black suit. You may want to vary it with a scarf to match your favorite bracelet or an entirely different color scheme.  But whatever you do remember the suit is a foundation. The accessories are your color notes to be played as gaily as you please.” — Woman’s Home Companion, March, 1936.

Inside-Out Darts

Another surprising [Post modern? Deconstructed?] detail:

The print blouse …

Print blouse #6672. March 1936.

Print blouse #6672. March 1936.

. . . has neckline darts that put the excess fabric on the outside, as a trim detail, rather than hidden inside.

I’ve seen this on other Butterick patterns; these are all from 1938:

Dress pattern, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Dress pattern, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

 

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Filed under 1930s, bags, Gloves, handbags, Hats, Purses, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Rapid Change: 1967 to 1969

Fashions don’t change overnight; there’s always some overlap in the pattern catalogs, especially. Catalogs usually have patterns from previous years as well as the most recent designs. But these two monthly flyers feature the latest patterns from Butterick, just two years apart, and we can see the change taking place:

August 1967 cover, Butterick Fashion News flyer: Structured clothing, crisp fabrics, smooth lines.

August 1967 cover, Butterick Fashion News flyer: Structured clothing, crisp fabrics, smooth lines.

May 1969 Butterick Fashion News flyer cover:  the 'Gypsy" look, featuring soft, sheer fabrics, flowing lines, fitted with elastic at neckline and waist.

May 1969 cover of Butterick Fashion News flyer:  the “Gypsy” look, featuring soft, sheer fabrics, flowing lines, fitted with elastic at neckline and waist.

Notes from an Eye-witness to Fashion

This is a period I remember well. In 1967, I finished grad school and my teaching internship and moved to San Francisco. It turned out to be “the Summer of Love,” but I wasn’t a hippie; I briefly worked in retail and then worked for a large bank until 1970. As a young, single, working woman, I was very conscious of fashion during those years. I can remember clothes I bought for the classroom, for the bank — where I dealt with customers every day — and the clothes I wore around the house and on weekends — which might include going to a free concert on Haight Street or shopping in Union Square.

A batch of recently acquired Butterick flyers are a giving me a retrospective of very happy years. But they are still full of surprises.

Also, with hindsight, I can see the shift from mid-sixties structured clothing influenced by Pierre Cardin, Oleg Cassini, and Carnaby Street, to the softer, more body-conscious styles of the seventies. Hippies, ethnic designs, “gypsies,” Indian textiles, and soft knits (which replaced double-knits and wools with fused interfacing) all contributed to the change.

Mid-Sixties: Mary Quant and Carnaby Street

July 1964:  Mary Quant design for Butterick, cover of Butterick Fashion News.

July 1964: Mary Quant design for Butterick, cover of Butterick Fashion News.

Mary Quant and other “Young Designers” were prominently featured in Butterick Fashion News flyers. This body-skimming Mary Quant dress (# 3288) was on the cover in July 1964. (I was still wearing very similar, store-bought dresses in 1966.) Another “Young Designer” Deanna Littell, was on the cover in May of 1965:

May 1965 cover of Butterick Fashion News; design by Deanna Littell.

May 1965 cover of Butterick Fashion News; design by Deanna Littell.

The sleeveless overblouse, worn with an A-line skirt, often a dirndl style, plus a jacket that might or might not match the skirt, was a staple of my wardrobe in 1965 & 1966. This was the “Jackie look” on a college girl’s budget. These lady-like dresses and coats for young women were also featured in Glamour magazine. (You can see other versions of these designs in an interview with Deanna Littell by The Vintage Traveler: Click here.

Travel wardrobe by Deanna Littell, from May 1965 Butterick Fashion News.

Travel wardrobe by Deanna Littell, from May 1965 Butterick Fashion News.

Young Designer Mary Quant was still on the cover in 1968:

October 1968 Mary Quant design, cover of Butterick Fashion News.

October 1968 Mary Quant design, cover of Butterick Fashion News.

Inside, Mary Quant’s designs were still body-skimming, with dropped waistlines and crisp, rather than droopy, fabrics. These sixties’ dresses would have been lined, or made of thick jacquard double-knits, not made from thin silk or crepe, so they look quite different from the nineteen-twenties’ drop-waisted styles.

Mary Quant designs for Butterick patterns, October 1968 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Mary Quant designs for Butterick patterns, October 1968 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Less than a year later, the flyer with this cover . . .

May 1969 Butterick Fashion News flyer cover:  the 'Gypsy" look, featuring soft, sheer fabrics, flowing lines, fitted with elastic at neckline and waist.

May 1969 Butterick Fashion News flyer cover: the ‘Gypsy” look, featuring soft, sheer fabrics, flowing lines, fitted with elastic at neckline and waist.

. . . showed the wide variety of styles that could be worn in 1969 — sometimes, by the same young women, depending upon the occasion and their mood: We could choose to wear soft, sheer, prints with a hippie influence . . .

May 1969 "Gypsy" styles from pages 2 & 3 of the Butterick Fashion News flyer.

May 1969:  “Gypsy” styles from pages 2 & 3 of the Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Or we could wear chic variations on the body-skimming styles we were used to:

May 1969:  pages 4 & 5 of Butterick Fashion News flyer.

May 1969: pages 4 & 5 of the same Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Talk about a period of transition! Waistlines are all over the place:  from Empire, to natural, to hip, to both high and natural (thanks to that wide, wide belt),  to none (the princess line dress) to somewhat raised. Most of the styles on these two pages depend on double-knit fabric or interfacing for their stiffness.

Digression:  These hairstyles were achieved with the use of “falls” or “Postiches” or full wigs, plus plenty of “ratting” — as we called it. Hairdressers called it “teasing.” On television, model-turned-actress Barbara Feldon had the ideal 1960’s hair and style.  British model Jean Shrimpton was perfection.

Butterick “Gypsy” styles from 1969

Here’s a closer look at the “Gypsy” styles — Butterick could hardly call them “hippie dresses,” although now the word “Gypsy” is more offensive — from May 1969:

May 1969:  Butterick patterns 5265, 5279, 5245.

May 1969: Butterick patterns 5265, 5279, 5245.

Butterick 5265 (top left) is a fairly straightforward shirtwaist:  “The sheer shirtdress, precisely tailored from the notched collar to the snap front closing and full blown cuffed sleeves. Belted naturally over the dirndled skirt. Misses sizes 8 to 16. [Except for the sleeves, it would have been lined, or worn over a shoulder-to-knee opaque slip.]

Butterick 5279 (center):  “The drawstring neckline of this tenty little dress, in a sheer print, shapes the fall of the full belled sleeves while a wrapped ribbon tie defines the waist. Easy. Misses sizes 8 to 14. Junior sizes 7 to 11. [This is a dress for teens and very young women. ] Click here for a version by McCall’s.

Butterick 5245:  (right)  “A gentle dress, gypsy mooded [sic] with a scoopy neck and blouson bodice tied at the waist over the softened skirt. The sleeves are soft and full. Misses 8 to 16.”

Butterick patterns 5299 and 5225, May, 1969.

Butterick patterns 5299 and 5225, May, 1969.

Butterick 5299:  “The gypsy-yoked dress . . . tent like fullness falling from a curved and slashed yoke to a swirling hem. The sleeves are elasticized at the wrist. Easy. Misses sizes S-M-L. [Unless you were wearing it as a beach cover-up, a sheer dress like this would have a lining below the yoke. ]

Butterick 5225:  “An angel of a dress . . . A tiny bodice rises to the low square-cut neckline elasticized all around. Misses sizes 8 to 14. Junior sizes 7 to 11.” [The size range tells us that this, too, is not a dress for mature women.]

Butterick Styles for Mainstream Women

Butterick patterns 5298,  5246,  5283,  5297. May, 1969.

Butterick patterns 5298, 5246, 5283, 5297. May, 1969.

The dresses on this page and the next are described as “Bare Beauties:  The neckline news is bareness for day and evening in endless variety. Scoop it or plunge it low, open it with cutouts or a shoulder baring halter.”

Depending on fabric and accessories, most of these would be cocktail dresses. All the models are wearing or carrying gloves. Notice also their low-heeled shoes; early 60’s stiletto heels were not worn with miniskirts.  Number 5246, with bow at waist, is a cocktail dress when made from silk (interfaced), but made from linen or wool (interfaced ) it would have been acceptable for me to wear it to work as a bank teller;  the other three dresses are too bare for a business environment.

