Tag Archives: scarf

1920’s Accessories: What’s Missing?

Two pattern illustrations showing two-piece border print dresses, June 1926.

Modified pattern illustrations showing two-piece border print dresses, Delineator, May 1926.

Do they look a little unfinished? Like something is missing? Do you have an urge to add a long necklace — or something — to these dresses? Here are the original illustrations:

Two border-print two piece dresses as they were meant to look. Illustration from Delineator, May 1926.

Two-piece border-print dresses as they were meant to look. Illustration from Delineator, May 1926.

Writing about the ways that 1920’s designers tried to add vertical lines to their designs (click here and scroll down) made me realize how much may have been lost from vintage clothing that appears to be complete.

A dress from July, 1928, with and without its matching scarf. Butterick pattern

A dress from July, 1928, looks complete (left), but very different with its matching scarf (right.) Butterick pattern 2147.

I would be happy to find that 1928 dress with its belt still attached; would I realize that something else might be missing?

Anyone who works with vintage clothing knows how often the matching, self-fabric belt gets lost, leaving just the belt loops as a clue. Without a buckle, however subtle, in the middle of the waist, the design is incomplete. In fact, any items that had to be removed before dry-cleaning — from belts to rhinestone or glass buttons, or bows, scarves, artificial flowers, even jeweled dress clips that were sold with the dress — are liable to have  disappeared over time.

Vintage twenties dress with clever vertical designs. Private collection.

Vintage twenties’ dress with clever vertical designs. Private collection.

The vertical pattern in the black chiffon velvet, the deep V, the row of decorative buttons, and the rhinestone buckle all attract the eye to the center of the body, instead of to the width at the hip.

The decorative buttons and buckle are essential to the design. Vintage twenties' dress.

The decorative buttons and buckle are essential to the design of this vintage twenties’ dress.

I wonder how often I’ve seen a dress that looks complete but slightly boring, and assumed that it needs jewelry. Until I started playing with my photo program, modifying illustrations from 1926, it never occurred to me that what was missing might be two yards of contrasting ribbon!

With and without ribbon or silk ties. Patterns from June, 1926. Delineator.

Left, original pattern illustration; right, as they would look without ribbon or silk ties,  and belt. Patterns from May  1926. Delineator.

Since there is no black on the original dresses, there is no clue that a black accessory is missing. Imagine how easily the black ties (or a belt) would become separated from their garments!

Two dresses from 1926 with their long, vertical ties removed.

Two dresses from 1926, left, and with their long, vertical ties removed, right.

The dress on the left had long ties as part of the collar, so they would probably be intact. But the figured ribbon tie on the gold dress is not part of the dress itself, or even the same fabric. Would I think of adding such a simple accessory instead of jewelry?

Do these 1926 dresses look rather sack-like? Bland?

Do these 1926 dresses look rather like bags? Bland? The illustrations have been altered.

I removed their vertical trims. This is how they ought to look:

All three original dresses had long ties, which create vertical accents.

All three dresses were intended to have long ties, which create vertical accents.

The struggle to draw eyes away from the horizontal hip band of the twenties took many forms, including vivid neck scarves which direct attention to the face.

Scarf from Callot Soeurs, Delineator, April 1927.

Scarf from Callot Soeurs, Delineator, April 1927. No solid-color dress could compete with that high-contrast scarf.

Many women used lively scarves to draw attention up, toward their faces in the 1920s.

Many women used a neck scarf to draw attention up toward their faces in the 1920s. Both illustrations from Delineator, 1928 and 1927. (Even with a scarf, it’s hard to focus on the face above that striped and dotted golf sweater!) The round belt buckle (at natural waist!) is also important.

Chanel Uses Scarves and Flowers, 1927

Chanel uses scarves and masses of fabric flowers; Delineator, Oct. 1927, p. 21.

Chanel uses scarves and masses of fabric flowers; Delineator, Oct. 1927, p. 21.

Fabric flowers, or abstract pompoms at the shoulder, were another device for drawing attention toward the face and away from the hips.

Left, a dress worn with a lively scarf; right a floral pom-pom made of ribbon, to be worn at the shoulder. Delineator, Oct. 1927.

Left, a dress worn with a high-contrast bordered scarf; right, a floral pompom made of organdy, to be worn at the shoulder. Delineator, Oct. 1927. You can see it on an evening dress, below.

Twenties dresses with floral pom-poms at the shoulder, both 1927. Delineator.

Twenties’ dresses with floral pom-poms at the shoulder, both 1927. Delineator.

Even in a very poor photo, this tomato red vintage dress is completed by a “pompom” of self-fabric leaf or petal shapes on the shoulder.

A cluster of red georgette petals is original to this vintage twenties' dress.

A cluster of red georgette petals is original to this vintage “bolero” dress.

This vintage dress from the late twenties retained both its belt with rhinestone buckle and the flowers that can be attached to its shoulder. (Removed before dry-cleaning, they were luckily stored with the dress.)

A vintage dress, late 1920s or early 1930s, which still has its belt and floral trim at that shoulder.

A vintage dress, late 1920s or early 1930s, which still has its original belt and its floral trim at the shoulder.

Vintage late 1920s dress, with original fabric flowers.

Vintage late 1920s dress, with original fabric flowers. You can see wisps of shredded organdy among the artificial flowers.

Of course, sometimes the “missing” touch is a very long necklace:

Evening dresses worn with very long necklaces, 1926; a necklace from 1927. Delineator.

Evening dresses worn with very long crystal necklaces, 1926; right, a gold necklace from 1927. Delineator.

A gown by Carette is worn with lots of crystal beads. Delineator, Sept. 1927, p. 25.

This Paris gown by Carette is worn with waist-length beads, probably cut crystal. Delineator, Sept. 1927, p. 25.

[I just saw Pola Negri in A Woman of the World, made in 1925. Click here. She was glamorous, charming, and tremendously likeable, but not as slender as usual when it was filmed. Those long pearl necklaces hung all the way to her — um — “pelvic area!”]

But a necklace would not necessarily have been the best vertical accent for these dresses:

Dresses that would not be complete without long, narrow ties. Delineator, 1927.

Dresses that would not be complete without their long, narrow ties. Delineator, 1927. Center, a dress with its final touch removed — and as it looked originally, right.

The dress in the center may look wider, but that is an optical illusion. Center, without its narrow self-tie, the three lines of horizontal trim dominate, drawing our eyes to the sides of the dress. Right, the tie draws our eyes to the middle of the body, and reinforces the vertical lines of the bodice trim and the hip bow.

What a difference two yards of ribbon can make.

P.S. There was a twenties’ fashion for very long necklaces — sautoirs — which had fringe or tassels at each end. They could be wrapped once around the neck — or not — and loosely tied wherever the wearer thought most becoming. Usually, this was very low, at the midriff or close to the natural waist. Such a necklace would look very much like the dark ribbon worn in the illustration at left. There is a good slideshow of a beaded, tie-able sautoir at 1stdibs. 

At Antique Gown you can get a better idea of their length.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Dresses, Musings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

One Good Dress in the 1930s

Two Day Dresses from December 1931, Delineator

Two Day Dresses from December 1931, Delineator

Murder, Lust, Ambition, and a Good Black Dress

Fashion History shows up in the strangest places. I’ve been reading a book – Violette Nozière, by Sarah Maza  – about a murder trial in Paris in the 1930s. Maza uses the true story of a woman who tried to kill her parents as a way to examine changes in postwar French society and culture. One point she makes, which I had never really considered before, is that women’s daytime fashions in the 1930s helped to disguise class differences, increasing social mobility and opportunities for mixing,  in a way not possible before World War I.

Fashionable woman, 1912; Photo courtesy of media-cache

Fashionable woman, 1912; Photo courtesy of media-cache

Before the First World War, it was impossible to mistake a working woman for a member of the bourgeoisie, because the fragile, luxurious, and labor-intensive clothing of a middle-class woman could not be imitated more cheaply, or mass produced. The hand-beading, the embroidery, the combinations of fur and chiffon – the very quality of the materials – were not affordable to working women.  Silent movies that show lower class women in “tawdry finery” demonstrate the difference between real luxe and attempts to imitate it.
Simple Was Chic in the 1930s
Maza points out that the fashions of the 1930s, with their use of wool, dark colors, and simpler styling, made it possible for department stores to carry mass-produced dresses of good quality. They were not cheap, but you only needed one. Delineator, Dec. 1931 p 70 dresses, blouses
An ambitious girl like Violette Nozière, pretty, educated, well-spoken, but living in two overcrowded rooms with her parents, could go to a café – in her one good dress – and chat with businessmen and young men of the bourgeoisie, posing as the daughter of a successful man in the railroad business.

One Dress, Many Accessories

 One, really good, daytime dress, varied by scarves and detachable collars, really was an investment. It could get you admitted to chic restaurants and cafes, and was a necessity for a better-paying secretarial or sales position. A well-cut black wool dress from a store like Galeries Lafayette  might not have deceived an upper-class woman, but – for the first time – it allowed any pretty, well-spoken, working class girl with a sense of chic to mingle freely with men of the upper middle classes. She looked like their sisters.  Even thirties hairstyles, covered in daytime with a hat, no longer required the services of a lady’s maid.  A secretary could dress well.

Changeable Collars and Scarves Turn One Dress into a Wardrobe

"If your dress hasn't gotten to the point where it needs a new top, hide its 1931 neckline beneath a collar, one of the new big white ones that make the new dresses look so fresh.... Every one of the collars here was taken from a brand-new dress. They all come right up to the base of the throat and they're all deep enough that even and antiquated deep V neckline can be made to look like a new high one. They all button on,... are smartest in white satin, rough crepe, linen and pique.

“If your dress hasn’t gotten to the point where it needs a new top, hide its 1931 neckline beneath a collar, one of the new big white ones that make the new dresses look so fresh…. Every one of the collars here was taken from a brand-new dress. They all come right up to the base of the throat and they’re all deep enough that even an antiquated deep V neckline can be made to look like a new high one. They all button on,… are smartest in white satin, rough crepe, linen and pique.”

Of course, the problem with having one good dress and a job, is that everyone sees you in the same dress day after day. (Violette was interested in attracting a wealthy man, not working in a office.) The Great Depression meant that many people couldn’t get work, and those who had jobs were often supporting a whole family: parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents…. So fashion magazines offered inexpensive ways to give the impression that you had several outfits. The collars above – and a “make it yourself hat” are patterns from Butterick , 1932.

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

A Butterick Fashion News flyer from 1938 shows what you could do with collars, cuffs, sashes, and even a halter top worn over a black dress. “Collars and cuffs, gilets and sashes make a small wardrobe seem extensive… Price, 25 cents.”BFN variety April 1938 scarves
“Variety…The basic dress worn with either of two necklines. Vary it with striped sash or trim collars and belts if the neck is high, with clips or collar-into-sash if low.” [Jewelry collectors will recognize several types of “duette clips.”]

Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, 1933

Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, 1933

Movie Recommendation: Baby Face, 1933
If you rent the movie Baby Face, from 1933, you’ll see Barbara Stanwyck in many variations of the black dress with accessories, as she literally sleeps her way to the top. This is a Pre-Code picture, a lot more frank about sex than movies were 20 years later! (In some versions, it begins with this teenaged girl’s father clearly prostituting her to the patrons of his dive bar.) Armed with determination, cynicism, and a series of ‘secretary’ dresses, she works her way to the penthouse suite – and a much more glamorous wardrobe.

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Filed under 1930s, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns