Tag Archives: Paris Fashions 1920s

Colorful Clothing for Girls and Boys, July 1926

Clothes for girls (and a boy) age 15 and under, Delineator, July 1926, page 30.

I’m making an educated guess at the age range, based on other Butterick illustrations. Teen girls aged 15 to 20 years were “Misses,” and they usually had their own pages of fashions in Delineator magazine. Butterick patterns for children often reflected adult style details; but styles for young children changed very slowly, so we sometimes find patterns that were released years before mixed in with brand new ones — in this group, two patterns numbered in the 5000’s appear among 6900’s.

From left, a girl’s dress and bloomers, Butterick 6923; a “suit” for a young boy, 6928; and another dress and bloomers set for a girl, Butterick 6905, with hat 6323. Delineator, July 1926. Matching or coordinating bloomers were part of a toddler’s outfit.

Girl’s dress (probably for 6 to 10 years) No. 6859, and a red bathing suit, Butterick 5210. July 1926. The bathing suit is unchanged from previous summers; it first appeared in 1924.

Red and blue often photographed as black, so I love seeing the red swimsuit. It buttons at the shoulders.

When I based a painting on this 1920’s photo of my cousins Gerald and Mimi, I made their bathing suits blue, but colors ranging from purple (or navy blue) to red, green, and brown all photographed as black.

My cousins enjoying the sprinkler in the 1920’s. I guessed that their swimsuits were blue; now I know they might have been red. At least I gave them red sandals!

Three Butterick patterns for girls: Left, 6878; center, 6043; right, 6915. July 1926.

The white and blue dress (6878) looks much like the dresses for grown-ups in the same issue:

These dresses are smocked near the shoulders and hip, but they could also be made with ruched or shirred gathers, like the girl’s dress. When the sleeves continued to the neckline, forming a yoke, as on the left, they were called “saddle shoulders.”

The lavender dress has a sort of scalloped front; scallops were also used on this woman’s dress:

Scallops bound with bias tape decorate the front of a woman’s dress and a girl’s dress, both from 1926.

This is my favorite:

Butterick 6915 has colorful dots and a red tie that weaves in and out of openings on the front of the dress.

The same detail is seen in a dress for older girls:

Dresses for school-age girls, Butterick 6959, left, and 6909. July 1926.

Like the scalloped lavender dress above, the polka dotted dress (6959) can be tightened at the hip with button tabs. Perhaps the tie on the back of the flowered dress (6909) serves the same function.

Butterick 6908 is shown in a large floral print. It has a “saddle shoulder.” Its “collar” becomes a long tie — very common in this period.  Butterick 6087 is shown in coral red, trimmed with blue and white smocking.

Butterick embroidery design 10365 shows variations on smocking. From the August, 1925 Delineator.

Dresses for girls and women were often shown with smocking near the shoulder or hip, and sometimes at the neckline and wrist.

In the center, a Misses’ smocked dress pattern, 6012, from May, 1925. Left (6963) and right (6087,) smocked dresses for girls from July 1926.

Butterick patterns for little girls: Left, 6963 with hat pattern 6753; right, Dress and bloomers No. 6911 with hat 5557. Illustrated in July 1926.

In addition to children’s patterns illustrated in color, these outfits for boys and girls were shown in black and white, with a touch of yellow:

Matching brother-and-sister outfits from July 1926: Butterick boy’s “suit” 6948 and girl’s dress 6958. They look like they are wearing blouson jackets; in the twenties, a “dress” pattern could mean a separate top and skirt, often a skirt suspended from the shoulders on a sleeveless bodice.

The little girl wears Butterick dress 6917; the boy’s suit has shorts which button to his shirt and a “bib front…”

… like this woman’s dress (in yellow) from the same July 1926 issue of Delineator.

Left, a bib front dress from June, 1926; right, a bib front dress from July, 1926. Both from Delineator.

July is time to start planning a fall wardrobe, so these stylish coats for older girls were also shown:

A caped coat pattern, Butterick 6920, and a top-stitched coat, No. 6955, with Butterick hat pattern 6089. July 1926, Delineator. By making your own hat, you could match it to your dress, as shown at right. The hat on the left, however, has a grown-up buckle trim that must have made its wearer feel very sophisticated.

Notice how short these coats for girls are. I sometimes think that young women adapted easily to the shortest of nineteen-twenties fashions because they had never worn longer ones. Below are some coats for young women aged fifteen to twenty from the previous season — March, 1926.

