Tag Archives: twenties fashions

Dresses for Large or Slim Figures, June 1928

A page of Butterick patterns for “Large Sizes,” Delineator, June 1928, p. 38. They were available in the normal range of sizes, plus larger sizes than usual.

On two facing pages were Butterick patterns for “Large Sizes” and “Slim Figures.” The normal range of sizes usually ended with size 44 bust, 47.5″ hip. Many of the “slim figure” patterns were available in larger-than-normal sizes, too.

Butterick patterns for Slim Figures, Delineator, June 1928; page 39. “Smart frocks that wash, designed for slim figures.”

Large figures were sometimes expected to be older figures; notice the hems. Larger, older women had skirts which covered the knee completely (below, left), while younger, smaller women’s dresses grazed and sometimes exposed the bottom of the kneecap (right). [All these dresses will be shown below in larger images.]

Hem lengths for “large” and “slim” figures, Delineator, June 1928. The striped dresses (1 and 4) are fairly similar.

Dresses for larger figures apply some styling tricks to make the body seem longer and narrower, but the hip band is never a friend to wide hips. The illustrations at left have wider-than-usual shoulders and upper bodies, too. Slenderizing vertical lines are introduced into the fashions for “slim figures,” also.

A Closer Look at Frocks for Large Sizes (Page 38)

Butterick 1970 for large figures has a “slenderizing” vertical contrast panel and a decorative button placket down the front. June, 1928. For sizes 34 to 52 inch bust. Those cuffs attract attention to the width of the body at the waist and hip.  Either the short or long sleeve option would be more flattering to a large woman. [I’m not saying “thin is good,” just pointing out that the sleeves illustrated will exaggerate the width of the wearer.]

Vertical stripes (and playful side panels with the stripes turned horizontally) on this washable day dress recommended for large figures. Butterick 2092, from June 1928. “For sizes 32 to 35 [inch bust] (15 to 18 years) and 36 to 50 [inch bust.]

Butterick 2100 has an asymmetrical collar that becomes a scarf. [I’m not sure that white scallop insert at the hip is a flattering idea for large women… or any women.]

The front of dress 2100 is complex, but the one-piece back is very plain. This dress came in sizes for teens and small women (bust 32 to 35″) plus normal sizes up to 46″ bust — only one size larger than the standard pattern run of 32 to 44″.

Butterick 2102 is a formal afternoon dress for “larger women,” but it comes in sizes 32 to 46. Delineator, June 1928.

“There is dignity as well as chic in this one-piece dress with its smart caught-up drapery released in a front flare and its cape back dividing at the shoulders in a scarf…. The hemline is smartly uneven.” There’s a real effort to introduce vertical lines in the long, scarf-tied collar and the front drape. Notice the lorgnette in her hand– nothing youthful about that!

Butterick 2080 is suggested for “large women; it came in sizes 32 to 46” bust.

Butterick 2105 has chic, pointed inserted panels and an uneven hem. Why does it look so top-heavy? For large sizes up to 52 inch bust.

Butterick 1948 from June 1928. Like many twenties’ dresses, the front has pleats, but the back is plain. Notice the bust darts partially hidden by the collar. In sizes 34 to 52.

There is nothing old-fashioned about the very short haircuts on these illustrations of mature women.

Frocks Designed for Slim Figures

Question: Are these frocks especially suited to slim figures, or are they supposed to make any figure look slim?

Butterick 1952 “for slim figures.” Delineator, June 1928, page 39. “For smart country communities….” In sizes 32 to 35 bust (15 to 18 years) and women’s sizes 36 to 44 — Butterick’s normal range.

Butterick 2050: A washable dress for sizes 32 to 46. “For tennis or mornings is a one-piece frock whose kimono sleeves are smartly abbreviated. A side cluster of pleats, inserted in a slanting line, offers freedom for sports activity.” The back is plain.

Butterick sport frock 2062 has short kimono sleeves and a skirt that is gathered in front. Delineator, June 1928, p. 39. Available in sizes 32 to 35 (for teens and small women) and 36 to 48 inch bust. [Sizes 46 and 48 were larger than the usual pattern.]

