Tag Archives: Paris Fashions 1920s

Jumbled Musings and Fashion Surprises

When I named this blog “witness2fashion,” it didn’t occur to me that its initials were WTF. However, that abbreviation does occur to me occasionally when I’m wandering through the pages of a 100 year old magazine.

Caution: this ad uses a word that is offensive when applied to a human being, but the ad uses it to describe a sock supporter….

Ad for “Velvet-Grip Baby Midget Hose Supporters,” Delineator, February 1920.

What the hey? “Baby Midgets” are tiny garters or stocking suspenders which are attached to this baby’s diaper with safety pins!

Seriously: How is a garter supposed to hold up your stockings when you can’t even stand up and walk yet?

I remember reading a book (The Egg and I?) in which the grandmother, hearing that the children were either making too much noise or were suspiciously silent, would shout, “You! Pull up your socks!” This was a fairly effective all-purpose command, since children couldn’t pull up their socks without removing a hand from the cookie jar, or putting down that air rifle…. Just today, reading The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, I found that the Oklahoma Public library sent a condolence message to the Los Angeles Library after a terrible fire. It included the encouraging (?) phrase, “Keep your socks up!”

Incidentally, I also found this ad for Baby Dimples Safety Pins. Awwwww….

Ad for Baby Dimples Safety Pins, Delineator, January 1920.

Here’s another old expression:  “Keep it under your hat.”

Paris hat designed by Virot, Delineator, March 1912.

Don’t wear it while driving. Or while crossing a busy street.

Speaking of hats….

Hat featured in an ad for Cheney “Shower-Proof” silks. Delineator, March 1912.

Ad for Cheney “Shower-Proof” Silks, March 1912.

I don’t know why she would need an umbrella when she’s wearing that hat! In fact,  I’m not sure the umbrella would be big enough to cover that hat. (And what about the umbrella handle…? She couldn’t get it close to her head… or even close to her shoulder! Which is why the umbrella is down on the ground catching water, I guess.)

I started with the intention of writing about this:

When is this? (No, not 2012….)

It surprised me. It’s got bare shoulders. It’s got breast exposure. It’s got a good chance of a “wardrobe malfunction” if you lean sideways. I could imagine this on the red carpet of some awards show, probably in red satin, and probably held in place with toupee tape.

(“Toupee tape” was for many years as common in a wardrobe person’s tool kit as safety pins. It was a double-sided tape intended to secure a toupee to a bald head, but was quickly adapted to keeping low-cut dresses from gaping too far for television. Its great virtue was that the adhesive didn’t give out when exposed to sweat or body oils. Now there’s a similar product manufactured and sold — in larger quantities — specifically for use with clothing.) The video ad amusingly says it prevents “peekaboob.”)

I found this sketch charming. Clue to the date: the artist is fashion illustrator Soulié. [The model was not a young Nicole Kidman….]

And this bodice is part of a couture dress designed by Jeanne Lanvin and shown in Paris in 1920.

Couture gown by Jeanne Lanvin, Paris, 1920. The net skirt is embroidered and beaded. Sketched for Delineator, March 1920.

A deep V neckline in 1920? Breasts as an erogenous zone in 1920? Yes, to my surprise…

Couture gown by Martial et Armand, Paris, 1920.

When I showed these images to a non-fashion-historian friend, she couldn’t get over the “make-your-hips-look-at-least twice-as-wide” skirts.

Couture evening gown by Martial et Armand, sketched for Delineator, January 1920.

The bottom of the hip yoke is wired to make the skirt stand away from the body. Of course, the coat to wear over a dress like this will not produce a slender silhouette, either:

An “evening cloak” and gown designed by Bulloz, Paris, 1920.

My friend was also horrified by the long, dragging panels on these dresses. (Fashion historians accept that wasteful, extravagant, impractical “conspicuous consumption” is a hallmark of high fashion.) “How could you dance in a dress like this?” we wondered. “Everybody would step on it! It would get so dirty!”

The editors of Delineator had a suggestion:

So that’s what you do with it…. Or them….  This gown has two dragging “French panels,” one of fragile lace and one of silk:

Couture gown by designer Elise Poret [not Poiret] from the February, 1920 Delineator.

(That dress also has an “oriental hem.”) There have been many decades when skirts were widened to make waists look smaller by comparison. But that’s not what’s happening here.

