In the depths of the Great Depression, The Woman’s Home Companion offered Companion-Butterick patterns. Sometimes they were called “Triad” patterns, and were selected for their economy and efficiency: “Buy one pattern, make three dresses” was the theme. This makes sense, if all three are the same size. But in 1936 and 1937, the magazine suggested one pattern which offered options to suit women of three different ages. It’s an odd idea, but tells us a little bit about how older women were expected to dress differently from their daughters.
“This pattern is designed for any age — from sixteen to sixty — on the distaff side of the family. For grandmother, who may have the flattery of V lines at the neck, we suggest grape colored [double sided] crepe, set off with a matching velvet beret [described elsewhere as “dignified”] and wide-strap shoes in black kid and gabardine.
“For mother, who can go in for sleeves slightly full at top, sheer brown wool touched with dull gold plus a toque made of the dress material [she seems to be wearing the pillbox, instead] and high-built shoes in brown suede with calf.” [A pattern for their hats was also featured in this issue.]
“For daughter, who will like those pocket flaps, very dull black for everything except the lacquer red quill on the toque, the lacquer red belt and the shiny patent trimming on the calf shoes. (Note the hat patterns on another page.)”
Presumably, only the young and slender will want horizontal pockets making their hips look wider (are they practical– i.e., real– pockets? The article doesn’t say.) The bright, contrasting belt is also only flattering to a slender waist and hips, although all three dresses have belts; grandma’s is the least conspicuous:
Sleeves that create the broad-shouldered look — popular since the Joan Crawford movie Letty Lynton, in 1932 — are for the mother and daughter, but not for conservative grandma, aged “sixty.” Surprisingly, black is suggested for the young woman, but is perhaps too severe — or too much like mourning attire — to be advised for the older ladies. And all three are wearing fashionable, sturdy, mid-thirties shoes, guaranteed to make legs look shorter and ankles — except very thin ones, as drawn by Ernst — look thicker.
But I do love those big, triangular 1930’s buttons!
All three hats — a pillbox, a beret, and a toque — could be made from pattern 7080. Making hats for “sixty to sixteen” from one pattern makes more sense than buying one pattern to make dresses for three different women, when you think about it.
A new hat gives a lift to the spirits…. If you have never tried [to make a hat] here is a good pattern to begin on.”
The toque really is about as simple as a hat can be: a truncated cone with just one seam. The pillbox is made from strips of 2 1/2 inch wide velvet ribbon. (Linings and hat bands are not mentioned in the description, but could be expected on the pattern envelope.)
To read more about Companion-Butterick “Triad patterns,” click here.