Tag Archives: slide fastener

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

Men Bare Their Chests at the Beach, 1933

One man has a bare chest and one wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustratioin from Woman's Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

One man has a bare chest and one man wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustration from Woman’s Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

Nude bathing for men was an accepted tradition in Victorian times. (A stretch of river called Parson’s Pleasure was reserved for this purpose at Oxford University until 1991.) But as “mixed” bathing became popular near the end of the 19th century, both men and women were expected to cover up from breastbone to knee.

Man's bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910.

Man’s bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910. Sleeveless swimming suits for men were also for sale.

1920’s bathing suits were clinging, but very similar for both sexes.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925. The swim suit worn by the seated man is not very different from the woman’s suit.

Practices varied from place to place but, at public beaches and pools in the U.S., men were usually required to wear suits that covered their nipples until the mid-nineteen thirties.

Men's swim suits from Sears, Spring 1935.

Men’s swimming suits from Sears, Spring 1935. Left, an elasticized “Speed Suit” suspended from the shoulders. Center, trunks with a separate tuck-in shirt. Right, a “two-purpose suit” whose top attaches with a zipper.

The “Speed Suit” (left) has attached trunks and “elastic-ribbed fabric.” The “High Waisted Trunks” at center are shown with a separate all-wool shirt which tucks into the suit at front and back. The “two-purpose” Zip Top Suit” at right has a zipper in front that allows you to remove the “shirt” part.

By 1934, it was becoming acceptable for men to swim bare-chested, but rules for public and private beaches and pools differed, so bringing an optional top would save embarrassment. (Speaking of embarrassment, I wonder: when the trunks were not suspended from the shoulders, was a belt necessary to support the weight of water-logged wool knit trunks?)

This vintage suit, from Macy’s, has a similar zipper front and a rather bare X back:

Man's swim suit from Macy's, circa 1930s, with slide closing detachable top.

Man’s swim suit from Macy’s, circa 1930s; the detachable top connects to the trunks with a large metal zipper.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/whc-april-1937-p-3-nmen-bathing-suits-tans-illus-cordrey-500.jpg?w=500

This illustration from Womans’ Home Companion, 1937, shows that some men — in this case, two out of three — continued to wear the top even when not required to do so.

Men's bathing suits with tops, WHC February 1936 illustration.

Men’s bathing suits with tops, WHC, February 1936 illustration.

The older man is wearing a more conservative, covered-up swimsuit.

According to Esquire magazine in 1934,

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

This implies that shirtless swimming was permitted on some public beaches in 1933, and earlier [1932] at some private beaches and pools.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men's swimming trunks without chest coverage.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men’s swimming trunks without chest coverage. The punning caption read: “Even the Public Beaches Embrace the Nude Deal.”

The man at left is wearing a shirt tucked into his trunks.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

In the same July 1934 issue, this ad for Mansco Sportswear shows several conservative looks:

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swiming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swimming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

However, this ad from Gantner and Mattern Co. shows much tighter-fitting trunks — and no top.

Ad for Gantner "Wikies" swim trunks, esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Gantner “Wikies” swim trunks, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner Wikies man's swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner “Wikies” man’s swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934. A “Snapper Shirt” top for Wikies was available separately, presumably to snap on at beaches where swimming with a bare chest was still not permitted.

The Wikies’ high waist reflects the high-waisted men’s trousers then in fashion. Wikies’ snug fit was probably possible because of the recent [1931] invention of Lastex yarn, which even appeared in men’s suit fabric in 1934 ads.

Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8.

From a Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8. “Lastex, the spun elastic yarn, is now weaving comfort into everything a man wears — into his business suit, Tuxedo, sportswear, bathing suit, riding clothes, shirt, …underwear, pyjamas….”

The Lastex company ran a series of advertisements in Esquire magazine showing men’s suits, tuxedos, etc. which were made with stretch fabrics — in 1934!

Beach and resort wear, including "pretty snug" men's swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133.

Beach and resort wear, including “pretty snug” men’s swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133. L. Fellows, illustrator.

1934 aug p 133 beach and resort wear swim text swim

This editorial illustration appeared in a women’s magazine in 1935:

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, May, 1935.

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, Woman’s Home Companion, May, 1935.