Butterick 5298 (far left):  “A plunging neck with wide lapels and high belting marks this dress for after dark. Misses sizes 8 to 14.”

Butterick 5246 (left center):  “The softness of a drawstring waistline combines with the bareness of a V neck for a simple yet charming dress. Easy. Misses sizes 8 to 16.”

Butterick 5283 (right center):  “The bare neckline in a scoopy version with button trimmed over-the-shoulder straps. Easy. Misses sizes 8 to 16.” [This dress would cover your bra straps, but it’s still more of a luncheon or after work dress than an office dress.]

Butterick patterns 5283,  5297,  5233. May 1969.

Butterick patterns  5297, 5241, 5233. May 1969.

Butterick 5297 ( left):  “The halter dress . . . baring the shoulders while skimming close to the body. Butterick Boutique. Misses sizes 8 to 14.” [Busty women were not expected to wear this style.] 

Butterick 5241 (Center, white dress):  “For daytime or evening dressing . . . a peek-a-boo cut out at the throat of a slim, dart fitted dress. Butterick Boutique. Misses sizes 8 to 16.” [This is about as covered-up as an evening dress gets, but even so, sizes only ran to 16 — usually a 38″ bust.] Being under 25 in 1969, I would not have worn this dress with the keyhole neckline! Too middle-aged!

Butterick 5233 (right):  “Curved seaming emphasizes the high, narrow bodice with neckline scooped low. Butterick Boutique. Misses sizes 8 to 14. Junior sizes 7 to 11.”  [The size range tells us that this, unlike # 5231, is not a dress for mature women.]

Witness to Fashion notes:  Just as in pattern books, this wide-ranging variety was also available in stores in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. I saw a lot of sheer printed voile or light-weight polyester knit “gypsy” dresses on Haight Street, and clerks in stores there could wear them to work; however, my bank’s one authentic hippie clerk did not come into contact with the customers. She was also allowed to wear sandals without stockings and ankle length skirts. Other women who worked out of sight, processing loan payments, etc., sometimes wore polyester pants to work. Those of us who were the public face of the bank, however, followed a dress code which did not include pants suits until 1970.    Also, many of these patterns didn’t come in my size, which was about as big as they got:  size 16, bust 38″.  I was almost 5′ 8″  — 38-27-37 — and wearing the biggest pattern size available made me feel huge.  [ If only those were my measurements now! Actually, I’d settle for my healthy 1960’s BMI. ]

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Filed under 1960s-1970s, Hairstyles, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Women in Trousers

Day Dresses for November, 1934

Butterick dress patterns for "High Noon," November 1934. Nos. 5961, 5955, and 5857.

Butterick dress patterns for “High Noon,” November 1934. Nos. 5961, 5955, and 5857. From The Delineator magazine. Photographer not named.

High Noon

“If you sit in the lobby of any smart luncheon place at high noon, you’ll see these smart women come in. The one who wears a tailored tweed dress, 5961 [left], with careful details — small collar, pockets, buttons, pleats, stitching.  The one who wears a black wool dress, 5957 [right], with slits in the streamline skirt and a shining satin sash.  The one who wears a bright crepe dress, 5955 [center], punctuated at neckline and wrists with black. There’s a look of Jodelle about the lovely, simple lines. . . . Cheney fabric. Delman shoes. Lilly Daché hat. Furs from Jaekel.”

Butterick 5961

Butterick pattern No. 5961, Nov. 1934, Delineator magazine.

Butterick pattern No. 5961, Nov. 1934, The Delineator magazine.

I confess that this is my favorite. It has so many great details, including that yoke extending into sleeves; the intriguing pocket shapes, copied on the skirt; and the big button accents. On the other hand, matching the large-scale plaid was undoubtedly easier for the illustrator than it would be for the home stitcher!

1934 nov high noon 5961 left top

“5961:  The kind of tailored clothes that came out of Paris are the kind with interesting details — stitching, slot seams, amusing pockets, slit skirts. As Agnes-Drecoll uses details, we used them in this plaid wool dress. For 36 (size 18), 3 yards, 54-inch wool.  Designed for 12 to 20; 30 to 42 [inch bust measure.]”

Not what we think of as a 'slit skirt' today: Butterick #5961, 1934.

Not what we think of as a ‘slit skirt’ today: Butterick #5961, 1934. It wouldn’t make walking much easier….

