Tag Archives: transitional fashion style 1920s twenties

Not What We Think of When We Say “Twenties’ Fashions:” 1920

A couture evening dress by Parisian designer Georgette, illustrated in Delineator, February 1920, p. 111.

It would be convenient if fashions changed only when a new decade began — boring, but convenient when assigning dates to fashion history. But that’s not how it worked.
When invited to a “twenties’ ” costume party, not many women would show up dressed like this:

Left, Butterick waist 2056 with skirt 2046; right, dress 2100. Delineator, January 1920, p. 76.

Butterick 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Front views, Delineator, p. 113.

Butterick dresses 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Alternate views. From the rear, 2366 really exaggerates hip width.

Of course, twentieth century fashion was always in transition; these dresses from 1920 are still showing the influence of the big-hipped styles of the 1914-1918 war era.

Two outfits from April 1917. Left, a “tonneau” or barrel skirt (Butterick skirt 9064); right, a skirt with protruding pockets rather like 1920 dress No. 2336, above.

The odd skirt on this 1920 dress echoes a style detail carried over from 1917. Butterick 2272, April 1920.

Butterick 8929, from February 1917. The skirt hangs from widely spaced cartridge pleats, also called “French gathering.”

A dress on the cover of Delineator magazine, April, 1920. Cartridge pleats again — but these are near the natural waist. They seem to be secured with buttons.

This rear view, from an advertisement for satin, is jaw-dropping:

Illustration from an ad for satin fabrics; Delineator, April 1920. It suggests the (attempted) return of the bustle.

Well… that is not the direction that 1920’s fashion eventually took!

To be honest,  I’ve been deliberately showing dresses that don’t fit our preconception of “the Twenties.” In fact, we can see the seeds of later nineteen twenties’ style in both of these dresses:

Gradual change in fashion: the waist is getting lower in 1920; the bodice extends to the hip; and the familiar late Twenties’ dropped waist is seen in the low attachment of both skirts.

This is transitional fashion: there is a dropped waist (where the skirts are attached) and a more or less natural waist, where the dress is belted in.

Often, fashions leaning toward the past and fashions prefiguring the future were shown side by side.

Two patterns illustrated on page 152, Delineator, April 1920. Left, Butterick 2278 has a long bodice and looks more “twenties”; right, 2239 has the wide-hipped, peg top look of the previous decade.

[Thanks to Sophia for explaining that “pegged-top” “refers to the child’s spinning toy ‘pegtop’ which is narrower at the bottom than the top like the skirts.”]

Butterick patterns 2060 and 2097, Delineator, January 1920.

If a woman got rid of the belt and shortened No. 2060, she could have worn it for several years in the Twenties:

These dresses from 1925 are not too different from 1920’s No. 2060. One has a similar bodice; one has a similar skirt.

The truth is that twentieth century fashion usually changed incrementally [which is why the rapid change from 1929 to 1930 is so extraordinary.]

Three Butterick patterns from February 1920. One of them looks more “Twenties” than the others.

All the following dresses are from early 1920:

Two patterns from Spring of 1920.

Butterick patterns from June, 1920. Waist 2383, skirt 2336, and dress 2371.

The long, lean look was also worn:

Butterick 2351 from May 1920. Delineator, p. 152.

But it’s probably the sporty, youthful quality of this summer dress that gives me that “Twenties'” feeling.

Butterick dress 2410 from Delineator, June 1920.

I have to remind myself that all these 1920 dresses would have been seen at the same time — and probably for several years.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

High Low Hems for Evening — 1929 and Now

Maid of Honor and Bride, May 1929. Butterick patterns 2360 (left) and 2634 (bride.)

Maid of Honor and Bride, May 1929. Butterick patterns 2360 (left) and 2634 (bride.) Illustrated by Muriel King.

Evening dresses, as well as day dresses, had reached historic heights by the late twenties, exposing middle and upper class women’s legs to — or above — the knee for the first time in thousands of years. We know that hems descended rapidly in the early 1930’s, so it’s easy to assume that some women welcomed a return to the lengths they were used to from the 1910s. I’ve been writing about the high-in-front-low-in-back hems of the late 1920’s as a transitional fashion — a way of “easing” into a longer look. (Click here for Part 1.) (Click here for Part 2.)

Miss Jean Ackerman wearing a gown by Paul Popiret in Ziegfeld's production of "Whoopee." Licy Strike cigarette ad, March 1929. Delineator.

Miss Jean Ackerman wearing a gown by Paul Poiret in Ziegfeld’s production of “Whoopee.” Lucky Strike cigarette ad, March 1929. Delineator.

Poiret was no longer a leading couturier in 1929, but top designers like Lelong, Molyneux, Worth, and Cheruit were all showing  what I’ll call High/Low hems.

Couture evening gowns by (from left) Louiseboulanger, Lelong, Cheruit, ; sketched for Delineator, May 1929.

Couture evening gowns by (from left) Louiseboulanger, Lelong, Cheruit, Molyneux, and Lelong; sketched for Delineator, May 1929.

Couture from Lelong, Louiseboulanger, Vionnet, and Vionnet. Sketched for Delineator, May 1929.

Couture from Lelong, Louiseboulanger, Vionnet, and Vionnet. Sketched for Delineator, May 1929.

For those who love a sewing challenge, here’s a closer look at two 1929 Lelong gowns:

Couture gowns by Lucien Lelong, Illustrated in March and May, 1929. Delineator.

Couture gowns by Lucien Lelong, Illustrated in March and May, 1929. Delineator. I’ll link to some modern leg-baring dresses with sheer overlays later.

Worth designed this white velvet wedding gown for Princess Francoise of France in 1929. The gown is relatively simple so as not to detract from the yards of heirloom lace in her veil.

Worth wedding gown designed for Princess Francoise of France. Sketched in Delineator, June 1929.

Worth wedding gown designed for Princess Francoise of France. Sketched in Delineator, June 1929.

Bridesmaid dress by Ardanse. "Green taffeta with the yoke, tiny sleeves and skirt of tulle." June 1929.

Bridesmaid dress by Ardanse. “Green taffeta, with the yoke, tiny sleeves and skirt of tulle.” June 1929.

Commercial designs followed suit:

Wedding gown in Butterick's Delineator, June 1929.

Wedding gown in Butterick’s Delineator; illustration for article, June 1929.

Butterick pattern 2632 has a coordinating jacket. May, 1929.

Butterick pattern 2632 has a coordinating jacket. May, 1929.

Butterick pattern 2634 dress and jacket; May 1929.

Butterick pattern 2634 dress and jacket; May 1929.

As I said, I’ve been thinking of these dresses with hems that are simultaneously long and short as “transitional” fashion. I know some readers really dislike them; I may have bad news for you. Here’s Sonya Molodetskaya in a gown by Vasily Vein – worn in San Francisco in September 2015. (Photo by Laura Morton.)

We have now been living in a long period of varied hem lengths — without the edicts of other eras that “this season the hem will be nine inches above the floor” or “Just at the kneecap.” So how am I to explain the reappearance of high-in-front-low-in-back hems?

These were seen at the San Francisco Opera and Symphony events in September, 2014 and 2015:

A red satin gown by Rubin Singer (click here.) (2015)

Designer Yuka Uehara in her gown for Tokyo Gamine (click here.) (2015)

Another super-short front and full trained gown worn by Sonya Molodetskaya  (click here.) (2014)

Komal Shah in Oscar de la Renta (Short in front, click here.) (Another view click here.) (2014)

Belinda Berry demonstrated her love of outrageous formal outfits by wearing her own high/low design . (2015)

Pianist Yuja Wang in mini-dress with long sheer overlay  (2015) proved that Heidi Klum (seen here at the Emmy Awards) (2015) wasn’t the only person wearing a short hem and a long hem at the same time. Fashion indecision? Fear of commitment? Anything goes? (Klum’s yellow dress from Atelier Versace, with a choice of hems and two completely different sides, seems a little too indecisive to me!)

 

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Filed under 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns