Tag Archives: twenties dress

Age and Hem Length, September 1925

Hem variations on young women, teens to twenty. Delineator, September 1925.

Generally, grown women (“Ladies’ sizes”) were illustrated with slightly longer hems in 1925, but the rules were not absolute.

Dresses for adult women/Ladies’ bust size 33 to 44 inches. Delineator, September 1925.

A row of Ladies’ dresses. (The women are chatting with men, one of whom wears a golf suit with knickers.)

Some hem variations are visible in that line-up.

Dresses for Ladies in larger sizes. Delineator, Sept. 1925.

No. 6268 & 6286 was available up to hip size 49.5 inches.

Not much larger than the usual Ladies’ sizes, but perhaps bigger than one would expect.

When it comes to unrealistic illustrations of large sizes, this is a star: would you believe size 52?

Well, it was also available in size 33. Nevertheless….

This color page featured Butterick dresses for teens and small women:

On a page of dresses for women age 15 to 20, hems vary. Some of these patterns were also available for small women. Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Notice the hem length difference between 6245 and the others. Although younger women (20 and under) might wear shorter skirts, there was some flexibility. (Besides, shorter women would need shorter skirts to remain in proportion.)

For schoolgirls (and younger girls,) the younger the girl, the shorter the skirt, with very young girls wearing dresses so short that they needed matching bloomers.

Left, an outfit suitable for schoolgirls aged 8 to 15. Right, this dress pattern for schoolgirls aged  6 to 10 came with bloomers for the youngest wearers.

Left, really young girls through age 6 might wear very short smocks with matching bloomers. Right, clothes for schoolgirls aged 8 to 15 are similar to women’s styles — but shorter. Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Styles for women; Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Some of those dresses came in larger sizes, often associated with older women. So when choosing a hem length in 1925, individual preferences might outweigh the dictates of fashion.

For a spectrum of styles:

Dress lengths for Teens (usually 15 to 20.) At or slightly below the knee.

Dress lengths for Ladies (usually bust 33 to 44 inches.) Definitely longer than the Teens’ dresses.

Dresses for women in large sizes. [‘Larger’ and ‘older’ were often equated.] Left, No. 6285 for women 36 to 52 inch bust; right, No. 6221 for women 36 to 48 bust. [Obviously illustrated as they might look on the smallest sizes given….]

Except for schoolgirls, women really did have a choice of lengths.

[Sorry about the picture quality — I took these many years ago.]

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Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, evening and afternoon clothes, Sportswear, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Tunic Blouses, 1922

Three out of five dresses pictured are “Tunic Blouses” with matching slips. Butterick patterns in Delineator, January 1922. Page 30.

The outfit on the right in this illustration is a “Tunic Blouse” with matching slip. Butterick 3509 with slip 3489. February 1922.

Another simply cut but attractive tunic blouse appeared in this color illustration:

Right, Butterick Tunic Blouse 3530 with slip 2930. Delineator, February 1922, page 27.

We’ll take a closer look at that one in a minute…..  You may have guessed that “tunic” means an over layer that is shorter than the rest of the outfit. But the one below is not called a tunic blouse — it’s just a “dress.”

Butterick dress pattern 3456. Delineator, January, 1922, page 28.

It took me a while to realize that Delineator was selling patterns, so the patterns which included all the layers were described as “dress” patterns, and those that only contained the top layer were “tunic blouse” patterns. That way, the buyer knew she would have to buy a separate pattern (or use one she already had) for the longest layer, which was usually made as a slip — but with fashion fabric rather than lingerie fabric.

In spite of their overskirts, these are not tunics but “dresses.” Delineator, May 1921.

The Tunic look had been very important in the 1910s:

Tunic outfits in 1914. Delineator.

Then, the longer layer of the outfit might be part of the skirt pattern or part of a blouse (called a “waist”) pattern. Or it could be sold as a complete tunic dress pattern:

Alternative and back views of Butterick tunic dress 6779; 1914.

This version of the tunic look appeared in 1921:

Butterick sold this pattern as a tunic blouse; the skirt/slip pattern was sold separately. Google scan from Delineator, found at Hathitrust.org.

Another tunic blouse pattern from late 1921.

“A blouse of the sort with a suitable slip makes a complete costume. The Florentine neck and wide sleeves are particularly smart.”

In 1922, a variety of tunic blouses were on offer.

Butterick 3509 illustrated in January 1922.

Right, Butterick 3509 — again — as shown in February 1922. Delineator.

Butterick tunic blouse 3497 illustrated in February 1922, Delineator.

Detail of Butterick 3530 from February 1922.

I especially like the surprise of bright yellow lining on this black velvet tunic. The bands on the sleeves seem to be embroidered with birds.

Matching embroidered fabric shows through the slit at the neck.

That dress almost makes me forget that most women would look like a sack of potatoes in it — a beautiful, black velvet, embroidered sack ….

Some of these tunics have very deep slits at the sides. Butterick tunic blouses 3497 and 3507.

Those very wide sleeves were also typical of 1922 — they deserve (and will get) a post of their own.

Black chiffon over a black slip. Strips of coral red trim keep it from looking too bedroom-y.

Butterick tunic blouse 3462 over slip 3428. January 1922.

The simple tunic blouse pattern lent itself to different ornamentation.

“An elastic can be run through a casing at the low waistline. If transparent, the blouse is worn over a slip; otherwise a skirt will do.”

Teens and young women wore tunic blouses, too. Butterick 3462 from 1922.

I’ve written before on the tunic as a transition to shorter styles. These tunics are from January, 1925.

Tunics from Delineator, January 1925. The slit side was still seen.

A whole page of tunics in different lengths, from Delineator, March 1925.

As skirts rose to knee length in the later 1920s, the knee-length tunic became irrelevant.

