Tag Archives: twenties styles

How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 1: Wear a Corset or Corselette

 

Paris designs, Delineator, January 1925. From Left: Doucet, Lanvin, Molyneux, Premet, Chanel.

Paris designs, Delineator, January 1925. From Left: Doucet, Lanvin, Molyneux, Premet, Chanel.

In the July, 1925 issue of Delineator magazine – published by the Butterick Publishing Company — columnist Evelyn Dodge gave the following advice on looking slender while wearing 1920s fashions. I will divide it into three parts — proper corsets, proper lingerie, and proper sizing and styles. I have already exerpted part of her article in Underpinning the Twenties: Corsets and Corselets.  I will add illustrations from Delineator and other sources, and my own comments.

How to Reduce Your Hips Three Inches – 1925

“My subject this morning, dear friends, I know you will find delightful. My text is ‘How you can reduce your hips three inches in three minutes without diet, drugs or exercise and still eat your way through June without giving up strawberry shortcake, asparagus, and any of the other pleasures of the season. . . .’

“I can’t tell you how you can become slender, but I can show you very easily how you can look several inches slighter and thirty or forty pounds lighter than you do now. Almost any woman can reduce her actual measurements appreciably by proper corseting, proper lingerie and the proper size clothes. Old shapeless corsets with bent and bulging bones, too much lingerie cut on too wide lines and made of clumsy materials, clothes that are too large, too long and too wide for the present fashion will make a mountain out of any feminine molehill.”

[Comment: As a costume designer, I could usually create the illusion that a 145 pound actress weighed 133 pounds (or that my 160 pound self weighed 10 pounds less), but erasing forty pounds is promising a lot! As an opera designer once told me, “You can create visual illusions with costumes — up to a point, but there’s only so much that vertical lines can do for a singer who’s built like a tugboat.” ]

The 1920s Ideal Figure

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

In 1925, when Evelyn Dodge wrote this article, she said, “The boyish figure sans bust and curves and waistline is the ideal silhouette.”

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, June 1925. Delineator.

Tip Number One: Wear a Corset or a Corselette.

“A Few Years Ago Women Took Off Corsets . . . and Let Their Figures Go.” — Evelyn Dodge

Dodge attributed the change in women’s figures to the relatively shapeless styles of the preceding decade.

[I know that fans of Titanic and Downton Abbey may not believe that the styles of the late 1910s could be extremely unflattering; that’s because theatrical costume designers do a great deal of period research and then select the clothing that a modern audience will find most attractive.  If a woman is supposed to look young and appealing, or sophisticated and sexy, she has to be dressed in a way that conveys those character points to an audience that has not done months of period research.] Here are some outfits for women, circa 1917:

Three outfits from the Perry, Dame Catalog, 1916.

Three outfits from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917.

If you were an actress — whose next job might depend on being shapely — which would you prefer to wear?

Even outfits designed by Gabrielle Chanel could add pounds in 1916:

1916 designs by Gabrielle Channel [sic] from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates, cited by Quentin Bell.

1916 designs by Gabrielle Channel [sic] from Doris Langley Moore’s Fashion through Fashion Plates, republished by Quentin Bell in On Human Finery.

Under all that fabric, it would be easy to put on a few inches around the hips without even noticing. (Weighing yourself at home was not an option when scales were huge, heavy machines.)

Then came the 1920s, when the ideal figure was flat in front and flat behind.

Warner’s corset, March 1925. Delineator.

Warner’s corset, March 1925. Delineator.

Sweater Girls, World War I

Young Women Wearing Sweaters, California, 1917-1918

Young Women Wearing Fashionable Sweaters, California, 1917-1918. Note how similar their sweaters are to the ones in the catalogs, below.

Evelyn Dodge continued:

“A few years ago during the vogue of the sweater with its concealing lines, women took off corsets, drew a long breath and let their figures go.

Sweaters from the Perry, Dame Catalog, 1917. Dover Books.

Sweaters from the Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog, 1917. Dover Books.

1922 sweaters from Sears catalog. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Sweaters from Sears catalog, 1922. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

“Some of the results were good, others were bad. The large waist and the resulting lowering of the bust and straightening of the hip has a youthful air.  [!]  But the diaphragm bulge, the middle-aged spread, the very pronounced increase in weight, have proved ugly and stubborn.

Models Photographed for Ads in Delineator, 1917. These figures would be out of fashion in the nineteen twenties.

