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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 :)

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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.

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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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1916: Uniforms for Women- A Theatrical

 

I have a funny little theatrical to share today that originally appeared in McCall’s Magazine, October, 1915.

I originally thought that this might have WWI women’s uniforms, but it’s not about that at all!  Very different than what we’d see today, we encounter a sort of history of fashion play- with outraged husbands tired of spending their money and allowances on their wives wardrobes.  Remember to read it with a view of the past- I know the attitudes are different than today.  But I really think those who love fashion history will get a little kick out of the cute, short play.  It might even be kind of fun to re-enact!

Click on each of the images to see the larger version.  I left the ads in, too, so you might get a kick out of seeing those.

ufw01 ufw02 ufw03 ufw04Lots of love,

Lauren

 

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Finished Project: 1002 Nights Poiret Dress

I have just finished up my Poiret inspired dress!

Paul Poiret is one of my fashion design icons.  Making a dress that paid homage to him was really fun!

I felt so “high fashion” in it, because of it’s absurdity, so had fun with editing my photos to capture the way it felt.

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If you missed the prior post with more details about the making of this dress, you can find it here.

This “excuse” for making this dress (not that I needed one) was the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s “Fairytale” challenge.  Here’s the info for the challenge:

The Challenge: #6- “Fairytale”  Inspired by Paul Poiret’s “One Thousand and Second Night” party.

Fabric:  The tunic is all poly with little rubber dots on it.  Pretty horrid, but has a great look when made up for the “Poiret” look.  The dress is a black satin rayon, which they actually did have in this time period.

Pattern: Underdress: My Cordelia skirt pattern and the 1910s Blouse pattern with an altered neckline and no sleeves.  Overdress:  Very loosely based on a bodice pattern from the period, but mostly entirely self composed as I went along.

Year: 1913-ish

Notions: Indian import trim, hooks and eyes, snaps, hoop wire, bias facing.

How historically accurate is it?  If it wasn’t for the fibre content, it would be pretty close.  I’m knocking myself for that, though, and giving myself a 40% accuracy marking.

Hours to complete:  I have no idea.  Maybe 12-ish?  It went pretty fast, but I puttered in 15 minute increments on it over the span of three weeks (didn’t make the “fortnight” due date).

First worn: Today for pictures!

Total cost: Hmm…. considering the only thing I really bought for this was the dupatta, I think it was around $35.  Everything else was from the stash.

More outfit details:  My shoes were thrifted, my hat is authentic Edwardian, and the brooches, etc are vintage, with the exception of the necklace and earrings, and the choker I used as an accent on the belt.  All of those are new from Ebay, bought over the last seven years or so.

 

Sunday Inspiration: 1905 Corset, Suspenders, and Stockings.

I had scanned in several more pages from the 1905 Delineator when I was making up my S-Curve corset, so I figured, rather than getting lost in my abyss of a computer, that I might as well share them now!

Here’s a few little fun ads from 1905 that show some garments that go under what you usually see.  Make sure to read the ads, not just look at the pretty pictures, to get a good idea of what’s going on and what was offered in the period.

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“…like all American Lady Corsets, it has the essentials for stylish form building, but the special purpose of this garment is to give a sweeping curve effect to the entire figure.  The lateral sections accomplish this by training the flesh from the front to the sides and back…”

It’s interesting to note these earlier S-Curve ads almost need to talk the reader into buying the “new” silhouette.  I’ve seen several of these in this era, and they’re always amusing.  Note that most often ads of the early 1900s and before emphasized shaping the figure by FOUNDATION GARMENTS rather than by DIET.  Once the 1920’s hit, diet was often advertised as well as foundations, and this continued throughout time… only now do we usually tend to rely on diet alone to achieve the essential shape.  Well, diet and, often, surgery.  Sure, spanx and the like are now used, but they don’t have nearly the effect of the foundations of our mothers and grandmother’s day.  In terms of a fashion history perspective, I find the modern ideals of figure most depressing and, usually, unobtainable for most people.  Combination undergarment + diet for certain looks seems much more achievable, in my opinion.

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Although we don’t actually see the “Hose Supporters” here, it’s worth noting that the advertisement shows an active lady.  Sport for ladies was growing from the 1880s on, but it especially was present in the 1890s and early 1900s.  Golf and bicycling, most noticeably.

And it’s also worth noting that not all Edwardian corsets included garters (suspenders or supporters).  There were often separate articles that were purchased and used for this purpose.

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And for those fancy garter hooks, here’s hose that will not tear!  In earlier time periods there were elastic, knitted, or ribbon garters.  In the Edwardian era, garters like we see on later foundation garments were in use.  We needed fancy new garter tops to keep up with the wear and tear of the metal on fiber!

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend.

Inspiration: 1905 Corsets

Today I have, what I think, are the most gorgeous pages of corsets I have ever seen in an Edwardian magazine.  These are both from a copy of The Delineator I have in my archives from September, 1905.

Not only are corsets beautiful, but the page layouts are gorgeous and they include great descriptions of the corsets, and what figure types they are suited for.

“No, 1 is a plain little corset designed especially to soften the angles of an extremely slight figure ;  No. 2, made of fancy sateen with ribbon decoration, shows the natural hip and high bust effect ;  No. 3,  illustrated in white coutil, is for larger hips and high bust ;  No. 4 of white satin, is designed to reduce the too pronounced curves below the waist.”

“No. 1 is a ribbon or tape girdle, especially favored for golf, tennis, and other outdoor sports ;  No. 2 is a novelty corset of brocaded satin, lacing at each side of the front ;  No. 3 combines a bust supporter of white satin ribbon and a hip reducing corset of sateen ;  No. 4 is a slightly boned silk jersey model for a medium figure, giving the high bust effect.”

I love that it includes an image of a ribbon corset! I’d love to make one of those some day.

I find it very interesting that one of the corsets includes a bust supporter.  This is the era when the top edge of the corsets started to move closer to the waist, so it is very nice to know there were options out there for ladies who required or desired bust support in a corset.  Many ladies would wear separate brassieres, which offered very little support compared to what we are accustomed to today.

I have picked up the Truly Victorian S-Curve corset again, which I set aside and has a remained a UFO (unfinished object) since last year.  These are very inspiring for me to finish it by the Historical Sew Fortnightly deadline!

I actually love these images so much that I have added one of them to my Cafepress store.  So you can get T shirts, journals, etc, with the image if you love it as much as I do!

1905_delineator_corsets_journalI do not mind if you share these original images, but please do remember to link back and give credit, as it always takes me a bit of time to clean up the originals and share.  Thanks :)

 

Corsets: 1916

In our 1910s Suit-A-Long group the question of corset height was brought up.  Here are two pages of corsets from the 1916 W & H Walker catalog.  This was the same year that the pattern was released, so is appropriate to the WWI era and the era of this suit.

1916corset2web 1916corset1webWe see the difference in height of the top of the corset in these images.  There is also a variety in length of the hip.

The size numbers would be for the corset size.  It does not state if these are the actual corset measurements or the measure of the finished waist size.  I am assuming they are the corset measure, as the “spring” allowed at back varied from person to person based on preference.  The corset “spring” refers to the inches allowed at back for comfort- corsets would not be laced edge to edge, but allow, usually from 2″-4″, or even 6″ at the back when laced.

Sizes 18 to 30 have the most options.  We see medium bust and hip (6M50), medium low bust and long hip (2M129),  low bust and long hips (8M49), medium high bust and long hips (3M99).

There is one corset that is for comfort, with tricot for ventilation and front and back lacings (8M98), in the same sizes as above.

There is one corset for “Misses”, which would be for young ladies, and is designed as a “first corset”.  5M89 in sizes 18 to 26 waist.

There is one corset for girls, aged 7 to 13 years, which includes shoulder straps.

There is one nursing corset (7M98), which has nursing flaps at the bust and is available in larger waist sizes than the standard Misses corsets.

There is one corset for larger women, called a “form reducing” corset, which has a reducing flap at the sides, to help pull in the hips, and a spoon bust which “insures absolutely flat abdomen”.

One brassiere is shown on the page (11M29), which was available in sizes 32″ to 46″ bust. The brassiere has the appearance of a corset cover, but was of more substantial construction.  These usually had flat felled seams, boning, or both, and fastened up the back.   They did not have cups or breast support as we’re accustomed to today.  In fact, most styles of dress did not require a separation of the bust, but rather, a smooth line.  It’s a continuation of the “pouter pigeon” look of the S-Curve corset era, but with a slightly higher bust point.  The bust may be restrained, but not as much as in the “flapper” era.  In fact, brassieres would change very little between now and the late 1920s.

There are also various women’s needs that are on the page- mostly of the past “sanitary” variety.  Included are women’s dress shields that are “waterproof”, and a  “sanitary apron”, which would have the long skirt worn at the back so you wouldn’t have any accidents during that time of the month.

I, for one, am happy we’ve progressed… both in terms of undergarments and in terms of these icky “solutions”.  How far we’ve come with both brassieres and sanitary products in one hundred years!

1910s Suit A Long- Original Fashion Illustration + Badge

Howdy!

Today I’m hoping to get some good pattern work done on the 1910s Suit Pattern, so we can start the sew-a-long sooner rather than later.  To keep me motivated I needed a little artistic inspiration.

I just so happen to have the original magazine the 1910s Suit Pattern was featured in!  It appeared in the April, 1916 issue of McCall’s Magazine!

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I made us a few little images.  If you wish to participate, you can add these icons to your blog or page, if you wish.  Feel free to save them.

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or if you prefer, you can add this one and link to our Facebook group.

1910fbgroupI really hope we can get started in the  next few weeks.  I do have some corrections I need to make to the original pattern before we can get to grading.  I’m hoping to have those corrections finished up this week, with another week or so in production after that before I can offer the pattern up.

Thanks for joining along!