This tunic blouse appeared in 1930, another time of hemline transition:

This tunic blouse with long skirt is from December, 193o. The tunic is the same length as dresses from 1929. Butterick 3560. December 1930; Delineator, p. 27.

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Filed under 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Slips and Petticoats

College Wardrobe for Women, 1929

Essentials of a perfect College Wardrobe; Delineator, September 1929.

It’s a bit late in the year to be planning an “off to college” wardrobe, but Delineator devoted several pages to this question in September, 1929.

Administrators at Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith colleges shared their observations on what college girls were wearing in 1929. Delineator, Sept 1929, pp. 29 & 104.

Administrators at three prestigious East Coast women’s colleges contributed their observations in an accompanying article, which was later quoted in the Butterick pattern descriptions.

In addition to Butterick patterns, several “college clothing” illustrations were sketched from clothes being sold at Lord & Taylor.

These “College Requirements” could be purchased at Lord & Taylor. Delineator, Sept. 1929, page 28.

At all three colleges, sportswear — rather than “city” clothing — was said to dominate.  (Vassar was literally “in the country.” In the case of Wellesley, Freshmen lived in the nearby town, so clothes suitable for walking and bicycling to campus were necessary.) Dressing for dinner usually required a change, but not into evening dress.  However, dances and Proms called for at least one formal evening gown.  [I attended a women’s college in California in the 1960s, and we often loaned or borrowed evening gowns for off campus dances, so having only one wasn’t a real problem. Our dates saw us in a different dress each time.] I also appreciated reading about a dorm at Smith where the girls grouped together to rent a sewing machine! All three writers agreed that sporty, casual clothing — home made or purchased — dominated the college wardrobe and to some extent erased class distinctions. (In the late Twenties, Vassar had 1150 undergraduate students, Wellesley 1500, and Smith 2000.)

Laura W. L. Scales, Smith College. Delineator,  Sept. 1929, page 29.

I’ll start with college clothes available from Lord & Taylor in 1929:

(A) A fur coat was practical on campus in snowy winters, but wool coats were equally acceptable.

(B) is an afternoon dress, suitable for formal daytime events (teas, concerts) or as a dinner dress at college.

Wool knits, jersey, and tweeds were practical and traditional “country” looks; most of these colleges were then in the country a few miles from big cities, although urban sprawl has changed that.

“Simulated suede raincoat”? Interesting.  Augusta “Bernard” and “Louiseboulanger” were top Paris designers,

A warm robe, pajamas for sleep and dorm lounging, plus “sports” underwear (J): the top and bottom are buttoned together. 1929.

Formal evening wrap and dress from Lord & Taylor. September 1929. The coat is short; the gown has a long dipping hem.

Note those stretchy bias diamond pieces at the hip of the gown. Pearl-covered handbag.

Butterick patterns for the young college woman, September 1929:

Butterick patterns for college women, Sept. 1929, p. 30.

This dress really is easier to make than it looks. The full, scalloped skirt is cut on the straight grain, lined with “skin” colored taffeta, and has a dipping hem because it is attached to a dipping bodice.

Intimate apparel for college girls:

The slip at right has built in panties, to save time while dressing ….

“No brassiere is necessary,” but some girls do “make this set with a bandeau brassiere instead of a vest.”

Fall and winter weather was another good reason for wearing sporty wool clothing with low heeled shoes and wool, instead of silk, stockings on campus.

Wool fabrics were suitable for campus or weekends in town:

More sporty patterns for college women, 1929. Butterick patterns, Delineator, page 31.

A tweed suit suitable for city or country, a chic two-toned jersey dress, and a princess line wool or jersey dress with flared panels. Butterick patterns from Delineator, September 1929, p. 31

A sporty tweed dress with laced trim (very popular in the 30s), a pleated wool dress with Deco lines (“staircase pleats,”) and a fur-trimmed tweed coat. Butterick patterns for college women, Delineator, Sept. 1929, p. 31.

It’s sad to realize that these attractive 1929 styles would be out of fashion just a year later — although many women would have no choice but to continue wearing them as the economy crumbled in the early nineteen thirties.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Bras, Coats, evening and afternoon clothes, handbags, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, lingerie, Nightclothes and Robes, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Shoes, Slips and Petticoats, Sportswear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Women in Trousers

“Oriental” Hems, 1920

These dresses from 1920 have “Oriental” hems. Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine.

Dresses and skirts with Oriental hems were not the dominant style of 1920, but I’d love to hear from any vintage collectors who have encountered one.  I suspect that, like other trends that didn’t dominate their era, dresses with Oriental hems are probably rare, especially since they had plenty of fabric for re-making into a more conventional dress later.

The “Oriental” skirts of 1920 remind me of the bubble skirts popular — especially as formals — in the late fifties and early 1960s.

A bubble skirted evening dress, circa 1959. Click here for more. Associated with Balenciaga in the 1950s, they seemed to be making a comeback in 2018!

For the benefit of anyone who has found a vintage 1920s’ dress with this strange hem, here are more examples from Delineator, 1920.

Dress with Oriental hem, Butterick 2248, Delineator, April 1920.

The “Oriental hem” hem is not the same as harem pants, although this outfit also appeared in 1920:

Orientalism in high fashion: harem pants for an evening in Paris. Delinator, May 1920.

Oriental hem on Butterick 2309, May 1920.

On the same page:

Oriental hem — and ball fringe! — on a dress from 1920.

The pattern descriptions make it clear that the fuller hem on the fashion fabric is gathered to a narrower interior skirt — not trousers.

“The skirt is in one piece and caught under in Oriental fashion to a short, straight foundation skirt.”

Like most unusual fashions, this one began in couture houses:

Oriental hem on an evening gown by Elise Poret, sketched for Delineator, February 1920.

The Paris house of Madeleine et Madeleine showed this gown; sketched for Delineator; March, 1920.

There was — in more mainstream dresses — a trend to narrow hems, often as an under layer with a fuller, shorter skirt on top.

Butterick 2472 has a shorter, sheer overskirt and a narrow, longer underskirt. 1920.

Left, Butterick 2695 has a short overskirt and a narrow underskirt. Right, No. 2699 has an Oriental hem.

Butterick 2695 and 2699, skirt detail.

The “Oriental hem” was not the look for everyone, but, if you’re looking for something a little different — but authentic…. have fun.

Butterick patterns with “Oriental Hems” from 1920.

Witness to Fashion on Memory Lane: Bubble dresses circa 1960 often had wadded-up nylon tulle sandwiched in between their skirt layers. They did not emerge from dry-cleaning with all their charm intact. Since the small, hand-held steamer was not a common household appliance in 1959, taking a lovely bubble dress out of a packed closet could be a sad experience: a “light as whipped cream” taffeta dancing dress might emerge as a flattened prune.

 

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Filed under 1920s, Dresses, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Pattern Pieces for Side Drapes (“Cascades”) circa 1922

The side panels of this skirt were called “cascades.” Butterick 3601 from March, 1922; Delineator.

Cascades were created in several different ways in the Nineteen Twenties. Using the pattern archive at CoPA to better understand the options, I found a considerable variety of pattern shapes. Some cascades were basically rectangles, others were shaped, and sometimes the solution was really simple: essentially a piece of fabric wrapped around the body, with one side seam sewn several inches inside the edge of the cascade, which jutted out. (See Pattern 1408, below….)

In 1980, a Twenties’ dress with two cascades like that green one was one of my early experiments in draping.  Think of the skirt as a very big pillowslip with an opening in the top seam a few inches from each side seam. That opening is gathered and attached to the bodice at the waist.  I used a fairly light silk, so the bulk of the seam at each side wasn’t a problem. It looked fine, but this week I learned that it probably was not the way cascades were done in the early 1920s.

If I had had CoPA for research, I would have noticed that there was usually only one layer of fabric in the cascade.

Butterick 3545 has a cascade at each side.

Pattern envelope scanned from CoPA. . “LADIES’ SLIP-OVER DRESS, closed at left underarm, with Detachable Cape, Two-Piece Skirt Attached at Low Waistline, with or without long body lining.”

Detachable Cape on Butterick 3545.

Butterick 3545 pattern layout from CoPA.

The skirt pattern pieces for Butterick 3545, 1922. Notches show where the cascades would be inserted into the side seams. This construction is very simple and logical to a 21st century stitcher.

A closer view of the skirt; Butterick 3545, 1922.

In that case, the cascade was a separate pattern piece. It was also separate in this LHJ pattern, but this cascade was shaped to taper at the bottom. And it was NOT inserted in a side seam.

The full image from CoPA of LHJ pattern 3616. A triangle of dots usually means “place on fold,” but in this case it’s hard to interpret.  Notch K in the bodice front matches notch K in the skirt. The separate side panel (did it hang free?) adds to the confusion. The dress drawing does not show a center back seam.

In Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3616, the cascade is shaped, and it has a pleat (“plait”) at the point where it is attached to the skirt waist. But the cascade does not appear to be inserted into a seam.

The right-angled point of the cascade (I called it A) hangs free, but the other side is apparently sewn to the side front of the skirt. LHJ pattern 3616.

I don’t know how the straight, raw edge of the cascade would be handled, since it doesn’t appear to be inserted in a seam, but …. (I may be misreading this one! Perhaps those five dots on the skirt are a cutting line?)

Butterick 3417, from 1921, can teach us many things.

Butterick 3417 from 1921.

Bodice, cape, and lining of Butterick 3417.

The blouson shape can be held in place by the bodice lining and the waist stay, in addition to the built-in belt we see. The cape is not just a square; the little jag at the point of attachment will affect the way the cape falls. The cascade is cut in one with the skirt front.

Skirt pieces for Butterick 3417.

This cascade is cut in one with the skirt front; the jog at the bottom allows about three inches for the skirt hem to be turned up. (The cascades apparently have a narrow hem.) The pale lavender line is my guess at the seam placement.

Butterick 3417 (1921) makes sense once you realize that the three-dot triangle means “place on fold of fabric.” I circled the small dots which mark the place where the side seams need to go. The “tube” part of the dress has a hem allowance of about 3 inches. The cascade would be narrow-hemmed, or picot hemmed, if chiffon. Yes, the back side of the fabric would be seen — no problem with georgette or reversible satin….

This Syndicate pattern, No. 1789 from 1923 has just five pieces. A seamstress would have to know about facing for the belt, which apparently buttons at one or both sides. How are the sleeves and cascades finished? How about a neck facing? Is the bodice fully lined? All up to the seamstress.

Syndicate dress 1789 from 1923.

The aerial view of this dress as it would look before the sides were sewn is very informative!

The cascades apparently hang free, outside the side seams, which probably fall vertically from the side waist And that bodice is quite intriguing. what happens when you raise your arms? Definitely wear with a slip!

Pictorial Review pattern 1408 also makes the cascade part of the skirt front:

Pictorial Review pattern 1408 from 1922. The cascade is cut in one with the skirt front.

The skirt front is seamed to the skirt back at one side (see double notches.)

There appears to be a seam line where the left side of the skirt back wraps around to the front and tucks under the cascade.

Once you match the skirt front to skirt back at one side, the entire skirt wraps around and is stitched to the front, allowing the cascade to hang free.