Models Photographed for Ads in Delineator, 1917. Their figures would be out of fashion in the nineteen twenties. Imagine the woman on the left in a 1920s dress.

“Many women who have tried going without corsets are now wearing them again – not to make their waists smaller, but to flatten the abdomen and lower back.”

Bon Ton Corset Ad in Delineator. April 1925.

Bon Ton Corset Ad in Delineator. April 1925.

The Modart Corset company ran a series of “X-ray vision” ads showing corsets as worn under clothes.

Young woman wearing a Modart Corset under her dress. October 1924, Delineator.

Young woman wearing a Modart Corset under her dress. October 1924, Delineator.

Corsets and Corselettes

Corsets from Sears catalog, 1925-26. From Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Corsets from Sears catalog, 1925-26. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, by Stella Blum. Please do not copy this image.

Many women wore a Brassiere or Bandeau to compress their breasts, plus a corset to control their hips and abdomen. (See the “Detachable Ceinture Step-in,” above.) This could leave an uncomfortable and unsightly ridge of flesh bulging out where the brassiere and corset met, so the Brassiere + Girdle combination — also called a corselette — became very popular:

Treo "Brassiere Girdle combination garment" ad from Delineator, May 1925.

Treo “Brassiere Girdle combination garment” ad from Delineator, May 1925. This could also be called a corselette or corsette.

Dodge explains: “Most young girls and practically all women need some sort of figure control . . . . Not all women need corsets. Women with young slender figures find that the corselet, which is a combination brassiere and hip-confiner, is sufficient.”

Butterick corselette pattern #5691, January 1925.

Butterick corselette pattern #5691, January 1925.

The boneless corselet (spelled many ways) would have acted on a woman’s body the way that sausage casing acts on sausage, redistributing her flesh into a tube shape.  Although it had no metal boning, this corselette’s vertical flat-felled seams pass over the bust points, effectively flattening the breasts. Tension between the shoulder straps and the stocking garters would finish the job. (For more information about corsets and corselets, click here. For more information about 1920s bust flatteners, click here.)

Coming Soon: How to Look Thinner in the 1920s, Part 2: Wear the Right Lingerie

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, vintage photographs

Flappers, Galoshes, and Zippers in the 1920s

Galoshes, 1922, from Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum

Galoshes, 1922, from Everyday Fashions of the 1920s by Stella Blum

There is a widespread belief that the term “flapper” was first applied to young women in the 1920s because of a fad among college girls for wearing their rubber galoshes unfastened (right).

By the late 1920s, two rubber companies were competing for the women’s waterproof boot market, with attractive, tight-fitting fashion boots and shoe covers.

Ad fo Gaytees overshoes, December 1928, Delineator

Ad for Gaytees overshoes, December 1928, Delineator

United States Rubber Company’s Gaytees Overshoes

Gaytees were made by the United States Rubber Company, and came in a range of styles including waterproofed fabric and even simulated reptile.

Gaytees Overshoes Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Overshoes Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees advertised that their rainboots for 1929 had six new features:

New styles! Cross straps, turn-down cuffs, a new pointed back style.

New colors! The new rosy browns and tans; the tannish grays; black.

New Fabrics! Wools, Rayon-and-wool mixtures. All-rubber.

New lasts that fit the new Fall shoes! New heels – four different heights.

Lighter weight in every pair – yet full protection.

Fast color linings!

Gaytees Ad, November 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Ad, November 1928, Delineator

These are “Tailored Overshoes” because they are worn over your normal shoes. “See the style show of 1929 Gaytees at your own shoe store. Then, when you buy your Fall shoes, ask to have them fitted with the Gaytees that match your new Fall costume.”

Gaytees Ad, December 1928, Delineator

Gaytees Ad, December 1928, Delineator

The text next to Gaytees worn with a chiffon evening gown (right) says, “Fast color linings. Gaytees won’t rub off on the sheerest evening stockings or the lightest colored evening slippers. And the pointed back adds slimness as well as extra spatter protection….

“Your shoeman will be glad to show you the 1929 Gaytees. Let him fit a pair on your slim ankles. See how snugly they hug the new shoe styles; how well they harmonize with your Winter costumes.” Prices “from $2.50 to $6.” Gaytees usually fastened with snap fasteners, but even when they closed with a ‘slide fastener,’ the ads couldn’t call it a ‘zipper’ because of . . . .

B.F. Goodrich Company’s Zippers

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

In 1921, the B.F. Goodrich Company had quietly begun experimenting with rubber boots that closed with slide fasteners from the Hookless Fastener Company. There were problems to overcome, but by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, July 1928

Goodrich trademarked the word ‘Zipper.’ At first, “Zipper” referred to a brand of overshoe, not to the gizmo that opened and closed it.

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator

B.F. Goodrich Zipper Ad, December 1928, Delineator

The text at left says, “But remember, all overshoes that close with a sliding fastener are not genuine Goodrich Zippers. Look for and find the name Goodrich on the shoe . . . only in this way can you be sure of authentic Goodrich style with the famous Hookless Fastener which cannot rust, stick, loosen or cause trouble. . . . Over fifty thousand stores are now ready to show you the correct new colors of genuine Zippers. . . in either snap or Zipper fastener.” The Goodrich ad doesn’t mention prices, and it’s not in color. Presumably, Gaytees had to try harder.

A New Word Enters the Language: Zipper

Goodrich sold half a million ‘Zippers’ in 1923 and bought a million Hookless Slide Fasteners every year after that until 1927. By the late 1920s, the novelty was wearing off (and three to four million women already had Zippers in their closets, not counting the women who bought Gaytees instead!)

The word ‘Zipper’ may have belonged to the B.F. Goodrich Company, but in common usage, Americans were calling any slide fastener a ‘zipper.’ The Hookless Fastener Company adopted an eagle’s talon as its company trademark in 1928, and changed the company’s name to Talon a decade later (Source: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, by Robert Freidel, page 169.)

Talon Zipper Advertisement from Delineator, March 1929

Talon Zipper Advertisement from Delineator, March 1929

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Filed under 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Zippers

Five Blouses and a Hat from 1924

5 blouses, 1924

One Vintage Pattern Leads to Another

Photo used with permission of connieandcompany

Photo used with permission of connieandcompany

When I used this blouse pattern, # 5508,  as an example of how vintage Butterick patterns could be dated using witness2fashion.com, I discovered four other interesting blouses on the same page of the Delineator, September, 1924.

Three Twenties Blouses (click on image to enlarge)1924 sept blouses 5502 5508 5486 10225 p 31 top

Blouse #5502: “For Fall, choose a slip-over blouse of crêpe de Chine, silk broadcloth, satin, etc., to wear with a two-piece skirt of wool rep, soft twills, cheviot, etc.”

Blouse #5508: “The slip-over blouse is smart to wear with a wrap-around straight skirt with set-in pockets, etc. Initials trim this blouse of heavy crepe de Chine, etc.”

Blouse #5486: “A new costume is composed of a jacquette blouse of crêpe de Chine, silk crêpe, or satin crêpe and a one-piece wrap-around straight skirt of soft twills, etc. The embroidery is easily done.” [Hmmmm. Define “easily.” It seems to be done with a blanket-stitch. You could purchase Butterick embroidery transfer 10225.]

Two More Twenties Blouses 1924 septblouses p 31 btm

Blouse #5490:  “The scarf collar slips through a slash and gives a new effect to this slip-over blouse of plain or printed crêpe de Chine or silk crêpe, or of satin crêpe. 36 bust requires 1 3/4 yard 39-inch novelty crêpe.”

Blouse #5498 and Hat #5353:  “Both collar and cuffs of this slip-over blouse with a shoulder yoke may be sewed to the blouse or detachable. Use silk broadcloth, heavy crêpe de Chine, silk jersey, silk crêpe, etc. For the tricorne hat use velvet, duvetyn, etc. “

Both these blouses could be made with long or short sleeves. [Theatre curtains are often made of duvetyn, a brushed pile fabric which was light-absorbent – like velvet – but sturdy and able to be treated with fire retardant.]

And a 1920s Tricorne Hat Pattern1924 july p 36 hat 5353I associate clôche hats from the Twenties with felt or straw, but several four-gore or six-gore Butterick hat patterns were available for the home stitcher, and could be made of wool, silk, velvet, etc. 

hat 5353 top left#5353:  “One of the latest arrivals in this country from Paris is the smart little tricorne hat with its gored crown. It boasts a hand-made ornament on its brim. Make the hat of wool jersey, serge, soft twills, duvetyn, broadcloth, camel’s-hair, satin, or taffeta.” [The hat would need to be stiffened; Custom Milliner Wayne Wichern says he uses tailoring supply natural hair cloth in his taffeta and silk hats.]

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Filed under 1920s, Vintage patterns