Tag Archives: Schiaparelli

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2

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Ad for Talon Slide-Fasteners, Delineator magazine, March 1929. Butterick, which published Delineator, also sold dress pattern 2365, which used several zippers. It is the dress being worn by the woman shopper in the Talon ad. Talon zip “colors are black, white, two tones of gray and two of brown.”

While poking around in 1930’s Sears catalogs (via Ancestry.com), I was curious about two things:

  1. After 1935-36 season, when French fashion houses began showing zippers in “dressy” clothing, as opposed to sportswear and work clothes, how long did it take for the fashion to be accepted in the mass market?  I don’t mean in exclusive stores which copied couture, but in low-cost clothing for ordinary women, like those who shopped from the Sears catalog.
  2. I have a theory that the heavy weight zippers which were used successfully in jackets, work clothing, and canvas mailbags in the late twenties and early thirties (See Zip, Part 1) were simply too heavy and stiff to use in the light-weight dress fabrics of the twenties and thirties. Was there a noticeable change in the sizes and qualities of zippers available to home dressmakers in the late 1930s?

Note: All images identified as coming from Sears Catalogs are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC.  Do not copy them.

A little review: Slide fasteners, soon called zippers in the U.S., were found in sportswear and children’s clothing before they appeared in more formal clothing.

These sweatshirts appeared in the Sears catalog for Fall 1937. Some have zip closings at the neck (and one has America’s favorite rodent….)

A Sears “twin set” from Fall 1937 includes a solid color jacket that closes with a separating zipper, and a coordinating striped sweater underneath. ” ‘Zips’ are fashion pets….”

This terrific ski suit has a separating zipper; “zips” on ski wear and children’s snow suits were so customary that the catalog doesn’t even mention this zipper.

Woman’s ski outfit from Sears catalog for Fall 1937.

Work dresses and house dresses also featured zippers in 1937-38:

Snapper and Zip house dresses and housecoats were shown in the Spring of 1938 Sears catalog. This zipped dress was for “housewives, nurses, beauticians, maids . . . the perfect dress to work in.”

A long (and colorful) front zipper appears on this “hostess gown” from Sears, Fall 1937. It is not for street wear, but it is made from rayon crepe, a soft, clinging fabric.

Left, a dress with a zipper neckline, and right, a sporty two-piece with a front zipper. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

Description of Sears two-piece outfit for Spring 1937.

The 1937 outfit in the middle — “with three zips!” — has a zip neck opening and two more zippers as trim on the pockets. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

In the 1938 catalogs, zippers are still appearing on casual, sporty dresses, but also on more dressy outfits. This is a sporty knit zip outfit:

This sporty knit has a long separating zipper as a fashion detail; Sears, Spring 1938. Presumably the zip colors matched the darker fabric.

This dress has one, long, obvious zipper from neckline to just above the hem, and it is definitely not a dress for housework. Sears, Spring 1938. It’s made of washable Shantung rayon. The long vertical line of the zip “gives you that slim, tall silhouette that’s all the rage.”

This “dressy” blouse is made of taffeta — and has a “popular” zipper running right down the front.

Delicate fabric appears in a taffeta zip-front blouse from Sears, Spring 1938.

There is nothing sporty or casual about this 1938 corselet dress with dyed-to-match embroidered sheer sleeve and bodice inserts.

A “Paris inspired” dress from Sears’ Spring 1938 catalog. Where’s the zipper? In the hidden side seam opening. “A Zip placket closing for trim, perfect fit.”

This is another tid-bit of zipper information: in Spring of 1938, the zipper was taking the place of the old snap or hook-and-eye closing hidden in the side seam of a close-fitting dress.

The close fit of this embroidered dress is the result of a hidden “zip placket” in the side seam. Sears, Spring of 1938.

This dress could be ordered in three different fabrics; it has a smooth fit because of its “neat zip placket closing” in the underarm side seam. Sears, Spring 1938. The summer fabrics are soft rayon.

That’s not to say that the Paris influence — using zippers as a design feature — has disappeared.

Three Zips: “This striking dress has decorative zippers in the shoulder seams. Sears, Spring 1938. On “the Newest Zip Dress . . . A zip tops each shoulder  . . . and another zip snugly closes the placket of the new ‘corselet’ waist!”

A center front zipper is a style feature on this embroidered “pebble crepe” ensemble, too:

Embroidered two-piece dress with zipper front. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.  “The Petit Point  . . .  in heavenly colors . . . runs all around hem of flared skirt . . . up the front of the blouse on each side of colored Zip closing.”

Another zipper novelty in the Sears catalog for Spring, 1938, is the Hollywood style of this aqua “corselet” dress:

The novelty of this dress is its “long back Zip.” Sears, Spring of 1938.

If you thought the center back zipper was a tell-tale sign of the 1950s, here’s proof that it can appear earlier.

And, speaking of novelties — Not only a huge variety of zippers, in many lengths, styles, weights and colors appeared by 1939, so did novelty zipper pulls!

Ornamental zipper pulls from Sears, Spring, 1939.

The zip slide fastener on the front of this dress has a “pendant” — an ornamental zipper pull. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.

Ornamental Zip pulls, Sears catalog, Fall, 1939.  “Jitterbug” bead figurines, and “Scottie Dog, Horse or Squirrel hand carved on natural wood.” Also of interest: “Crown’s Iris Zips” made of plastic on matching colored tape, in five lengths and ten colors. Schiaparelli had encouraged the development of these full-color plastic zippers just a few years earlier.

