Tag Archives: World War I

Amphora Skirts, 1914

“The New Amphora Skirts Introduced by Paquin,” Delineator, May 1914.

“The New Amphora Skirts Introduced by Paquin” were fashion news in the summer of 1914. I didn’t understand, at first, because when I saw the word “amphora,” I first thought of the plain wine or oil jars that had pointed bottoms; many, many simple amphorae like these have been recovered by archeologists, especially from wrecked ships.

Amphora, terracotta; Greece, circa 3rd century BC. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

However, a Greek amphora (“jar”) can be highly decorated and have a base that flares out at the bottom:

Attic wine jar, circa 500 BC. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

The “peg-top” skirts of 1914 — which get tighter at the bottom — accidentally resemble the plain, everyday jar, but were not called “Amphora skirts.”

Peg-top skirts (shaped like a child’s spinning top) narrow at the bottom, like this amphora. No wonder I was confused!

But the  “Greek-vase”  amphora skirt style “introduced by Paquin” resembles the more elaborate Greek wine vessel.

This is the type of amphora Paquin had in mind. Like the Greek vase, the skirts get narrow near the knee and then flare out at the bottom.

These Paquin-inspired amphora skirts have ruffles near the hem. Delineator, May 1914.

“Summer evening gowns will be the first to feel the influence of the new amphora or Greek-vase skirt. The softer versions of the amphora skirt, trimmed with ruffles of silk or lace are particularly pretty and they are delightful things to dance in. In fact, Madame Paquin had the new dances in mind when she designed her new skirt, a fact which accounts to a great extent for the width she has introduced in it below the knee.” — The Delineator, June 1914, page 19.

More amphora skirts introduced by Paquin.

“Most tub suits [i.e., made of washable fabrics] are made with straight gored skirts, the simpler peg-top models, or the new amphora skirt with a circular flounce at the sides. The latter skirt will be very popular for summer suits, for it is very easy to make and to launder, and is most comfortable for walking.” — Delineator, June 1914.

To give you an idea of why the “amphora skirt” was a change in direction, here are some images of the narrow-bottomed peg-top skirts that dominated early 1914 fashions:

Butterick patterns from March 1914, Delineator.

Look at these restrictive, narrow-bottom hems:

Narrow hems, wide hips, create the need to take tiny steps. Peg-top skirts; March 1914.

Butterick peg-top skirt pattern 6818, from April 1914.

Butterick skirt 6770 is typical of the silhouette of early 1914. The center back has a small opening at the bottom, and probably in front, also.

How did they walk in these? Nos. 6818  and 6770 had slight openings. A back view of No. 6736 shows a slight opening in front and fullness in the rear:

Butterick skirt 6736 is narrow in front, but has ease for walking (or dancing) in the back. March 1914.

These peg-top skirts are not the “hobble skirt” which cartoonists lampooned earlier in the century, but they are descended from it.

This skirt was not made for long strides. Butterick 6914.

Two views of Butterick Amphora skirt 6978. June 1914.

Amphora skirt 6981.

Amphora skirts with lace or silk ruffles (left) and one with an insert, right.

Back views of 6979 and 6981. May 1914.

Alternate views of skirt 6980. May 1914. “The softer versions of the amphora skirt, trimmed with ruffles of silk or lace are particularly pretty and they are delightful things to dance in.”

You didn’t have to be young to appreciate the greater movement possible with the amphora skirt:

Two mature figures showing the skirt options available in Summer of 1914.

Fashion could accommodate more than one “look” in 1914.

It’s always nice to have a choice!

“While Paquin has been introducing the amphora skirt with its widened base, Cheruit and Premet have been experimenting with pantalets….”  The Delineator, June 1914, page 19.

If you want to read  more fashion predictions for 1914, click here.

6 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

A Visit to January 1920, from Delineator Magazine

Ice skaters in an ad for Ivory Flakes laundry soap. Delineator, January 1920, page 4.

One hundred years ago, the January Delineator offered Butterick patterns, advice for the working girl (and her mother), sketches of Paris couture, and all kinds of advertisements. Enter the time capsule:

French couture from Doucet and Paquin. January 1920.

Butterick sewing patterns inspired by French designer styles.

Butterick sewing patterns, January 1920.

These are not what we usually think of when we hear “Twenties’ style,” but the decade was just getting started. Page three began an essay on the dangers awaiting naive young women who went out to work in offices….

“A Warning for Business Women…”

The “young, ignorant girl” applies for a job….

Her boss tells her that “he would go mad unless he could find a young girl who could understand him and care for him….”

Here, he offers her alcohol….****

And then, he escorts her home….

Her mother needs to warn her…. (Author: Josephine Stricker)

It was 100 years ago, but all of this sounds painfully familiar in the 21st century. At least we now acknowledge that saying ‘no” isn’t always enough.

If you had to work as a housemaid, the difficulties might be considerable. This little article about the life of a housemaid in England shows that even Delineator was shocked by their working conditions:

Delineator was aimed at middle and (aspiring) upper class women, but the plight of British housemaids was shocking.

Back to fashion: These Butterick patterns for misses (age 14 to 19, in most cases) show a hint of what women wore in the later 1920s:

A selection of Butterick patterns for misses in their teens. The schoolgirl’s outfit at right shows the straight, low-waisted trend of the future.

Dresses for grown women also offered some styles without exaggerated hips:

Daytime styles for women from Butterick, January 1920.

The bare arms of evening dresses, even for girls in their teens, surprised me. For more “very bare” gowns from 1920, click here.

For young men returning from WW I, these uncorseted young women in bare-armed dresses must have been a pleasant surprise.

What did women do about underarm hair?

Ad for DeMiracle hair remover, January 1920.

A prized gift in 1920 was a “Spanish comb,” often made from celluloid, “the first synthetic plastic material.  In this ad, a celebrity endorsing fingernail powder (yes, nails were buffed to a shine by most women) wears a Spanish comb:

Actress Kitty Gordon wears a Spanish comb in her hair while endorsing Graff’s Hyglo powder nail polish.

More Spanish combs. These are from 1922.

You could order your camisoles, nightgowns, bloomers, and combinations from Dove and other companies.

Ad for Dove Undergarments, January 1920.

WW I had made knitting more popular than ever; this is an ad for Fleischer yarns:

Knit yourself this aqua sweater with Fleischer Yarns.

The obsession with boyish figures has not yet appeared.

You could wash your woolens and fine lingerie with Ivory Soap Flakes.

Well into the Twenties, women shaved their own soap flakes from bar soap, so this was a modern convenience product.

Also convenient: Rubber shoe covers.

Rubber shoe covers slipped on over your shoes in 1920. The shoes might be worn with gaiters that laced up the front. Some shoes had built-in gaiters.

Later in the 1920s, the B.F.Goodrich rubber company introduced a winter shoe cover with a slide fastener closing, giving us the word “Zipper.”

Mothers could find ads for maternity corsets in 1920:

The H & W maternity corset ad, January 1920.

And safety pins had been around for over a century:

Changing diapers was easier after the rust-proof safety pin became widely available. January 1920 ad.

It was appropriate that a magazine designed to sell sewing patterns should have ads for sewing machines.

The Davis sewing machine was portable and electric.

The Davis portable electric sewing machine was operated by a foot pedal. [I made clothes on a (non-electric) treadle sewing machine in the 1960s. Wish I still had one, even though it took up a lot of room.]

This ad should hold a special interest for all us who love Daphne DuMaurier’s novel Rebecca. In a scene often described as the most un-romantic marriage proposal ever, Maxim de Winter includes the information that “I prefer Eno’s.”

Ad for Eno’s Fruit Salts, a laxative. January 1920.

(Let’s hope it wasn’t the Washington Monument in this ad that attracted his attention.)

Eno’s Fruit Salts ad, January 1920.

To see the marriage proposal scene from the excellent (and faithful) 1979 TV adaptation of Rebecca, starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett, click here.

**** I am irresistibly reminded of the limerick about “the young lady of Kent/ who said that she knew what it meant/ when men asked her to dine/ over cocktails and wine….” Perhaps her mother had explained it to her after reading the article in Delineator.

7 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Maternity clothes, Menswear, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shoes, Underthings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs

Three Gymnastic Costumes, 1912

Three gymnastic costumes for women and girls, Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine, 1912.

There were no gymnastic competitions for women in the 1912 Olympics, and it would be hard to imagine Simone Biles (or anyone else) spinning through the air in one of these “Gymnastic Costumes” from 1912. [If you click on that link you’ll have to watch a short commercial first, but I can’t stop marvelling at the things this young woman can do. Uneven bars isn’t even her best event!]

For some reason, Butterick offered three different women’s gym “costumes” in 1912.

January 1912: Butterick 5169

Butterick gymnastic costume 5169 is based on the classic middy blouse. Delineator, January 1912, p. 46.

Details and back view, Butterick 5169. The bloomers (pleated or gathered) are separate.

For girls, misses, and women, in seven sizes for bust measure from 26 to 38 inches. The bloomers and middy could be made in matching fabric for winter, or a cooler summer middy could be made of linen, etc., and worn with a skirt.

Four children, about 1916. My aunt, at right, wears a middy and a skirt.

March 1912:  Butterick 5256

One piece gymnastic costume; the under-blouse is called a guimpe. Butterick 5256, March 1912.

Here’s a close-up of the stitching:

Butterick 5256 is sleeveless, but worn with an easily washable guimpe under it.

Top text for Butterick 5256, a gym suit for “ladies, misses, and girls. March 1912.

This gymnastic costume was available in nine sizes, from 26 to 42 inch bust measure. It does not have a fitted waist, so there is not even “the slightest pressure on the organs.”

September 1912: Butterick 5625

Butterick gymnasium suit 5625, from September, 1912. Delineator, p. 159.

Butterick 5625 could be made with separate bloomers and middy, if preferred.

Note her black stockings — and imagine the underpinnings needed to keep them from falling down during active sports.This time, the option to gather or pleat the bloomers is clearly illustrated:

Alternate versions of Butterick 5625.

Girls who were going away to school or to college would be relieved to know that their home-made gym suit  “will be entirely presentable and like the best that other girls wear.” [Unless the school required pleats, or a specific pattern or color or fabric, as schools often do.] Available in seven sizes, for girls, misses, ladies with bust measure from 28 to 44 inches.

None of these gym suits looks suitable for the kind of gymnastics women do now, but, in 1912, “We’ve got you covered.” These were also the clothes worn by American girls who took over farm work to free men for military service in 1917-18.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/1918-oct-college-girls-vassar-milk-platoon.jpg

College students from Vassar wore their gym costumes while doing farm work.

In 1915, there was a debate over whether girls wearing gym clothes like these should be allowed to play baseball in public parks. As I wrote in a long-ago post,

“The San Francisco Chronicle runs an article every Sunday called The Wayback Machine,  by Johnny Miller, who goes through ‘the archives of 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago to bring us glimpses of the past.’ On January 4, 2015, he found this article from January 8, 1915, heralding the end of the bloomer ban:

“As far as the Park Commissioner is concerned, ‘the bloomer girls will be allowed to play ball in Golden Gate Park, notwithstanding Mrs. Grundy to the contrary. For some time these young misses have been an attraction on the park diamonds where they could be depended upon to put on a stirring game. And then Mrs. Grundy appeared on the scene and the games ceased. But now they will resume for the park Commission sees no harm in young girls, attired in their gymnasium suits, disporting on the park greens.”

When I first shared this article from the Chronicle, I wrote, “A less sexually provocative outfit would be hard to imagine. Perhaps the fact that the female baseball players’ stocking-clad legs were visible was the reason “Mrs. Grundy” objected to games in Golden Gate Park in 1915.”

Imagine Mrs. Grundy’s reaction to 21st century gymnastic costumes!

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers, World War I

The Rapidly Changing Corseted Shape: Part 3, 1912 to 1914

The corset of 1914 is well below the bust, and is not intended to make the waist look smaller.

There were two big changes in 1914. The corset is no longer expected to support the bust, and the days of the wasp waist are over.

American Lady corset ads from 1912 and 1914. Right: No tiny waist here.

The 1912 corset was higher and longer, and it made the waist smaller; the corset of 1914 is below the bust, and does not constrict the waist. These are both advertisements from the same corset company, less than 3 years apart.

Delineator ran an article about the corsets of 1914, and it may surprise you (as it did me) to see these early references to the natural, girlish figure.

From an article on corsets by Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator, April 1914, p. 38.

“The corset of former years gave a woman a mature, well-developed, matronly figure. The corset of to-day makes her look like a very young girl.” [I find the 1914-1918 figure very un-girlish, but….”fashion writing.”]

“This is the day of the …drooping, boneless pose,” the body “as straight and yielding as a very young girl’s.” That sounds like the 1920s, but it was written before World War I. “The silhouette … for 1914 … is the straight figure, with small hips, large waist, and no bust.”

One big change is that the tiny waists of the Edwardian era are no longer fashionable.

These corsets “compress the hips as much as possible,” “leaving the bust absolutely free, letting out the waist to its normal size….” “Practically unboned, …The softness of the material follows the natural curve of the abdomen, …and in many cases there is even a slight curve in the front bone.”

American Lady corset ad, July 1914.

“Among smart women the size of the waistline has increased three  inches in the past three or four years. Large women still cling to their waistlines, but the corset should only measure two inches less than the waist — a twenty-four inch corset for a twenty-six inch waist.” — Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator, April 1914.

Back lacing of a 1914 corset. Delineator, April 1914. “If necessary you can wear a brassiere with it.”

As seen in the corset back illustration above, a gap between the sides of the corset was customary, so this corset did not decrease the waist measurement at all.

Since the 1914 corset started below the bust, some women felt the need to wear a brassiere. However, the brassiere of 1914 “confined” the bust, rather than supporting it.

DeBevoise brassiere ad, May 1914. There is nothing natural about this silhouette. [“Breasts? What breasts?”]

The back waist of the brassiere was much higher than the front, reflecting the posture of the period, which was changing, but not yet completely natural. (The long center front tab attaches to the corset to keep the brassiere anchored down in front.)

Back view of the DeBevoise brassiere, May 1914. You can see the vertical bones or darts in the front, the front closing, and the tab.

Less constrictive brassieres were available, offering no support, just nipple coverage..

This DeBevoise low-backed brassiere was recommended under evening dresses, which were usually made of thin fabrics. June 1914, Delineator.

Not all women wore brassieres. These fashions suggest the “absolutely free,” natural bust of 1914:

These women are showing a natural bust, probably not wearing brassieres with their low corsets. Butterick pattern illustration, June 1914.

“The uncorseted effect is produced by leaving the bust absolutely free, letting out the waist to its natural size and in the hip-confining sections of the corset using a very soft, pliable, practically unboned material that leaves the figure almost as soft and supple as if no corset were worn.” — Eleanor Chalmers in Delineator, April 1914.

Butterick illustration from April 1914. The natural, uncorseted bust line.

However, stout women were advised to wear a brassiere with the low-waisted 1914 corset:

Stout women were advised to wear a brassiere to avoid looking “slovenly.” DeBevoise brassiere ad, June 1914.

DeBevoise brassiere ad, May 1914. This ad is not necessarily aimed at stout women. That bust shape is an early version of the 1920s’ flattened chest.

“…Appear ‘uncorseted’ without looking slovenly…. Your corset will not make a ‘ridge’ in your gown.” Bulging flesh at the top of the corset (in front or in back) must have been a problem for many women.

La Camille “Ventilo” front-lacing corset ad, April 1917.

Three years after 1914, corsets were still higher in the back than in the front. A ridge of flesh above the corset was often a problem, except for the very slender. A brassiere helped control the back bulge, as well as a possible overflow in front.

The waistline is high and not especially small on these patterns from April 1914. “Slouch” pose at right.

Again, it’s hard to see why the corset of 1914 had to compress the hips during the “tunic” era. But the corset did affect posture. And some women chose a sleeker silhouette, without the tunic:

Butterick patterns in Delineator, January 1914.

Quick comparison 1907 to 1914:

Corset ads 1907, 1910, 1912, 1914. All from ads in Delineator.

Styles to come: The low, natural-waist-size corset of 1914 was still fashionable in 1917, but it was getting shorter and less rigid.

Corsets 1914 and 1917. The woman in the ad on the right has an almost “natural” figure.

For a previous post about the change in fashionable figures from 1914 to 1924, click here.

For corset change between 1907 and 1910, click here.

For corset change between 1910 and 1912, click here.

NOTE: I am not writing an authoritative history of corsets, just offering images from one or two sources in the hope that serious researchers will find them helpful. I have chosen extremes for the sake of contrast, but women could choose from a wide range of styles, and many continued to wear their old corsets until they wore out.

 

6 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Bras, Corsets, Corsets, Corsets & Corselettes, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uncategorized, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, World War I

In the Swim, 1914

Three bathing suits for women, Delineator, May 1914.

Three “bathing-suits” for women and one for a girl were featured in Butterick’s Delineator, May 1914. They were illustrated and described again in June, 1914.

Part of page 75, Delineator, June 1914. Headdresses/caps were included in the patterns.

In May, the text was arranged around the illustrations, which means I will have to cut and paste to fit descriptions into a 500 dpi format.  I will use the shorter descriptions from June, and put the longer ones at the bottom of the post for anyone who’s interested.

Top of page 36, Delineator, May 1914. The center bathing suit had a “peg-top” skirt.

It’s entertaining to see how the “peg-top” fashion in dresses has been translated into a bathing-suit, however impractical!

A draped, peg-top skirt, very narrow at the bottom. The silhouette was said to resemble a child’s spinning top.

Butterick bathing-suit pattern 6894, Delineator, May 1914. The skirt has a “pannier effect.” The recommended fabric was silk, not wool.

Butterick 6891 from May 1914, Delineator. Tunic tops over longer skirts were a fashion in dresses, here echoed in bathing suit.

Butterick bathing-suit 6891, alternate views; the sleeveless-topped knickerbockers would be worn under any version of the overdress. Headdress included in pattern.

Butterick 6891 description, Delineator, June 1914. “Raglan shoulders;” “knickerbockers attached to an underbody and a cap complete the costume.” In sizes from 32 to 44 inch bust.

Butterick 6912, bathing suit from May 1914. Delineator, p. 36.

Brilliantine was a lustrous fabric in 1914; later it was the name of a men’s hair dressing lotion that gave that “patent leather” shine.

Description of pattern 6912, June 1914. Delineator. “The two-piece skirt shows the peg-top silhouette which is gained by having the top wider than the lower edge. Knickerbockers attached to an underbody are worn with this costume.

It’s notable that the under garment for bathing suits was called “bloomers” in 1910, but is called “knickerbockers” for women’s bathing suits in 1914.

A bathing suit for girls was also shown in May 1914: (Its under layer is still called “bloomers.”)

Left, a romper suit. Center and right: two views of Butterick 6860 bathing-suit for girls, May 1914.

Butterick bathing-suit for girls aged 2 to 14, Delineator, June 1914. Page 75.

“Body and bloomers are in one, and the two-piece skirt need not be used if one wishes a simple swimming suit …. The bloomers may be straight or gathered at the knee with or without a frill.”

It’s interesting that girls (2 to 14) could wear this suit without a skirt — so they could actually swim. See the boys’ and men’s bathing suits from 1910.

These bathing suits would be worn with a “cap to match the suit, stockings of medium weight and canvas bathing shoes…. It is advisable to wear a close-fitting rubber cap under the bathing-cap.”

This rubber bathing cap was advertised in Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. Sadly, rubber degrades in storage, so vintage rubber caps are hard to find. Ad for Faultless Rubber Co.

These “In the Swim” posts were inspired by The Vintage Traveler’s bathing suit timeline. For In the Swim, 1910, click here. EDIT: Links added 4/4/19.

Full Bathing Suit Descriptions from Delineator, May 1914.

For those who want every detail, here are the longer bathing-suit descriptions which appeared in the May, 1914, issue of Delineator.

Butterick 6891 from May 1914, Delineator.

Text for Butterick 6891 from Delineator, May 1914.

Butterick 6894 from May 1914.

Text for Butterick 6894, Delineator, May 1914.

Butterick bathing-suit 6912 from May, 1914.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Bathing Suits, Children's Vintage styles, Hosiery, Hosiery, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Women in Trousers, World War I

Not What We Think of When We Say “Twenties’ Fashions:” 1920

A couture evening dress by Parisian designer Georgette, illustrated in Delineator, February 1920, p. 111.

It would be convenient if fashions changed only when a new decade began — boring, but convenient when assigning dates to fashion history. But that’s not how it worked.
When invited to a “twenties’ ” costume party, not many women would show up dressed like this:

Left, Butterick waist 2056 with skirt 2046; right, dress 2100. Delineator, January 1920, p. 76.

Butterick 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Front views, Delineator, p. 113.

Butterick dresses 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Alternate views. From the rear, 2366 really exaggerates hip width.

Of course, twentieth century fashion was always in transition; these dresses from 1920 are still showing the influence of the big-hipped styles of the 1914-1918 war era.

Two outfits from April 1917. Left, a “tonneau” or barrel skirt (Butterick skirt 9064); right, a skirt with protruding pockets rather like 1920 dress No. 2336, above.

The odd skirt on this 1920 dress echoes a style detail carried over from 1917. Butterick 2272, April 1920.

Butterick 8929, from February 1917. The skirt hangs from widely spaced cartridge pleats, also called “French gathering.”

A dress on the cover of Delineator magazine, April, 1920. Cartridge pleats again — but these are near the natural waist. They seem to be secured with buttons.

This rear view, from an advertisement for satin, is jaw-dropping:

Illustration from an ad for satin fabrics; Delineator, April 1920. It suggests the (attempted) return of the bustle.

Well… that is not the direction that 1920’s fashion eventually took!

To be honest,  I’ve been deliberately showing dresses that don’t fit our preconception of “the Twenties.” In fact, we can see the seeds of later nineteen twenties’ style in both of these dresses:

Gradual change in fashion: the waist is getting lower in 1920; the bodice extends to the hip; and the familiar late Twenties’ dropped waist is seen in the low attachment of both skirts.

This is transitional fashion: there is a dropped waist (where the skirts are attached) and a more or less natural waist, where the dress is belted in.

Often, fashions leaning toward the past and fashions prefiguring the future were shown side by side.

Two patterns illustrated on page 152, Delineator, April 1920. Left, Butterick 2278 has a long bodice and looks more “twenties”; right, 2239 has the wide-hipped, peg top look of the previous decade.

[Thanks to Sophia for explaining that “pegged-top” “refers to the child’s spinning toy ‘pegtop’ which is narrower at the bottom than the top like the skirts.”]

Butterick patterns 2060 and 2097, Delineator, January 1920.

If a woman got rid of the belt and shortened No. 2060, she could have worn it for several years in the Twenties:

These dresses from 1925 are not too different from 1920’s No. 2060. One has a similar bodice; one has a similar skirt.

The truth is that twentieth century fashion usually changed incrementally [which is why the rapid change from 1929 to 1930 is so extraordinary.]

Three Butterick patterns from February 1920. One of them looks more “Twenties” than the others.

All the following dresses are from early 1920:

Two patterns from Spring of 1920.

Butterick patterns from June, 1920. Waist 2383, skirt 2336, and dress 2371.

The long, lean look was also worn:

Butterick 2351 from May 1920. Delineator, p. 152.

But it’s probably the sporty, youthful quality of this summer dress that gives me that “Twenties'” feeling.

Butterick dress 2410 from Delineator, June 1920.

I have to remind myself that all these 1920 dresses would have been seen at the same time — and probably for several years.

4 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, 1920s, evening and afternoon clothes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Vintage Couture Designs, World War I

Poiret and Tunic Dresses, 1914

Paul Poiret’s “Sorbet” gown. Illustrated by Georges Lepape, September 1913. Image from Irene Lewisohn Collection, Metropolitan Museum.

I saw Poiret’s famous “Sorbet” gown at the V & A years ago.  It’s sometimes referred to as “the lampshade dress,” because of the rigid bottom of the tunic.

I expected to laugh; instead, I haven’t found a picture that does it justice. It’s ridiculous. It’s impractical. And it’s couture: what doesn’t show in the photos I’ve found is that the stylized roses are made from thousands of subtly glittering beads. The silk has the soft gleam of quality. It is lovely.

Perhaps because this is clearly a “wear it once” dress (except for the version without a boned tunic,) it has survived in at least three public collections (V & A, Chicago History Museum,  & FIT. ) And, being couture — custom made for every client —  each rendition is slightly different. Sometimes only the skirt is different (one version has harem pants;) in one, the tunic falls softly instead of being rigid; in the collection at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the dark parts are not black, but mauve (or raspberry sorbet?)

Randy Bigham has written a fascinating essay comparing the three versions.

I called “Sorbet” a “wear it once” dress because it would make a grand entrance, be highly memorable, and also be highly impractical. How would the wearer sit at a dinner table, or travel to a party in a carriage or car? How would she dance in it, since the hoop would pop up in the back as soon as her partner embraced her? [Imagine it flipping around during a tango!]

Butterick pattern 6639 seems to be influenced by Poiret’s “Sorbet” gown, which has black fur at the rigid hem of the tunic in the V&A version. Delineator, January 1914.

The New Flaring Tunics, Delineator, March 1914. In 1914, a “tunic” was an overskirt.

But …. Poiret caught the spirit of the times, even if he didn’t create the tunic fad; by 1914 his dress was influencing Butterick patterns and being imitated elsewhere. I found it in advertisements, too — usually a sign that a style has penetrated the common culture.

Ad for McCallum Hosiery, Delineator, March 1914.

A suit with a flaring tunic and wide sash is seen in an ad for American Woolen, March 1914, Delineator.

This ad for Suesine silk fabric uses Butterick 6639, with the hoop-like tunic.

A flaring tunic dress goes dancing in this ad for Kleinert’s Dress Shields. April 1914; Delineator.

Tunic Dress Patterns from 1914

An outfit with the tunic look might be a dress, or a skirt and “waist” combination.  [A “waist” was a blouse or separate bodice.] The flared part of the tunic might be part of the blouse/waist) …

Waist 6639. Butterick pattern from January 1914. Delineator.

… Or it might be part of the skirt:

Butterick skirt pattern 6719, March 1914. Delineator.

Butterick waist 6718 with skirt 6719. The flared tunic is part of the skirt. Note the fur or velvet border at right, which makes the hem stand out more.

Wearing the tunic over an elaborately draped skirt increased bulk over the hips — and narrowing at the ankles exaggerated it.

Tunic dress; Butterick pattern 6779 from April 1914 has optional ruffles to help the tunic’s hem stand out a bit. Delineator.

Alternate and back views of Butterick tunic dress 6779; 1914.

There are many one-piece tunic dresses, rather than waist and skirt combinations:

Tunic dresses for women to size 44 bust; Delineator, April 1914.

Alternate views of tunic dress 6820, April 1914.

Alternate views of tunic dress 6832, April 1914. Seeing it without the tunic tells us more about how it was made.

A group of hip-widening fashions from April, 1914. Delineator. The one in color is a waist & skirt combination. [Fun hat!]

Butterick waist 6791 with skirt 6733. The tunic is part of the skirt; waist 6791 is not long at all.

Other views of Butterick waist 6791. From 1914.

However, tunic outfit 6797 is a dress:

Butterick dress 6797, April 1914. In the illustration at left, the diagonal closing is barely noticeable.

To my eyes, accustomed to slender, athletic bodies, the fashions of the World War I period are hard to understand, since they add the appearance of many pounds around the hips. [Poiret also took credit for the 1908 “hobble skirt,” still affecting fashion in 1914.]

“What Your Girl Will Want for Easter” 1914: Wide hips and narrow hems. These are styles for teens age 14 to 19. Did teen girls really want to look like they had big, low-slung bottoms? Well…”fashion.”

With dresses like those, you’d hardly need this corset….

Nubone corset ad, March 1914, Delineator.

The tunic styles were for recommended for women (including larger sizes) and for teens:

Butterick 6684 was for teens aged 14 to 19. February, 1914.

Butterick 6651 for teens 14 to 19 and small women. This one has fur trim.

That headdress deserves a closer look:

Lace, fur, chiffon, flowers, and a rather exotic jeweled headdress. January 1914.

For large women, this modified tunic with more vertical lines was recommended.

Left, Butterick 6809 “For Matronly Figures; New styles that are becoming to them.” Delineator, June 1914.

Buttrick 6809 was not a true tunic; this back view is much more slenderizing. “Matronly figures” went up to size 46 bust. Note the ( ) shaped silhouette.

The tunics and draped skirts that increased hip width were apparently popular, but women did have other choices:

Left, a tunic-style outfit made from waist 6627 and skirt 6613; right, distinctly un-fussy shirtwaist 6619 with slim, tailored skirt 6620. Both of these skirts were described as “peg-top.” January 1914.

(I’m still not clear on what “peg-top” actually meant — but now I know where to look….)

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with this long post!

The tunic look from Delineator, May 1914.

10 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Corsets, Foundation Garments, Girdles, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, World War I