The Girl’s Own Wardrobe – dressing for summer in the inter-war period

by Victoria Madden

After unearthing the previous article on Christmas Decorations during the inter-war period of the classic Wodehouse novels, I’ve been looking further through my copy of The Girl’s Own Annual for 1922/23. What strikes me is that many of the articles on How to Negotiate Life are just as relevant for us today, with many of the ideas we think of as new and excitingly contemporary disclosed as concepts with which our great-grandmothers were familiar.

I rather liked this article on concerns about fashion trends, the machinations of the fashion industry and how to get around post War (post Recession) straitened circumstances, which could have been written today, not 92 years ago. I suppose now we have the (option?) of buying cheap throw-away garments made in a country with un-regulated working conditions by people on pitifully low wages. Without wishing to go into ‘Spode mode’ on the subject of British manufacturing (the decline of Marks and Spencer as the bulwark of British made high quality basics is a whole other post!) we do seriously need to put more thought and effort into choosing items of clothing – as outlined in this delightful article.

Transcribed by myself; copyright The Lutterworth Press.


Why Buy only Half a Dress?

If you have to Study Economy, avoid Styles that require Two Dresses instead of One

The study of economy is such a familiar one to many of us that it would seem as if we were quite proficient by this time, and needed no further instruction. And yet it is often revealed to us by painful experience how little we know, and how far short we come of having learnt all there is to learn of the subject, especially when buying our clothes.

In the first place, with regard to styles. If expense has to be thought of, consider well before deciding how you will have your dress made or what style you will buy.

Naturally the Dress Designer wishes you to Spend your Money.

Obviously the designers’ first consideration in designing the present fashions was not how far they could save you money, but – since they themelves have to live – how much they could get you to spend. It is to their interest if a woman will buy two garments instead of one, and this is always kept in view, of recent years, by the designers of fashions.

For instance, many dresses in the present day are really two dresses – an under-dress of silk and an over-dress of chiffon or lace. Some time ago the over-dress was largely of open-work embroidery, requiring a coloured slip. At present the materials are different, but the idea is the same.

Therefore, when you see a little chiffon or ninon “creation” at what seems a reasonable figure, don’t forget that it is only half a dress, and to make it wearable you will have to buy the other half!

Short Sleeves are Cool in Summer, but they Limit the Use of a Dress.

Again, the designers save as much as possible on materials by having short sleeves. This is an undoubted economy of material, as every girl knows who makes her own dresses ; and short sleeves are cool and pleasant for summer wear. But many a dress that could otherwise be worn on well into the cold weather has not suffiencent warmth for the purpose by reason of the short sleeves. And if a dress of this character is to continue on active service, it needs a sports coat over it, making an additional garment and therefore an additional expense for the wearer.

In the same way, many school-girls who are now wearing short-sleeved frocks will have to wear their blazers all day once the cooler weather sets in.

The Transparent Night-dress needs Another over it.

For night-dresses, transparent materials, low cut, with short sleeves have been the fashion. This has necessitated a second garment being introduced, called by various names, such as woollen sleeping-robe or silk sleeping-gown. But it all amounts to this, that a second garment is needed over the short-sleeved thin one, and this means added cost to the wardrobe which could easily be avoided without any sacrifice of style, because there is always more than one mode in fashion.

When selecting your styles, don’t choose anything too pronounced if you would be economical. The more uncommon or extreme the style you buy, the sooner it will be out of date – and useless to you. The extreme style will not last. The designers know this well. Therefore it will be pushed for all it is worth during its short life. And if you are rash enough to indulge in it because it is “so smart” and just “it”, you will soon be back to buy something else – to the designers’ gratification, and to your own cost.

Again, silk stockings are pleasant to see and a delight to wear – at a certain time of the year. But if the wearing of them means that you have to don gaiters over them once the weather becomes cold, where is the save, and where the joy in wearing silk stockings? Better by far purchase good soft woollen hose.

Even our corset has now developed into two garments – a girdle (long or short) for the hips, and a brassiere for the bust.

The question of materials should be considered if you would buy economically. You see, for instance, a pretty crepe-de-chine that would make you a delightful frock. But its thinness necessitates a silk slip – to say nothing of the frailty of the material itself. And you would therefore be wiser to select an opaque material. There are plenty of pretty goods on the market that have all the soft clinging quality of crepe-de-chine, and yet have a warmth and substance that is quite impossible with the more flimsy materials. Be careful, too, as to colour. Because a particular shade is designated “the newest colour,” it does not at all follow that it is your colour. Moreover, you may have nothing to go with it. A hat may be pretty and may seem inexpensive ; but it is no economy to get it if it does not tone with your other clothes, and you have to get another one that does. These points are worth thinking over when buying new clothes. And though every girl must decide for herself how she can best economise, these suggestions may serve to indicate a few lines along which economy in dressing may be followed.

The Girl’s Own Annual June 1923