Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Butterick 4147 - Knickers for Ladies, Misses, and Girls

Probably the first half of the 1920s.

There is an enormous amount of information embedded in this pattern.  Let's start with terminology.  I wouldn't call these knickers, I'd call them breeches.

By way of contrast, here is a nice pair of ladies' knickers illustrated on page 61 of the Charles Williams Stores catalog for Spring/Summer, 1926.  This illustration appears in the ladies clothing section of the catalog dedicated to rugged, unfussy skirts and suits classified as "sport apparel."  It's one of two models of knickers offered.

Charles Williams Stores also carried ladies breeches, but you need to turn to page 284, in the men's section of the catalog, to find them:

This is the only model offered for ladies' breeches in this particular catalog.  By contrast, there were four different models offered for men.  Historically in the world of bespoke clothing, ladies' riding apparel was generally made by tailors (who were men) rather than dressmakers (who were women.)  It may still be for all I know; that's not a world to which I have much visibility.

In 1926 Charles Williams didn't seem to offer any other trouser-type garments for ladies.  Knickers and gym bloomers were offered for girls.

The most obvious difference between the two garments is the enormous amount of ease through the seat of the breeches, necessary if one intends to wear them for riding, but really very practical as well for skating, strenuous hiking, etc.  Taking a rough measurement of the pattern pieces, I estimate that this pattern with a stated hip measure of 38 inches will be about 54 inches through the hips.  Note that modern riding breeches aren't anywhere near as full-seated, so even in utilitarian garments, styles change.

Returning to the Butterick pattern, the description states that these "knickers" were
Suitable for General Sports Wear, Riding, Motoring, Hiking, etc.
This is not a trivial garment to make at home.  Here are the instruction sheets.

On top of the fairly complicated construction, the idea of making these in a napped fabric makes me a little light-headed.  Also, by my count, at least 22 (hand-worked) button holes are required.  It could be more. The illustration seems to show that in view B, the breeches legs are laced up the back; the instructions are entirely silent on the details of this view.

Further research will be required to determine if Butterick offered patterns for both breeches and knickers, or if this was their only offering of trousers for women.  Fashionable slacks for women won't show up until the 1930's.  It would be fascinating to know how many women simply opted for wearing men's trousers for sport or work wear.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Official American Red Cross Pattern No. 60 - Men's Pajamas

September 1, 1917.  This one was produced by Pictorial Review.

The Red Cross seems to have allowed all the pattern companies to produce patterns for them.  Thus far we've seen the Matinee Blouse published by Home Pattern Company, the comfort kit by May Manton (though this may not be an Official ARC pattern), a taped hospital shirt by McCalls, and drawers by Butterick.

All the patterns sold for ten cents.

According to Priscilla War Work Book, Comforts for Soldiers and Sailors (available in facsimile from IvaRose):
Patterns and materials may be procured from most retail dry-goods stores, or through the nearest Red Cross Chapter.  Simply ask for "Red Cross Pattern" for the garments you desire to make.
On the same page, recommended fabrics for the pajamas are:

 ...cotton oxford (cheviot) or equivalent. Seersucker "Bates" or equivalent. Outing flannel: "Amoskeag 1921"...or equivalent.  Gray recommended.
The pattern envelope recommends outing flannel in light or dark stripes.  Grey hospital pajamas is such a depressing thought.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Butterick 4924 - Morning Frock or Hoover Coverall

Mid 1930's.

Like the matinee blouse of the previous generation, the designation of "morning frock" tells us that this garment was intended to be worn during the morning; the time of day when housework was typically done. This type of dress was also called a Hooverall or a Hoover apron.

A frequent assumption is that the term Hooverall, if not the garment itself, came into being during the Great Depression, when Herbert Hoover was president.  One man remembers that during the Depression, Hoover aprons were handed out by relief agencies.

But the term Hoover apron, or Hooverall, for a garment that is seen to be the female equivalent of the men's overall or coverall, was known during the First World War.  According to the Business Digest for July-December 1918, in a discussion about applications for trademarks:
The invasion by women of various fields of commerce and industry has brought in its wake a crop of appropriate trademarks.  Conspicuous in the latter class are marks for the working attire for women, recent entries in this class embracing such trade names as "Womanall," "Hooverall," "Farmerette," etc.
But the story may go back a little further.  Starting in 1917 and continuing to about 1920, Herbert Hoover held various U.S. Government positions related to food.  Perhaps a publication from his organization recommended aprons with cross-over fronts.  It's now a very short step to Hoover apron.

The June 21st, 1923 Bridgeport (Connecticut) Telegram ran an ad for Meig's Inc showing a full range of  aprons and apron dresses that were available.  At least from an advertising perspective, these aprons were presented as distinct types with different price points.

(Indian Head, by the way, was a Spring Mills fabric brand name.)

Here's a lovely advertisement for Hoover aprons from the July 21st, 1925 Oakland (California) Tribune.  Notice that one of the selling points is economy - saving on laundering and laundry bills.

For an idea of the $2.50 apron cost compared to other clothing, in the same advertisement, Taft's offered dresses at sale prices of $8.45 to $24.95 and oxford or strap effect Truwalk brand shoes for $11.50.

The price is a little better in Naugatuck, Connecticut, where on August 15, 1925, the Daily News ran an ad for Howland-Hughes, who were offering "genuine" Hoover apron dresses for $1.79.  This ad is instructive for telling us what colors were available and the variety of occupations for which the Hoover apron dress was suitable.

A May 13th, 1929 article in Time magazine credits Hoover's wife, Lou Henry Hoover, with "inventing" the Hoover Apron at the start of WWI. But having seen May Manton Pattern 8904, which I think dates to 1915, the Time magazine story may be good public relations but not very good history.

Here's a wonderful humor piece from the May 26th, 1931 Danville (Virginia) Bee. Given our current economic woes I thought it was worth showing the whole item.  Scoop is referring to the 1928 presidential campaign.  Bearing in mind that Scoop is writing with tongue firmly in cheek, the Hoover apron as presidential campaign tool is pretty funny.  (Also remember that women had only gotten the vote in 1920, so there was still a fair amount of humor to be had from the idea of the ladies voting.)

At the same time, leave it to the French to make a housedress trendy, as reported in the Jun 18th, 1931 Newcastle (Pennsylvania) News.

Interestingly, the last reference I've found to a Hoover dress thus far is in 1950, oddly, also in the context of French fashions, when one could (supposedly) drop $325 at Mainbocher for a Hoover apron (Lowell Massachusetts Sun, December 12, 1950)