We are so conditioned to the fashion ideal of slenderness (or at least, a tall, lean look on fashion models) that, while I was thinking,”Wow! a bodice held up by straps in 1920!” my friend was asking “Why would you wear that? It makes her look fat!”

I look at this hip-widening gown by Berthe and notice that its couture workmanship is outstanding, and … pretty:

Couture gown by Berthe-Hermance illustrated in May, 1920; Delineator.

Couture details on a 1920 gown. Undeniably luxurious.

(Also undeniable is its potential for a wardrobe malfunction if one shoulder relaxes….)

But it is difficult for me to look at coats like these and yearn to wear them:

Evening coats from Butterick patterns, November 1920.

Couture “cloak” by Renee, covered with red, yellow, and green “balls.” January 1920.

“What The F[ashion]?” Are those mules on her feet? With a coat? Seriously? And, what did it feel like to sit on those balls?

The historic House of Worth contributed this (shall we say transitional?) suit which gets its stiffness from pony skin. [Perfect if your name is “Whinnie.”]

From the House of Worth, Paris. Illustrated in Delineator, January 1920.

In other words, after five years of war and its aftermath, Paris went mad for luxury. “Suits no longer content themselves with fur collar and cuffs but are made entirely of mole, caracul, etc.” A lot of horses died in WW I, so I guess pony was a luxury item, too.

To end on a more cheerful note, we know about harem skirts and orientalism and the influence of the Ballet Russe. But this is the first photo of a model wearing harem pants that I’ve encountered:

Orientalism in high fashion: a harem hem for an evening in Paris. Delineator, May 1920.

Glamourdaze paid tribute to the Poiret-influenced harem hem outfit worn on Downton Abbey. But these are later, and not by Poiret.

Information about “Deddy” is hard to find, but the designer Deddy did appear in Delineator fashion coverage more than once.

The harem pants worn on Downton Abbey by Lady Sybil were definitely not as revealing as this outfit!

Very Bare in 1920: The top of Deddy’s harem outfit.

That’s all my “WTFashion?” images for now.  More to come.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, Capes, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs, World War I

A Bride’s Trousseau by Top Designers, April 1928

A wedding gown designed by Lucien Lelong and illustrated for Delineator magazine, April 1928. Delineator maintained an office in Paris to get the latest fashions for the Butterick pattern company.

In April 1928, Delineator magazine selected a hypothetical trousseau purchased  from the top Paris designers. The wedding gown and several other items were from the house of Lelong. Other designers’ names, like O’Rossen and Jane Regny, may be less familiar. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting time capsule of what a very rich society bride might choose for her first season as a married woman.

To make these images legible, I’ve straightened them out and adjusted them for exposure and clarity.

The illustrations were splayed around the wedding gown in the center, so I have made individual images of each garment to show the details.

The wedding gown displays an extreme version of the uneven hems that were chic in the late Twenties. The front of the gown is at knee length, but the train is extravagantly long.

A dipping train in the back of the wedding dress.

The dress is shaped close to the hips with a series of godets [inserts] which flare in front.

Superb construction was a mark of the House of Lelong.

The simple veil springs lavishly from a close-fitting cap. Large earrings dangle below the severe headdress.

The rest of the bride’s trousseau/wardrobe includes evening gowns, suits, and a coat (which was also by Lelong.)

First, a not-so-simple evening dress from Champcommunal. It is sleeveless, with a long chiffon scarf on one side.

Next, a sporty summer suit which combines fabrics in a very sophisticated way:

The cardigan jacket is casual and striped. The [wonderful] skirt is a floral print, and the same fabric lines the open jacket and trims the pockets. The design house is London Trades.

Dresses with gradations of color [“composé” ] were very stylish.

This dress in graded colors has a coordinating jacket. The designer is Jane Regny.

A real classic is this overcoat by Lelong. The waistline may move up or down, but the basic tailored overcoat appears in some version decade after decade. There is a classic belt in back, too.

The coat, by Lelong, is double-breasted and almost severe.

A wool traveling suit by O’Rossen is worn with a necktie (or scarf tied like a necktie) and a large fur stole. O’Rossen specialized in “tailleurs” — tailored clothing.

Women wore less sporty outfits to afternoon events. This print “dress” and jacket is by Lelong. The big floral decoration on one shoulder may be stiffened self-fabric. Oddly (to my eyes) both this accent and the flare of the asymmetrical skirt are on the left side of her body, rather than the accent being worn on the opposite side to “balance” the skirt. I see this “same side” accent on many 1920s’ illustrations.

A slightly more dressy ensemble by Lelong. The skirt is asymmetrical.

At this level of society, a woman would need more than one evening dress. The one below is extravagantly ruffled, but it’s not girlish.

I can’t get over how modern the model’s hair looks!

A breezy, casual, and chic 1928 hairstyle.

Another evening gown from Lelong, this one has yards and yards of lightweight ruffled net creating a full skirt which dips in the back.

That net dress is for parties and balls, while the “simple” chiffon evening dress would be appropriate for more intimate dinners and dancing.

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

For one thing, they can buy couture.

 

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Less Familiar Designers of the 1920s, Number 1: Jenny (Part 1)

Evening dress by Jenny (Jeanne Adele Bernard Sacerdote) as sketched for Delineator, January 1926.

Some leading designers of the nineteen twenties have names that still sell fashion. Chanel comes to mind. Others were famous before and after the Twenties, like the House of Worth. Having a successful perfume brand helps: “Joy,” by Patou is still available. This is the first in a series about once-famous 1920s designers who are no longer well known.

Jenny (born Jeanne Adele Bernard, later Jenny Sacerdote) was ranked with those big names in the Twenties, but is not as well known today. I’ll be sharing a few of her designs, with links to help you find others.

These are merely a few of the designs by Jenny that were sketched for Delineator, *** and I do not have photos from every year between 1917 and 1930. Her ability to adjust to changes in fashion is admirable.  Born in 1868, she became famous in her fifties, showing 300 pieces in her collection of 1918.

Two sketches of couture by Jenny (Jenny Adele Bernard Sacerdote ) shows her ability to move with the times. Delineator, 1917 and 1927.

Left, a gown with a “tonneau” or “barrel” skirt — a fashion innovation from 1917. Right, a bare, narrow, fringed and beaded evening gown from 1927.

Jenny in 1917

Jenny was already being copied in 1915. The V&A collection has several color sketches of Jenny designs. London dressmaker Elizabeth Handley Seymour sketched hundreds of French couture gowns and coats which she was prepared to duplicate for her customers. She included this coat by Jenny, this evening gown, and this elegant afternoon or evening gown.

Jenny was such a “star” in 1917 that even her underwear collections were featured in “Reports from Paris.” She’s notable for her use of bright colors and print fabrics (!) in her lingerie:

This frothy undergarment was “sulphur-yellow ‘gaze’ trimmed with lace.” Delineator, August 1917.

On Jenny’s pink satin knickers, cream yellow lace is outlined with little roses or ‘cocardes’ [sic] of satin ribbon:

Doucet was a very well-established design house; Jenny is treated as his equal. Delineator, August 1917. Note the ribbon straps.

Print fabric lingerie by Jenny, 1917. Sketched for Delineator.

Jenny used “Flowered muslin in a quite indescribable design of white flowers outlined with pink on a blue background” for her pleated chemise, 1917. I remember how new and exciting print underwear was in the 1960s!

This pink chiffon Jenny dressing gown would have been called a “combing jacket” in an earlier era. (See “Peignoir.”)

A dressing gown by Jenny in Delineator, July 1917: “ruched pink chiffon over a pink satin skirt.”

Other Jenny designs from 1917 show that she had a sense of humor. She named this dress, amply trimmed with fur, “My hairy one.”

Jenny called this model “Mon Poilu” –“my hairy one.” Sketched for Delineator, December 1917.

However, her velvet skating dress seems a little impractical:

Jenny described this as a skating dress. Delineator sketch, December 1917. The tassels would be flying!

The coat below is actually sleeveless, worn over a matching gray silk dress. The geometric trim is stitching in green thread.

Short sleeveless coat over matching gray silk dress, green stitching. Jenny, sketched for Delineator, September 1917.

In June, 1917, Delineator showed a page full of couture designs which featured the new “barrel” silhouette. This was one from Jenny. Page 56.

Delineator claimed the barrel silhouette was chiefly the influence of Jeanne Paquin:

The barrel or tonneau skirt, sketched by Paquin’s own artist. Delineator, March 1917, p 56.

They look better to me when the model is sitting down.

Jenny created this dress for 1917. Delineator, March, p. 56. “Blue serge dress with eight box plaits over each shoulder. The square line at the neck appears in many of the new dresses.”

Left, a design by Jenny — in black satin under white chiffon embroidered with flowers — appears next to a design from the House of Worth. Delineator, March 1917.

I’m sure you could find many more Jenny designs: try searching for Delineator at Hathi Trust; select Journal, then choose a year, and search within the volumes you find. 1922 for example…

*** Note:  Butterick Publishing Company had offices in Paris, giving their pattern makers a chance to follow the very latest trends, which were reported on several times a year, often illustrated by Soulie. All the illustrations I’ll use in this “Less Familiar Designers” series come from Delineator‘s coverage. Caveat:  Pattern companies could sometimes buy couture items and copy them, but designers were not happy to be copied without any payment, so sketch artists attending fashion shows had to be quick and furtive, and sometimes had to work from memory. Read Fashion is Spinach, by Elizabeth Hawes for a sketcher’s real inside story.

Next: Jenny in the 1920s.

Tennis dress by Jenny, sketched for Delineator by Leslie Saalburg, February 1927.

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The Big Hem Drop: 1929 to 1930

Only one year separates these Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine. This is rapid fashion change.

The change in fashion that took place between Fall of 1929 and Spring, 1930 — just a few months — fascinates me. The fact that a completely different fashion silhouette was adopted during a time of economic crisis  — when pennies were being pinched — makes it even more astonishing.

Just to get our eyes adjusted and refresh our memories of 1929 before the change, here are several images of couture and of mainstream Butterick sewing pattern illustrations from July 1929.

French couture sportswear, illustrated by Leslie Saalburg in Delineator, July 1929. Short and un-fussy.

These fashions are unmistakably late 1920s. Note the hem length, which just covers the knees. There is a crisp, geometric quality about many of these outfits.

Couture sportswear illustrated by Leslie Saalburg for Delineator, July 1929.

Patterns for home use:

Spectator sportswear; Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator, July 1929. The dress at left is soft and flared, a hint of things to come. The dress at right is crisply geometric. Both are short.

1920’s day dresses, Butterick patterns 2697 and 2707. Delineator, July 1929. Mostly straight lines.

Butterick patterns for sportswear, Delineator, July 1929. Simple, pleated, short.

Whether we look at French couture or home sewing patterns, the silhouette and the length are  definitely “Twenties.”

In the 1929 Fall collections, couturier Jean Patou showed longer skirts — well below the knee — and took credit for changing fashion from the characteristic Twenties’ silhouette to the longer, softer, Thirties’ look. (A few other couturiers also showed longer dresses, but he took the credit for being first.)

French couture fashions sketched for Delineator, November 1929. The large illustration at left is an ensemble by Patou — noticeably longer than the other designers’ hems.

“Paris revolutionizes winter styles.” Compare the hem on the dress by Patou, second from left, with those from Molyneux (left, very “Twenties”) Cheruit (third from left,) and Nowitzky (also “Twenties” in spirit, far right.)

Below is the Fall 1929 version of Chanel’s famous black dress. (In the original, from 1926, hems had not reached their shortest length.)

This variation on Chanel’s famous little black dress — with a slightly different placement of tucks –falls just below the knees in 1929, the season when Patou was pioneering longer dresses.

By Fall of 1929, Chanel’s “little black dress” (a sensation in 1926) is just below the knee. It also has a natural waist.

You may have noticed that waistlines are rising as hems are falling; that’s a topic deserving an entire post, but….

Delineator, October 1929, p. 25. “Higher Waists, Longer Skirts.”

The flared dress at left has a softer, less geometric look, and shirring near the natural waist instead of a horizontal hip line. Delineator, October 1929. This dress seems to be “in the stores” rather than a Butterick pattern.

Between July couture showings and October, 1929: That is how fast commercial manufacturers picked up on the new trend for longer skirts and natural waistlines.

Butterick patterns in Delineator, October 1929.

Delineator (i.e.,Butterick Publishing Co.) had offices in Paris where the latest couture collections were sketched (and copied.) In this case, longer skirts appeared on patterns for sale very quickly. (The process of issuing a pattern took several weeks, and the magazine had a lead time of a month or so, as well.)

When these patterns appeared in April, 1930, nothing was said about their length. Old news!

Dresses for women, up to size 48. Butterick patterns from Delineator, April 1930, p. 31. From left, “tiny sleevelet,” “flared sleeves,” “white neckline,” and “short kimono sleeves.”

By April 1930, what was notable about these dresses, to the editors of Delineator, was the variety of their sleeves!

