Au Louvre de Paris
Note the side panniers on the pink gown
I was recently lucky to find this treasure on Ebay. It's the summer of 1920 catalogue from the now defunct Paris department store - Au Louvre. I've not been able to find much information about Au Louvre, other than it's heyday seemed to be at about the time of my catalogue. My guess is that it was situated near the Louvre museum.
To me, the fashions of 1920 are the fashions of the late 1910s, La Belle Epoque. There are little hints of things to come in the 1920s, but it's really late Edwardian. This holds true for most decades, at least for the decades of the 20th century with which I'm familiar. It would be more stylistically accurate to break the decades in the middle. We just say "The 1960s" for convenience. The fashions of 1968 and 1969 have more in common with the fashions of 1971 and 1972 than they do with those of 1963 and 1964. Late '40s/early '50s is more accurate than "1950s". Late '50s go with the early '60s, and so on.
Frocks of silk and organdy for the summer
So, I was sick last week so what do you do when you're ill? Lie on the couch and watch TV? Stay in bead and read a book? No, sit at your desk and translate a magazine from French to English, of course. Especially if you don't speak French. Well, I have a little very rusty schoolgirl/traveller's French. So, with the help of Google Translate and Reverso, I have done my best to add some details to these wonderful illustrations.
The translating was a really interesting exercise. Not only was it challenging to have a literal translation and try to work out the actual meaning relating to fashion and garment construction, but it also made me look at the illustrations really closely to try to work out what the meaning was. Some phrases just baffled me. The meaning of others dawned on me over time. I was baffled by "guirlande epis" with regard to hats for quite a while. Literally, this means "ear garland". Did their hats have wreaths that came down around the ears? Surely not (?) I think this actually means a garland of wheat, as in ears of wheat. Let me know if you have have better French and can enlighten me further on this. Also, please pardon the lack of accents on my keyboard.
The magazine is large format, almost A3 sized, so is too big to copy properly on my flatbed scanner, hence the cropped bottoms and sides, so I apologise for this, but it's the best I can do other than scan each page in two halves.
Paris Fashions - 1920
Tailored suits for summer in serge and gabardine. The suit second from left has metallic embroidery.
Summer coats were available in the highly impractical fabrics of silk satin and taffeta. Clearly, Madame did not intend to go out in the rain. No wonder so few of these have survived, or maybe it doesn't rain in France in the summer. Note the beautiful hand embroidery on the collar and cuffs of the coat at far left.
Bottom right is a hat with "guirlande epis", ears of wheat?
Colors are interesting, and certainly more choice was available than we would have today. Here is the color compendium of 1920 : navy, black, white - almost everything was available in these colors. In addition, many garments or trims were available in pink, antique rose, champagne, red, geranium, brick, cherry (cerise), peach, rust, yellow, lemon, sky blue, nattier (blue), antique blue, jade, green, emerald, khaki, silver, grey, silver-grey, mauve, violet, lilac, purple, plum, bordeaux (or wine), sand, brown, golden brown, ecru, beige, duck, mahogany, tobacco, otter, beaver, cauldron, royal (blue or purple??), empire (?) rooster (???) and reseda (?)There were also two shade of black offered - both "noir" and "negre".
From left: peignoir (robe), house dress, deshabille, another house dress and a boudoir cap.
"Robe d'interieurs" translates literally as indoor dress, which I have translated as house dress - a dress to be worn while at home. I was interested to note that the peignoir pulls on over the head rather than opening down the front as we would expect. And how to translate "deshabille"? Literally meaning "half dressed" (sans corset!) I wonder if this was a boudoir garment or more like the English "tea gown", for casual wear at home in the afternoons. The boudoir cap would have been worn to bed to keep one's hair nice, I think.
Vintage Lingerie - 1920
Top left and extreme right: Combinations! Knickers and bloomers in one.
The lace on the garments, here on the nightgown, petticoat and bloomers set, is always described as "imitation", in this case "imitation Valenciennes". I gather this means machine made rather than hand made lace. Some ladies scoffed at machine made lace, so the distinction was important at this time, when handmade lace was still readily available and many ladies still made lace of their own.
And combinations! Often referred to as step-ins at this period, you literally stepped in and pulled them up. The crotch did not open. I do not know how ladies dealt with going to the toilet. You would need to remove your dress!
A pair of combinations, or step-ins, from this period, which I am currently restoring.
Guimpes and Chemisettes
Top left and extreme right: guimpes and gilets (vests). Top: Feather boas, with tassels
I was very interested to see the guimpes. Also known as a chemisette, this garment was a false bodice front or even just a collar and neckline, which was worn for modesty beneath a low neckline. The guimpe was usually open at the sides and just tied in place, but they sometimes had side seams, like this one.
Cotton net chemisette with lace front and crystal buttons at Louisa Amelia Jane
I was also interested to see the pleated and ruffled collar pieces, in the centre of the page, as that's exactly the kind of collar I have on my other guimpe, and I just starched it last week!
See details here:
The lace front and collar would show at the neckline. The front and back would be hidden beneath the bodice. Sides are open.
An array of delightful blouses and skirts
Note the pleated and ruffled satin half slip, top right. It's interesting that "jupon" means petticoat, and a full slip is referred to as "combinaison jupon", or a combination petticoat and camisole.
Vintage Hats - 1920
A page of hat trimmings, including the mysterious "epis" to the right of centre.
Note the motoring bonnet, at the top. Those open top autos really messed with your hair.
I often think it's amazing that more animals didn't become extinct during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. Apart from the ubiquitous furs, feathers were just as prevalent in fashion. This page has feather trims for one's hats, including the male bird of paradise, bottom right. Unfortunately, it doesn't say "imitation", but you could get it dyed in various colors. Really?
Children's Clothes - 1920
Adorable outfits for girls
It's interesting to note that outfits for children did not come in pink or blue, but more likely in red or green, blue or purple. Once again, there was often a wide range of colors offered.
So many of the children's designs were made in silk, for boys as well as girls. Many a sad time would have been had when an expensive outfit was ruined in play.
Vintage Menswear - 1920
Gents' and boys' styles
Note top left, beneath the hats is a "ceinture-gilet", which translates as a vest belt, in ottoman silk. I wonder if this was some weird kind of under garment, or is more like a cummerbund.
Bottom right, 2nd from the right: Boys' "tourist suit", has trousers available in "culottes" or short pants, or as "pantalons" or long pants. I thought this was because in those days boys didn't wear long pants until they were 14 or 15, but the men's tourist suit has the same options. Maybe the shorter pants for men were more like golfing plus fours.
I was intrigued by the men's belt at left, which incorporates a coin purse on the left and a little pocket for one's fob watch on the right.
And heralding one of the 1920s' signature looks, here we have the "newest thing" - shoes with straps!- centre.
And also the "newest thing", ostrich feather fans. I was also interested to see the metal mesh bag and purse described as white metal "jupe plisee" bag, literally, "pleated skirt".
If you would like a digital copy of this book for free, just contact me. It will be my pleasure to share with anyone who is interested.