Coats for Misses 15 to 20 or small women, Delineator, March 1926, p. 27.

By comparison, they look too long to me! By the end of the year, such coats were probably being shortened:

Couture by Berthe, left, and Vionnet, right. Delineator, January 1927.

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Children's Vintage styles, Hats, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage patterns

90 Years Ago: Daytime Fashions for April 1927

Two views of a suit from Molyneux, left, and a sporty double-breasted suit from O’Rossen. The Molyneux suit used the same ombre striped fabric for the skirt and to trim the jacket. Delineator magazine, April 1927.

Since time forthe Easter Parade is approaching, lets take a closer look at the hats:

Left, two views of a hat from Molyneux; right, a simpler hat by Reboux. 1927.

Original description of Paris designer suits from Delineator, April 1927, p. 24.

Molyneux was one of the most influential designers of the late twenties. O’Rossen is almost forgotten today.  Another very successful French designer from the 1920’s was Louise Boulanger, whose fashion house was called Louiseboulanger. I may have shown her appliqued coat before — but it’s worth a second look (below right.)

French designer coats illustrated in Delineator, April 1927, p. 25. Left, a coat by Paquin; right, an applique-trimmed coat from Louiseboulanger.

Description of Paris coats from Delineator magazine, April 1927, p. 25.

These coats could be purchased in New York at the shop of Mary Walls. Here is a closer look at those hats:

Left, a hat from Molyneux; right, a hat by Alphonsine trimmed “with a huge taffeta ribbon bow.” 1927. They were available in New York:  the Molyneux from Mary Walls, or the Alphonsine from Saks Fifth Avenue.

If your budget did not run to couture, these Butterick patterns for Spring were also available:

Butterick coat pattern No. 1346, and dress 1386. Delineator April 1927, p. 31. The dress has closely pleated tiers cut in a scallop shape.

Descriptions and back views of Butterick 1346 and 1386, 1927.

The coat lapel is trimmed with a large “flower” made of ribbon. The hat at left is decorated with a cliquet pin. Bar pins, some of them quite large, like the one on the dress, were often shown worn like this, pinned diagonally to the front of a dress which looks too fragile to support it. 1927.

Some early 20th c. bar pins. I have worn these on my lapel or at my throat, but never diagonally on the mid- chest as seen in 1920’s illustrations.

Butterick coat pattern 1387; Frock 1392; two-piece dress pattern 137; and “jumper frock” 1372, Delineator, April 1927, p. 32. The skirt of No. 1372 hung from an under bodice, not a waistband.

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Butterick 1387 and 1392, 1927.

Details of Butterick 1370 and 1372. 1372 has a bow at the neck, partly hidden by her hand..

Butterick patterns 1360, 1408, and sports wear patterns 1396 (spectator sports) and 1378 (active sports, like tennis.) Delineator, April 1927, p. 33.

The rows of parallel top-stitching on No. 1360 is a style of trim that was popular in 1917.

Butterick 1360 and 1408.

The tennis dress below is illustrated with contrasting fabric inside the pleats, which would have flashed when the wearer was in motion. I’ve also seen this in several other twenties’ illustrations.

Butterick 1396 and 1378, from 1927. The monogram shows the influence of Molyneux. That sleeve construction would be rather binding in an active tennis game,  but truly sleeveless styles were still associated with evening dress.

 

Butterick patterns for Teens, April 1927. The one with the black jacket is called the “tomboy suit.” Delineator, April 1927, p. 29.

Alternate views of Butterick teen fashions 1362, 1388, 1344, and 1366. April 1927 Delineator, p. 29.

Butterick styles for teens, 1927. Patterns 1362 and 1388.

Descriptions of Butterick 1362 and 1388.

Details of Butterick’s “tomboy suit,” pattern 1344, and a surplice dress, 1366. Delineator, April 1927.

Descriptions of Butterick patterns 1344 and 1366.

“Size 19 years ” had a 38 inch bust. Size 15 years was proportionately smaller. For more about 1920’s pattern sizing click here.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hats, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

A One-Trunk Vacation Wardrobe Designed in Paris, March 1927

Delineato magazine cover, March 1927. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

Delineator magazine cover, March 1927. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

By February or March, those who could afford to take a break from winter weather — and those who just wanted to daydream about doing it — could read about resort wear.
In a two page spread, Delineator assured readers that all these authorized copies of French designer fashions would fit into just one trunk.

