Tag Archives: Woman’s Home Companion

1930’s Beach Pajama Looks: Borrowed from Sailors and Farmers

The Sailors ("Les Matelots;" women take to menswear at the beach. 1931 cartoon, from The Way to Wear'em.

The Sailors (“Les Matelots”) and women wearing “beach pajamas” based on traditional French sailors’ trousers. 1931 cartoon, from The Way to Wear’em.

I’ve always been a fan of wide-legged trousers for women. [If the widest part of your body is the upper thigh, trousers that fit tightly at the ankle will make you look like a parenthesis ( ), the “Venus” of Willendorf, or her sister, the “Venus” of Lespugue, especially from the rear. If you hate wide-legged pants, a classic trouser that drops straight from outer thigh to foot is a flattering choice.]

Wide-legged trousers in "Sun and Sea Clothes," Woman's Home Companion, January 1936.

Wide-legged trousers in “Sun and Sea Clothes,” Woman’s Home Companion, January 1936.

There were plenty of wide-legged beach pajamas and even very dressy evening pajamas to choose from in the early and mid-nineteen thirties. To read more about evening pajamas, click here.

Sailor-influenced Trousers for Women

“The newest pyjamas for beachwear … look more like those of a Breton sailor….” (See cartoon, above.)

Sports dress No. 4275 and Sailor 'Pyjamas" No. 4268. Butterick patterns, Delineator, January 1932, p. 54.

Sports dress No. 4276 and Sailor ‘Pyjamas” No. 4268. Butterick patterns, Delineator, January 1932, p. 54. There is a clutch purse under the model’s left arm.

1932 jan p 54 pyjamas sailor 4268 butterick

The spellings “Pyjamas” and “Pajamas” were used interchangeably until “Pajamas” won out in in the U.S.

That Distinctive Front Opening on Sailors’ Trousers: The Fall Front

On Butterick # 4268, the two button flaps cleverly angle in toward the center of the waist, making the waist seem narrower (and the hips, wider….) The Vintage Traveler collected a pair of  store-bought 1930’s sailor pajamas and wrote about them here, with detailed photos.

In 18th century men’s breeches, the use of two openings is called a fall front, among other names. The Regency Fashions blog has a good, long article about men’s breeches and trouser closings. Professor Linda Przybyszewski showed this rare pair of denim work pants from the 1840’s at her blog, The Lost Art of Dress. In the U.S. Navy, button-fly trousers with a fall front were worn long after zippers came into general use. These Navy uniform pants date to the 1960’s.

[Digression:  I can’t resist describing Butterick dress pattern 4276 (above), which has an asymmetrical front view, and which cleverly used one of the back straps as a guide for the belt. And, surprise: the dress is not white, but green.]

1932 jan p 54 dress 4276

In 1934, Delineator magazine showed a similar pair of front-buttoned sailor “pajamas” in dark fabric:

Butterick sailor trousers pattern 4884, June 1934.

Butterick sailor-styled trouser pattern 4884, June 1934. “Navy cotton slacks with checkerboard shirt.”

They were called “slacks,” rather than pajamas, here.

The next month, Butterick offered a whole page of “Sailor Made Fashions.”

"Sailor Fashions" in Delineator, July 1934, p. 57.

“Sailor Made Fashions” in Delineator,  July 1934, p. 57.

Sailor suits, for little boys, and sailor middies (blouses) had been worn by children and in gym classes for decades, but here the sailor influence, from “laced” bodices to bell-bottomed trousers, is shown on grown women.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

Butterick dresses 5801 (left) and 5769 (right.) Delineator, July 1934.

1934 july p 57 sailor dresses info text 5801

1934 july p 57 sailor dresses info text 5769

Butterick patterns 5784 (girl), 5779 (center) and 5796 (right.) July 1934 Delineator.

Butterick patterns 5784 (girl), 5772 (center) and 5796 (right.) Delineator, July 1934. Delineator.

1934 july p 57 sailor info text dress 5784

1934 july p 57 sailor info text slackd mess jacket5772

1934 july p 57 sailor info text 5796

Dresses with decorative “lacing” on the bodice were featured in The Delineator (1935) and the Berth Robert catalog (1934.)

Nautical influence on dresses: Butterick 6019 from January 1935, left, and the Berth Robert catalog, 1934.

Nautical influence on dresses: Butterick 6019 from January 1935, left, and the Berth Robert catalog, 1934.

You could even get that jaunty nautical look with just a borrowed car and a “little white hat of unmistakable origin.”

Woman wearing a sailor's cap, probably late 1930's.

Woman wearing a borrowed sailor’s cap, probably late 1930’s.

In 1934, you could order a pair of flared beach pajamas with metal buttons at the sides and a coordinating sailor-stripe top from the Berth Robert catalog for $3.95:

Beach outfit from Berth Robert catalog, 1934.

Sailor-inspired beach outfit from Berth Robert catalog, 1934. Decorative zipper closings on sportswear were already common.

Bib Overall Playsuits for Women

Farm family in an ad for Nujol, Delineator, April 1934.

Farm family in an ad for Nujol, Delineator, April 1934. These bib overalls are not a fashion statement, but their daily dress.

I seems strange that, while farmers were fleeing the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, bib overalls made their way into the fashion pages, where they remained in the form of lounge wear and playsuits until they became fully utilitarian in the factories of WW II.

"Evelyn Knapp, Warner Bros. Player, chooses this evening gown.... Pajamas for tennis are attractive and comfortable." Ad, Delineator, June 1932.

“Evelyn Knapp, Warner Bros. Player, chooses this evening gown…. Pajamas for tennis are attractive and comfortable.” Ad, Delineator, June 1932. (Wide legged pants for tennis are also dangerous.)

Below the bib, those side-buttoned “tennis pajamas” look like sailor slacks.

A model in overalls and a lot of bare skin was on the masthead page of Delineator in 1932.

A model wears beach pajamas resembling bib overalls in March 1932. Delineator.

A model wears beach pajamas resembling bib overalls in March 1932. Delineator.

The middle section of the outfit shows that these beach pajamas are not really like workers’ overalls:

1932. The seam lines, belt, and clinging hip band combine the lines of a dress with the idea of bib overalls.

1932. The seam lines, belt, and clinging hip band combine the lines of a dress with the idea of bib overalls.

In this story illustration by Oscar F. Schmidt, a young woman wears purely practical denim overalls:

Story illustration -- working girl in overalls meets salesman -- by Oscar F. Schmidt. Delineator, February 1936.

Story illustration — working farm girl in overalls meets salesman — by Oscar F. Schmidt. Delineator, February 1936.

 A playsuit combines sailor and straps in "Sea, Sun, and Sand" fashions, Delineator, June 1934.

A playsuit (“suspender shorts,” Butterick No. 5537) combines shortened sailor pants with a bib and straps in “Sea, Sun, and Sand” fashions, Delineator, June 1934.

This gardening outfit in a floral print looks as short as a normal 1930’s skirt, but has a bib-and-straps top:

Gardening outfit, photo by Arthur O'Neill for Woman's Home Companion. September 1936.

Gardening outfit, photo by Arthur O’Neill for Woman’s Home Companion. September 1936.

This unflattering playsuit from 1931 appeared in a Delatone depilatory ad. Delineator, August 1931.

This unflattering playsuit from 1931 appeared in a Delatone depilatory ad. Delineator, August 1931. It doesn’t appear to have a bib front; neither did some overall patterns for women.

Hollywood patterns issued a similar overall pattern, #734 (ostensibly for Joan Blondell) in 1934. Click here to see it.

This undated Anne Adams sewing pattern is both practical and more feminine than man’s overalls, with its heart-shaped front and a shorter playsuit option.

Anne Adams sewing pattern No. 4305. Circa 1930's or 40's.

Anne Adams sewing pattern No. 4305. Overalls or playsuit, circa 1930’s – 40’s. It buttons down one side.

More overall patterns from the thirties and forties can be found at the Commercial Pattern Archives; click here for Simplicity #3322 from 1940.

These female welders, working at a shipyard in Brooklyn during the second world war, are wearing man-styled heavy denim bib overalls.

Women welders at Todd Erie Basin shipyard, Brooklyn, WW II. National Archives photo from the book Rosie the Riveter, by Penny Colman.

Women welders at Todd Erie Basin shipyard, Brooklyn, WW II. National Archives photo from the book Rosie the Riveter, by Penny Colman.

At the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, where many women like these “Rosies” worked, a record 747 warships were “completed in two-thirds the amount of time and at a quarter of the cost of the average of all other shipyards.” These women were not playing. You can visit the Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, or online.

 

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

Costume in Context: Women in Trousers

Women in trousers -- beach pajama outfits -- in Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Women in trousers — beach pajama outfits — in Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Costume in Context:  Just because a fashion existed, we should never assume it was worn everywhere and by everyone who could afford it.

Women wearing beach pajamas and playsuits in a an illustration by Weldon Tranch, Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Women wearing beach pajamas and playsuits in an illustration by Weldon Trench, Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

These women in trousers are engaged in idealized farming, milking and harvesting. They are not in a public or urban setting. If you remember your grandmother shopping, dining out or selling real estate in trousers, you may find it hard to believe that most women did not wear trousers to work until the late 1960’s, although some wore them for casual events, like picnics in public places. The kind of restaurants that have a “dress code” today did not admit women in slacks.

A playsuit with shorts and a long skirt to wear as a cover-up. WHC, 1937.

A playsuit with shorts and a long skirt to wear as a cover-up. WHC, 1937.

The woman on the far right is wearing a popular option, a separate skirt that buttons over her shorts, creating a dress look that she can wear in public, perhaps on her way to the farm, or for a trip to the village.

I finally stopped reading a popular mystery series set in the 1920’s because of the very proper female detective’s jarring clothing choices. The author kept putting her in trousers (not breeches) during an era, and in settings, where they would have made her very conspicuous — not to say scandalous. [E.g., alone in London or a rural French village.] Although fashion magazines like Delineator showed patterns for evening pajamas in the late twenties and early thirties, the text always suggested that they be worn at private parties, at members-only country clubs, on cruises, or at resorts. I was reminded of their unsuitability for wear in public places by this story illustration — “a raffish crowd of Bohemians” — from 1935.

“A Raffish crowd of Bohemians;” story illustration from Delineator, Feb. 1935.

The young woman in trousers is surrounded by men and women in a state of undress — not “respectable” people. Is her outfit historically accurate? Yes. However, context matters. One of the men in trenchcoats [detectives?] has just told her, “Come with me.”

“What a thrill!” said the girl.

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

A Woman’s Clothing Budget for 1924 versus 1936

It’s always hard to look at a vintage ad or catalog, see a pair of shoes for $6.50, and figure out whether they were expensive or affordable or really cheap at the time. A while ago, I found several articles about living on $18 per week in the 1930’s. Click here to read more about them. I’ll be citing some of the same charts here.

Gowns from B. Altman catalog, 1924-25. Prices, left to right, $55, $78, $65

Gowns from B. Altman catalog, 1924-25. Prices, left to right, $55, $78, $65.

I’ve been looking through JoAnne Olian’s book on the B. Altman catalogs from the 1920’s. I was surprised by how high Altman’s clothing prices seemed, especially early in the decade. Then I remembered that I have some articles about clothing budgets in the 1920’s, which might give me a better idea of nineteen twenties’ clothing prices.

I decided to compare the nineteen twenties’ and thirties’ budget advice, and see if I could follow it by “shopping” at Sears.

I was struck by one similarity:  In both 1924 and 1936, a college educated office worker — female — could expect to be paid “$18 per week.” So she probably wouldn’t be shopping from the B. Altman catalog; nevertheless, trying to look nicely dressed for work was a real concern.

This woman earned $18 per week in 1924:

Budget for living on $18 per week. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 21.

Earning $18 per week in 1924. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 21.

“…It is necessary that I at all times look well. My wages are figured at the rate of forty cents an hour, which usually averages up to eighteen dollars a week.”

This woman earned $18 per week in 1937:

 Earning $18 a week in 1937. Woman's Home Companion ad, Sept. 1937.

Earning $18 a week in 1937. Woman’s Home Companion ad, Sept. 1937.

“… For several years I could not expect to earn more than $18 a week, even though … I was a bit above the average beginner. Therefore my small salary would just about pay my board and keep me in lunches and carfare with nothing left. I needed new clothes [for] the office … because my dress was so shabby.”

Woman’s Clothing Budget in the 1930’s

In 1936, this article asked “Can a college girl dress on a dollar and a half a week?”

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

“What Can A Girl Live On?” Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1936. Total clothing budget for the year:  $76.55, about one month’s salary.

It concluded that . . .

Budget for living on $20 per week. From Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1934.

Budget for living on $20 per week. From Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1936.

. . . A college graduate making $20 a week in 1936 could afford to spend just $78 a year — $1.50 per week — on clothes. “By being economical she can live decently and comfortably on seven hundred and fifty dollars.” (In theory, she would also be able to save over $100 per year, and/or take a vacation! Or so they said.)

Woman’s Clothing Budget in the 1920’s

The stenographer who wrote to Delineator magazine in August, 1924, asked how a woman with an office job could live — and dress well enough to satisfy her employers — on $18 a week.

That’s right:  The salary of a female office worker was exactly the same — $18 per week — in 1924 and 1936. But in 1924, The Delineator’s experts reached a somewhat different conclusion about her necessary expenditures on clothing.

Living on $18 in 1924. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 19.

How a woman can live on $18 a week in 1924. Delineator, Aug. 1924, p. 19.

In 1924, $3.00 per week was allowed for clothing purchases — twice as much as in 1936. But in 1924, she needed much less for food and lodging (50% of her income) than in the thirties (62.5%.)

Comparing a Working Girl’s Budget, 1924 and 1936

I’m not enthusiastic about the way Woman’s Home Companion rounded $18 per week up to “$80 per month or $960 per year,” so I’ve compared percentages of  income as stated, and lightened my derived figures on this chart.) I multiplied $18 by 52 weeks; WHC multiplied $20 x 4 x 12 months.)

Percent of income spent on Food, Lodging, and Clothes as budgeted in Woman's Home Companion (1936) and Delineator (1924).

Percent of income spent on Food, Lodging, and Clothes as budgeted in Woman’s Home Companion (1936) and Delineator (1924). Click to enlarge. It assumes living in a rented room, probably without a kitchen, and eating many meals out.

Perhaps, during the Depression, food cost more, leaving less money for clothing? Or had mass produced fashions become much more affordable?

Just for fun, I tried to find comparable items in the Sears Roebuck catalogs for 1924 and 1936, always choosing the cheapest similar items I could find to build a stenographer’s wardrobe.

Comparing a Working Girl’s Clothing Prices, 1924 and 1936

After browsing through Sears Roebuck Catalogs for 1924 and 1936, I’m struck by the decrease in some clothes prices. (In both cases, I looked for the very cheapest, not the mid-priced, garments.)

Skirts and Blouses

Wool skirts, Sears catalog, Fall 1924.

Wool skirts, Sears catalog, Fall 1924. The cheapest costs $3.48.

Wool blend skirts from Sears catalog, Fall, 1936.

Wool & wool blend skirts from Sears catalog, Fall, 1936. About $2.00 each. The cheapest costs $1.00.

Inexpensive blouses were easier to find in the thirties, too.

Inexpensive blouses from the Sears catalog, Fall, 1924.

Inexpensive blouses from the Sears catalog, Fall, 1924. Three of these cost less than a dollar each, but the most expensive is $3.48 — or more, in stout sizes.

Blouses from Sears catalog, Fall 1936.

Blouses from Sears catalog, Fall 1936. Six cost $1 each, and the others are less than $2. Could any woman make her own blouse for $1 (pattern 15 cents, thread, material @ 14 to 69 cents per yard, and buttons)? Maybe.

A typist could buy a skirt and blouse for less than $3.00 in the thirties, or about $4.50 in the twenties. But she’d have to settle for the cheapest clothes available from stores like Sears, not from upscale department stores.

Dresses suitable for the office:

The cheapest Sears dresses (excluding cotton housedresses) cost about $5.00 in 1924:

Wool dresses suitable for for the office, Sears catalog, Fall 1924.

Wool dresses suitable for for the office, Sears catalog, Fall 1924. These three were among the very cheapest in the catalog, with many more dresses in the $8 to $16 range. The average price of the 11 dresses described on this page is $7.39.

In 1936, most Sears business dresses were made of Celanese, rather than wool, so they are not strictly comparable.

Dresses from Sears catalog, Fall 1936.

Dresses from Sears catalog, Fall 1936. The $5 dress on the right can be transformed with different necklines.

Sears dresses for $3.98 in 1936. Fall 1936 catalog.

Sears dresses for $3.98 in 1936. Fall 1936 catalog. “Every one a $5.00 value.”

The cheapest nineteen thirties’ office dresses from Sears are about $4; and the variety in this lowest price range is much bigger than in the twenties. Office workers with only one or two dresses could make it seem like they had more by wearing different collars. (See One Good Dress in the 1930’s. ) Patterns for “change-about” dresses were also available. In 1936, the Woman’s Home Companion budget allowed a stenographer just four dresses per year, at $5 each.

Coats

You could find a winter coat for about $9 at Sears in the twenties or the thirties. Of course, a coat was expected to last at least two years.

Inexpensive coats from Sears catalog, Fall 1924.

Inexpensive coats from Sears catalog, Fall 1924. Pure Wool cost more than ” wool velour” or duvetyn.

Better Sears coats cost two to four times as much as these. In 1924-25, a fur-trimmed wool coat from the B. Altman catalog cost $110 to $115:

The coat on the left cost $110, the one on the right $115. B. Altman catalog, 1924 1925.

The coat on the left cost $110, the one on the right $115. B. Altman catalog, 1924 1925.

Better quality fur-trimmed coats from Sears could cost $49 in 1924. And our “stenographer” had only $156 to spend on an entire, year-round wardrobe — coats, shoes, dresses, hats, stockings at about $1 per pair (a big ongoing expense), underwear, etc.

"Economy" coats from Sears Catalog, Fall 1936.

“Economy” coats from Sears Catalog, Fall 1936.

In 1936, The Woman’s Home Companion budgeted $12.50 for a winter coat, every other year. These coats from Sears are a real bargain — assuming that they actually kept you warm and dry.

Shoes:

Inexpensive shoes from Sears cost much less in the 1930’s than in the 1920’s:

Sears shoes, Fall 1924. Stylish, but about $4 per pair.

Sears shoes, Fall 1924. Stylish, but most cost about $4 to $5 per pair.

Shoes from Sears, fall 1936. In all the current styles, and only $2 per pair.

Shoes from Sears, fall 1936. In up-to-date styles, and less than $2 per pair.

In 1936, The Woman’s Home Companion allowed a young woman four pairs of shoes per year — at $3 per pair.

Conclusion:  A careful shopper, fresh out of college and earning $18 per week, could definitely make her clothing budget go farther in 1936 than in 1924 — but she would not be buying $6.50 shoes, and no one with an eye for quality would consider her well-dressed.

Skirtsa dna bloused from the B. Altman catalog, 1925. THe ensemble on the left cost $18.50; the one in the middle was $24.25, and the one on the right cost $24.50.

Skirts and blouses from the B. Altman catalog, 1925. The ensemble on the left cost $18.50, a whole week’s salary; the one in the middle was $24.25, and the one on the right cost $24.50.

No wonder there was a boom in clothing patterns and home sewing in the 1920’s — largely because early twenties’ dress styles were easier to make than ever before. Isaac Singer is credited with the invention of the installment plan, but you’d have to make a lot of clothes to amortize the cost of a sewing machine….

Sears' Portable electric Franklin sewing machine, Spring 1925.

Sears’ portable electric Franklin sewing machine, Spring 1925.

Sewing Machine Prices, 1925 and 1936

In 1925, you could get a treadle sewing machine from Sears for $33, or a portable electric for $43. By 1936, you could get an electric portable or table model from Sears for less than $30 — but inexpensive machines with the new, round shuttle cost more — about $38. In either year, we’re talking about two weeks’ wages for a working woman.

CAUTION:  I did this study for fun, and tried to be accurate. But these samples are much too small for real scholarship. Since not all issues of Delineator and Woman’s Home Companion are widely available — or indexed — I wanted to let serious students of economics know that this material exists — and deserves a more thorough evaluation than I am capable of doing.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes

1936 Dress Pattern for Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter

Companion Butterick pattern 7079, a "triad" pattern in three versions for three different ages. Woman's Home Companion, November 1936, p. 82.