In 1939, Sears offered a truly extensive selection of zippers for all clothing purposes:

Some of the zippers sold by Sears in Spring, 1939. Heavy jacket zips, colored enamel Talon zips…. “French dressmakers are using colored zips for smart costume accent…. Rustproof metal enameled in colors to match cotton tape…. Simple instructions for sewing with each fastener.”

More zippers from Sears, Spring 1939. “Match or contrast the colors in your house dresses, housecoats, sports clothes with colored enamel….”

Crown’s “Iris” colored plastic zip fasteners sold by Sears, Spring 1939. “A smart dress trimming as well as streamline fastening for evening dresses, blouses.”

Special zippers for side-closing dress plackets from Sears, Spring 1939. “Closed at each end– the only zip suitable for smooth “no gap” dress plackets. Gives the dresses you make yourself that smart professional look. Easy to sew in. Colored enamel on matching cotton tape.”

“Mind the Gap”

By 1939 zipper manufacturers (and their ad companies) took some inspiration from Listerine, which used “Halitosis” to sell mouthwash, and from corset manufacturers who convinced women that a curvy backside was “Lordosis,” and created a new, embarrassing condition called “Gap-o-sis,” to describe what happened to dresses that used snaps instead of zippers in their side plackets.

“We moderns don’t wear dresses that have gaposis. Cure plackets that gap with Talon Fasteners.” Gaposis could be avoided by replacing snap-closing plackets with zipper plackets in your dresses. Sears catalog, Spring 1939; top of a page listing zippers for sale.

Because vintage clothing collectors depend on zippers for help in dating garments, EBay has even published a zipper guide for collectors. You might want to compare it with some of these images from the Sears catalog….

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

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B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator magazine

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

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A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

Butterick Hats and Dresses for May, 1933

Butterick hat pattern 5126, Delineator May 1933, page 70. The version at the bottom has complex self trim passing through two rings or buckles.  The others have rows of decorative top-stitching.

Description of Butterick hat pattern 5126, from 1933.

Although pattern companies still sell hat patterns, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find traces of a vintage hat pattern. Butterick hat pattern 5126 was featured on the same page as five outfits for May of 1933. The fashion for matching your jacket lining to your hat would be easy if you made your hat yourself — or had your dressmaker do it.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, May 1933. Page 70. Butterick 5105, 5108, 5109, 5107.

Butterick 5105 is shown with a contrasting top; Butterick 5108 has a wide-shouldered weskit. 1933.

Butterick 5105 and 5108 have the very long skirts of 1933.

The coat of Butterick 5109 is shown in three-quarters length; Butterick 5107 uses the same fabric for the blouse, belt and hat.

Butterick coat 5109 over a skirt and blouse ensemble; right, Butterick dress and jacket ensemble 5107. Delineator May 1933, p. 70.

An alternate view shows coat 5109 at full length; the full-sleeved matching underdress is shown with a light bodice and dark skirt to match the coat.

Butterick coat and dress ensemble 5109; Butterick suit 5107. Delineator May 1933, p. 70. No. 5107 is cut with very wide shoulders, and the jacket is lined with a plaid fabric that shows when the scarf-neck is tied. The fullness of the sleeves taken in with tucks and top-stitching. The hat matches the jacket lining.

The fashion editors of 1933 noted the emphasis on wider shoulders, which was attributed to Schiaparelli’s influence. As the year progressed, shoulders became wider and sleeve caps became puffier in an attempt to make hips look narrow by contrast. (The shoulder pads and long skirts of the 1980’s had the same purpose.)

Butterick pattern 5088, from May, 1933. Delineator magazine, p. 70.

The “lingerie boa” and sleeves with a full cap, credited to Schiaparelli. Delineator, May 1933, p. 70. Her pointy hat also shows Schiaparelli influence.

Although patterns for bust sizes 33 through 44 inches were standard for Butterick in the 1920’s, these five patterns go no bigger than a 40 inch bust.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Vintage Accessories

Bodysuit Combination Blouse and Undergarment, 1927

This is one of those surprises that makes reading old magazines so much fun.

Combination blouse and panties, Butterick pattern 1493, from June 1927. Delineator, p. 34.

Combination blouse and panties, Butterick pattern 1493, from June 1927. Delineator, p. 34.

“Here is a costume that provides its own underclothing…. The two-in-one blouse slips on over the head and extends into panties.” [It would have had a button crotch, like other combination underwear, called “teddies,”  “step-ins,” or “an envelope chemise.”]

I remember wearing a bodysuit — that is, a blouse that stayed tucked in because, below the waist, it became a snap-crotched panty. As the “bodysuit” it was popularized by Donna Karan, and other manufacturers followed suit.

In 1927, Butterick sold this outfit as three separate patterns:  Blouse 1493, Skirt 1480, and Cardigan jacket 1367.

Three Butterick patterns from 1927: Combination blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and jacket 1367. Butterick patterns from Delineator, June 1927, p. 34.

Three Butterick patterns from 1927: Combination blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and jacket 1367. Butterick patterns from Delineator, June 1927, p. 34.

When writing about a 1929 blouse/underwear combination attributed to Madeleine Vionnet, I said, “The problem of wearing a 1920’s wrap skirt which rides far below the natural waistline (the skirt over a satin blouse would have a tendency to migrate around the body as you walk), and the problem of keeping the blouse tucked in when you sit and stand, or raise your arms, are both neatly solved by the “culotte blouse,” as it was called in 1929.

Delineator's sketch of a suit by Vionnet, and the Butterick copy, Pattern 2526. Delineator, March 1929.

Delineator’s sketch of a suit by Vionnet, and the Butterick copy, pattern 2526. Delineator, March 1929. This “culotte” blouse was also a “step-in” panty.

At the time, I was interested in the fact that a couture design using a very visible zipper and attributed to Vionnet in 1929 pre-dated Schiaparelli’s use of zippers by several years. [To read that post, click here.]

However, I was surprised to see this blouse and panties combination (Butterick  1493) even earlier, in June of 1927, when it was called the “Two-in-One Blouse.”

Text, page 34, Delineator, June 1927.

Text, page 34, Delineator, June 1927.

“The two-in-one blouse is more than a blouse — it is a combination tailored shirt and panties…. It is splendid for sports and for riding since it can’t pull up. ” A “printed silk cardigan” — “the most important sport jacket of the year” — sounds pretty nifty, too.

Butterick cardigan 1367 could be made of wool, velvetten, jersey, or printed silk. The skirt fabric was used for binding on the jacket, creating a suit look.

Butterick cardigan 1367 could be made of wool, velveteen, jersey, or printed silk. The skirt fabric was used for binding on the jacket, creating a suit look.

Pattern descriptions, Butterick blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and cardigan jacket 1367. Delineator, June 1927.

Pattern descriptions, Butterick blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and cardigan jacket 1367. Delineator, June 1927.

 

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Filed under 1920s, Sportswear, Underthings

Andre Collection at NY Public Library Digital Collections

Andre Studio Collection: Reefer Coat design by Pearl Levy Alexander, 1939. Copywight New Your Public Library.

Andre Studio Collection: Reefer Coat design by Pearl Levy Alexander, 1939. Image Copyright New York Public Library.

Andre Studios in New York was a business which produced sketches of French couture, with variations for the American market, selling the sketches to clothing manufacturers from about 1930 on. A collection of 1,246 Andre Studios sketches from the 1930’s is now available online from New York Public Library and from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA.)  The name on most of the sketches is Pearl Levy Alexander, and that is the best online search term.

NOTE: please do not copy or republish these images; their copyright belongs to the New York Public Library and they have been made low resolution as required by NYPL.

An excellent article about the Andre collection can be found here as a pdf. (The name of the article’s author is missing!) It explains how (usually unauthorized) sketches of couture wound up in the hands of dress manufacturers, to be copied or modified as they worked their way down the economic scale, eventually reaching the cheapest parts of the mass market.

In fact, Pearl Levy Alexander signed/designed many hundreds of sketches which included Andre Studios’ suggested modifications and variations of current designs.

The designs in the Andre Collection may include adaptations suitable to the American market, but some have attributions to known couturiers — e.g., “Import R” was their code for Patou —  as on this red wool siren suit (for wearing in air raid shelters) designed by Jean Patou in 1939.

Andre Studio's sketch of a red wool

Andre Studios’ sketch of a red wool “siren suit” by Patou. 1939. “R” was the import code used for Patou. Image Copyright New York Public Library.

You can recognize Andre’s “Import Sketches” of original couture because they were done in black and white; the modified designs, suitable for U.S. manufacture, are more elaborate drawings and use some gouache — white or colored watercolor. This “black marocain” suit is an actual sketch of a Chanel model; in the lower right corner you can see “Spring/Summer 1938; Import Code J = Chanel.”

This sketch says “Designed by Pearl Alexander” but acknowledges that it is “after Molyneux” — not an exact copy.

This boxy coat with construction details is Alexander's modification of a Molyneux design. Copyright NYPL, Andre Collection.

“Boxy coat after Molyneux” 1940, designed by Pearl Alexander, is Alexander’s modification of a Molyneux design. Image Copyright NYPL, Andre Collection.

On the other hand, this suit, dated 1/30/39, simply says it is designed by Pearl Levy Alexander. The sketch is highlighted with white opaque watercolor (gouache) and has a pink hat and blouse.

This black and white sketch is a 1938 suit by Schiaparelli (Import Code AO):

Andre Studio sketch of an original Schiaparelli Suit, with a note about the embroidery. Copyright New York Public Library.

Andre Studios’ sketch of an original Schiaparelli suit, with a note about the embroidery. (1938) Copyright New York Public Library.

If you are looking for designs by particular couturiers, look at the last two images in the collection. They are lists of designers’ names; the “Import Key” for Spring/Summer 1938 is a long list of designers whose work was sketched for Andre’s manufacturing customers, including Chanel, Heim, Lanvin, Vionnet, Nina Ricci, Redfern, Mainbocher, Patou, Paquin, Schiaparelli, Worth, and many less remembered designers, like Goupy, Philippe et Gaston, Bernard, Jenny, et al. You can see it by clicking here.  A search for these individual names may (but may not) lead to a sketch. (There’s also an Import Key for 1939-40.)

Mainbocher design, Andre Studio Sketch. Copyright New York Public Library.

Mainbocher design, 1938; Andre Studios Sketch. Image Copyright New York Public Library.

World War II momentarily cut off free access to Parisian designs, and this particular NYPL collection of sketches ends in 1939-40. However, Andre Studios continued to produce sketches into the 1970’s.

Three Sources for Andre Studios Research

In addition to the portion of the Andre Studios collection donated to New York Public Library — over 1,200 sketches made available online — the Fashion Institute of Technology (NY) and the Parsons School of Design also received parts of the collection of Andre Studios’ sketches and scrapbooks, photos, news clippings, etc., which were donated by Walter Teitelbaum to (and divided among) all three institutions.

The Parsons School has information about its Andre Studios collection here, including this sketch of four coats designed by Dior in 1953. Parson also supplies information about other places with Andre Studios and Pearl Alexander archives.

FIT has not digitized its part of the collection, but researchers can visit it. For information, click here.

Bonus: More Thirties Designs in the NYPL Mid-Manhattan Collection Online

Image from New York Public Library's Mid Manhattan Collection. Copyright NYPL.

Image from New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan Collection. Copyright NYPL. “Dormoy’s Frock, Agnes hat, Chanel, Molyneux, Mainbocher.”

Another, completely different collection of fashion sketches from the 1930’s — many in full color — can be found here, at the NYPL digital collection, in the Mid-Manhattan Collection. [Note, when I asked it to sort “Costumes 1930s” by “date created,” images from 1937 came before images from 1935, so don’t assume it’s chronological.]

Nevertheless, if you explore the alphabetical list at the left of the Mid-Manhattan Collections page, scroll down, down down under Costume, and you’ll find many images by decade, before and after the nineteen thirties! I was surprised by this 1850’s bathing costume cartoon:

Morning, Noon and evening dress for a

Morning, Noon and evening dress for a “Watering Place.” Image copyright New York Public Library.

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Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

Paris Fashions from The Delineator, 1929. Part 1, Daytime

In November 1929, Butterick’s Delineator Magazine ran two full pages of sketches of Paris Fashions — Vionnet, Chanel, Patou, Schiaparelli, Molyneux, and many other top designers, some of whom are no longer very well known.

Sketches of Paris fashions, Delineator, November 1929. Page 26.

Sketches of Paris fashions, # 1 through 15,  Delineator, November 1929. Page 26.

In order to make these sketches available for further research, I’ll try to show them one at a time, with their original descriptions from The Delineator. And, because there are thirty sketches in all, I’ll show 15 designs for daytime today, and designs 16 through 30 in Part 2.

Couture for evening, Delineator, Nov. 1929, page 27.

Sketches of couture, # 16 through 30, Delineator, Nov. 1929, page 27. Leslie Saalburg, illustrator.

After 1929, hems dropped precipately. Patou claimed the credit, but I won’t pursue that here. Schiaparelli, who wore culottes in the city in 1935, showed a pleated “knicker” skirt with a covering panel here, in 1929. The sketches are accompanied by the original descriptions. Perhaps you’ll find other surprises….

Paris Fashions for Daytime Sketched in the Delineator, November, 1929

Patou coat and dress, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

Patou coat and dress, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

The coat seems to be about the length of the dresses shown by other designers, but it’s hard to tell what is going on with Patou’s pleated skirt. Notice the suggestion of a natural waist, trimmed with buttons.

Sketch of Schiaparelli "knicker skirt" in Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Sketch of Schiaparelli “knicker skirt” in Delineator, Nov. 1929.

The illustrator, Leslie Saalburg, seems to have had a little trouble with this one. As we know from Elizabeth Hawes’ Fashion Is Spinach, illustrators had to make furtive notes and then sketch from memory later.

Coat designed by London Trades, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

Coat designed by London Trades, Delineator sketch, Nov. 1929.

London Trades is one of those designer names, popular in the 1920’s, but rarely mentioned today.

Green cloth coat by Cheruit, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Green cloth coat by Cheruit, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929. Note the natural waist on this fitted coat.

Mme. Cheruit herself retired in 1914, but the House of Cheruit carried on until 1930. This Cheruit tea-gown from 1922 shows strong influence from The Ballets Russes: Big, bold patterns and brilliant, exotic colors.

A caped dress, which looks like a coat, from Molyneux, 1929. Delineator sketch.

A caped dress, which looks like a coat, from Molyneux, 1929. Delineator sketch.

“Captain Molyneux” — he was an Englishman — also produced some spectacular evening wear. Click here for a glimmering dress from 1926-27.

Coat with interesting back detail from Lucien Lelong. Sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Coat with interesting back detail from Lucien Lelong. Sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Burnt orange suit from London Trades, 1929. Delineator sketch.

Burnt orange suit from London Trades, 1929. Delineator sketch.

A caracal is a lynx-like cat with beautiful tufted ears. See more here.

Tweed cape by Lelong. Sketcher for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Tweed cape by Lelong. Sketcher for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Astrakhan is a tightly curled fur, a variation on “Persian” lamb. Click here if you need to know more….

A coat and matching blanket by Elsa Schiaparelli, sketched for Delineator. Nov. 1929.

A coat and matching “rug” (a small lap blanket for wearing in cold cars, while watching outdoor sports, etc.) by Elsa Schiaparelli, sketched for Delineator. Nov. 1929.

Costume by Molyneux, sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Costume by Molyneux, sketched for Delineator Nov. 1929 issue.

Nutria (also called coypu) is a rodent. Raised for fur, some nutria escaped. In 2010, it was being treated as an invasive species in Louisiana. The New York Times explained here.

Day dress by Patou, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Day dress by Patou, sketched for Delineator, Nov. 1929.

Cheviot is a kind of wool. This dress is slightly longer than other dresses of 1929 shown in the same article. Perhaps more interesting is the belt — worn approximately at the natural waist. Patou was famous for his sportswear in the 1920’s. You can read about his monogrammed sportswear in this article about the influence of tennis on fashion.

A basque blouse outfit from Cheruit, sketched in 1929.

A basque blouse outfit from Cheruit, sketched in 1929.

Duveteen was a napped fabric, often suggested for Butterick patterns in the Delineator . The flared skirt was fairly new, but this Cheruit outfit was soon to be out of style without ever being really in style.

A suti using double-faced tweed, by Nowitsky; 1929 sketch from Delineator.

A coat made from double-faced tweed, by Nowitsky; 1929 sketch from Delineator.

Mary Nowitsky was often mentioned in Delineator’s Paris coverage; I find some of her twenties’ sportswear very attractive. It’s hard to find information about her.

Coat with interesting back by Schiaparelli. Sketched for Delineator, in 1929.

Coat with interesting back by Schiaparelli. Sketched for Delineator, in 1929.

Jersey coat by Chanel, Sketched for Delineator in 1929.

Jersey coat by Chanel, sketched for Delineator in 1929.

Chanel’s striped dress anticipates the 1930’s — except in length. More Chanel in the next post, Part 2 of Paris Fashions from The Delineator, 1929.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Nightclothes and Robes, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs

Collapsible Hats by Agnes, 1937

Two packable hats for travel; by Agnes, Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

Two packable hats for travel; by Agnes, Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

Agnès (also known as Madame Agnès)  was one of the most fashionable French hat-makers of the 1920’s and after. (Click here for more about her label.) Here is one of her tight-fitting evening turbans from 1929.

Agnes evening turban of fine gold mesh, 1929. Delineator, Jan. 1929.

Agnes evening turban of fine gold mesh, 1929. Delineator, Jan. 1929.

The Metropolitan Museum has several hats by Agnès:

Black velvet and matte black fabric hat by Madame Agnes, 1929. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Black velvet and matte black fabric hat by Madame Agnes, 1929. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

A whimsical little hat by Madame Agnes, 1937. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

A whimsical little hat by Madame Agnes, 1937. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Hats like this were often worn tilted far to the front of the head, over one eye.

Hats from Butterick Fashion News illustrations, 1938-39.

Hats from Butterick Fashion News illustrations, 1938-39.

However, bigger hats, often with an elongated crown like this one by Agnès, were also worn in the 1930’s. ( Schiaparelli also designed hats like men’s fedoras, but with tall, narrow tops like this.)

Straw hat by Madame Agnes, 1938. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Straw hat by Madame Agnes, 1938. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Hats pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Hats pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

The two hats by Madame Agnès pictured at the top of the post have a lot in common with these styles, but the Agnès hats were cleverly constructed so that they could be deconstructed and flattened, or rolled, to fit in a suitcase.

Casual hat that can be packed flat, by Agnes, 1937. Woman's Come Companion, Oct. 1937.

Casual snapped hat that can be packed flat, by Agnes, 1937. Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

In her “Letter from our Paris Fashion Correspondent,”  Marjorie Howard described two hats by Agnès, one that snapped together (above) and a hat that rolled into a long strip, and zipped into shape using a slide fastener.

Here’s how Marjorie Howard described the “snapper” hat, above:

“Large snap fastenings, the original ones in translucent green on black felt, run down the side of the crown which is just a flat piece when they are undone, and join the two ends of the brim. Two flat bits are all that remain when the snaps are open and they pack as easily as a scarf or handkerchief. A clever woman could construct the snapper hat for herself; though I am not sure that she could succeed with the other one.”

This hat by Agnes (1937) is held together by a long, continuous zipper (slide fastener) and can be unzipped and roller up for packing. Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

This hat by Agnes (1937) is held together by a long, continuous zipper (slide fastener) and can be unzipped and rolled up for packing.  Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

“The cleverest I have seen lately are Agnès’ two felts, intended primarily for October weekends when you travel in a car and must curtail your luggage. Both of them come to pieces and pack flat or in any suitcase corner. One  is a long curved strip of felt with metal slide fastenings cleverly disposed along the edges. You begin at the top, slip one end of the slide fastening into the other and wind spirally till your hat emerges, crown, brim and all. And it really works for I have tried it. To pack you unzip and roll the strip into a ball….

“It is pretty tricky to cut. Agnès told me that it took her three weeks of experimentation to work it out properly. The curve has to be accurate as an engineer’s working model.” — Marjorie Howard, Woman’s Home Companion, p. 81; October 1937.”

Although Howard says she zipped this hat up starting at the crown, the fact that the illustration shows the zipper pull at the top of the hat implies to me that that was where the zipping ended, as when you zip up the front of a jacket. Or perhaps the illustrator took liberties.  The dressesandhats blog has a bigger, better picture of the Zipper Hat.  Click here.

American Charles James designed a dress with a zipper that spiraled all the way around it in 1929(!), but I don’t think practicality was his main goal.

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Filed under 1930s, Hats, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Zippers

Schiaparelli Hat Influence

When I woke up one morning this week, I remembered a woman’s voice — kindly, humorous, possibly my Girl Scout Leader —  saying, “Why, bless your pointy little heads!”

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

I must have been dreaming about the hat worn by Carole Lombard at the end of the movie Now and Forever (1934), which I had just watched on Turner Classic Movies. It was one of those cone-shaped felt hats that comes to a point on top, like this one:

Story illustration , Woman's Home Companion, May 1937.

Story illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937.

Pointy hat by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933-34, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Pointy hat by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933-34, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli seems to have been the source for many of the silliest hats of the 1930’s and 1940’s; she didn’t necessarily design all of them, but she had a genius for publicity. Dilys Blum’s massive book on Schiaparelli, called Shocking, printed a page of hat sketches from Schiaparelli’s studio notes:

1930's Schiaparelli Hat sketches pictured in Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

1930’s Schiaparelli Hat sketches pictured in Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

I’m amazed by how often very similar designs appear in Butterick publications, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Woman’s Home Companion — and that’s not counting Vogue and other high fashion magazines.

Schiaparelli was close to the Dadaist and  Surrealist art movements; she had Dali design fabrics for her, and she even made a suit like a dresser, with pockets that were actually drawers. Not to mention her “shoe” hat:

Schiaparelli Shoe hat, winter collection 1937-38. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Schiaparelli Shoe hat, winter collection 1937-38. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

The notebook sketch for the shoe hat shows it with a bright red sole, anticipating Louboutin by 70 years or so.

