Tag Archives: saddle shoulders

Paris Calls for Pleats, 1926 (Part 1)

Paris Straightens the Autumn Frock with Front and Side Plaits. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Paris Straightens the Autumn Frock with Front and Side Plaits. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Pleats for All Sizes

Butterick’s Delineator magazine ran two articles in the September, 1926, issue about the importance of “plaits” [i.e., pleats] to the fall styles. The first article showed three patterns for women in the normal range of sizes, with bust measurements of 32 to 44 inches. Elsewhere in that issue, patterns for “Misses aged 15 to 20 and small women” also show pleated skirts. [Misses’ sizes were for shorter and smaller figures; age 20 assumed a 37″ bust.] But the second article showed dresses with pleats in pattern sizes up to a 52 inch bust measurement. Since the styles of the 1920s were especially cruel to large figures, I am always intrigued by these unexpectedly large pattern sizes. I’m guessing that Butterick and other pattern companies realized that being “hard to fit” is a major reason for making your own clothes, so they routinely offered sizes not available in most stores.

Pleated Styles for Average and Small Women, 1926

In this post I’ll share some of the styles for women who fell within the normal size ranges.

Butterick pattern 7067, September 1926.

Butterick pattern 7067, September 1926.

This dress is very unusual — at least in my limited experience — because of the horizonal bands which decorate the shoulders and extend onto the sleeve caps.  Twenties’ fashions can be hard to wear because they widen the hips — already most women’s widest area. Many twenties styles have vertical details which seek to counteract this problem, but I have not seen many that visually broaden the shoulders like this:  butterick 7067 detailsNote, too, that the skirt pleats are stitched down for several inches to control fullness. The belt, which passes through buttonholes in the hip band, is tied very loosely as illustrated, but it could be used to snug the hip and create a blouson above. The long tie ends and the pleats create vertical lines for a slimming effect. This fashion figure is over 9 “heads” tall, but, adjusted to a normal figure, this could be a very becoming — and not terribly difficult — dress to copy. Back views are shown at the end of this post.

Butterick 7033, September 1926.

Butterick 7033, September 1926.

This dress, with its enormous buckle and wide hip band, would not flatter many women — especially those with a 44 inch bust and 47.5 inch hip — the usual pattern proportions. The collar creates a deep curve similar to the line of a long 1920s necklace, but it gets bigger at the bottom and draws more attention to the hip area. The description (“attached to a long body”) suggests that, although described as a dress, this is probably made made as a top, including the hip band, with a separate skirt suspended from the shoulders like a slip — a very common practice. The vestee, which fills in the neckline, can be made detachable for washing.

Butterick 7055, September 1926.

Butterick 7055, September 1926. For ladies 32 to 48 bust.

Butterick No. 7055 was not singled out as being for larger women, but it was available in sizes 46 and 48. I love the “Roman striped vestee” with its strong diagonals, and the ribbon-flower pom-pom which draws your eye upward to the face, plus the widening effect of “saddle shoulders” cut-in-one with the sleeve. This dress is definitely meant to be snugged at the hip; it has an adjustable belt at each side, like the belt on the back of a vest. butterick 7055 detailsThis dress has box pleats lined up with the side seams, and top-stitched for a slim fit over the hips. The saddle shoulders are similarly top-stitched.

A dress shown in “pea-soup green” gives plenty of room for movement when you’re walking:

Butterick 7045, September 1926.

Butterick 7045, September 1926.

Monograms were very popular, influenced perhaps by Jean Patou’s  use of them in sportswear. This dress is a bit tricky to make, because it has inserted pleats of darker color fabric. They are not inserted into seams, but added like a wedge-shaped godet. That explains the need for those arrow shapes — stitching or applique? — that reinforce the points of stress. 1926 sept p 28 grn skirt paris frocks pleats

Pleated Dresses for Misses and Smaller Women, September 1926.

Butterick patterns for Misses aged 15 to 20 and Smaller Women. September 1926.

Butterick patterns for Misses Aged 15 to 20 and Smaller Women. September 1926.

Butterick 7057, (left) like the green dress pictured above, has pleats inserted like godets. The color combination is interesting. A color called bois de rose (rosewood) was popular, but this dress is burgundy colored. Notice the unusual sleeves. The pink contrasts in the top half of this dress are so interesting that its self-colored hip belt is hardly noticeable.

Butterick 7057 for Misses and Smaller Women, September 1926.

Butterick 7057 for Misses and Small Women, September 1926.

The pleats are topstitched, both for flatness and to reinforce the weakest points. The “convertible” collar can be worn unbuttoned.

This blue dress also has stitched-down pleats below its dropped waist.

Butterick pattern 7003 for Misses and Small Women, Sept. 1926.

Butterick pattern 7003 for Misses and Small Women, Sept. 1926.

This dress is for younger and smaller women, who might be expected to have ideal 1920s figures, but it still uses many vertical lines for a slenderizing effect, especially in the very long tie. Little capes on the backs of dresses were often shown in pattern illustrations, but, like this one, they were usually detachable or optional. “Chin-chin blue” is probably meant to evoke Chinese colors. The gray belt seems to run through buttonholes in the front and back of the dress. See back views below.

Misses’ dress 7024 is not pleated. Described as a “coat-frock,” it has a slenderizing vertical opening the entire length of the center front.

Butterick  pattern for Misses 7024, Sept. 1926.

Butterick pattern for Misses 7024, Sept. 1926.

Lacking pleats, the skirt’s 46″ hem circumference does not encourage long strides. The artist has neglected to draw the slip straps. Another sheer-over-satin dress for young women, No. 6904, was featured in July, 1926:

Butterick pattern No. 6904 for Misses, July 1926.

Butterick pattern No. 6904 for Misses, July 1926.

These coat-dress styles create such a strong vertical line that I would expect them to be appealing to larger women, but both these patterns are for “Misses 15 to 20 years old, and small women.”

This dress pattern, No. 7059, is actually a blouse and skirt combination.

Butterick pattern No. 7059 for Misses and Small Women. Sept. 1926

Butterick pattern No. 7059 for Misses and Small Women. Sept. 1926

The pleats on the skirt can fall perfectly straight, because there is no waistband; this skirt is attached to a slip-like underbody and hangs from the shoulders. It is similar in style to some of the pleated dresses for larger women described in the same magazine. It is not a style I would recommend to women seeking to look thinner.

These 1920s Hats Deserve a Second Look:

Four hats from Delineator, September 1926.

Four hats from Delineator, September 1926.

Here are back views of the eight dresses from September that are pictured above:

Back views: Butterick patterns for Women Nos. 7067, 7033, 7055, 7045.

Back views: Butterick patterns for Women Nos. 7067, 7033, 7055, 7045.

Most of these dresses can be made with long or short sleeves. Only one, #7033, has pleats in back. #7045 shows that there is a handy strap on the back of her clutch purse.

Back views of Dresses for Misses, Nos. 7024, 7059, 7057, 7003.

Back views of Dresses for Misses, Nos. 7024, 7059, 7057, 7003.

Part 2 of “Paris Calls for Pleats” will show 1926 patterns for larger women.

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Dresses for Flappers, July, 1926

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

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

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

Top of Page

Top of Page 27, Delineator, July 1926

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

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

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

Bottom of Page 27, Delineator, July, 1926.

Bottom of Page 27, Delineator, July, 1926.

Flapper Dresses

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

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

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

Obviously, the Misses’ illustrations are much less distorted.

The Individual Dresses with Their Descriptions

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

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

1926 july p 27 color top rt 6921

 

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

1926 july p 27 color btm left coat dress 6904

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

 

1926 july p 27 color misses smocked dress

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

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

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

1926 july p 27 color btm rt 6902

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

Design Tricks to Make Twenties’ Dresses More Flattering

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

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

Long bows and ties lead the eye up and down.

Long bows and ties lead the eye up and down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back Views and Alternate Views

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

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

 

 

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