Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Idea, May 1903 (#3)

And so we come to the end of another year.  Since it's the Southern summer, and the weather has at last decided to warm up, I bring you - bathing costumes from 1903! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fashion in Photographs, 1860-1880 by Miles Lambert

This book was published in 1991, and alas is no longer in print.  (One of the few problems I have with Batsford is that their publications never seem to stay in print for long.)  However if you can find a copy of it secondhand, I would recommend it.

Its contents are as stated on the cover - fashions as they appear in photographs from 1860 to 1880.  The book draws on the National Portrait Gallery in London as its source, so the pictures are heavily biased toward the rich and the famous - but then again, so are most histories of fashion.  This one at least gives the reader some idea how the clothes of the era actually looked when worn, rather than how they appeared in idealised fashion plates.  (But watch out for re-touched photographs - people tampered with images long before the invention of Photoshop!)

The book is divided by decade, and further subdivided into "Men", "Women" and "Groups".  Each photograph has a lengthy caption that tells you something about the sitters, and describes the clothes they are wearing.  The author quotes extensively from contemporary periodicals in order to demonstrate how the fashion advice of the era translated into actual garments.

I've just one bone to pick - the book seems to be slanted toward the 1860s, with much more space and many more examples being given to the former decade than the latter.  Either this bias is built into the National Portrait Gallery's collections, or Mr Lambert was more interested in the 1860s than the 1870s.  Whatever the reason, it gives Fashion in Photographs a lopsided feel, and under-represents an interesting era in dress.

Published: London: Batsford, 1991.
ISBN 07134 6392 9

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

McCalls, February 1914

Merry Christmas everyone!

The caption to this picture describes these costumes as "Advanced In Appearance, But Really Conservative In Cut".   Clearly the fashions that were coming in during the 1910s made some women uneasy - which is fair enough, because here we see the beginning of a fashion revolution.   The most obvious change is the lack of conspicuous corsetry (though women did in fact wear figure moulding "foundation garments" well into the 1960s).   For nearly a century women had given themselves artificial "hour-glass" figures by wearing tightly-laced corsets.  By 1914, however, this had given way to a more "natural" look - albeit a youthful one which older women had to work to maintain!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The "National" Money Saving Style Book, Spring & Summer 1921

This catalogue is a recent acquisition, chock full of delightful illustrations!   Unfortunately I can't scan as many of them as I would like without damaging the binding, so I'm limited in what I can share with you.

The National Suit and Cloak Company chose to put a fairly simple checked gingham "tub dress" on the cover of its 1921 summer catalogue.  Its lines are typical of the early twenties - loose fitting, but with the waist at its natural level and drapery around the hips.  The look was rather fussier than what came later, and probably distinctly unflattering to the middle aged!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Madame Weigel's Journal of Fashion, June 1934

The above picture is captioned - rather quaintly - as "Lady's and Maid's Tunic, in Two Styles".  The description continues:
Tunics now play a very important part in the world of fashion.  They are equally popular for day or evening wear.  The long-sleeved tunic has a pleated girdle at the waist.  The shorter tunic is made with sleeve cowls.  Both may be made in velvet, lame, satin, etc.

"Madame" Weigel - actually Johanna Weigel and her husband Oscar - started selling their own dressmaking patterns in Melbourne in the late 1870s.   Before coming to Australia Johanna had been a designer for McCall's in New York, and her experience there gave her the style and professionalism she brought to the Weigel's brand.  Oscar and Johanna launched their Journal of Fashion in 1880 as a showcase for their patterns, and the magazine continued at least until the early 1950s.    Weigel's remained in business producing patterns for home dressmakers until the end of the 1960s.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vogue First-of-the-Month Collection, December 1946

A 'One-piece dress and jacket,"Easy-to-Make"', courtesy of Vogue Patterns.  Interestingly, this is clearly a summer dress - though it appears on the cover of a catalogue published in the U.S.A. in the middle of the northern winter.  Perhaps Vogue intended it to be made by those lucky souls who could afford to holiday in warmer climes - or perhaps it was aimed at slow amateur dressmakers who would need six months lead time to be ready for summer!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Good Neighbor Club Plan, Spring and Summer 1954

Featured on the cover of this catalogue are some very ladylike outfits available through the "Good Neighbor Club Plan".  The catalogue also contained several pages of "free gifts" that could be selected if one bought more than a certain amount from its pages.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flair, March 1964

March 1964, and Flair presents an up-to-the-minute ensemble all in white - white cap, white coat, white dress, and white knee length boots.

However, I wonder ... did anyone ever wear clothes like this outside of a fashion shoot?   White is easily soiled, and the outfit is described inside the magazine as being made of pure wool.  One can imagine the poor wearer constantly having to take her coat and dress back and forth to the dry cleaners.  (Imagine the bills!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Golden Hands Monthly, June 1974

My 100th post!

Golden Hands Monthly was one of many craft and hobby magazines published by Marshall Cavendish in the 1970s and '80s.  It was mostly concerned with fashions and home dressmaking, and included a multi-sized paper pattern with each issue.

As you can see by the clothes worn by the models in the picture above, there was a vogue for retro fashions in the early seventies.  Their outfits (complete with twin-sets and hats!) are a nostalgic take on the 1930s.  The designer uses a muted palette of off-browns and purples - colours popularised by Biba - to achieve a glamorous soft-focus effect.

All this is in great contrast to the 1960s, a decade dominated by bright vibrant colours and crisp futuristic designs!  The backwards-looking fashions of the 1970s clearly signalled disillusion with the modern era and the end of post-war optimism.

Monday, November 14, 2011

McCall Style News, March 1941

For March 1941, McCall Style News features a "Chinese inspired" short evening coat on it's cover.  Available for home dressmakers to sew for 50 (US) cents the pattern.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Photograph, ca. 1895-1896

I can date this to within a couple of years by the sleeves, which were at their fashionable fullest in 1895 and 1896. 

The photographer's label at the bottom of the picture attributes it to "Talma, 119 Swanston St. Melbourne".  Talma & Co. specialised in theatrical portraits, so it is possible that the elegantly dressed young lady in the portrait had a career upon the stage.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shopping, October 1954

This magazine is an interesting little historical curiosity!

For a start, it was published in Britain where - in 1954 - the postwar period rationing and austerity had barely ended.  (The last remnants of food rationing in fact had only been done away with that year.)  In a sense the consumer society had barely begun - and yet here was a magazine strictly devoted to the consumption of fashion and accessories!

What's more, the numbering of the magazine - this is volume 12, number 12 - implies that Shopping had been existence a number of years already, partly in an era when consumption for the sake of it was considered unpatriotic!

The following issue after this one changed its name to Woman and Shopping.   Clearly the twin ideas of woman as consumer and recreational shopping were well on their way by 1954.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Idea, May 1903 (#2)

Here is another plate from New Idea, this one illustrating patterns for lingerie -  Edwardian style.  The patterns on offer included a "dressing sacque", a wrapper and a petticoat.  None of the garments appear particularly sexy or seductive by today's standards - though they are certainly more decorative than the sort of utilitarian undergarments the Victorians liked to wear!

(I'm guessing a "dressing sacque" was a warm and protective over-garment worn by a woman in her bedroom while she was dressing or doing her hair.  They appear to have died out, along with tea gowns, early in the 20th century.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

McDowells Mail Order Journal 1938-39

This Sydney mail order catalogue was aimed at budget conscious women who wanted "Style without extravagance!" 

Apart from the usual layouts of 1930s fashion, this catalogue held one delightful little surprise for me.   McDowells also sold materials for home dressmakers, and had attached little sample pieces for their customers' inspection.   Tucked away safely in the middle of the book, these samples were almost as fresh and unfaded as the day they had been pasted into the catalogue.   It gave me a chance to see some original 1930s fabrics in detail.  I've scanned a couple of cotton pieces below - as you can see, small floral prints were popular!  These types of prints would remain in fashion through the Second World War, only to be replaced with larger scaled and more abstract blooms in the 1950s.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Australian Home Journal, March 1928

These are the clothes everyone envisages when they think of the 1920s.  Fashions would not be quite so youthful or rebellious again until the 1960s.  There's one little  incongruity in this picture - to modern eyes at least!  Though all the models appear to be wearing light summer dresses, the woman on the right is also sporting a fox fur stole.  Clearly it had more to do with fashion than to do with warmth.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lewoolin Clothes Book of Fashion, Spring '50 (3)

More fashions courtesty of Lewoolin Clothes!  This selection includes a "three piece ensemble" (centre right) and an "all purpose Jigger jacket" (bottom left).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Foy & Gibson, 1902-1935

For your information (and your delight, I hope!)  The University of Melbourne has put its Foy & Gibson collection online in pdf format.  Foy & Gibson was an Australian department store with branches in most of the major cities.   The University has extensive collections of its mail order catalogues from 1902 to 1935.

There's a lot in the archive to browse - not just pictures of the fashions, but accessories, trimmings, underwear, furnishings, toys and menswear.   It's a little treasure trove of the material culture of a bygone era - and a lot of nostalgic fun!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lewoolin Clothes Book of Fashion, Spring 1950 (1)

I found this little catalogue (it's only 15 cm. high!) on eBay.  It was issued by a firm called "Lewoolin Clothes", based in Regent Street in London, that appeared to specialise in women's coats and suits.  Over the next few days I'd like to share images from the catalogue with you.

Notice the designation "Utility" on these pictures.  Utility was a scheme devised by the British government during World War II to ensure that clothing manufacturers produced most of their clothes to a fixed standard and sold them at a set low price.  Though manufacturers could produce a number of non-Utility garments and charge what they liked for them, these attracted a higher sales tax than their Utility counterparts.

Though the war had been over five years when this booklet was produced, and clothes rationing had ended early in 1949 in Britain, the Utility scheme lingered on into the early 1950s.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Modes Royale Home Pattern Catalog, Spring and Summer 1969

I've been missing in action for a couple of weeks because I've had visitors staying with me - and no time to post!   However, I'm back in business as of today, and to kick off I bring you this little item from the 1960s:

The illustration on the cover of this pattern catalogue is a reminder that fashion was not always for the young and the iconoclastic - even in the 1960s.  The suit the model is wearing would have been scorned by the dolly bird or the hippie chick, but their mothers or their older sisters would have worn it with pride.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

David Jones catalogue, Summer 1958

Not a dress, but "Kandy Kotton separates".  Presumably the wearer would swap the top or bottom for something else if they got tired of this ensemble.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stitchcraft, November 1964

Casual wear mid-sixties style: a bulky cardigan and pedal pushers.  Just the thing for walking the dogs!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The 1950s Look by Mike Brown

This is a companion to The 1940s Look by the same author.

While The 1940s Look dealt mainly with the trials of dressing smartly in a time of war and rationing, The 1950s Look covers the much more prosperous following decade.   Because of this its emphasis is more on fashion than the previous volume, which depicted an era where people were more concerned with stretching their resources than self-expression or following the vagaries of fashion.

This is evident in the section of The 1950s Look covering men's fashion as well as the (larger) section covering women's fashions.  The former discusses - among other things - the new foreign influences on British men's fashions: American in the beginning of the decade, and Italian towards the end.   The latter gives a year-by-year overview of women's fashions, comparing what appeared on the catwalks with what appeared in the shops.  In both mens- and womenswear there was a marked trend towards more casual dressing as the 1950s drew to an end.

As in the previous book, The 1950s Look draws on a plethora of original sources, and as well as discussing the fashions of adult men and women it covers hairstyles, makeup, fashionable body types and the clothing of children - and that new phenomenon, teenagers!  All in all it's an excellent reference guide to the 1950s.   Readers should be aware, however, that though it is subtitled "Recreating the Fashions of the Fifties" on the cover, they will have to search for more detailed sources if they really want to get The 1950s Look.

Seven Oaks : Gardners Books, 2008
ISBN 9780955272332

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Idea, May 1903

(There was also an Australian magazine of this name around the same time, but this is an American publication.)

The lady on the cover is dressed fairly plainly for the era, but she is still corseted into the characteristic Edwardian "s-bend" shape and has to hold her skirts up to prevent them trailing on the ground.   Her clothes are not in any sense practical, even though they are less decorated than many from the same period.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vogue First of the Month Collection, February 1947

Judging by the size and style of this publication it was intended as a supplement to the big Vogue pattern catalogues displayed in fabric stores.

Though these patterns were released before Christian Dior sprang his New Look on a waiting world, it is clear that fashion changes were already in the air.  The lines of these suits are noticeably less angular than their wartime counterparts, the waists are clearly indented, and the skirts are longer and fuller than would have been seen a couple of years earlier.  The two trim and ladylike models in the picture are looking forward to the fifties rather than back to earlier in the decade.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Photograph, ca. 1894-1897

This robust colonial lass demonstrates that even in the 19th century fashion had its pitfalls if you didn't have the right figure for it.  In this case the sitter's corsets appear to be laced uncomfortably tight creating a visible ridge under her clothes around her bust.

The photograph is stamped "Mora, 83 Rundle Street, Adelaide".  My research informs me that the firm existed at that address during the 1890s.  I further narrowed the date of this picture to the middle of the decade by the puffed sleeves the sitter was wearing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Simplicity Pattern Book, Summer 1950

The model wearing this outfit looks like the archetypal fifties housewife dressed to go out!  Very typical of her era is her neatly groomed head, seed-pearl necklace and small waist, while her large white collar and cuffs add a demure touch to her outfit.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Singer Sewing Fashions Showcase, Fall/Winter 1970s

Yes, Virginia, there were stylish clothes in the 1970s.   Here is an example from the beginning of the decade.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Le Petit Echo De La Mode, No. 22 of 1930

This is a chic French version of all those little sewing magazines available in the English-speaking world.  

Though it is often said that fashions changed radically at the end of the 1920s (just in time for the Wall Street Crash and the start of the Great Depression!) it can be seen from this picture that plenty of style elements from the 1920s lingered on into the new decade.  The fashionable silhouette is still fairly straight and the models' heads are still covered with close-fitting hats.  Moreover, while the waist is belted in its "natural" position, the skirt descends from a yoke at the hips, echoing of the dropped waistline of the previous decade.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weldon's Ladies' Journal, August 1911

... And to kick of August, here is the last of my 1911 issues of Weldon's Ladies Journal.  The free patterns enclosed this month included a child's bathing suit and a blouse for an older lady.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vogue Pattern Book, August-September 1957

I am reading a biography of Christian Dior at the moment, so naturally my thoughts turn to the 1950s.  This Vogue pattern S-4805 is not by Dior (alas!) though it is undeniably influenced by him.

This issue of Vogue Pattern Book contains a feature on the latest materials available for the home dressmaker - in "fuchsia" (shades of dark pink and purple), in "spice" (browny-oranges) and in "cactus" (yellowy-greens).

Photograph, 1889

Though this small photograph is spotted with age, it has one unusual gift for the fashion historian - an exact date!  According to the information printed on the back it was taken by Thomas Forrest of the Cambrian Studio in Pontypridd on March the 22nd 1889.  The sitter's costume is slightly old fashioned for the era, illustrating the way styles lagged between the centres of fashion and the provinces.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"The 1940s Look" by Mike Brown

The subtitle for this ("Recreating the Fashion, Hairstyles and Make-up of the Second World War") is misleading.  The 1940s Look doesn't tell you how to recreate the look of the 1940s so much as tell you how the people of the 1940s created it in the first place.  While it is possible to approximate the fashion and beauty techniques of the 1940s using this book it really doesn't provide enough detail on how to duplicate them exactly using the resources of the 21st century.

On the other hand The 1940s Look does give e a fascinating account of how people "made do" in early forties Britain, and the way they tried to present themselves.  It covers everything from make-do-and-mend tips, to some of the substitutes popularly used for hard to get make-up, to the tricks people used to try and get around clothes rationing.  It is also slightly unusual in that it gives almost equal weight to men's and children's styles in its account of fashions in the 1940s.  One piece of trivia I found interesting was the description of how men's hairstyles in the British forces differed from the regulation crew cuts worn by American soldiers.

In summary I would say: this book is an excellent overview of fashion and dress in the 1940s.  It draws on many original sources, in particular the many popular magazines and advice leaflets of the time.  If, however, I wanted to give myself an authentic 1940s makeover I would try to go to the original sources myself and study the subject in more detail.   A lot of good 1940s fashion texts have been reprinted, and the magazines are always available through eBay!

Published: Sevenoaks, Kent: Sabrestorm Publishing, 2005.
ISBN 9780955272318

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simplicity Pattern Book, Summer 1972

Simplicity features a nautically inspired costume on the cover of its summer 1972 Pattern Book. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lana Lobell catalog, Fall 1968

The woman on the left is wearing a turtleneck made of acrylic and a skirt and tunic made of nylon.  The woman on the right is wearing a suit made of rayon.  Between the covers of this catalogue I have looked in vain for a single natural fibre...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home Notes, January 26 1928

Even relatively cheap magazines offered dress patterns to their readers.   This inexpensive little weekly included a pattern for a "jumper dress" in one of its 1928 issues.  Alas, the pattern hasn't survived, but judging by the illustration on the cover it was oh, so typically 1920s.  The very simple lines of 1920s fashions made life easier than ever for the budget-conscious woman who wanted to look fashionable.

Friday, July 15, 2011

McCall Style News, January 1941

Featured on the front page of McCall's free pattern newsletter: a simple frock with jerkin.  The plain lines are very typical of the era.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Australian Home Journal Summer Fashions, 1961-62

More pictures from one of my favourite fashion eras.

The Australian Home Journal used to put out catalogues of its dressmaking patterns twice a year.  These are the front and back covers of its catalogue for the summer of 1961-62.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"The Anatomy of Fashion" by Susan J. Vincent

The problem with a lot of books written about the history of fashion by academics is that they tend to be too abstract - so caught up in the theory of fashion that they forget that ultimately they are talking about real garments that were once worn by real people.  Happily this is not the case with The anatomy of fashion: dressing the body from the Renaissance to today. The result is a book that is at once scholarly and immensely readable, and jam-packed with interesting facts.

Susan J. Vincent has chosen a novel method of exploring the history of fashionable dress in England from the 16th century until now: instead of tracing the story chronologically she comes at it anatomically.  Starting from the head and working her way down to the legs she discusses the various ways people of fashion have adorned and deformed different parts of their bodies (though oddly enough she stops short of the feet, leaving shoes and boots out of the picture altogether!)

As she tours the human body Vincent illustrates he story with examples from real life which gives us an idea of what it was actually like to wear the garments she describes.  For example, Pepys on the problems of maintaining wigs:
Further trouble arose in July 1664 when, unsurprisingly, he was annoyed at having to have a new wig, presumably made of lousy hair, cleansed of its nits; as it turned out, a perennial problem with Jervase's merchandise... For Pepys though, after nearly five years of 'keeping my perriwigs in good order' he hit on the happy notion of paying his barber a flat fee of 20 shillings a year to do it for him, so 'I am like to go very spruce, more than I used to do.'
Or popular views on wearing stays:
Even Lydia Becker, a radical campaigner for women's suffrage and education, thought corsets indispensable.  'Stick to your stays, ladies, and triumph over the opposite sex.'
Or the shock of women wearing the trousers:
In 1983, for most of us a time not from history but of lived experience, forty-year-old Mrs Jeanne Turnock was fired from a north London crematorium after wearing a trouser suit.  Mrs Turnock brought a case of unfair dismissal against her employers, telling an industrial tribunal that she had begun wearing a navy blue trouser suit because of the cold, particularly as her job included showing people around the crematorium grounds in all weathers.  The crematorium's manager, although he had 'no personal objection to women in trousers', said the garment was inappropriate in the context.  'We are dealing with elderly people recently bereaved and a large number may find some offence in a lady in trousers coming to deal with them.'  Despite there being no contractual obligation to dress in a particular way, the tribunal upheld the crematorium, unanimously deciding that 'the dismissal was fair'.
In brief, this is an excellent book which should be enjoyed by all intelligent readers interest in the social history of fashion.

Oxford: Berg, 2009
ISBN: 978 1845207649 (pbk)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Photograph, ca. 1889-1890

This is a carte de visite sized photograph I picked up on my visit to Melbourne.  The photographer's information on the back reads:





I put the date of the picture around 1889-1890 because the female sitter's clothes have features typical of both decades.   The cut of her bodice is typical of the 1880s, as is the draped "apron" effect of her skirt, but she is clearly not wearing a bustle and her sleeves are gathered at the shoulders in a way prefiguring the "leg o' mutton" sleeves of the early 1890s.  These transitional styles were fashionable briefly for a couple of  years in 1889 and 1890. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Weldon's Ladies' Journal, July 1911

July 1911.  And so we come to the second-to-last of the issues of Weldon's Ladies' Journal I bought earlier this year.  This one originally included a free pattern for a bathing dress.  As illustrated on the cover it would make a respectable dress today!