Tag Archives: slide fastener

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/img_7462.jpg?w=500&h=344

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.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

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.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

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

Du Barry Fashions, August 1939

Cover, Du Barry Fashions Prevue store flyer, August 1939. What a hat!

Du Barry patterns were sold by Woolworth’s — we called it the “dime store,” or the “five and ten,” as in the 1931 song lyric, “I found a million dollar baby in a five and ten cent store.” ( Click here to hear it .)

Page 6, Du Barry pattern flyer, Aug. 1939.

Page 5, Du Barry pattern flyer, Aug. 1939.

The Du Barry flyer from August 1939 shows relatively few patterns — but illustrates the same patterns in different “views” on several pages.

Du Barry pattern 2306 was illustrated on page 2 and on page 4 of the August 1939 flyer.

Du Barry pattern 2304B, an “Easily-Made” frock for sizes 12 to 20, appeared on both page 3 and page 5; August 1939.

Here are three versions of the dress featured on the cover, Du Barry pattern 2319.

Du Barry pattern 2319 in yellow, as shown on the cover. Aug. 1939.

“Choose this soft afternoon frock for sheer flattery. Sizes 32 through 42. Slide fastener for side placket 9”. Du Barry 2319B illustrated in a sheer fabric, page 3 of flyer, Aug. 1939.

Earlier dresses with side openings used snaps. By 1939 a slide fastener was mentioned in the pattern description, so side zippers must have been common, but not yet taken for granted with all dresses.

“A soft afternoon dress that is perfect for sheer fabrics.” Du Barry 2319B illustrated in a purple print fabric. Store flyer, page 6, Aug. 1939. Available in sizes 32 through 42 bust measurement. Note the sophisticated expression on the model — she is an adult woman, not a teen.

You can usually tell which designs are aimed at younger women and teens by the faces and illustration style, but the size range — 12 to 18, or 12 to 20 — is also a clue.

“A smart-looking dress and jacket,” Du Barry pattern 2300B, was available for sizes 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18.

“Easily-Made” frock for sizes 12 to 20; Du Barry pattern 2307B from 1939.

“A dress and petticoat ensemble” for younger women and teens, sizes 12 through 20. Du Barry pattern 2318B from Aug. 1939 flyer, illustrated on two pages. “Convenient closing” referred to other dresses, not this one.

Du Barry pattern 2314B is a “jumper frock that will delight the young miss. Sizes 12 to 18.” 1939.

The evening cape with hood accompanies a gown with a “vest-like bodice” for young or small women size 12 to 20. Du Barry pattern 2309B; Aug. 1939 flyer.

Tailored styles like this pink dress ( Du Barry 2316B)  and the sporty pleated one (2311B) were also for sizes 12 through 20. This sizing dates back to the time when patterns for teens and small women were sized by year, rather than by bust measure. (See “Size 16 years. What Does That Mean?”

Right: this pink tailored dress, Du Barry 2316B, is for teens and small women, sizes 12 to 20.

It could be made with a zipper front closing instead of buttons, as shown in white with red stitching (Scroll  down.)

Left, “A tailored dress designed for comfort. Stitched pleats are an added feature.” Du Barry pattern 2311B, store flyer, Aug. 1939. Sizes 12 to 20.

The Du Barry/Woolworth’s pattern flyers also contained ads for other products, from chewing gum to sanitary belts.

DuBarry pattern 2305B appeared twice on page 5 — once in an ad for Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum.

“Du Barry Patterns are 10 Cents Each — for sale exclusively by F. W. Woolworth Co.”

Du Barry 2305B was available in sizes 12 through 20 and for women bust sizes 30 to 38 inches. 1939. A tie in back ensures a snug fit.

I was pleased to see so many dresses made with visible zippers — a style introduced by Parisian designers in 1936-37. (This is mentioned briefly in Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty.)

Du Barry pattern 2313 B illustrated with a slide fastener down the front and trimmed with parallel rows of top-stitching. August 1939 store flyer, p. 6. Sizes 14, 16, 18, 20 and 40.

“Attractive and trim for mornings at home,” Du Barry housecoat pattern 2317B from 1939 has a zipper front closing.

[Schiaparelli is usually credited with being the first, but that’s not strictly accurate. One Butterick pattern with both practical and decorative zippers appeared in 1928. Schiaparelli did encourage the manufacture of colored plastic zippers.]

“Convenient closings with slide fasteners” were featured on DuBarry patterns 2313B (again) and 2316B, from 1939. Page 7 of store flyer.

Is it possible that DuBarry patterns with zipper closings were featured because the same flyer contained this Talon ad?

An advertisement for Talon slide fasteners from a Woolworth’s Du Barry store flyer, Aug. 1939, p. 7. “For decorative purposes — ask for the TALON plastic fastener.”

Although in common use, the word “zipper” technically belonged to the B.F. Goodrich company. (See Flappers, Galoshes, and Zippers for more about the history of the slide fastener.)

My mother still wore a long housecoat very much like this one in 1947 or so; hers was a large floral print in blue seersucker, without a collar. It had these sleeves, but it zipped down the front.

Du Barry housecoat pattern 2317 was shown in two versions, on two different pages. Aug. 1939.

(I call this blog “witness2fashion” because I saw clothes like this being worn.)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Zippers

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