Back views of Butterick 3143, 3179, 3173, and 3180. Delineator, April 1930, p. 31.

Longer styles had been in the news for several months.

Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, January 1930.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1930. Hems have fallen. Waists are in transition.

The most interesting article I found about this change from “Twenties” to “Thirties” was in Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1929, pp. 66 and following.

In “Smart Essentials of the Winter Clothes,” fashion editor Helen Koues wrote:

“They differ from any we have had since the war…. To be sure, last season Patou and a few houses tentatively raised the waistline, and we talked about it and made predictions. But now the normal or above normal waistline is here, and anything remotely resembling a low waist is gone. We have had it a long time, that low waist and short skirt, and it is only fitting and logical that it should make way for some sort of revival. [“Directoire, Victorian, Princess….”] We have worn high waists and long skirts before — both higher and longer. But coming with a greater degree of suddenness than any change of line has come for some years, it is an inconvenient fashion.  What are we going to do with our old clothes? [My emphasis.]

“The new silhouette will be taken up just as fast as the average woman can afford to discard her old wardrobe…. The average woman will replace what she needs to replace with new lines, but she will take longer, because she will wear out at least some of her old clothes.  In three months, however, all over America the tightly fitted gown, the longer skirt, the high waist will have superseded the loose hiplines of another season. and the main reason for the speed of this change is that we are ready for it. We are bored with the old silhouette, for we have had it too long — so long, in fact, that… we were beginning to think that we would wear short skirts and low waists till we die…. The psychological moment has come….

“Skirt lengths are particularly interesting: for sports, three inches below the knee is the right length; for street clothes, four inches below, and for the formal afternoon gown about five inches above the anklebone. Evening, of course, right down to the ground… and probably with as much length in front as back…. These are the average lengths.

“Skirts are slimmer than ever, if that is possible, or at least the effect is slimmer, because with the added length the flare necessarily begins lower down. But the flare is still there in full force….”

Colors for Spring, 1930. Butterick patterns in Delineator, March 1930. Flares, softness, and a coat that is shorter than the dress.

Koues also noted that the new three-quarter coat, “that strikes the gown just above the knee” was in style, although she did not mention that this, at least, was a break for women who could afford a new dress but not a new winter coat. Koues recommended wearing longer knickers (underwear) in winter to make up for the shorter coat.

Short coats or long jackets, February 1930, Delineator.

Vogue, October 26, 1929 reminded readers “We told you so!”

If you have access to Vogue magazine archives you may enjoy a timeline of Vogue fashion predictions from October 26, 1929. It began, “We told you so! If you are one of the many women who are complaining that the new mode means a completely new wardrobe, that you were caught unawares, we take no responsibility. For two whole years, we have been reiterating and reiterating a warning of the change to come.”

Here are some highlights of Vogue‘s predictions:

JANUARY 1, 1928:  “The Waist-Line Rises as the Skirt Descends…”

JANUARY 13, 1928:  “Skirts ….. Will Be Longer” — “Waist-Lines Will Be Higher” — “Drapery and the Flare Will Be Much in Evidence.”

APRIL 13, 1929:  “What looked young last year looks old this season — all because longer, fuller skirts and higher waist-lines have been used so perfectly that they look right, smart, and becoming.”

JUNE 22, 1929: “The hemline is travelling and so is the waistline. One is going up, and the other is coming down.”

Vogue ended, “Need we say more? Surely, Vogue readers are well prepared.”

This is what designers in Paris were showing in Spring, 1930.

Paris Couture, sketched for Delineator, May 1930. Every one has a long skirt and a natural waist.

I began with several images of patterns and couture from July 1929. Here are some dresses from July 1930, showing how completely the Twenties’ look had been “superseded” by the Thirties — in one year.

The Twenties are over. The Thirties are here. Patterns from Delineator, July 1930.

Naturally, in 1929-1930 some women thought the new long skirts made them look “old” while some thought they looked “youthful;” but that is a story for another day!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Coats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Sportswear, Underthings, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Paris Ideas, Butterick Pattern, 1926

Soulie’s sketches of Paris designer fashions, Delineator, January 1926.

Two designers showing strongly banded dresses were featured in Delineator‘s January report from Paris. And a strongly banded Butterick pattern appeared in the same issue.

Butterick dress pattern 6543 (right) shows Paris influence.

The designer dress by Lanvin has a “silver girdle” molding the hips and its “divided front tunic” is trimmed with silver, perhaps silver stitching. (Custom embroidery is still a mark of couture.)

A closer look at the Lanvin design, which features silver bands on a black dress. Winter, 1925-1926.

Striking, contrasting bands down the center front give impact to this Butterick pattern (right) from January 1926:

Butterick 6543, right, offers a charming solution to “authentic Twenties style” for women who don’t want to exaggerate the width of their hips.

“Crepe satin used with its reverse side” would give a very subtle effect; here, chiffon velvet seems to be suggested, although applying those straight bands to velvet would not be easy sewing. Heavy crepe de Chine would be an easier-to-handle choice.

Right, a good example of the subtle effect of reversible crepe satin; this 1927 dress uses the matte and shiny sides of the same fabric.

The flared sleeves of Butterick 6543 are very like the Lanvin couture design, although the bands ate placed differently.

Here is the alternate view of patterns 6561 and 6543:

Alternate views of Butterick patterns 6561 and 6543.

Note the short-sleeved summer version of 6543; the suggested border print fabric would make a dress that looked very different from its dark winter version.

Happy New Year, 1926!

This banded evening dress by Jenny was also illustrated in January 1926 — It’s not for the timid:

A banded evening design by Jenny, a very successful couturier in the 1920’s. For more about those deep armholes, click here.

In “orchid pink crepe satin embroidered with pink pearls and blue flowers worked at hip and shoulder,” it would be modified to suit the woman who ordered it. It was probably available in other color choices — and with a sheer “modesty” insert in the deep V neckline, if required.

Click here for another daring neckline by Jenny. UK vintage clothing dealer and blogger Blue 17 wrote a good, illustrated Jenny tribute: Click here to read it.

For a much less elaborate Butterick dress from 1926 — which used a slimming contrast tie to good effect, see 6553, at right:

Butterick 6559 and 6553, Delineator, January 1926. Cape optional.

The long ties are important to the effect of these dresses, distracting from the horizontal line at the hips, adding the illusion of width to the shoulders and drawing our eyes up, closer to the face.

Butterick 6559 (left) makes good use of a border print.

Wishing you a very happy 2019!

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Party Dresses for January 1926

Afternoon and evening dresses for women, Delineator, January 1926, page 28.

Evening dresses for teens (ages 15 to 20) and small women. Butterick 6535 and 6482, Delineator, January 1926, p. 27.

Details of evening dresses for young women. The proportions of the blue dress — and its flaring circular skirt — do not scream “Twenties.”

The lower edge of the “two piece circular skirt” stands out because it is scalloped and bound with bias. This dress has an underarm closing in the side seam, which would have used a row of snaps with a hook and bar at the top and at other points of stress.

Pattern magazines like Delineator came out ahead of the month on the cover, so you probably could have made these dresses in time for New Year’s Eve parties in 1926.  Dresses for adult women were shown longer than those for teens. If you want to make a Twenties’ dress shorter, you should shorten the pattern at the waist, not the hem. Click here for a 1926 article about dress alterations.

Butterick 6498, 6497, and 6527, Delineator, January 1926.

Butterick 6498, January 1928. The model is holding a huge feather fan that matches the  trim on her dress. The dress is as simple as they get! Notice the easing in the side seam instead of a bust dart. The side panel is sheer Georgette.

Details of Butterick 6497 and 6527, January 1928.

A slip with optional sleeves and a higher neckline would convert this to an afternoon dress as seen in the back view. It was illustrated in a “Lanvin green” border print.

This dress would be super-easy to copy using modern patterns. (Yes, bust darts were used in the 1920s! But they didn’t come so far toward the bust point. [Busts weren’t pointed.] Click here.) The circle skirt is attached to an under slip, so the skirt does not start at the waist, but at the hip.

The very long top on the”pervenche blue” metallic brocade dress was also seen on this pattern with “troubadour sleeves,” 1926.

Another very long-torsoed pattern from 1926. They were not as popular as the usual mid-hip waistline.

Butterick 6549, January 1926. (A good style for those who don’t appreciate a hip band.) This is an afternoon dress, with embroidered sleeves. Perhaps they have sheer appliques on them. The shirred godets go all around the dress — nice for tea dances. Bois de rose (rosewood) was a chic tan/rose pink color, not as orange as it looks here.

If made sleeveless, it would be an evening dress.