Informal coat by Paquin, Delineator. March 1927, p. 18.

Informal coat by Paquin, Delineator. March 1927, p. 18. The mole collar is dyed green to match the cloth coat; the hat is by Reboux.

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Sporty day outfits combine a sweater and pleated skirt. Delineator, March 1927.

Sporty day outfits combine a skirt and lacy sweater, left,  or a printed silk “jumper” and coordinating skirt by Goupy, right. Delineator, March 1927. These imported fashions could be purchased in New York stores.

A bathing suit and beach robe by Lelong. Delineator, March 1927.

A bathing suit and beach robe by Lelong. Delineator, March 1927. The ingeniously cut wrap reverses from jersey to toweling. The bathing suit is cut low in back to produce a tan the same shape as an equally low cut evening dress.

For more about the fad for suntans in the 1920’s, click here. For more about composé colors, click here.

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A more formal dress and matching coat ensemble designed by Berthe are worn in the late afternoon. Delineator, March 1927.

A more formal afternoon dress and matching coat ensemble designed by Berthe are worn in the late afternoon. Delineator, March 1927. The matching mauve coat is 7/8 length. The straw hat by Agnes (left) “has the new front-peak silhouette.”

The somewhat similar draped hat on the magazine’s cover, illustrated by Helen Dryden, shows a “peak” that is pinned up, away from the face.

A rose colored outfit is accented with emeral jewelry in this stylized image by Helen Dryden. March 1927.

A rose colored outfit (or is it mauve?) is accented with emerald jewelry in this stylized image by Helen Dryden. March 1927.

A gold lame evening wrap by Vionnet is show with a "bolero" dress by Chanel. Delineator, March 1927, p. 19.

A gold lamé evening wrap by Vionnet, “striped with silver” and trimmed with gold fox fur, is shown with a “bolero” dress by Chanel in white Georgette trimmed with jewels and silver. Delineator, March 1927. page 19.

An evening dress made of lace. Delineator, March 1927.

An evening dress made of lace. “Rose silk lines the fur bows.” The tiers of the skirt “extend all the way to the shoulder in back.” Delineator, March 1927. No designer was named.

The Chanel evening dress was imported by Lord and Taylor; the other French afternoon and evening clothes were available from John Wanamaker.

Fashion Illustrator Myrtle Lages

The illustrations from pages 18 and 19 are by Myrtle Lages. Here are some Lages signatures, which usually appeared subtly at a lower corner of the image. I had to enhance some of these to improve legibility.

Lages (Myrtle Lages) worked as a fashion illustrator for Delineator, which often used one illustrator for an entire article. Lages usually squeezed her signature modestly into the lower corner of one illustration (probably magazine policy.)

Lages (Myrtle Lages) worked as a fashion illustrator for Delineator, which often used one illustrator for most of the pattern illustrations in an issue. Lages usually squeezed her signature modestly into the lower corner of one illustration (probably magazine policy.) Delineator magazine was owned by Butterick.

Lages’ signature varied between the faint and stylized vertical one, giving last name only, to the carefully written full name, as in September 1933. When Delineator switched to black and white line illustrations plus one color, Lages had no problem adjusting her style.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Delineator, May 1927.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Lages for Delineator, May 1927.

Lages pattern illustration, Delineator, August 1927. Butterick 1555, 1589, 1573, 1384.

Myrtle Lages pattern illustrations, Delineator, August 1927. Butterick 1555, 1589, 1573, 1384.

According to her obituary, Myrtle Lages (married name Whitehill) worked as an illustrator for Butterick for more than forty years. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, she died in 1994, aged 98.

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Hats, lingerie and underwear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

Fashion Plates (for Men and Women) from the Met Costume Institute

1921 fashion plate from the Metropolitan Museum collection. Click here to see it in larger versions.

1921 fashion plate from the Metropolitan Museum collection. Click here to see it in larger versions.

The Metropolitan Museum continues its generous policy of sharing images online; “Fashion plates from the collections of the Costume Institute and the Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art” are now available (and searchable) at http://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15324coll12

Click here, and scroll down for a lengthy list of sub-collections of fashion plates: menswear, children, wedding, women, headgear, etc., organized by date or range of dates.

What really excited me is the large number of men’s fashion plates, many dated very precisely, like these tennis outfits from 1905-06.

Men's tennis outfits, 1905 1906; Metropolitan Museum Fashion Plates collection. Plate 029.

Men’s tennis outfits, 1905-1906; Metropolitan Museum Fashion Plates Collection. Plate 029. For full image, click here.

If you need to skim through a year or a decade of men’s fashion, this is a great place! It’s also going to be very helpful to collectors who are trying to date specific items of men’s clothing. Sometimes the date range given is very narrow (e.g., 1905-06) and sometimes it’s rather broad (e.g., 1896 to 1913) but menswear is neglected by many costume collections, so this is a terrific resource.

Vintage vests for men. Undated. Details like the lapels, the shape of the waist, the depth of the opening, the buttons, etc., will help to date them from reference materials

Vintage evening vests for men. Undated. Details like the lapels, the shape of the waist, the depth of the opening, the buttons, etc., will help the collector to date them from reference materials.

In addition to full outfits, like these evening clothes …

Evening dress for men, 1909-1910. Met Museum Costume Plate.

Evening dress for men, 1909-1910. Met Museum Costume Plate.

… individual items like vests can also be found:

Men's vests; fashion plate from the Met Museum fashion plate collection category "1900-1919 men"

Men’s vests; fashion plate from the Met Museum fashion plate collection category “1900-1919 men.” The vests on the left have five buttons.

Undated vintage vests. Both have high necklines, but one has seven buttons instead of six.

Undated vintage vests. Both have high necklines, but one has seven buttons and one has six. You could probably date them from the Met’s Fashion Plate Collection.

Men's vests 1896 to 1899. The red one reminds us that vests (aka weskits) sometimes had sleeves.

From “Men 1896 to 1899.” The red one reminds us that vests (aka weskits) sometimes had sleeves. The red one with vertical stripes may be a footman’s or other servant’s vest. This plate is dated February 1898.

Of course, fashion plates that have been separated from their descriptions in text are less useful than a complete magazine or catalog. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the chance to see these rare collections, especially because the men are not forgotten.

This delightful plate reminds me of an Edward Gorey vamp — like the ones dancing through the credits on Mystery on Public Television.

A long evening gown from the House of Worth, 1921. Met Museum Costume Collection Fashion Plate.

A long evening gown from the House of Worth, 1921. Met Museum Costume Institute Fashion Plate.

I’ll add a link to the collection to my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar. (There are other treasures to explore there….)

 

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s-1830s, 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1930s, Children's Vintage styles, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Early Victorian fashions, Exhibitions & Museums, Late Victorian fashions, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Mid-Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Suits for Men, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Wedding Clothes

Composé Dresses with Color Gradation, circa 1927

Graded colors in an ad for McCallum service hosiery, April 1927, Delineator. Notice the graded colors in the leaves (green), the flower (violet) and the dress (rusty-reds.)

Graded colors in a stylized ad for McCallum service hosiery, April 1927, Delineator. Notice the graded colors in the leaves (from dark olive to light olive to pale gray-green or white), the flower (from white to lavender to violet) and the dress (three degrees of rusty-reds.) [Yes, this is an ad for stockings to wear while gardening!]

I love the geometric flavor of 1920’s dresses, and this group of Butterick pattern illustrations is a sampling of late nineteen-twenties’ styles that combine geometry with graded colors. Dresses of two or more colors were called “composé” with an accent mark on the “e” [kom-poh-zay.]

Butterick patterns from Delineator, March 1927.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, March 1927.

Although most of the illustrations are in black, gray, and white, try to imagine these dresses in colors:   a dark, a middle, and a light version of the same hue, e.g,  espresso brown + coffee with cream + cafe au lait; or deep blue-green + teal, + pale aqua,  etc.

Women were encouraged to think of “blue, from baby to navy, with the many off shades which steal a tinge from the Mediterranean sky, the changing ocean or the twilight tints. These easily merge into orchid, with its overtones of lavender, mauve, and purple.  Sports clothes are often flushed with rose, including every possible variation from flesh to wine, rosy beige to rust, pale cyclamen to dahlia red. Another important color range is based on yellow and brown. And white, always, only more so, alone, with black, or linked to some more lively shade.” — “The French Riviera Mode,” in Delineator, Feb. 1927, pg. 14.

Butterick pattern 6612, Feb. 1926, Delineator.

Butterick pattern 6612, Feb. 1926, Delineator. A range of blues in one dress, from midnight blue to twilight.

Many of these composé dress patterns were in the March 1927 issue of Delineator. They show a nice range of skirt designs, with single or double pleats for movement placed differently in each pattern. The device we call a “kick pleat” in back was not used.

Butterick patterns 1282 and 1298, Delineator, Feb. 1927. Pg. 23.

Butterick patterns 1282, a three-toned dress,  and 1298, Delineator, Feb. 1927. Pg. 23. The two-color suit dress would count as compose.

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Butterick 1238 and 1280. February 1927, Delineator pg. 25.

Butterick 1238 and 1280. February 1927, Delineator, pg. 25. The graded sleeves match the skirt flounces.

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Butterick 1309 and 1325, March 1927, Delineator.

Butterick patterns 1309 and 1325, March 1927, Delineator. Try to imagine colors, rather than grays. This compose dress combines traditional feminine touches like ruching and a sheer jabot with a square neckline and horizontal color blocks.

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Butterick 1329 and 1317, March 1927, pg. 25. Delineator.

Butterick 1329 and 1317, March 1927, pg. 25. Delineator. No. 1329 has repetitive, geometric art deco or style moderne shapes,echoed  in the cuffs.

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I don’t know who the “famous Paris couturier was,” but the Delineator showed that several designers got on the graded color bandwagon:

A dress by Jane Regny, illustrated in Delineator, April 1928. pg. 37.

A Paris design by Jane Regny, illustrated in Delineator, April 1928, pg. 37.

This Paris dress by Premet used a range or related shades of coral -- and the fur was dyed coral, too. Delineator, November 1927, pg. 21.

This designer dress by Premet used a range of related shades of reds from “deep strawberry, rose, coral, and pale pink” on pink crepe — and the fox fur was dyed pink, too. Delineator, November 1927, pg. 21.

Sometimes the graded colors were used more subtly, or as accents, as in this elegant two-piece sports dress by Lucien Lelong:

The dress is trimmed with graded bands of blue -- and there may be flashes of color in the pleats of the skirt, too. Restort wear by designer Lucien Lelong, illustrated in Delineator, January 1928, pg. 32.

The dress is trimmed with graded bands of blue — and there may be flashes of color inside the pleats of the skirt, too. Resort wear by designer Lucien Lelong, illustrated in Delineator, January 1928, pg. 32. It’s hard to tell whether the dress itself was white or very pale blue.

This dress is not, strictly, composé, since the colors are only trim.

This Butterick dress uses three colors, but they may not be three values of the same hue. Pattern 1761, December 1927, Delineator.

This Butterick dress uses three colors, but they may not be three values of the same hue. Pattern 1761, December 1927, Delineator. It could be white with two shades of green, or with jade green and black, or two shades of blue, or red, white and blue…. Quite a jaunty design — just right for Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby.

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Although not really color blocked, this dress uses three shades, with red-brown as the darkest, fading through rosewood to a muted coral.

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However, it doesn’t have the dynamic repetition of shapes seen in these two composé dresses from Butterick:

Butterick patterns from March 1927; both dresses are suitable for tens, but the dress on the right is also offered in women's sizes.

Butterick patterns from March 1927; both dresses are recommended for teens, but the dress on the right is also offered in women’s sizes 38 to 44 inches. I found them on the same page. (Is No. 1308 really in bleu, blanc et rouge, like the French flag? It looks more subtle.)

text-1927-mar-p-27-girls-teens-graded-1321-scallopedtext-500-1927-mar-p-27-girls-teens-graded-1308

They may have graded colors in common, but what a difference in styles!

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Filed under 1920s, Hosiery, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

“Uplift” Changes Brassieres (Part 2): Late 1920’s Brassieres

This is the second installment of “Uplift” Changes Brassieres: 1917 to 1929.

Woman wearing an early "uplift" style bra, in a January 1929 ad for bathroom scales.

1929: Woman wearing an “uplift” style bra, in a January 1929 ad for bathroom scales.

Ad for Health-o-meter scale, Delineator, Jan. 1929. Having a small home scale was a change from the old "doctor's office" models.

Ad for Health-o-meter scale, Delineator, Jan. 1929. Having a small home scale was a change from the old “doctor’s office” models. Click to enlarge.

The Uplift Idea in Late 1920’s Brassieres

To repeat a concept I got from Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau:

For hundreds of years, women’s breasts were supported by corsets, which pushed them up from below. The innovation of the twentieth century was “uplift” — shoulder straps which supported the weight of the breasts from the shoulder instead of pushing them up from beneath.

When the brassiere as we know it began to appear, the idea of “uplift” and the idea of separation — two distinct breasts instead of one big one (click here or here)– were sometimes confused, with “uplift” referring to separation, rather than support. The word “uplift” is applied to all five of these late twenties’ bras; the “A.P. Uplift” promises to prevent the bust from sagging; two of the others show separation, and the bandeau on the lower right is a variation on the bust flattener. (This suggests that the word “uplift” was used to mean “brassiere” whether it was an uplift bra or not.)

The AP Uplift brassiere, left, was an early Uplift design. The bandeau at lower right, although described as "uplift" is really a bust flattener. From Stella Blum's Fashions of the Twenties, p. 130. Circa 1928 -1929.

The A.P. Uplift Bandeau, left, was an early Uplift design. The bandeau at lower right, although described as “uplift,” is really a bust flattener. From Stella Blum’s Fashions of the Twenties, p. 130. Circa 1928 -1929.

None of these bras indicates a concept of “cup” sizes; they use just one overall chest measurement.  The patented A.P. Uplift, one of the first true uplift bras,  “gives a natural youthful line, firm support and prevents the bust from sagging ….It has elastic at the bottom to hold it in place. An ideal uplift for comfort and support.” By 1926, patents were applied for by at least three “uplift” companies: Model, A.P. (G.M. Poix & Co.) and Maiden Form. By 1928, the old Boyshform bust flattener company was bankrupt.

Trade advertisement for an early Maiden Form brassiere, described elsewhere in the ad as "The Original Uplift Brassiere. It is the "double support pocket brassiere." From Uplift, p. 43.

Trade advertisement for an early Maiden Form brassiere, described elsewhere in the ad as “The Original Uplift Brassiere. It is the “double support pocket brassiere.” From Uplift, p. 43.

As late as 1931, this dress was described as having an”uplift” line, meaning that it has visible breast separation:

An evening gown described as "uplift;" Butterick 4175, inDelineator, Nov. 1931.

“Uplift” in this evening gown means “separation.”  Butterick 4175, in Delineator, Nov. 1931.

Who Wore the New Uplift Brassieres?

Interestingly, research by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in 1924 and 1925 discovered that younger patrons, dubbed “flappers” by buyers and the JWT staff, “were looking for uplift styles of brassiere, in contrast to older women who wanted the flattening styles.” (Uplift, p. 40) This might be because young women were embracing the more form-fitting styles of the later twenties, while their mothers clung to tubular fashions and the relative support of a flattening corselette; or because to the young, “uplift” meant separation and a natural look, not support. “Small sizes sell best — even the little girls wear brassieres now,” one shop told the JWT researchers. JWT also discovered that out of a sample of thirty-nine adolescent girls, twenty-six wore brassieres and another seven wore corselettes in the mid 1920’s. (Uplift , p. 40)

Engineering a really uplifting brassiere was complicated, not only because the size and shape of the “pockets”  — as they were called in early Maiden Form bra advertisements — had to be worked out, but because supporting the breasts from the shoulders requires a snugly fitting band around the rib cage to prevent the bra from riding up, and, before the invention of Lastex in 1931, the available elastic allowed some stretch, but was not a lightweight, shaped, completely elastic fabric band.

Carter's made rayon knit underwear, and ran many ads in which couturiers chose examples of Carter's underthings for wear under Paris gowns. This ad dates to May, 1929.

The Carter company made rayon knit underwear, and ran many ads in which couturiers chose examples of Carter’s underthings for wear under Paris gowns. This ad dates to May, 1929. It shows a “clever elastic insert in back” of the bandeau, worn with some tremendously un-sexy bloomers.

The problem of keeping the band snug enough to prevent the bra from riding up was solved in England by the “Kestos” invented by Mrs. Rosalind Klin around 1927. The elasticized shoulder straps crossed in back, wrapped around the body, and fastened in front, lifting the breasts up and holding the band down.

Kestos brassiere drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in her book Fashion in Underwear.

Kestos brassiere drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in her book Fashion in Underwear.

Elasticized shoulder straps reached all the way around from the back and buttoned to the front of the Kestos under the pockets, which were shaped by darts and seams. In England, “You didn’t buy a brassiere, you bought a Kestos.” — Elizabeth Ewing, in Fashion in Underwear, p. 95.

Caresse Crosby (real name, Mary Phelps Jacob) claimed to have invented the modern brassiere in 1913; in 1914 she patented a bandeau with a gathering string down the middle, which separated the breasts.

Caresse Crosby's 1914 brassiere drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in Fashions in Underwear

Caresse Crosby’s 1914 brassiere as drawn by Elizabeth Ewing in Fashion in Underwear

Click here for a view of her 1914 patent application illustration.

It’s clear that Crosby’s invention may have prevented nipples from showing through sheer clothing, but it was not really designed to lift sagging breasts.

This 1929 ad for Carters rayon underwear shows a bra with gathering at center front. Delineator, March 1929.

This 1929 ad for Carter’s rayon knit underwear shows a bra with side darts and  adjustable gathering at center front. Delineator, March 1929. Such gathering was an attempt to adjust for differences in breast size and shape, dating back to the Crosby bra of 1914.

The Innovative Youthform

This ad for a Youthform brassiere (although the word brassiere is not used) is the most fascinating I’ve found, and I have not found much further information about this bra  — just what the ad contains. [If it was mentioned in Uplift, it’s not in the index, nor is Youth Form.] I had to break the ad into three parts for legibility:

Top image from an Ad for the Youthform brassiere, Delineator, March, 1929, p. 112.

Top image from an ad for the Youthform brassiere, Delineator, March, 1929, p. 112. That seems to be a drawstring at center front. Notice the wide elastic band.

Text of the Youthform bra ad, March 1929.

Text of the Youthform bra ad, March 1929. “Today’s styles clearly define the bust…. Youthform’s secret is in the elastic band which goes around the body…. Not sold in stores because they are made to your individual measure.”

That part about “made to your individual measure” is explained better on the ordering form:

Order form for Youthform bra, 1929. Unlike most bras for sale, it asks for an underbust and full bust measurements.

Order form for Youthform bra, 1929. Unlike most bras for sale then, it asks for two important measurements; “size around body just under bust” and “size around body across center of bust.”

Bra Fit:  It Takes Two (Measurements)

These two measurements — “size around body just under bust” and “size around body across center of bust” — are still the key to finding a bra that fits. Understanding the difference between chest measurement and breast size was still in the future for other companies. (The Youthform company, founded by “one Dr. Alford” in 1923 — or 1925 — was still in business in 1957, as this lawsuit  over the use of the name “Youth Form” shows. In 1928, Youthform mail-0rder sales totaled $16,000, but sales did not return to that level after the Crash of 1929.)

About bra cups:  If a woman wears what is now called an “A cup” or a “B cup,” the problem of support — keeping her breasts from bouncing painfully when she runs, for example — may not be her main reason for wearing a brassiere. But those of us who have what the mammogram technician refers to as “a lot of tissue” expect support and stabilization from our bras.

How Do You Find a Bra That Fits? You Need Two Measurements

In costume fittings, I have seen too many actresses wearing the wrong size bra because they think that a 36 inch measurement over the largest point of the bust means they should buy a size 36 bra. In reality, the difference in the measurement of the band around your ribcage and the measurement over the fullest part of the bust — plus a chart — gives you two sizes: the size of the band (a number) and the size of your bra cup (a letter.) If you’ve never measured yourself this way, click here for a good size calculator that will guide you through it. Clue:  If the band of your bra keeps riding up in back, you are wearing the wrong size. You probably need a smaller number and a higher letter. (Either that, or your bra is old and the elastic is failing…. Or your body has changed: weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy?)

As it happens, the concept of cup size was slow to develop and become an industry standard. In 1929, “cups were not yet sized, and straps could not be easily adjusted in length.” (Uplift, p. 56.)

An uplift bra from the Sears catalog, Fall 1929, looks very much like a modern brassiere.

An uplift bandeau from the Sears catalog, Fall 1929, looks very much like a modern brassiere, but it was sold by only one measurement.

One bright idea from the late twenties was the use of molded knit rayon in bras. Just as “fully fashioned” stockings could be knit into a shape resembling a human leg, rayon knit bra “pockets” could be shaped in the knitting process without needing darts or seams.

Also from 1929, this Delineator article about the latest undergarments shows a foundation that looks surprisingly modern — although today it would be made from elasticized fabric:

1929: The garment in the center is unboned, flexible, and suited to the clinging bias cut dresses coming into fashion. Delineator, March, 1929, p. 50.