Butterick 2084; Delineator, June 1928. “It has the Vionnet V-neckline and the side plaits permit ample freedom of movement. The belt is a new width….” For sizes 32 to 44.

Butterick did not necessarily consider this a dress for larger women. The sleeveless armholes are modern compared to the kimono armholes in Nos. 2050 and 2052 — and they do provide more freedom of movement.

Butterick 1904 “for any age and almost any figure” has the same scalloped hip yoke as No. 2100, (above) which was recommended for larger sizes.

This style (1904) with a narrow edging at the bodice bottom is more flattering, and was also available in large sizes: 32 to 35 and 36 to 48 inch bust — a size larger than No. 2100.

A similar scalloped hip treatment on Butterick 2100 and 1904. The thickness of the contrast band makes quite a difference. From June 1928.

Butterick 2090 came in the normal size range, 32 to 44 inch bust. The collar that turns into a scarf is “new and chic” and also seen on Butterick 2100.

Butterick 2104 evokes a schoolgirl’s middy uniform, but this is a one-piece dress, not a skirt and separate top. The pleats are top-stitched horizontally in rows, echoing the belt, cuffs, and sailor collar and tie. There are four bust tucks at each side of the collar, because the flattened bust was no longer in style.

 

 

 

 

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Butterick Dresses for Summer, June 1928

Three “afternoon frocks” from Butterick patterns; Delineator, June 1928, p. 34. From left, 2066, 2070, and 2072.

Sometimes the difference between an afternoon dress and an evening dress was that afternoon dresses had sleeves. In the pattern descriptions below, if sleeves are mentioned as an option, that probably means that a sleeveless evening version, with deeper armholes (and sometimes, deeper necklines) was included in the pattern.

Butterick 2066, from Delineator, June 1928.

Alternate view and description, Butterick 2066. There is a short-sleeved version, but not an evening option.

Butterick 2072, with long sleeves for afternoon — and a very different back/alternate view.

Alternate view and description for Butterick 2072, page 34. The version with a short pleated skirt is only described as “an even [i.e., not uneven] lower edge.” Illustrations by the versatile L. Ferrier.

In this illustration of the same pattern, Butterick 2072 — made without sleeves for evening — has a pointed hemline and a scarf/shawl.

Butterick 2072, like 2070, has a collar/shawl that appears to tie at the neckline. Delineator, June 1928, page 34.

A different description of of Butterick 2072, from page 35 of Delineator, June 1928. This one mentions a “finely pleated” skirt option, but doesn’t illustrate it.

Butterick 2070 is illustrated with a bertha collar that reaches to the waist in back. The edges of the dress and flounces are picot hemmed.

Detail of illustration, Butterick 2070.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/murray-suit-bodice-front1.jpg?w=450&h=500

The ochre yellow collar (top) on this dress is picot edged. The grayish, beaded chiffon is decorated with beads spaced less than 1/4 inch apart. Sew Historically wrote about how picot hems were done in the 1920’s and also provides a tutorial on faking them with a modern sewing machine.

Alternate view and description of Butterick 2070, Delineator, June 1928, pg. 34.

A similar flounced, tiered dress, Butterick 2085, appeared in the same issue. It had both day and evening versions:

Butterick 2085, evening version; Delineator, June 1928, pg. 35.

“For day the round neck is particularly nice…  and there are long close sleeves with frills.”

Butterick 2085, afternoon dress version. Delineator, June 1928, pg. 36. It has sleeves and a higher neckline than the evening version. The flounces are picot edged.

Butterick 2085 as described on page 36. “Tiers used across the back as well as front are very new and smart.” Many 1920’s dresses had very plain backs, with all the interest (and pleats or flares in the skirt) on the front only.

Butterick two-piece dress 2088 has a scalloped “lingerie” collar, a surplice closing, and a skirt [probably suspended from a camisole bodice] that is pleated only in front. Delineator, June 1928, pg. 37. Notice the stitched-down pleats with rows of stitching running horizontally instead of down the pleats.

All the fullness on the pleated skirt of Butterick 2088 is on the front of the dress. This pattern was available up to size 48 bust measurement, with a hip around 52.”

Surplice styles were often recommended as slenderizing for older women:

Butterick pattern No. 1187 from Dec. 1926 had "reducing properties" and came in sizes 36 to 48.

Butterick pattern No. 1187 from Dec. 1926, with a surplice bodice, had “reducing properties” and came in sizes 36 to 48.

This dress, with bertha collar and fitted bodice, was for younger or smaller women.

Another dress with a “bertha” collar: Butterick 2077 from June 1928. It also has a dipped hem in back, like No. 2072.

Alternate view and description of Butterick 2077. “Frocks with the down in back movement have become a very important type for formal wear.” The bodice [basque] closes under the left arm. Dresses with a basque bodice fit rather tightly at the natural waist — and this pattern is not available in large sizes.

More dresses for June coming up:  Dresses for girls 8 to 14.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Ollie

Can a dress change a life? Probably not, unless you’re Cinderella. But a dress can mark a turning point in your life…. I inherited many photos of a young woman named Ollie Cornelius. Often, there is an air of sadness about her.

Studio portrait of Ollie Cornelius, taken in Colusa, CA.

I’ve been trying to find out more about her from an ancestry site, with limited success. Ollie Cornelius and my mother became friends as young teenagers, and they were still writing to each other in 1950.

Ollie, left, and my mother, right (with ukelele) in a school playground, Redwood City, CA, circa 1918.

Ollie posing in a schoolyard. She is wearing a corduroy jacket over her school uniform. Circa 1918.

Young Ollie on a bench in Redwood City, CA. Although posing for a friend, she doesn’t look happy.

Ollie looks sad in the next photo because, having made friends in a new city — Redwood City, California — she was uprooted when her family moved again, to Colusa, 148 miles away.

Ollie in Colusa, CA, about 1919.

On the back she wrote, “When I had this picture taken I was thinking of Redwood City [That’s] why I look so sad.”

Today friends exchange photos instantly; then, people also kept in touch by mailing photographs back and forth. Luckily for us, these pictures often have writing on the back.

Ollie posing on a bridge, about 1919. This is not a period for flattering fashions…. but she knew how to wear an enormous black tam-o-shanter.

In her later teens, Ollie’s sadness had a more serious cause: she was diagnosed with tuberculosis — the “consumption” that killed so many in Victorian times.

On the back of the bridge photo, Ollie wrote, “This was taken before I was sick.”

Ollie is wearing the same dress in this photo taken at Weimar TB Sanatorium.

Ollie on the steps of her ward at Weimar Joint Sanatorium.

In 1919 there were no antibiotics; the usual treatment for TB was a move to a place with “better air” and complete rest for several months. Obviously, for working class people, quitting work and spending months in a private sanatorium was not an affordable option. Often, they continued working, incidentally spreading infection, until they literally dropped in their tracks.

Another tam-o-shanter. Ollie did not come from a wealthy family.

For a young office clerk like Ollie, TB could be a death sentence. Among men receiving treatment, the mortality rate was 50%.

Ollie and Claude (another TB victim) on the steps at Weimar Sanatorium.

Given America’s current attitude toward healthcare, it’s disconcerting to read that one hundred years ago, public health officials realized that an epidemic of this frequently fatal, contagious disease could only be prevented by treating the poor as well as the wealthy.

The Weimar Joint Sanatorium was created by the State of California and subsidized to give working class people the same chance of recovery as people who could afford private care.

Ollie at Weimar Sanatorium. The back of this photo says, “Where I used to live.” Dated 1919.

Fresh air was considered necessary for TB patients; Ollie is standing by a screened-in sleeping porch — unheated.

Three patients at Weimar; Ollie is on the right. The photo was dated 1919 by my aunt, who received it in the mail.

Ollie made friends with other women in her ward; in spite of their grim situation, they were still young and tried to cheer each other up.

Fellow patient Mrs. Alice Smith with Ollie Cornelius, about 1919.

On early photos, Ollie respectfully called her “Mrs. Smith.” “She was just married above a month,” [when she was diagnosed with TB] Ollie wrote. Apparently, Mr. Smith came to visit, still in his First World War military uniform.

Ollie with Mrs. Smith, who is clowning in her husband’s tunic and hat. “It is her husband’s uniform; her name is Mrs. Alice Smith.” I wonder if he took the photo.

Nevertheless….

Ollie and other young women at Weimar Sanatorium knew they might be facing death.

“…Patients frequently became depressed due to the severity of their infection and the hopelessness of a cure or because of separation from their families. In many cases it was difficult for families to visit either due to the cost of travel or because of the fear of becoming infected themselves. Seeing other patients die was another cause of despair.” — read more.

But a change came for Ollie. Was she really feeling well again? Had her doctors given her hope that she might be able to go home? These pictures of Ollie in a pretty new dress seem to mark a turning point:

Ollie next to her bed on the sleeping porch at Weimar Sanatorium.

Ollie modeling her new dress. Did it come from a catalog? Was it a gift?

Ollie reading in a common dining area. She still has dark circles under her eyes, but this is a different Ollie. She’s happy.

Ollie did recover, at least for many years. Trivial as it sounds, taking an interest in fashion may signal the end of her physical illness and resulting depression.

Ollie in Colusa, CA, about 1920.

Also, her friends had not forgotten her.

Ollie in a chic, sheer-brimmed hat, with my mother. About 1920.

My mother and her friend Ollie, 1920s.

Ollie fell in love:

Ollie and Lloyd Jennings, about 1920.

She got married:

Ollie and her husband. Note her Marcelle-waved hair. 1920s.

Ollie and my mother on a vacation, late 1920s.

Thanks to low-cost care during a public health crisis, Ollie survived TB and returned to active life:

Ollie, second from front, in the snow, circa 1931.

Ollie fashionably dressed (including necktie) for the snow; this photo was printed in February 1931.

Ollie with my Uncle Holt, 1930’s.

How wonderful that she had a future!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Hats, Musings, Sportswear, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

Replacing Your Sleeves to Update Your Dress (and Sometimes Widen Your Shoulders)

This post started with sleeve patterns as its subject, but it grew into one about the widening of shoulders in the 1930’s…. If that’s your interest, just scroll down to 1930’s Sleeve Patterns.

Sleeve pattern 5113 from Delineator, Butterick, March 1924.

Butterick periodically offered sleeve patterns as a way to give your dress a new look without much expense.

Renew your old coat with new sleeves or collars; Butterick patterns from Delineator, October 1933.

Changing the sleeves on an old garment doesn’t make any sense to me, because you would rarely have enough of the original dress material left over to make a pair of long sleeves…. Nevertheless, here is an assortment of sleeve patterns from 1917 to 1933:

1910’s Sleeve Patterns

Butterick sleeve pattern 9220, June 1917; Delineator.

“Design 9220 is a splendid set which will quite transform a dress that is slightly worn.” Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the whole paragraph.

Butterick sleeve pattern 8954 from February 1917. There is a little visible gathering at the sleeve head — probably to be sure it would fit an existing armhole.

Here are some fashions from 1917 and 1918; would changing the sleeves have made much of a difference?

Summer fashions from Butterick, Delineator, February 1917.

Butterick patterns, July 1918. The sleeves are varied, including some that are wide at the cuffs, and one version (top right) is slit.

Butterick patterns from July 1918. The green blouse has sleeves that partly cover the hand, like those in the “update your sleeves” pattern 9220 from 1917.

1920’s Sleeve Patterns

Sleeves in the 1920’s were usually simple, fitted without fullness at the shoulder and close to the arm. However, some sleeves were sheer from the wrist to below the elbow, some widened, and some were split.

These dresses from 1926 have attention-getting sleeves. Delineator, July 1926.

Butterick sleeve pattern 5113, April 1924. Adding these to a dress from the early Twenties would update it — but by 1926, shortening the dress would update it more effectively!

Sleeve pattern 6544 from Butterick; Delineator, January 1926.

1930’s Sleeve Patterns: The Silhouette Begins to Change

Sleeves from the early 1930’s were often long but simple:

These dresses from February of 1931 have narrow, fitted sleeves. Delineator.

This 1931 pattern included some fluttery “capelet” sleeves, which really were a coming fashion. Delineator, April 1931. However, these sleeves start high on the natural shoulder, and don’t exaggerate its width.

A sheer evening jacket, Delineator, April 1933.