Perhaps the acceptance of bare chests had something to do with Hawaii:

A surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

A Hawaiian surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

I can’t help noticing that Esquire chose to use men “of a certain age” to model swimsuits in its editorial fashion articles. The women’s magazines, however, pictured younger, athletic-looking men wearing swimsuits in their illustrations, just as Esquire favored voluptuous women in its cartoons….

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Zippers

Online Collections: Creators Studios, 1950’s to 1970’s

1957 dress with piping trim from Creator Studios collection at NYPL

1957 outfit with piping trim from Creators Studios collection at NYPL. “Sports Separates;” is this a two-piece outfit? There are no seams or darts shown on the top, so the company that bought the design would have to figure out how to make it.

A while ago, I wrote about The New York Public Library’s Digital Collection of design sketches from the Andre Studio, which included sketches of couture from the 1930’s, along with many designs generated for sale to clothing manufacturers in the U.S.  You can read about that collection of designs, the Andre collection from the 1930’s, here.]

1960's design from Creator Studios; A three piece outfit.

1960’s design from Creators Studios; a three piece outfit in solid and tweed knit — sleeveless top, jacket, and miniskirt. Colored tights and low-heeled shoes were very popular accessories n the sixties.

The archives at NYPL include another studio that generated sketches for the use of clothing manufacturers — Creators Studios [no apostrophe] — active from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Over a thousand Creators Studios sketches from the 1950’s and 1960’s have been digitized and can be viewed at

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/creators-studios-fashion-illustrations#/?tab=about

Full skirted plaid dress design from Creator Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Full skirted plaid dress design from Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Creators Studios Costume Sketches from the 1950’s and 1960’s

“This is a collection of 8425 fashion design drawings produced by Creators Studios, a New York City Seventh Avenue fashion business that marketed ready-to-wear designs to clothing manufacturers across the country on a subscription basis, beginning in 1957 and throughout the 1960s and 1970s.” If you go to the site’s Navigation page, you can select sketches to view by decade or by “eveningwear” or “1960’s youth”. Click here.

A design for a bouffant "Bubble dress" by Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

A design for a bouffant “Bubble dress” by Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Dresses like this bubble dress had crinolines built in, between the inner, tightly fitted layer, and the full outer layer. They took up a lot of room in closets and on sales racks, and, once crushed, never really looked the same….

"Suit with zipper front and double breasted effect." 1963. Creators Studios at NYPL Digital Collections.

“Suit with zipper front and double breasted effect.” 1963. Creators Studios at NYPL Digital Collections. Not surprisingly, that hat style was called a “flower pot.”

These are clothes intended to be mass-produced, with variations, so the collection should be of interest to vintage collectors; it can be sorted by “date created.” (It sorts with the most recent dates first, however, so you may prefer to use the Navigation page.) As a way to skim through a decade getting a general look, collections like these are very useful. It’s also interesting to see how the style of drawing changed between the fifties and the the late sixties.

Sketch of a plaid sheath dress, Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

Sketch of a plaid “bib” dress, Creators Studios, 1957. NYPL digital collections.

About ten years later, the attitudes, the fashions, and the illustration style have all changed.

Sketch of a plaid dress design from Creators Studios, late 1960's. NYPL Digital Collections.

Sketch of a checked dress from Creators Studios, late 1960’s. NYPL Digital Collections. This design would have been suitable for knit fabrics.

This evening design from the 1960’s shows manufacturers two options:  the same dress in cocktail or full length.

1960's evening dress in two lengths, from Creator's Studios. NYPL Digital Collections.

1960’s evening dress in two lengths, from Creator’s Studios. NYPL Digital Collections. “Beaded embroidery and grosgrain trim on Peau de Soie.”

It’s easy to imagine this dress adapted to several price ranges, depending on materials, including a cheap taffeta version for the bridal trade. Manufacturers could make their own style variations, too — omitting the long sleeves, or using less expensive lace without beaded embroidery, for instance.

Many of the earlier sketches are signed by designer Howard Steel. He was one of the company’s three original creators.

Cocktail dress designed by Howard Steel of Creators' Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Cocktail dress designed by Howard Steel of Creators’ Studios, 1957. NYPL Digital Collections.

Although this bodice would have to be seamed or darted to fit this tightly, it’s left to the manufacturer to figure out where the seams go. The more seams, the higher the cost of manufacture. At the lower end of the market, you’d expect a skimpier skirt, too.

