Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fluffy Ruffles

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing one of the most cringe-worthy fashion article title & introductory paragraph I've read in quite a while. 

Life, May 11, 1942

Frilly Blouses Offset Mannish Suits, 
Make Women Look Lovely

Men react to a woman in a frilly blouse much as a woman reacts to a man in uniform. A sheer white bow or ruffle tucked under the chin makes a man turn and look. It's a look of approval. The reasons are varied. In this wartime spring a show of fragile frills offers welcome relief from the trappings of war. There's something about a "fluffy ruffles" blouse (see cover) which is reminiscent of the carefree days of childhood and the scent of sun dried clothes. It's the perfect foil for a tailored, mannish suit. Small wonder that this spring, when most women are wearing suits, the sheer blouse is tops in popularity. 

Crisp bows are as popular as ruffles. This blouse has two.

 Sheer ruffles ripple down the front of Joan Smith's dickey. 

Frills in front help round out flat-chested girls, should be avoided by big-bosomed women. Although young looking, they can be worn by either grandmothers or juniors.

Pleasant front confusion is caused by this frill piped in bright red. Sheer blouses look lovely but are a headache because they wrinkle easily and slip and bra straps show. 

Honestly, I have mixed feeling about this article. I'll more or less skip analyzing the sexist intro, because hahahaha... *inappropriate hand gesture*. It's the clothes. First off - one of the things I love most about 40s fashion is how rigid, traditionally masculine silhouettes meet ultra feminine girliness, and result in a mutually symbiotic accentuation of both influences. (Whoa, that sentence, sorry guys.) So you'd think this would be 110% my cup of tea, but... not quite.

Perhaps it's a matter of color choice. Not a big fan of pastels, especially paired with insanely girly frou frou. So photos #1, 2 & 4 don't do that much for me.. until I imagine them in hues of my own choosing:

#1 - Would murder me in all black. Serious secret goth vintage girl dream outfit... I mean there is already a parasol involved. Gah.
#2 -The hat is perfect. Let's leave that be. Could you imagine this with a black blouse & a bright suit (or visa versa)? Or really any combos that might involve these colors: chartreuse, evergreen, burgundy, raspberry, dusty canteloupe.... Yes, plz.
#3 - Well, pass. I hate it.
#4 - I'd pick a different hat. But that blouse! The rigid netted jabot is incredible. I'm going to make one. (In black, duh.)
#5 - EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS PERFECT. The hat. The sheer blouse with bright red piping. The houndstooth. The wide patent leather belt. I must replicate this, or I will perish.

Beyond what I think of these as outfits, I have to say this article was a bit inspiring. You don't have to buy or make an entire blouse to pull these outfits off - all you have to do is make a dickie or jabot! It was the perfect wartime accessory. Minimal fabric or sewing skills required. Just pop on top of something already in your wardrobe (or under in the case of a dickie), et voila! The illusion of new clothes. 

There are some adorable wartime patterns on Etsy right now... some of them get quite pricey though (the curse/blessing of uncut patterns.) Honestly, I think many of these can be made sans pattern, but these are fun to ogle for inspiration at the very least.

What did you guys think? Are the ruffles too much? Which was your favorite (and in what colors?) Am I the only one who hates that 3rd outfit? Ha.

Til next time..


  1. Hah I love your commentary, you're awesome girl. All the comments about what men like and how to please men from back in the day are so creepy and feel like borderline pedo, gross.

    I can say that I don't like pastels/frilly myself! But if the second one was in a primary color like yellow, I would be all over that! One of the major reasons why I love War Era fashion is because how resourceful and smart clothes were, and making simple things like dickies can give you a world of possibilities. Thank for sharing, and I hope you keep the LIFE magazine scans coming! I am such a huge hoarder of them and can never get enough of the pictures <3

    1. omg girl... I wish I could show you some of the 40s "love manuals" I have. very nsfw, or just nsf this blog.. but ahahahahaha. holy crap, so fantastic.

  2. I really can't imagine any man reacting to me in a frilly blouse the way I react to a man in uniform. That being said, there are some lovely blouses here and I might just have a go a making a jabot for myself.

    I actually quite like the third outfit, although I don't think I would ever wear it myself. It makes me think of going horse riding or something, like she might be going to join the hunt.

    1. Ha! I know right? That or a man in a well fitting suit these days... mmm. Yes.

  3. I think it's adorable!
    "Men react to a woman in a frilly blouse much as a woman reacts to a man in uniform." - since this got a bit out-dated, it lost it's sexist conotaion, and it became a lovely thing. Bacause, nowadays frills and lace are feminine and elegant - and I see nothing against that. :D
    It does remind me a bit of my childhood, since my mom loved to dress me up, and I used to be a (not so) proud owner of many detachable collars.. "Not so proud" since in those days I prefered boy's shorts.

    Let me see.. frills are NEVER too much.. Oh, how I've changed since childhood.
    My favorite here is: Sheer ruffles ripple down the front of Joan Smith's dickey.

    Have a lovely day, dear.


    1. Frills & ruffles are always feminine and elegant, both before this article, and up to today! There's no question. (Although it's funny your fav was my least fav! Fashion is ssooo subjective, there's no right or wrong!) I'm jealous you had detachable collars as a little girl - I would've been like noooo at the time too, I was a giant tomboy.

      I was avoiding going into it in the post, but I guess I should clarify what I was feeling put off by specifically. There's a lot of old-timey sexism (amongst other things) that doesn't make me bat an eye, for it's so commonplace back then. There's nothing "wrong" with it, for it's 70 years ago. If I boycotted everything from back then that I don't consider ok now, then I'd have to get rid of my furs (yeah, right), most of my magazines & books, a lot of my jewelry (ivory, blackamoors), a bunch of my novelty prints (some borderline racist/cultural appropriation that would be an internet uproar if it were made today).... but on the other hand, there's also nothing wrong with saying "whooaa hahaha!" Just because it's in the past, doesn't mean it gets a get out of jail free card in terms of discussion. A lot of this stuff still exists in modern media too, it's just the same monster wearing an updated overcoat.

      I did find this one a bit creepier than usual though, for two reasons - first of all, an implication that women would be getting dressed in order to be checked out on the street. Sure, women back then & now want to look good. And hell, get attention. But good attention, not lets-get-creeped-on while trying to walk down the street. No one is getting dressed for that, yuck.

      The part about the childhood is interesting too. Because for me, like you, the ruffles do remind me of childhood, very very strongly. Which is perhaps partially what attracts me to these blouses. But they aren't saying "oh it's lovely because it reminds women of childhood & makes them feel pretty & girly" - they are saying "oh these clothes on women are lovely because they remind MEN of their childhoods." It's simultaneously infantilizing women, and putting them in some sort of ewww mother role. It skews something that should be sexy - these smokin outfits - into some icky childhood freudian thing. Frowny face.

      I don't expect for everyone to agree, so it's totally cool if people think I'm just reading into it / overreacting. I know not everyone thinks the same way about feminism, esp when it comes to the past. But hey - the great thing about having a blog is that I can say whatever I want, for it's mine. People are judging anyways, may as well give em something to judge about.

      Your blog is great dear girl, I just added it to my blog reading list <3

      xo Sara

    2. Sara,
      What a wonderful thing you've wrote: "the great thing about having a blog is that I can say whatever I want, for it's mine"
      Some days I think it's my stress-out space.

      ..and thank you for stopping by.


  4. thanks for sharing - again. great post.
    i don't like no. 3 aswell. no. 5 is my absolute fav picture. it's so chic. the hat, the blouse, the skirt - the perfect mix.
    to be honest i prefer seeing others wearing huge ruffles like that. it's gorgeous, it's amazing but not on me.
    i bought a vintage square dance blouse in the states that came with huge lace collar. i love it but i'm totally unsure about myself wearing all this fluffiness around my neck and shoulders. ;)

  5. I have never given much thought to frou-frou blouses, but now I totally want one! Especially that one in the second picture. Also, can we just take a minute and marvel of how beautiful the hairstyle in the last photo is?! Perfection!

  6. Love the ruffles!! I was going to comment that many time what we Modern Gals think of as Dickies were, actually, Vestees, that tied on the side with only a stay in the back. But your 3rd up from the bottom illustration, pretty well covered that.

  7. HA! Cute post! I am definitely a ruffles girl although I think a crochet ruffle may be a little to much! The article itself is sooo horrible it's delish!

  8. Ruffles are a bit like like frosting on a cake. A lot seems fabulous in theory, but rarely turns out quite as sweet in reality. It/they end(s) up overshadowing the main star of the event (cake, suit, what have you) and looking oddly out of place, no matter how much you love it/them. Don't me wrong, I'm all for ruffles sometimes and typically in restrained doses, but even I - massive girly-girl that I am - won't likely be parading down the side walk in a massive cascade of ruffles anytime soon (just as you won't see my cupcakes collapsing from a glut of frosting atop them - everything in moderation, as they say).

    ♥ Jessica