Ruffles created a wider shoulder on many evening dresses after 1932. This ad for Lux laundry soap appeared in Delineator, June 1934. (Blame the fad for ruffles on the 1932 movie Letty Lynton.)

This writer saw a connection between smaller hats and bigger sleeves:

Article from Delineator, November, 1931. This pre-dates Adrian’s designs for Letty Lynton.

However, back in 1931, this article noted that as hat styles changed, they looked better with “period clothes, clothes such as were worn with them originally. Period styles have appeared, but they are mostly evening dresses. Something else happened, however, to make the new clothes look right with the new hats… wide sleeves and puffed sleeves.”

Sleeve variations, reported by Marian Corey in Delineator, Nov. 1931. “The puffs may occur anywhere on your arm — at the shoulder, at the elbow, at the wrist….But … There are still more frocks with straight sleeves than frocks with puffed sleeves.” [A ratio of 12:1.]

We can trace a slow increase in shoulder width from the 1930’s to 1940, but from my small sample it appears that wide shoulders and gathered sleeves (except for the frilly ones on formal dresses) were a gradual style change between 1931 and 1937, starting with evening and outerwear.

Delineator reported the return of the Gibson Girl sleeve as early as April 1933, pg. 73.

Also in 1933, coats and jackets with fur accents or extensions at the shoulders were being featured, and not necessarily to accomodate fuller sleeves on dresses:

Winter coats with extended shoulders or sleeve heads. Delineator, September 1933.

Winter coats with wider sleeves, Delineator, September 1933. “Pillowcase” sleeves at bottom.

1933 coat pattern 5347 has wide shoulders and a modified, droopy leg-o-mutton sleeve.

Butterick coat pattern 5347 from Oct. 1933. If you didn’t want to make an entire coat, you could make new sleeves (right) or a new collar (left) from pattern 5351.

Butterick 5351 included sleeves and collars. Delineator, Oct. 1933.

These 1933 jackets also show the “Gibson girl” influence:

Big sleeves on short coats from Butterick, Delineator, Oct. 1933.

By 1935, even dresses appear to have wider shoulders — it would be hard to get this silhouette without using shoulder pads:

Two Butterick dress patterns from February, 1935.

A selection of Butterick dress patterns from February, 1936; Delineator. Shoulders are definitely broader, at least as illustrated.

By 1937, exaggerated shoulders with sleeves that are full at the top are standard features, as these patterns from a Butterick store flyer illustrate.

Dress patterns from Butterick News Flyer, December 1937. These sleeves are not droopy, but probably supported from the inside with a pad or ruffle.

Shoulders, 1940:

Very wide shoulders, achieved with shoulder pads rather than “Gibson girl” puffed sleeves. Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1940.

The natural shoulder of the 1920’s and early 1930’s is completely out of style.

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French Designer Gowns from May 1927

Evening designs from three famous houses, illustrated for Delineator in May, 1927.

A little guessing game: Can you guess the designers of these three evening gowns illustrated in May, 1927? Hint: Here are some names in alphabetical order; Chanel, Doeuillet, Lanvin, Patou, Vionnet.

Full length images; It’s 1927, and the skirt on the left bares the kneecaps. The dress in the center is a “bolero” fashion.

Answer:

From left, gowns by Vionnet, Lanvin, and Chanel. 1927.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the simple gown with ingenious twisted fabric is the work of Madeleine Vionnet.

“Vionnet ties white crepe satin into a Gordian knot to give the swathed hip and up in front movement of the new season.” Delineator, May 1927.

The gown by Lanvin is elaborately sequinned, and — surprise — under the sheer skirt, it has knee-length trousers!

Lanvin bolero dress, heavily spangled. Delineator, May 1927.

“Gold and silver spangles outline the bolero in a heavy rope design and trim the bodice of Lanvin’s white crepe version of the Zouave silhouette with lamé trousers.”

The Metropolitan museum collection includes a black evening coat by Lanvin, also from 1927.

A “vanilla color” lace gown by Chanel, shown in Delineator, 1927.

“The square decolletage, fulness [sic] at the hips, and the use of vanilla color lace characterize Chanel’s frock.” It’s also notable for the bow shaped pin.

Pins in the shape of bows were widely copied. A nearly identical Chanel dress with similar joined bands of lace is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. (Click to see the additional images. It has a long tunic to be worn over a slip with two more layers of lace, plus a belt.)

These three dresses could be purchased in New York: the Vionnet and Lanvin from Altman, and the Chanel from Lord & Taylor.

Another interesting fact: All three dresses were designed by women at the top of French fashion — Madeleine Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin, and Gabrielle Chanel.

Also illustrated in the same issue of Delineator were these lovely French gowns:

Fringed and beaded gown by Doueillet; Delineator, May 1927. The fringe is apparently tubes or strips of white chiffon.

A froth of a dress in black net, with pink satin bow. By Patou. Delineator, May 1927.

The Metropolitan museum has a similar (but not identical) 1927 black net dress by Patou.

For formal afternoon wear, Lanvin showed this:

An afternoon dress by Lanvin, seen in Delineator, May 1927. The curves of the embroidered design on the overskirt are echoed in the shape of the yoke. The taffeta sash is crimson.

Black and white organdy with a red sash is dramatic for an afternoon dress. Delineator explained the most popular evening color schemes from Paris:

Text from Delineator‘s fashion coverage, May 1927. Colors of the evening include “lipstick red.”

P.S. I can’t resist a shout out to Glamourdaze’s beautifully illustrated history of 1920’s fashions.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hairstyles, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Rapid Change in Twenties’ Fashions: 1924 to 1927

Dresses for women; Butterick’s Delineator magazine, March 1924, p 27.

When we speak of “the Twenties,” most of us are picturing the short skirts and dropped waists of the later 1920s:

Two Butterick pattterns for women, March 1927.

But during the immediate post-war Twenties, women’s clothing actually became longer, although less bulky and more revealing of the body under the clothes.

These dresses are from 1918, the year the war ended. One has a slightly dropped waist:

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

Dresses, skirts and blouses, Butterick patterns in Delineator magazine, July 1918, page 52.

And these — 6 years later — are from 1924:

Butterick patterns for women, Delineator magazine, March 1924, page 27.

A reaction to the trauma of the First World War created “the Lost Generation” as described by Fitzgerald (in The Great Gatsby, published in 1925) and Hemingway (in The Sun Also Rises, published in October 1926.) Both were writing in the post-war period from 1924 to 1926. Fashions from those years may not look like “the Roaring Twenties” as we often imagine them.

Left, a draped dress from March 1927 which looks very “Twenties” to a modern eye; right, a draped dress from March 1924 — just three years earlier. Both are Butterick patterns featured in Delineator.

Which changed first: the fashions, or the women?

Less formal clothing from 1927, left, and from 1924, right. Butterick patterns from Delineator. What a difference three years made!

More fashion contrasts from March 1924 and March 1927:

Butterick patterns for young women, March 1924. Delineator, page 29.

Clothes for young women and teens; Butterick patterns from March 1924. Delineator, page 29.

Clothes for young women and teens were usually a bit shorter than those for mature women, but not nearly as short as these adult styles from just three years later:

Buttterick patterns from Delineator, March 1927, page 22.

Butterick patterns for women, March 1927.

If you want more details about those eight dresses from 1927, click here.

These youthful outfits from 1924 look fussy and rather stodgy, compared to the streamlined styles of 1927.

Butterick patterns for teens and small women, March 1924. Delineator.

Three styles for teens, Butterick March 1927. [The illustration on the left is bizarrely elongated….]

For more about dresses that combined different shades of the same color, click here. For more examples of rapid change in 1920’s fashion, click here.

A coat (1318) and dress (1323) from Butterick patterns, March 1927. Delineator, page 25. They’re like shingled hairstyles: short and sleek.

 

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Filed under 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Hats, Musings, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, World War I

Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces

I know where this picture was taken, but not when, or who it is. Monaco, Excelsior Art Gallery, 183 Main Street, Stockton, Cal. “The most artistic photographic work guaranteed, at moderate prices.” Ben Batchelder owned several photo galleries in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but not necessarily the Excelsior at 183 Main…. So the picture is still undated.

Once a year (usually in December) I try to remind readers to use family get-togethers as an opportunity to bring out that box or scrapbook full of old family photos and go through them with the eldest members of the family. Try to put names to the faces. Someday, someone might thank you. (And you might hear some surprising stories….) If you’re lucky, more than one person will be able to put a name to the faces in the photos.

Photograph taken by Elliott and Harkness in Stockton, California. On the back the sitter has written, “Drunk when taken.” (I think he was kidding….)

I’d like to identify this man — he seems to have had a sense of humor. And he really was better looking than the “drunk” photograph implies:

Great hat. Now, who and when was he? A member of my family? or a friend who gave his picture to a pretty girl or to a member of the same fraternal organization? There’s no name on the back.

I’d also like to date his suit, hat, etc. If I knew his name, I could probably find out what he did for a living, and where he fit in the socio-economic scale. Did he live in Stockton, which was quite a large city by the 1880’s? Or was he a farmer who came into town so rarely that he had his picture taken to commemorate the event?

These children were also photographed in Stockton. I used Pioneer Photographers of the Far West to date these photos.

Two photographs taken at the Pioneer Gallery, 198 Main St., Stockton, CA.

A photographer named Ben Batchelder was active in Stockton from 1872 to 1891, but he only had the Pioneer Gallery at this address for three years: 1884 to 1887. It’s a clue; it eliminates some possible relatives because they were too old or too young to be this age in those years. It’s nice to be able to date these photos — but it would be nicer to know more about them. The date is not enough to identify this boy and girl.

Unknown boy in suit with short trousers, big bow. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

Unknown girl in a wool dress that looks home-made. Photographed in Stockton, CA, between 1884 and 1887.

By the 1980’s I had only one relative I could ask about family photos from the 1880’s and early 1900’s: my Aunt Dorothy, also known as Dot. (We can usually identify our close relatives, even if the picture was taken before we were born.) However, as I try to verify names and dates from public sources, I am discovering that — in the words of literary critics — she was an “unreliable narrator.” And, since I have been using photos she identified and dated to identify other photos, I made a serious error.

I had already figured out that some of the photos I inherited from Dot were probably labeled years after they were taken.

This photo — and many taken on the same weekend — says Monte Rio, July 4, 1921. Dot is 3rd from left, and my mother is on the far right.

She seems to have had many weekend getaways in 1921: in Monte Rio, in Santa Cruz, in Truckee, plus a trip to Washington State…. Or perhaps she just remembered having a good time in 1921, and wrote that on all of them (?)

Dot (back to camera) and The Gang from the Office, Truckee, CA, 1921.

Four women in Santa Cruz, CA, 1921. Dot is third from left. For more about their clothes, click here.

Dot in Granite Falls, Washington, 1921 (She wrote.)

I’m not blaming her — doesn’t everybody have a shoebox full of (pre-digital) photos that we finally get around to putting into a scrapbook years later? Her scrupulousness about writing dates on photos and on the scrapbook pages made me too trusting. I can recognize my Great Aunt Alice, because she was still alive (and lively) when I was a child. (That impish smile in the lower left photo captures the Alice I knew: shrewd and witty.)

Alice Barton: 1900’s, 1930s, 1950s.

My very young Aunt Dot is sitting on the steps with her brother Mel (in sailor suit.) The woman in stripes, center, is her Aunt Alice (my great-aunt.) But — is the woman in white her Aunt Cora or her Aunt Laura? I’m no longer sure.

Dot said this was Aunt Laura, but I’m no longer certain. Is it Laura or Cora? (That is a terrific coat — with an enormous hat — whoever is wearing them. Note the mud splashes around the coat’s hem.)

I believed that my Aunt Dot could tell the difference between her Aunt Laura and her Aunt Cora — they were still alive when she was an adult. But… trusting her identification of photos, I think I wrote a post about the wrong one!

I thought this was Great Aunt Cora, with an unknown man, and my Great Aunt Alice, in the 1930s. Their dresses are short and sleeveless, with belts at the waist: after 1925, probably close to 1930. (Other photos I have examined recently suggest that the man is their brother, John, who died in 1934. Three surviving siblings; that makes sense.)

My research in local sources [The San Mateo County Genealogical Society has amazing databases online!] finally located Cora and Laura’s death dates: Cora died in December of 1924; Laura lived until 1936. Therefore, the woman in glasses in this photo is probably Laura, the unmarried librarian, instead of Cora, the widow. (Oops!)

I subscribed to Ancestry.com a few years ago only because I wanted to access its collection of Sears, Roebuck catalogs. (And I would recommend this to anyone who needs to research “everyday clothing” instead of couture. You’ll get more information for $20 a month than from a dozen books.) But, once I noticed that Dot’s spelling of names was quite variable, I began using Ancestry.com to try to find the correct spelling of names for the people in her photos.

Azalia Dellamaggiore (as spelled on census records) on the courthouse lawn in Redwood City, CA, dated 1918. Dot’s shadow as she takes the picture is included.

Again, Dot did her best. If you asked me to spell the last names of everyone I have met in social situations, — well, I couldn’t. Also, after you meet people several times, and think of them as friends, it’s embarrassing to have to ask them what their last names are! What was Dot — a girl with an 8th grade education — to make of a name like Dale Lucchesi — or Luchese? or Luchassi… or Lucassi? (She pronounced it Loo chee’ zee.)

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Lucassi here] sent this photo of himself to my aunt. Early 1920s.

Dale Lucchesi [she wrote Luchessis this time] sent this charming photo of “my little brother and I” to my aunt around 1921. (Look! A sleeve garter! and a tiny boy still in a dress!)

If Dale had given her a studio portrait with his signature on the back (as many of her old beaux did) she would have figured it out. Caston Popescul signed  his:

Studio portrait of Caston Popescul mailed from Columbus, Georgia, dated 1920. (He’s retained his WW I military haircut. For reasons I don’t understand, this haircut was back in fashion in 2017!) Caston was a soldier in the American Army when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1918.

C. Popescul and Dot Barton in Santa Cruz, 1921. (That’s what she wrote.)

Then there’s a military man sometimes identified as “Val:” Volowsky or Walasky or Walisky ….

“Volouskey” (or “Valowskey”?) changes a tire while Jack and Dot look on.

“Walasky” with a tank, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA; dated 1920. There was a WW I military camp, Camp Fremont, in nearby Menlo Park.

Nick and “Walisky” at Neptune Beach. Dated 1920.

Dot and the soldier-with-the-hard-to-spell-name at Neptune Beach, Alameda, California. Dated 1920.

(Is that a box camera in her hand?)

Census Name Variations

I’m finding some wild spelling variations on census reports, too — possibly the fault of the census taker, or the person who happened to be at home to answer questions when the census taker knocked on the door — or a transcription error made when the hand-written census forms were typed into a database.

You wouldn’t think a four-letter name like Lipp would be a problem — but I found some Lipps under the name Siff. And Sipp. And Gipp.  Barton showed up as “Baldhoe” in 1940. So just imagine the variations I’ve found for the family of Augustus Feodorovich Moosbrugger, who emigrated from tzarist Russia at the age of 19 and married one of the Lipp girls; the name on her tombstone is “Alice Moosberger” — and my aunt Dot pronounced it “mooseburger.” Tasty!

I’m so glad someone identified this couple; it’s my mother’s father with Emma Emerson, whom he did not marry.

Dorothy’s father (b. 1862) with Emma Emerson — their names were written in pencil on the back. He married my grandmother in 1893, so this is earlier — probably 1880’s, as the dress suggests. [Taken in Stockton at Monaco Excelsior Art Gallery.]

It was a delight to find this picture:

Signed on the back, “Geo E. Meekins, Menlo Park, California.” It also says, “Age 25.” I found him in the Register of Voters: he was 25 in 1890. How satisfying!

The back of Meekins’ portrait is inscribed — in elaborate writing — “Geo. E. Meekins … Compliments to Miss Lillie M. Lipp,” Dorothy’s mother (my maternal grandmother.) Below, my Aunt Dot wrote, “Mama’s first fellow.” I think she got that one right.

Unknown woman in the snow, white fur muff and stole,  probably 1917 to 1922. I’m still looking for a photo that will identify her….

P.S. Thank you, Aunt Dorothy, for hundreds of photos!

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