Tag Archives: style moderne

Teen Dresses from November 1925 in Color

Butterick dresses for teens and small women; Delineator, November 1925.

It’s easy to generalize about the Twenties, but every once in a while I encounter a dress that is undeniably “Twenties” but also defies the clichés.

I like all three of these dresses (and, if you dread wearing those 1920’s hip bands, these are for you!) But the one in the center, with its piped and slashed tunic, has really charmed me.

Black tunic dress 6381 has a muted pink collar, white piping, and an unexpected side slit.

The tunic is very long, revealing just a couple of inches of skirt — which has white trim to continue the lines of trim on the tunic.

The brown velvet dress at right is also unbroken by any belt, and its lean lines are accentuated by a long, soft drape. The sleeves have openings bound with what appears to be lighter brown satin. Perhaps the neckline has openings, too. The sleeves continue to the neckline in a sort of yoke effect.

The green dress is also unusual:

Butterick 6385 suggests a coat over a lighter-colored under dress, but judging from the hem, it’s probably one piece.

I doubt that it would fall so perfectly straight on a normal female body. My guess is that the CF opening is bound with self-fabric, but it could be two lines of stitching instead.

Detail of center front, Butterick 6385, Nov. 1925.

On the same page of Delineator were these evening dresses for young women:

Three evening dresses for young women and teens, Delineator, November 1925.

The yellow dress, Butterick 6330, also avoids having a hip-band or sash. It is not a princess-seamed dress; it has a small bust dart or easing in the side seam. (It’s essentially a tube with a circular flounce added, but getting the flounce to fall as illustrated would take some patterning skill.)

A closer look at Butterick 6330, 6328, and 6383, dresses from the winter of 1925.

The center dress may be a two-piece (I think I see a camisole top with narrow straps showing through the tomato-red georgette bodice.) This would be a great dress for dancing the Charleston –imagine all those skirt panels flying! The light triangles give a touch of Art Deco and a sporty quality.

Detail of skirts; Butterick 6328, left, and 6383, right.  Delineator, November 1925. Notice the picot edges on the green panels.

It’s possible that the green panels are matching-colored chiffon on top of a narrow skirt, rather than inserted into it.

In January 1926, Delineator suggested that last year’s straight skirts could be made to appear more stylishly flared by adding “godets, circular flounces, inserted [pleats,] flying panels, etc.”The vogue of two materials, two colors or two shades of the same color makes reconstruction possible and practical.”

This rosy-red dress has gathered flying panels of a different material in a slightly different shade:

Butterick dress with flying panels, Delineator, January 1926.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, bags, evening and afternoon clothes, handbags, Hats, Purses

Rapid Change in Twenties’ Fashions: 1924 to 1927

Dresses for women; Butterick’s Delineator magazine, March 1924, p 27.

When we speak of “the Twenties,” most of us are picturing the short skirts and dropped waists of the later 1920s:

Two Butterick pattterns for women, March 1927.

But during the immediate post-war Twenties, women’s clothing actually became longer, although less bulky and more revealing of the body under the clothes.

These dresses are from 1918, the year the war ended. One has a slightly dropped waist:

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

And these — 6 years later — are from 1924:

Butterick patterns for women, Delineator magazine, March 1924, page 27.

A reaction to the trauma of the First World War created “the Lost Generation” as described by Fitzgerald (in The Great Gatsby, published in 1925) and Hemingway (in The Sun Also Rises, published in October 1926.) Both were writing in the post-war period from 1924 to 1926. Fashions from those years may not look like “the Roaring Twenties” as we often imagine them.

Left, a draped dress from March 1927 which looks very “Twenties” to a modern eye; right, a draped dress from March 1924 — just three years earlier. Both are Butterick patterns featured in Delineator.

Which changed first: the fashions, or the women?

Less formal clothing from 1927, left, and from 1924, right. Butterick patterns from Delineator. What a difference three years made!

More fashion contrasts from March 1924 and March 1927:

Butterick patterns for young women, March 1924. Delineator, page 29.

Clothes for young women and teens; Butterick patterns from March 1924. Delineator, page 29.

Clothes for young women and teens were usually a bit shorter than those for mature women, but not nearly as short as these adult styles from just three years later:

Buttterick patterns from Delineator, March 1927, page 22.

Butterick patterns for women, March 1927.

If you want more details about those eight dresses from 1927, click here.

These youthful outfits from 1924 look fussy and rather stodgy, compared to the streamlined styles of 1927.

Butterick patterns for teens and small women, March 1924. Delineator.

Three styles for teens, Butterick March 1927. [The illustration on the left is bizarrely elongated….]

For more about dresses that combined different shades of the same color, click here. For more examples of rapid change in 1920’s fashion, click here.

A coat (1318) and dress (1323) from Butterick patterns, March 1927. Delineator, page 25. They’re like shingled hairstyles: short and sleek.

 

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, World War I

Ninety Years Ago: Fashions from January 1928

Butterick coat pattern 1836 and dress pattern 1798, January 1928, Delineator magazine. (Probably not for the novice dressmaker….)

I have written about Butterick patterns from Delineator, January 1928, before — this group is from pages that have smaller illustrations, so the photo quality is not as good. Nevertheless, there are some amazing styles, like this Art Deco influenced coat and dress. For other wonderful fashions from Delineator‘s January 1928 issue, see “Forecast Wardrobe” and “Summer in January.”

Here are a dozen dressy patterns for women and teens. First, “afternoon” dresses, for formal events, dinners, and tea dances.

Butterick afternoon dress 1796, Delineator, January 1928, page 34. She holds her clutch bag under her arm while adjusting her gloves.

The flounces do not go all around the dress:

Left, an alternate view of dress 1796, with coat 1836, center, and a dressy combination: Blouse 1782 with skirt 1808.

Butterick coat 1835. The points of the diamond on the back of the coat meet in center front (shown in alternate view, above.)

Another great Art Deco coat with geometric applied trim was shown in the book, Classic French Fashions, which I reviewed here:

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This afternoon dress is really a practical skirt and blouse combination, Butterick blouse 1782 and skirt 1808. Delineator, p. 34. January, 1928. The top and skirt could be paired with others, in different colors, like the afternoon skirt and blouse combination shown below.

I was surprised the first time I saw a wrap skirt pattern from the twenties. Click here for a 1927 wrap skirt copied from Vionnet. An second “afternoon” skirt and blouse outfit also appeared on page 34:

A simple twenties’ blouse is combined with a top-stitched skirt and a fox stole. Butterick 1778 with skirt 1839, from January 1928. There is a chenille pom-pom/flower on her shoulder.

Hips measuring 47.5 inches were part of the normal size range of Butterick pattterns in 1928, whatever we may hear about the important “boyish look.”

Butterick afternoon dress 1823, Delineator, January 1928, p. 34.

Butterick afternoon dress pattern 1802, Delineator, January 1928, p. 34. Although the fabric is a print, the long side drape on this surplice dress makes it too formal for casual or office wear.

It was common for nineteen twenties dresses to have elaborate fronts and simple backs:

Alternate views of afternoon dresses from Butterick, January 1928. These views show less formal hemlines without dipping draperies, and long or short sleeve options.

The facing page, page 35, showed Butterick patterns for evening:

Butterick evening dress 1801 has long fringe on the skirt and on the shawl. Delineator, January 1928, page 35. The complex bodice would be interesting enough without the shawl, which seems to have had two pattern options, as a scarf or a shawl.

Butterick evening gown 1806 has fluttering draperies and a deep V in front, revealing a contrasting “vestee” (under bodice.) January, 1928. This pattern could be purchased up to size 46!

Butterick 1807 has surplice lines and a side drape that flows from pleats [or gathering] below the knot. 1928. Delineator recommended this style for “women with small hips….” It wasn’t available in large sizes.

Butterick evening dress 1838, another surplice style from 1928.

It’s hard to distinguish a picot edge from a line of beads in drawings this small. The neckline is bordered with rhinestones, but the flying panels may have a picot edge or they may be illustrated as having self-colored beads spaced about a quarter of an inch apart along the hemmed edges.

Alternate views of Butterick 1806, showing the back tie drapery; dress 1838 with a flowing panel that is either beaded or picot hemmed; and coat 1804, which has an interesting yoke and pleated (?) back, much more interesting than its front view.

Dress 1838 is shown under coat 1804; the fact that the uneven hems and long panels on dresses hung out below the bottom of women’s coats apparently didn’t look sloppy to 1920’s eyes. (Just as a later generation came to accept visible bras and bra straps….)

Butterick evening wrap 1804 is a very typical Twenties’ style. [I guess women learned how to juggle both a clutch purse and a coat that had to be held closed with one hand, even while getting out of a car. It’s not easy to do with one arm clamped against your body and the other controlling your coat! Evening purses could have slender straps, of course.]

Butterick evening dress 1841, from 1928. Scalloped hems that dipped low in back were frequently featured on Butterick patterns in the Twenties. They were often recommended for younger women. This pattern was only available for “14 to 20 years” and maximum bust size 38″.

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Butterick patterns for young women, Sept. 1926. Number 7047, left, and 7063, right. In this case, the skirt was lined with a different color, which matched the stockings.

However, some dresses for teens (and small women) were more sophisticated.

Two evening dresses for “15 to 20 years,” Delineator, January 1928; Butterick 1791 and 1795. The one on the left is beaded. The other is made of “transparent velvet.” Dresses for teens and small women were usually shorter than other dress patterns.

Crepe satin is matte on one side and shiny on the other. Using the two textures in the same color was very popular in Deco-influenced Twenties’ dresses.

And there’s nothing babyish about this sleek dress:

A dress for teens and small women; Butterick pattern 1798. From Delineator, January 1928, page 36. Those parallel curves and points remind me of the Chrysler Building turned upside down.

I began this post with this dress, so this image seems like a good place to end. As we used to say back in the fifties, when movies played continuously and movie-goers came and went throughout the screening: “This is where I came in!”

 

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Hosiery Ads with a Bit of Wit

My favorite series of ads for stockings came from the McCullum Company in 1927.

A wonderfully stylized illustration of short skirts and stockings under the bridge table. Ad for McCallum silk stockings, Delineator, March 1927. (Shades of John Held, Jr….)

Illustration for McCullum silk stockings for everyday wear, Delineator, April 1927.

Text of McCullum Hosiery ad, April 1927.

Extra-long silk stockings to wear with a bathing suit, August 1927. Ad for McCullum’s hosiery, Delineator magazine. Note her bathing shoes and the seams up the back of the stockings.

About stockings with bathing suits:

Text of McCullum ad for hosiery to wear while swimming. August 1927.

“In the water, or just out, silk hose have the smooth gloss of a wet seal.” Stockings were usually worn with bathing suits in the nineteen teens and early twenties.

This 1917 ad for Luxite soap shows long stockings worn with a bathing suit.

A bathing suit illustration from 1924 shows both swimmers wearing rolled stockings. Delineator, July 1917, p. 34.

However, in this photo from the late twenties, you can clearly see the marks left by my mother’s rolled stockings.

Late 1920’s swim suit; you can see the marks left on her legs by rolled stockings, which she had removed.

She took them off when she put on her bathing suit. That McCullum “opera length” ad from 1927 seems to be trying to revive a disappearing custom.

Back to more wonderful McCallum illustrations:

Playing footsie? A couple dressed for a big date plays footsie in this McCallum hosiery ad. Notice how tense the man is, balancing a corsage box on his knees, and how relaxed the woman is as she stretches out her long legs to brush his ankle. December 1927.

Each ad had a border to match — waves for swimming, music for dancing….

“Sheer audacit” describes the short-skirted woman blowing smoke rings in this ad for McCallum hosiery, Dec. 1927. “The beauty of silken sheerness on slender, shapely legs . . is it this that gives the owner such assurance, such audacity . . is it this that fills even the timid man with admiration . .”

I do not know the illustrator — only that these eye-catching drawings are signed H on their left side and M on the right side.

The Onyx Hosiery company also used humor to sell stockings, but the illustrations in this series which referred to classical statues lacked the Art Deco dash of the McCallum ads.

The stature of the goddess Diana is implied to have thick ankles in this ad for Onyx Hosiery.  Onyx ad, November 1926, Delineator.

Onyx Pointex stockings had a pointed heel which, their ads claimed, made ankles look slender.

Venus had thick ankles compared to women who wore Onyx stockings. Onyx ad, March 1927. That dark triangle at the heel was advertised as slenderizing.

Onyx stockings, with their pointed heel, were supposed to make wearers’ ankles look thinner. (The darker heel area showed above the shoe.) Onyx ad, December 1926.

Other stocking ads illustrated the product itself — with elegance, but not many laughs.

The heels of Gordon stockings came in many shapes; left, a V-shape; right, a rectangle. Gordon Hosiery ad, Dec. 1928. Delineator.

As skirts got shorter, stockings got sheerer and more elaborate.

Ad for Gordon Hosiery to wear to the racetrack, September 1928. Delineator. The stockings at left have clocks (a vertical design,) which remained a feature of dressy men’s hose for decades.

Gordon Hosiery ad, May, 1928. Delineator. A different clock pattern.

Gordon hosiery with V-shaped or rectangular heels. Gordon ad, Delineator, October 1928. In the background, a stylized airplane takes off.

Anther stocking company just used celebrity endorsements. The extraordinary dress in this ad is worn by Mary Astor, best known nowadays for her role in The Maltese Falcon. In the 1920’s, she made five or six films a year.

Actress Mary Astor in an ad for Allen-A hosiery. April 1928, Delineator.

For me, none of those ads has the 1920’s zest of this one:

A wonderfully stylized illustration of short skirts and stockings under the bridge table. Ad for McCallum silk stockings, Delineator, March 1927.

“A length of flawless silk stockings to above the knee . . meets the brevity in skirts.” McCallum hosiery ad, March 1927.

“Full-fashioned” means the stockings were shaped like a leg, instead of like a tube. Full-fashioned stockings cost more, but before stretch knit fabrics, stockings that were not full-fashioned tended to wrinkle at the ankles. Like McCallum stockings, the other silk stockings in these ads cost two dollars a pair, more or less, a luxury item for the twenties’  working woman.

Prices from an ad for Onyx Pointex stockings, Dec. 1926.

Cotton lisle was longer wearing than silk, so it was often used at toes and heels and the band where the garter attached to the stocking. Less practical and more fragile, all-silk stockings cost more.

Prices from ad for Allen-A hosiery, April 1928.

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Caught in the Twenties

Cover of Delineator magazine, September 1928. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

Cover of Delineator magazine, September 1928. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

Caught isn’t the right word; “enraptured” might be more accurate. I finally have a chance to visit bound volumes from the mid-nineteen twenties and photograph them, and I wish I could post everything I find. By 1928, Delineator magazine is filled with the styles we think of as “the twenties.”

Butterick patterns for January 1928. Delineator, p. 33.

Butterick patterns for January 1928. Delineator, p. 33. Composite from original illustration. I’ll return to these patterns in a later post. Love that coat!

There’s a strong Art Deco influence in the geometry of day dresses, and there’s drama, beading, and a flutter of chiffon in the evening.

A beaded gown from Paquin, Frbruary 1928, and a jewel studded gown from Lanvin, March 1928. Delineator magazine.

A gown from Paquin, February 1928, and a jewel-studded evening gown from Lanvin, March 1928. Delineator magazine.

For a knock-out evening coat by Lanvin, circa 1927, click here.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a sixties’ girl that the proportions of 1928 look “right” to me.  Not that I would ever want to wear a straight-torso-with-hip-belt dress, but the knee-length skirt balances them better than the skirt lengths of 1925 or 1926.

Print fabrics, Butterick patterns; Delineator, August 1928.

Print fabrics, Butterick patterns; Delineator, August 1928.

With my library time machine, I’m currently “visiting” 1926, 1927 and 1928.  I try to bounce around from decade to decade in this blog, but getting out of the late Twenties is going to be hard.

Joyful geometry: Butterick patterns in Delineator, February 1928.

Joyful geometry: Butterick patterns in Delineator, February 1928. I love the way the angle of the trim on the bodice is echoed by the angle of the pleated skirt panel. Interesting that the button is located at the natural waist….

I’ve already written about the fashion shift of the mid-twenties (click here.) Just to review, fashions for young women (15 to 20) were slightly shorter than those for mature women in 1925 and 1926.

Patterns for adult women, Delineator, December 1925.

Patterns for adult women, Delineator, December 1925.

Patterns for girls 15 to 20, and small women. Delineator, December 1925.

Patterns for girls 15 to 20, and small women. Delineator, December 1925.

Left, teens 15 to 20; right, adult women. composite based on Delineator, December 1925.

Left, teens 15 to 20; right, adult women. Composite based on Delineator ilustrations, December 1925.

Because teens and adults were drawn differently, it’s hard to get an exact comparison, but the hems on the adult women seem to be a couple of inches farther below the knee. When I compare the two dresses in the center, the orange one on the right looks dowdy to my modern eyes. All four figures are drawn with impossibly long torsos.

Here are some Butterick fashions from 1926:

Pictured are two little girls, and four girls aged "8 to 15 years." Their dresses are quite short, but look like young adult fashions of a couple years later. Delineator, February 1926.

Pictured are two little girls, and four girls aged “8 to 15 years.” Their dresses are quite short, but look like young adult fashions of a year later. Delineator, February 1926.

The proportions on these knee length skirts look “right” to me, but they are not dresses for young women; they are for girls under 15. I especially like that plum colored outfit on the far left.

Two adult women and two girls 8 to 16 years. Delineator, February 1926.

Two adult women flanked by two girls aged 8 to 16 years. Delineator, February 1926.

These are Butterick patterns from 1927:

Women's fashions with straight silhouettes. Butterick 1329 and 1317, Delineator, March 1927.

Women’s fashions with straight silhouettes. Butterick Nos. 1329 and 1317, Delineator, March 1927. I love the use of graded values of the same color, and those repeated geometric, Art Deco jogs on the dress at left — with matching cuffs. Skirts end just below the kneecap.

These couture designs for evening, 1927, use metallic fabrics and beading, and look quintessentially “Twenties.” It would be hard to mistake the dress on the left for any other era.

Left, a fringed and beaded evening gown by Paquin; right a straight metallic dress with ruffles, by Jeanne Carette. Delineator, January 1927, p. 16.

Left, a salmon pink-and-silver fringed and beaded evening gown by Paquin; right, a straight gold metallic cloth dress with finely pleated ruffles, by Yvonne Carette. Delineator, January 1927, p. 16.

Two evening dresses by Chanel. Left, a metallic brocade; right, a dress completely covered with black beads. Delineator, January 1927.

Two evening dresses by Chanel. Left, “deep orange” lace; right, a dress completely covered with black beads. Delineator, January 1927.

1927 jan p 16 designer Chane ltext black beaded J Desvignes illus

Detail of paillette beading on black Chanel dress; Delineator, January 1927.

Detail of paillette beading on black Chanel dress; Delineator, January 1927.  Apparently the beads change direction, giving a checkerboard effect.

If you love the Twenties, it’s hard not to think, “Now, we’re getting somewhere!”

The Metropolitan Museum has a beaded dress from 1926 attributed to Chanel; click here — and don’t forget to click on “Additional Images” for a a close-up of the beading and spangles.

A few images from 1928:

Two women's dresses from October 1928. Butterick 2243 and 2267.

Two women’s dresses from October 1928. Butterick patterns 2243 and 2267. Note the zigzag formed by the skirt panels at right. It’s hard to see, but the band on the left dress is two colors, or two shades of the same color.

This young lady appeared in an ad for Fleischmann’s yeast, which, she said, restored her health. The fabric of her glittering dress is quite striking:

Fleischmann's Yeast ad, Delineator, May 1928.

Fleischmann’s Yeast ad, Delineator, May 1928.

Butterick patterns for women from teens to bust 44". The coat came in sizes 46 and 48, too. Delineator, November 1928. Hems area already on their way down.

Butterick patterns for misses and women (from teens to bust 44″.) The coat came in sizes 46 and 48, too. Delineator, November 1928. Hems are already on their way down.

For more about 1928 “Hems Going Down,” click here. This cartoon dates from 1929.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Hosiery, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

The Twenties in Color

Ad for Kellogg's Pep Cereal, Delineator, April

Ad for Kellogg’s Pep Cereal, Delineator, April 1927.

As much as I love watching old black and white movies, I’ve always enjoyed reading vintage magazines because of their colorful advertisements.

From an ad for Mazola corn oil, Delineator, June 1927.

Colorful evening dress from an ad for Mazola corn oil, Delineator, June 1927.

It’s hard not to think of the 1920’s and 1930’s as “black and white,” because they were usually photographed in black and white, but the people who lived then did not see their world that way.

A colorful world in an ad for Durkee's salad dressing. Delineator, JUne 1928.

A colorful world in an ad for Durkee’s salad dressing. Delineator, June 1928.

I first embarked on my exploration of vintage Delineator magazines when I discovered over 400 bound copies in storage at my public library. Since I am really interested in everyday fashions, I would have preferred a stack of old McCall’s Magazines, but so many old fashion magazines have been converted to black and white microfilm that I’m happy to have found any bound periodicals in color.

"How do you like your coffee?" A family eating breakfast, Delineator, May 1927. Advertisement for Borden's condensed milk.

“How do you like your coffee?” A family eating breakfast, Delineator, May 1927. Advertisement for Borden’s condensed milk.

Back in 1980, I found a bound volume of Delineator, January to June of 1925, at a library book sale. It had formerly been in the research library at Columbia Studios. I intended to sell it a few years ago, but when I really examined it I was amazed by the number of full color fashion illustrations, so I kept it. As it turns out, 1925 and 1926 were the last years when Delineator printed so many pages in full color.

This amazing shawl is not a fashion illustration, but a soap advertisement from 1927:

This "Aztec" pattern hand painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

This “Aztec” pattern painted shawl was made in the Samuel Russel Studio, New York, and illustrated by Katharine Stinger for an Ivory Soap Flakes ad. Delineator, March 1927.

As times got harder, The Delineator cut its cover price, decreased its size from large format to the size of a modern magazine, and eliminated color except for full page advertisements like these. By 1933, even ads were scarce, and the magazine was mostly black and white.

But, if you were alive in the nineteen twenties, this was the world you saw.

Woman golfer in an ad for Bromoquinine laxative. Delineator, April 1928.

Woman golfer in an ad for Bromoquinine laxative. Delineator, April 1928.

Casual clothing in an ad for Camel Cigarettes. Delineator, September 1928.

Casual clothing in an ad for Camel Cigarettes. Delineator, September 1928.

This woman washes her fine fabrics in Ivory Soap Flakes, Ad from Delineator, May 1927.

This woman washes her fine fabrics in Ivory Soap Flakes. Ad from Delineator, May 1927.

Ivory Flakes were also recommended for woolens:

Wash your woolen clothing in Ivory Flakes.... An ad from Delineator, October 1928.

Wash your wool clothing in Ivory Flakes…. An ad from Delineator, October 1928. Notice her stockings, which match her suit.

The text at the left tells the story of Biltmore Industries of North Carolina, preserving the craft of hand weaving; “In order to protect the sensitive woolen fibre, we allow no cleaning substance other than Ivory to touch it.”

From an ad for Puffed Wheat cereal, August 1928.

From an ad for Puffed Wheat cereal, August 1928.

That red and blue outfit would look much more sedate in black and white:

The same puffed wheat ad in grayscale.

The same puffed wheat ad converted to  grayscale. 1928 ad.

Even ads for household appliances can be illuminating:

A cheery interior in an ad for Johnson's Paste Wax. March, 1928.

A cheerful and expensive interior in an ad for Johnson’s Paste Wax. March, 1928.

Lavish interiors in silent movies always look dark and heavy — but they were not really black and white.

This woman may have gotten a little too colorful — but it’s an ad for Valspar paint, with “before” and “after” images:

Kitchen colors in an ad for Valspar paint. October, 1928.

“She thought she had a model kitchen, but ….” Kitchen colors in an ad for Valspar paint. October, 1928.

An up-to-date kitchen, October 1928 ad for Valspar paint. Delineator.

An up-to-date kitchen, October 1928 ad for Valspar paint. Delineator. Note the pink sink.

A white kitchen transformed. Valspar paint ad, October 1928.

A white kitchen “modernized” with color. Valspar paint ad, October 1928.

Although the sink appears white in the second illustration, pink sinks were available. This bold yellow and black dress — from an ad for window shades — would be drained of its power in a 1920’s photograph:

"Restful Rooms" thanks to window shades, in an ad from March, 1928. Delineator.

“Restful Rooms” thanks to window shades, in an ad from March, 1928. Delineator.

A lovely rose colored dress in an ad for Feen-a-Mint laxative. March 1927.

A lovely rose-colored dress in an ad for Feen-a-Mint laxative. March 1927.

"Grandmother is still dancing," thanks to Feen-a-Mint. Detail of ad from Delineator, May 1927.

“Grandmother is still dancing,” thanks to Feen-a-Mint. Detail of ad from Delineator, May 1927. Grandmother is wearing a flattering, not-black (!) gown.

Grandmother's secret: Feen-a-Mint. Ad, May 1927.

Grandmother’s secret: Feen-a-Mint. Ad, May 1927.

Digression: There was a time in the 1980’s when directors of Shakespeare’s comedies thought it amusing to costume them completely in black and white and gray to evoke old movies. These black and white “silent movie”/”Fred and Ginger” productions quickly became so commonplace that they signaled “desperate director.” After sitting through one-too-many of these productions, I was delighted to discover that the first English play to be costumed entirely in black and white was A Game at Chess, by Thomas Middleton. It played at The Globe theatre in London in 1625 — long before black and white movie film was invented. It was quite a novel idea.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories

Classic French Fashions of the Twenties, a Dover Book

Two plates from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties, Atelier Bachwitz. A Dover Book.

Two plates from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties, Atelier Bachwitz. A Dover Book. Sporty Styles for 1929. Images from this book are used for purposes of review only. Please Do Not Copy.

I have had hours of pleasure studying the images in this book.

My first real design job, in grad school, was a production of The Royal Family, a play about a multi-generational family of actors [any resemblance to the Barrymore family was definitely intended]. It was originally performed December 1927 through 1928. Here are the real Lionel Barrymore and his brother John acting together in the film Grand Hotel, 1932.

Lionel and John Barrymore in Grand Hotel, 1932. Image from Pinterest.

Lionel and John Barrymore in Grand Hotel, 1932. Image from Pinterest.

A digression:  This generation of the Barrymores successfully transitioned from stage to film: Ethel as a mature actress, her brother Lionel as a character actor; and John, who was the American Hamlet of his era, was a matinee idol in the twenties and also a notoriously successful ladies’ man.

 A Shakespeare student, hoping to get some insight into the characters’ motivations, once asked  John Barrymore, “Did Ophelia sleep with Hamlet?”

“In my company, always,” Barrymore replied.

Ophelia (Mary Astor) and Hamlet (John Barrymore), 1925. Photo by Albin from Vanity Fair.

Ophelia (Mary Astor) and Hamlet (John Barrymore), 1925. Photo by Albin from Vanity Fair. This Ophelia did, as revealed in Mary Astor’s very frank autobiography.

Now, back to designing costumes for a play set in 1927:

My first meeting with the director was going very well; I hadn’t owned many books as a teenager, but one, which I read over and over, was Vanity Fair: A Cavalcade of the 1920s and 1930s, edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee. I loved the twenties, as I knew them. I “got” the references to popular culture in the play. I knew who the characters were, read “their” biographies and understood the character types. I even knew that a man who appears partially undressed in a 1927 comedy would be wearing stocking garters — good for a laugh in 1980.

Boston Garter ad for man's stocking garter; Delineator, Jan. 1917.

I knew how a successful theatrical producer — or actress — in the twenties might be dressed.

Producer Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife, actress Billie Burke, from Vanity Fair, 1927.

Producer Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife, actress Billie Burke, from Vanity Fair, 1927. Photo by Steichen.

I was delighted when the director told me he didn’t want “musical comedy” costumes; he wanted real, authentic-looking 1920’s clothes — absolutely true to 1927-28. And then, just as I packed up my notes and put my hand on the doorknob, he said,

“Just don’t give me any of those dresses with the waist down around the hips.”

Three Hattie Carnegie outfits from July 1928. Delineator.

Three Hattie Carnegie outfits from July 1928. Delineator.

I couldn’t help thinking about this experience while looking through the beautifully illustrated collection of styles from Beaux-Arts des Modes, 1929, which is published by Dover Books as Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The author credited is Atelier Bachwitz. (Was it a sketch studio or a magazine publisher? The Met has another Atelier Bachwitz publication.) The fashion plates, with each design given an entire page in full color, are lovely, and so detailed that you can study their construction. From sporty outfits like those white pleated dresses at the top of this post, to afternoon dresses, fabulous coats, and evening wear, you can dream about an entire 1929 wardrobe —  and how you’d make it — while studying these pages.

Plate 31 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. This ensemble has a 3/4 length coat to harmonize with the skirt's asymmetrical hem.

Plate 31 from Dover’s Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. This ensemble has a 3/4 length coat to harmonize with the dress’s asymmetrical hem. The sleeve cuff echoes the pocket.

I’m glad I bought this book, just for the pleasure of analyzing lovely renderings like this one. The vertical seam lines down the back of the coat are a slenderizing touch….

…Which just goes to show that the costume designer probably studies them with a skewed viewpoint. For one thing, you are “Shopping in Character,” trying to think like the characters in the play or script, and choosing appropriate clothes for them. You think about their age (and how they feel about their age,) and their personalities. You think about what happens in the play to the woman wearing this dress. You think about her budget (the women who could afford these dresses were not shopgirls or schooteachers.) And you think about the actor’s figure, and how the audience will perceive her clothes. After all, “Costume Communicates” is a First Principle, and the audience will have a smaller style “vocabulary” than a costume historian. You try to remain true to the period, while keeping audience expectations –based on modern clothing  — in mind.

I’ve shown this picture before, and asked, “If you were an actress — whose next job might depend on being shapely — which would you prefer to wear?”

These three outfits from a 1917 catalog not only express different personalities — the girl on the right seems super-feminine, compared to the less fussy clothes on the left — but only the center outfit would not make the actress look overweight to modern eyes. [It has a long, vertical jacket opening, and the belt doesn’t create a horizontal line across the semi-fitted waist.]

That problem — making the star attractive to modern eyes — is always at the back of your mind when designing for real bodies, especially when looking at research from the 1920’s. I think it’s natural to look through a book like Classic French Fashions of the Twenties searching for ways the original designers dealt with the same problem.

One way was to introduce vertical design lines:

Authentic 1929 designs with strong vertical lines. From Classic French Fashions of the Twenties

Authentic 1929 designs with strong vertical lines. From Classic French Fashions of the Twenties.

Another good idea, especially for actors and singers, is to attract attention upward, toward the face.

Plates 9 and 39 from lassic French Fashions of the Twenties. The center of interest in these dresses is close to the face, not the hip.

Plates 9 and 39 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The center of interest in these dresses is close to the face, not the hip.

The seam lines on the left dress are ingenious, literally pointing toward the center of the body, away from the hip width.

plate 4 scarf297

“Focus on the face” is the reason we see so many bright scarves and contrasting collars on 1920’s and 1930’s clothing.

On the two dresses below, the area near the face and shoulders is much lighter than the area near the hips. Cleverly, in front the designer has avoided “cutting the body in half” with a horizontal color change at the waist or hip.

Plate 44 and plate 14 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The top part of each dress is lighter than the bottom hip area.

Plate 44 and plate 14 from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. The top part of each dress is lighter than the bottom part. Again, the eye is led toward the face. The dress on the left doesn’t have to be made in red….or have such a wide buckle.

I was delighted to find this very similar dress — via Instagram (thank you, Vintage Traveler!) — from the NYUCostumeStudies site. It has a strong family resemblance to these dresses, which bridge the seams between dark and light fabric with coordinating embroidery. The evening dress from Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens belonged to etiquette maven Marjorie Merriweather Post. Their online dress collection is superb.

I just have to share this Art Deco coat design. It is much simpler to make than it looks.

This coat is made of "silk rep, with incrustation forming scallops. Open sleeves, shawl collar."

This coat is made of “silk rep, with incrustation forming scallops. Open sleeves, shawl collar.” 1929.

“Incrustation?” Also used about other designs in the book, “incrustation” appears to be a translation meaning “applied trim.” The “scallops”, which I would call zigzags, would be absolute hell if they were seam lines. But this coat is not pieced together; the lines appear to have no structural purpose (see its back view) except, perhaps, on the collar. Again, look how tall and slender she appears in the back view. (Vertical lines….)  And there is no “waist down around the hips,” either. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this book in grad school, but I did solve my problem back then by asking the director to move the date of the play to 1929! By then, some dresses had belts at the natural waist.

Another thing to keep in mind:  If a dress seems too frilly, too silly, or too fattening for the leading lady, it might be perfect for another character — like the 50-ish matron who wears clothes that are too young for her, or the scatterbrained socialite who moves in a cloud of fluttering chiffon. Classic French Fashions from the Twenties has plenty of ideas that might not be right for everybody, but which may be perfect for somebody.

Three versions of a frilly chiffon dress/ Left, as drawn, center, on a more realistic figure, and right, as it might look on a character who overdoes everything.

Three versions of a frilly chiffon dress: Left, as drawn; center, on a more realistic figure; and right, as it might look on a character who overdoes everything.

I wasted way too much time playing with that in a photo program!

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade