Tag Archives: vestee

Paris Calls for Pleats, 1926 (Part 1)

Paris Straightens the Autumn Frock with Front and Side Plaits. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Paris Straightens the Autumn Frock with Front and Side Plaits. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Pleats for All Sizes

Butterick’s Delineator magazine ran two articles in the September, 1926, issue about the importance of “plaits” [i.e., pleats] to the fall styles. The first article showed three patterns for women in the normal range of sizes, with bust measurements of 32 to 44 inches. Elsewhere in that issue, patterns for “Misses aged 15 to 20 and small women” also show pleated skirts. [Misses’ sizes were for shorter and smaller figures; age 20 assumed a 37″ bust.] But the second article showed dresses with pleats in pattern sizes up to a 52 inch bust measurement. Since the styles of the 1920s were especially cruel to large figures, I am always intrigued by these unexpectedly large pattern sizes. I’m guessing that Butterick and other pattern companies realized that being “hard to fit” is a major reason for making your own clothes, so they routinely offered sizes not available in most stores.

Pleated Styles for Average and Small Women, 1926

In this post I’ll share some of the styles for women who fell within the normal size ranges.

Butterick pattern 7067, September 1926.

Butterick pattern 7067, September 1926.

This dress is very unusual — at least in my limited experience — because of the horizonal bands which decorate the shoulders and extend onto the sleeve caps.  Twenties’ fashions can be hard to wear because they widen the hips — already most women’s widest area. Many twenties styles have vertical details which seek to counteract this problem, but I have not seen many that visually broaden the shoulders like this:  butterick 7067 detailsNote, too, that the skirt pleats are stitched down for several inches to control fullness. The belt, which passes through buttonholes in the hip band, is tied very loosely as illustrated, but it could be used to snug the hip and create a blouson above. The long tie ends and the pleats create vertical lines for a slimming effect. This fashion figure is over 9 “heads” tall, but, adjusted to a normal figure, this could be a very becoming — and not terribly difficult — dress to copy. Back views are shown at the end of this post.

Butterick 7033, September 1926.

Butterick 7033, September 1926.

This dress, with its enormous buckle and wide hip band, would not flatter many women — especially those with a 44 inch bust and 47.5 inch hip — the usual pattern proportions. The collar creates a deep curve similar to the line of a long 1920s necklace, but it gets bigger at the bottom and draws more attention to the hip area. The description (“attached to a long body”) suggests that, although described as a dress, this is probably made made as a top, including the hip band, with a separate skirt suspended from the shoulders like a slip — a very common practice. The vestee, which fills in the neckline, can be made detachable for washing.

Butterick 7055, September 1926.

Butterick 7055, September 1926. For ladies 32 to 48 bust.

Butterick No. 7055 was not singled out as being for larger women, but it was available in sizes 46 and 48. I love the “Roman striped vestee” with its strong diagonals, and the ribbon-flower pom-pom which draws your eye upward to the face, plus the widening effect of “saddle shoulders” cut-in-one with the sleeve. This dress is definitely meant to be snugged at the hip; it has an adjustable belt at each side, like the belt on the back of a vest. butterick 7055 detailsThis dress has box pleats lined up with the side seams, and top-stitched for a slim fit over the hips. The saddle shoulders are similarly top-stitched.

A dress shown in “pea-soup green” gives plenty of room for movement when you’re walking:

Butterick 7045, September 1926.

Butterick 7045, September 1926.

Monograms were very popular, influenced perhaps by Jean Patou’s  use of them in sportswear. This dress is a bit tricky to make, because it has inserted pleats of darker color fabric. They are not inserted into seams, but added like a wedge-shaped godet. That explains the need for those arrow shapes — stitching or applique? — that reinforce the points of stress. 1926 sept p 28 grn skirt paris frocks pleats

Pleated Dresses for Misses and Smaller Women, September 1926.

Butterick patterns for Misses aged 15 to 20 and Smaller Women. September 1926.

Butterick patterns for Misses Aged 15 to 20 and Smaller Women. September 1926.

Butterick 7057, (left) like the green dress pictured above, has pleats inserted like godets. The color combination is interesting. A color called bois de rose (rosewood) was popular, but this dress is burgundy colored. Notice the unusual sleeves. The pink contrasts in the top half of this dress are so interesting that its self-colored hip belt is hardly noticeable.

Butterick 7057 for Misses and Smaller Women, September 1926.

Butterick 7057 for Misses and Small Women, September 1926.

The pleats are topstitched, both for flatness and to reinforce the weakest points. The “convertible” collar can be worn unbuttoned.

This blue dress also has stitched-down pleats below its dropped waist.

Butterick pattern 7003 for Misses and Small Women, Sept. 1926.

Butterick pattern 7003 for Misses and Small Women, Sept. 1926.

This dress is for younger and smaller women, who might be expected to have ideal 1920s figures, but it still uses many vertical lines for a slenderizing effect, especially in the very long tie. Little capes on the backs of dresses were often shown in pattern illustrations, but, like this one, they were usually detachable or optional. “Chin-chin blue” is probably meant to evoke Chinese colors. The gray belt seems to run through buttonholes in the front and back of the dress. See back views below.

Misses’ dress 7024 is not pleated. Described as a “coat-frock,” it has a slenderizing vertical opening the entire length of the center front.

Butterick  pattern for Misses 7024, Sept. 1926.

Butterick pattern for Misses 7024, Sept. 1926.

Lacking pleats, the skirt’s 46″ hem circumference does not encourage long strides. The artist has neglected to draw the slip straps. Another sheer-over-satin dress for young women, No. 6904, was featured in July, 1926:

Butterick pattern No. 6904 for Misses, July 1926.

Butterick pattern No. 6904 for Misses, July 1926.

These coat-dress styles create such a strong vertical line that I would expect them to be appealing to larger women, but both these patterns are for “Misses 15 to 20 years old, and small women.”

This dress pattern, No. 7059, is actually a blouse and skirt combination.

Butterick pattern No. 7059 for Misses and Small Women. Sept. 1926

Butterick pattern No. 7059 for Misses and Small Women. Sept. 1926

The pleats on the skirt can fall perfectly straight, because there is no waistband; this skirt is attached to a slip-like underbody and hangs from the shoulders. It is similar in style to some of the pleated dresses for larger women described in the same magazine. It is not a style I would recommend to women seeking to look thinner.

These 1920s Hats Deserve a Second Look:

Four hats from Delineator, September 1926.

Four hats from Delineator, September 1926.

Here are back views of the eight dresses from September that are pictured above:

Back views: Butterick patterns for Women Nos. 7067, 7033, 7055, 7045.

Back views: Butterick patterns for Women Nos. 7067, 7033, 7055, 7045.

Most of these dresses can be made with long or short sleeves. Only one, #7033, has pleats in back. #7045 shows that there is a handy strap on the back of her clutch purse.

Back views of Dresses for Misses, Nos. 7024, 7059, 7057, 7003.

Back views of Dresses for Misses, Nos. 7024, 7059, 7057, 7003.

Part 2 of “Paris Calls for Pleats” will show 1926 patterns for larger women.

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Filed under 1920s, bags, Hats, Purses, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Living on $18 per Week, 1930s

“Marrying on so small an income is a courageous undertaking….’I can’t allow a cent more than $8 a week for food,’ says Mrs. Green.”

Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1935, p. 35. Royal Baking Powder

Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1935, p. 35. Royal Baking Powder

"No Need for Self-Pity." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937, p. 112

“No Need for Self-Pity.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937, p. 112

By chance, I came across two advertisements from the late 1930s that referred to living on eighteen dollars a week (above), and I also found a clothes’ budget article for a young college woman which confirms that her wages after graduation would be about $20 per week. (I will go into detail about each of these later.)

"What Can A Girl Live On?"  Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1936

“What Can A Girl Live On?” Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1936

Sharing the History of Everyday Fashions and What They Cost

It’s difficult to get a sense of what things really cost in the past, but theatrical costumers need to be able to place fashions not only in time, but in social class.

We ask, “What kind of woman could afford $6.50 shoes in 1936? Are they cheap or expensive?”

Red Cross Shoe Ad, Delineator, April 1936

Red Cross Shoe Ad, Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936

“Would these dresses have been worn by the wife of a clerk, or the wife of the company president?”

Companion-Butterick Patterns from WHC, March 1937

Companion-Butterick Patterns from WHC, March 1937

Even information from the same magazine can be contradictory; a September 1937 advertisement seeking women to sell subscriptions to Woman’s Home Companion magazine (“No Need for Self-Pity”) implies that a working girl will struggle to get by on $18 a week; an editorial in the same magazine, October, 1936, said she would be able to afford vacation travel, and still put money into savings, while earning just $20 a week.

What Can A Girl Live On? A College Girl’s Clothing Budget, 1936

I have broken this brief editorial (one column from Woman’s Home Companion, October 1936) into sections so that it will be large enough for you to read it yourself: 1936 oct college girl's budge theadline1936 oct college girl's budget number only1936 oct working college grad woman budget paragraph top1936 oct working college grad woman budget end

I’m posting it in the hope that some enterprising economist or women’s studies researcher will find it of interest.  I’ll try to limit my comments, but…

1. Note that items with an asterisk are expected to last two or three years: coats, pull-on rubber shoe covers, an umbrella, bedroom slippers.

2. She is expected to get by on four dresses ($5 each), and four pairs of shoes ($3 each), per year. (Walk-in closets were not needed in the 1930s.)  This explains the many 1930s patterns for dresses that were easy to transform with a change of collar, or sash.

Wardrobe Dress, Companion-Butterick Pattern 7579, Oct. 1937

Wardrobe Dress, Companion-Butterick Pattern 7579, Oct. 1937

Companion-Butterick offered a series of patterns with “button-in” features, like this one, # 7579, which can be worn with three separate button-in vestees. “If you are an executive’s secretary you may want two vestees for the office — one in the dress material perhaps, with a tiny piqué collar, the other in plaid taffeta – and a third, for after-hours parties, in sparkling gold lamé.”

3. A pair of stockings is expected to last a month (15 pairs per year.)

Ad for Lux Soap, Oct. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Oct. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1937

Ad for Lux Soap, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1937

“Runs cost money.” A run in her stocking could be enough to drive a working woman to tears – she might have to choose between eating and buying a new pair of stockings, and she was expected to wear stockings to work.

4. A “smock” is a puzzling item, but could be required in certain college classes, such as chemistry, art, or home economics. When you only have four dresses, protecting them would be important, and an apron or housedress would only be worn while doing work at home.

Women wearing smocks in Sealtest laboratory kitchen, 1930s

Women wearing smocks in Sealtest laboratory kitchen, 1930s

Living on Twenty Dollars – or Less – a Week

The 1936 article confirms that “The average University of Washington co-ed who steps into the working world earns an average of eighty dollars a month.”

"No Need for Self-PIty." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937. p.112

“No Need for Self-PIty.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937. p.112

This advertisement – purportedly quoting a letter from a subscriber – says “If you have ever known the need for extra money you can understand how I felt when I found, on starting my business career, that for several years I could not expect to earn more than $18 a week…. Therefore my small salary would just about pay my room and board and keep me in lunches and carfare with nothing left…. I needed new clothes and I often felt like crawling into the darkest corner of the office because my dress was so shabby…. My heart fairly ached.” Her problem was solved when – like “ten thousand” others, “girls and women in offices and homes, …even sweet-faced grandmothers” — she began selling subscriptions to the Woman’s Home Companion [or so says the ad.]

On the other hand, Royal Baking Powder ran a series of Great Depression advertisements, like the one at the top of this post, featuring true-life stories about people who were coping with low or lost income:

"Income cut in half... food prices rising... and six hungry mouths to feed." Ad from Woman's Home Companion, 1934

“Income cut in half… food prices rising… and six hungry mouths to feed.” Ad from Woman’s Home Companion, 1934

"Getting married on $20 a month takes courage these days." Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1934

“Getting married on $20 a week takes courage nowadays.” Ad from Delineator, Feb. 1934

The house this couple lives in (pictured at top of ad) looks rather impressive to me.

Home of the couple who married on $20 a week. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1934, p. 43

Home of the couple who married on $20 a week. Ad, Delineator, Feb. 1934, p. 43

Maybe a single woman earning $20 a week could afford a vacation.

A Summer Wardrobe for $34.33

Make Your Wardrobe for Summer for $34.33. Delineator, May 1934

Make Your Wardrobe for Summer for $34.33. Delineator, May 1934

This home-made summer wardrobe (Delineator, May 1934, p.71) was analyzed as costing $34.33 – including patterns, not including thread. 1934 may p 71 prices summer wardrobe 5623 5686 34 33At first glance, it seemed much more than the $20 for four dresses per year allotted to the University of Washington co-eds. However, the $34.33 total included a coat ($8.13) and a shorts and shirt outfit ($3.06.) The four dresses (one a jacket dress) could be made for $23.14 (or less, if you made the striped dress from cotton instead of silk. ) If you didn’t sew, you could buy a dress, or a suit, or a skirt and two blouses from the Sears catalog for about $5 in 1937. [Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs, by Stella Blum.] But a secretary probably could not afford to buy those $6.50 shoes.

POST SCRIPT (July 2018): Related posts are “The Great Depression Reflected in Ads from the Back of Womens’ Magazines”,   “A Woman’s Clothing Budget for 1924 versus 1936”, and Clothing Budget for a Married Couple, 1925.”

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage patterns

Spring Styles for Older (and Larger) Women, February, 1931

On Tuesday night I was going through photos I had taken of Delineator fashions from February, 1931. Someone had removed the February 1931 cover from the bound volume at the library – a shame, because the covers in the 1930s were especially lovely. This is the cover from March, by Dynevor Rhys: (Click image to enlarge)

Delineator Cover for March, 1931, by Dynevor Rhys

Delineator Cover for March, 1931, by Dynevor Rhys

I had found a page of spring fashions for older women, so I was thinking about one of my favorite blogs, American Age Fashion: What American Women Wore, 1900 to Now.  Serendipity:  In the next day’s mail, I received a gift from Lynn at americanagefashion.com: a copy on fabric of the missing February 1931 cover of Delineator! (I haven’t photographed it yet.) In return, here are . . .

Four February Fashions “Charmingly Suited to the Dignity of White Hair”

Butterick patterns "Charmingly Suited to the Dignity of White Hair" from Delineator, February 1931

Butterick patterns “Charmingly Suited to the Dignity of White Hair” from Delineator, February 1931

Back Views

Back Views

This text is typed below — the print here is a bit small!

1931 feb p 106 suited to white hair pattern info

Butterick 3363 & 3697

Butterick 3363 & 3697

3663 FLATTER YOURSELF With a deep ivory lace yoke and a lace jabot on your new black frock, and the result will turn other heads than your own.  A bit more lace is added at the cuffs. The angular line of the skirt yoke is flattering also. Notice the hem; it is at exactly the right place for the smart matron. The frock is designed for sizes 34 to 46. [bust measurement]

3697 IF YOU ARE SLENDER Choose raspberry for this frock – it is a new color with dark coats, and a charming one with white hair. If not slender, choose black with white or flesh chiffon vestee. The belt is slightly below the normal line, and both the long collar and the curved insert with a flare have a one-sided trend. Designed for 34 to 48. [bust measurement]

1931 feb p 106 3681 3675f white hair large top

3681 THE SLIMMEST LINE All the important lines in this frock are diagonals – that’s the clever part of it, for they flatter the mature figure. The straight skirt is shirred  on the diagonal. The bodice has a diagonal closing. A long white collar helps to make one appear thin, and soft flares finish the three-quarter sleeves. The frock is designed for 34 to 52. [inches bust measure]

3675 ONE TYPE OF TUNIC  The flared tunic is broken at the center front and back, so that it will not cut any length from the figure, and both skirt and tunic are joined to the long bodice in scalloped outline, Wear the belt where it suits you best. The flared three-quarter sleeves and lace vestee are flattering. The frock is designed for 34 to 48 [inch bust measurement.] “Wear the belt where it suits you best” — in other words, if you are not ready to give up the low waistline of the 1920s.

Lane Bryant Adds a Touch of Reality

Pattern number 3681 is illustrated as if the model were a little larger than the 1930s ideal. However, the three other models appear to be size 34, not size 48 or 52.  This advertisement for the Lane Bryant catalog (Style Book) for Stout Women is also from February 1931 — and a bit more realistic.  The model appears to be wearing a very good corset, with bust support and hip control. There is still a twenties influence in the low waist (or lack thereof.)

Lane Bryant Ad from Delineator, February 1931

Lane Bryant Ad from Delineator, February 1931

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Filed under 1930s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes