Tag Archives: stout women 1920s

Paris Calls for Pleats, 1926 (Part 2: Styles for Larger Women)

In Part 1, I showed some Delineator pattern illustrations for Misses and Women’s dresses for September, 1926. The same issue had a second article about the importance of pleats [called plaits] — this time for larger women.

Plaits Reduce New Parisian Frocks to Their Slimmest Terms

"Plaits Reduce New Parisian Frocks to Their Slimmest Terms." Delineator magazine, Sept. 1926.

“Plaits Reduce New Parisian Frocks to Their Slimmest Terms.” Delineator magazine, Sept. 1926.

All but one of these Butterick patterns from 1926 is meant for larger-than-average women. The three on the right are for women with bust measurements from 36 to 52 inches, far from the boyish figure associated with 1920s styles. The four on the left are drawn, as usual, as they might look on women at the smallest end of their size range, not size 46.

Butterick Skirts and Blouses

"Slimming" Butterick patterns 7066 (blouse), 6286 (skirt), 7078 (blouse), 6331 (skirt) from September 1926. Delineator magazine.

“Slimming” Butterick patterns 7066 (blouse), 6286 (skirt), 7078 (blouse), 6331 (skirt) from September 1926. Delineator magazine.

The blouse patterns are new, but the skirt patterns’ numbers show that they first appeared in the previous year. The pleated skirt on the left came in hip sizes 35 to 49.5 inches. Skirt 6331 was available up to hip size 52 inches — equivalent to a modern size 28W. Most early twenties dresses had straight backs, with any flare or fullness in the front only, like skirt 6286, but that was changing by 1926.1926 sept p 32 delin text 7066 6286 7078 6331 stout dresses

Many mid-twenties illustrations show a decorative colored hankie peeking out from a pocket, like these.

Blouse patterns 7066 and 7078. September 1926.

Blouse patterns 7066 and 7078. September 1926.

That narrow ribbon tie on # 7078 is slenderizing. These blouses were available for bust sizes 32 to 46, a little larger than the normal size range. They both have yokes with gathers or tucks adding fullness in front, unlike this similar design for Misses aged 15 to 20 “and small women,” which has no bust fullness.

Butterick pattern No. 7950 for Misses and small women, Sept. 1926.

Butterick pattern No. 7950 for Misses and small women, Sept. 1926.

Butterick 7051

Butterick pattern No. 7051 for larger women, 1926.

Butterick pattern No. 7051 for larger women, 1926.

This dress was available up to bust size 48; whether the embroidered horizontal band across the front — widened further with decorative buttons — would be becoming to its wearer is questionable. The bodice insert giving the impression of an exposed slip is a “vestee” which could be removed for laundering. It could also be made of a contrasting fabric, like pattern 7089, below.1926 sept p 32 white hat and detail stoutsShe wears a fairly lavish fox fur stole; even the woman wearing sporty blouse #7078 has put a pair of dead animals around her throat.

A small fox stole.

A small fox stole.

My mother (the former flapper) was very proud of her fur stole, which had baleful glass eyes and a hinged clip under the jaw, so that the little critters, like this one, appeared to be biting each other.

Butterick 7089

Butterick No. 7089, Sept. 1926.

Butterick No. 7089, Sept. 1926.

This dress, with a high collar that can be worn buttoned as shown, or open like No. 7051, features a long opening in the center front. 1926 sept p 32  top of 7089 stout leftButterick made this dress pattern in its usual range of sizes, bust 32 to 44 inches, roughly equivalent to modern pattern sizes 10 through 22. Her hat is trimmed with a very long jeweled pin.

Butterick 7077 and 7016

These two patterns were not only available in large sizes, but were described as able “to thin down a stout figure” and “to make the least of a large figure.” I wouldn’t agree about the one on the right.

Butterick patterns 7077 and 7046 for bust sizes 36 to 52. Sept. 1926.

Butterick patterns 7077 and 7046 for bust sizes 36 to 52. Sept. 1926.

1926 sept p 32 delin text7077 7016 stout dressesNumber 7077 certainly does its best to create a long vertical area from neck to hem, drawing our eyes to the center, rather than the outline, of the body. Number 7016 has a diagonal “surplice” line intended to do the same, but the hip band and wide space between two sets of front pleats negates the effect. The top of the dress doesn’t really relate to the lower part. The evening gown below, also from 1926, came in sizes 36 to 48; here, the surplice line is effectively carried down into a side drape so your eye travels past the hip, rather than across it.

Butterick pattern No. 1187 from Dec. 1926 had "reducing properties" and came in sizes 36 to 48.

Butterick pattern No. 1187 from Dec. 1926 had “reducing properties” and came in sizes 36 to 48.

Butterick 7077 and 7016, details.

Butterick 7077 and 7016, details.

It’s hard to be sure if the hat on the right was made of the same fabric as the lapels on the dress, or not.  It could be fur. The woman on the left is wearing what looks like a magnifying glass on a long necklace, but it might hold a secret, like this one:

A vintage lorgnette, courtesy of RememberedSummers.