Many of the finished sketches were done by Rose Cohen, working from rough design sketches by Steel or the other “creators” who were copying original designs.

This coat and cocktail dress ensemble from the sixties looks very chic to me — the company’s designers were able to change with the times. In fact, that halter dress could have been worn just about any time in the last fifty years!

Sixties' black ottoman dress and coat, for Creator Studios.

Nineteen sixties’ black ottoman silk & faille dress and 7/8 length coat, for Creator Studios. NYPL Collections.

This 1960’s fabric and leather dress with a zip front would have been out of my price range (I couldn’t afford leather cleaning!) but seems inspired by Bonnie Cashin’s combination of those materials.

1960s zip front dress with leather trim. From Creators Studios, via NYPL Digital Collections.

1960s zip front dress with leather trim. From Creators Studios, via NYPL Digital Collections.

I settled for a similar style, probably from Joseph Magnin, in heavy unbleached cotton, with dark brown stitching and a big, brown, center front zipper; I wore it with dark brown tights in 1968 or 69. (My dress didn’t have a button at the neck — just a big zipper pull. My boss called it my “Emma Peel dress.” I was completely covered neck to wrist; it hadn’t occurred to me that men would think it was sexy.)

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.

 

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Filed under 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Resources for Costumers, Uncategorized, Zippers

1930’s Beach Pajama Looks: Borrowed from Sailors and Farmers

The Sailors ("Les Matelots;" women take to menswear at the beach. 1931 cartoon, from The Way to Wear'em.

The Sailors (“Les Matelots”) and women wearing “beach pajamas” based on traditional French sailors’ trousers. 1931 cartoon, from The Way to Wear’em.

I’ve always been a fan of wide-legged trousers for women. [If the widest part of your body is the upper thigh, trousers that fit tightly at the ankle will make you look like a parenthesis ( ), the “Venus” of Willendorf, or her sister, the “Venus” of Lespugue, especially from the rear. If you hate wide-legged pants, a classic trouser that drops straight from outer thigh to foot is a flattering choice.]

Wide-legged trousers in "Sun and Sea Clothes," Woman's Home Companion, January 1936.

Wide-legged trousers in “Sun and Sea Clothes,” Woman’s Home Companion, January 1936.

There were plenty of wide-legged beach pajamas and even very dressy evening pajamas to choose from in the early and mid-nineteen thirties. To read more about evening pajamas, click here.

Sailor-influenced Trousers for Women

“The newest pyjamas for beachwear … look more like those of a Breton sailor….” (See cartoon, above.)

Sports dress No. 4275 and Sailor 'Pyjamas" No. 4268. Butterick patterns, Delineator, January 1932, p. 54.

Sports dress No. 4276 and Sailor ‘Pyjamas” No. 4268. Butterick patterns, Delineator, January 1932, p. 54. There is a clutch purse under the model’s left arm.

1932 jan p 54 pyjamas sailor 4268 butterick

The spellings “Pyjamas” and “Pajamas” were used interchangeably until “Pajamas” won out in in the U.S.

That Distinctive Front Opening on Sailors’ Trousers: The Fall Front

On Butterick # 4268, the two button flaps cleverly angle in toward the center of the waist, making the waist seem narrower (and the hips, wider….) The Vintage Traveler collected a pair of  store-bought 1930’s sailor pajamas and wrote about them here, with detailed photos.

In 18th century men’s breeches, the use of two openings is called a fall front, among other names. The Regency Fashions blog has a good, long article about men’s breeches and trouser closings. Professor Linda Przybyszewski showed this rare pair of denim work pants from the 1840’s at her blog, The Lost Art of Dress. In the U.S. Navy, button-fly trousers with a fall front were worn long after zippers came into general use. These Navy uniform pants date to the 1960’s.

[Digression:  I can’t resist describing Butterick dress pattern 4276 (above), which has an asymmetrical front view, and which cleverly used one of the back straps as a guide for the belt. And, surprise: the dress is not white, but green.]

1932 jan p 54 dress 4276

In 1934, Delineator magazine showed a similar pair of front-buttoned sailor “pajamas” in dark fabric:

Butterick sailor trousers pattern 4884, June 1934.

Butterick sailor-styled trouser pattern 4884, June 1934. “Navy cotton slacks with checkerboard shirt.”

They were called “slacks,” rather than pajamas, here.

The next month, Butterick offered a whole page of “Sailor Made Fashions.”

"Sailor Fashions" in Delineator, July 1934, p. 57.

“Sailor Made Fashions” in Delineator,  July 1934, p. 57.

Sailor suits, for little boys, and sailor middies (blouses) had been worn by children and in gym classes for decades, but here the sailor influence, from “laced” bodices to bell-bottomed trousers, is shown on grown women.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

1934 july p 57 sailor dresses info text 5801

1934 july p 57 sailor dresses info text 5769

Butterick patterns 5784 (girl), 5779 (center) and 5796 (right.) July 1934 Delineator.

Butterick patterns 5784 (girl), 5772 (center) and 5796 (right.) Delineator, July 1934. Delineator.

1934 july p 57 sailor info text dress 5784

1934 july p 57 sailor info text slackd mess jacket5772

1934 july p 57 sailor info text 5796

Dresses with decorative “lacing” on the bodice were featured in The Delineator (1935) and the Berth Robert catalog (1934.)

Nautical influence on dresses: Butterick 6019 from January 1935, left, and the Berth Robert catalog, 1934.

Nautical influence on dresses: Butterick 6019 from January 1935, left, and the Berth Robert catalog, 1934.

You could even get that jaunty nautical look with just a borrowed car and a “little white hat of unmistakable origin.”

Woman wearing a sailor's cap, probably late 1930's.

Woman wearing a borrowed sailor’s cap, probably late 1930’s.

In 1934, you could order a pair of flared beach pajamas with metal buttons at the sides and a coordinating sailor-stripe top from the Berth Robert catalog for $3.95:

Beach outfit from Berth Robert catalog, 1934.

Sailor-inspired beach outfit from Berth Robert catalog, 1934. Decorative zipper closings on sportswear were already common.

Bib Overall Playsuits for Women

Farm family in an ad for Nujol, Delineator, April 1934.

Farm family in an ad for Nujol, Delineator, April 1934. These bib overalls are not a fashion statement, but their daily dress.

I seems strange that, while farmers were fleeing the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, bib overalls made their way into the fashion pages, where they remained in the form of lounge wear and playsuits until they became fully utilitarian in the factories of WW II.

"Evelyn Knapp, Warner Bros. Player, chooses this evening gown.... Pajamas for tennis are attractive and comfortable." Ad, Delineator, June 1932.

“Evelyn Knapp, Warner Bros. Player, chooses this evening gown…. Pajamas for tennis are attractive and comfortable.” Ad, Delineator, June 1932. (Wide legged pants for tennis are also dangerous.)

Below the bib, those side-buttoned “tennis pajamas” look like sailor slacks.

A model in overalls and a lot of bare skin was on the masthead page of Delineator in 1932.

A model wears beach pajamas resembling bib overalls in March 1932. Delineator.

A model wears beach pajamas resembling bib overalls in March 1932. Delineator.

The middle section of the outfit shows that these beach pajamas are not really like workers’ overalls:

1932. The seam lines, belt, and clinging hip band combine the lines of a dress with the idea of bib overalls.

1932. The seam lines, belt, and clinging hip band combine the lines of a dress with the idea of bib overalls.

In this story illustration by Oscar F. Schmidt, a young woman wears purely practical denim overalls:

Story illustration -- working girl in overalls meets salesman -- by Oscar F. Schmidt. Delineator, February 1936.

Story illustration — working farm girl in overalls meets salesman — by Oscar F. Schmidt. Delineator, February 1936.

 A playsuit combines sailor and straps in "Sea, Sun, and Sand" fashions, Delineator, June 1934.

A playsuit (“suspender shorts,” Butterick No. 5537) combines shortened sailor pants with a bib and straps in “Sea, Sun, and Sand” fashions, Delineator, June 1934.

This gardening outfit in a floral print looks as short as a normal 1930’s skirt, but has a bib-and-straps top:

Gardening outfit, photo by Arthur O'Neill for Woman's Home Companion. September 1936.

Gardening outfit, photo by Arthur O’Neill for Woman’s Home Companion. September 1936.

This unflattering playsuit from 1931 appeared in a Delatone depilatory ad. Delineator, August 1931.

This unflattering playsuit from 1931 appeared in a Delatone depilatory ad. Delineator, August 1931. It doesn’t appear to have a bib front; neither did some overall patterns for women.

Hollywood patterns issued a similar overall pattern, #734 (ostensibly for Joan Blondell) in 1934. Click here to see it.

This undated Anne Adams sewing pattern is both practical and more feminine than man’s overalls, with its heart-shaped front and a shorter playsuit option.

Anne Adams sewing pattern No. 4305. Circa 1930's or 40's.

Anne Adams sewing pattern No. 4305. Overalls or playsuit, circa 1930’s – 40’s. It buttons down one side.

More overall patterns from the thirties and forties can be found at the Commercial Pattern Archives; click here for Simplicity #3322 from 1940.

These female welders, working at a shipyard in Brooklyn during the second world war, are wearing man-styled heavy denim bib overalls.

Women welders at Todd Erie Basin shipyard, Brooklyn, WW II. National Archives photo from the book Rosie the Riveter, by Penny Colman.

Women welders at Todd Erie Basin shipyard, Brooklyn, WW II. National Archives photo from the book Rosie the Riveter, by Penny Colman.

At the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, where many women like these “Rosies” worked, a record 747 warships were “completed in two-thirds the amount of time and at a quarter of the cost of the average of all other shipyards.” These women were not playing. You can visit the Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, or online.

 

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

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

Vogue Patterns for Summer Dresses, 1936

Vogue patterns featured in Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue patterns featured in Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

The Ladies’ Home Journal sold its own line of patterns early in the twentieth century, but in 1935 it entered into a special agreement with Vogue patterns to feature “exclusive but ‘Easy to Make’ Vogue patterns.”

Announcing the first anniversary of Vogue-Journal "Easy -to-Make" patterns , August 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Announcing the first anniversary of Vogue-Journal “Easy-to-Make” patterns, Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1936. Most of the patterns illustrated above are “Easy-to-Make”, but none is the four-in-one pattern mentioned here.

The Vogue-Journal patterns illustrated in July, 1936, are for “little summer daytime dresses.” One is a wrap dress, recommended for pregnancy; two are for “big ladies;” another has an optional zipper closing in front. 1936 is the year when couture collections began showing dresses — not necessarily sport dresses — with slide fasteners, although the zippered gold dress shown here is a sporty two-piece.

Summer dresses from Vogue patterns, Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Summer dresses from Vogue patterns, Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

“How about adding some of these little summer dresses to your repertoire? Any of them could be made of nice gay fabrics whose cost is negligible, but with Vogue’s styling, you can be sure of a dress that looks like — well, not a million dollars but many more than you put into it.”

This was 1936, when the Great Depression was in its sixth year, and many families were lucky to have $25 per week to live on. A new cotton dress was a luxury for most housewives. The Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936, reported that a survey of 16,000 professional women showed a median income of $1,625 per year. “Although a salary of $1,625 . . . is several hundred dollars over the average income received by nearly nine million typical American wage-earners, the majority of them men.” (p. 25.)

Nevertheless, there is a tempting variety of styles in these seven dresses.

Vogue 7402 and 7407

Vogue 7402 and 7407, July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Vogue 7402 and 7407, July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal.

“The pleated front of No. 7402 will notify your friends that you know fashions. Use a sheer or a challis.  No. 7407, being a bit dressy, can take a flowered lawn or a plain pastel batiste, and add a flower and ribbon sash. ‘Easy-to-Make.’ “

To my eyes, No. 7407 looks dressy, too. In fact, it reminds me of a yoked and pleated Albert Nipon dress I bought around 1980. The shape of this yoke is unusual; the contrast collar and cuffs, puffed shoulders, little bow at the neck, and bodice-to-hem pleats all reappeared in 1980’s styles. This dress, reserving its pleats for the center front, with a close, stitched-down fit over the hips, was probably more flattering than many 1980’s versions.

A 1936 dress that was echoed in the 1980s. Vogue pattern No. 7402.

A 1936 dress that was echoed in the 1980s. Vogue pattern No. 7402.

Vogue 7398 and 7397

“Now, after you look at 7398, an ‘Easy-to-Make,’ look at its rear view. Its wrapped panel will tell you how it could serve for those of you who are going to have babies this fall.” Many 1930’s maternity fashions [absurdly] had extra fullness in the back, rather than in the front. See “Who Would Ever Guess?”

Vogue 7398 and 7397, July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Vogue 7398 and 7397, July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal.

“No. 7397, ‘Easy-to-Make’ is sketched with a slide fastener, but there’s an alternate opening shown below. The tuck-in blouse and four-gored skirt are separate.” The novelty sleeve and partially in-seam bodice pockets are rather special. The bolero-shaped front bodice seams, sleeves and all pockets are top-stitched or prick-stitched.

lhj 1936 july vogue prick stitched

Vogue 7405 and 7404

“Nos. 7405 and 7404 are our answer to your plea, ‘Show some dresses for big ladies!’ “

Vogue patterns 7405 and 7404 for "big ladies." Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue patterns 7405 and 7404 for “big ladies.” Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

“No. 7405 [top left] if you’re the tailored type, and No. 7404 ‘Easy-to-Make’ if you can stand bows.” [My concept of “tailored” did not include giant rick-rack, but live and learn. Inserting rick-rack between the garment front and the facing makes a more sophisticated trim than applied rick-rack. Only half of the rick-rack shows.]

Small-scale rick-rack inserted in a 1930's waitress uniform.

Small-scale rick-rack inserted in a 1930’s waitress uniform.

The range of available pattern sizes for “big ladies” were not mentioned in the LHJ article. As usual, they are illustrated on very thin ladies.

Vogue 7399

“And No. 7399 is a grand sun-back dress with an after-sunning bolero.”

Vogue pattern 7399, Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue pattern 7399, Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

The bias pockets on this slim, red checked halter dress — plus the deeply notched white collar — give it that “Vogue” look.

Details, Vogue No. 7399, July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Stylish Details, Vogue No. 7399, July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Maternity clothes, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

Bathing Suits for July, 1938

McCall’s coverage of summer fashions for 1938 included articles on choosing a flattering bathing suit — perhaps made of rubber — and the importance of wearing sunglasses.

Photo from McCall's magazine, July 1938. Peach colored bathing suit and matching swim cap.

Full-page photo from McCall’s magazine, July 1938. Peach colored bathing suit and matching swim cap.

McCall’s was a large format magazine, so I had to scan the top of the page, then the bottom and join them. This image was the “cover” of the style and beauty section, and didn’t have a description. Her waffle-weave swimsuit has a matching peach and white cap — or is it a scarf? There seems to be a tie peeking out from behind her head. Her coral lipstick and nail polish match.

Swimsuits and Sunglasses, 1938

"If the Sun's in Your Eyes" article, McCall's, July 1983. Sunglasses and print bathing suits.

“If the Sun’s in Your Eyes” article, McCall’s, July 1983. Sunglasses and print bathing suits.

Bathing suits, July 1938.

Striped and flowered bathing suits, July 1938.

The striped suit has a bra-like shaped top. The ethnic basket/beach bag is impressive. Like other late 30’s swimsuits, the legs are as long as modern shorts. This article stressed that sunglasses keep you from squinting, and, therefore, prevent wrinkles around the eyes. However, not all sunglasses were equal:

“Ordinary colored blown glass has wavy imperfections in it which distort the vision. . . . Science has perfected sunglasses that do not distort vision or darken the landscape. Even at a moderate price good sunglasses are now constructed so that they scientifically screen out most of the infra red and ultra violet rays. . . . Good sungogggles, not optically ground, of course, cost about fifty or seventy-five cents a pair, sometimes more.  But the extra cost over the cheapest type is small compared to the comfort you get. Such glasses are usually a blue or green tint, they’re well made, and come in handy carrying cases.” — Hildegarde Fillmore, writing in McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?

That was the question posed by this two-page article:

"How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?" article, McCall's, July 1938

“How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?” article, McCall’s, July 1938

“If your hips and thighs aren’t exactly streamlined, a dressmaker suit with a skirt will do more for you than a skin-tight maillot.” [But these long swimsuits do make the models’ legs look short and chunky.]

1938 halter necked bathing suit in "jungle print" with zipper front. McCall's, July 1938.

1938 halter-necked dressmaker bathing suit in “jungle print” with zipper front. McCall’s, July 1938.

p 70 bathing suit top 500 with text

“Is a bra-topped suit your love? Then be sure your bustline is pretty perfect and that no ‘spare tire’ mars your midriff.”

1938 bathing suit of elastic lace, "designed by a corset manufacturer."

1938 bathing suit of elastic lace, “designed by a corset manufacturer.”

1938 bathing suit: "The brassiere gives a good uplift, and front and back panels do a flattening job." McCall's, July 1938.

1938 bathing suit: “The brassiere gives a good uplift, and front and back panels do a flattening job.” McCall’s, July 1938.

To my surprise, two of the featured bathing suits were made of rubber. “Do you covet a skirtless rubber model? You’d better see to it that your tummy is practically concave.”

1938 white rubber bathing suit. McCall's, July 1938.

1938 white rubber bathing suit. McCall’s, July 1938.

White rubber bathing suit, McCall's magazine, July 1938.

White textured rubber bathing suit “starred in red and blue”, McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

“This crepe textured rubber maillot ‘swims’ like a second skin and dries in an instant. Its comfortable wool shoulder straps are adjustable at the back.”

(Below) “Tailored as a man’s waistcoat, this very brief bra-and-shorts suit is of ivory-white rubber in a neat jacquard self pattern. The points of the bra snap securely to the shorts, and a row of buttons form the trimming.”

1938 ivory rubber bathing suit. McCall's magazine, July 1938.

1938 ivory rubber bathing suit. McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

p 70 bathing suit btm text 500

I’m not sure how popular rubber bathing suits turned out to be, because, frankly, I didn’t want to do a search for them! Many years ago, while helping to organize a workshop on making dancewear, an online search for stretch fabrics taught me more than I really wanted to know about people who love spandex. Passionately. (Ahem.) I like to think that “nothing human is alien to me,” but I just don’t feel that curious about rubber clothing.

However, given how hard it is to find vintage rubber swim caps in good condition, I doubt that many rubber bathing suits survived.

1917 bathing cap made by Faultless Rubber Co. Ad from Ladies' Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

1917 bathing cap made by Faultless Rubber Co. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.  A pretty cap like this would be quite a vintage collector’s item.

Rubber for Reducing

Another reason the rubber swimsuits surprised me is that rubber corsets had been advertised as reducing aids since at least the 1920s. They were still being advertised in womens’ magazines about the same time as the rubber swimsuits, and it’s hard to imagine that no one made the connection. (The swimsuits were not perforated, of course. You would just have to swim in your own sweat.)

Kleinert's New "All-in-One" of Sturdi-flex rubber fabric is a perfect marvel! Ad, 1937.

Kleinert’s New “All-in-One” of Sturdi-flex rubber fabric is a perfect marvel!” Ad, 1937.

“Kleinert’s Sturdi-flex Reducers are sized to bust measure. . . . It’s ODORLESS, perforated for coolness, and can be washed in a moment.” And only two dollars!

The Perfolastic rubber reducing garments must have been more expensive, because their price was never given.

Perfolastic rubber reducing garment advertisement from Woman's Home Companion, MArch 1937.

Perfolastic rubber reducing garment advertisement from Woman’s Home Companion, March, 1937.

And Another Thing About 1930s Bathing Suits . . .

I wasn’t expecting to see so many swimsuits with tight “boy-shorts” legs. Late Thirties’ bathing suits are long, by modern standards. [No French cut legs on the beaches then!] But even in the 1950’s, many women’s bathing suits still had a sort of “modesty panel” in front that concealed the crotch.

Esther Williams in an ad for Cole bathing suits, from her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Esther Williams in an ad for Cole bathing suits, from her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Here are some suits from the 1958 Sears catalog, two decades after the 1938 bathing suits pictured in McCall’s.

Sears' catalog bathing suits for Spring 1958. all three have a modesty panel hiding the crotch area.

Sears’ catalog bathing suits for Spring 1958. They are still rather long, and all three have a modesty panel hiding the crotch area.

Swimsuits from 1938 might be long, but some of them had legs:

Bathing suits from Sears' catalog for Spring 19238.

Bathing suits from Sears’ catalog for Spring 1938.

Bathing suits shown in ads in McCall’s are very similar to the conservative styles at the top of this post.

Bathing suit in and ad for Underwood's Devilled Ham. McCall's, July 1938

Bathing suit in an ad for Underwood’s Deviled Ham. McCall’s, July 1938

Swimsuits from an ad for Palmolive soap, McCall's, July 1938.

Swimsuits from an ad for Palmolive soap, McCall’s, July 1938.

Skirted bathing suits from a Palmolive ad, McCall's, July 1938.

Skirted bathing suits with low backs and bra tops, from a Palmolive ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Note the attractively striped shoes, too.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Zippers