Companion Butterick pattern 7079, a pattern with three versions for three different ages. Woman’s Home Companion, November 1936, p. 82.

In the depths of the Great Depression, The Woman’s Home Companion offered Companion-Butterick patterns. Sometimes they were called “Triad” patterns, and were selected for their economy and efficiency: “Buy one pattern, make three dresses” was the theme. This makes sense, if all three are the same size. But in 1936 and 1937, the magazine suggested one pattern which offered options to suit women of three different ages. It’s an odd idea, but tells us a little bit about how older women were expected to dress differently from their daughters.

Grandmother and Mother in versions of Companion Butterick pattern 7079. Nov. 1936.

Grandmother and Mother in versions of Companion Butterick pattern 7079. Nov. 1936.

“This pattern is designed for any age — from sixteen to sixty — on the distaff side of the family. For grandmother, who may have the flattery of V lines at the neck, we suggest grape colored [double sided] crepe, set off with a matching velvet beret [described elsewhere as “dignified”] and wide-strap shoes in black kid and gabardine.

“For mother, who can go in for sleeves slightly full at top, sheer brown wool touched with dull gold plus a toque made of the dress material [she seems to be wearing the pillbox, instead] and high-built shoes in brown suede with calf.” [A pattern for their hats was also featured in this issue.]

Pattern 7079 for women of sixty, forty, and sixteen. 1936.

Pattern 7079 for women from sixty to sixteen. 1936.

“For daughter, who will like those pocket flaps, very dull black for everything except the lacquer red quill on the toque, the lacquer red belt and the shiny patent trimming on the calf shoes. (Note the hat patterns on another page.)”

"7079 Dress. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44 [inch] bust measure." Companion Butterick, Nov. 1936.

“7079 Dress. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 44 [inch] bust measure.” Companion Butterick, Nov. 1936. Those two little bust darts are interesting.

Daughter (age sixteen) wearing #7079, with pockets, big buttons, and a shiny red belt.

Daughter (age sixteen) wearing #7079, with pockets, big buttons, and a shiny red belt. 1936.

Presumably, only the young and slender will want horizontal pockets making their hips look wider (are they practical– i.e., real– pockets? The article doesn’t say.) The bright, contrasting belt is also only flattering to a slender waist and hips, although all three dresses have belts; grandma’s is the least conspicuous:

whc 1936 nov p 82 page 500 triad 7079 belts three generations

Sleeves that create the broad-shouldered look — popular since the Joan Crawford movie Letty Lynton, in 1932 — are for the mother and daughter, but not for conservative grandma, aged “sixty.” Surprisingly, black is suggested for the young woman, but is perhaps too severe — or too much like mourning attire — to be advised for the older ladies. And all three are wearing fashionable, sturdy, mid-thirties shoes, guaranteed to make legs look shorter and ankles — except very thin ones, as drawn by Ernst — look thicker.

Shoes, 1936. Illustration by Ernst.

Shoes, 1936. Illustration by Ernst.

But I do love those big, triangular 1930’s buttons!

Back views 7079; big 1930's buttons. 1936

Back views of pattern #7079; big 1930’s buttons. 1936. There is no center back opening; side openings under the left arm were commonly used.

All three hats — a pillbox, a beret, and a toque — could be made from pattern 7080. Making hats for “sixty to sixteen” from one pattern makes more sense than buying one pattern to make dresses for three different women, when you think about it.

Companion Butterick hat pattern 7080. WHC, Nov. 1936.

Companion Butterick hat pattern No. 7080. WHC, Nov. 1936.

whc 1936 nov p 81 hats 7080 descript

A new hat gives a lift to the spirits…. If you have never tried [to make a hat] here is a good pattern to begin on.”

Companion Butterick hat pattern 7080, 1936.

Companion Butterick hat pattern 7080, 1936.

The toque really is about as simple as a hat can be: a truncated cone with just one seam. The pillbox is made from strips of 2 1/2 inch wide velvet ribbon. (Linings and hat bands are not mentioned in the description, but could be expected on the pattern envelope.)

To read more about Companion-Butterick “Triad patterns,” click here.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Hats, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

One Coat, Five Dresses: Wardrobe for March, 1936

Companion-Butterick patterns and fashion advice, page 72, Woman's Home Companion for March 1936.

Companion-Butterick patterns and fashion advice, page 72, Woman’s Home Companion for March 1936.

Planning your wardrobe around your coat (assuming you have only one winter coat) has been good budget and fashion advice for a long time. In the Great Depression, it was fair to assume that most women had only one or two coats, period. And they were expected to last for at least two years. Click here for a 1936 clothing budget. However, The Woman’s Home Companion brightened its readers’ spirits by assuring them that they would be wearing the latest styles from Paris under that coat.

A choice of print dresses to wear with your coat. Companion-Butterick pattens from Woman's Home Companion, page 73, March 1936.

A choice of print dresses to wear with your coat. Companion-Butterick pattens from Woman’s Home Companion, page 73, March 1936.

The advice was to make one dress that matched the coat exactly, another in a contrasting color from the same pattern, and one in a print fabric.

Companion Butterick patterns for a dress, 6649, and a coat, 6655. WHC, March 1936, p. 72.

Companion Butterick patterns for a dress, 6649, and a coat, 6655. WHC, March 1936, p. 72.

The coat is Companion-Butterick Pattern 6655, available in bust sizes 30 through 46 inches.

WHC 1936 mar p 72 500 coat 6655 text

Dress No. 6649 was illustrated in two versions, one in a lively color, like the wine red shown above . . .

WHC 1936 mar p 72 500 two dresses 6649 text

. . . and another version of the same pattern in fabric to match the coat.

Companion Butterick dress pattern 6649, WHC, March 1936, page 72.

Companion Butterick dress pattern 6649, WHC, March 1936, page 72.

Companion-Butterick patterns often advised that you could save time and money by making two or three versions of the same pattern. Here are two bodice variations on No. 6649.

Companion -Butterick pattrn 6649 made in two different versions. March 1936.

Companion -Butterick pattern 6649 made in two different versions. March 1936.

Those square armholes are interesting, and the pockets are also sharply geometrical. The pattern envelope shows the version on the right, but without dress clips at the neckline.

Prints for Spring, 1936

Woman's Home Companion, March 1936.

Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936.

“Prints are as certain to come back with spring as the swallows. All the Paris dressmakers who stress spring clothes are using prints in quantity.” Quite a list of French couturiers are cited as inspiration: Mainbocher, Schiaparelli, Molyneux, Chanel, and Lelong.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6632, MArch 1936. WHC, p. 73.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6632, March 1936. WHC, p. 73.

Companion-Butterick patterns 6642 and 6638. WHC, p. 73, March 1936.

Companion-Butterick patterns 6642 and 6638. WHC, p. 73, March 1936.

WHC 1936 mar p 73 500 prints text 6642 6638

Printed Dresses for Sprint, 1936. Woman's Home Companion, p. 73, March 1936.

Printed Dresses for Spring, 1936. Woman’s Home Companion, p. 73, March 1936.

Here’s a pattern envelope for #6642, left.

Butterick and The Woman’s Home Companion

The Butterick  Publishing Company suddenly discontinued its own magazine, The Delineator, in Spring of 1937, but there was already an agreement in place with The Woman’s Home Companion to feature Companion-Butterick patterns in every issue. They debuted in this March, 1936, issue of WHC.  Companion-Butterick patterns usually stressed versatility:  several slightly differing dresses could be made from one pattern. The Delineator had always emphasized Butterick’s “Paris” connection; you can see traces of that attitude in this article by “Paris Fashion Correspondent” Marjorie Howard. The Woman’s Home Companion aimed a little lower on the economic scale, and acknowledged that its readers had to make their money go a long way during the Depression.

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Filed under 1930s, Companion-Butterick Patterns, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Schiaparelli Hat Influence

When I woke up one morning this week, I remembered a woman’s voice — kindly, humorous, possibly my Girl Scout Leader —  saying, “Why, bless your pointy little heads!”

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

I must have been dreaming about the hat worn by Carole Lombard at the end of the movie Now and Forever (1934), which I had just watched on Turner Classic Movies. It was one of those cone-shaped felt hats that comes to a point on top, like this one:

Story illustration , Woman's Home Companion, May 1937.

Story illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937.

Pointy hat by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933-34, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Pointy hat by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933-34, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli seems to have been the source for many of the silliest hats of the 1930’s and 1940’s; she didn’t necessarily design all of them, but she had a genius for publicity. Dilys Blum’s massive book on Schiaparelli, called Shocking, printed a page of hat sketches from Schiaparelli’s studio notes:

1930's Schiaparelli Hat sketches pictured in Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

1930’s Schiaparelli Hat sketches pictured in Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

I’m amazed by how often very similar designs appear in Butterick publications, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Woman’s Home Companion — and that’s not counting Vogue and other high fashion magazines.

Schiaparelli was close to the Dadaist and  Surrealist art movements; she had Dali design fabrics for her, and she even made a suit like a dresser, with pockets that were actually drawers. Not to mention her “shoe” hat:

Schiaparelli Shoe hat, winter collection 1937-38. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Schiaparelli Shoe hat, winter collection 1937-38. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

The notebook sketch for the shoe hat shows it with a bright red sole, anticipating Louboutin by 70 years or so.

There’s a reason her perfume (and her biography) was called “Shocking;” shocking people generated publicity. The magazine Minotaure published a contemporary article written by her friend, Dadaist Tristan Tzara, and illustrated with photos by Man Ray, in which Tzara claimed that Schiaparelli’s 1933-34 hats with holes in the crown, or shaped in a series of oval ridges, represented female genitalia.

Hat from Schiaparelli's winter 1933-34 collection, photographed by Man Ray.

Hat from Schiaparelli’s winter 1933-34 collection, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Hat with a hole in the crown, photographed by Man Ray, modeled by Elsa Schiaparelli. WInter 1933-34 collection. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Hat with a hole in the crown, photographed by Man Ray, modeled by Elsa Schiaparelli. Winter 1933-34 collection. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

That’s the kind of article (however firmly the writer had his tongue in his cheek) that gets your hats talked about. If Tzara was right, then the shocking artworks of Judy Chicago (see The Dinner Party, from 1979) were  . . . old hat!

For that matter, in the nineteen thirties and forties (and fifties) the chairs that lined the counter of a diner always had a clip at the back for holding a man’s hat while he ate. Imagine the shocking display of fedoras at lunchtime!

Pointed hats by Schiaparelli. 1930's. Form Shocking, by D. Blum.

Pointed hats by Schiaparelli. 1930’s. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

The conical, pointed hats had variations in the thirties which allowed them to be folded over at the top, or squared off, or open, or dented in at the top, and there were many versions of the exaggerated — and frequently dented — fedora, like the ones at top in this sketch.

Hats from Schiaparelli sketchbook. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

Hats from Schiaparelli sketchbook. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

Pointed hat, fashion illustration. March 1934.

Pointed hat, magazine pattern illustration. March 1934.

Coonical hat with blunt tip, Jan. 1936.

Conical hat with blunt tip, Jan. 1936.

Woman's Home Companion, coat ad, Nov. 1937.

Woman’s Home Companion, coat ad, Nov. 1937. Conical hat, squashed.

Delineator, Feb. 1935.

Delineator, Feb. 1935. Dented crowns, a la Schiaparelli.

Women in ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, Oct. 1937.

Women in an ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, Oct. 1937.

Knit hat by Schiaparelli, 1937. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Knit hat by Schiaparelli, 1937. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Women in an ad for B>F> Goodrich rainboots, WHC, Nov. 1937.

Women in an ad for B.F. Goodrich rainboots, WHC, Nov. 1937.

Hats shown with clothing from Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Feb. 1936, WHC.

Hats shown with clothing from Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Feb. 1936, WHC.

Schiaparelli hat sketchbook 1930s. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Schiaparelli hat sketchbook 1930s. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Butterick fashion news, May 1938. These hats could be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick fashion news, May 1938. These hats could be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick hat pattern No. 7858. May, 1938.

Butterick hat pattern No. 7858. May, 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

I think the one on the left owes a nod to Schiaparelli:

Schiaparelli's

Schiaparelli’s “double slipper” hat, Spring 1938. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Bless her pointy little head.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Musings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

One Suit with Many Blouses: March 1936

Companion-Butterick suit pattern No. 6671, March, 1936.

Companion-Butterick suit pattern No. 6671, March, 1936.

This surprisingly modern-looking flared jacket, with a curved hemline, ought to inspire somebody. [You might want to make it a bit shorter, or inches longer, or add a collar, but the asymmetrical closing, curved hem, and raglan sleeves  are all  worth thinking about.] It was featured in The Woman’s Home Companion as the core of a spring wardrobe for 1936 — varied with several blouses made from a “Triad” pattern.

Pages 70 and 71, Woman's Home Companion, March 1936.

Pages 70 and 71, Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936.

A frequent theme in the Great Depression, when people owned fewer clothes than today, was fashion advice on making one basic dress or suit look different by careful planning and accessorizing. (See also One Good Dress in the 1930s.)

“One Suit Can Make a Spring Wardrobe, Given Plenty of Bright Accessories”

WHC 1936 mar p 71 triad blouses 6672 top

The suit, Companion-Butterick pattern No. 6671 was available in sizes “12 to 20, also 30 to 40 bust measures.” [At first, I thought it was a maternity pattern, but it is just “boxy,” worn over a very slim skirt.]

WHC 1936 mar p 70 suit 500 6671

The skirt has a flared godet in front, instead of a kick pleat in back, for walking ease.

WHC 1936 mar p 70 just suit 500 6671

Woman's Home Companion description of current suits from Paris. Mar. 1936.

Woman’s Home Companion description of current suits from Paris, Mar. 1936.

Pattern #6648, which appeared in the same issue, illustrates a similar chamois yellow blouse worn with a black, boxy-jacketed suit, as described above:

Companion-Butterick pattern 6648, March 1936, was for young women sized 12 to 20. Woman's Home Companion.

Companion-Butterick pattern 6648, March 1936, was for young women sized 12 to 20. Woman’s Home Companion.

Companion-Butterick blouse pattern No. 6672 contained several distinctly different blouse styles, “for sports,” “for shopping,” “for parties,” etc.

Companion-Butterick "triad" blouse pattern #6672. March, 1936, WHC.

Companion-Butterick “triad” blouse pattern #6672. March, 1936, WHC.

I confess — I love the version with red top-stitching.

Pattern 6672 in white linen with red stitching and buttons. March, 1936.

Pattern 6672 in white linen with red stitching and buttons. March, 1936.

For sports — a rough white linen shirtwaist trimmed with red stitching and red buttons. Add a bright red hat, the soft fabric kind that sticks on your head and rolls up in your hand.  Find a red bag to match, preferably with a convenient top handle, low heeled black walking shoes, and black or white fabric gloves.”

For parties — a short-sleeved blouse of printed silk in the gayest colors you see. Top it with a huge hat of flattering white straw, your best white suede gloves, black sandals and a large black and white bag. You might try a big chiffon handkerchief in white or a bright color knotted around your throat.”

Two more versions of pattern No. 6672.

Two more versions of pattern No. 6672.

For shopping — a chamois yellow shantung blouse tied high and crisp at the neck. Choose a tailored black straw hat banded in yellow, natural chamois gloves, a neat black seal bag and comfortable black town shoes.”

Bage and gloves, Nar. 1936. WHC, p. 71

Bags and gloves, Mar. 1936. WHC, p. 71

“Just for fun — bright Kelly green in a saucy little hat and a tremendous green alligator bag, green polka-dotted white silk blouse, white gloves and the season’s newest shoes —  square-toed, square heeled, patent leather pumps.”

WHC 1936 mar p 70 suit 500 6671

 

“That is one outline for a colorful wardrobe based on a black suit. You may want to vary it with a scarf to match your favorite bracelet or an entirely different color scheme.  But whatever you do remember the suit is a foundation. The accessories are your color notes to be played as gaily as you please.” — Woman’s Home Companion, March, 1936.

Inside-Out Darts

Another surprising [Post modern? Deconstructed?] detail:

The print blouse …

Print blouse #6672. March 1936.

Print blouse #6672. March 1936.

. . . has neckline darts that put the excess fabric on the outside, as a trim detail, rather than hidden inside.

I’ve seen this on other Butterick patterns; these are all from 1938:

Dress pattern, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Dress pattern, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

 

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Filed under 1930s, bags, Gloves, handbags, Hats, Purses, Shoes, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns

Vogue Patterns for Summer Dresses, 1936

Vogue patterns featured in Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue patterns featured in Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

The Ladies’ Home Journal sold its own line of patterns early in the twentieth century, but in 1935 it entered into a special agreement with Vogue patterns to feature “exclusive but ‘Easy to Make’ Vogue patterns.”

Announcing the first anniversary of Vogue-Journal "Easy -to-Make" patterns , August 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Announcing the first anniversary of Vogue-Journal “Easy-to-Make” patterns, Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1936. Most of the patterns illustrated above are “Easy-to-Make”, but none is the four-in-one pattern mentioned here.

The Vogue-Journal patterns illustrated in July, 1936, are for “little summer daytime dresses.” One is a wrap dress, recommended for pregnancy; two are for “big ladies;” another has an optional zipper closing in front. 1936 is the year when couture collections began showing dresses — not necessarily sport dresses — with slide fasteners, although the zippered gold dress shown here is a sporty two-piece.

Summer dresses from Vogue patterns, Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Summer dresses from Vogue patterns, Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

“How about adding some of these little summer dresses to your repertoire? Any of them could be made of nice gay fabrics whose cost is negligible, but with Vogue’s styling, you can be sure of a dress that looks like — well, not a million dollars but many more than you put into it.”

This was 1936, when the Great Depression was in its sixth year, and many families were lucky to have $25 per week to live on. A new cotton dress was a luxury for most housewives. The Woman’s Home Companion, April 1936, reported that a survey of 16,000 professional women showed a median income of $1,625 per year. “Although a salary of $1,625 . . . is several hundred dollars over the average income received by nearly nine million typical American wage-earners, the majority of them men.” (p. 25.)

Nevertheless, there is a tempting variety of styles in these seven dresses.

Vogue 7402 and 7407

Vogue 7402 and 7407, July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Vogue 7402 and 7407, July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal.

“The pleated front of No. 7402 will notify your friends that you know fashions. Use a sheer or a challis.  No. 7407, being a bit dressy, can take a flowered lawn or a plain pastel batiste, and add a flower and ribbon sash. ‘Easy-to-Make.’ “

To my eyes, No. 7407 looks dressy, too. In fact, it reminds me of a yoked and pleated Albert Nipon dress I bought around 1980. The shape of this yoke is unusual; the contrast collar and cuffs, puffed shoulders, little bow at the neck, and bodice-to-hem pleats all reappeared in 1980’s styles. This dress, reserving its pleats for the center front, with a close, stitched-down fit over the hips, was probably more flattering than many 1980’s versions.

A 1936 dress that was echoed in the 1980s. Vogue pattern No. 7402.

A 1936 dress that was echoed in the 1980s. Vogue pattern No. 7402.

Vogue 7398 and 7397

“Now, after you look at 7398, an ‘Easy-to-Make,’ look at its rear view. Its wrapped panel will tell you how it could serve for those of you who are going to have babies this fall.” Many 1930’s maternity fashions [absurdly] had extra fullness in the back, rather than in the front. See “Who Would Ever Guess?”

Vogue 7398 and 7397, July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Vogue 7398 and 7397, July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal.

“No. 7397, ‘Easy-to-Make’ is sketched with a slide fastener, but there’s an alternate opening shown below. The tuck-in blouse and four-gored skirt are separate.” The novelty sleeve and partially in-seam bodice pockets are rather special. The bolero-shaped front bodice seams, sleeves and all pockets are top-stitched or prick-stitched.

lhj 1936 july vogue prick stitched

Vogue 7405 and 7404

“Nos. 7405 and 7404 are our answer to your plea, ‘Show some dresses for big ladies!’ “

Vogue patterns 7405 and 7404 for "big ladies." Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue patterns 7405 and 7404 for “big ladies.” Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

“No. 7405 [top left] if you’re the tailored type, and No. 7404 ‘Easy-to-Make’ if you can stand bows.” [My concept of “tailored” did not include giant rick-rack, but live and learn. Inserting rick-rack between the garment front and the facing makes a more sophisticated trim than applied rick-rack. Only half of the rick-rack shows.]

Small-scale rick-rack inserted in a 1930's waitress uniform.

Small-scale rick-rack inserted in a 1930’s waitress uniform.

The range of available pattern sizes for “big ladies” were not mentioned in the LHJ article. As usual, they are illustrated on very thin ladies.

Vogue 7399

“And No. 7399 is a grand sun-back dress with an after-sunning bolero.”

Vogue pattern 7399, Ladies' Home Journal, July 1936.

Vogue pattern 7399, Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1936.

The bias pockets on this slim, red checked halter dress — plus the deeply notched white collar — give it that “Vogue” look.

Details, Vogue No. 7399, July 1936. Ladies' Home Journal.

Stylish Details, Vogue No. 7399, July 1936. Ladies’ Home Journal.

 

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Filed under 1930s, Maternity clothes, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, Zippers

Bathing Suits for July, 1938

McCall’s coverage of summer fashions for 1938 included articles on choosing a flattering bathing suit — perhaps made of rubber — and the importance of wearing sunglasses.

Photo from McCall's magazine, July 1938. Peach colored bathing suit and matching swim cap.

Full-page photo from McCall’s magazine, July 1938. Peach colored bathing suit and matching swim cap.

McCall’s was a large format magazine, so I had to scan the top of the page, then the bottom and join them. This image was the “cover” of the style and beauty section, and didn’t have a description. Her waffle-weave swimsuit has a matching peach and white cap — or is it a scarf? There seems to be a tie peeking out from behind her head. Her coral lipstick and nail polish match.

Swimsuits and Sunglasses, 1938

"If the Sun's in Your Eyes" article, McCall's, July 1983. Sunglasses and print bathing suits.

“If the Sun’s in Your Eyes” article, McCall’s, July 1983. Sunglasses and print bathing suits.

Bathing suits, July 1938.

Striped and flowered bathing suits, July 1938.

The striped suit has a bra-like shaped top. The ethnic basket/beach bag is impressive. Like other late 30’s swimsuits, the legs are as long as modern shorts. This article stressed that sunglasses keep you from squinting, and, therefore, prevent wrinkles around the eyes. However, not all sunglasses were equal:

“Ordinary colored blown glass has wavy imperfections in it which distort the vision. . . . Science has perfected sunglasses that do not distort vision or darken the landscape. Even at a moderate price good sunglasses are now constructed so that they scientifically screen out most of the infra red and ultra violet rays. . . . Good sungogggles, not optically ground, of course, cost about fifty or seventy-five cents a pair, sometimes more.  But the extra cost over the cheapest type is small compared to the comfort you get. Such glasses are usually a blue or green tint, they’re well made, and come in handy carrying cases.” — Hildegarde Fillmore, writing in McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?

That was the question posed by this two-page article:

"How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?" article, McCall's, July 1938

“How Do You Look in Your Bathing Suit?” article, McCall’s, July 1938

“If your hips and thighs aren’t exactly streamlined, a dressmaker suit with a skirt will do more for you than a skin-tight maillot.” [But these long swimsuits do make the models’ legs look short and chunky.]

1938 halter necked bathing suit in "jungle print" with zipper front. McCall's, July 1938.

1938 halter-necked dressmaker bathing suit in “jungle print” with zipper front. McCall’s, July 1938.

p 70 bathing suit top 500 with text

“Is a bra-topped suit your love? Then be sure your bustline is pretty perfect and that no ‘spare tire’ mars your midriff.”

1938 bathing suit of elastic lace, "designed by a corset manufacturer."

1938 bathing suit of elastic lace, “designed by a corset manufacturer.”

1938 bathing suit: "The brassiere gives a good uplift, and front and back panels do a flattening job." McCall's, July 1938.

1938 bathing suit: “The brassiere gives a good uplift, and front and back panels do a flattening job.” McCall’s, July 1938.

To my surprise, two of the featured bathing suits were made of rubber. “Do you covet a skirtless rubber model? You’d better see to it that your tummy is practically concave.”

1938 white rubber bathing suit. McCall's, July 1938.

1938 white rubber bathing suit. McCall’s, July 1938.

White rubber bathing suit, McCall's magazine, July 1938.

White textured rubber bathing suit “starred in red and blue”, McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

“This crepe textured rubber maillot ‘swims’ like a second skin and dries in an instant. Its comfortable wool shoulder straps are adjustable at the back.”

(Below) “Tailored as a man’s waistcoat, this very brief bra-and-shorts suit is of ivory-white rubber in a neat jacquard self pattern. The points of the bra snap securely to the shorts, and a row of buttons form the trimming.”

1938 ivory rubber bathing suit. McCall's magazine, July 1938.

1938 ivory rubber bathing suit. McCall’s magazine, July 1938.

p 70 bathing suit btm text 500

I’m not sure how popular rubber bathing suits turned out to be, because, frankly, I didn’t want to do a search for them! Many years ago, while helping to organize a workshop on making dancewear, an online search for stretch fabrics taught me more than I really wanted to know about people who love spandex. Passionately. (Ahem.) I like to think that “nothing human is alien to me,” but I just don’t feel that curious about rubber clothing.

However, given how hard it is to find vintage rubber swim caps in good condition, I doubt that many rubber bathing suits survived.

1917 bathing cap made by Faultless Rubber Co. Ad from Ladies' Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

1917 bathing cap made by Faultless Rubber Co. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.  A pretty cap like this would be quite a vintage collector’s item.

Rubber for Reducing

Another reason the rubber swimsuits surprised me is that rubber corsets had been advertised as reducing aids since at least the 1920s. They were still being advertised in womens’ magazines about the same time as the rubber swimsuits, and it’s hard to imagine that no one made the connection. (The swimsuits were not perforated, of course. You would just have to swim in your own sweat.)

Kleinert's New "All-in-One" of Sturdi-flex rubber fabric is a perfect marvel! Ad, 1937.

Kleinert’s New “All-in-One” of Sturdi-flex rubber fabric is a perfect marvel!” Ad, 1937.

“Kleinert’s Sturdi-flex Reducers are sized to bust measure. . . . It’s ODORLESS, perforated for coolness, and can be washed in a moment.” And only two dollars!

The Perfolastic rubber reducing garments must have been more expensive, because their price was never given.

Perfolastic rubber reducing garment advertisement from Woman's Home Companion, MArch 1937.

Perfolastic rubber reducing garment advertisement from Woman’s Home Companion, March, 1937.

And Another Thing About 1930s Bathing Suits . . .

I wasn’t expecting to see so many swimsuits with tight “boy-shorts” legs. Late Thirties’ bathing suits are long, by modern standards. [No French cut legs on the beaches then!] But even in the 1950’s, many women’s bathing suits still had a sort of “modesty panel” in front that concealed the crotch.

Esther Williams in an ad for Cole bathing suits, from her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Esther Williams in an ad for Cole bathing suits, from her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Here are some suits from the 1958 Sears catalog, two decades after the 1938 bathing suits pictured in McCall’s.

Sears' catalog bathing suits for Spring 1958. all three have a modesty panel hiding the crotch area.

Sears’ catalog bathing suits for Spring 1958. They are still rather long, and all three have a modesty panel hiding the crotch area.

Swimsuits from 1938 might be long, but some of them had legs:

Bathing suits from Sears' catalog for Spring 19238.

Bathing suits from Sears’ catalog for Spring 1938.

Bathing suits shown in ads in McCall’s are very similar to the conservative styles at the top of this post.

Bathing suit in and ad for Underwood's Devilled Ham. McCall's, July 1938

Bathing suit in an ad for Underwood’s Deviled Ham. McCall’s, July 1938

Swimsuits from an ad for Palmolive soap, McCall's, July 1938.

Swimsuits from an ad for Palmolive soap, McCall’s, July 1938.

Skirted bathing suits from a Palmolive ad, McCall's, July 1938.

Skirted bathing suits with low backs and bra tops, from a Palmolive ad, McCall’s, July 1938. Note the attractively striped shoes, too.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, Bathing Suits, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Zippers

Semi-Made Dresses, 1930’s

Berth Robert Semi-Made Dress Catalog, advertised in The Delineator, February 1934.

Berth Robert Semi-Made Dress Catalog, advertised in The Delineator, February 1934.

“You simply sew up the seams. Complete accessories with each dress.”

One way women could save a little on dresses during the great Depression was by buying a partially constructed dress and sewing their own hems, side-seams, buttons, etc.  I didn’t find much information online about the Berth Robert company, or its rival, Fifth Avenue Modes. But I have encountered a sampling of their ads in nineteen thirties’ magazines.

Just at random, I found this Berth Robert ad in The Delineator, February 1931 issue. I may yet find earlier ones.

Top of ad for Berth Robert Semi-Made Dresses, from The Delineator, Feb. 1931, page 79.

Top of ad for Berth Robert Semi-Finished Dress catalog, from The Delineator, Feb. 1931, page 79. “Dress smartly by the Berth Robert Plan and save.”

Text of Berth Robert ad, Delneatro, Feb. 1931. p. 79.

Text of Berth Robert ad, Delneator, Feb. 1931. p. 79.

“In Paris we select the smartest, cleverest styles. Then, in our own New York atelier these charming frocks are tailored to your measurements from the finest fabrics. All difficult sewing — necklines, tailoring, tucking and pleating — is completely, beautifully done. All you do is the easy finishing up. Even an inexperienced sewer can easily finish a Berth Robert Frock or Ensemble.

“This Spring, dress with Parisian smartness, yet actually save money by the Berth Robert Plan.”

The implication is that all the buyer will need is a needle and thread (see pictures.)

Berth Robert catalog ad bottom. Delineator, Feb. 1931, p. 79.

Berth Robert catalog ad bottom. Delineator, Feb. 1931, p. 79.

This ad, from the Fifth Avenue Modes company, appeared in the same issue of The Delineator:

Top of ad for Fifth Avenue Modes "Finish-at-Home" fashions. The Delineator, Feb. 1931, page 106.

Top of ad for Fifth Avenue Modes “Finish-at-Home” fashions. The Delineator, Feb. 1931, page 106.

“How to be well-dressed on a limited budget — that is the problem which the “Finish-at-Home” Plan is solving for so many fashionable women today! Finish-at-Home fashions save you half!”

Text of ad for Fifth Avenue Modes' "Finish-at-Home" catalog. The Delineator, Feb. 1931, p. 106.

Text of ad for Fifth Avenue Modes’ “Finish-at-Home” catalog. The Delineator, Feb. 1931, p. 106.

“Made to Your Order. The dress you select comes from Fifth Avenue Modes cut to your exact size or measurements, with all the difficult work done. . . . Our expert men-tailors complete all the tailoring, pleating, hemstitching, tucking, etc., so that all you have to do is to put together a few completely-made parts. No bothersome patterns to follow, no expense for outside work, no trimmings to buy or make — we furnish everything you need for your dress, down to the spool of matching thread.

“A Little Sewing – A Great Saving. You can easily follow the common-sense finishing instructions we send with your dress. . . . And what you save by this simple sewing will enable you to have two stylish dresses for the usual cost of one ready-made dress of equal style and quality.”

No, both firms don’t have the same mailing address, although they do have very similar ads.

Both companies continued to advertise for several years, in various magazines.

Berth Robert Semi-Made Dress Catalog, advertised in The Delineator, February 1934.

Berth Robert Semi-Made Dress Catalog, advertised in The Delineator, February 1934.

Text of Berth Roberts ad in Delineator, Feb. 1934.

Text of Berth Roberts ad in Delineator, Feb. 1934.

“All you need to do is to sew up a few simple seams . . . fitting the coat or dress perfectly to your figure . . . And presto . . . you have a luxurious spring wardrobe at what the cloth alone would ordinarily cost you. Buying direct from the producer, on the semi-made plan, effects these great savings.”

"Worn with Pride by hundreds of thousands of smart women." Berth Robert Semi-Made dresses ad, Woman's Home Companion, Feb. 1936.

“Worn with Pride by hundreds of thousands of smart women.” Berth Robert Semi-Made dresses ad, Woman’s Home Companion, Feb. 1936.

Berth Robert Semi-Made Dresses Ad, Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1936.

Berth Robert Semi-Made Frocks Ad, Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1936.

“Many women who can afford the finest favor Berth Robert Semi-Made dresses. . . . All you do is sew a few simple seams, adjusting the dress to your figure perfectly as you sew. . . and as you sew you save.”

Berth Roberts Semi-Made  ad, March 1937. Woman's Home Companion.

Berth Roberts Plan, Semi-Made dress ad, March 1937. Woman’s Home Companion.

Fifth Avenue Modes was still in business, too:

"Dress with Fifth Avenue Smartness Yet Save Half!" Finish-Your-Own dress ad, Fifth Avenue Modes, in Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

“Dress with Fifth Avenue Smartness Yet Save Half!” Finish-Your-Own dress ad, Fifth Avenue Modes, in Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

Fifth Avenue Modes ad, text, Woman's Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

Fifth Avenue Modes ad, text, Woman’s Home Companion, Sept. 1937.

“With our “Finish-at-Home” Plan, your frocks are cut to your own,  individual measurements! . . . We furnish all the trimmings and findings  . . . you have only a few simple seams to sew! . . . If you want custom-cut clothes and chic accessories, send today for our Magazine of Fashion. FREE!”

There seems to be a link with Betty Wales fashions, too. I’ve seen Betty Wales fashion ads in magazines as early as 1917. But’s that’s another story. . . .

Artfire dot com has pages from a 1939  Fifth Avenue Modes catalog for sale, but there’s no hint of “Finish-Your-Own” that I can see. There is a paragraph about both companies in an article by Madelyn Shaw about the Tirocchi sisters, dressmakers in Providence, which you can read online; click here.

I just found an affordable 1934 Berth Robert catalog at Ebay, so I’m looking forward to finding out more when it arrives. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the size range, and the prices of the semi-finished frocks and coats, which cost “half as much” as comparable finished clothing.

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