A vintage lorgnette, courtesy of RememberedSummers.

When you press a tiny button on the silvery filigree, it opens to become a pair of hand held-spectacles:

Lorgnette photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Lorgnette photo courtesy of RememberedSummers.

Butterick 7083

Butterick pattern 7083 is "chic for stout women" with bust sizes up to 52". Sept. 1926.

Butterick pattern 7083 is “chic for stout women” with bust sizes up to 52″. Sept. 1926.

The image is curved and distorted because it was photographed from a thick, bound periodical volume. In spite of this garment’s princess seams, the model is drawn as if wearing a bust-flattening corset or corselet.1926 sept p 32  7083 details hat stout rtShe, too, carries a fox fur piece.

One pleasure of Delineator pattern illustrations is the carefully drawn accessories, like these hats:

A selection of hats from September. 1926. Delineator magazine.

A selection of hats from September, 1926. Delineator magazine.

Folds, droopiness, and tiny brims can also be seen in the hats from Part 1. Click here.

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Filed under 1920s, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Underpinning the 1920s: Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners

The women’s undergarment called a “brassière” has been around since 1905 in the U.S. (1) and before 1912 in England (2). However, the first brassieres didn’t look anything like the garment we know today. (Numbers) indicate sources listed at end of post. [Read about 1920s Girdles and Corsets here. Read about Early 1920s Fashions here.]

Boneless Brassieres from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917

Boneless Brassieres from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917

Warner Brothers Brassiere Ad, March 1925

Warner Brothers Brassiere Ad, March 1925, Delineator.

A very similar brassiere, made entirely of delicate machine lace, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Lace Bandeau Brassiere circa 1920, Fashion in Detail drawing by Eleri Lynn, Photographs by Richard Davis

Lace Bandeau Brassiere circa 1920, from Fashion in Detail. (4) Drawing by Leonie Davis, lace photograph by Richard Davis. It closes at the side back with hooks and eyes, so the help of a maid would be required to put it on.

An undergarment like this, worn very tightly, would compress the breasts. However, if I had found any of these brassieres in a box of vintage underwear, I might have classified them as camisoles, rather than brassieres.

The first uplift brassieres — with shoulder straps and a snug, elasticized band below the breasts, and, most importantly, two distinct cups for the breasts — were not mass-produced until the mid-to-late nineteen twenties.

Ideal Fashion Figure, Early 1920s

Couture dress by Lucien Lelong, 1925; Clara Bow, photographed by Dyar for Vanity Fair, 1928

Couture dress by Lucien Lelong, 1925; Clara Bow, photographed by Dyar for Vanity Fair, 1928

Movie star Clara Bow had an ideal figure for early 1920s fashions; she epitomized the garçonne, or “boy-girl” look.

Butterick Ad, Delineator, June 1925.

Butterick Ad, Delineator, June 1925.

Naturally, most of the women alive in the twenties did not look like boys at all.

Young woman and her mother, 1920s. Photo courtesy of rememberedsummers.

Young woman and her mother, 1920s. Photo courtesy of rememberedsummers.wordpress.com

And this is where the brassieres, bandeaux, and bust flatteners come in.

Bust-flattening Bandeaux and Brassieres, 1920s

Ads for De Bevoise Bandeaux, May & April 1925. Both are made of stiff corset material; the one on the right is boned and designed to flatten a more mature figure.

Ads for De Bevoise Bandeaux, May & April 1925. Both are made of stiff corset material; the one on the right is boned and designed to flatten a more mature figure.

The terms brassiere and bandeau were not used consistently, but in general a 1920s “bandeau” was a band that went around the chest, supported by two ribbon straps.

Bandeaux, 1928. Picture from Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum.

Bandeaux, 1928. Picture from Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum.

A “brassiere” was less skimpy and usually reached to the waist; both brassieres and bandeaux had one or more tabs that could be used to attach them to the girdle or a waist-high corset, which in turn had suspended garter hooks which attached to the stockings.

Old-fashioned brassieres from a 1928 Sears catalog would have appealed to older women.

These old-fashioned brassieres from a 1928 Sears catalog would have appealed to older women.

You can see that, although the brassieres above resemble the brassieres from 1917 pictured at the top of this post, there is a difference:  these 1920s brassieres have almost no curve. They are meant to flatten the bust.

Brassieres for "stout women" from a Sears catalog, 1928-29. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, p. 130.

Bust flattening brassieres for “stout women” from a Sears catalog, 1928-29. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, p. 130.

The brassiere on the left is “for stout women and nursing mothers” [Ouch!] only because it fastens up the front.

Reducing Brassieres

Women who were not content with compressing their breasts could try to reduce them:

The Bailey rubber reducing brassiere. Ad from Delineator, July 1918.

The Bailey Rubber reducing brassiere. Ad from Delineator, July 1918.

The Madame X Reducing Brassiere, November 1924. It was also made of rubber, to encourage water loss.

The Madame X Reducing Brassiere, November 1924.

Madame X corsets, girdles, and brassieres were also made of rubber, and usually worn over an absorbent undergarment. The purpose of the rubber was to “sweat off” the fat.

Brassieres That Hold Your Stockings Up (and Push Your Breasts Down)

Brassieres from 1928-29. Pictured in Everyday Fashions of the Twenties.

Brassieres from 1928-29. Pictured in Everyday Fashions of the Twenties.  The brassiere on the left is unboned and “comfortable for sports or dancing.” The one on the right “can be worn without a corset.”

Even in the twenties, some objected to bust-flatteners on the grounds that they would damage breast tissue. These garter-and-brassiere combinations, with the stockings exerting a constant downward pull, must have forced all but the smallest breasts to crease at the bottom. In addition to breaking down the breast tissue,  imagine how perspiration forming in those creases would have caused rashes and general misery in warm weather.

Bandeaux and the Boyshform Binder

These 1928 bandeaux have elastic backs, and either a back or side closing. Notice that they have some easing along the side seam, but they still have the “uni-bosom” or “mono-bosom” look of the previous century, as if a woman had one, large, oblong breast running across her chest. These bandeaux were intended to make even that slight curve disappear.

Bandeaux. Picture from Everyday Fashions of the Twenties.

Bandeaux, 1928. Picture from Everyday Fashions of the Twenties.

I have not yet come across a picture of the Boyshform binder. The Boyshform company was formed about 1918 and “claimed optimistically that its utterly flat bandeaux would hold the bust in position without ‘pressure or pinching.’ ” (1)  Another bust flattener with a punning name was the Kabo Corset Company’s “Flatter-U.” The bust reducer illustrated below has a back made from corset material and a front made from several overlapping bands of elastic stitched together:

"Elastic Front Brassiere Bust Reducer gives the bust firm lines. Corset material back...." 1928. Pictured in Everyday Fashions of the Twenties.

“Elastic Front Brassiere Bust Reducer gives the figure firm lines. Corset material back….” 1928. Pictured in Everyday Fashions of the Twenties.

The authors of Uplift: The Bra in America suggest that the Maiden Form company trademarked that name in 1924 to distinguish the purpose of its new, non-flattening bras from the Boyshform flatteners.

Corselets, Corsolettes, Corselettes, Corsettes and Other Combination Undergarments

The discomfort of brassieres that had to be buttoned with a tab to corsets or girdles — and probably often produced a bulge at the waist where the gap occurred — led to the widespread adoption of a combination garment that was called (with several spelling variations) the corselette.

1924 Brassiere Corset combination, 1924 Long Brassiere 1925 Treo Brassiere Girdle Combination Garment Ad. All from Delineator magazines.

1924 Brassiere Corset combination, 1924 Long Brassiere; 1925 Treo Brassiere Girdle Combination Garment Ad. All from Delineator magazines.

Treo undergarments, here pictured from an ad in Delineator magazine, were sold in stores and also carried as a brand name in the Sears, Roebuck catalog, so they reached a wide spectrum of customers. (1)

1925 Bien Jolie Step-In Corsette Ad, Delineator.

1925 Ad for Bien Jolie Step-In Corsette; “which comfortably flattens the lines of the body.” Delineator.

Corselette pattern from Butterick, 1925. Delineator magazine.

Butterick Corselette pattern, 1925. Delineator magazine.

Women could also make their own simple — and flattening — brassieres, bandeaux, and corselettes from sewing patterns until true uplift bras, which “lifted and separated,” became available in the mid-1920s, and were too complex for the home stitcher. Simple bandeaux which had cups, but did not give support, were still featured in pattern catalogs.

The End of the Boyish Form

Breast flatteners and binders continued to be sold throughout the 1920s, but the return to a more natural, feminine figure in the second half of the twenties — accompanied by the invention of brassieres that had cups that fit and actually supported the breasts — gradually put an end to bust flatteners. The Boyshform company was in financial trouble by August of 1925 and went bankrupt in 1928. (1)

Sources especially useful for this post include (1) Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau; (2) Fashion in Underwear: From Babylon to Bikini Briefs, by Elizabeth Ewing; (3) Everyday Fashions of the Twenties as Pictured in Sears and Other Catalogs, by Stella Blum; (4) Women’s and Children’s Fashions of 1917: The Complete Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, a Dover Book; (5) Fashion in Detail: Underwear, (V&A Museum), by Eleri Lynn, Photographs by Richard Davis, Drawings by Leonie Davis; (6) The Mode in Costume, by Ruth Turner Wilcox, (7) Fashion, by Mila Contini; (8) History of Twentieth Century Fashion, by Elizabeth Ewing, (9) 20,000 Years of Fashion, by Francois Boucher, and issues of Delineator magazine from 1924 to 1929.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bras, Corselettes, Corsets & Corselettes, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes