The Height of Chic—Sewing Patterns for Older Women, 1938

Butterick Fashion News, April 1938. Click to enlarge

While leafing through the 16 page brochure, Butterick Fashion News from April 1938, I knew right away that this page was dedicated to patterns for older women.  What were the clues?

First of all, the drawings were different.  While other sketches showed women with page boys, these women wore their hair very close to their heads. One even has telltale lines under her eyes.

Then there were the descriptions.  Butterick 7802 was “for shorter, more mature figures,” Butterick 7799 was aimed at “mature women”; and Butterick 7815 was designed for “busy matrons.”

And finally there were the sizes.  The first two went from sizes 34 to 50 inches at the bust; the jacket and frock for busy matrons was offered in sizes 34 to 52.

Were these offerings for older women different than those made in smaller sizes?  Many variations of the two dresses on the left, with puffed sleeves and a shirred bodice, were available in sizes from size 12 up.  However, the dresses in larger sizes were less elaborate.

In addition, older and wider women were not offered the most avant-garde styles. According to the brochure copy, the innovation of the season was the Schiaperilli inspired bolero.  It was not available in the largest sizes, though.  The cute model above, Butterick 7788, was only offered in junior miss sizes 12 to 20 (bust sizes 30 to 38.) And the note the bolero clad junior miss also gets the most fabulous hat.

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1 Response to The Height of Chic—Sewing Patterns for Older Women, 1938

  1. Thank you for the pictures and your interpretation (and everything else you do here, I really enjoy reading your blog!)! The absurd thing is, that even if these styles were meant for older women, they would not be flattering to anyone who was not extremely slender, especially model 7799. I know, because I wore dresses like these myself (sewn from original patterns). Now I am 42, had two children and am still rather slim – but would do me no favor at all in wearing these figure hugging dresses anymore. A belt right above the belly isn’t a good idea either. I suppose the answer to this problem would have been shape wear. But to sell models like these as especially suitable for older women is quite a joke.

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