"While piped buttonholes are much more professional than the machine-made ones, it is better to provide real machine-made buttonholes rather than none at all. Buttons sewed on without a buttonhole are nonfunctional and accent cheapness—with the possible exception of groups of tiny buttons closely arranged and numerous enough to make a unit of some strength and character."

— Mabel D. Erwin, Practical Dress Design, 1954

How To Marry a Millionaire

Twentieth Century Fox had a lot of fun outfitting Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall in this 1953 comedy about three models who decide to try to marry rich men by appearing as though they were rich themselves. They get themselves a posh apartment and deck themselves out beautifully, and go hunting for men.

The evening dresses are amazing with Monroe in skin-tight numbers in stunning fabrics like red satin, while Bacall goes the classic route in dark colors and full skirts. Grable wears playful numbers and gets to go where it’s cold and wear a sheared beaver. They were all designed by William Travilla whose career in costume design won him one Oscar and two Emmys. Travilla designed the famous white dress that Monroe wears in The Seven Year Itch, the one that blows upwards while she stands on a subway grate.

What really caught my eye in this movie is that daytime dresses he made for Monroe. All tight sheaths, but like all daytime dresses they came in calm colors like brown or beige and had sleeves. One medium brown dress is trimmed in dark brown fur. He understood that, even in a movie, daytime calls for dresses that do not reveal the whole body because daytime is when people are usually working rather than playing.

And because they are playing models, we also get to watch a fashion show in middle of the movie. Great examples of mid-1950s play wear, day wear, and evening wear. http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/78631/How-to-Marry-a-Millionaire/#

Friday Event: The Lost Art of Dress
I will be talking about dress design from the 1930s onward and showing how dresses got simpler and simpler until they got pretty silly, like the dishtowel dress of the 1970s.

Friday Event: The Lost Art of Dress

I will be talking about dress design from the 1930s onward and showing how dresses got simpler and simpler until they got pretty silly, like the dishtowel dress of the 1970s.

The Chanel Jacket Goes ’80s
There is nothing as interesting as seeing how supposed classics were reworked over the years. I found this pattern in a thrift store and could not resist buying it. Not because I would ever make it, but as proof of just how out of hand shoulder pads got on women in the 1980s. I believe football fullback  shoulder pads may actually be smaller.
And I do remember the day in the 1980s that I finished a black coat-dress, put on a jacket over it and was startled that something was brushing against my ear lobes. Yes, my double padded shoulders were up to my ear lobes.  The mind boggles. I guess we were trying to look masculine and authoritative, but we actually looked like we were out of our minds.

The Chanel Jacket Goes ’80s

There is nothing as interesting as seeing how supposed classics were reworked over the years. I found this pattern in a thrift store and could not resist buying it. Not because I would ever make it, but as proof of just how out of hand shoulder pads got on women in the 1980s. I believe football fullback shoulder pads may actually be smaller.

And I do remember the day in the 1980s that I finished a black coat-dress, put on a jacket over it and was startled that something was brushing against my ear lobes. Yes, my double padded shoulders were up to my ear lobes.  The mind boggles. I guess we were trying to look masculine and authoritative, but we actually looked like we were out of our minds.

cmraphael said: Hi, Professor Pski. I really enjoyed your book. I'm an ND alumna (ND'94) and an avid knitter. Have you looked at the history of knitting at all? There's some interesting stuff going back to I think around 1830s or so for knitted patterns...

Hi, I don’t know when you sent this, so I hope I am not too tardy in replying. I have not looked into the history of knitting although I have certainly come across lots of 20the century knitting and crocheting patterns in magazines in old bookstores. I tried to steer away from needlework too as I could never have finished my book if I had to research all those topics.

kostumkerol said: Hello, Prof. Przybyszewski, I just ran across the excerpt of your new Dress book on academia and am fascinated about where you got your information about Mary Brooks Picken and the Woman's Institute. I've been researching the WI for quite some time and there seems to be a dearth of data on them as an institute. I have collected all their booklets and magazines as well as sewing ephemera, but more than their own propaganda on enrollments alludes me. Any help would be appreciated! Carol Wood

Hello, I am meeting more and more big fans of MBP as I travel. If you check the footnotes in the book, you will see some of my sources. Because I teach at a university, I have access to all the paid subscriptions to the databases of old newspapers, and I have access to the older printed sources that list biographical sources which I then ordered through Interlibrary loan, like old Who’s Who and things like that. There may be a state university library that you will have access to as a resident, and some private research libraries allow people to buy privileges to use the resources.