Butterick dresses 6517 and 6531; Delineator, January 1926.

“Princess dress” in the Twenties doesn’t mean it’s close-fitting, as in some other periods. The gold lining on an “Amazon green” dress below adds interest to the attached circular flare.

Details of Butterick 6517 and 6531. The vertical “circular frills” on 6517 were often used in the 1920s.

If you are wondering why the vertical frills are called “circular,” I’ll explain.

This is one of those things that made pattern making — draping and drafting patterns — such an interesting class. I urge you to experiment with it, because, although you can learn this principle, every tiny change you make to the pattern will change the way the fabric behaves, drastically!

The basic idea is this: if you want to create a cascade of ripples in a jabot or a flounce or a frill or whatever you want to call it, you need to cut the fabric with a curve on the side you will attach to the garment. It has to be cut to the right length, but not in a straight line. When you force that curve into a straight line, as has been done on Butterick 6517, ripples will form!

The “circular frills” at left and the overskirt at right are both based on circles.

Twenties’ dresses that depend on the “cut a curve and straighten it out” principle. Delineator, July 1925.

The long drape on the left is probably just a long rectangle. If cut on a curve, I think it would ripple more. The skirt on the right is based on a section of a circle. The ruffled V shaped neckline trim in the middle shows the soft ripples you get when you attach a curved frill in a straight line.

The more curved the line is, the more ripples you get when you straighten it out.

Butterick 2387 is meant to flutter. Dark fabrics are suggested, which does not rule out red....

The curves in these diagrams are greatly exaggerated, just to give the general idea!

A flounce based on a fairly tight curve.  When the blue half circle was straightened out, the flounce would have many ripples.

The gentler the inside curve, the fewer ripples the flounce will have.

That is the basic pattern for a 1920s dipping hem. (Of course, the waist is not really a circle…. This is just the starting point for a muslin.)

Left, a typical dipping hem for evening, September 1928; Butterick pattern.

Evening gown by Lelong, sketched for Delineator, May 1929. Getting all those flounces right took a lot of experiments in muslin! (Draping at 1/2 or 1/4 scale saves a lot of money.)

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Winter Underwear, 1880s to 1920s

Detail from and ad for Munsingwear knit undergarments, Delineator,  September, 1927.

Frau Buttonbox asked what women wore under those 1920’s dresses in the winter — and how they protected their dresses from sweat and body oils. I have some ads to share!

Just for vocabulary, in the U.S., a one piece knit suit like this was called a “union suit” (proper name) or “long johns” (common name.)

This wool union suit was recommended by dress-reformer Annie Jenness-Miller in 1888.

In 1880’s England, Dr. Jaeger’s theory that wearing wool next to the skin (instead of plant fibers like linen or cotton) was good for health was championed by dress reformers and George Bernard Shaw.

My uncle Bert (like Garrison Keillor’s “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers”) came from a generation (b. 1899) that believed that a hot bath would “open your pores” to admit disease, so he wore long johns from September to March. My stepmother insisted that he wash them (and himself) from time to time if he wanted to eat dinner with us. Whew!

Women’s union suit from Sears catalog, Fall 1918.
By 1916, skirts were getting shorter, but lace-up boots would have hidden the legs of this underwear. Notice the short sleeves.

Ladies’ shoes from Sears catalog, 1918.

Wool, needed for army uniforms, was hard to get in the U.S. in 1917-1918. Note the overlapping “open” back.

The problem with fashionable clothing is that it is usually the opposite of practical clothing — so women who want to be fashionable usually have to sacrifice some comfort — and common sense.

By the mid-1920s, skirts were reaching the knee, and bare arms were expected with evening dresses and dinner dresses. Nevertheless, many dining rooms (even in mansions) were unheated.

Ad for Forest Mills long underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The union suit on the left could be worn under day dresses. These models look like teens.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/1925-oct-p-27-500-dpi-whole-color-page.jpg

Winter clothes for teens and small women, October 1925. Delineator.

Under evening dress, your torso could be warm, but your arms had to be bare.

Combed cotton knit underwear from Sears, 1927 catalog. You could wear a silk or rayon slip over these, under your dress.

Butterick 5755, 5714, 5713, Delineator, January 1925, page 29.

Evening dresses for teens, January 1925.

“It s no longer necessary to shiver through the long winter months in order to be stylishly dressed.”

“Keep your body warm.” Ad for Forest Mills knit underwear, Delineator, November 1925. The ad doesn’t state fiber content, but knits made for a smooth, “no bumps” fit.

“Underwear that will not only absorb perspiration, but will keep your body from being chilled.”

The Forest Mills underwear shown in the photograph is not much different in style from silk underwear (slips, camisole and bloomers) sold by Sears, but knit underwear fit more smoothly.

Silk underwear from Sears catalog, Fall 1927. Silk or rayon bloomers came to just above the knee.

Carter’s, a company that made rayon knit underwear, ran a whole series of ads that showed couture fashions next to pictures of models (in the same poses) wearing Carter’s underwear. I don’t now how warm it was, but it did fit very closely.

Detail of an ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear, Delineator, November 1926. Premet and Poiret were famous Paris Couturiers. That’s a Poiret model above.

Detail of 1927 ad for Carter’s underwear. The model wears Poiret; at right she poses in her Carter’s underwear.

“Poiret’s black and gold gown” and silk cape, pictured in an ad for Carter’s underwear, November 1927. Poiret was very influential in the 1910’s, but falling out of favor by the late 1920’s.

Detail from an ad for Carter’s knit underwear, November 1927. Smooth, one-piece fit.

Right, back view of a one-piece union suit; left, a camisole “vest” and bloomers. Carter’s rayon knit undergarments, ad from 1926.

Premet’s “Vampire” dress, with Carter’s combination underwear to go under it. April, 1928. That dress would have permitted a much warmer undergarment.

The gold and white brocade hostess gown is by Drecoll; the underwear is Carter’s “vest and bloomer” of rayon knit. Ad from May 1927. The House of Worth also participated in this ad campaign.

As to keeping clothes free of perspiration stains and odor, deodorants were available (and ruined the armpits of many a vintage garment….) A solution still used in theatrical costumes, and by those allergic to certain chemicals, is the dress shield.

1910 ad for Kleinert’s dress shields. Delineator.

Ad for OMO dress shields, a rival to Kleinert’s. March 1910, Delineator.

Dress shields were usually safety pinned or basted into place in the armholes of a dress or jacket.

1920 Kleinert’s dress shield ad. You can see that this shield is curved at the top to follow the shape of the bottom of the armhole; it folds over the underarm seam, extending into the dress and into the sleeve.

Costumers sew in snaps so the shields can be changed and washed.  Some women preferred to wear a bra or guimpe-like washable garment which included the shields.

Top of a Kleinert’s dress shield ad, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1937.

The Kleinert’s website (the company is still in business) explains:

“Before The Advent Of Deodorants & Antiperspirants The Dress Shield Was The Way To Protect Your Garments From Sweat & Odor. In 1869 Kleinert’s Invented the Dress & Garment Shield Category Which Is Still In Use Today Protecting Our Clothes & Saving Us From Embarrassing Situations Due To Sweat Stains & Odors. Trust Kleinert’s Quality & History To Keep You Dry Throughout The Day. Choose Below From Our Selection Of Fine Dress Shields.” Kleinerts.com

The shields come in different shapes for differently cut armholes. Now you can get disposable ones — and in a costume emergency I have cut self-adhesive pantiliners to stick in the underarms of a costume.

Bottom of Kleinert’s dress shield ad from March 1937, WHC.

I’ve mentioned this before: actors sweat, and stage actors have to wear their costume(s) for eight performances per week. It’s not good for a wool suit to be dry-cleaned every week; underwear protects the costume, but a changeable shield under each arm keeps the suit from getting wet at all. Undershirts and shirts, etc., are laundered daily — in fact, Equity actors have duplicates supplied so they don’t ever have to put on a shirt that is still damp from the matinee performance. (Ditto for all other items that touch the skin.)

Full page, full-color Kleinert’s ad, March 1924. Delineator.

Unsexy as a dress shield may be, it’s preferable to ruining a $2000 dress or destroying it by too-frequent dry cleaning. Bonus: you can raise your arms and never show a sweat ring.

Camisole and bloomers from Munsingwear ad, September 1927, Delineator.

P.S. [Edited 1/6/2019] Liza D at BVD sent a photo of the Kleinert’s dress shields she found in a vintage garment (Thanks, Liza!) :

Liza D found these used dress shields in a vintage garment. Those ugly stains would have been on the blouse if the woman who wore it hadn’t used these in the underarms. Click here for Liza’s post about it.

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Filed under 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Late Victorian fashions, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc