Tag Archives: thirties clothing

House Dresses from Ads, 1930s

Housewife in an ad for Cocomalt, Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

Possibly the best costume research advice I ever got was to read old magazines and pay attention to the ads. Fashion coverage rarely goes into the kitchen, but ads for soap, appliances, foods and other homely products will show you images that were credible to their readers. They’re not any more realistic than our TV ads with perfectly maintained kitchens and gardens, but they presented an ideal of normal life.

Did most housewives dress like this in the evening? I doubt it. Koehler furniture ad, WHC, Oct. 1936.

Ads are aspirational. They hold out the dream that, if you buy this product, your life will be transformed. So, for a view of everyday clothing, they aren’t perfect; they show the way people wanted to look. But they’ll help you to get into the mindset of the period.

Most women wore an apron while washing dishes. However, this wrap dress with its two sizes of polka dots and sheer ruffles might give you some good design ideas. S.O.S. Ad, March 1935. Delineator.

O.K., that’s more realistic. Under that clean apron, she’s wearing a dress with sheer ruffles on the sleeves. S.O.S. ad, Feb. 1935. Delineator.

Using an electric floor polisher. Appliance ad, Oct. 1934. Delineator.

Hmmm. White collars and cuffs seem to be a theme.

The next three housewives come from a series of Depression Era ads for Royal Baking Powder, in which their tight family budgets are given; the women may be wearing their best house dresses, freshly washed and ironed for the photographer, but the ads had to be believable to readers on tight budgets themselves:

This young housewife is living on $900 a year (about $17 per week.) Royal Baking Powder ad, March 1934. Delineator.

The housewife at right prides herself on spending just a dollar a day for her family’s food, but she manages to look neat and clean. Royal Baking Powder ad, January 1935.

She married on $20 per week. Interesting dress, with sheer white ruffles. It looks like her coordinating apron is pinned to her dress. Royal Baking Powder ad, February 1934. Delineator.

I was interested to see that some women sensibly adopted the sleeveless dress for housework:

Doing housework in a chic sleeveless dress. S.O.S. ad, May 1934. Delineator.

Sleeveless dress in an ad for Gerber’s baby food. August 1937. Delineator.

Mother in sleeveless dress with her children. Illustration for an article on child rearing, 1935. Delineator.

Ads for Scot paper towels show many pretty but credible house dresses. [It’s hard to imagine a time when we had to be taught what to do with a paper towel, but that is the purpose of this thirties’ ad campaign.]

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1935. House dresses were often made of lively, small-scale, floral print fabrics.

Ad for Scot paper towels, July 1937. White collar and cuffs on a plaid dress.

Ad for Scot paper towels, March 1936. Woman’s Home Companion. White collar and cuffs again.

A loose-sleeved plaid house dress. Ad for Scot paper towels, February 1936. WHC.

Wrap dress, in small floral print with sheer ruffled accents. Ad for Scot [bathroom] tissue, Nov. 1936.

After teaching women to use Scot paper towels for drying hands, draining bacon, wiping greasy pans, cleaning glass, et cetera

Scot Paper towel ad, December 1936. New customers, unfamiliar with paper towels, would also need a holder.

… the ad campaign finally got around to a use that didn’t require a verbal description:

Ad for Scot paper towels, December 1936.

Oops! No house dress in that one. (I do get distracted by these little glimpses into the past….)

This woman’s clothing probably emphasizes the ease [no sweat, ladies!] of using this vacuum, rather than her normal working clothes.

A housewife and her Hoover. Nov. 1937, WHC. Women who wear high heels all the time find flat shoes uncomfortable, (my stepmother wore sturdy 2″ heels while cooking and cleaning) but these heels are rather high and thin for doing housework.

Whether women really vacuumed the house dressed like this is questionable. But I think that the dress worn by this woman demonstrating a washing machine is probably very close to realistic.

It was hard to use a mangle machine like this without getting wet. From an article about laundry, WHC, March 1936. That’s what I call a “wash dress.”

This isn’t.

From an ad for laundry soap — Fels Naptha. WHC, Sept. 1936. This woman’s dress says her laundry is done. It’s not the “wash day” dress she wears in the drawing.

This ad reminds us that work dresses were still very long in 1936. Large-scale plaid dress in an ad for Sun-Maid Raisins. WHC, March 1936.

Print dresses featured in many ads between 1934 and 1937:

An ad for Lux laundry soap shows a flowered print dress with sheer collar. August 1934, Delineator.

Lux laundry soap claimed to be easy on stockings. Lux ad, Oct. 1937. I can imagine this dress, with its cool neckline, becoming a house dress as it aged.

A crisp floral print dress in an ad for S.O.S. pads. December 1936. This dress could certainly leave the house.

That print dress resembles a “sport dress” available from Tom Boys:

This sport dress could be ordered for $3.95 in February 1937. Ad for Tom Boys; WHC. Hemlines are rising.

Life experience leads me to think that many comfortable, washable sports dresses began as “good” casual clothes but eventually became only “good enough for housework” when they were damaged or out of style.

Perhaps the most truthful ad showing what many women wore during the Depression is this one:

Photo of a healthy farm family, thanks to Nujol laxative. From a Nujol ad, April 1934, Delineator.

 

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Hairstyles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

Smocking for Girls and Boys, Forties’ and Fifties’ Patterns, Part 1

McCall 692, a smocked dresses for toddlers, dates to 1939, but this image is from a 1946 catalog. It was in the needlework catalog for November 1950, too, eleven years after it was issued.

Smocking was a part of traditional dress long before it became associated with clothes for children. However, as a way of expressing devotion through hand sewing, smocking patterns like these remained popular: most of these patterns were featured in the McCall Needlework catalogs year after year.

McCall 692 is one of the few patterns that mentions the pleasure to be had from smocking: “Fascinating to do and very attractive….”

Very loose, full dresses with smocked yokes were made for young children in the 1920’s, too:

Butterick smocked dresses 1963 and 1955, Delineator, April 1928. “Handwork is the only trimming in good taste for very small frocks even when they will be worn to dancing school.”

This pattern is from 1936 –and was still for sale in  1950.

McCall smocked dress pattern 442, for very young children. It appeared in 1936 and was still in catalogs for 1946 and 1950 — perhaps longer.

Smocks for toddlers were often loose, but smocked dresses for older girls followed the lines of adult fashion in the nineteen twenties and in the nineteen forties:

At top left, a young girl is in a pale blue dress smocked with blue thread; right, an older girl’s smocked dress has a 1920’s hip band in red and black. Delineator, July 1925.

Butterick smocking pattern 16046 is used at the yoke, wrists, and low waistline of a girl’s dress from 1929. “This is the first time a  modernistic design has appeared in smocking.” — Delineator, June 1929.

McCall 786, a smocked dress for toddlers, dates to 1940, but was in the catalogs for at least ten years after that.

Honeycomb is one of the oldest smocking techniques, with many variations.

McCall 705, originally from 1940, shows a more fitted smocked dress — a style I remember from the 1950s.

McCall 705 was suitable for a “sub-teen” — up to age 10 — in the 1940s.

Also suitable for schoolgirls was this dress using honeycomb smocking — I believe this is one of the stitches that has some horizontal stretch. It gives interesting effects when worked on stripes or checks.

McCall 857, early 1940s. “For little girls, omit the waistline smocking, if desired….”

Detail of McCall 857. “Schoolgirl simplicity.”  For sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, 12.

McCall 878 for toddlers, from 1941. In the catalog for May, 1950.

McCall 1125 smocked dress for girls, 1944. Image from May, 1946. For ages 2, 4, 6.

McCall 1164, a smocked dress for toddlers, circa 1945. The sunbonnet was still a common feature of girls’ clothing.

Another toddler dress with smocked yoke and loose fit: McCall 1189, from 1945, still in the needlework catalog for Nov. 1950. “Smocking and small clothes just naturally ‘belong.’ “

McCall 1175 for school-age girls. 1945. “Send her off to school with a shining face and a smocked two-piecer…. The button-on skirt is pleated back and front.” Sizes 4, 6, 8, 10.

Detail of McCall 1175.

Boys — very young boys — could wear smocked outfits, too.

McCall 1195, a smocked suit for young boys from 1945 (Image from Dec. 1946.) Buttoning shorts or a skirt to a young child’s blouse (at ages when the tummy is about the same size as the hips) was seen in the 1920’s, too. For sizes 6 months to 3 years.

Mid-forties’ dresses for girls old enough to attend school were fitted at the waist. This horizontal yoke echoes the wartime wide shouldered-look for women.

McCall 1234 for girls, image from 1946. A “school-ager’s classic” for ages/sizes 6 through 12.

McCall’s 1270, image from 1946 catalog. Note the shoulder-widening yokes and puffed sleeves.

A similar style was offered for younger girls:

McCall 1308 for toddlers and “nursery-school age” girls, 1946.

McCall 1350, a smocked dress for girls, with a fitted bodice, a yoke, and puffy sleeves. Ages/sizes 2 through 8.

Detail of elaborate smocking on McCall 1350. Image from May, 1950.

A doting parent or grandmother could even smock a coat for her toddler — or a blouse, or a combination sunsuit/pinafore.

McCall 1311 is smocked coat for a toddler, 1946-1950.

McCall 1259 is a smocked blouse for toddlers, from the catalog for December 1946, also in Nov. 1950.

This “sunsuit” could also be made as a pinafore to wear over a dress. McCall 1245, from 1946. It includes patterns for panties and a sunbonnet.

I confess that I am charmed by the illustrations, as well as the smocking. More about smocked dresses for girls, and smocking patterns, in Part 2.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Vintage patterns

Peasant Blouses, 1940’s to 1950’s

McCall pattern 1254 for a Mexican-influenced embroidered peasant blouse. Circa 1945, illustrated in May 1950 needlework catalog.

When full, puffy sleeves returned to fashion in the late 1930’s, the “peasant blouse” reappeared. This Hollywood pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive for a peasant blouse is from 1938.

A “Tyrolean ski suit” available in stores in January, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 55.

A “yodeler” type hat. December 1937, WHC. Note “the gay embroidery on the mittens.”

A “Yodel Apron” featured in July, 1937. WHC. “Go very Swiss-peasant….”

“Tyrolean” hats, ski clothes, and embroidery were briefly popular in the late thirties, until WW II tainted anything German or Austrian for U.S. consumers.

“The Peasant Note is Popular:” A “Swedish” embroidered headscarf, a “Carnaval” apron (over a peasant style blouse), and a “Tyrolean” knitting bag. Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937.

Wool embroidery decorated this Companion-Butterick Triad pattern for schoolgirls.

Left, yarn embroidery adds “Peasant” chic to Butterick pattern 7589 for girls 8 to 15. WHC, October 1937.

The difficulties of travel during the Second World War led many Americans to seek sunshine and a complete change of scene in Mexico, resulting in a fashion influence which lasted for several years after the war. I have already written about Mexican embroidered jackets

McCall "Mexican" coat pattern #1399, May 1950.

…and “Russian” blouses.  A Mexican blouse pattern, McCall 990, at CoPA, dates to 1942.

McCall peasant blouse pattern 1385, from a 1950 Needlework catalog, has “heavily Mexican” embroidery.

Some peasant blouses incorporated smocking and embroidery:

McCall “fiesta-mood” peasant blouse pattern 1317, from about 1947. The illustration is from a 1950 catalog.

The smocking resembles the pattern on this blouse:

McCall pattern 1221 for a smocked blouse. This image is from the Dec. 1946 catalog, but the pattern dates to 1945.

This smocking pattern, 1315, was featured in the same issue as the “fiesta-mood” blouse, pattern 1317 :

McCall smocking pattern 1315. Circa 1947.

Detail of McCall 1315.

Detail, McCall 1315.

For those who were willing to embroider a blouse, but not to smock it, McCall 1386 offered the option of shirring the blouse and applying very fine rickrack to imitate smocking.

McCall 1386, a peasant blouse that could be smocked… or not.

Detail of rickrack on McCall Mexican blouse pattern 1386. Circa 1947.

We tend to think of 1947 dominated by Dior’s New Look, but comfortable, unstuctured casual clothing was still popular in the pattern books.

Smocking continued to be associated with high-end clothing for girls. So did the peasant look:

McCall 1255, circa 1945, is a smocked and cross-stitched peasant dress for a little girl. “The cross-stitch is optional but very “peasanty.’ “

I went looking for a forties’ photo of my mother in a peasant blouse and found a “twofer:”  She’s wearing a peasant blouse and skirt, and I am wearing a smocked dress!

American woman in a simple peasant blouse and skirt, with toddler in a smocked dress. Circa 1947.

Although this 1950’s pattern for children is not “peasanty,” it can be smocked.

 

Artists’ smocks for girls and boys. McCall 1402, illustrated in May 1950. [I could live in that blue outfit, in a grown-up size!]

In fact, McCall 1402 actually is a smock — a painter’s smock — which reminds us that embroidered smocks were originally worn for work by shepherds and country folks — peasants.

A group of country gossips. Punch cartoon from The Way to Wear’em.

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Children's Vintage styles, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Companion-Butterick Pattern for Short Misses, May 1937

Three very different dresses “for Short Misses” from one “Triad” pattern, Companion-Butterick 7361. Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937. [These women do not look short….]

The Woman’s Home Companion often featured “Triad” patterns, which promised three styles from one Butterick pattern. This one, Companion-Butterick 7361, is unusual in that the styles are so very different from each other. The flattering center-pleat skirt is shown with and without top stitching, in crisp or soft fabric, but it’s recognizably the same pattern piece. The bodices, however, have very little in common.

Left, Companion-Butterick 7361 in a sleeveless version with tied shoulders and a sharply angled front.

The armhole seems to echo the pointed front. Bows at the shoulders are repeated in the belt. There is a small, angled bust dart at the side, but most of the bust fullness is supplied by fabric gathered at the shoulders. The “sunback” opening is square.

Back and alternate views of Butterick 7361, a “Triad dress for Misses 5 feet 4 inches or under.” WHC, May 1937. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 inch bust measure.”

A zip-front version of Butterick 7361 has top stitched pleats and a crisp white collar to match its white zipper and belt buckle. WHC, May 1937. The editors called this a shirtwaist, but suggested “you can twist pearls over the shirt collar of the print.”

In 1937, zippers on relatively dressy dresses were a new idea. (And zippers were not always available in a wide range of colors.) This dress is not active sportswear, nor is it a housedress or work uniform. The small white clutch purse hints that this could be worn shopping, or out to lunch. In this version of Butterick 7361, the bust fullness is controlled by two parallel tucks at each shoulder. Tiny (false?) pockets with tabs have white buttons to match the buttons on the puffy sleeves.

The third version of this dress is definitely the most formal.

A formal afternoon dress version of 7361 is illustrated with a sheer over-layer, which could have long sleeves. WHC, May 1937.

In this version, the bodice has a shaped waist with the fullness softly gathered to it. The shoulder area is shirred. The modestly V-necked collar is trimmed with artificial flowers, and the belt has become a sheer sash tied in a big bow.

Text explaining Companion-Butterick 7361, Womans’ Home Companion, May 1937, p. 83.

Sometimes WHC illustrators drew shoes supplied by their advertisers, but I can’t find an exact match from this issue.

Air Step shoes ad, with prices, WHC, May 1937. The high heeled sandal on the right is very similar to the black shoes shown with the afternoon dress version of 7361.

From an ad for “Cabana” shoes by Walk-Over, WHC, May 1937.

Cabana shoes from Walk-Over, from an ad in WHC, May 1937. Perforated shoes for summer. The “Ardwyn” style was patented.

I tend to think of white, perforated shoes as “old lady” shoes, probably because my grandmother still wore them in the 1950’s. But the two-tone “Caribee,” above right, right does not have wide, low, “old lady” heels.

A store-bought, zip-front, print dress similar to Butterick 7361 is worn with stack-heeled white shoes by the model in this ad for Air Step shoes. WHC, May 1937.

For casual shoes, Keds (United States Rubber Co.) made many attractive cloth shoes in the 1930’s.

Ad for Kedettes cloth shoes for summer; WHC, May 1937. They were available in a wide variety of colors and styles. Prices $1.29 to $2.29.

This similar “Kedettes moccasin,” in white and navy, is from 1938:

Bottom of page, Kedettes shoe ad, McCall's, July 1938.

I love those striped soles!

3 Comments

Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Uncategorized, Vintage patterns, Zippers

“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….

6 Comments

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.)

9 Comments

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.)

 

 

 

4 Comments

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