This beautiful 1922 dress, Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3701, has only four pattern pieces:

LHJ pattern 3701, from 1922. (The “whole skirt” length does not seem to be to scale, since the skirt is one piece, wrapping around the body and and folding up in horizontal tucks (“plaits”) at the waist.)

I said “only four pattern pieces;” the seamstress would have to make her own bias bindings and figure out how to face the long sleeves and neckline…. (I would line the entire bodice with contrasting Chinese silk.)

Butterick 4025 makes the cascade part of its one-piece skirt.

Center, Butterick 4025, Delineator, December 1922.

Butterick 4025 pattern envelope from CoPA.

The cascade is part of the one-piece skirt. (How could the black cascade have a white reverse side, as illustrated? More dressmaker ingenuity needed….)

More often, the cascade was a separate pattern piece. In this 1923 pattern (Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3961) the cascade on this side-closing surplice dress is cut with one curved side, for a more graceful “fall.” (“Fall, waterfall, cascade….”)

A surplice closing creates this wrap dress. Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3961, from 1923.

Skirt pattern pieces for LHJ 3961. One-piece skirt, possibly cut on the fold at center back. (See the Three dot triangle.)

Complete pattern pieces from LHJ 3961, scanned from CoPA.

Obviously, there’s more than one way to cut a cascade. I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at old paintings and photographs and illustrations, trying to figure out how those those garments were constructed (and what the backs looked like.)  One rule of the costume shop is: “Never assume.” Knowing how modern clothes are made — what “makes sense” to us — isn’t always the key to an authentic replica. CoPA, the Commercial Pattern Archive — started by theatrical costumers — is an absolute treasure. Spread the word!

Personal experience: Around 1985, I was designer and cutter for a production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. One of my stitchers had been trained as a tailor in Germany. She was so unhappy with the way my men’s sleeves (patterned from Norah Waugh’s Cut of Men’s Clothes : 1600-1900) needed gathering at the back of the sleeve head that I revised my patterns for them several times. Two years later I visited the Costume Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where some 18th c. men’s clothing was displayed in a case that I could walk around. Finally, I could see the back seams of the coats I had been drafting! Guess what? There were visible gathers at the back of the sleeve heads. And I had gone without sleep to get rid of them in my patterns!  (P.S. That’s also why I always want to see the backs at museum exhibits! Maybe a photo? Or a mirror behind the mannequin?)

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Filed under 1920s, Capes, Exhibitions & Museums, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns

Learning from Browsing at CoPA

One of 64,000 pattern images you can find online at the Commercial Pattern Archive.

I know I recommend the online Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island too often, but it just keeps revealing new reasons to visit. (Online Inventory last time I checked: 64,681 sewing patterns; mostly 1840s through 1970s.)
I can’t link to CoPA images anymore, because users now need to create a login, but you just create a user ID name and a password, and log in to use a totally free website! I never get email from them.

Two Butterick patterns from February, 1922. Delineator.

I’ve been sorting through my Delineator photos from 1922, and happened to log in to CoPA to check construction details — not really expecting to find much. However, I found a surprisingly large number of Butterick patterns from 1922 archived — and that means images of both back and front of the pattern envelope. You can see the shape of the pattern pieces!

“Armistice” blouse 1922 pattern The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) has put over 60,000 vintage patterns online.

If you are trying to replicate a vintage pattern, whether you use drafting or draping, seeing the shape of the original pieces is very helpful.  And if, like me, you have no intention of re-creating the pattern, (that used to be part of my job) you can still learn a lot about vintage clothing construction.

NOTE: The images from CoPA that I show here do not reflect the quality of CoPA images online.  Because I couldn’t download them directly, I printed them, scanned them, and put them into a “500 dpi on the longest side” format. Unfortunately, I scanned the prints at the “black & white” resolution instead of at the “photograph” resolution. Image quality was lost on my scanner, not CoPA’s.

This bad image is not what Butterick 4025 looks like at the CoPA site. (https://copa.apps.uri.edu/index.php)

Elastic in 1920’s garments

There was a time when I was suspicious of any so-called vintage 1920s’ garments that depended on elastic. That was just my ignorance, based on “book learning” and classroom generalizations. Once I started really paying attention to vintage pattern magazines and pattern envelopes, my mind opened a bit!

All of these 1922 patterns include casing for elastic at the (usually lowered) waist.

Tunic Blouse 3462

Butterick tunic blouse 3462 from Delineator, January 1922.

If you sew, you know that there is a lot of information on the pattern envelope that you won’t find in the pattern’s catalog description.

CoPA shows images from the front and back of the pattern envelope whenever possible. The version at top right shows the tunic with “cascades” at the sides.

Pattern 3462 included a variation with “cascade” panels on each side, and the information that the waist could have elastic.

I’m surprised that there is no elastic casing pattern included, but it was mentioned in Delineator magazine’s pattern description (January 1922, p. 26.)

Dress 3460

Butterick 3460, Delineator, January 1922, keeps its shape with elastic at the slightly dropped waist. (Left, a Spanish comb in her hair.)

The front of the pattern envelope, from the Commercial Pattern Archive.

“Ladies’ and Misses’ One-Piece Dress, “Closed at the Back, with or without Elastic in Casing at Low Waistline or Blouse Body Lining.”

The pattern pieces for Butterick 3460, from CoPA.

This detail shows an inside belt and length of elastic. It also reminds us that the 1920s’ blouson effect was sometimes achieved with an optional inner bodice lining. (With bust dart!)

Pattern description from Delineator, January 1922.

This simple dress was also illustrated with a matching cape:

Butterick dress 3460 with matching cape, Butterick 3589. Delineator, March 1922.

Coat 3594:  This coat, which I find bulky but oddly appealing, could be controlled with elastic at the waist:

Butterick coat 3594 is gigantic, but beautifully trimmed…. Delineator, March 1922.

Butterick coat 3594 in Delineator magazine illustrations.

The front of the pattern envelope. In the online CoPA archive, the image is much clearer (and they have several copies of this pattern!)

Pattern pieces from the envelope. CoPA will tell you how to print a larger image (See CoPA Help)

Rubber elastic tends to degrade faster than the other components of the garment, so the elastic itself may not be present in a vintage dress (or underwear.) But these patterns confirm its use.

I was surprised to see this “Armistice” blouse [Not what they were originally called] issued in 1922. It can have elastic in a casing at the waist:

The “Armistice blouse” was still available as a pattern in the 1920s. The center panel is the “vestee.”

Pattern pieces for Butterick 3672 from CoPA.

Searching CoPA for a specific pattern: “Search by Pattern Number”

After you create a log-in at CoPA, you can search for any pattern by number (e.g., type in “3672” and select “Butterick” from the pattern company pull-down list. Chose “Any” collection. Results will show you images and links to further information — including the date for every pattern they have!   Say you own Vogue 1556, by Yves St. Laurent? CoPA’s archive number will tell you it was issued in 1966. (If you have an approximate date, you can also date patterns which are not in the archive by finding where they would be in the company’s number sequence and checking their resemblance to other styles and envelopes from the same year….)

Browsing through a year or group of years: use “Complete Search”

Or you can click on “Complete Search” and search by year (or a period of several years, e.g. 1920 through 1926 — just hold down the shift key while selecting.) You can limit your search in many ways (e.g., “male” + “adult;” or  “1945” + “hat” +”McCall;” or “1877 + “Any”….)

One of hundreds of McCall patterns from the 1920s you can find at the Commercial Pattern Archive. McCall 5315 from 1928.

Trying CoPA: If you love a specific decade, start with one year (e.g., “1928” + “McCall”  + Collection: “Any”) By the mid-1920s, McCall pattern envelopes had beautiful, full color illustrations. New to CoPA? Start with McCall in the 1920s, or try McCall in 1958! Less well-known pattern companies are also well-represented. Scroll though the “Pattern Company” pull-down for Hollywood, Advance, La Moda, Pictorial Review, DuBarry, & dozens more.

TIP: Be sure you set the final category (Collection) to “Any” if you want to search the complete archive. Otherwise, you’ll miss some good stuff! Also, search more than one way. “Medical uniform” (Category: Garment) got 20 results; “Nurse uniform” (Category: Keyword) got 38. It’s not a complaint; just what happens when many people try to describe things for a spreadsheet.

Next: Pattern pieces for side drapes (“cascades”.)

The dress at right has a cascade at each side.

 

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Evening Gowns Held up with Straps, 1920

Butterick pattern 2690, evening gown with camisole top, Delineator, December 1920. This pattern was featured two months in a row.

Evening gowns for misses aged 14 to 19; Butterick patterns from February 1920. Delineator.

The 1920 name for these gowns, bare-shouldered and supported only by straps, was “camisole top.”

Paris fashion by Georgette, illustrated for Delineator in February 1920.

Actresses and couturiers introduced these very bare evening looks before 1920, but I am surprised by how many 1920 examples I found when I started looking — and in just one source, Butterick’s Delineator magazine. [I did find a Standard pattern from 1919 with a straight top, simple straps, and optional sheer, cape-like sleeves at the Commercial Pattern Archive: Standard 391, archive No. 1919.65 BWS]

There aren’t even visible straps holding this bodice up, just the beaded hem of the sheer drape:

Butterick evening waist pattern 2083, Delineator, January 1920.

Digression: Serendipity — here is a surprising discovery I made while reading the text of a 1924 corset ad:

Unfortunately, this corset ad mentioned a strapless brassiere but did not illustrate it. Bien Jolie ad, Delineator, September 1924.

The earliest strapless brassiere I found in the Sears catalog was Fall, 1939.

Only slim strands of beads are supporting this gown from 1920.  Delineator, March 1920, p. 128.

The text for this photo concerned the “coils over the ears hairstyle,” and didn’t even mention that very revealing dress. Nor did this photo of a messy “houpette” hairdo have much to say about the beaded straps of this young woman’s gown:

This photo caption did mention “braces over the shoulders,” but was really focused on the “houpette” hairstyle.

“We only meant to show her ‘houpette’ coiffure, but from the braces over her shoulders to the ribbons on her feet she is so utterly engaging that we could find no place to draw the line.”Delineator, March 1920.

While I recover from that admiring description, perhaps I should mention that the 1920s’ “camisole” was sometimes an undergarment for the top of the body, but also referred to the simple bodice that many 1920s’ skirts hung from.

Later 1920s’ skirts didn’t necessarily hang from the waist; a simple bodice (“camisole”) could be basted to skirts so they hung from the shoulder.  Butterick skirt patterns 6601 and 6588, 1926; Warren’s camisole skirt foundation ad, 1924.

One thing “camisole” seems to mean is “a bodice/undergarment suspended from [narrow] straps.” (In 1920, the word “chemise” might also describe an undergarment with narrow straps.)

The narrow straps of these French couture gowns are really minimal: just a strand or two of beads:

Don’t be distracted by her necklace; her dress is ends just above the bust and is suspended from strands of beads. By Drecoll, sketched for Delineator, May 1920.

Evening gown by Beer. Sketched for Delineator, October 1920.

Butterick patterns followed suit:

Butterick 2690, illustrated in November of 1920.

This camisole topped dress came in sizes 32 to 46 bust, and the skirt, embroidered with a spiderweb pattern, seems “vamp”-ish to me.

Butterick embroidery design 10741 is a pattern of spiderwebs.

[Lanvin showed a lacy spiderweb design like this in 1922 (French Vogue, January 1.) ]

The same 1920 issue of Delineator showed a more modest alternate version: sleeveless, with V-neck.

Butterick evening dress 2690, in a more covered-up version; illustrated in Delineator, November 1920.

Yes, this is the same dress as the black, very bare version at the top of this post; that illustration was from December 1920.

Butterick 2690 with the camisole top and the “pleated panels” skirt. December 1920. It seems to be black, but might be any dark color.

Delineator showed women how to make “Paris” trims for evening dresses:

“Making Paris Trims” article from Delineator, March 1920, p. 147. [Several of the dresses for misses have this high waist and a strap top.]

These very bare dresses for misses have beaded straps:

Butterick 2067 for young women aged 14 to 19, February 1920.

Butterick dress 2702-B is a camisole top dress. For misses 16 to 20.  Delineator, November 1920, p. 127.

Butterick 2702-B next to a V-necked dress more usual in the evening wear of the mid-1920s. Actually, they’re the same pattern…!

The “conservative” dress pattern (2702-A) also included a camisole top version (B); what’s more, No. 2702 is the “size 16 to 20 years” version of Butterick 2690! Butterick was really committed to these styles.

Butterick 2702 is a teens’ 16 to 20 version of 2690, illustrated in two camisole versions and a pale blue  sleeveless one earlier in this post! 2702-A is like the sleeveless version of 2690, but with an optional sheer sleeve.

Straps didn’t have to be beaded:

Butterick 2181; February 1920. Two different straps.

Party looks for “debs and sub-debs,” Delineator, Feb. 1920.

The contrast between the covered-up and very bare dress is striking, and reminds me that young men returning from war were more accustomed to the #2151 kind of party dress (above left) than the “nothing under this dress but me!” #2181 (center.)

Two dresses with strap tops, and a slightly more conservative one, right. #2130 is actually pretty revealing, too, since it has a very sheer layer over a camisole top.

The sheer-over-camisole-top versions were probably chosen by girls (or their mothers) who were not ready to show off so much bare skin. All these alternate views include a sheer sleeve.

Paris designer Elise Poret showed a sheer layer over her bare, camisole-strapped bodice in February 1920.

Party dresses for 14 to 19 year-old women. Butterick 2107 and 2238, March 1920.

The dress at left has a gathered sheer layer over a camisole top. Most 1920 evening dresses were not bare, camisole topped fashions. This pattern is another from February 1920.

Butterick evening waist pattern 2172 with skirt 2166. February 1920. The horizontal line of the camisole layer is partially covered by the V-shaped top layer.

This dress, Butterick 2682, does not have the dropped waist of the later nineteen-twenties, but the V-neck and sleeveless bodice are very typical of those years.

However, the popularity of camisole-topped dresses —  bare, revealing dresses — is shown by their appearance in these ads:

Ad for Woodbury soap, for “the skin you love to touch.” Delineator, March 1920.

From an ad for Cuticura soap, November 1920.

From an ad for Cutex nail polish. September, 1920. Two different straps.

From an ad for DeMiracle hair remover, “every woman’s depilatory.” Delineator, January 1920.

Detail, cover of Delineator Magazine, October 1920.

The initial shock of dancing with young women in scanty, revealing clothing didn’t happen in the “Roaring Twenties.” It began with the “lost generation” right after World War I. ” …Members of The Lost Generation had survived World War I but had lost their brothers, their youth, and their idealism.”  They didn’t “discover” sex, but they certainly discussed it more frankly than their grandparents had.

 

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“Turn Your Housework into Exercise;” Advice from 1926

Vary the way you pick things up from the floor.

No time to go to the gym? That was a problem in the 1920s, too. In 1926, Dr. Lillian E. Shaw had these suggestions for “the housewife and mother whose innumerable duties keep her occupied from morning till night.”

“Her back may be kept straight and flexible, abdominal muscles firm and hips slender by using every day in her work the same kinds of exercises the instructor plans for her classes in the gymnasium.”

Even making the bed is an opportunity to stretch and strengthen muscles. Article in Delineator, March 1926.

Balance exercise: putting on stockings.

[I think I’d put my back against a wall before trying this for the first time….]

Flexing your torso while brushing your hair.

Dust with both hands.  Work from the shoulder.

Making the bed or dusting is an opportunity for deep knee bends.

Making the bed can be an opportunity to stretch side and back muscles.

Use different muscle groups to pick things up from the floor.

One way of picking up a piece of thread.

A different way to pick up a piece of thread.

Don’t think of it as vacuuming; think of it as strengthening exercise!

I’m really sorry I missed the opportunity to photograph page 66! I think these illustrations are charming, ( Look!– realistic drawings of the human figure — in a fashion magazine!) and the idea of doing repetitive tasks using different muscle groups makes sense to me. ( I wish I had been doing squats more often, while my knees still worked pretty well….) When your loved ones leave toys and socks on the living room floor, think of those objects as opportunities to use the four “pick up” positions!

What the attractive young housewife wore in 1926.

From the fashion viewpoint: notice that the typical 1926 housewife in the exercise article is wearing stockings and a dress to do housework, but her shoes are very low-heeled, and her belt is at her waist, not her hips….

A woman proudly shows her new Congoleum kitchen flooring to a visitor. Delineator, 1925.

Advertisements are always a useful reality check when you’re doing fashion research. The advertising agency (and Congoleum executives with ad approval) thought their audience could identify with this look, even if the fashions were definitely out of date by 1925.

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More “WTFashion?” Ads from Delineator: Bust Confiners (1900s) to Brassieres (1920s)

Ad for Gossard Bust Confiners, Delineator, March 1910, p. 250.

As discussed in the wonderful book Uplift, for centuries the breasts were supported from below, by a corset which pushed them up.

In the mid-twenties the uplift brassiere was invented, which supported the breasts from the shoulder (with the combination of bra straps and an elastic band below the breasts.)

No drooping breasts (see the “BEFORE” dotted line) when you wear the A.P. Uplift bra.**** Ad from Delineator, April 1930.

But until the modern brassiere was invented,** women’s breasts were often subject to exaggeration (pushed up and padded in the early 1900s) or suppression — “confined” and flattened. All aboard for the history herstory tour…. *****

Women’s corsets for regular figures, 1907 and 1926. Both from Delineator magazines.

In 1907, the “big bust, big hips” S-curve figure was supported by a corset which covered only the bottom of the breasts.

The Nemo Self-Reducing Corset for stout women, Delineator, November 1907.

This was a problem for large- (even slightly large-) busted women. If the corset hits just a little too low, your breasts droop over the top, or slip out of the corset when you raise your arms. So, like wild beasts or prisoners, breasts needed to be “confined.” Something stronger than the chemise or camisole (worn under the corset) was needed

This Corslette provided boned support to large breasts. Ad, Delineator, November 1907,  p. 856. Corslette made by Arthur Frankenstein & Co. [no, seriously.]

“It holds the bust high or low ….”

Text of the Corselette ad, 1907.  It could be worn without the corset for outdoor sports.

“A boon for the stout. Reduces Bust Measure 3 to 4 inches [OMG– Is this the first Minimizer bra ad?] ….Holds the bust high or low and prevents the flesh overriding the corset…. Double Boned Special deep back for Stout and Long Waisted.”

Front view of boned Corslette bust supporter, 1907. The shadow shows where her corset stops.

Elastic back of Corslette Back and Bust Supporter. 1907.

By 1910, a straight, slim silhouette was coming into fashion, and the top of the corset was getting too low to support the breasts.

Lower corsets appeared in this National Cloak Co. ad. February 1910.

Bust confiners to the rescue!

Gossard Bust Confiner ad, Delineator, March 1910.

Detail, Gosssard Bust Confiners, 1910.

Text of Gossard Bust Confiner Ad, 1910.

“The most striking change in the new corsets this season is the lower bust, which to many women will be a grateful improvement. With the low corset, a bust confiner is indispensable to give graceful contour and the desired straight, slender figure….”

Gossard “bust confiner” Style 54 was made to be sewn over the top of the corset, as shown here.

This Gossard Bust Confiner fastens in the front, like a corset cover, with hooks and eyes.

Unlike a corset cover,*** it was heavily boned.

In 1912, the spelling of the new “brassiere” was flexible. Ad for the Siegel-Cooper catalog. Delineator, September 1912.

“Brassiere” is not what a bust-supporting garment was called in France, but American advertisers chose that word to describe this new garment.

Ad for De Bevoise brassieres, “far superior to any corset cover.” June 1910.

The hook at the center front waist of the brassiere attached it to the corset.

In 1912, Paul Poiret was very influential, introducing a long, straight silhouette with a very high waistline and a raised bust. In 1815, women wore a bust-supporting corset under Empire fashions. This photo of a model wearing a high-waisted fashion by Paul Poiret gives an idea of the problem of a corset without bust support. (Her dress and chemise are doing whatever supporting there is.)

One of Poiret’s models, photographed in 1912. Delineator, June 1912. Her breasts seem to be hanging over the top of her corset.

In his book, En Habillant l’Epoque, Poiret told a story about one of his models (not necessarily this one) that has stuck with me for years:

“Am I the only one to know that this bird of paradise concealed the vilest of bodies, … that her breasts, empty and unspeakably awful, had to be rolled up like pancakes in order that they might be packed into her majestic bodice?” — Quoted and translated by Quentin Bell in his book, On Human Finery.  [I imagine that Poiret originally said they were rolled like “crepes.”]

OK, the brassiere needed to be invented! But…. The brassieres of 1914 through the early 1920s treated breasts as something which needed to be confined, suppressed, and compressed…. (I wish I could come up with a joke about the monobosom and “solitary confinement.”)

DeBevoise Brassiere ad, May 1914. Delineator.

The silhouette … for 1914 … is the straight figure, with small hips, large waist, and no bust,” wrote Eleanor Chalmers. Delineator, April 1914, p. 38. (Surprise: this fashion didn’t start in the 1920s.)

1917 fashion illustrations often show a very low bust (a fashion which would be appreciated by some women.)

By 1917, the low bust was an option for chic women.

The natural, uncorseted look meant that breasts could be worn low, although “stout” women were always advised to wear a brassiere.

Famous dancer and fashion icon Irene Castle, an early adopter of bobbed hair, is obviously choosing to go without a brassiere.

Irene Castle’s breasts are not “confined” in this photo from 1917.

Nevertheless, some young women with naturally high busts would choose to wear a breast-flattening brassiere.

Butterick pattern illustrations, September 1917.

It’s hard to believe that young models could achieve a bust this low and flat without a flattening brassiere.

Couture evening dress by Doeuillet, sketched for Delineator, September 1917. Young face; low, flat bust.

That is not a “natural” figure silhouette for a woman.

By 1917,  advice was that “With a low corset even a slender woman requires a brassiere or bust confiner.”

Delineator article, Sept. 1917.

This DeBevoise low backed brassiere (like the one in the Delineator illustration above) was recommended under thin evening dresses [probably to prevent nipples from showing.] June 1914, Delineator.

Model brassiere ad, Aug. 1917. From Ladies’ Home Journal.

This “Model” brassiere gives a more natural silhouette (although it implies one wide, single breast rather than a pair.) It has seams over the bust points, so it would flatten the bust somewhat.

