Tag Archives: 1930s

early1930s

A Primer: 1930’s-1950’s Trousers & Pants For Women

One of the most desired, and often most misunderstood, articles in the vintage wardrobe are the trousers.

Today I’m going to delve a little bit into the basics of the transition of trousers from the 1930’s through the 1950s.  It’s a quick overview so I’m not touching on everything, but it will give you a good starting point!

- A Beginning -

Women and trousers.  It’s a love affair in modern times, but was it in the past?  Well, no- actually.  If you remember good ol’ Amelia Bloomer, she caused quite the scandal by sporting bifurcated garments in the Victorian era.  They called it “Dress Reform”.  It was a fad that wasn’t with the majority, but it did continue in some form or another.  Enter the 1890’s, and there’s bicycling bloomers for women.  Some daring women even start wearing trousers for riding. In the American West, and at places where there were adventures seeking new discovery, women wore pants with more frequency.  They even had a short-lived popularity during the Great War, when women helped out at home (much like they would again in WWII), but it was not widely accepted.

Enter the 1920’s and the “flapper”.  Pajamas are all the rage- in the boudoir and by the seaside.  Some daring women even started wearing men’s trousers.  Was it accepted by the majority?   Definitely not.  But they started gaining in popularity thanks to the seaside, the boudoir, and the new collegiate co-eds!

- The 1930’s -

The 1930’s is when we really see women in trousers get their stride. It was still not accepted by the majority in the early part of the 1930’s.  In fact, studios used to try to keep Kate Hepburn from wearing them between sets in Hollywood, because the photographers would snap her over the studio gates and it was still “shocking”.  But, really, the resorts and the young set, the Hollywood sirens, and the wealthy, are what caused the trousers to catch on.

They were not widely worn, but by the mid 1930’s it was acceptable for wear for sportswear.  They’re mostly seen on campus, at the resort, and in other places if you lived in the warmer climates like Southern California or Florida.  Cannes was a big place for wearing trousers.  How daring!

early1930s

The first half, we see very loosely fitted trousers.  The images above are from 1934.   The “rise” (that is, crotch length), was EXTREMELY low.  Think M.C. Hammer.  Seriously.  Sometimes down to your knees!  Notice here, these are mostly for sporty summer wear.  That is quite common in the 1930s. You don’t often see them “dressed up”, and if you do, it’s usually on the wealthy.

late1930sIn the second half of the 1930’s, trousers really start going crazy.  In 1939 it seemed everyone wanted them, and they were here to stay!  There were lounging ones, playing ones, work ones, beach ones, pajamas… and sometimes even dinner outfits.  The late 1930’s is playful, and trousers fit in perfectly with that ideal.  The image on left is from 1938, and the image on right from 1939.  Still notice, they have the very loose fit.  Trousers were NOT meant to hug your butt.  They really wanted them to fit like a skirt- skimming your hips and rear loosely, then falling to a low crotch, and splitting into a bifurcated garment.

early1940s

This image is from 1942, and this is what most of us think of when we think of vintage women’s trousers or pants.  They’re still for active wear, primarily.  You don’t often see them dressed up.  In some areas women were shunned if they wore pants.  In other areas (including California), they were more widely accepted and sometimes even worn to church- which shocked quite a few (or, so I read, in a 1939 Vogue magazine).

For your WWII impressions, you’ll want a look like these.  Are they suitable for every occasion?  No, if you want to be accurate. But for war work, home front work, gardening, the beach, or for collegiate looks they fit in great!  I wear them all the time in my day to day vintage inspired looks, because I’m honestly not trying to look like I’m out of a time machine- I just want to wear what I like.  But if accuracy is your thing, take heed and consider where you live and what your activity is if you want to wear vintage trousers for WWII impressions.

late1940s

The mid-late 1940’s were all about teen culture.  Swing music was here to stay, and fashion followed the teen trends.  Here we’ve got three girls wearing teen styles.  Women’s trousers for other age groups followed similar lines but were a bit more conservative in tone.  Notice we’re getting the narrower legs as we move to the late 1940’s.  I’m 33, and I’d totally wear all of these outfits, unashamedly.

Also, take note- it’s the first time we see jeans as we think of them now!  Previously, women would have slacks in similar lines to the trousers I pictured made in denim (think my Smooth Sailing trousers), but by the mid 1940’s women had their own version of jeans like the men wore.  Previously, most women would wear men’s jeans if they wanted dungarees.  If we can’t have it, we’ll wear our brother’s until you give up our own. Worked with trousers, and it worked with jeans :)

1950spants

Move into the 1950’s and things get slim.  Some trousers still followed the lines of the late 1940’s one on the far left, that I posted above, but most started getting really narrow legs.  We still don’t have the higher crotch point, like with modern pants (which you’ll notice if you look at the pictures above), but we started moving it a bit upward.   It’s the predecessor of the skinny jean- but mixed with the longer crotch length.  It’s an… interesting… fit ;)

- Let’s Get Technical -

So, what is “Sanforized”?  You may see this on a bunch of old catalog description, and sometimes even printed and woven on old labels.  It is NOT a fabric.  It is NOT a weave.  It’s a PROCESS.  It’s basically pre-shrinking your fabric by treating it.  Sometimes it’s done before sewing, sometimes it’s done after sewing.  This is still a widely used process in the textile industry on natural and cellulose based fibres.

What are “Mannish” or “Man-Tailored” slacks?  These terms were used interchangeably throughout the 1930’s and the 1940’s.  This just means they were a little more tailored- and usually followed the line of men’s trousers of the time.  Women’s trousers, however, almost always fastened up the side instead of the front until you get to the mid 1940s, and even then, it was most common for them to fasten at the side.  You do see them with front fastenings in some snapshots of the 1930’s, but these were usually actual men’s trousers, rather than women’s trousers.  Girls wore them.  Now, boys wear girl’s pants (kidding… kind of).  By the late 1950’s, you see front fastening, back fastening, and side fastening trousers.

What are Dungarees?  Dungarees and Jeans are basically the same thing.  It depends, really, on where you live.  Most people think of Dungarees or Jeans as the casual workwear trousers with topstitching details and pockets- the predecessor of today’s jeans or denim.  Denim is the weave of cotton that jeans or dungarees are made from.  It’s a twill weave and often thicker and sturdier than other twill weaves.  But Dungaree is also a fabric!  The difference between dungaree and denim is when they are dyed.  Dungaree fabric is dyed and then woven, and denim is woven and then dyed.

Now, let’s look at the Rise…

The easiest way to do this is through looking at vintage patterns and their pieces.

PATTERNS1

riseguide

PATTERNS2

Check that out!  See the blue line across the middle?  That shows where all other rises compare with 1930’s rise (crotch length).

Does that explain why your vintage trousers don’t hug your butt the way you expected?

So, long story short- don’t expect to sew from a vintage pattern, or buy original vintage trousers, and have them fit like modern pants.  There’s more to them than the length and leg width!

For a momentary little ad from me… this is why I took SO LONG drafting the Smooth Sailing trousers.  This was originally a pattern and now  can be pre-ordered as ready to wear clothing well.  I was very familiar with the problems of vintage trousers.  They just don’t fit in a way that’s comfortable and flattering to most modern women because of what we’re now accustomed to wearing and seeing.  Because of this, I drafted the Smooth Sailing trousers to be a mid-point between mid-1930’s and modern fit.  They’ve still got a longer crotch line and looser fit from the hip down than modern trousers, but they also don’t ride up your butt like a lot of trousers we see now.  And you can pre-order the Smooth Sailing trousers to help get my clothing line launched!

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And remember- all vintage trousers and pants were meant to fit at your natural waist.  For those who don’t know, that’s where the smallest part of your waist is, near your belly button.  When the 60’s came in we started getting low rise, but before that time, things hit higher.  Now, we call them “high waist”, but they really just sit at where your natural waist is.  We’ve just worn low rise pants for so long that most people have forgotten where the waist technically is located. :)

Want more vintage trouser inspiration?  Check out my Pinterest board for 1930s/40s Women in Trousers!

Do you have any questions about vintage trousers or pants? Let me know in the comments!

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Finished Project: 1930’s Polka Dot Blouse

I’m trying to finish up a few little UFO’s before the New Year, and I just happened to have this one finished in time for the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s “Celebrate” challenge.

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The pattern I used was an NRA (National Recovery Act) era pattern, which puts it between 1933 and 1935.  I altered the sleeve a bit, but otherwise it’s as the envelope shows, the version at the top with the short sleeve instead of long sleeves.

I was a bit lazy, and sewed it up to the size the pattern is in, even though I know it’s too big for me.  I figure with the ties, the shirt can be tied in.  I’m somewhere between the dress form size and the original pattern size.  Because it’s a bit large, I was also lazy and didn’t bother with a placket- so it just slips on over the head, then ties to fit.

The fabric is a poly chiffon I bought at an estate sale for $5, and for the hem I did a little zig zag and trimmed away.  It was a pain, but I like how narrow of a finish it is.  I’m not very good at rolled hems, so this was a good choice for me.

Here’s the HSF required info:

The Challenge:  “Celebrate”  Last challenge of the year!

Fabric: Poly chiffon

Pattern: Simplicity 1676, an authentic original 1930’s pattern

Year: 1933-1935 (NRA period)

Notions: Thread

How historically accurate is it? Not very.  The fabric is not accurate, and the finishing is a mix between vintage and modern.  The cut is authentic, of course, since an original pattern was used.

Hours to complete: Maybe around 10-12ish.  Chiffon is fiddly!

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: Somewhere around $40, including pattern cost.

1930’s Inspiration- Season Your Wardrobe for the Season

Hello!

Today I’ve got more fun 1930’s inspiration to share from you.  This is from Fall/Winter 1935-1936.

This catalog page includes a bevy of separates that will make your wardrobe sing for the Winter season.  I can see I need more blouses, skirts, and jackets to get me through the year.  All of these would be easily mixed and matched together, if done in a matching colorway.

My very, very favorite is the corduroy suit (at left).  The catalog claims it can even go to tea!  Wow.  My love for corduroy knows no bounds.  It’s hearty, warm, and washable.  Everything I love in daily wear.

The jacket at makes the 1890’s influence on late 1930’s style completely obvious.  Double breasted, high neck, “leg o mutton” gathered sleeves.  It’s funny how the 1930’s took influence from the 1890’s.  To think, it was only forty years before.  It would be fashion today taking influence from the 1970s.  Which does, obviously, happen…

(Gibson Image Source)

Speaking of 1890’s style, this blouse is blaring it out, calling it the “Gibson Girl” style.  I also see ads quite often for “Gay 90’s” style.  In fact, I picked up a late 30’s brooch recently that said “Gay 90’s”, and has a pennyfarthing hanging from it.  It has since met an untimely demise of the little hanging loop and must be mended before I share photos.  An image from Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl, is supplied to compare.  Eh, I can see it…

If skirts are your thing, more than jackets and blouses, check out this great detailing.  The insets of the skirt are cut bias.  It would be simple enough to do with a pattern you have to add an unexpected detail.

Or, if you want to go even more crazy, why not add zig zag insets with buttons, pintucks, or crazy deco pockets?

Hope you enjoy these images!  Happy creating!

Sample Photos! New 1930s Blouse & Bias Skirt Pattern

I have some photos to share with you of my newly made samples of the brand new 1930s blouse and skirt pattern that’s now released!!


I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this pattern!  I think it will be one of my basic go-to patterns for vintage wardrobe basics.  Between this and the Smooth Sailing pattern, my separates wardrobe is covered!


The blouse takes SO well to the cute printed cottons.  I know what I’m making more of when I come across printed cottons I don’t want to pass up.  I’d also love to try the long sleeve version in a more cuddly fabric- maybe a soft wool blend- with a zip up the front for the sporty look.  The pattern does allow for a zip-front blouse!

Although not the most flattering pic of me, this picture shows how fabulous the drape of the skirt is!  The pattern envelope shows the skirt a bit more form fitting, but I was so thrilled that it hangs loosely.  The bias makes it feel so comfy and flowy.  I really think I need one in wool, one in satin, and maybe a few more in linen, like this one is.

The skirt actually runs on the long side for the “street length”.  The sample I’m wearing I shortened three inches, and it’s still long (and I’m a bit taller than average).  But hey, don’t forget, bias skirts of pretty much the exact same cut were popular in the 1940s as well (pre-rationing), so if you want to make this work for 40s, just shorten the skirt a bit more.  It would transition great between decades!

Here’s the original pattern image again, so you can compare sample photos with the illustration.

If you missed the prior post with more info on the pattern, don’t forget to check it out!

This pattern is available as both a wide format, mailed pattern, and as a downloadable e-pattern.

You buy the printed skirt and blouse combo here.  It’s available ONLY through me, because this pattern takes up way too much paper to be offer it thorough any of my lovely pattern vendors who stock my line (woe!).  But, I’m cutting you a bit of a deal that way, so if you think you’ll want both pieces down the line, order the set.

You can buy the printed blouse pattern here.

You can buy the printed skirt here.

E-patterns for the blouse and skirt separately are available for $9.99 each.  But be forewarned, this is a mighty big pattern pack, so the pattern sheet alone (not including instructions) takes up a whopping 40 pages each!

You can buy the E-pattern for the blouse here.

You can buy the E-pattern for the skirt here.

Vintage Inspiration: 1936-1937 Winter Blouses & Skirts

I case you’re not on my Facebook page, you may not have heard that I’m in process of developing a new 1930s pattern.  Well, it’s not actually “new”, it’s one I had previously released in my beginning days as a single size reproduction.  Well, no photos of it yet (bwahaha! I like to keep you in suspense!) but I’m cutting out samples today to test it, and I was desiring a little inspiration.

Here we have some darling little blouses and skirts from Fall and Winter 1936-1937 from the National Bellas Hess catalog.  Don’t you just LOVE the details?  I want to make about a million separates for myself right now.  I hope you find these inspiring, too!

It seems like 1936 and 1937 were the years of the tunic.  They’re all over the place!  Tunic blouses, tunic dresses, two piece dresses.  And now they’re back… just over leggings or skinny jeans.

Do you have a favorite blouse of the ones above?

Finished Project: 1934 Sports Jacket

I finally have this finished and ready to post!  I actually finished this jacket one week ago, but am only now getting to the blog post.  Work has been just CRAZY, so I’m glad if I want to sew at all on my own projects.  But the show we’re working on is amazing and I get to sew some beautiful fabrics, so there’s a plus to the work madness.  If you haven’t kept up with my Facebook page, you may not know that new Wearing History releases are on hold for the time being, due to life craziness, but things will hopefully resume sometime around mid November, when I will be able to pick up more projects again.

But here is my jacket!

I have had this pattern for years and years, so it was exciting to finally sew it up!

This was started to be part of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, so here’s the info for the challenge:

The Challenge: Outerwear

Fabric: Green corduroy, bought at an estate sale.  It had to be cleverly cut, as the  fabric had fading down all the fold lines.  Because of this, I opted for the short sleeve version, even though I technically had enough yardage for the long sleeve version

Pattern: McCall 7802

Year: 1934

Notions:  Four vintage plastic buttons

How historically accurate is it?  Very.   It has overlocking to the inside edges and uses poly thread, but otherwise entirely accurate.

Hours to complete: I never keep track of this when doing projects for myself, but I will say it took longer to complete than it needed to, since the bulk of it was made in 15 minute increments when I was able to.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: Hmm… I don’t remember how much I paid for the pattern, but the fabric was probably less than $5, so I would say the total cost was most likely under $30.

I do actually have a mid 1930s blouse cut out of green and orange polka dot chiffon, for the “green” challenge that’s due tomorrow, but I will be lucky if I get it finished sometime in this next month!  I’m so glad that The Dreamstress has chosen to continue the Sew Fortnightly into next year, and extend the date range to 1945!  I have so many UFOs I’ve made this year that need to be completed!

Finished Project: 1936 Suit Frock

I just finished up this sewing project for the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s “Wood, Metal, & Bone” Challenge.  Since The Dreamstress said that rayon and cocoanut shell were allowed as part of “wood”, this is my entry.

In the 1930s there was a fad called a “suit frock” or “jacket blouse”.  These took the tailored look of a suit and combined it with a more casual alternative.

For this challenge I used two vintage patterns from 1936.  Since they were from the same year, the same size, and the same pattern company, they were based off the same basic blocks and fit together without any extra alterations.  I liked the front of one blouse and the back of another.


The Challenge:  Wood, Metal, & Bone

Fabric: Linen look fabric- blend of linen and rayon.

Pattern: Two vintage McCall patterns

Year: 1936

Notions: Cocoanut shell ship buttons and buckle, metal zipper, metal snaps.

How historically accurate is it? Very.  I used interlocking, which was available in factory made clothing but not in home made clothing.

Hours to complete: Quite a few.  Like usual, I didn’t keep track.  I spent the better part of one day on it, then 15 to 20 minutes throughout the last week every day.

First worn: Yesterday, September 21, 2013, to a friend’s birthday party.

Total cost: I had everything in my stash, so don’t remember what the cost was of each part individually.  I didn’t, however, pay $0.10 each, like the patterns have on them in marker (sadly).