Dance & Fashion at FIT

From September 13 through January 3 of next year, the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology has over 100 garments from dance performances on exhibition. As you can see from the snake outfit from Halston and the red sheer from Valentino, dance costumes can be dramatic and astonishing. 

The Dress Doctors liked to say, and the mother of them all was Mary Brooks Picken, the first woman trustee at FIT, that the stage was a place that designers experimented with new looks, but that it is a mistake to wear the spectacular off the stage as you end up making a spectacle of yourself. No reason, though, why we can’t be inspired to some sinuous or ruffled looks.

https://www.fitnyc.edu/22418.asp

Adrian’s Dressmaker Suit.
Women wore two kinds of suits during the 20th century. One was the tailored suit which has sharp lapels and interfacing to give it a crispy feel. Easier to make were dressmaker suits which would have a dress and jacket or a skirt and jacket often in the same color or in two fabrics where one served to trim the other. Pattern companies offered lots of these. In the 1940s, Gilbert Adrian seemed to make more of the tailored version, but he also made this dressmaker suit which is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which he softened with the ties down the front.
http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/85029?rpp=30&pg=2&ft=adrian&pos=51

Adrian’s Dressmaker Suit.

Women wore two kinds of suits during the 20th century. One was the tailored suit which has sharp lapels and interfacing to give it a crispy feel. Easier to make were dressmaker suits which would have a dress and jacket or a skirt and jacket often in the same color or in two fabrics where one served to trim the other. Pattern companies offered lots of these. In the 1940s, Gilbert Adrian seemed to make more of the tailored version, but he also made this dressmaker suit which is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which he softened with the ties down the front.

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/85029?rpp=30&pg=2&ft=adrian&pos=51

"The war-time shoulder-strap bag…. came, quite naturally, into the the city in the early forties. Every woman had more errands to do , more carrying because deliveries were spasmodic and there were fewer taxis on the street. It was wonderful to have two free hands to shop with, to pull yourself on a bus or to hang on to a subway strap."

— Claire McCardell, What Shall I Wear (1956)

Adrian Dresses Norma Shearer in Riptide
While fashion writers make much of Adrian’s gowns for Joan Crawford, I think Adrian hit his peak designing for Norma Shearer for both day and evening. Crawford inspired Adrian to make many dramatic and impossible to wear gowns—there were some gigantic collars that are just plain silly— while Shearer inspired things you can imagine wearing.
In this tale, Shearer is a lively American who marries a British aristocrat but then gets mired in a scandal while he is away. This movie offers some beautiful gowns and daywear that are supposed to let you know that Shearer is one wonderful dame. It is only after her husband’s request for a divorce, when he has no grounds, that she decides to go to hell and Adrian dresses her in the most risqué of outfits.
If you click below, you can find the original trailer and get a preview of some of Adrian’s work.
http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/395/Riptide/

Adrian Dresses Norma Shearer in Riptide

While fashion writers make much of Adrian’s gowns for Joan Crawford, I think Adrian hit his peak designing for Norma Shearer for both day and evening. Crawford inspired Adrian to make many dramatic and impossible to wear gowns—there were some gigantic collars that are just plain silly— while Shearer inspired things you can imagine wearing.

In this tale, Shearer is a lively American who marries a British aristocrat but then gets mired in a scandal while he is away. This movie offers some beautiful gowns and daywear that are supposed to let you know that Shearer is one wonderful dame. It is only after her husband’s request for a divorce, when he has no grounds, that she decides to go to hell and Adrian dresses her in the most risqué of outfits.

If you click below, you can find the original trailer and get a preview of some of Adrian’s work.

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/395/Riptide/