Butterick 5955

Butterick pattern No. 5955, with Lilly Dache hat. November 1934 Delineator magazine.

Butterick pattern No. 5955, with Lilly Dache hat. November 1934 The Delineator magazine.

“As Jodelle grows familiar, you recognize the simplicity of her lines. Like our dress with its convertible collar, they suit everyone. . . . Designed for sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 [inch bust measure.] “

Butterick pattern No. 5955, Delineator, Nov. 1934.

Butterick pattern No. 5955, The Delineator, Nov. 1934.

That’s certainly an interesting sleeve (although likely to swoop into the soup at lunch). The article gives no alternate view to explain how the collar is “convertible.” Here’s a closer look at the Lilly Daché hat, with its brim of pleated velvet:

Black velvet hat from Lilly Dache. 1934.

Black velvet hat from Lilly Dache. 1934.

I had to increase the contrast to show the hat details. According to Lizzie Bramlett, writing for the Vintage Fashion Guild, Lilly Dache’s first hat under her own name was also made of velvet. Fashion trivia fact: “In 1958 Daché hired Halston as a hat designer.”

Butterick 5957

Butterick pattern 5957, Delineator magazine, Nov. 1934.

Butterick pattern 5957, The Delineator magazine, Nov. 1934.

“5957  A new French house called Robert Piguet slit the skirts of trim wool dresses and filled them in with pleats. We make a dress like that and tie shiny satin around the waist. . . . Designed for sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 [inch bust measure.] ”

SLit with pleats in the style of Robert Piguet, 1934. The Delineator.

Slit with pleats in the style of Robert Piguet, 1934. The Delineator.

Writing for the Vintage Fashion Guild, emmapeelpants says that the house of Robert Piguet, founded in 1933, was “the training ground for Dior, Bohan, Galanos, Balmain and Givenchy. ” That’s quite an alumni group! Like Butterick No. 5961, this dress has broad shoulders and a yoke, which makes the upper body look wider (and the hips narrower by comparison. Also notice how much the length of the thigh is exaggerated in this fashion illustration.) 1934 nov high noon right 5957 thigh lengthThe finishing touch on this dress (described in the copy as “a black wool dress,” but illustrated in red) is an exceptionally long rhinestone dress clip at the neckline, added in the illustration to continue the vertical CF seam. 1934 nov high noon right dress clip

1930s rhinestone dress clip from RememberedSummers.

1930s rhinestone dress clip from RememberedSummers.

I thought this vintage clip was long — over 2 inches — but it’s nowhere near as long as the one illustrated. The collar of #5957 would look quite different without that big piece of jewelry.

Not Quite Designer Fashions

You’ll notice that all three patterns are described with reference to specific Paris designers, but none of them claims to be an exact copy of a Paris design. “As Agnes-Drecoll uses details, we used them in this plaid wool dress.”  “There’s a look of Jodelle about the lovely, simple lines.” “Robert Piguet slit the skirts of trim wool dresses and filled them in with pleats. We make a dress like that . . . .” The Butterick Publishing Company maintained an office in Paris, partly for the purpose of reporting on the latest fashions. Back in the 1920s, it was raided by the French police on behalf of Madeleine Vionnet; they indeed found evidence that her dresses were being copied in the workshop. Vionnet sued. (Source: Betty Kirke’s brilliant book Madeleine Vionnet.)

 

 

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Vogue Pattern 7250: The Personality Dress, 1936

"The Personality Dress." Vogue pattern # 7250, featured on Ladies' Home Journal, Feb 1936.

“The Personality Dress.” Vogue pattern # 7250, featured in Ladies’ Home Journal, Feb. 1936.

The Woman’s Home Companion joined with Butterick in 1936 to publicize Companion-Butterick patterns, which often were selected for their versatility with accessories. But, in the grim financial situation of the 1930s, The Ladies’ Home Journal also recognized that many women had to make do with just one or two ‘good’ dresses, adding inexpensive accessories like detachable collars, “Vestees” (also known as “dickies”  — basically just the collar and front part of a blouse, which takes the place of a complete blouse peeking out from your jacket or sweater,) plus an assortment of scarves, belts, and costume jewelry.