A [monobosom] brassiere was recommended for all stout women. It supports the breasts by smashing them and pushing flesh toward the sides. Delineator, February 1917.

Sketch of a couture dress by Paquin, Delineator, December 1917. This model’s bust is oddly low, even though her arms are raised.

1920: This DeBevoise brassiere produces a low curve with no separation between the breasts.

As early as 1920, bust-flattening brassieres and bandeaux, designed for that purpose, were being sold. I was excited to find an ad for the “Flatter-U” brassiere, which I had read about but never seen:

Ad for the Kabo “Flatter-U” brassiere and bust flattener. Delineator, November 1920.

“Especially designed to flatten any unlovely bulge at the diaphragm, bust or shoulders. It really does flatter you, and it makes a flatter you.”

The Flatter-U brassiere, 1920.

This “snugly fitting” bust confiner from 1920 came with a lacy camisole. Kabo Corset Co. ad from Delineator, November 1920.

In the same ad:

Kabo brassiere, ad from November 1920. Delineator.

Ad for Warner’s Brassieres and Bandeaux, November 1920, Delineator. For more about bandeaux, click here.

“…From the slim girlish thirty-two to the full figure of mature lines. It retains the flesh in trim, youthful smoothness….”

[“Youthful smoothness?” How “youthful,” exactly? Age ten?] It’s 1920 — not yet what we think of as “the Twenties,” but the “boyish” figure is already starting. (“Boyshform” was another punning brand name like “Flatter-U.”)

The change didn’t happen overnight. These ads are also from 1920:

Ad for Treo Paraknit Elastic Brassiere. Delineator, February 1920. It’s something like a modern sports bra….

“Model” brassiere ad, Delineator, April 1920. It shows a natural curve but promises “slenderized girlish lines.”

Not all 1922 fashion illustrations show this bust shape, but they were the shape of the future in 1922. Delineator, March 1922.

Long brassiere, from an article in Delineator, February 1924.

Left, a bust-flattening “corselette;” right, a long, flattening bandeau worn with a girdle. Detail from ad for DeBevoise corset company, April 1925.

Buttterick brassiere patterns, Delineator, July 1926. For 36 to 52 inch bust.

Girdle, corselette, and brassiere/bandeau with girdle, Delineator, February 1926.

** Not long after the uplift brassiere became popular in the 1930s,  bust padding was reintroduced. (Corset, 1932.) You could buy “Indestructible Breast Forms” in 1939. In 1947, the “push-up” bra was invented by Frederick Mellinger, who started Frederick’s of Hollywood — which is still selling padding to those who think they need it.

*** A corset cover, 1914:

Corset cover, 1914. It is smooth and princess seamed, but it buttons down the front over the corset, so it would have to be very tight to prevent the breasts from popping out over the corset top.

**** By 1926, patents were applied for by at least three “uplift” companies: Model, A.P. (G.M. Poix & Co.) and Maiden Form. (source, Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau.}

***** This post generalizes based on images from Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal — just two sources. [Not good scholarship!] For a scholarly history of brassieres in this period (including patented devices) I recommend the well-researched book Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau.

NOTE: Most of these images are ones I discovered recently, but some appeared in previous posts. I shared many 1920s’ undergarments in “Brassieres, Bandeaux and Bust Flatteners” (click here), “Underpinning Twenties Fashion: Girdles and Corsets” (click here), “Garters, Flappers & Rolled Stockings” (click here.) And “Corsets and Corselets.” For what happened after the Twenties, see “Changing the Foundations of Fashion, 1929 to 1934.”

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Clothes for Active Sports, July 1926

Summer sports clothes for men and women, Delineator, July 1926.

Alternate views of Butterick patterns for golfers, July 1926. Knickers 4147 and 3496. The girl in a pleated skirt has a boyish shingle haircut.

Golf, tennis, swimming, riding, hiking, camping: there were Butterick patterns for most summer sports. A two-page layout in Delineator from July, 1926, gives an idea of what to wear and how to accessorize it.

Don’t forget some lively socks!

A necktie is also appropriate:

Women golfers wear neckties with their golf clothing. July 1926.

The presence of blazers on all ages is probably a British influence (Butterick sold patterns in England and other countries, not just the U.S.) or an exclusive “private school” signal.

Tennis: Blazer 4458 for a boy, with knickers 5950; blazer 5246 for a girl, over dress 6851, worn with stockings rolled. July 1926.

Man’s blazer 6033

Blouse 6876 and knickers 3496, for golf or hiking. And a necktie….

A gym suit (Butterick 4152) or a matching middy blouse and knickers (Butterick 4552) were appropriate for camping and hiking. Illustration from 1926, but pattern 4152 first appeared in 1922-23.**

I wrote more about the knicker outfit, with many photos of my aunt wearing similar clothing in the 1920s.

Young woman with her future husband and her mother, 1919

My aunt with her future husband and her mother, 1919.

Riding habit (Butterick 4004,) necktie [what, no monocle?] and a spectator sport dress (Butterick 6918.)

Bathing suits 5204, 6809, and 6822. Butterick patterns illustrated in Delineator for July 1926.

Bathing suit 5204 has a higher waistline; the belt covers the seam where the “tights” are attached — and, although the other bathing suits were brand new in 1926, No. 5204 first appeared in 1924.**

** The range of pattern numbers on these two pages (Delineator, July 1926, pp. 34 & 35) show that many of these patterns were “standards” that had been in the catalog for several years. Numbers lower than 4988 pre-date 1924, and bathing suit 5204 first appeared in 1924. The riding habit dates to 1922. (Source: Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island. These specific patterns aren’t in their collection, but the number sequence is very clear. )

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Boys' Clothing, Children's Vintage styles, Coats, Dating Vintage Patterns, Hosiery, Hosiery, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Accessories, Women in Trousers