Tag Archives: Paris and Hollywood fashion style influence 1930s thirties

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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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns from the movies

Butterick Starred Patterns: Actual Fashions from the Movies (Part 1)

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156 5154, Delineator May 1933. P. 71

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156, Delineator May 1933. P. 71 From the movie Christopher Strong.

As far as I can tell, in 1933 Butterick decided to take advantage of the movies’ influence on fashion by issuing a dozen patterns that were exact copies of the clothes worn in films. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly, Travis Banton, and Howard Greer for actresses Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Kay Francis and Mary Astor, among others. The series was called Butterick Starred Patterns. The movie studios cooperating with Butterick were Warner’s, R.K.O., and Paramount.

These patterns are not to be confused with the Hollywood Pattern company; Hollywood Patterns only had movie studio tie-ins, with pictures of stars and starlets appearing on the pattern envelopes. The patterns were not exact copies of movie costumes. As explained in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery:

“Hollywood pattern styles were not of the garments worn in films, for as stated in the April/May Hollwood Pattern Book, ‘[The designs] are inspired by the clothes of the smartest stars, not copied from them. The dress which may be perfect for the camera may be too dramatic in the office or home. Our staff studies the best previews, then creates clothes in the same spirit, but easier to wear.’ ” — Joy Spanabel Emery, p. 126. [Movies were often previewed a month before general release.]

SoVintagePatterns.com has many Hollywood patterns for sale. Click here and see if you find your favorite actress. Click here to see the Hollywood pattern version of a Scarlett O’Hara dress, translated into a 1939 evening gown or day dress.

Butterick Starred Patterns

Because of their rarity and their genuine movie and celebrity tie-ins,  Butterick Starred Patterns are collectors’ items now. Butterick No. 5215, a pattern for the bathing suit worn by Bette Davis in The Working Man, sold on Ebay in December, 2015, for $113.50 (unused.)

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and Butterick Starred Pattern. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and  Butterick pattern 5215, a halter top bathing suit. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns only appeared in the Butterick catalog for one year: 1933. (Joy Spanabel Emery, p 127.)

As it happens, I have just finished going through all 12 issues of Butterick’s Delineator magazine — in which “Starred” Patterns were publicized — from 1933. From April through August, The Delineator featured a different movie each month, with illustrations of the patterns on the same page as photographs of those exact outfits being worn in the film.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orr-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orry-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

I’ll separate the patterns by designer, starting with Bette Davis in four costumes designed by Orry-Kelly for the Warner Brothers’ film, The Working Man. Here is the text of the article “Four Costumes Worn by Bette Davis.”

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 left TEXT

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 btm half TEXT

Bette Davis’ bathing suit 5215  in The Working Man is searchable as Butterick 5215 C in the Vintage Pattern Wikia. The pattern envelope shows another, pleated version, too. That view was featured in Delineator’s July issue. It’s been named “Seaworthy,” and there is no mention of Bette Davis or the movies.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 -- "Seaworthy" -- in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 — “Seaworthy” — in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

In June, Delineator said, “The plaid gingham bathing suit is fashion news, for the cotton suit is the suit of the summer, much, much smarter than the wool one.” In July, the same suit, in an alternate view with pleated skirt, was described this way:

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Two designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. Jule 1933, Delineator.

Two Orry-Kelly designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. June 1933, Delineator.

Bette Davis wore Starred Pattern No. 5204 for her role as a secretary:

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a "four pocket" dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a “four pocket” dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

“It was a grand dress to get fired in.” 5204  is not in the Vintage Pattern Wikia, but click here to see the envelope.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orr-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orry-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred pattern 5214 is described in the June article as the “two color dress [which] tends to reduce one’s ‘Boss’ to a state where he will eat out of one’s hand.”

Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Right: Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis Starred Pattern 5214 is listed in the Vintage Pattern Wikia as 5214 B. Patterns 5204 and 5214 had long or short sleeved versions, so buyers could make an exact copy of the movie dresses.

The “jabot frock” on the left, above, “would make the best possible Saturday dress.” Bette Davis Starred pattern  5212 is also in the Vintage Pattern Wikia.

Costume designer Orry-Kelly first worked with Bette Davis in 1932, when she still thought of herself as “a mousy, twenty-two year old virgin with knobby knees, a pelvic slouch, and cold blue bug eyes….”

“Davis credited Orry-Kelly’s designs for giving her a certain amount of chic, a quality that she did not feel she possessed…. During her eighteen years at Warner Bros.,  Davis came to rely on Orry-Kelly to help her build the characterizations for which she became so famous.” — Creating the Illusion, p. 170

Orry-Kelly and Bette Davis didn’t like each other, according to Jorgenson and Scoggins in Creating the Illusion, but they realized that they complemented each other’s work.  They made forty-two movies together in a period of fourteen years.

“Working with Bette Davis isn’t easy, but she’s worth it. She’s honest and outspoken. She’s one of the very few actresses I know who can look in the mirror and tell herself the truth. When I’m ready to give up and throw out a dress, she’ll give it a hitch or a twist and turn it into something great.” — Orry-Kelly, quoted in Creating the Illusion, p. 171.

Orry-Kelly has an astoundingly long list of movie design credits  (Filmography) at the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), but he didn’t design all the costumes in all those movies. Studios often listed a department head or supervisor as the “designer” on films. Much of the work was done by assistants. However, established stars developed working (and sometimes fighting) relationships with studio designers. In addition to all those Bette Davis pictures, you may remember Orry-Kelly’s costumes for Gold Diggers of 1933,  Casablanca and Some Like It Hot. 

Next:

Butterick Starred Patterns, Part 2: Orry-Kelly designs costumes for Kay Francis, and Butterick makes patterns from his designs.

 

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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bathing Suits, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Swimsuits, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns, Vintage patterns from the movies, Women in Trousers