principles of clothing selection

67-Diff Shoulders-contd
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Well, I’ve done it again, and finally posted. . .

Got stuck into another old book about fitting, and came up with a long post you might not want to read. But just in case you do . . .

The book is from Cornell’s HEARTH project:  Principles of clothing selection, Helen Goodrich Buttrick, New York: Macmillan, 1923

Much as I hate typing, I typed out the sections I needed. My apologies, but you Lovely Readers must go on-line to find your own sections.

You’ll want Chapter Five: The Human Figure and Clothing Design, pp. 64-71.

You might also want to review the bit about how to measure a standard figure, from my post over here.

And now, here are my details, quoting from the book  . . . Remember, it’s nearly 100 years old, so terminology is not what we’re used to. Unless you’re into reading vintage patterns and books, like me.

Thanks in advance for your patience, and here’s a taste of what high school women were learning in the 1920’s ~

Designs for the short, stout figure. The short, heavy woman has the hardest task of all in planning her wardrobe. There are two general suggestions which should be of value to her. She should always emphasize vertical lines and she should concentrate attention on the head and face, so as to keep the body inconspicuous.

  • Vertical lines can be emphasized best by the construction lines of the clothes.
  • Properly fitted gowns, having long, vertical, structural parts, panels or drapery, give the best proportion …
  • Trimming outlining vertical panels and stressing their direction is of further help.
  • The skirts … should be long and not flared at the bottom. Skirts for indoor use may be made with trains if she leads a sufficiently formal life to make this type of garment appropriate. [I’d love occasions to wear a train!]
  • Waists [bodice] for the short, heavy, figure must be very carefully cut and fitted, and be loose enough not to bind the individual wearer.
  • Because of the great difference in the distribution of her weight standing and sitting, the waists [bodices] of her gowns must be fitted while she sits as well as while she stands.
  • The sleeves in … a bodice should be set fairly high in the armhole so as to prevent giving an appearance of undue width across the shoulders, and so that the shoulder seam may not be too long or hang off the shoulder tip.
  • Long, straight, simply cut sleeves that make the arms as inconspicuous as possible do not call attention to the boundaries of the silhouette. They make the arm seen longer than fancy sleeves.
  • Vests and collars designed to produce a flat narrow line will add to the apparent length of the waist.
  • The neck opening should be as long and narrow as it can be without calling attention to the bust.
  • A vertical line of trimming carried down the front of the waist [bodice] from the neck opening will make the waist [bodice] seem longer.
  • Trimming should be flat and smooth, no fluffy ruffles, no puffs nor ruches.

In order to concentrate attention upon her head and face, the heavy woman may resort to a number of devices.

  • Her head and face should be made as charming as possible by a becoming and well-groomed coiffure.
  • Hats should be designed with great care, and should add height by their construction and trimming.
  • Trimming should have an upward movement.
  • In general, all decorative features of the costume should be concentrated around the neck and down the front of the garments, to keep the face and head the center of interest for the whole body.

Designs for short- …waisted figures. One of the commonest minor variations with which we have to deal is the type called “short-waisted.” For this type of figure two methods of treatment may be used:

  • the waistline may be ignored, or
  • disguised by the use of the loose garment hiding the natural waistline, or,
  • if the high waistline is fashionable, it may be emphasized.
  • Any type of waist with tails, peplum, or panels that bring the waist down on the skirt will serve to make the waist seem longer.

Designs for sloping … shoulders.  . . . . .

  • Collars, capes, and yokes of opposite cut correct the appearance of sloping shoulders.
  • Since this type of shoulder is usually seen with the long, thin neck, one of the easiest solutions to the problem is to wear fluffy boas and shoulder capes out of doors, and frilled fichus and collars indoors.
  • When sanctioned by fashion, puffed sleeves are excellent for this type of person if set sufficiently high on the shoulder to break the sloping line.

Designs for the full bust …

  • For the woman with the large bust, great care should be taken in the fitting and construction of the waist [bodice].
  • It may be broken vertically by a panel, or vest which gives an especially good effect if made of more interesting material than the rest of the garment.
  • The neck line of the dress must be cut and fitted with great care lest it bulge, or tend to spread at the shoulder.
  • Waists [bodices] having the fronts cut in several pieces often solve the problem for this woman. . . . .

Phew! Still with me? Thank you!

Thought you might get a chuckle from the Preface, which sounds as if it were written today instead of 1923.


8 thoughts on “principles of clothing selection”

  1. I prefer ‘voluptuous’ to ‘stout’, that’s for sure! Apparently my planned ball gown could be a mistake if skirts “should be long and not flared at the bottom”. Oops. At least the train should be approved though:)

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