Tag Archives: Victoria and Albert Museum

Patou’s Evening Gowns for Short and Tall, 1936

According to this article in The Woman’s Home Companion, January, 1936, couturier Jean Patou suggested that, rather than dressing to look taller (if you’re short) or more petite (if you’re tall), women should choose designs that take advantage of their size.

Woman's Home Companion, Jan. 1936. Designs and Advice from Patou

Woman’s Home Companion, Jan. 1936. Designs and Advice from Patou

As reported by Marjorie Howard, “Paris Fashion Correspondent,” here is Jean Patou’s advice for penny-wise shopping in the Depression.

WHC 1936 jan p 57 patou 500 top for tall and little text

Patou’s Advice for Tall Women

Patou evening gowns, Jan. 1936. WHC.

Patou evening gowns, Jan. 1936. WHC. The tall woman is on the left.

WHC 1936 jan p 57 patou 500 for tall and little text ctr tall woman

Patou’s Advice for Short Women

Patou for the short woman, Jan. 1936. WHC.

Patou for the short woman, Jan. 1936. WHC.

WHC 1936 jan p 57 patou 500 for tall and little text btm Little woman

I’ve broken the illustration up so the details are more visible:

Parou design for a tall woman (left) and for a short woman (right.) Jan., 1936.

Patou design for a tall woman (left) and for a short woman (right.) Jan., 1936.

These are both complex designs. What a shame that we can’t see color:  the belt in “dark turquoise leather.” The gown on the left, of  “antelope crepe — mat with a suede finish” has a back drape “because the long lines [of a tall figure] can afford it.” Anyone wishing to copy the bodice on the right, with silver lame bands that almost seem to be woven over and under, will find the stripes helpful in determining straight of grain and bias. That assumes a careful drawing, of course. “The top is made of line stripes in interlaced bands….” The text says that capes or sling drape designs in back are not suitable for short women, but some kind of dark lining (of a cape of drape?) seems to be visible under the model’s arm.

To tell the truth, I can’t be sure from this drawing exactly what is happening with the skirt on the left:

Patou, 1936.

Skirt details of two gowns by Patou, 1936.

The illustration by Clark Fay seems to show a side slit. The text says the train ends in two points, but as drawn, it looks like a recipe for a broken neck! do the tucks in the hip bands continue into the skirt on both side? Is it symmetrical? It’s definitely glamorous. The short woman on the right has a strange hemline “cut into uneven points.” The chevron accenting the center front seam is slenderizing; how nice that the two woman are not equally slim, but proportionate to their heights. By the standards of 1930’s fashion illustrations, the woman on the left is downright voluptuous.

Although Patou was known for his influential sportswear in the 1920’s, this gown, made of tulle covered with pink sequins, is a Patou from the early 1930’s, in the collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jean Patou, sequinned evening gown, early 1930's in collection of Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jean Patou, sequinned evening gown, early 1930’s in collection of Victoria and Albert Museum.

It has a “cape or sling drapery” in back, and a contrasting belt, like the 1936 “little woman’s” gown illustrated in the Delineator.  Jean Patou died in 1936, but the House of Patou — and “Joy” perfume — continued.

Incidentally, around 1936-37, several couturiers began using zippers in fitted dresses. Zippers — finally light enough to be used with delicate fabrics — began to take the place of snap closings, making possible form-fitting gowns that didn’t gape open between the snaps. Zippers appeared in sportswear earlier than in Couture. Butterick pattern #2365, in December 1928, called for zippers at the neckline and pockets. It tied in with an ad for Talon. Madeleine Vionnet used a zipper in a blouse/step-in (what we would call a bodysuit) in 1929, and the design was copied by Butterick. Click here for a post about it, with pictures.  Robert Friedel’s book Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty mentions couture in the late 1930’s, but only briefly.


Filed under 1930s, Exhibitions & Museums, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Musings, January 2014

1936 january Delineator stitcher and cat

What Do You Call a Person Who Sews?

That’s not the set-up for a joke. Whenever I see the word “sewer,” I have to read the whole sentence before I know whether it’s about stitching or drains.

Tinker, Tailor, Sewer, Seamstress? Stitcher.

There was a time when a man who made clothes for men was called a tailor, and a woman who made clothes for women was called a seamstress. (Or, by some patronizing patrons,  “my little dressmaker,” regardless of her size.)

But in the modern world, jobs are not usually gender related.  I have worked with female tailors and with men who sew dresses.

None of us wants to be called a sewer – because in English, there are two ways to pronounce that word, and one of them has to do with plumbing.

Call Me Stitcher

My last real job before retiring was as a stitcher.

In professional costume shops, the job title for a person who mostly sews is “Stitcher.” I like that word; it’s gender neutral, and it’s accurate.

Besides, it was in a costume shop that I first heard this saying:

“She’s still stitching, but her bobbin ran out years ago.”

Let’s hope it never applies to us!

Other News:

Wedding Dresses 1775 to 2014: Exhibition at the V&A Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an upcoming exhibition of Wedding Dresses.  Opening on May 3, 2014 and lasting until  March 15, 2015, the Victoria and Albert Museum will be exhibiting wedding dresses from 1775-2014, including couture gowns and royal wedding dresses. Thanks to The Para-Noir for writing about it. “O, to be in England, now that April’s there …” or coming, eventually….

Great Color Images from The Sears Roebuck Catalog, 1948

What-I-Found has been posting some marvelous winter clothing and accessories from a 1948 Sears catalog, including winter sweaters, gloves, purses, slippers,  & children’s clothing — and a Mickey Mouse scarf.

Earlier posts in December featured a 1934  child’s ski suit (about the same time I was posting a 1940 ski suit for women) and some classic children’s sweaters, including knitting instructions for a snowflake sweater, from 1955.  Thanks to What-I-Found for sharing!

Uplift: The Bra in America

Serendipity at the library: While looking for something else in the fashion shelves, I found Uplift: The Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau. [264 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 51 illus. Cloth 2001 | ISBN 978-0-8122-3643-9; Paper 2002 | ISBN 978-0-8122-1835-0 ] — University of Pennsylvania Press. Although it’s not a new book, it looks like a very informative and entertaining one, with lots of illustrations. And the text is searchable at this University of Pennsylvania Press site.  Just browsing through the book, I found an ad for Maiden Form, “The Original Uplift Bra,” dated November, 1927. The authors also showed a 1943 ad for Bali bras, from Vogue magazine,  with Cup Sizes A – B – C – D.  And I learned that the underwire bra, “although offered by elite producers such as Vonny and Andre as early as 1934, … became common only after World War II” because the metal was needed for the war effort.  If you want “the inside story” on brassieres in America, Uplift by Farrell-Beck & Gau might be just your cup … of tea.  I found copies online for as little as one cent.

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bras, Children's Vintage styles, Exhibitions & Museums, Musings, Sportswear, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Accessories