Tag Archives: zipper

“Zip” — Slide Fasteners from Sears, Part 2

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/img_7462.jpg?w=500&h=344

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Description of Sears two-piece outfit for Spring 1937.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ornamental zipper pulls from Sears, Spring, 1939.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mind the Gap”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/1928-dec-p-67-500-zipper-boots-ad.jpg?w=378&h=500

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

Originally the “Zipper” was a winter overshoe (rain boot) that closed with a slide fastener, made by the B.F. Goodrich rubber company. As I wrote is a previous post, “by 1922 Goodrich had launched their “Mystik Boots,” which closed with Hookless [brand] slide fasteners instead of snaps or buckles. They were such an immediate success that B.F. Goodrich Company asked Hookless for exclusive rights to use their fasteners. In 1923, the Mystik Boot was renamed, to draw attention to the ease with which they were put on and taken off.

“What we need is an action word,” said company president Bertram G. Work, “something that will dramatize the way the thing zips.” He quickly added, “Why not call it the zipper?” – from The Evolution of Useful Things, by Henry Petroski, p. 111.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Du Barry Fashions, August 1939

Cover, Du Barry Fashions Prevue store flyer, August 1939. What a hat!

Du Barry patterns were sold by Woolworth’s — we called it the “dime store,” or the “five and ten,” as in the 1931 song lyric, “I found a million dollar baby in a five and ten cent store.” ( Click here to hear it .)

Page 6, Du Barry pattern flyer, Aug. 1939.

Page 5, Du Barry pattern flyer, Aug. 1939.

The Du Barry flyer from August 1939 shows relatively few patterns — but illustrates the same patterns in different “views” on several pages.

Du Barry pattern 2306 was illustrated on page 2 and on page 4 of the August 1939 flyer.

Du Barry pattern 2304B, an “Easily-Made” frock for sizes 12 to 20, appeared on both page 3 and page 5; August 1939.

Here are three versions of the dress featured on the cover, Du Barry pattern 2319.

Du Barry pattern 2319 in yellow, as shown on the cover. Aug. 1939.

“Choose this soft afternoon frock for sheer flattery. Sizes 32 through 42. Slide fastener for side placket 9”. Du Barry 2319B illustrated in a sheer fabric, page 3 of flyer, Aug. 1939.

Earlier dresses with side openings used snaps. By 1939 a slide fastener was mentioned in the pattern description, so side zippers must have been common, but not yet taken for granted with all dresses.

“A soft afternoon dress that is perfect for sheer fabrics.” Du Barry 2319B illustrated in a purple print fabric. Store flyer, page 6, Aug. 1939. Available in sizes 32 through 42 bust measurement. Note the sophisticated expression on the model — she is an adult woman, not a teen.

You can usually tell which designs are aimed at younger women and teens by the faces and illustration style, but the size range — 12 to 18, or 12 to 20 — is also a clue.

“A smart-looking dress and jacket,” Du Barry pattern 2300B, was available for sizes 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18.

“Easily-Made” frock for sizes 12 to 20; Du Barry pattern 2307B from 1939.

“A dress and petticoat ensemble” for younger women and teens, sizes 12 through 20. Du Barry pattern 2318B from Aug. 1939 flyer, illustrated on two pages. “Convenient closing” referred to other dresses, not this one.

Du Barry pattern 2314B is a “jumper frock that will delight the young miss. Sizes 12 to 18.” 1939.

The evening cape with hood accompanies a gown with a “vest-like bodice” for young or small women size 12 to 20. Du Barry pattern 2309B; Aug. 1939 flyer.

Tailored styles like this pink dress ( Du Barry 2316B)  and the sporty pleated one (2311B) were also for sizes 12 through 20. This sizing dates back to the time when patterns for teens and small women were sized by year, rather than by bust measure. (See “Size 16 years. What Does That Mean?”

Right: this pink tailored dress, Du Barry 2316B, is for teens and small women, sizes 12 to 20.

It could be made with a zipper front closing instead of buttons, as shown in white with red stitching (Scroll  down.)

Left, “A tailored dress designed for comfort. Stitched pleats are an added feature.” Du Barry pattern 2311B, store flyer, Aug. 1939. Sizes 12 to 20.

The Du Barry/Woolworth’s pattern flyers also contained ads for other products, from chewing gum to sanitary belts.

DuBarry pattern 2305B appeared twice on page 5 — once in an ad for Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum.

“Du Barry Patterns are 10 Cents Each — for sale exclusively by F. W. Woolworth Co.”

Du Barry 2305B was available in sizes 12 through 20 and for women bust sizes 30 to 38 inches. 1939. A tie in back ensures a snug fit.

I was pleased to see so many dresses made with visible zippers — a style introduced by Parisian designers in 1936-37. (This is mentioned briefly in Robert Friedel’s book, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty.)

Du Barry pattern 2313 B illustrated with a slide fastener down the front and trimmed with parallel rows of top-stitching. August 1939 store flyer, p. 6. Sizes 14, 16, 18, 20 and 40.

“Attractive and trim for mornings at home,” Du Barry housecoat pattern 2317B from 1939 has a zipper front closing.

[Schiaparelli is usually credited with being the first, but that’s not strictly accurate. One Butterick pattern with both practical and decorative zippers appeared in 1928. Schiaparelli did encourage the manufacture of colored plastic zippers.]

“Convenient closings with slide fasteners” were featured on DuBarry patterns 2313B (again) and 2316B, from 1939. Page 7 of store flyer.

Is it possible that DuBarry patterns with zipper closings were featured because the same flyer contained this Talon ad?

An advertisement for Talon slide fasteners from a Woolworth’s Du Barry store flyer, Aug. 1939, p. 7. “For decorative purposes — ask for the TALON plastic fastener.”

Although in common use, the word “zipper” technically belonged to the B.F. Goodrich company. (See Flappers, Galoshes, and Zippers for more about the history of the slide fastener.)

My mother still wore a long housecoat very much like this one in 1947 or so; hers was a large floral print in blue seersucker, without a collar. It had these sleeves, but it zipped down the front.

Du Barry housecoat pattern 2317 was shown in two versions, on two different pages. Aug. 1939.

(I call this blog “witness2fashion” because I saw clothes like this being worn.)

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Purses, Vintage Accessories, Vintage patterns, Zippers

Bodysuit Combination Blouse and Undergarment, 1927

This is one of those surprises that makes reading old magazines so much fun.

Combination blouse and panties, Butterick pattern 1493, from June 1927. Delineator, p. 34.

Combination blouse and panties, Butterick pattern 1493, from June 1927. Delineator, p. 34.

“Here is a costume that provides its own underclothing…. The two-in-one blouse slips on over the head and extends into panties.” [It would have had a button crotch, like other combination underwear, called “teddies,”  “step-ins,” or “an envelope chemise.”]

I remember wearing a bodysuit — that is, a blouse that stayed tucked in because, below the waist, it became a snap-crotched panty. As the “bodysuit” it was popularized by Donna Karan, and other manufacturers followed suit.

In 1927, Butterick sold this outfit as three separate patterns:  Blouse 1493, Skirt 1480, and Cardigan jacket 1367.

Three Butterick patterns from 1927: Combination blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and jacket 1367. Butterick patterns from Delineator, June 1927, p. 34.

Three Butterick patterns from 1927: Combination blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and jacket 1367. Butterick patterns from Delineator, June 1927, p. 34.

When writing about a 1929 blouse/underwear combination attributed to Madeleine Vionnet, I said, “The problem of wearing a 1920’s wrap skirt which rides far below the natural waistline (the skirt over a satin blouse would have a tendency to migrate around the body as you walk), and the problem of keeping the blouse tucked in when you sit and stand, or raise your arms, are both neatly solved by the “culotte blouse,” as it was called in 1929.

Delineator's sketch of a suit by Vionnet, and the Butterick copy, Pattern 2526. Delineator, March 1929.

Delineator’s sketch of a suit by Vionnet, and the Butterick copy, pattern 2526. Delineator, March 1929. This “culotte” blouse was also a “step-in” panty.

At the time, I was interested in the fact that a couture design using a very visible zipper and attributed to Vionnet in 1929 pre-dated Schiaparelli’s use of zippers by several years. [To read that post, click here.]

However, I was surprised to see this blouse and panties combination (Butterick  1493) even earlier, in June of 1927, when it was called the “Two-in-One Blouse.”

Text, page 34, Delineator, June 1927.

Text, page 34, Delineator, June 1927.

“The two-in-one blouse is more than a blouse — it is a combination tailored shirt and panties…. It is splendid for sports and for riding since it can’t pull up. ” A “printed silk cardigan” — “the most important sport jacket of the year” — sounds pretty nifty, too.

Butterick cardigan 1367 could be made of wool, velvetten, jersey, or printed silk. The skirt fabric was used for binding on the jacket, creating a suit look.

Butterick cardigan 1367 could be made of wool, velveteen, jersey, or printed silk. The skirt fabric was used for binding on the jacket, creating a suit look.

Pattern descriptions, Butterick blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and cardigan jacket 1367. Delineator, June 1927.

Pattern descriptions, Butterick blouse 1493, skirt 1480, and cardigan jacket 1367. Delineator, June 1927.

 

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Filed under 1920s, Sportswear, Underthings

Men Bare Their Chests at the Beach, 1933

One man has a bare chest and one wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustratioin from Woman's Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

One man has a bare chest and one man wears a swimsuit with a top in this 1937 illustration from Woman’s Home Companion. July 1937, p. 74.

Nude bathing for men was an accepted tradition in Victorian times. (A stretch of river called Parson’s Pleasure was reserved for this purpose at Oxford University until 1991.) But as “mixed” bathing became popular near the end of the 19th century, both men and women were expected to cover up from breastbone to knee.

Man's bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910.

Man’s bathing suit from Sears catalog, Spring 1910. Sleeveless swimming suits for men were also for sale.

1920’s bathing suits were clinging, but very similar for both sexes.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925.

Bathing suits from the Sears catalog, Spring 1925. The swim suit worn by the seated man is not very different from the woman’s suit.

Practices varied from place to place but, at public beaches and pools in the U.S., men were usually required to wear suits that covered their nipples until the mid-nineteen thirties.

Men's swim suits from Sears, Spring 1935.

Men’s swimming suits from Sears, Spring 1935. Left, an elasticized “Speed Suit” suspended from the shoulders. Center, trunks with a separate tuck-in shirt. Right, a “two-purpose suit” whose top attaches with a zipper.

The “Speed Suit” (left) has attached trunks and “elastic-ribbed fabric.” The “High Waisted Trunks” at center are shown with a separate all-wool shirt which tucks into the suit at front and back. The “two-purpose” Zip Top Suit” at right has a zipper in front that allows you to remove the “shirt” part.

By 1934, it was becoming acceptable for men to swim bare-chested, but rules for public and private beaches and pools differed, so bringing an optional top would save embarrassment. (Speaking of embarrassment, I wonder: when the trunks were not suspended from the shoulders, was a belt necessary to support the weight of water-logged wool knit trunks?)

This vintage suit, from Macy’s, has a similar zipper front and a rather bare X back:

Man's swim suit from Macy's, circa 1930s, with slide closing detachable top.

Man’s swim suit from Macy’s, circa 1930s; the detachable top connects to the trunks with a large metal zipper.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/whc-april-1937-p-3-nmen-bathing-suits-tans-illus-cordrey-500.jpg?w=500

This illustration from Womans’ Home Companion, 1937, shows that some men — in this case, two out of three — continued to wear the top even when not required to do so.

Men's bathing suits with tops, WHC February 1936 illustration.

Men’s bathing suits with tops, WHC, February 1936 illustration.

The older man is wearing a more conservative, covered-up swimsuit.

According to Esquire magazine in 1934,

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

Esquire, July 1934, page 118.

This implies that shirtless swimming was permitted on some public beaches in 1933, and earlier [1932] at some private beaches and pools.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men's swimming trunks without chest coverage.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118. Men’s swimming trunks without chest coverage. The punning caption read: “Even the Public Beaches Embrace the Nude Deal.”

The man at left is wearing a shirt tucked into his trunks.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

Esquire, July 1934, p. 118.

In the same July 1934 issue, this ad for Mansco Sportswear shows several conservative looks:

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swiming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Manhattan Mansco sportswear and swimming trunks. Esquire, July 1934.

However, this ad from Gantner and Mattern Co. shows much tighter-fitting trunks — and no top.

Ad for Gantner "Wikies" swim trunks, esquire, July 1934.

Ad for Gantner “Wikies” swim trunks, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner Wikies man's swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934.

Gantner “Wikies” man’s swim trunks. Ad, Esquire, July 1934. A “Snapper Shirt” top for Wikies was available separately, presumably to snap on at beaches where swimming with a bare chest was still not permitted.

The Wikies’ high waist reflects the high-waisted men’s trousers then in fashion. Wikies’ snug fit was probably possible because of the recent [1931] invention of Lastex yarn, which even appeared in men’s suit fabric in 1934 ads.

Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8.

From a Lastex ad, Esquire, March 1934, p. 8. “Lastex, the spun elastic yarn, is now weaving comfort into everything a man wears — into his business suit, Tuxedo, sportswear, bathing suit, riding clothes, shirt, …underwear, pyjamas….”

The Lastex company ran a series of advertisements in Esquire magazine showing men’s suits, tuxedos, etc. which were made with stretch fabrics — in 1934!

Beach and resort wear, including "pretty snug" men's swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133.

Beach and resort wear, including “pretty snug” men’s swimming trunks, worn bare-chested. Esquire, August, 1934, p. 133. L. Fellows, illustrator.

1934 aug p 133 beach and resort wear swim text swim

This editorial illustration appeared in a women’s magazine in 1935:

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, May, 1935.

Illustration by Warren Baumgartner, Woman’s Home Companion, May, 1935.

Perhaps the acceptance of bare chests had something to do with Hawaii:

A surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

A Hawaiian surfer in a Dole Pineapple ad, May 1934. Delineator.

I can’t help noticing that Esquire chose to use men “of a certain age” to model swimsuits in its editorial fashion articles. The women’s magazines, however, pictured younger, athletic-looking men wearing swimsuits in their illustrations, just as Esquire favored voluptuous women in its cartoons….

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Bathing Suits, Men's Formalwear & Evening, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Zippers

Patou’s Evening Gowns for Short and Tall, 1936

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

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

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

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

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

Patou’s Advice for Tall Women

Patou evening gowns, Jan. 1936. WHC.

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

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

Patou’s Advice for Short Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patou, 1936.

Skirt details of two gowns by Patou, 1936.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collapsible Hats by Agnes, 1937

Two packable hats for travel; by Agnes, Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

Two packable hats for travel; by Agnes, Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

Agnès (also known as Madame Agnès)  was one of the most fashionable French hat-makers of the 1920’s and after. (Click here for more about her label.) Here is one of her tight-fitting evening turbans from 1929.

Agnes evening turban of fine gold mesh, 1929. Delineator, Jan. 1929.

Agnes evening turban of fine gold mesh, 1929. Delineator, Jan. 1929.

The Metropolitan Museum has several hats by Agnès:

Black velvet and matte black fabric hat by Madame Agnes, 1929. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Black velvet and matte black fabric hat by Madame Agnes, 1929. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

A whimsical little hat by Madame Agnes, 1937. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

A whimsical little hat by Madame Agnes, 1937. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Hats like this were often worn tilted far to the front of the head, over one eye.

Hats from Butterick Fashion News illustrations, 1938-39.

Hats from Butterick Fashion News illustrations, 1938-39.

However, bigger hats, often with an elongated crown like this one by Agnès, were also worn in the 1930’s. ( Schiaparelli also designed hats like men’s fedoras, but with tall, narrow tops like this.)

Straw hat by Madame Agnes, 1938. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Straw hat by Madame Agnes, 1938. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum.

Hats pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Hats pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

The two hats by Madame Agnès pictured at the top of the post have a lot in common with these styles, but the Agnès hats were cleverly constructed so that they could be deconstructed and flattened, or rolled, to fit in a suitcase.

Casual hat that can be packed flat, by Agnes, 1937. Woman's Come Companion, Oct. 1937.

Casual snapped hat that can be packed flat, by Agnes, 1937. Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

In her “Letter from our Paris Fashion Correspondent,”  Marjorie Howard described two hats by Agnès, one that snapped together (above) and a hat that rolled into a long strip, and zipped into shape using a slide fastener.

Here’s how Marjorie Howard described the “snapper” hat, above:

“Large snap fastenings, the original ones in translucent green on black felt, run down the side of the crown which is just a flat piece when they are undone, and join the two ends of the brim. Two flat bits are all that remain when the snaps are open and they pack as easily as a scarf or handkerchief. A clever woman could construct the snapper hat for herself; though I am not sure that she could succeed with the other one.”

This hat by Agnes (1937) is held together by a long, continuous zipper (slide fastener) and can be unzipped and roller up for packing. Woman's Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

This hat by Agnes (1937) is held together by a long, continuous zipper (slide fastener) and can be unzipped and rolled up for packing.  Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1937.

“The cleverest I have seen lately are Agnès’ two felts, intended primarily for October weekends when you travel in a car and must curtail your luggage. Both of them come to pieces and pack flat or in any suitcase corner. One  is a long curved strip of felt with metal slide fastenings cleverly disposed along the edges. You begin at the top, slip one end of the slide fastening into the other and wind spirally till your hat emerges, crown, brim and all. And it really works for I have tried it. To pack you unzip and roll the strip into a ball….

“It is pretty tricky to cut. Agnès told me that it took her three weeks of experimentation to work it out properly. The curve has to be accurate as an engineer’s working model.” — Marjorie Howard, Woman’s Home Companion, p. 81; October 1937.”

Although Howard says she zipped this hat up starting at the crown, the fact that the illustration shows the zipper pull at the top of the hat implies to me that that was where the zipping ended, as when you zip up the front of a jacket. Or perhaps the illustrator took liberties.  The dressesandhats blog has a bigger, better picture of the Zipper Hat.  Click here.

American Charles James designed a dress with a zipper that spiraled all the way around it in 1929(!), but I don’t think practicality was his main goal.

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Filed under 1930s, Hats, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Accessories, Zippers