Tag Archives: vintage fashion

Embroidery Ideas from 1927: Sports Motifs and More

Butterick embroidery transfer 153, from Delineator, May 1927.

The oriental motifs on the scarf look a bit bigger than 5 3/4 inches…. Artistic license, presumably.

Vaguely Middle-Eastern (“Oriental”) embroidery motifs for hat and scarf, Delineator, May 1927.

The vaguely “oriental” embroidery on this dress from May 1927 is the top right design from Butterick 153, rotated to the left. Butterick 1390. Delineator.

But for me, the delight of this particular set of transfers is the women playing sports : tennis, golf, and polo.

Sportswomen depicted on Butterick embroidery transfer 153, from 1927.

You could use this design to make your own 1920’s “Polo shirt.”

[Note: This post is dedicated to sportswear collector, mentor, historian, and always interesting blogger The Vintage Traveler. ]

Tennis players in an ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Nov. 1927. “You, too, will find that Lucky Strikes are mild and mellow,” said Ed Wagner to Margery Bailey.

Monogram Mania

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Tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen wore many outfits designed by couturier Jean Patou in the 1920’s, which helped to popularize his sporty sweaters and skirts.  Lenglen first appeared at Wimbledon in Patou’s short white silk pleated skirt and a sleeveless cardigan in 1921. According to Brenda Polan & Roger Tredre, her outfit created a sensation and introduced the sporty, boyish look known as the “garçonne.”

“As with so much sportswear, many of [his] clothes were in reality bought by women who did not participate in sport and were more interested in showing off their Patou monogrammed cardigan sweaters to their envious friends.” — Polan and Tredre, in The Great Fashion Designers

Patou took credit for shortening skirts to the knee in 1925; he was one of the first designers to put his monogram very visibly on his designs — monogrammed cardigans, scarves, etc. This was a clever move, since without the stylized  JP monogram his relatively simple sportswear — sweater, skirt, and matching scarf — would not have proclaimed its price. [Sometimes I’d like to go back in a time machine and strangle Patou, but then I realize that somebody else —  probably his arch-rival, Chanel — would have invented the merchandising of monogrammed “Designer” everything if he hadn’t done it.] For a concise history of Patou, see The Great Fashion Designers, by Polan and Tredre.

A  monogrammed tennis dress (or just a sporty dress) from May 1929. Butterick 2621;  Delineator.

After Patou popularized monogrammed sportswear in the 1920’s, Butterick’s Delineator magazine showed monograms or other embroidered motifs on many of the patterns illustrated.

Monograms on Butterick patterns from October 1924. On the left, GAB; on the right, JK.

Monograms in vaguely “Chinese” lettering were popular, as was stylized lettering that created a spot of interest on an otherwise simple garment.

Monograms in April 1927 and 1925. The dress at left uses the monogram letters below; three letters (R S K) create a diamond shape.

Butterick lettering transfer 10309 could be used to make a diamond-shaped monogram: one large letter between two smaller ones. January 1925.

Letters in the shape of Chinese brushstrokes were also chic:

Pseudo-Chinese letters for monograms; Butterick 10245, May 1924. Two letters — one from the set at left, one from the set at right — form a (roughly) diamond shape.

The monogram on this Butterick blouse says “AG.” September 1924.

Although completely unlike the other designs from Butterick transfer 153, this idea of embroidering a posey of poppies as if the flowers are emerging from a pocket is still charming:

A bunch of embroidered poppies seems to grow from the pocket of a dress or blouse. 1927. This design could be an applique, too.

Note: I quoted the passage about Patou and monograms from a previous post about tennis and fashion. Click here to read more.

It was customary, in three-letter monograms, to put the initial of the last name in the center, in a larger size, with first and middle name initials on either side. The monogram of Betty Louise Smith would be B S L.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear

Sleeveless (and Almost Sleeveless) in 1924

“New in New York:” Sleeveless dresses, May 1924. Delineator, p. 23.

“The sleeveless styles are to be much worn for country dresses and frocks for restaurant use…. For out of town these dresses are made of the fine cotton materials in white and delicate colors.”

Caption for “New in New York” article by Evelyn Dodge, Delineator, May 1924.

What makes this worth notice is that most contemporary fashion advice until 1924 emphasized that evening dresses were sleeveless; day dresses for city wear were not.

This dress is definitely “sleeveless,” and the parasol tells us that it is not being worn as an evening dress, but an afternoon dress. May 1924.

Although the dress in this illustration does not look short to me, editorial advice in April declared: “Dresses remain decidedly short except for evening. For day dresses sleeves can be long or short [;] evening dresses are sleeveless.” Nevertheless, the rules were obviously changing in 1924, as this drawing of a casino shows:

From an advertisement for Butterick in Delineator, January, 1924. “On the Riviera, in Paris, wherever fashionable society meets….” Dresses with long and short sleeves, as well as sleeveless dresses, are worn at this gaming table, blurring the distinction between day and evening clothes.

Often, nineteen-twenties’ lace, silk, or chiffon afternoon dresses used the same pattern as an evening dress — but the evening version was sleeveless and usually had much lower-cut armholes:

This evening dress for Misses has deep armholes. Butterick 5255, Delineator, June 1924.

Paris showed some very deep armholes in 1924 …

Soulie’s sketch of a Paris evening gown by Doucet, Delineator, June 1924.

Paris couture by Georgette, left, and Lenief, right; March 1924. Delineator.

Description of evening gown by Lenief, March, 1924. Delineator. “For more formal evening use the decolletage is deeper and the bodice is entirely sleeveless.”

Butterick evening gowns from April 1924: No. 5126, in yellow, has armholes that reach the waist. It is a robe de style in the mode of Jeanne Lanvin. No.  5110, in pink, is more conservatively sleeveless.

Sometimes the underarm opening was very revealing; it could be charming when a lace or chiffon under-dress was revealed, as in this advertisement:

Very low-cut armholes reveal the under-garment in this 1924 ad for Vivaudou talcum powder.

Not all evening gowns had extremely deep arm openings:

Not all evening armholes were cut extremely low. Sleeveless Butterick 5064 from April 1924.

However, the “sleeveless” look that caught my attention as distinctly a fashion of 1924 is this one:

A closer look at the “New in New York;” the dress on the right of the illustration of “sleeveless” dresses has an unusual armhole, cut very deep and finished with a band of fabric. Delineator, May 1924.

Several versions were offered as Butterick patterns.

Right, a different illustration of the dress in the editorial illustration: Butterick 5199, shown here in yellow, is a deep-armholed dress is made of sheer chiffon.  May 1924. Notice how far below the top of the slip is the bottom of the armhole.

Butterick 5259 appeared in April, 1924. Anyone looking at her side with the arm raised would have seen inside the dress. It could also be made with long sleeves.

For vintage dealers and historians, here’s an interesting fact: Butterick 5259 used elastic in a casing at the sides of the low waist.

In June, a similar style was illustrated as a dress for Misses:

Butterick 5253 was similar to 5259, but the dress is not printed with stripes; those are graduated tucks which get bigger near the hem.

This blurry photo of a dress by Paul Poiret shows a similar deep armhole with a wide, straight binding:

Photo of a dress by Paul Poiret, from Delineator, July 1924.

“Sleeveless Styles;” detail of Butterick dresses 5350 and 5360, July 1924, Delineator. No. 5360 was available up to size 52.

These are not “sleeveless” by today’s standards; other, more typical 1920’s styles might have a sort of cap sleeve, often cut in one with the shoulder of the dress:

Typical twenties’ dresses with short sleeves, sometimes cut-in-one with the body of the dress. These are not described as sleeveless. All from 1924, Delineator. Butterick 5375, 5368, and 5221

However, I haven’t yet found a specific word for the low, bound arm openings like this one, simply described as “bindings” or “sleeve bands” :

Butterick 5267, from June 1924.

Pattern information an alternate view for Butterick 5267, June 1924. This view (far right) has long sleeves.

These wide, band-bound armholes were also seen a blouse:

Butterick blouse pattern 5575, as shown in November (left) and October, 1924. (Yes, Butterick also sold patterns for cloche hats. See more hat patterns from 1924 here.)

Of course, sleeveless fashions helped to sell certain grooming aids in 1924:

Ads for Zip hair remover, both from Delineator, 1924.  “Those embarrassing moments… those critical looks….” Superfluous hair is “off because it’s out.”

Removal of underarm hair was not a new idea — evening gowns of the 1910’s were also revealing.

This Neet depilatory ad from 1924 suggests that “Perhaps because of an old-fashioned scruple you have hesitated to rid yourself of the disfigurement of underarm hair….Are your arms constantly pinned to your sides? …The swing of convention … is carrying America back to the old Greek ideal of womanly beauty — the unhampered, active, supple body.” It was also a body with underarms as hairless as a marble statue.

Ad for Neet hair remover/depilatory. Delineator, Oct. 1924, p. 25. “…Rid yourself from the disfigurement of underarm hair.”

Ad for Neet dipilatory, Nov. 1924. Delineator, p. 99. (That’s some party!)

In 1925, the peculiar “sleeveless sleeve” I’ve been showing was still around — this time, on a nightgown. I love the striped pajamas, too.

Nightgown 5936 and pajamas 5948; Butterick patterns in  Delineator, April 1925.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, vintage photographs

Companion-Butterick Pattern for Short Misses, May 1937

Three very different dresses “for Short Misses” from one “Triad” pattern, Companion-Butterick 7361. Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937. [These women do not look short….]

The Woman’s Home Companion often featured “Triad” patterns, which promised three styles from one Butterick pattern. This one, Companion-Butterick 7361, is unusual in that the styles are so very different from each other. The flattering center-pleat skirt is shown with and without top stitching, in crisp or soft fabric, but it’s recognizably the same pattern piece. The bodices, however, have very little in common.

Left, Companion-Butterick 7361 in a sleeveless version with tied shoulders and a sharply angled front.

The armhole seems to echo the pointed front. Bows at the shoulders are repeated in the belt. There is a small, angled bust dart at the side, but most of the bust fullness is supplied by fabric gathered at the shoulders. The “sunback” opening is square.

Back and alternate views of Butterick 7361, a “Triad dress for Misses 5 feet 4 inches or under.” WHC, May 1937. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40 inch bust measure.”

A zip-front version of Butterick 7361 has top stitched pleats and a crisp white collar to match its white zipper and belt buckle. WHC, May 1937. The editors called this a shirtwaist, but suggested “you can twist pearls over the shirt collar of the print.”

In 1937, zippers on relatively dressy dresses were a new idea. (And zippers were not always available in a wide range of colors.) This dress is not active sportswear, nor is it a housedress or work uniform. The small white clutch purse hints that this could be worn shopping, or out to lunch. In this version of Butterick 7361, the bust fullness is controlled by two parallel tucks at each shoulder. Tiny (false?) pockets with tabs have white buttons to match the buttons on the puffy sleeves.

The third version of this dress is definitely the most formal.

A formal afternoon dress version of 7361 is illustrated with a sheer over-layer, which could have long sleeves. WHC, May 1937.

In this version, the bodice has a shaped waist with the fullness softly gathered to it. The shoulder area is shirred. The modestly V-necked collar is trimmed with artificial flowers, and the belt has become a sheer sash tied in a big bow.

Text explaining Companion-Butterick 7361, Womans’ Home Companion, May 1937, p. 83.

Sometimes WHC illustrators drew shoes supplied by their advertisers, but I can’t find an exact match from this issue.

Air Step shoes ad, with prices, WHC, May 1937. The high heeled sandal on the right is very similar to the black shoes shown with the afternoon dress version of 7361.

From an ad for “Cabana” shoes by Walk-Over, WHC, May 1937.

Cabana shoes from Walk-Over, from an ad in WHC, May 1937. Perforated shoes for summer. The “Ardwyn” style was patented.

I tend to think of white, perforated shoes as “old lady” shoes, probably because my grandmother still wore them in the 1950’s. But the two-tone “Caribee,” above right, right does not have wide, low, “old lady” heels.

A store-bought, zip-front, print dress similar to Butterick 7361 is worn with stack-heeled white shoes by the model in this ad for Air Step shoes. WHC, May 1937.

For casual shoes, Keds (United States Rubber Co.) made many attractive cloth shoes in the 1930’s.

Ad for Kedettes cloth shoes for summer; WHC, May 1937. They were available in a wide variety of colors and styles. Prices $1.29 to $2.29.

This similar “Kedettes moccasin,” in white and navy, is from 1938:

Bottom of page, Kedettes shoe ad, McCall's, July 1938.

I love those striped soles!

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Uncategorized, Vintage patterns, Zippers

Smocked Blouses for Women, Late 1940’s

McCall pattern 1221 for a smocked blouse. This image is from the Dec. 1946 catalog, but the pattern dates to 1945.

“One smocked blouse leads to  another….”

After showing smocked dresses from the 1920’s for both women and children, I remembered that I have three vintage McCall Needlework catalogs. I found them, along with several used patterns, at an estate sale just down the block from my house. The woman who lived there had made this blouse pattern, McCall 1221, at least three times, in three different sizes. I like to think she made matching blouses for her daughters; perhaps she made one for herself, too. What a nice family photo that would have made.

She had other used patterns for smocking, as well, so I’m guessing she enjoyed this craft, and was good at it.

McCall smocking transfer 441 first appeared in 1936. It was still in the Needlework Catalog in November of 1950, and probably later than that.

This illustration gives you an idea of one basic smocking technique. It has many, many variations.

McCall 441, description from the December 1946 Needlework Catalog.

McCall smocking transfer 131 first appeared around 1934. It was in my catalogs for 1946 and 1950, too.

Smocking was long a sign of quality (or of doting parents and grandparents) in children’s clothing. Click here for a child’s smocked dress from 1934. Click here for a child’s smocked Simplicity pattern from 1981. But there have been decades when smocking was also worn by grown women.

The Commercial Pattern Archive at University of Rhode Island has McCall smocking transfer 1910, dated to 1931.  It also has a smocked blouse pattern from Butterick, dated 1948. As a way of controlling and decorating gathers, smocking appears on several McCall patterns for women from the late 1940’s.

McCall blouse pattern 1187 included an embroidery transfer for smocking (a grid-like pattern of dots) and smocking instructions. Image from Dec. 1946 catalog.

“Smocking is always good style…. Work it in some of the new color combinations, purple on green or lime, for instance.” (Yes, that’s the color combination illustrated on the right.)

McCall smocked blouse pattern 1136. Image from Deember 1946 catalog.

(I’ll be showing more “peasant styles” in another post.)

McCall smocked blouse pattern 1197, originally issued in 1945. It included a “smocking lesson.”

Details and description of smocking pattern 1197. “Peasant-style smocking, strongly influenced by Russia. It has real old-world charm.”

Russia was allied with Britain and the U.S. in the defeat of Nazi Germany, and suffered terrible losses. In 1945, America was not yet in the grip of anti-communist hysteria, so Russian-style embroidery was admired.

This smocked bed jacket appeared in 1944. This image is from the 1946 McCall needlework catalog, but it’s also in the catalog for November 1950, six years later.

Description of McCall pattern 1133, Needlework Catalog for December 1946.

Once people started watching TV in their bedrooms, you’d think bed jackets would have made a comeback. They’re not just for people who are served breakfast in bed.

Once I started looking, I found about thirty smocking patterns — for the embroidery transfers or for clothing — just from those three McCall catalogs. I’ll concentrate on children’s patterns in other posts. And I’ve requested a book about smocking from my local library:  A-Z of Smocking edited by Sue Gardner, published in 2016.

To get an idea of the range of designs that can be created using smocking techniques, visit this Pinterest page. 

Katafalk, a WordPress blogger, has a clearly illustrated demonstration of one kind of smocking. Click here.

 

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Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Vintage patterns

A Few Favorite Twenties’ Patterns

 

An embroidered coat from Delineator, August 1926.

Today’s post doesn’t have a theme; these are just patterns I find attractive, and they are all from the 1920’s. The coat itself is probably a Butterick pattern, but I don’t have another picture of it. Fullness below the elbow was often seen in 1926 patterns.

A closer view of the coat and the embroidery transfer, Butterick 10464. It seems inspired by Chinese designs. Delineator, August 1926.

Surprise: the coat is made of taffeta! However, the braid could also be applied to a light wool.

It would be an unusual quilting motif.

I’m always attracted to twenties’ styles with a geometric quality. The yellow dress below is complex but not fussy (I’m not big on ruffles or fluttering chiffon) and the top-stitching made me think it might be a light wool fabric (but it’s silk.) The tab of material that passes through the front looks like a designer touch; I like the top-stitched self belt, and the parallel diagonal lines add interest.

The dress shown in yellow is Butterick 2682, from June of 1929.

Another surprise: This is referred to as a tennis dress! (I do hope there was a sleeveless version….) There are pleats in back, too.

I don’t like the dress on the right at all — is its “anchor panel” echoing the styles of the 1300’s? (Click here to see the 1315 tomb brass of Lady Margaret of Cobham.)

The print dress on the right illustrates Butterick pattern 2675, from 1929.

I don’t show enough patterns for children; these are both charming and comfortable. Below, the young lady on the left wears a dress decorated with triangular pockets. The collar has the same [applied?] trim. If the trim is tiny intersecting tucks, it would be a technique favored by Vionnet.  (The capelet was optional.)

Left, Butterick 7017, for girls 8 to 15. Right, Butterick 7021 is decorated with embroidered (and appliqued?) flowers for girls aged 6 to 10. Delineator, August 1926.

For sophisticated ladies, a set of lingerie inspired by Vionnet would be just the thing. Personally, I’d prefer this lounging pajama set!

Suggested Christmas gifts made from Butterick patterns; Delineator, December 1928.

Butterick lounging set 2288. December, 1928.

[Calling the robe a “coolie” coat is now offensive; ku li, referring to men who did hard labor, means “bitter strength.”  My school textbooks showed the final spike being driven into the Central Pacific railroad in 1869, connecting the east and west coasts of the United States, but they didn’t mention the thousands of Chinese laborers whose work made that celebration possible. Then, just thirteen years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. I’m afraid I see a pattern of events here….]

Back to more trivial patterns: Butterick claimed this set of lingerie was inspired by Vionnet. It included a step-in, underpants, and a nightgown.

This step-in with lace inserts is Butterick pattern 2348; from 1928. Step-ins usually buttoned at the crotch.

Butterick 2349, “tap pants”/underpants/drawers/dance pants are part of a set; 1928. The vocabulary for underpants is varied.

This night robe [nightgown] — flows smoothly. Butterick 2350, from 1928.

The text does not say whether the set is cut on the bias, just that it’s made of “geometrical sections”. It’s certain that any of these undies would look good under a sheer negligee.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Accessory Patterns, lingerie, Musings, Nightclothes and Robes, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2

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Ad for Talon Slide-Fasteners, Delineator magazine, March 1929. Butterick, which published Delineator, also sold dress pattern 2365, which used several zippers. It is the dress being worn by the woman shopper in the Talon ad. Talon zip “colors are black, white, two tones of gray and two of brown.”

While poking around in 1930’s Sears catalogs (via Ancestry.com), I was curious about two things:

  1. After 1935-36 season, when French fashion houses began showing zippers in “dressy” clothing, as opposed to sportswear and work clothes, how long did it take for the fashion to be accepted in the mass market?  I don’t mean in exclusive stores which copied couture, but in low-cost clothing for ordinary women, like those who shopped from the Sears catalog.
  2. I have a theory that the heavy weight zippers which were used successfully in jackets, work clothing, and canvas mailbags in the late twenties and early thirties (See Zip, Part 1) were simply too heavy and stiff to use in the light-weight dress fabrics of the twenties and thirties. Was there a noticeable change in the sizes and qualities of zippers available to home dressmakers in the late 1930s?

Note: All images identified as coming from Sears Catalogs are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC.  Do not copy them.

A little review: Slide fasteners, soon called zippers in the U.S., were found in sportswear and children’s clothing before they appeared in more formal clothing.

These sweatshirts appeared in the Sears catalog for Fall 1937. Some have zip closings at the neck (and one has America’s favorite rodent….)

A Sears “twin set” from Fall 1937 includes a solid color jacket that closes with a separating zipper, and a coordinating striped sweater underneath. ” ‘Zips’ are fashion pets….”

This terrific ski suit has a separating zipper; “zips” on ski wear and children’s snow suits were so customary that the catalog doesn’t even mention this zipper.

Woman’s ski outfit from Sears catalog for Fall 1937.

Work dresses and house dresses also featured zippers in 1937-38:

Snapper and Zip house dresses and housecoats were shown in the Spring of 1938 Sears catalog. This zipped dress was for “housewives, nurses, beauticians, maids . . . the perfect dress to work in.”

A long (and colorful) front zipper appears on this “hostess gown” from Sears, Fall 1937. It is not for street wear, but it is made from rayon crepe, a soft, clinging fabric.

Left, a dress with a zipper neckline, and right, a sporty two-piece with a front zipper. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

Description of Sears two-piece outfit for Spring 1937.

The 1937 outfit in the middle — “with three zips!” — has a zip neck opening and two more zippers as trim on the pockets. Sears catalog, Spring 1937.

In the 1938 catalogs, zippers are still appearing on casual, sporty dresses, but also on more dressy outfits. This is a sporty knit zip outfit:

This sporty knit has a long separating zipper as a fashion detail; Sears, Spring 1938. Presumably the zip colors matched the darker fabric.

This dress has one, long, obvious zipper from neckline to just above the hem, and it is definitely not a dress for housework. Sears, Spring 1938. It’s made of washable Shantung rayon. The long vertical line of the zip “gives you that slim, tall silhouette that’s all the rage.”

This “dressy” blouse is made of taffeta — and has a “popular” zipper running right down the front.

Delicate fabric appears in a taffeta zip-front blouse from Sears, Spring 1938.

There is nothing sporty or casual about this 1938 corselet dress with dyed-to-match embroidered sheer sleeve and bodice inserts.

A “Paris inspired” dress from Sears’ Spring 1938 catalog. Where’s the zipper? In the hidden side seam opening. “A Zip placket closing for trim, perfect fit.”

This is another tid-bit of zipper information: in Spring of 1938, the zipper was taking the place of the old snap or hook-and-eye closing hidden in the side seam of a close-fitting dress.

The close fit of this embroidered dress is the result of a hidden “zip placket” in the side seam. Sears, Spring of 1938.

This dress could be ordered in three different fabrics; it has a smooth fit because of its “neat zip placket closing” in the underarm side seam. Sears, Spring 1938. The summer fabrics are soft rayon.

That’s not to say that the Paris influence — using zippers as a design feature — has disappeared.

Three Zips: “This striking dress has decorative zippers in the shoulder seams. Sears, Spring 1938. On “the Newest Zip Dress . . . A zip tops each shoulder  . . . and another zip snugly closes the placket of the new ‘corselet’ waist!”

A center front zipper is a style feature on this embroidered “pebble crepe” ensemble, too:

Embroidered two-piece dress with zipper front. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.  “The Petit Point  . . .  in heavenly colors . . . runs all around hem of flared skirt . . . up the front of the blouse on each side of colored Zip closing.”

Another zipper novelty in the Sears catalog for Spring, 1938, is the Hollywood style of this aqua “corselet” dress:

The novelty of this dress is its “long back Zip.” Sears, Spring of 1938.

If you thought the center back zipper was a tell-tale sign of the 1950s, here’s proof that it can appear earlier.

And, speaking of novelties — Not only a huge variety of zippers, in many lengths, styles, weights and colors appeared by 1939, so did novelty zipper pulls!

Ornamental zipper pulls from Sears, Spring, 1939.

The zip slide fastener on the front of this dress has a “pendant” — an ornamental zipper pull. Sears catalog, Spring 1938.

Ornamental Zip pulls, Sears catalog, Fall, 1939.  “Jitterbug” bead figurines, and “Scottie Dog, Horse or Squirrel hand carved on natural wood.” Also of interest: “Crown’s Iris Zips” made of plastic on matching colored tape, in five lengths and ten colors. Schiaparelli had encouraged the development of these full-color plastic zippers just a few years earlier.

In 1939, Sears offered a truly extensive selection of zippers for all clothing purposes:

Some of the zippers sold by Sears in Spring, 1939. Heavy jacket zips, colored enamel Talon zips…. “French dressmakers are using colored zips for smart costume accent…. Rustproof metal enameled in colors to match cotton tape…. Simple instructions for sewing with each fastener.”

More zippers from Sears, Spring 1939. “Match or contrast the colors in your house dresses, housecoats, sports clothes with colored enamel….”

Crown’s “Iris” colored plastic zip fasteners sold by Sears, Spring 1939. “A smart dress trimming as well as streamline fastening for evening dresses, blouses.”

Special zippers for side-closing dress plackets from Sears, Spring 1939. “Closed at each end– the only zip suitable for smooth “no gap” dress plackets. Gives the dresses you make yourself that smart professional look. Easy to sew in. Colored enamel on matching cotton tape.”

“Mind the Gap”

By 1939 zipper manufacturers (and their ad companies) took some inspiration from Listerine, which used “Halitosis” to sell mouthwash, and from corset manufacturers who convinced women that a curvy backside was “Lordosis,” and created a new, embarrassing condition called “Gap-o-sis,” to describe what happened to dresses that used snaps instead of zippers in their side plackets.

“We moderns don’t wear dresses that have gaposis. Cure plackets that gap with Talon Fasteners.” Gaposis could be avoided by replacing snap-closing plackets with zipper plackets in your dresses. Sears catalog, Spring 1939; top of a page listing zippers for sale.

Because vintage clothing collectors depend on zippers for help in dating garments, EBay has even published a zipper guide for collectors. You might want to compare it with some of these images from the Sears catalog….

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, 1930s (Part 1)

Thanks to reader kellycb for wondering about the brands of zippers sold through the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I thought I could do a quick search through the 1930’s Sears catalogs available through Ancestry.com. [All images in this post which are labeled “Sears” are copyrighted by Sears Brands LLC. Please do not copy.]

Zipper brands available from Sears in 1939 included Talon, “Standard”, and Crown. Earlier catalogs also sold Koh-i-noor slide fasteners, snaps, and  hook and eye tape.

I was quickly able to find that Sears sold Talon Hookless Slide Fasteners, and “Crown” fasteners — possibly a house brand, since Sears also sold Crown fabrics. But that’s not what soaked up two days of my browsing time. It was the constant use of the word “Zip” to indicate a slide fastener.

Zip: Slide fasteners sold through the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Sears image via Ancestry.com

Technically, advertisers could not call a slide fastener for a garment a “zipper.” But the American public apparently did refer to them as zippers, so the word “zip” — not copyrighted — appears quite often.

The word “zipper” was owned by the B.F. Goodrich company.

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

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] 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.

The word “zip,” indicating speed or energy, was already popular slang.

These 1930 trousers for young men and boys had “zip and dash,” but they did not have what is now called a zipper. The fly closed with buttons. Sears image via Ancestry.com.

You could zip around town in your car or on a bike. “Zip” was also the name of a hair remover that had been in use since the twenties.

Zip hair remover ad from Delineator, November 1924. “Zip — It’s off because it’s out.” “You actually destroy the growth by gently lifting out the roots — painlessly and harmlessly.” [That’s what it says….]

In Akron, Ohio, where Goodrich “Zippers” were manufactured, a college football team is still called the Zips.

The speed with which the name of a trademarked product — the Zipper boot — became the standard American noun meaning “slide fastener” amazed me.

Anyone who is seriously interested in the history of the slide fastener, now usually called a zipper, should know about Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, which has been described brilliantly by The Vintage Traveler. (Click here for her “Currently Reading: Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty“. The Vintage Traveler also showed many ads for  zippers in her “Zippers, Part II.”

As Friedel explains, early slide fasteners were put into production and sold before they were perfected [rather like some software today.]  One problem with the early slide fasteners was that they worked as long as they remained perfectly straight — but sitting usually causes the fabric in a skirt placket or trouser fly to bend. Twenty years later, people who had been publicly embarrassed by a broken slide fastener were not eager to try the improved versions in their clothes.

A Hookless Fastener is featured on this man’s suede jacket (called a blouse) in the Sears catalog for Fall, 1930. “Zip it’s on — Zip it’s off! — that’s the quick modern way to dress….”

Menswear quickly adopted slide fasteners in sports jackets and work shirts, but resistance to replacing button-fly trousers with zipped flies continued till the late 1930’s.

Sears offered many clutch bag models with zippered compartments, and handbags with concealed zip interior pockets. Fall, 1930. The Hookless Fastener Company was now better known as Talon.

Slide fasteners worked well on straight openings: clutch handbags, mail bags, boots and leggings, even sleeping bags.

A boy’s jacket from Sears, Fall, 1927, closes with a Hookless slide fastener. “Zip! — just a simple jerk on the patent hooker and it’s snug around your neck. No buttons to bother with and we guarantee it to work every time.” Judging from the need to explain, this really was “Something New” in 1927.

One brilliant approach to selling slide fasteners urged their use in children’s clothing to make children more self-reliant. (See “Zippers Are Good for Your Children.” A bonus: children didn’t remember those embarrassing old zippers!)

“Put in Zips so she can dress herself — Even tiniest tots manage them.” Sears catalog, Spring, 1939.

Regardless of B.F. Goodrich, the word zipper did get used by other sources:

Here, the Sears catalog for Fall, 1929, suggests making children’s winter leggings with a “zipper  side fastener.” (Leggings with dozens of buttons must have been a nightmare for Kindergarten teachers.)

These trousers — which did have a zipper fly — were aimed at young men with waists 26 to 32 inches:  “College Styles” “for youths.”

Sears offered these trousers “featuring the FLASH Slide Fastener” in Spring of 1935. The extremely wide legs — sometimes called “Oxford bags” — were a young man’s fashion.

Slide fasteners also made an early appearance in girdles and corsets.

“Zip! It’s Open!” The woman on the right is enjoying the ease of a zippered girdle; the woman on the left wears a corselet closed with hook and eye tape. Sears catalog, Spring 1932.

Slide fasteners were used in sports clothing and work clothing before 1936, but they seem to be most often used on relatively heavy fabrics, like leather, wool, corset coutil, and sturdy cottons.

This “Pic-Pon Cord” cotton dress from Sears has a “zip closing;” Sears catalog for Spring, 1935.

Also made from corduroy is this woman’s jacket from 1933.

Zipper neckline closing on a “Sporting Life” jacket for women from Sears, Spring 1933. Its “popular, practical zipper closing” uses a “Jiffy” Fastener.

According to the catalogs, this was Sears’ most popular work dress for women, and in 1935 it was offered in the traditional button front or (“More Style! More Comfort!”) with a zip- closed front.

From the Fall, 1935 Sears catalog: a sturdy work dress. The “new, improved” version with the zipper (right) cost more; zippers were relatively expensive.

The 1935 “Zip-Closed Front” work dress cost twenty cents (20%) more — a zipper cost about 20 cents.

By 1937, the “zip close” version was featured more prominently than the buttoned one.

In Sears’ Spring catalog for 1937, the work dress with a zipper was more prominent.

The zipper made a transition from sports and house dresses to dressier women’s clothing by 1937. Several Paris designers began showing dresses with visible zippers in 1935-36; Schiaparelli put visible plastic zippers right on the front of her dresses.  However,  I found a Vionnet design from 1929 that had a prominent zipper front closing. It was copied by Butterick as pattern 2526.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/1929-march-p-27-couture-vionnet-zipper-e-skirt.jpg?w=318&h=500

A Vionnet ensemble sketched for Delineator magazine in 1929 has a prominent zipper on its front.

Butterick also offered a different dress pattern that was featured in advertisements for the Talon Hookless Fastener in 1928-29.

Here’s a closer look at Sears’ [rather limited] Slide Fastener selection from 1935:

“Zip;” slide fasteners available from the Sears catalog, Spring 1935. Customers were assured that these stayed shut (“locks in any position.”) They were also washable and rustroof — unlike early hookless fasteners which had to be removed before washing your garment.

The concealed “Kover-Zip” slide fastener from Koh-i-noor was available in separating or non-separating versions. Its zipper teeth were completely concealed by a color-fast grosgrain cover. It was a luxury item, more than twice the price of a “Standard slide fastener.” Sears’ Zipper colors were limited to black, brown, tan or white.

In 1935, the zippers were recommended for “finishing sport-wear, blouses [like the man’s suede “blouse” shown above], children’s garments” (the Kover-Zip) or in “sturdy quality for sport coats, sweaters, children’s suits, dresses.” In other words, they were for casual and practical garments, usually made of heavy fabrics.

Men’s shirts with zip fronts; Sears catalog, Fall, 1937.

After the Paris collections of 1935-36, zippers were about to undergo a rapid change for the better. (See “Zip” Part 2, coming soon.)

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Children's Vintage styles, Corselettes, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, handbags, Men's Sportswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Shirts for men, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Zippers