Vogue Patterns in Ladies Home Journal

The Ladies’ Home Journal had produced and sold its own patterns earlier in the century, but it featured a few Vogue patterns, instead, in every issue by 1936 — possibly earlier. This particular Vogue dress pattern, # 7250, is described as “a frock that’s hard to find, and we thought it up especially for you!” lhj 1936 feb p 24  a b c d tops vogue 7250Vogue # 7250 has a top-stitched button front from high collar to the waist, with an apparently false placket that continues down to the hem for a very long, slender look. (See top photo) For maximum versatility, preferred colors are black, brown, gray, and navy, but royal blue, dark red, green or yellow, and white “of course” are also suggested. Available in sizes 14 to 42.

“Then you add or subtract, as your mood, the weather, or the occasion dictates. Demure for shopping, you may wear a cleric’s vestee of white sik or linen [A], with handbag, belt, and gloves possibly of red suede. Or, if there’s a dash of derring-do in you, wouldn’t you like brown with black — brown alligator belt and bag, and brown suede gloves faced with kid? On other days, let a pair of rhinestone clips [B] carry the burden of dresing up your frock. A monogram clip fastened to one side of an open white vestee [C] is an individual touch.  A sports handkerchief, [D] knotted or pinned with a wooden or copper scarfpin, will lend dash when you’re running into town some morning on the 10:10. . . .”

lhj 1936 feb p 24 bottom EFG vogue 7250It’s hard to tell whether the one I’ve labeled E is a very large pin or a bunch of flowers.

“For a special luncheon date, baste in a lingerie frill of white [G] and put on a velvet belt with a handsome buckle.  For another day, in the spirit of Salzburg, you may devise an amusing bolero of Tirolese ancestry [F]. Play at being your own designer and you’ll find it’s fascinating to experiment with one dress. . . . It’s a dress that even your best friend won’t tire of!”

Making the Best of Things

Although suede and alligator accessories sound extravagant (and probably most women only dreamed of such luxuries,) this article has a sort of sad gallantry about it. Even as a woman struggles to maintain the image of a person with adequate income, she should think of it as “fascinating” “play.” Her best friend, of course, will notice that she has to wear the same dress every day — but she “won’t tire of” it!

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Embroidered Peasant Styles from the Nineteen Twenties

White linen vintage dress with blue embroidery and cutwork, mid-nineteen twenties.

White linen vintage dress with blue embroidery and cutwork, mid-nineteen twenties.

Dresses from the 1910s and 1920s were often ornamented with embroidery and beading, even for daytime wear. Just as there was a strong interest in ethnic clothing and crafts in the nineteen sixties and seventies, some women appreciated folk embroidery and embellishment ninety years ago. The style was not limited to “artistic” or eccentric dressers; “peasant” blouse and dress patterns were offered by mainstream companies. I was lucky enough to photograph the 1920s peasant dresses that follow while making an inventory of a friend’s collection. [I wish now that I had had time to take better pictures!]

Peasant Blouse and Dress Patterns, 1925

Here are some Butterick “peasant” patterns from 1925:

May 1925: blouse trimmed with smocking and embroidery, from Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

May 1925: blouse trimmed with smocking and embroidery, from Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

Embroidery transfer #10341 for the blouse shown above.

Embroidery transfer #10341 for the blouse shown above.

Butterick sold sewing patterns and also sold embroidery and beading transfers.

“#10341: You get several trimming combinations in this embroidery, for after you have finished trimming your peasant blouse with the cross-stitched bandings and motifs, you can use the one-stitch banding in bright wools down the front of your wool jersey sports frock…. The one-stitch banding may combine different bright colors in wools…. It can be adapted to 1 5/8 yard each of bandings 4 ½ inches wide, 2 ½ inches wide, 1 5/8 inch wide and 1 3/4 inch wide and 32 assorted motifs.”

Butterick blouse pattern #5903. Here it is shown embroidered in red and worn under a black "suspender skirt." May, 1925.

Butterick blouse pattern #5903. On the right, it is shown embroidered in red — or red and black — and worn under a black “suspender skirt.” May, 1925.

These smocked peasant dresses from the same issue (May, 1925) have a strong relationship to the embroidered vintage dress pictured below. Smocking is a peasant embellishment technique originally used on shepherd’s smocks.

Peasant dress patterns # 6006, for ladies 32"- 40" bust, and #6012, for Misses 16 to 20 years. 1925.

Peasant dress patterns # 6006, for ladies 32″- 40″ bust, and #6012, for Misses 16 to 20 years. 1925.

“#6006: One-piece dresses in peasant style are very cool and dainty for Summer and one of the smartest new fashions…. Many attractive color combinations are possible, for instance, on a white frock the smocking may be done in red, lavender, yellow and black.”

Embroidery on Two Vintage Twenties Dresses

The subtler color palette of this vintage peasant dress, in sheer cotton, is very attractive:

1920s smocked dress in sheer cotton, with embroidered front.

1920s smocked dress in sheer cotton, with embroidered front.

Detail of front and back

Detail of front and back

V098 smocking detail

This white linen dress with marine blue embroidery and cutwork is more clearly inspired by ethnic embroidery. [I imagine it being worn by a 1920s tourist visiting the Greek islands with parasol in one hand and sketchbook in the other. I dimly remember a similar dress being used in the movie Carrington (1995), based on the life of painter Dora Carrington.]

Front and side views of a vintage white linen embroidered dress, 1920s.

Front and side views of a vintage white linen embroidered dress, 1920s.

PHOTO  This dress, which was in the collection of a friend, had blue crocheted loops and blue crocheted buttons along the collar and neck opening. I photographed it first over a pale peach slip, to show the beautiful openwork patterns:V093 front embroidery detail 500

And again over a navy blue slip, which gives it more dimension. V093 embroiderd cutwork on navy slip 500

Considering the amazing things that can be done with computerized sewing machines and soluble stabilizers, I suppose it would be possible to duplicate these dresses today without the many, many hours of handwork that made the originals so wonderful. But it would still be quite a project!

 

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Dresses for Flappers, July, 1926

Butterick Patterns for Misses Age 15 to 20. Delineator, p. 27, July 1926.

Butterick Patterns for Misses Age 15 to 20. Delineator, p. 27, July 1926.

By the summer of 1926 the “look” we associate with the 1920s – short skirts, no waists, and a horizontal line across the hips – was truly the dominant fashion. These dresses for Misses – i.e., women aged 15 to 20 – look fresh and youthful, especially in contrast to the long, tubular fashions of 1924.  Seeing these designs in color is a treat, and a reminder that the clothes worn in silent movies were not actually black and white.

Top of Page

Top of Page 27, Delineator, July 1926

Misses’ Pattern Sizes in the 1920s: “What Does Size 16 Years Mean?”

In Butterick patterns, a Misses’ size was shorter than a Ladies’ size. Misses patterns were sold by age [!]; Ladies’ patterns were sold by bust measurement. For most of the 1920s, “Size 15 years” equated to “petite with a 32″ bust.” “Size 17 years” meant a petite with 34″ bust, “19 years” fit a 36″ bust, and “20 years” was a petite 37.” Often a style is described as “For Misses and small women;” several of these styles say they also come in Ladies’ sizes 38 and 40.

The usual run of Butterick Ladies’ sizes in 1925 was 33″ through 44.” Articles in Butterick’s Delineator magazine sometimes gave fitting advice for short women, but special patterns for adult women who were 5″ 4″ or shorter had not yet appeared.

Bottom of Page 27, Delineator, July, 1926.

Bottom of Page 27, Delineator, July, 1926.

Flapper Dresses

The dresses on page 27 were for young women – for flappers. Styles for mature women were subtly different, as were the proportions of the fashion figures that illustrated them. These two dresses appeared on pages 27 and 28 of the same issue.

 A pattern for Misses (# 6924) and a similar pattern for Ladies (# 6914.)

A pattern for Misses (# 6924) and a similar pattern for Ladies (# 6914.)

Obviously, the Misses’ illustrations are much less distorted.

The Individual Dresses with Their Descriptions

1926 july p 27 color top 6913 white w red6913 — Embroidery splashes the white frock with color. Work in Satin-stitch. For this slip-over one-piece princess dress with inverted tucks or shirrings use Georgette, silk or cotton voile, batiste, radium, taffeta, satin crêpe, etc. of one material, etc…. Lower edge 58 inches…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [I confess that I love this dress – and the appliqued hat. You wouldn’t need to embroider the sleeves to reproduce it; # 6921 shows that making lower sleeves from a different fabric was in style.]1926 july p 27 color topmiddle yellow 6935

6935 — A transparent hem, rising in front, is the latest Parisian offering in evening frocks This slip-over orange dress closes under the left arm, has a basque and a lower edge scalloped or straight. Lower edge 2 7/8 yards…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [This dress is interesting for many details. It is an early example of the short-in-front-long-in-back evening dresses of the late 1920s. It is clearly inspired by Jeanne Lanvin’s robes de style. And it has a side seam fastening – presumably snaps – under the left arm, which should be of interest to vintage dealers trying to date dresses with side openings.] Dress 6935 may be described as “orange” in the text, but it really did look yellow-gold in the magazine.

1926 july p 27 color top rt 6921

 

6921 — The Gipsy girdle encircles this attractive slip-over frock with touches of jade-green. It has a straight gathered skirt and is delightful for radium or satin crêpe with contrasting organdy, batiste, or Georgette, etc. Lower edge 60 inches…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.

1926 july p 27 color btm left coat dress 6904

6904 coat dress — Cool and very smart in town is the coat frock with its saddle shoulders and straight gathered skirt attached at a low waistline. The separate one-piece slip has a camisole top. The color is fuchsia…. Lower edge of slip 44 inches…. The coat dress is for Misses 15 to 20 years, ladies 38, 40 bust.

 

1926 july p 27 color misses smocked dress

6927  — Green-striped, smartly bosomed, this one-piece slip-over frock gives the effect of a two-piece style. A cluster of box plaits is inserted at the front. Use flat crêpe, Canton crêpe, satin crêpe, heavy crêpe de Chine, silk broadcloth, shantung, washable silk crêpe, etc. Lower edge, plaits drawn out, 57 inches. The dress is attractive for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.

6903 — Tiered circular ruffles are attached across the sides of this slip-over one-piece tan dress. Plain or printed silk voile, crêpe Roma, etc., with taffeta tie collar, etc., or satin crêpe with reverse side, are smart for it. Lower edge 44 inches….Chic for misses 15 to 20 years, also small women.

6924 — Crêpe de Chine, heavy Georgette, silk or cotton voile, silk-and-cotton crêpe, pongee, etc., with smocking or shirring and contrasting collar and cuffs are smart for this type of one-piece slip-over frock with straight lower edge. The colors are pervenche blue and tan. Lower edge 51 ½ inches. …For misses 15 to 20 years, ladies 38, 40 bust.

1926 july p 27 color btm rt 6902

6902 — A new silhouette, hip-flared, is illustrated in the slip-over blouse of this two-piece bois de rose frock. The straight skirt with a box pleat at front is attached to an underbody. It is smart for flat crêpe, Canton crêpe, heavy crêpe de Chine, satin, etc. Lower edge, plait drawn out, 51 inches…. For misses 15 to 20 years, also small women. [An underbody means the skirt hung from the shoulders, not the waist. The back view — at the bottom of this post — shows a flared peplum. The color “bois de rose” was very chic,  a grayed red, less coral than it appears here. ]

Design Tricks to Make Twenties’ Dresses More Flattering

Designers are aware that a horizontal line across the widest part of a woman’s body – the hip – will add pounds, visually. That’s why late twenties styles can be so cruel to a less-than-boyish figure.  Pattern manufacturers were aware of this problem; Butterick patterns in average sizes assumed that the hip was two inches larger than the bust, as they do today.

So it’s useful to pay attention to the many ways these authentic 1920s designs drew attention away from the horizontal hip line that defined the era. Notice all the optical tricks that direct the eye toward the face, or create a slenderizing vertical line to add height and draw the eye toward the center of the torso.

Long bows and ties lead the eye up and down.

Long bows and ties lead the eye up and down.

A row of vertical buttons; a vertical center front closing emphasized by a white frill.

A row of vertical buttons; a vertical center front closing emphasized by a white frill.

A strong color – or white – near the face; a V neck; a contrasting collar.

A strong color – or white – near the face; a V neck; a contrasting collar. The green ‘buckle’ at the center of the dress on the left is also a clever way to draw our eyes to the center of the body.

A center front opening that runs from the neck to the hem, creating a strong vertical line.

A center front opening that runs from the neck to the hem, creating a strong vertical line.

Back Views and Alternate Views

Back and alternate views of page 27 patterns, July 1926.

Back and alternate views of page 27 patterns, July 1926.

 

 

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