Tag Archives: twenties dress

Women’s Fashions for February, 1927

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1927, page 22. Illustrations by M. Lages.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, February 1927, page 25.

These patterns for spring of 1927 show quite a variety of looks, from a graded-color “compose” dress to peasant-look embroidery. There is a bolero dress, plus two shirred dresses, and a really striking coat — simple in style, but dramatic when made in a jazzy fabric.

Butterick’s “informal” coat 1254 looks fabulous in this material. Note the tie belt, which seems to run under the pocket.

The dresses on these pages are very different, but all twelve illustrations show variations on one (rather sloppy) hat style.

Butterick 1300, 1264, and 1270, Delineator, February 1927, p. 22. 1264 has the bolero look — but the bolero only hangs loose in back.

The sheer Georgette vestee — or dickey– is detachable. The bodice tabs extend into belt carriers in back.

Butterick 1270 is a “frock that looks like a coat.” I could use a bit more construction information on that one….

Pages 23 and 24 showed four more outfits, including this graded dress and a dress-and-jacket combination.

Butterick graded-color dress 1282 is monogrammed, a style attributed to Patou, and suggests a jacket — an illusion. Dress 1298 combines with a real jacket, Butterick 1229, to create a suit. Delineator, Feb. 1927, page 23

As is often the case, the back of the outfit is much plainer than the front.

Butterick dresses 1278 and 1253, Delineator, Feb. 1927, p. 24. No. 1278 has a dark band on the skirt and at the bottom of the sleeves. (The dress at the right seems to me to be a bit of a hodge-podge….)

The following fashions are from page 25:

A woman in a shirred dress (Butterick 1238) leads a woman in a tiered, graded-color dress (Butterick 1280.) Delineator, February 1927, page 25. No. 1238 could be made sleeveless for evening, and was available in large sizes.

Details of Butterick 1238 and 1280. No. 1238 is shirred in a semicircular pattern at the closure. The sleeves and belt of No. 1280 repeat the color progression of the skirt tiers.

Butterick 1268 has a lighter yoke and sleeves, and darker banding. Butterick 1276 has sheer, embroidered “peasant” sleeves. Delineator, Feb. 1927, p. 25.

What to wear under these clothes? A light, boneless corselet like this one minimized the wearer’s curves:

A light foundation garment made by Gossard. Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1927.

And don’t forget to dye your stockings to match your dress….

Ad for Putnam Dyes, Delineator, February 1927, p. 121.

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Corselettes, evening and afternoon clothes, Foundation Garments, Hats, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Fashion Transition: From 1920’s to 1930’s

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/sears-hems-fall-in1929-1930-1931-500.jpg?w=443&h=500

Hem length from 1929 to 1931, from Sears catalogs. In 1929, the hem is above the kneecap; two years later it has dropped to mid-calf, and the belt has returned to the natural waist.

Higher Waists and Longer Hems

In 1929, hems were already on their way down. An article by Pamela A. Parmai at Love To Know cites an article in the New York Times from October 27, 1929 — two days before the Black Friday stock market crash — which said, “some women claimed that the effort to put them back in long skirts was ‘an insidious attempt to lure women back into slavery.’ ” Parmai implies that, since skirts had already been at the knee for two or three years, clothing manufacturers were eager for a change. It seems the stock market started down after skirts did.

“The waist-line continues to rise,” Delineator magazine, November 1929, p. 33.

However, in November of 1929, Delineator’s fashion editors weren’t completely focused on longer skirts; this article was about rising waists. [The lead time which put magazines in stores by November meant that articles and illustrations had to be ready long before the end of October, and the stock market crash on October 29th. Longer hems are mentioned, but not in the title of this article. ]

Butterick 2891 has a belt near the natural waist. November, 1929, Delineator.

The next dress has a two-layer skirt, with one layer ending above the knee (where dresses ended in 1928) and one below the knee, a transitional fashion to longer skirts.

Butterick frock 2923 from November 1929. Delineator. Note the belt, which is just at the hipbone [and I bet it didn’t stay there easily, even with belt carriers.]

This dress has “three of the very newest features:” greater length, higher waist, snug hips and a dipping hem. [Wait — isn’t that four? Not really. Dipping hems were well-established by 1928.]

Butterick 2924 shows a longer hem and a shirred waist that sits on the hipbone rather than the hip. Delineator, November, 1929. It covers the knees completely.

“The line is longer, as it must be this season,” and the waist line is higher.

[“Pans” is probably a typo for “Panels.”]

Butterick coat 2857 shown over dress (frock) 2903. Delineator, November, 1929. The rising girdle [hip band] is a subtle change.

“The higher waist-line is indicated on the frock by the girdle top.” The “girdle” is that band of fabric around the hips. It does look a little higher than these earlier “snug hips” of June 1929:

A snug-hipped dress and matching jacket from June of 1929, Delineator. Butterick 2646.

Back in June, 1928, these dresses showed a tight, low hip girdle:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/500-1928-june-p-32-2024-2068-color.jpg?w=215&h=500

Butterick patterns in Delineator, June 1928, show a low hip girdle, expecially the one on the left, which appears to be far below the hip-bone.

The elongated torso of 1920’s fashion illustration makes the waist hard to locate on this blouse.

Butterick blouse 2884 with wrap skirt 2745, from November 1929, Delineator. The blouse is gathered to the hip just below the natural waist –where many women’s trousers rested in the 2000’s.

Blouses from the early 1930’s (see below) were often overblouses, not too different from blouse 2884.

Butterick blouse 3968, July 1931.

Tunic Blouses for Transition — Again

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/1924-dec-p-30-color-old-dress-btm.jpg?w=502&h=445

Tunic blouse outfits from Butterick; Delineator, December, 1924. Within three years, dresses were shorter than these “blouses.”

I do find transitional fashions interesting. Back in 1924 — 1925, these tunic blouses eased the transition to shorter hems by providing two horizontal lines — one near the knee (the coming fashion) and one at low mid-calf (the early Twenties’ length.)

I’ve found a few tunic styles easing the transition from late Twenties to early Thirties, too.

Butterick 3644, “the smart tunic line,” has a tunic ending near the knees over a longer 1930’s hemline. Delineator, February 1931.

The natural waist, accented by a belt, is taken for granted by 1931.

Right, below,  is a “tunic blouse” and skirt combination; this “blouse” is as long as a late Twenties’ dress.

Right, tunic blouse 3666 with skirt 3643; Delineator, February 1931.

The tunic blouse is shown in mid-thigh (back view) and knee lengths.

It’s surprising how brief the period of knee-length twenties’ fashion really was — as this cartoon from January, 1929 implies.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/1929-jan-cartoon-skirt-length-delineator.jpg?w=500

It’s more evidence that early in 1929, skirts were already on their way down.

2 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s

Palm Beach Resort Wear by Lelong, January 1928

Two couture tennis dresses by Lucien Lelong, January 1928. Imagine the background in green, and the coat on the right in tucked scarlet crepella. Wow.

Lelong discusses color in the first part of this article on resort wear for America’s brighter sunlight. Delineator, top of page 32, January 1928. It’s a pity that the Delineator ran this article in black and white!

Couturier Lucien Lelong explained to the Delineator magazine how his resort wear for Palm Beach differed from the colors he would have used for French clients.

Colors for Palm Beach: “vied with the parrot and the bougainvillea flower” because the “sub-tropical sunshine … subdues the strongest colors.”

For evening he suggested lighter shades:  greens, grays, coral, pink, amber, ivory, and black and white.

Two evening gowns by Lelong, January 1928. Left, black with rhinestone bands; right, mauve pink chiffon.

His bathing costumes for Palm Beach are colorful in greens and blues:

Left, Lelong uses “green jersey banded with darker green and worn under a sponge cloth coat of string beige.” Right, “blue and white printed crepe de Chine with chartreuse bands and beach coat.”  Both have “tunic tops and shorts.” January, 1928.

For daytime, Lelong’s dress shows the graded colors popular in 1927-28. Costumes using blocks of colors were called “compose” [with an accent aigu on the e : kom-poh-zay.]

Left: Lelong’s blue two-piece sports frock with bands of graded colors. Right, a three piece ensemble in two shades of blue. January 1928 resort wear.

Let’s not forget those sleeveless tennis frocks by this extraordinary French designer:

Two sleeveless and collarless tennis frocks, plus a scarlet coat of tucked crepella. Lelong resort collection, January 1928. Delineator. Illustration by Muriel Lages.

“Design grows more and more simple in appearance, tho [sic] inner cuts are complicated. And of course, all these models, as is usual with me, induce slenderness in the appearance of their wearers. That sums it up.”– Lucien Lelong on his resort collection, in Delineator, January 1928.

When I called Lelong “extraordinary,” I wasn’t exaggerating. As head of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture during the German Occupation of Paris, Lelong managed to thwart the Germans’ plan to move the center of couture to Berlin. You can read “The Man Who Saved Paris” by clicking here.

Further reading:  The Encyclopedia of Fashion has a bibliography of books about Lelong. Click here.

 

6 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bathing Suits, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

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:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/plate-47-deco-brown-coaored308.jpg?w=500

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″.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/1926-sept-p-27-7065-7024-7059-7047-7063-7057-7003-7053-top1.jpg?w=290&h=500

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!”

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Dresses with Bows, December 1928

A bow at the hip, a bow on the shoulder, or both: Two Butterick dresses from December 1928. Delineator. The one at left even has bows at the wrist.

I confess, the dress at upper right is one of my favorites from the Twenties. Bows, and variations on bows, enhanced many dresses in 1928; here are a few from December of 1928. (Ninety-nine [CORRECTION: 89] years ago. [Thanks, Jacqueline!]  Let’s start with some bow variations:

Butterick 2373 has sections joined by fagoting, a detail attributed to Vionnet. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

It’s not a bow, but this tie appears to be part of the neckline, and is echoed on the back of the dress, as if a narrow scarf were part of the neckline.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/500-v166-faggoting-between-bias-panels.jpg?w=500&h=490

Two panels of a vintage dress joined by fagoting. 1920s. For more on Vionnet and fagoting, click here.

Butterick 2373, front and back views. December, 1928, Delineator. That long back tie helps narrow the rear view of hips.

Butterick 2378 has the snugly draped hips of 1928, with the interesting not-exactly-a-bow insertion at the shoulder creating a slenderizing vertical line, and four bows — two at the hips and two at the wrists. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30. If you look closely, you can see a side seam bust dart.

Front and back views of Butterick 2378. The “handkerchief girdle” is attributed to both Molyneux and the design team of Martial et Armand. Delineator, Dec . 1928, p. 30.

I like this dress so much that I wondered what it would look like on a more realistic figure. Imagine it in silk jersey:

Illustration of Butterick 2378 manipulated to appear on a more naturalistic figure. It still looks good to me!

Most Butterick patterns from the 1920’s were sized from bust 32″ up to a 44″ bust measure — that would be a modern pattern size 22, a reminder that not all women in the Twenties had “boyish” figures.  The next dress has a soft drape, rather than a bow, but it’s recommended for older (and larger) women, so I though it worth sharing:

Butterick 2381 has an interesting yoke and skirt, but no bows. Delineator, Dec. 1928, page 30. It was recommended for “the older woman.” Notice the gathers at the shoulder, which would provide some fullness over the bust.

Front and back views of Butterick 2381, which was available up to size 48″ bust (and proportionately larger hips.) Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

The vertical drapery and skirt panels in front would be flattering to a larger figure. The back view, with two horizontal hip bands? Probably not becoming to 52″ hips. Maybe it could use the clever, long, back tie from Butterick 2373.

This dress, which has a metallic (lame) bodice and velvet skirt, could be worn by misses 15 to 18 as well as women up to size 44″ bust.

Butterick 2346, a formal afternoon frock, has a tiered skirt with hip accent, and a big shoulder bow matching the skirt fabric. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 30.

Front and back views of Butterick 2346. Delineator, December, 1928, p. 30. I wish I could find another description of this pattern, because it was common for a very formal day dress like this to also have a sleeveless version for evening wear.

Two Formal Frocks from Delineator, December 1928. Butterick patterns 2379 and 2287.

Bows at the shoulder on evening frocks, December 1928.

Butterick 2359 has velvet bows at shoulder and hip, but it does not have the tight hip girdle seen in these other 1928 fashions.

The diagonal hip bow is appliqued to the dress and can be tied to fit the hips tightly. In back, it forms a band. The back of the dress is cut in one piece; the front panel dips well below the hemline.

Front and back views of Butterick 2359, from December 1928. Delineator, p. 31. [When I think about how I would make this dress, with the weight of the hip bow and the stress that tying it tightly would put on the crepe fabric where the velvet gaps in front…. The inside of this dress might need some engineering to make it stay bloused this perfectly when worn by an actor.**]

Illustrations are by M. Lages.

Perhaps too much of a good thing, Butterick 2312 has three bows in a line from shoulder to hip. Delineator, Dec. 1928, p. 28. This is a dinner dress for young or small women.

The hem is longer in back than in front — it has “the backward dipping flounce that marks the new mode.” The dress has the curve: the flounce is “straight.” It attaches to an upward curve in front and a downward curve in back. The shoulder bow ends in a long streamer.

Front and back views of Butterick 2312 from Dec. 1928.

** Unlike models, actors have to sit down and get up and move like normal people.  Costumers use the term “actor-proofing,” not as an insult to actors, but because it’s our job to prevent the costume from becoming a problem for the actor wearing it. “Mark Antony” shouldn’t have to worry about his toga falling off his shoulder — it took years of training for a Roman gentleman to master toga-wearing. Directors are always asking actors to do things that can’t be done in restrictive period clothing; it’s the costumers’ job to make the clothing look authentic but allow such movement 8 times a week, month after month. 1920’s two-piece dresses often suspended the skirt from an unseen bodice top (like a modern camisole.) That meant the skirt could hang straight from the shoulders, without being shaped to a waistband. If you want a blouson to stay bloused, you can attach it to that “skirt” so the blousing can’t slip down unevenly.

 

2 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

More Ads for Woman’s Institute from 1920’s and 1930’s

1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Big, ruffled “Letty Lynton” sleeves became a huge fashion influence after the release of the movie in 1932.

In a previous post I wrote that Woman’s Institute ads were different every month, and that lining them up gives a mini-tour of fashions for each year. I have no photos from some years and some months, so there are big gaps in this little fashion show. I’ll just put the ones I have in chronological order. I love the captions, which repeat a few Woman’s Institute themes, like “It’s the prettiest dress I’ve ever had” and “I love to wear this dress.”

Woman’s Institute Fashions from the Twenties

February 1924 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This dress is basically a simple tube with neck and arm openings and a belt.

December 1924 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Except for the collar, this is a dress based on rectangles.

August 1925 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. 1920’s fashions are getting more complex.

August 1926 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “Nothing will ever appear ‘home-made.’ “

By December 1926, Twenties’ styles are no longer simple tubes or rectangles.

December 1926 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

January 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Notice how short skirts have become in just 25 months.

Styles had changed a great deal between December 1924 and January 1927 — just two years:

A Woman’s Institute “One Hour Dress” from 1924; two years later, the Woman’s Institute ads showed much more complicated styles.

However, the possibility of making a dress in one hour, thanks to early 1920’s styles, probably inspired many women to try making their own clothing for the first time.

February 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This dress requires piecing curves; it’s not a project for beginners.

March 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course, “used by over 230,000 women and girls.”

August 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Now there are 250,000 users.

October 1927 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

February 1928 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

June 1928 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This is the most matronly outfit I’ve run across in these ads.

The reason many women sew for themselves is that they have non-standard-sized bodies or hard to fit figures. (Having an exceptionally small waist, broad shoulders, or tall body makes it hard to find store-bought clothes that fit, just as having a smaller or larger than average body does.) Oddly, the Woman’s Institute ads I’ve seen don’t seem to be aimed at hard-to-fit women.

October 1928 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This dress has a chic, asymmetrical collar and side drape.

Sending in the coupon from October 1928 would get you a 32 page booklet and a 60 page dressmaking lesson “which tells how to take correct measurements, select the right pattern, alter to your own measurements, cut and fit for all types of figures, etc.” Perhaps hard-to-fit women let their dressmakers alter patterns for them.

March 1929 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

Woman’s Institute Fashions from the Thirties

I have not collected many ads from 1929 or 1930, so my parade of fashions from Woman’s Institute ads has some big gaps.

February 1931 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This shows that not all hems dropped precipitately after 1929.

I have no photos from 1932, but the very long hemline on this dress was well established by 1933.

January 1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “The new feminine fashions have created a big demand for dressmakers.”

February 1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. 1930’s ads often showed evening gowns.

This marks a change to more evening gowns in the Institute’s advertising; 1933 was one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Ads that said “Earn $20 to $40 a week at home” in 1924 said “Earn $10 to $35” in March of 1933:

March 1933 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. Scottie Dog (and fox fur stole) optional.

The number of women wearing furs during the Depression used to surprise me, but “In 1917, there were only four fur farms in the entire United States; by 1930, there were more than forty-five hundred.” This drove down the price of furs — and millions of animals were raised for slaughter. [See A Perfect Fit by Jenna Weissman Joselit.] Also, cheap furs from domestic animals like rabbits and dogs were sold as coney “seal” and “Manchurian wolf.”

March 1934 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. In 1934, “Letty Lynton” sleeves were still in style, and a dressmaker might earn a more optimistic “$20 to $50 a week.”

September 1934 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

Woman’s Institute ads seem to feature more evening dresses in the 1930’s, perhaps because the emphasis is changing to copying fashions, designing your own, and owning your own business or dress shop.

March 1935 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “You can earn a splendid income in a dressmaking business of your own.”

February 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “Earn Money in Dressmaking and Designing.”

March 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. [What a lovely train!]

In addition to lessons in making dresses and hats, Woman’s Institute courses on Cookery and, now, Tea Room Management were available.

Traditionally, most 20th century women who had their clothes made by dressmakers started with a commercial pattern or a photograph from a fashion magazine, although they might ask for changes to suit their taste.

September 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. This ad is unusual because it shows a commercial pattern, Vogue 7403.

These 1930’s ads now introduce the idea of copying high fashion, designing dresses, and opening your own dress shop.

October 1936 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course.

February 1937 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. “Earn a fine income at home.”

The ability to work from home has always been important to women with children and other domestic responsibilities. And, of course, the overhead of a home business is lower than that of a shop.

October 1937 ad for Woman’s Institute dressmaking course. You can earn money at home . . . or have a good income in a smart dressmaking shop of your own.”

In 1938, Woman’s Institute placed this ad in a Butterick Fashion News Flyer, encouraging women who use commercial patterns to design and make their own clothes with the dressmaking skills learned from Woman’s Institute.

Woman’s Institute advertisement that appeared in the Butterick Fashion News Flyer for March, 1938.

“Be the smartest dressed woman in your town!” That’s almost what the ads said in 1917!

Testimonials from Woman’s Institute customers. There are now 300,000 of them. March 1938.

Coupon for Woman’s Institute, March 1938.

Mary Brooks Picken also published a quarterly magazine, Fashion Service. If you are researching Woman’s Institute ads, I found 1114 citations with a search on the Cornell University Home Archive.

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Woman's Institute

Advertising Mary Brooks Picken’s Woman’s Institute: Out Stepped Ann!

“Out Stepped Ann!” This full page ad in Delineator magazine looks like a story. It’s really an advertisement for the Woman’s Institute correspondence course in dressmaking. Delineator, May 1924, page 5.

While randomly reading through vintage magazines, I have collected quite a photo gallery of ads for Mary Brooks Picken’s Woman’s Institute, which was a very successful correspondence course in dressmaking from 1916 through the 1930’s. (It has no relationship to the Women’s Institute, an organization for women that’s been doing important work for a long time.)

As sometimes happens with great stuff you find on the internet, I can no longer locate the first helpful site I found about the Woman’s Institute and its founder, Mary Brooks Picken. But I owe it thanks for mentioning the brilliant ad campaign which contributed to the Institute’s success — which is why I photographed this full page ad when I saw it.

(The instruction books and booklets written by Picken were excellent; I used one many years ago, in graduate school. I learned a lot about making twenties’ dresses from her! In other words, the Woman’s Institute delivered what it promised. A page from her twenties’ book about designing by draping fashions could be a “light bulb” moment for you, too. ) But that “lost” site which mentioned the genius of Picken’s second husband, G. Lynn Sumner, “president of the advertising firm of G. Lynn Sumner Co. of New York” which was probably responsible for the Woman’s Institute ads, was the reason I saved this wonderful example of his story-telling technique. It was a full page ad — an expensive venture — that captures the psychological appeal of the Woman’s Institute courses.

Here is Ann at the climax of the story, stepping out from behind a curtain in the new dress she made herself. Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, May 1924, p. 5.

Ann’s tale is easy to relate to; she’s a popular girl, but she can’t afford to dress as well as her friends. “If I could only look in the mirror just once and be satisfied with what I see!” [Is there a  woman who can’t relate to that?]

Ann is so embarrassed by her shoddy old “good dress” that she deliberately spills a bottle of perfume on it rather than go to the party.

Determined to come up with something to wear to her best friend’s upcoming birthday party,  Ann ransacks her closet for old dresses that might be remade.

She consults the local dressmaker about remaking a dress, but she’s told that every dressmaker in town is already too busy with other orders. Ann goes window shopping, but can’t afford any of the dresses she sees, so she doesn’t even try them on.

At home, Ann leafs through a fashion magazine.

Ann tells her friends that she’s suffering from “nerves” and under doctors’ orders to stay at home and rest for a month. Her other friends don’t visit her, but Elizabeth tells them that Ann seems happy, especially since she is now getting lots of letters and packages in the mail. And Ann promises not to miss Elizabeth’s birthday celebration.

Ann arrives, wearing a coat and with a scarf covering her hair. She dodges into the cloak room, hidden by the curtains. Then …

Here is Ann, stepping out from behind a curtain in the new dress she made herself. Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, May 1924, p.5.

“Making Beautiful Clothes” booklet, from an ad for Woman’s Institute, Delineator, Feb. 1924, p. 79.

Doesn’t that make you want to send in your coupon?

Coupon for information and free booklet from Woman’s Institute. Feb., 1924.

Good News: Some of Mary Brooks Picken’s books on 1920’s dressmaking are available as paperback reprints.

The famous “one hour dress” book (1924 edition) by Mary Picken is available as a reprint. Since the styles of 1924 are still long, “tubular twenties,” you might prefer the 1925 edition, which is also available.

You can also download and print your own copy of her 1925 book The Mary Brooks Picken Method of Modern Dressmaking thanks to ///Columbia/// CORRECTION: Cornell University: click here. This is an illustrated sewing basics book which gives an indication of how thorough Picken was.  It is not a “one-hour dress” book. Picken also wrote the Singer Sewing Book in the 1950’s.

The Woman’s Institute had already been around for several years in the Twenties; its ads always emphasized both personal and professional dress making and millinery opportunities for women.

Many of the points made in “Out Stepped Ann!” were repeated in smaller monthly advertisements. Even early ads emphasized financial savings, a chance to learn a skill that could produce income, and a sense of accomplishment. The women in these ads were proud that they had made their own clothes.

“Yes, I Made It All Myself!” students of the Woman’s Institute proudly proclaimed in the ads. Delineator, July 1917.

These ads battled the stigma of wearing clothes that looked “home-made;” and, if a woman followed the instructions carefully, her clothes would in fact look well-made.

“She’s the Best Dressed Woman in Town” because she learned to make clothes and hats by taking a home study course from Woman’s Institute. Other women envy her. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917.

“I’m Making My Own Dresses This Summer,” and clothes for the children, too, brags this satisfied customer. Detail, Woman’s Institute ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917.

“I Make My Own Hats” says another proud Woman’s Institute student in this ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. “I have four becoming, stylish hats where I used to have only one…. You can earn money making hats for your friends in spare time or open a millinery shop of your own. Pictures make everything clear….”

“It’s the prettiest dress I ever had…. And Just Think, Mother, How Much We Saved.” Ad for Woman’s Institute, Delineator, March 1927. [That hat really was chic in 1917.] In addition to saving half the cost of purchased clothing, “You can have clothes that are more becoming and better fitting, because they will be made of the materials and in the styles that you select, and to your own measurements.”

Making your own clothing and turning last year’s dresses into new styles was patriotic, too, during World War I. Click here.

“Now I Save Half on All My Clothes.” From an Ad for Woman’s Institute, Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917. “You know the patriotic slogan among women this year is ‘Make Your Own Clothes!’

Making “New Clothes From Old” was a patriotic duty during World War I. “This year women are urged to economize, but economy need not mean fewer clothes.” Woman’s Institute ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

“This Year I Had Six Dresses Instead of Two.” Woman’s Institute ad from Delineator, February 1917. “Besides, I’ve made three skirts and half a dozen blouses and practically everything that the children are wearing. And a year ago I couldn’t make a buttonhole.

Aside from the occasional full page ad, Woman’s Institute inserted small advertisements into most women’s magazines every month — sometimes two ads in one issue. What is remarkable to me is that there was a new, different ad every month.

Collecting Woman’s Institute advertisements from the 1920’s and 1930’s will give you a mini-history of the fashions for each year.  I’m saving those for another post — but here’s a preview: (one from 1927, one from 1933)

Detail, Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, January 1927.

Detail, Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, March 1933.

Fashions changed a lot in those six years.

17 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Woman's Institute, World War I