Category Archives: 1937

Keeping Warm in the 1930s: Rain and Snow

I’m a bit under the weather today, so I figured I should post another set of images in the “Keeping Warm” series.

Here’s two pages of catalog images from 1937-1938 showing coats to be worn in the rain, and outfits for play in the snow.


I find the fabric descriptions pretty fascinating. Rubberized fabrics like silk crepe de chine or cotton tweed, all rubber, or cotton gaberdine or whipcord- which were both supposed to be water repellent on their own. Also notice the sensible headwear, umbrellas, and rubber overshoes (which are made of rubber and hollow in the heel so that you can slip your regular footwear inside. I think they should make a comeback!).


This image shows darling snow wear! I admit I have a love for the vintage ski jackets- but I’d rather wear them in regular life than in ski and snow sports. I think they’d look pretty cute even with modern jeans! I personally think ski and snow wear has come a long way since the 1930s. Although I’ve never tried it in the snow myself, it’s hard to imagine these “water repellant” styles keeping you dry, if you spend as much time as I do falling down or sitting in snow ;) These are all mentioned to be lined in cotton Kasha. I have not personally ever run across this fabric. If anyone knows what the modern equivalent is, or if it’s still available, please be sure to let us know!

Wishing you a warm weekend,


Keeping Warm in the 1930s- Overcoats!

Now that’s we’ve taken a quick look at what goes on underneath, let’s skip to what goes on top!  Many gals have mentioned that layering is what’s needed, since it can be frigid inside and then toasty indoors.  Luckily, we can remove the overcoat.

Unlike today, when a girl can choose (or thrift, or make) several coats in one season, our counterparts in the 1930s would have to choose very wisely.  Most women had one overcoat, and that coat had to last through several winters.  Because of that, overcoats needed to be chosen with great care and thought.  It had to match your wardrobe, go with your other clothing, and fit your unique style.  This is why, often times, vintage overcoats could be a bit “bland”.  The flashy ones were fun, but were more the luxury of women who could afford to have an alternate coat- or else the purchase could be regretted the following year when the fashion forward coat was suddenly out of style!  It’s actually a great lesson to take with us into how we select our wardrobe today.  Think of it as quality over quantity- or choose a great basic to mix with more inexpensive “fun” pieces, like a quirky hat, bag, or brooch.

However, I am in LOVE with all these more fashion forward versions of coats below.  They scream the era they’re from, but aren’t they just delightful with their topstitching detail?  (Actually, they’re a glimpse of things to come for Wearing History, since I’ve been back puttering away at a pattern with similar detailing, but from a different era).

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

The one below has a definate “Gay 90’s” flair, as they called it in the mid to late 30s. What a time to harken back to the 1890s! It’s kind of funny, actually- our harkening to 40 years prior would put us in the 1970’s, and we can’t say that there aren’t fashions floating around today that were influenced by the recent past.

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

I’ve got more great coat images I can share that fall more in line with “warmth” than “chic”, but these were so fun I had to share.

For past posts of mine with images of overcoats, check out these links:

 Images posted prior to my migration to a blog are fuzzy, but if you click on the image it will take you to a nice clear version.
Have a great weekend!

Keeping Warm in the 1930’s- Socks and Stockings

I’m so glad that so many of you loved the theme of “keeping warm” for upcoming posts!  I admit there was a lot more response on the last post than I expected.  I guess there’s lots of us who like keeping warm and toasty!

Next up, since we’re on the subject of what goes on underneath, we’ve got stockings.

Most people think of stockings of the 1930s and 1940s in terms of the “cuban heeled” or “fully fashioned” stockings that were sheer and made of rayon, nylon, or silk.  Some even think of fishnet stockings, which were less common than we might think but certainly were still around.  And when we get to the 1940s we think of leg paint to help out with looking like there were stockings when in reality they were mostly given up for the war effort!

For everyday wear, around the house, or for cool weather there were, thankfully, more options than those sheer stockings we usually think of.  Here’s two pages of legwear options from Fall & Winter 1937-1938 with images of legwear to keep you warm.

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

The socks (or anklets) at upper left were advertised to be worn in addition to your hoisery.  Ladies wore these not only with flats and “saddle shoes”, but they were often worn with heels!  It was a cute, sporty look, and it kept your feet warm.  It wasn’t as common to wear with heels as it was to wear stockings alone, but you do see it in catalog images for footwear and in real life photos.

“Remember- Wool is Warmer”- the ad on the right reminds us.  You could select your stockings by wool content.  The ultimate luxury were 100% wool or a wool/silk blend.

Below this ad, we’ve got invisible “under hose”.  These would be an extra layer underneath your sheerer stockings, and apparently, the idea was to have these under hose look like it was actually your skin but it provided an extra layer of warmth.

And below that we’ve got stocking lined in fleece!  Don’t those sound cosy?

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

On the page above we’ve got cotton stockings in various styles.  These would keep your warmer than sheer rayon or silk and would would be more sturdy for everyday wear.

And on the left we’ve got the “outsize” stockings, which were made for “stout” women.  You can see the standard range that most stockings, in regular or outsizes, were available in.

I usually skip over the stocking pages in old catalogs, but I found these cool weather options rather enlightening!  Are they what you would expect?  What sort of legwear do you wear to keep warm in cool weather?

Keeping Warm in the 1930’s- Knit Underwear

It’s abnormally chilly here in San Diego!  This cool weather has me thinking of things to keep warm.

One of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve seen and heard about dressing the past is our perception of keeping warm.  Just like today, our 1930’s sisters layered and selected their cool weather garments with care.  Instead of freezing in rayon satin tap pants and sheer hose, with a flimsy rayon crepe dress and jacket of questionable warmth, I’ve got a few posts coming up of images of what you’d wear to keep nice and toasty in cool weather.  It’s easy to adapt these ideas to our wardrobe recreations.  Remember no one looks chic while they’re shivering!

First up, here’s some great images of knitted underwear.  If you’ve looked at vintage knitting books, you may recognize the look of these.  Many knitted books contained patterns for wool knitted underwear like these (similar to long johns today).  It seems they were especially prominent in UK publications.  So, a clever knitter could find patterns today and knit up a set to keep warm- or the seamstress might be able to make up a set inspired by these from knits, or adapt a modern set of long underwear to a similar look (remember, cotton and natural fibres dye, so you could give them a pretty peachy pink look like these below).

Some might be turned off by these- they’re not the satin and lace dainty underwear we’ve come to associate with the 1930’s.  But, remember, it’s better to be warm and outwardly stylish than shivering in cold rayon undies that will never be seen!  Sense is always chic ;)

Check it out… the original Snuggie!

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

National Bellas Hess- Fall and Winter 1937-1938

All of these images are remastered from the National Bellas Hess Fall & Winter Catalog from 1937-1938

You can click on any of the images to take you to my Flickr and see a larger version you can read.

So what do you think?  Would you be up for these vintage warm undies, or would you rather wear something modern, or stick with the rayon ones we’ve come to associate with the 1930’s?

>What Real People Wore- 1930s Fashion Show

>My good friend Kathy (of Blitz Visage Makeup Artistry) sent me a lovely surprise package and included in it was this very fun photo from a 1930s fashion show!
My guess is that this is probably from 1937-1938.  Isn’t this great?  We’ve got grand-pere there in the back with the girl who won looks like she won the ribbon. My guess is that this was probably either a school or club’s fashion show as a lot of the outfits look homemade.  In fact I just super enlarged the ribbon and although I can’t make it out in entirety part of it reads “Outing Show… Club of Southern California”.  Makes me think of how much fun it would be to do a fashion show with my vintage sewing buddies (and that includes you!).  When I look through old photos I love to pick out people who look a bit like folks I know… does anyone else do that?

My favorites are  the girl on the left in the floral dress with big hat and killer shoes, the pant suit, the girl with the kerchief on her head, the stripey zip up culotte number, and although I don’t particularly think it would look good on me, the shorts ensemble with the overcoat on the far right front has killer fabric.  Reminds me of my South American blouse I made a few years ago!
We’ve got a few questionable fashion/fabric choices in here, too.  But I have an affinity for the obnoxious, so I pretty much like everything.  Even Anne Boleyn in the back  “When we said ’37, we didn’t mean 1537!” 

>Fox Fur Collar Coat, Circa 1936, and Coat Musings


 Another image from Fall/Winter 1936-1937.  Click to enlarge.

Today was my first real day venturing out since getting sick this week, and unfortunately I didn’t hold out long, but sitting at home allowed me to take out all my coat info and books and instructions to prepare my plan of attack for my upcoming coat project, the 1930s overcoat from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library that I posted about a few days ago.  I’ve got a lovely black wool and an old persian lamb coat I plan to use as accents as well as some lovely vintage buttons.  I pulled out my hymo, fabrics, and started researching how exactly I’m going to put this thing together.  I admit I’m a bit overwhelmed.  I’ve made a few tailored coats and jackets- some I worked on with help when I was working at the Opera, one with a friend, a few for myself, and one for my husband… but I still feel a tailoring novice.  It seems like the sort of thing one could work at their entire life and not fully master- plus it’s such a lost art I really want to fight to learn it while there’s still folks who do it the old fashioned way.
Since the cut of this overcoat is so much different than the others I’ve done, after a lot of thought and pouring over some books I’ve decided to scrap my tailoring books and pretty much follow the vintage instructions- which I’m still feeling pretty uneasy about.  One of the things I really admire about tailoring is how crisp and finished the edges look- what with the lovely way the hymo holds the shape, and the pad stitching, layering the interfacing a the shoulders, and roll line and pockets and whatnot- but my coat doesn’t have a fold over collar, lapels, or outside pockets… and it’s not cut all in one at the front, so I’m really left scratching my head over how exactly I can re-enforce the front without it being too bulky.  I guess I’m just waving the white flag on this one and doing it the original way set out in the instructions, which is to cut the interlining on the same line as the facing.  I’m nearly sure there’s a “tailored” way to do this that I’m completely unaware of.  I kind of feel like I’m cheating, actually, but I’m just going to go with it, cross my fingers, and hopefully it will all end up all right in the end!  Most vintage patterns, and modern patterns for that matter, include little to no help with old fashioned tailoring, but this one actually does include quite a bit more than I expected so I’m interested to see how it turns out.  It does look pretty darn complicated though… and it will be interesting trying to work with the vintage fur, though the thought of it already is giving me the heebie-jeebies ;)
Sorry the shop has been a bit neglected of new goodies. Early next week I’m hoping to have some cute vintage things and a Halloween inspired something-or-other.  I’ll be sure to post on here as soon as they go up.