There’s a reason her perfume (and her biography) was called “Shocking;” shocking people generated publicity. The magazine Minotaure published a contemporary article written by her friend, Dadaist Tristan Tzara, and illustrated with photos by Man Ray, in which Tzara claimed that Schiaparelli’s 1933-34 hats with holes in the crown, or shaped in a series of oval ridges, represented female genitalia.

Hat from Schiaparelli's winter 1933-34 collection, photographed by Man Ray.

Hat from Schiaparelli’s winter 1933-34 collection, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Hat with a hole in the crown, photographed by Man Ray, modeled by Elsa Schiaparelli. WInter 1933-34 collection. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Hat with a hole in the crown, photographed by Man Ray, modeled by Elsa Schiaparelli. Winter 1933-34 collection. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

That’s the kind of article (however firmly the writer had his tongue in his cheek) that gets your hats talked about. If Tzara was right, then the shocking artworks of Judy Chicago (see The Dinner Party, from 1979) were  . . . old hat!

For that matter, in the nineteen thirties and forties (and fifties) the chairs that lined the counter of a diner always had a clip at the back for holding a man’s hat while he ate. Imagine the shocking display of fedoras at lunchtime!

Pointed hats by Schiaparelli. 1930's. Form Shocking, by D. Blum.

Pointed hats by Schiaparelli. 1930’s. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

The conical, pointed hats had variations in the thirties which allowed them to be folded over at the top, or squared off, or open, or dented in at the top, and there were many versions of the exaggerated — and frequently dented — fedora, like the ones at top in this sketch.

Hats from Schiaparelli sketchbook. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

Hats from Schiaparelli sketchbook. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

Pointed hat, fashion illustration. March 1934.

Pointed hat, magazine pattern illustration. March 1934.

Coonical hat with blunt tip, Jan. 1936.

Conical hat with blunt tip, Jan. 1936.

Woman's Home Companion, coat ad, Nov. 1937.

Woman’s Home Companion, coat ad, Nov. 1937. Conical hat, squashed.

Delineator, Feb. 1935.

Delineator, Feb. 1935. Dented crowns, a la Schiaparelli.

Women in ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, Oct. 1937.

Women in an ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, Oct. 1937.

Knit hat by Schiaparelli, 1937. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Knit hat by Schiaparelli, 1937. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Women in an ad for B>F> Goodrich rainboots, WHC, Nov. 1937.

Women in an ad for B.F. Goodrich rainboots, WHC, Nov. 1937.

Hats shown with clothing from Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Feb. 1936, WHC.

Hats shown with clothing from Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Feb. 1936, WHC.

Schiaparelli hat sketchbook 1930s. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Schiaparelli hat sketchbook 1930s. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Butterick fashion news, May 1938. These hats could be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick fashion news, May 1938. These hats could be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick hat pattern No. 7858. May, 1938.

Butterick hat pattern No. 7858. May, 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

I think the one on the left owes a nod to Schiaparelli:

Schiaparelli's

Schiaparelli’s “double slipper” hat, Spring 1938. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Bless her pointy little head.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Musings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

Striped Prints, Spring 1938

Companion -Butterick patters Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion -Butterick patterns Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

The dress on the right, Companion-Butterick pattern 7733, is both a floral print and a stripe. What’s more, it’s a horizontal stripe. Not just the fabric, but the high waist and the draped V top reminded me of something familiar:

My mother with her mother, 1938.

My mother with her mother, 1938.  The woman on the left is in her 30s; the older woman is in her 60s.

Of course, it’s not exactly the same dress, but it’s very similar. The photograph is dated 1938, and I happen to have several Butterick Fashion News flyers from 1938.  Large scale prints were becoming popular in women’s dresses, under the influence of Elsa Schiaparelli. This Schiaparelli blouse, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, has a floral/horizontal striped print, too.

Schiaparelli print evening blouse, Metropolitan Museum. Winter 1938-1939.

Schiaparelli print evening blouse, Metropolitan Museum. Winter 1938-1939.

It has some elements in common with the dark fabric on the dress shown by Butterick, #7733.

Companion -Butterick patters Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion-Butterick patterns Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7733 (right):  “A soft, simple dress just right for the new striped prints. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion-Butterick pattern 7734 (left):  “A tiny lace frill on a new scalloped neckline. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]

Another horizontally striped floral print is used for Companion-Butterick 7745, below. “Peasant influence, laced bodice, puffed sleeves, square neck. Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 40 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion -Butterick pattern No. 7745, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Companion -Butterick pattern No. 7745, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

“Tyrolean” fashions were popular until World War II broke out. Lantz of Salzburg dresses — very popular with young women in the 1950s  — were known for these floral stripes. (Now, those floral stripes — used lengthwise — are associated with flannel nightgowns.)

Companion-Butterick patterns 7781 (seated) and 7791, Butterick Fashion News , April 1938.

Companion-Butterick patterns 7781 (seated) and 7791, Butterick Fashion News , April 1938.

The dress on the left  looks youthful, but the pattern goes to size 42″.

Companion-Butterick No. 7781 (left):  “The neckline outlined with flowers is fresh. Size 36 takes 3 1/2 yards rayon crepe 39. Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 42 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion-Butterick No. 7791 (right):  “A peasant dress in bayadere print. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]” The Design Fabric Glossary defines “bayadere” as “brightly coloured stripes in a horizontal format characterized by strong effects of colour. A Bayadere is an Indian dancing girl, trained from birth.”

Although this dress does not technically have striped print fabric, the floral pattern is distributed in chevrons, rather than randomly:

March 1938 cover of Butterick Fashion News, featuring Butterick pattern No. 7757.

March 1938 cover of Butterick Fashion News, featuring Butterick pattern No. 7757.

Butterick 7757:  “One of the new prints in a dress with softly shirred bodice.  Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 42 [inches bust measurement.]

This dress, whose top is made of striped print fabric, appeared in Woman’s Home Companion in November of 1937:

Companion-Butterick pattern 7626. Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7626. Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Strong colors and stripes were certainly used by Schiaparelli in this blouse from 1936:

Schiaparelli blouse, summer of 1936; Metropolitan Museum collection.

Schiaparelli blouse, summer of 1936; Metropolitan Museum collection.

(It could have been worn in the 1980s — or now — but it dates to 1936.)

The woman who couldn’t afford to make a new, print dress could add a print halter top over a solid dress, as in this Butterick accessory pattern (No. 7792), which included “collars and cuffs, gilets and sashes to make a small wardrobe seem extensive:”

Butterick "Quick Change" accessory pattern 7792, Butterick Fashion News April 1938.

Butterick “Quick Change” accessory pattern 7792, Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Taking a closer look at my mother’s dress from 1938, I can see that the pattern in the fabric is not actually floral; it is more like a negative pattern made by using lace to bleach out a solid color.

Close up of print dress, 1938.

Close up of print dress, 1938.

I can also see that there is a little white chemisette filling in the neckline.

Daughter and mother, 1938.

Daughter and mother, 1938.

Note:  Pictures from the Metropolitan Museum should not be copied from a blog and posted elsewhere — The Met graciously allows their use for writing about fashion history. If you want to use them, please get them from the Met’s Online Collection site, and credit the Museum.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Companion-Butterick Patterns, vintage photographs

My Costumer’s Library: Getting Started

A page from 20,000 Years of Fashion: Packed with primary sources, photos, information.

A page from 20,000 Years of Fashion: Packed with primary sources, photos, information — in color and black & white.

I’ve been seeing some comments, on The Vintage Traveler and other blogs, from people asking for costume research book recommendations, and I couldn’t resist offering some suggestions.

Of course, a library is a very personal thing, and depends on its owner’s personal interests and goals. I helped a good friend list her library on Amazon when it came time for her to move to assisted living. She was a vintage clothing collector, a docent, and a lover of ethnic textiles.  I was a theatrical costume designer. I’ve taught costume design, construction, and costume history classes; I’ve worked as a designer, a cutter/draper (i.e., a pattern maker), and a costume technician. Together, we had between five and six hundred books in our personal / professional libraries, but we had very few books in common!

I, too, sold most of my professional library when I thought I had retired. Ironically, helping to inventory my friend’s clothing collection for sale made me realize that this is the field I know best, and I still have a lot information and experience to share, so here I am . . . .

There are a few books I couldn’t bear to part with (20,000 Years of Fashion, The Costume Technician’s Handbook) — and many I wish I’d kept, like Everyday Fashions of… since I keep checking them out of the library now.

For an Overview of Fashion in the Western World: 20,000 Years of Fashion

For a quick overview / refresher of periods, (American and European) loaded with primary source illustrations — one of the first costume books I bought and one I still have on my shelf 40 years later:  20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment, by Francois Boucher. I have the 1973 edition — available online in used condition for under $20. A 1987 edition is also available. A big, heavy, wonderful, information-packed book, densely illustrated in color and black & white.

For Clothing Worn by Ordinary People: the Everyday Fashions series.

For twentieth century American fashions that were worn by ordinary people (not high fashion): Dover’s series of books that began with Stella Blum’s Everyday Fashions of the Twenties (and Everyday Fashions of the Thirties) from the pages of Sears and other catalogs. The series — trustworthy, dated, primary source material — is being continued by JoAnne Olian, with Everyday Fashions 1909-1920, Everyday Fashions of the Forties, Everyday Fashions of the Fifties, Sixties, etc.) These books are packed with period illustrations and photos of women’s clothing, some children’s clothing, menswear, undergarments, hats, shoes, and other accessories, with prices. Every professional costume designer I know refers to these books constantly. Used, less than $10 each.

For Constructing Historic Clothing: Books by Norah Waugh or  Janet Arnold

For an understanding of how period garments were made, as well as some interesting costume history: Norah Waugh’s classic books The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930, & The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900. For a long time, The Cut of Men’s Clothes was the reference for patterning period menswear. If you want to study the construction of authentic historical garments, these books are a good place to start. The pages are not gridded, however, so the pattern layouts are most helpful when you’re draping on a mannequin. There is a measurement scale on each page — I ended up copying the scale and pasting it to a stiff card / bookmark so I could move it around on the drawings and then pencil in measurements all over the pages. Also, these books are not cheap, even in used condition. I’d say, borrow Waugh’s books from a library and buy Janet Arnold’s books:

If you want to study vintage clothing and/or recreate authentic period garments: Janet Arnold wrote three superb books, all in paperback and relatively inexpensive: the series is  Patterns of Fashion, by Janet ArnoldPatterns of Fashion is available in three volumes. Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660 to 1860 (women’s clothing), Patterns of Fashion 2: 1860 to 1940 (women’s clothing), and Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women c. 1560-1620. A fourth volume on shirts, smocks, ruffs, hats, etc., is available, but I haven’t seen it. [EDIT 2/5/19: The series is being continued.  Click here.]  Arnold has produced detailed patterns, on scaled grids, with copious notes on the construction and trims, taken from actual garments in museum collections. Another virtue: these books are ringbound, so they lie flat when open! I was able to produce some terrific 1890s costumes (with the help of my high school students) using just this book (P of F 2) plus my own home sewing experience (which included volunteering as a stitcher for a very good costume designer — so I knew about flat lining!) You can find used copies of Patterns of Fashion 1 & 2 online at $20 to $30 each; the later books cost a bit more. If you’re dealing in vintage clothing, understanding period construction — knowing what the insides should look like — is very important.