1929: The garment in the center, with “uplift brassiere,” is unboned, flexible, and suited to the clinging, bias cut dresses coming into fashion. Delineator, March, 1929, p. 50. Notice how narrow the elastic panels had to be.

“In the semi-circle of figures above, the top model [right] of lace, elastic and silk shows the new deep U decollete worn with evening frocks. Next, a silk faille boneless garment which can be crumpled up in the hand like a glove, used under molded-line afternoon frocks. The uplift brassiere is an important note in this garment.  Third [left], an elastic step-in [girdle] and slight brassiere for sportswear.” Delineator, March 1929.

Of course, fashions rarely change overnight. If you didn’t need a really supportive brassiere, this rayon knit set from Munsingwear — dated 1931 — still looks pretty attractive:

Rayon knit "uplift bandeau" and matching "sketchies" from a Munsingwear ad, 1931.

Munsingwear rayon knit “twin-style uplift bandeau” and matching “Sketchie” set in “two-tone colors of the birds” from a Munsingwear ad, 1931.

Coming (eventually): Ads for Uplifting Brassieres from the 1930’s

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

NYPL Digital Collection: An Open Book

This collection is so vast that it took me two hours to find again what I found by accident the day before! Bookmark any site you might want to return to,  to save your sanity. (For example, knowing that I wanted to re-visit “Costumes — 1930s” did not take me to “evening wear” from the 1930s. That has its own navigation listing. And, since the Mid-Manhattan Collection runs to 34,746  images, and is “navigated” by alphabetical order, I had to scroll down through a lot of “Birds” before getting to “Costumes” in the alphabetical listing! )

I hope this post will give you a better way…. The “Book” method. (I feel pretty silly for not realizing that I would find this feature just by scrolling down past the bottom of the page that filled my screen!)

It’s worth trying, because there are treasures there.

A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932.

A sample of what you can find at NYPL Digital collections. This is from the Mid-Manhattan collection. Couture by Ardanse, Louiseboulanger, and Bernard et Cie. 1932. The graded red gown is by Louiseboulanger.

I found it most enjoyable to view this fashion collection as if I were turning pages in a book. To try it, Click Here, and immediately Scroll Down until you see a series of gray descending boxes (collection, sub-collection, etc.) Then, from that drop-down on the left, choose View as Book.

If you want to see two pages at a time, click the double rectangle.

If you want to be able to read the information about an item, click the single image rectangle, and then magnify the image as many times as needed, and push the image up so you can read its bottom text. At the bottom of this sketch, there is an exact year written in pencil: 1937.

I love this particular 1930’s “book” because it also shows men’s evening clothes illustrations from the 1930s. This one, for example, reminds us that tuxedos and “white tie” cutaways could be purchased in either black or navy.

Check out other decades, like “men’s clothing 1920s” …

Men's clothing, 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.

Costumes — Men’s clothing 1920s, from the NYPL Digital collection.

If you’d like to browse men’s fashions for the 1920s, click here , then click on any image that interests you; scroll down below the image, look at the left of the screen and, again, choose View as Book.

Digression:  As the pendulum of fashion in the 1920s swung away from those skinny-legged, “pegged” and cuffed, “high water” trousers from men, “Oxford bags” appeared as the equal and opposite reaction:

Cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear'em.

Punch cartoon from March, 1925, printed in The Way to Wear’em.

Maybe the the equal and opposite reaction to “jeggings” will be a fad for palazzo pants and 1930’s beach pajamas ….

About that 1920 illustration of two men in suits and a woman in a bathing costume: it would be tempting to write a whole story about it —  the Ferris wheel in the background (Coney Island?), the reason the men are fully dressed while on the beach, their relationship to the girl, and to the airplane or balloon they are all watching so intently….

The Open Book Approach, or Getting What I Needed Without Using the Alphabetical Navigation List:

The trick I finally figured out when using the Mid-Manhattan Collection is that you can do a search — say, for “Molyneux” — then click on any one of the images that shows up, Scroll Down, and that will lead you to a sub-collection “book” of related images, at a convenient scale for viewing. You don’t have to click on individual images and enlarge them, one by one. I love the “book” option.

I was especially happy to find designs by two lesser-known couturiers from the 1920s, Louiseboulanger and Jane Regny. (I’ve been saving other images of their work, but haven’t written posts about them yet.) Louise Boulanger was very influential in the late 1920s.

Other good news: 180,000 public domain images can be found through  the New York Public Library online. Click here.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Menswear, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs