Tag Archives: vintage Butterick patterns

Summer in January, 1928

Title of a page in Butterick's Delineator magazine, January 1928. P. 33.

Title of a page in Butterick’s Delineator magazine, January 1928. Page 33. [From a black and white illustration.]

It was traditional for fashion magazines to show cruise or resort clothes in the dead of winter. Here are all eight “Summer Modes” and their pattern information.

Butterick 1828, from January 1928.

Butterick 1828, from January 1928. “A typical southern frock.” Available up to size 44 bust. Soft fabric petals accent one shoulder.

Then as now, people who could afford a vacation headed south for a little sunshine during winter months.

Butterick 1821 and 1581, January 1928.

Butterick coat 1821 and frock 1581, January 1928. I love the dress fabric, a pattern of umbrellas and rainbows in falling rain. The sheer coat has a decorative fabric flower on the shoulder.

Butterick 1824, a spectator sports outfit from January 1928..

Butterick 1824, a spectator sports outfit from January 1928. This cardigan costume — with velvet sleeveless cardigan — has two color bands at hip and wrist, the lighter band matching the cardigan vest’s color.

Butterick 181 from January 1928.

Butterick 1818 from January 1928. Sheer georgette chiffon in a floral print worn over a light colored slip, probably the same color as the “plain Georgette” which trims the neck and forms a long bow.

Four outfits featured on the bottom of page 33. Delineator, Jan 1928.

Four outfits featured on the bottom of page 33. Delineator, January 1928.

Buterick 1819, a coat illustrated in a bold patterned stripe.

Butterick 1819, a coat illustrated in a boldly patterned striped shantung silk. It is also shown sleeveless. The dress barely covers the kneecap, and the 7/8 length coat suits it perfectly.

I love this silk coat. I think it is meant to be worn open, and is not for warmth, but I like the deep triangular pockets and that fabric! I hope it really existed and was not the illustrator’s invention.

Jean Patou had popularized monogrammed sports wear (his own monogram on couture) in the early twenties, and many stylized alphabets were available as embroidery patterns.

Butterick 1816, a sports frock from January 1928.

Butterick 1816, a sports frock from January 1928. Stylized monograms were quite popular, so that may be an “M” embroidered in thread to match the striped neckline and belt. The box pleats are applied on top of the belt.

By a happy coincidence, The Midvale Cottage blog just shared illustrated sewing instructions by Ruth Wyeth Spears for sewing exactly this type of pointed 1920’s pleat. Click here.

Butterick 1822, a three piece sport ensemble from January 1928.

Butterick 1822, a three piece sport ensemble from January 1928. It is not a knit fabric, but Shantung. The blouse has a bold sun ray applique.

So, that’s one cardigan made of velveteen and one made from silk Shantung. Without the pattern descriptions, I would have assumed they were jersey knits.

Butterick party frock 1826, from January 1928.

Butterick party frock 1826, from January 1928. It could also be made with long sleeves, and the pattern was available for teens or small women, and for women up to size 44 bust.  Notice the ruching at the shoulder, which creates a little fullness for the bust. The pattern for the slip that goes under the sheer chiffon Georgette was not mentioned.

We think of the twenties as the era of the slim, boyish figure, but all eight of these Butterick patterns were available in sizes up to 44 inches bust measurement, hip 47 inches.

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Filed under 1920s, Sportswear, Uncategorized, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Sized to Height Patterns from Butterick, 1948

The July 1948, cover of Butterick Fashion News was still introducing a new product: "Special" patterns for shorter women.

The July 1948, cover of Butterick Fashion News was still introducing a new product: “Special” patterns for shorter women.

I happen to have a group of Butterick Fashion News Flyers from 1948. For several months, “Sized to Height” patterns, or “Special Patterns,” were featured as an innovation which still needed some explanation. The February issue explained the concept several times.

Front cover of Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. The suit on the left, No. 4422, was available in short and average patterns.

Front cover of Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. The suit on the left, No. 4422, was available in both short and standard pattern sizes.

I don’t have a complete, consecutive run — just February, March, July and August of 1948 — but this “Special Patterns” or “Sized to Height” box appears on all four covers. (What I Found has a copy from 1947; that cover also mentions “shorter length” patterns.)

Special patterns for shorter women information box. Cover of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948.

Special patterns for shorter women, information box. Cover of Butterick Fashion News, February 1948.

Further explanation and examples appeared on facing pages 2 and 3.

Pages 2 & 3 featured patterns which could be ordered in sizes for women under 5' 5". BFN, Feb. 1948.

Pages 2 & 3 featured patterns which could be ordered in sizes for women under 5′ 5″. BFN, Feb. 1948.

If the pattern was available in both standard and shorter sizes, customers could order the shorter one by putting an “S” after the pattern number.

Page 3, BFN, Feb. 1948. These patterns for shorter women were described on page 2.

Page 3, BFN, Feb. 1948. These patterns for shorter women were described on (facing) page 2.

Here is the explanatory text from the top of page 2:

Text from top of page 2, BFN Feb. 1948.

Text from top of page 2, BFN Feb. 1948. “Special length … patterns are one inch shorter from neckline to waistline.”

Short pattern purchasing information, bottom of page 2, BFN, Feb. 1948.

Short pattern purchasing information, bottom of page 2, BFN, Feb. 1948.

Special Length patterns were shortened from the waist up, and were not aimed at stout or older women. (If the skirts were also proportionally shortened, Butterick didn’t mention it here.) Some of these patterns were illustrated twice in the same issue, once with the number followed by “S” and once as standard sized patterns. Starred numbers were available in both versions.

Butterick 4424 pattern for a suit with fitted jacket, available in average or short versions. Feb. 1948.

Butterick 4424 pattern for a suit with fitted jacket, available in standard  or short versions. Feb. 1948.

Butterick 4422; its hip-widening peplum shows "New Look" influence.

Butterick 4422; its hip-widening peplum shows “New Look” influence. Feb. 1948.

Both pink dresses are pattern 4419, in Average and shorter sizes.

More “New Look” influence. Both pink dresses are pattern 4419, in standard and shorter sizes. (The model looks long-waisted in both illustrations.) Center, Butterick 4431; perhaps its complex bodice design made it unsuitable for a shorter version.

I don’t know why dresses for larger women, like those on page six, below, were only aimed at women over 5′ 5″ in 1948.

Dresses for mature or large women, available to size 46. (The gray one was available up to size 50.) Shorter versions of these patterns were not mentioned. Feb. 1948.

Dresses for mature or large women, available to size 46. (The gray one was available up to size 50.) Shorter versions of these patterns were apparently not available. Feb. 1948.

It’s a mystery to me why a pattern company like Butterick did not always capitalize on the fact that many women — especially mature women — are both short and “stout.” You would think that women who are not standard sizes would be a perfect niche market for specially sized sewing patterns, but that isn’t the case here.  (Lynn at American Age Fashion has written about the development of “half-size” dresses and patterns several times.)

Butterick did sell such patterns earlier.  In the nineteen thirties,  Butterick had issued some patterns for “shorter women with larger hips.” In her History of the Paper Pattern Industry, Joy Spanabel Emery shows Companion-Butterick pattern No. 7586, from 1937; it is a “Frock for Shorter Women of Larger Hip.” See it at the Commercial Pattern Archive by clicking here. Another from BFN in 1937 was Butterick 7647, the gray dress shown below: dec 1937 BFn numbered no faces 500

Another pattern for Shorter Women of Larger Hip (No. 8014) was shown in the BFN for August 1938. I don’t have a complete run of Butterick Fashion News, but the idea of patterns for shorter women with larger hips appeared at least as early as February, 1933 (Butterick 4883.) See “Clothes for Clubwomen.” 

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/1933-feb-p-77-text-4883-shorter-figure-large.jpg?w=500

I find them as late as Feb. 1940 (Butterick 8790) in my very limited collection.

I haven’t found that phrase in my 1948 flyers, however.

Some of the 1948 dresses on page 7 came in either standard or “special” versions; the text at the bottom of the page taught  customers how to order:

Page 7, Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948.

Page 7, Butterick Fashion News, Feb. 1948. A Star next to the number meant that the pattern could be ordered in short or standard versions.

Text, bottom of page 7. BFN Feb. 1948.

Text, bottom of page 7. BFN Feb. 1948.

Perhaps the “S” stood for “Special,” but I suspect that customers thought it meant “Short.”

In July, 1948, Butterick used the word “Petite” to describe these patterns. The expression may well have appeared earlier, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it applied to Butterick patterns — so far. It’s definitely an improvement over “Special.” Too bad they didn’t think of it in time to indicate these patterns with a “P” instead of an “S.”

Butte4rick Patterns for "Petite" women, Butterick News Flyer, July 1948.

Butterick Patterns for “Petite” women, Butterick News Flyer, July 1948.

Incidentally, it seems incredible to me that for decades Butterick assumed its average customer was 5′ 5″ or over, even in the nineteen twenties, when some of the most glamorous women in Hollywood were tiny:  Gloria Swanson was 5′ 1″. Clara Bow was 5′ 3 1/2″. “Little Mary” Pickford was just over five feet. Louise Brooks? 5′ 2″. Pola Negri? Five feet exactly. Greta Garbo was considered tall — and criticized for her wide hips and big feet — at five foot seven and a half. In the 1920’s Butterick patterns for “small women” were literally small — maximum bust about 37″ — when the normal pattern run fit sizes up to 44″ bust, with some patterns available up to size 52.

There is a great essay (with charts) about pattern sizing here; a chart from a very flawed government study shows that the average American woman was 5′ 3″ in 1937.

After World War II, more statistics were available and led to more specialized pattern sizing. The excellent Midvale Cottage blog (which I just discovered) says that Butterick introduced half sizes (for women under 5′ 5″ who were shorter-waisted and larger in the waist and hip) in 1949. Click here for her history of 1940’s pattern sizing.

I’ll share  more fashions from 1948 in later posts. [As often happens, when I started this post, I didn’t remember Butterick’s Shorter/Larger patterns from the 1930’s — even though I had mentioned them in other posts. As a result of proofreading and checking facts, this post kept getting longer…. Caution:  my sample of Butterick flyers is hardly conclusive for real scholarship — Just full of interesting things to share.]

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Hemline Interest, 1949 and 1951

The long skirts introduced in 1947 were looking too long by January of 1951. Compare this cranberry red coat dress, from November 1949 . . .

Coat-dress, Butterick pattern 5070, cover of Butterick Fashion News, November 1949.

Coat-dress, Butterick pattern 5070, cover of Butterick Fashion News, November 1949.

. . . with this fitted black coat from December, 1951.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, BFN flyer December, 1951.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, BFN flyer December, 1951.

The “One Yard Skirt,” Butterick 5087 from 1949 (below, left) was on the back cover of the November Butterick Fashion News flyer, and other skirts featured in that issue were as long, or longer.

Skirts from Butterick, November 1949. Left, the One Yard Skirt (5085), with skirt 5084 and suit 5083.

Skirts from Butterick, November 1949. Left, the One Yard Skirt (5085), with skirt 5084 and suit 5083. Notice the man-tailored front fly on No. 5085.

Below mid-calf skirts from Butterick, November 1949. Butterick patterns 4701 (a few months older), 5069, and 5078.

Below mid-calf skirts from Butterick Fashion News, November 1949. Butterick skirt patterns 4701 (first issued several months earlier), 5069, and 5078.

Fourteen months later, Butterick showed these dresses with the title “Hemline Interest.”

Butterick dresses with "hemline interest," page 4, January 1951.

Butterick dresses with “hemline interest,” page 4, January 1951. The hemline has risen.

Dresses with "hemline interest, page 5. BFN Jan. 1951.

More dresses with hemline interest and neckline interest, page 5. BFN Jan. 1951. These dresses were for women, not teens.

There has certainly been a subtle change in proportions.

Dresses from Butterick, January 1951. Patterns 5559 (versions A and C) and 5564.

Dresses from Butterick, January 1951. Patterns 5559 (versions A, in red, and C, in black) and pattern 5564 (in gray). Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Other things that caught my eye are the hip-widening [or waist-narrowing] details on dress 5559 C (the bow) and 5564 (the full gathers below its fitted yoke.)

Suit 5083 has a “lumberjack top;” its waist-length jacket, tight around the waist, was often called an “Eisenhower” jacket in the fifties.

This two-piece outfit from Butterick, No. 5083, has a "lumberjack top." Nov. 1949 flyer.

This two-piece outfit from Butterick, No. 5083, has a “lumberjack top.” Nov. 1949 flyer.

And the black, “bell-skirted” flared coat from December 1951 was designed to fit over very full skirts like these, held out by crinoline petticoats:

"Bell-skirte4d" dresses for the holidays, December 1951. Butterick Fashion News.

“Bell-skirted” dresses for the holidays, December 1951. Butterick Fashion News, page 13. Left, No. 5941; right, two views of Butterick dress and redingote, No. 5942.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, BFN flyer December, 1951.

Butterick coat pattern 5906, for a “bell-skirted, fitted coat… intended for your crinoline-petticoated dresses.” BFN flyer December, 1951.

Often, a nylon crinoline would be built into a store-bought dress. Pattern companies depend on following trends, so shorter skirts must have been “in the air” before December of 1951. What-I-Found posted images from a Simplicity flyer, dated August 1950, here.

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, Vintage patterns

Dual (or Triple) Purpose Apron, 1949

This is a rather peculiar multi-purpose pattern: an apron that could be used as an evening cape….

McCall Pattern 1509 for an apron, or a cape, or ....

McCall Pattern 1509 for an apron, or a cape, or ….

“And that’s not all!” as they say in those ads on TV at two in the morning. McCall 1509 could also be an overskirt, made to match your dress material, or in lace, organdy or taffeta,  and trimmed with velvet, beads or sequins:

McCall pattern 1509, the "glamour tunic apron," first appeared in 1949. Images from McCall needlework catalog, Nov. 1950.

McCall pattern 1509, the “glamor tunic apron,” first appeared in 1949. Images from McCall needlework catalog, Nov. 1950.

McCall 1509.

McCall 1509. “The new costume stretcher. It changes day dresses into date dresses…. Glamorize your dresses with the new tunic apron! It’s smart to match fabric to your dress material. Wear this style tied at front, back, on the side…. Note slenderizing effect.”

If you wore the glamor tunic over a mid-calf sheath dress, you would have two looks without having to make two dresses.

Maybe it was the words “costume stretcher,” but when I saw this pattern, I remembered a fascinating item which Joy Spanabel Emery featured in her book, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry. Butterick pattern B4408, from 1948, was a set of “Yoke, Flares, and Flounces for Skirts.”  The purpose of the pattern was “to lengthen skirts.” Click here to see it. I wonder if this McCall Apron/Tunic pattern was ever used the same way?

The black version, with velvet and bead trimmed pockets, would allow you to lengthen the skirt of the dress under it.

The black version, with velvet and bead trimmed pockets, would allow you to lengthen the skirt of the dress under it by adding fabric between the waist and the hip, and would work with almost any black sheath dress.

Why Would You Want to Do That?

During the years of the Second World War, America was “cut off” from French couture.

In England and America, regulations controlled the amount of fabric in garments.

Dior’s “New Look,” introduced in 1947,  was in part a reaction to years of fabric shortages, fabric rationing and war-time clothing restrictions.

The "Bar Suit" from Christian Dior's "Corolle" collection, 1947.

The “Bar Suit” from Christian Dior’s “Corolle” collection, 1947. American magazines called this “the new look.”

Julian Robinson’s Fashion in the Forties (which has a British slant) makes it clear that many aspects of the New Look — tiny waists, widened hips, flowing drapery and longer hemlines — were under way before the war, but fabric rationing and “utility” clothing kept women in short skirts and other late thirties’ styles until the war ended.

Slim Two-Piece patterns from a Butterick store flyer, October 1943. Patterns 2734 and 2725 have skirts that stop just below the kneecap/

Slim Two-Piece patterns from a Butterick store flyer, October 1943. Patterns 2734 and 2725 have skirts that stop at mid-kneecap, and use about three yards of fabric for the whole outfit.

Joy Spanabel Emery concisely summarized American clothing restrictions:

“In 1942, the War Production Board (WPB) issued Regulation L-85, specifying restrictions for every item of women’s clothing. The regulation essentially froze the fashion silhouette. It limited the use of natural fibers, limited full skirts to a seventy-two-inch circumference, and banned knife pleats and patch pockets (part of a ‘no fabric over fabric’ rule.) Pattern companies responded patriotically. For example, Simplicity announced ‘patterns with few pieces, made from 3 yards or less….’ ” — A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, page 136.

As in the 1929 – 1932 period, in the post-war years 1947 -1949 the fashionable skirt length dropped precipitously.

Simplicity store flyer, April 1948. Long, full skirts were a luxury after wartime scrimping.

Simplicity store flyer, April 1948. Long, full skirts were a luxury after wartime scrimping.

And, although it’s easy to make a skirt shorter by taking up the hem, it’s very difficult to make a skirt several inches longer without an obvious “patched” look. You can add a contrast band or ruffle to a full, gathered skirt and make the result look deliberate, but the dresses and skirts of the war years were made close to the body, in an effort to avoid wasting materials.

So — how could a woman on a limited budget get from this silhouette …

Left, two suits from 1943; right, a suit from May 1944. Butterick 2746, ad from Vogue, and Butterick 2979.

Left, two suits from 1943; right, a suit from May 1944. Butterick 2746, ready to wear ad from Vogue, and Butterick 2979.

… to this one?

Three Butterick suits from 1949. Butterick Pattern Flyer, Nov. 1949.

Three Butterick suits from 1949. Butterick Pattern Flyer, Nov. 1949.

It takes a while for fashions to change, since only a few people adopt a drastically new silhouette at first. But eventually, if successful, the new styles displace the older ones in the stores. By the late nineteen forties, dresses that could be made with less than three yards of material looked shockingly short.

War-time dress patterns: you could make aany of thers dresses in an average size (16) with three yards of fabric or less. Butterick 2721, 2735, 2600, and 2611;store flyer, Oct. 1943.

War-time dress patterns: you could make any of these dresses in an average size (16) with three yards of fabric or less. Butterick 2721, 2735, 2600, and 2611; store flyer, Oct. 1943.

For women used to making their clothes last for years, (and remaking them) and especially for women on a limited budget, patterns like B4408 — which offered a way to lengthen skirts from waist to hip instead of by letting down the hem — must have seemed like a very good idea (if you still had a well-defined waist).

Butterick 4408 circa 1948 from an image on Pinterest

Detail of Butterick B4408 circa 1948 from an image on Pinterest; ( I couldn’t find it at its source.)

The idea was to remove the original waistband or bodice, let out the waist-to-hip darts (if any,) and insert a new piece in the skirt  — which would be concealed by a peplum, as in B and C. Fortunately, a peplum was often part of the New Look, which exaggerated the width of the hips in order to make waists look smaller. Notice the peplum at top right in this Dior image from 1948 (from Life magazine.) I’m looking at the McCall multi-purpose apron pattern with this in mind.

McCall 1509 tunic apron used as a peplum would allow you to lengthen your old cocktail dress.

McCall 1509 tunic apron used as a peplum would allow you to lengthen your old cocktail dress.

What a cocktail dress from May 1944, might look like when lengthened with the addition of a peplum to hide a pieced skirt.

What a cocktail dress from May 1944, might look like when lengthened with the addition of a peplum to hide a pieced skirt. New hairstyle optional….

Of course I’m just speculating — which is always fun….

 

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Accessory Patterns, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Evening Dress Patterns Become Wedding Dress Patterns, Fall of 1925

Butterick 6227 was an evening dress in September, and a Wedding dress in October, 1925. Delineator.

Butterick 6227 was an evening dress in September, and a wedding dress in October, 1925. Delineator.

While writing about patterns illustrated as wedding gowns in Delineator magazine, October 1925, I recalled that Delineator (owned by Butterick Publishing Company) sometimes illustrated a pattern as an evening or afternoon dress in one issue, and then illustrated it as a wedding dress in a later issue. So I went looking for different versions of the seven “wedding” dresses from October.

Butterick evening dress Patterns 6360 and 6362, Delineator, October 1925, page 33.

Butterick evening dress Patterns 6360 and 6362, Delineator, October 1925, page 33.

These two evening dresses were illustrated as wedding gowns in the same issue — in fact, on the reverse side of the same page:

Butterick patterns 6362and 6350, Delineator, October 1925, pg 32.

Butterick patterns 6362 and 6350, Delineator, October 1925, page 32.

Here’s a closer look:

Two versions of Butterick 6360, Delineator, Oct. 1925. Pages 32 and 33.

Two versions of Butterick 6360, Delineator, Oct. 1925. Pages 32 and 33.

The evening dress description was a little different from the wedding version (see “October Brides”, posted Oct. 16th.)

6360-party-dresss-text-6352-text-1925-oct-dresses-p-33-too-hat-6359

The description of it as a bridal dress did suggest that it could be altered after the wedding and worn as an evening dress. Evening dresses usually had lower necks and lower armholes than day dresses.

Butterick 6362 as a wedding dress, page 32, and as an evening dress page 33. Delineator, Oct. 1925.

Butterick 6362 as a wedding dress with sheer sleeves, on page 32; and as an evening dress on page 33. Delineator, Oct. 1925.

As a wedding dress, it has covered arms (the sleeves were attached to the slip) and a higher neckline. For evening,  it’s accessorized with necklaces and a very big feather fan (above right.}6362-party-dress-text-1925-oct-dresses-p-33-too-hat-6359

Butterick 6349 also appeared in the October issue as a wedding dress and as a casual dress:

Two illustrations of Butterick 6349; Delineator, October 1925, pages 32 and 26.

Two illustrations of Butterick 6349; Delineator, October 1925, pages 32 (wedding) and 26 (day dress.) No. 6349 was only available in sizes 15 years to 20 years.

The skirt of the wedding version looks a little more flared, probably because satin is a stiffer fabric. It also looks shorter to me — again, perhaps that’s due to the droop of a softer material on the right.

As I expected, I found other “bridal” patterns illustrated as evening dresses in the previous month’s magazine. This one was impressive in both versions:

Butterick pattern 6227 as an October Bride and a September evening dress. Delineator.

Butterick pattern 6227 for an October bride and a September evening dress. Delineator.

Butterick 6227, Delineator, September 1925.

Evening dress description of Butterick 6227, Delineator, September 1925.

Butterick 6175 was illustrated as a bride in October; in September, the look was appropriate for a party, but much less formal. Does the lace make all the difference?

Butterick 6175 was illustrated as a bride’s dress in October; in September, the look — illustrated in shiny satin with with fur collar and cuffs — was appropriate for a party, but much less formal. Does the lace make all the difference?

6175 description from Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Dress on right, above:  Pattern 6175 description from Delineator, Sept. 1925.

I only found five of the seven October Brides’ patterns in day or evening versions — perhaps because I simply didn’t photograph them.  Why some dresses had bridal potential and others didn’t is not clear to me. If one of these two dresses could be adapted to a wedding, why not the other?

Pattern 6224, October bride, and 6275, just a pretty September dress. Delneator.

Pattern 6224, an October bride, and pattern 6275, just a pretty September dress with embroidery on the sheer sleeves. Both have flared skirts and similar necklines. They are both very long in the torso. Delineator.

6275-text-1925-sept-p-36-party-dresses

I wondered about this rose-trimmed dress, too — until I realized that it was born to dance:

Butterick 6276 from Sept. 1925. Delineator.

Butterick 6276 evening dress pattern from September  1925. Delineator.

Butterick 6276 description, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

Butterick 6276 description, Delineator, Sept. 1925.

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Filed under 1920s, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Wedding Clothes

Beauty Spots, Court Plasters, and Patches

A package of gummed black beauty spots, from Johnson and Johnson, circa 1915-1927.

A package of gummed black beauty spots, from Johnson and Johnson, between 1912 and 1927.

When I inherited my Aunt’s house, I found this little envelope, about three inches wide. It originally contained “100 Assorted Beauty Spots manufactured by Johnson and Johnson.”
There are quite are few left in the envelope.

Gummed beauty spots in the shape of circles, stars, crescent moons, triangles, etc.

Gummed beauty spots in the shape of circles, stars, crescent moons, squares,  triangles, etc.

According to the very helpful Kilmer House website, Johnson and Johnson first made this item in 1912, and continued to sell Beauty Spots until 1927. You can read a very good article from Kilmer House about court plasters, beauty spots, and their relationship to Band-Aids (TM) by clicking here.

Butterick pattern 4298 for a "Martha Washington" costume. February, 1924.

Butterick pattern 4298 for a “Martha Washington” costume. Delineator, February, 1924.

When I was writing about this vintage masquerade costume pattern a few days ago, I noticed that “Martha Washington” had beauty spots on her face, and remembered the little package that belonged to my Aunt Dot. (no pun intended.)

Pattern for an 18th century costume, from 1924. Accessories: a white wig, a small mask, and beauty spots.

Pattern for an 18th century costume, from 1924. Accessories: a white wig, a small mask, and beauty spots.

The satirists Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, writing in their magazine, The Spectator in 1711, produced a much quoted satire on ladies wearing beauty spots (then called “patches.”) You can read it by clicking here. (It’s followed by a satire on the size of petticoats in 1709.)

The young man has a patch on his neck; the woman is wearing at least two patches. Hogarth, Marriage a la Mode, Plate III. From Engravings by Hogarth, Sean Shesgreen, Ed.

The young man has a patch on his neck; the woman is wearing at least two patches. Hogarth, Marriage a la Mode, Plate III, 1745. From Engravings by Hogarth, Sean Shesgreen, Ed.

These little black patches (called “mouches” in France) could be stuck to the face to draw attention to an attractive feature (like the natural mole near Cindy Crawford’s lips.) A small black star near the eye might give importance to that feature, while  distracting us from a missing tooth, or a pimple on the nose. In fact, Steele mentions a lady who used a patch to cover a pimple, which made people misjudge her political affiliation. (He says patches on the right or on the left cheek proclaimed a lady’s politics in 1711.)

There is a wonderful gallery of 17th and 18th century images featuring beauty marks and patches at Poor Little Rich Girl by Boudoir Queen. Click here to enjoy them.

Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette, Costumed by Adrian in 1938. From Creating the Illusion, by Jorgenson and Scoggins,, p. 144.

Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette, Costumed by Adrian in 1938. From Creating the Illusion, by Jorgenson and Scoggins, p. 144.

Here is 1930’s star Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette wearing beauty patches. Her costumes, by Adrian, were many yards over the top (and the movie was in black and white!)

Here is an Italian diagram for the placement of beauty spots.

Marilyn Monroe sometimes accented her mole, or beauty mark.

This Pictorial Review cover from 1927 shows a woman in an 18th century white wig and a beauty spot.

Men wore beauty patches, too.  According to The Encyclopedia of Fashion,

“Beginning in the late sixteenth century, fashionable men and women imitated this natural mark by sticking black beauty patches on their faces. These patches were eventually used to send signals to members of the opposite sex in flirtatious courtship rituals, but they had a practical use as well. Carefully shaped black patches could be applied to hide blemishes and scars on the face, especially the deep round scars left on those who survived the frequent outbreaks of smallpox.” Read more here.

The historical film spectacle Orphans of the Storm (the storm was the French Revolution) opened in 1921. Rudolf Valentino’s movie Monsieur Beaucaire (1924) may also have prompted some people to wear 18th century masquerade costumes in the twenties. In this poster,  both Valentino and his female co-star wear “patches.” Here is another view.

There  was even a language of patches, just as there was a language of fans and a language of flowers. With three patches you could day “I am married” but “I entertain propositions” and “I know how to keep a secret, ” among other things.

In novels of the early twentieth century, a small cut may be treated with a self-adhesive “court plaster,” which you cut to size as needed. Practical big sisters often carried court plasters in their pockets.  Kilmer House — the history division of Johnson and Johnson —  explains the name:

“Johnson & Johnson made Beauty Spots out of materials left over from making plasters.  Since 1887, Johnson & Johnson had been making Court Plasters, which had the same origins but were the more practical cousin to Beauty Spots.  To confuse matters, Beauty Spots were sometimes referred to as Court Plasters, a name that goes back to their origins in the royal courts of Europe.  They had been used by court women, who set the fashions in their day.  According to Fred Kilmer, Court Plasters started out as fashion statements, before being used by the masses to cover small cuts and scratches. “

Into the Gloss wrote a nice summary of attitudes toward moles and beauty marks over the years.

My Aunt Dot, sitting on a roof as a teenager in 1919. She like costume parties. I wonder when she bought that package of beauty spots.

My Aunt Dot, sitting on a roof as a teenager in 1919. She liked costume parties. I wonder when she bought that package of beauty spots, and how she used them.

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Martha, Is That You?

George and Martha Washington in illustration for article in Delineator, February 1925, p. 19.

George and Martha Washington in an illustration for an article in Delineator, February 1925, p. 19.

I was making an inventory of a vintage costume collection for a friend, trying not to spend too much time on items with little resale value. I found a section of bustle dresses, or parts of them, that were clearly “the real thing.”

Vintage bustle dress, skirt missing.

Vintage bustle dress, skirt missing. Too small to fasten on the mannequin.

Vintage bustle dress , embroidered buttons. Details.

Vintage bustle dress, embroidered buttons. Details. The fabric is substantial.

Vintage brown taffeta bustle dress top; skirt missing.

Vintage brown taffeta bustle dress top; skirt missing. The long overdress fitting snugly at the hips, with gathers almost over the pelvis, can be seen in 1879-1880.

I never had time to photograph that one on a mannequin. The front with long, low gathering is very distinctive.

Back detail of late Victorian overdress. Skirt missing.

Back and fabric detail of late Victorian overdress. Brocade, satin, and velvet.

Front of long dress in autumn colors, satin underskirt.

Front of long dress in autumn colors, satin underskirt.

Late Victorian bustle dress, side view.

Late Victorian bustle dress, side view. Changeable taffeta.

A vintage bustle dress with back draperies pulled up, rather like a 19th century version of an 18th century polonaise.

A vintage bustle dress with back draperies pulled up, rather like a 19th century version of an 18th century polonaise. Skirt missing; a petticoat is visible.

All those crisp fabrics — and then I reached into the “bustle era” hanging storage and put my hand on this one:

A polaise -- sort of. Print cotton fabric, soft and droopy, rather too small in circumference....

Not a bustle, but a polonaise — sort of. It has elements of the robe a la francaise. Print cotton fabric, soft and droopy, rather too small in circumference…. for a moment, I thought it might be a “Dolly Varden dress.” (An 1870’s fad based on an 18th c. character in a Dickens novel.)

But, no, it’s a masquerade costume — meant to be 18th century — from a period that favored soft, droopy fabrics, no boning, and a skirt less full than the 1780’s.

 Martha Washington costume pattern, Butterick, 1924.

Martha Washington costume pattern 4258, Butterick, 1924.  (It is not this exact dress, but shows the effects of 1920’s style on the perception of 1780’s fashions.)

The front of the costume was never photographed on a mannequin, but you can see, as it hangs on a coat hanger (that’s how I found it) that the sheer ruffles on each side of the front are long enough to be worn crossed like the “Martha Washington” costume’s fichu:

Top of a masquerade or theatrical costume made in the the 20th century, but suggesting the Colonial period.

Top of a masquerade or theatrical costume made in the the 20th century, but suggesting the Colonial period. The sheer ruffles on the front are very long, probably meant to cross over the breast and waist. The machine stitching on the sleeve flounces is crude.

It has an interior bodice made of netting — a practice I have seen in dresses of the nineteen-teens.

The inner bodice of costume is made of netting. A theatrical costume would be lined with a strong fabric, like muslin, to take the strain off the seams -- and to allow for a tight fit over a period corset.

The inner bodice of costume is made of netting. A theatrical costume would normally be flat-lined with a strong fabric, like muslin, to take the strain off the seams — and to allow for a tight fit over a period corset.

All the sewing is a bit sloppy — and  why not, for a costume that might be worn only once?

These pieces of twill tape inside the skirt hold up the poufs of the polonaise.

These pieces of twill tape inside the skirt hold up the “Polonaise” poufs of the overskirt.

At the time when I found it, I wondered why my friend had collected something so clearly not “the real thing.”

But, many years afterward, I remembered it when I realized that pattern companies have been making “colonial lady” and “Marie Antoinette” patterns for costume parties, Halloween parties, centennials and local history pageants, 4th of July parties, and amateur theatricals for a very long time.

A Martha Washington costume from Butterick, February 1924. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, but dressing up in a masquerade costume like this was more glamorous and romantic than many other options.

A “Martha Washington” costume from Butterick, February 1924. As far as historic accuracy goes, it is pretty awful, but dressing up in a masquerade costume like this was more glamorous and romantic than many other options.

Click here for another Butterick  “Martha Washington”  pattern, circa 1941, No. 1695. The dress my friend collected does a better job of interpreting the back of an 18th century dress than either of the Butterick patterns.

Martha Washington Costume pattern 4258 and Continental suit costume pattern, Delineator, Feb. 1925, p. 37.

Martha Washington costume pattern 4258 and Continental suit costume pattern 4262, Delineator, Feb. 1925, p. 37.

 

 

 

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