Primary and Secondary Sources

You’ll notice I keep using the words “Primary Sources.” A primary source is a text or illustration (or garment or photograph) made at the time the fashion was current.

Clothing from Schiaparelli, Vionnet, and Schiaparelli, drawn and published in November, 1928. Delineator Magazine.

Clothing from Schiaparelli, Vionnet, and Schiaparelli, drawn and published in November, 1928. The Delineator magazine.

A secondary source is usually a drawing of an authentic garment, painting, statue, or photo, made at a later date. An example would be John Peacock’s Fashion Sketchbook: 1920-1960 , first published in 1970. Drawings like this can give details not visible in photographs, and are very useful when combined with primary sources. However, not only our ideals of beauty, but our styles of fashion illustration can affect the accuracy of secondary sources in subtle ways. For example, many fashion fabrics in the 1960s and early 70s were stiffer than fabrics from the 1920s. Photos of 1920s dresses show them looking a little droopy, like that Vionnet jacket above, rather than crisp like these.

Suits for 1927-29, drawing by John Peacock. From his Fashion Sketchbook 1920-1960, pb. 1977. Image for review purpose only. Do not copy this image.

Suits for 1927-29, drawing by John Peacock. From his Fashion Sketchbook 1920-1960, pb. 1977. Image for review purpose only. Do not copy this image.

Also, illustrators will tend to select the clothing that is most attractive according their own era’s fashion ideal.

Beware of Using Only Secondary Sources! Anne Hollander has written a big, fascinating book about the difficulty of putting aside our own, modern ideas of beauty and drawing exactly what we see.  Even very scholarly fashion histories that are illustrated with secondary sources can be affected by this unconscious bias. The Mode in Costume, by Ruth Turner Wilcox, is carefully researched, but the illustrations, drawn in the 1940s, sometimes seem to show an uncorseted 1940s figure. The drawings of corsets from Elizabeth Ewing’s Fashion in Underwear are also secondary sources, but they are technical drawings, not noticeably distorted to a 1970s figure ideal.

1940s Drawing of 1879 dress (The Mode in Fashion), and technical drawing of 1879 corset by Elizabeth Ewing, 1971

1940s Drawing of 1879 dress (The Mode in Costume), and technical drawing of an 1879 corset by Elizabeth Ewing, 1971.  Notice the natural bust curve on the dress drawing, impossible in this corset. The bulging “spoon” belly of the period is also minimized.

Straight fronted 18th c. corset (Ewing) and 1940s drawing of 18th c. gown (The Mode in Fashion.)

Straight-fronted 18th c. corset (Ewing) and 1940s drawing of 18th c. gown (The Mode in Costume.) I have made versions of similar 18th century corsets from Diderot’s Encyclopedia, published in the mid-to-late 18th c. They flatten the bust and push it quite high. See below.

Secondary sources can be helpful, but only when used in addition to plenty of primary sources.

An 18th century fashion plate, from Encyclopedie Illustree du Costume et de la Mode

An 18th century fashion plate, from Encyclopedie Illustree du Costume et de la Mode. To be fair, this is later than the black gown above.

We’ve all seen western movies from the 60s and 70s in which the women wear thick, black false eyelashes and have bodices with plenty of breast separation, cut to cling to a modern merry widow or “torpedo” bra. Of course, both the makeup and the clothing looked attractive when the movies were made, but now look obviously “wrong” to anyone who has studied photos of the Old West.

Bette Davis wore lavish costumes both times she played Elizabeth I, but Hollywood just couldn’t commit to authentic, flat-fronted underwear.

Bette Davis in Elizabeth and Essex, 1939; Queen Elizabeth I

Bette Davis in Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939; Queen Elizabeth I

Once I was visiting a “Great House” in England. The tour guide was proud of all the portraits of the owner’s Elizabethan ancestors displayed in the front hall. I thoughtlessly blurted, “Aren’t these Victorian paintings of people in Elizabethan dress?” “How did you know that?” the guide said, shocked that the secret was out. Well, they were wearing Elizabethan clothes, but their faces and hair(and corsets) were Victorian.  Those pictures were not primary sources for Elizabethan dress.

One More Book I Couldn’t Part With:  The Costume Technician’s Handbook
I wore out my copy of The Costumer’s Handbook. The Costume Technician’s Handbook, by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey, is a revised edition of that book. When you’re exhausted and you need to put in hook and eye tape including a casing for the bone, or a side seam zipper, or you need to cartridge pleat a skirt (or ruff), or want to show someone the right way to sew on a snap, this book’s clear and easy-to-follow diagrams are life –or at least, sanity– savers. There are lots of procedures that costumers need to know, but sometimes many months go by before the next time you need to put in a corset busk, or draft some gussets, etc. The Costume Technician’s Handbook covers everything from flat pattern drafting and fitting problems and alterations, to dying and fabric painting, making hats and shoes and sword carriers, how to tie neckties, health and safety issues, etc. There’s a big bibliography and a list of suppliers. There’s even a website that updates all these sources and includes a shopping guide, links to costume societies, etc. The book is available in paperback. You can find an older edition, used, for under $10. A gem. (Caution: It is not about re-creating historically accurate clothing. It’s about creating well-made costumes for the theatre using sewing machines and modern supplies. Actors generally appreciate zippers.)

These are some old favorites — basics — the books I would pack if I could just carry a few for working out-of-town for the summer. I’ll be thinking of more really useful books for another post.

 

 

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