Advertising Fashion: The Daily Mail 8th March 1921

Advertising Fashion:

The Daily Mail 8th March 1921



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



When researching towards my book, British Fashion in the 1920s (Shire Books, 2013), I ordered a newspaper from the company Historic Newspapers, who run an impressive archive of original newspapers and supply academic researchers, the media and members of the public seeking special gifts:

My copy of The Daily Mail, 8th March 1921, arrived beautifully presented  and in extraordinarily good condition. As hoped, its pages were full of fascinating illustrated clothing, accessories and hair care advertisements – a wonderful resource for studying fashion and popular consumer goods.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



Department stores who advertised their fashion ranges in the newspaper include large companies that have survived into the 21st century, like D H Evans and Selfridges, as well as other names that are familiar to many of us (perhaps from childhood), but which sadly no longer exist, such as Gorringes and Swan & Edgar of Piccadilly.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



The diverse and numerous notices in this Easter-time issue of just one daily newspaper demonstrate the power of advertising nearly 100 years ago and the attraction of seasonal sales and bargains to our mothers, grandmothers  and great grandmothers who were responsible for clothing themselves and their families, often on a tight budget.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



From children’s underwear, clothes and shoes to women’s raincoats, corsets, stylish hats – from Paris, no less – and ‘dainty frocks’ with contemporary names like ‘Laura’ and ‘Lydia’, through these advertisements we see a snapshot of precisely what was fashionable in early Spring 1921.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton

Summer Fashions of the 1920s

Summer Fashions of the 1920s



1920s fashions summer


Nowadays in the warm weather we can dress more or less as we like to keep cool, but even within some people’s living memory, that was far from the case. During the 1920s there remained a wide gulf between male and female modes: traditional dress codes were relaxing and by early-decade women enjoyed loose, comfortable cotton dresses with comfortable necklines and short sleeves – even soft white plimsolls or sneakers for weekends. Yet respectable men were expected wear conventional three-piece suits, including waistcoats, and formal shirts with neckties, whatever the weather. The most casual summer choice for the average 1920s male was a ‘sports jacket’ teamed with a pair of light flannel trousers, as in the early-1920s family snapshots above and below.


1920s fashions summer


Children – boys and girls – benefitted from the gradual shortening of frock and shorts hemlines and white and pale colours were, as ever, favoured for the summer and in hot climates, but men simply did not wear shorts, except for competitive sports like athletics. Women’s frocks still extended to the calves during the early-1920s, but simple styling was welcome in summer and lightweight materials – crisp cottons, linens and soft silks bearing geometric designs following the Art Decoaesthetic, or fashionable stripes. These fresh, easy-to-wear modes made women feel more youthful, as evidenced by this postcard portrait below of a 41-year old lady photographed on 14th July 1924.


1920s post card fashions summer


From 1925/1926 female fashions grew increasingly minimalist: hemlines rose significantly to around knee level, remaining there until the end of the decade. Light jersey-knit suits in classic muted tones, comfortable and broadly termed ‘sportswear’ for leisure occasions, were promoted by pioneering designers such as Jean Patou and Chanel, as seen in the Georges Lepape illustration below for Vogue, 1928.


1920s fashions summer


Also popular as summer wear in the late-1920s were floating dresses of silk chiffon or the new artificial material, ‘art silk’, or rayon, worn with picturesque brimmed hats, undulating or handkerchief hemlines a particular feature of 1929/1930, as seen in this family snapshot taken in Richmond Park.


1920s fashions summer


In Britain for much of the 1920s, beachwear was rather conservative and fashioned from clinging jersey fabric that became waterlogged when wet. Men wore vest sections to their costumes, as they had done since the late-Victorian period, and ladies’ bathing suits were typically modest, featuring short sleeves and short legs, as seen in this family snapshot taken in Devon in 1924.


1920s fashions summer


However, beachwear was evolving and becoming more sporty and colourful with bold contrasting trims. Patterned wraps created a new sense of style on wear on the beach and fitted rubber swimming caps came into vogue, perfect for protecting newly-shorn locks, as seen in this late-1920s French illustration.


1920s fashions summer


By the late-1920s wealthy tourists frequenting the sun-drenched beaches of California and elite resorts along the French Riviera were setting a new trend for sunbathing and acquiring a suntan, now that sun-burnt skin was no longer the shameful sign of outdoor labour, but representative of luxury and leisure. With the fashionable emphasis increasingly on glowing golden limbs, swimwear began to grow briefer, as narrow shoulder straps and low-backed costumes evolved. New forms of beachwear also developed – sleeveless blouses and loose beach pyjamas, as promoted for the first time on the front cover of Vogue’s Summer Travel number in 1929.  


1920s fashions summer

For  more on 1920s fashion, see my best-selling book, Fashion in the 1920s, available online from:




1920s fashions book

Mail Order Outfits of the 1890s 

1890s fashions women dresses advert

Mail-order Outfits of the 1890s:

Half-Guinea Fashions



Advertisement The Daily News, c.1895/6



Traditionally Victorian women’s gowns, which emphasised individuality of appearance and required a perfect fit, were made-to-measure by an experienced dressmaker. However the plainer, more practical ‘tailor-made’ ladies’ costumes that became fashionable for everyday wear during the 1890s could be mass-produced, like men’s suits. British textile and tailoring companies seized this new manufacturing opportunity, their pioneering mail order garment ranges representing the beginnings of the ready-to-wear female clothing industry.



Advertisement The Daily Graphic, 9th December 1896



Researching Victorian fashion, I found several illustrated newspaper advertisements dating from the mid-late 1890s relating to John Noble Ltd of Manchester (est. 1893) and Allen Foster & Co and Arthur Campbell & Co of London for ‘Half-Guinea Costumes’ available direct from their factories. A limited range of colours and materials were available, but the choice was reasonable and in inviting customers to specify the model or pattern required and supply their personal bust, waist, sleeve and leg measurements, these manufacturers effectively combined elements of bespoke tailoring with a convenient ready-to-wear service.

Fabrics on offer included cheviot and serviceable serge, while colours ranged widely from black, navy, brown, fawn and electric blue to cinnamon, bronze, ruby and petunia. Naturally each company claimed to be the largest costumier, providing the best service and greatest value for money; perhaps their models were, as stated, unique, but they all followed fashion closely, as seen in the 1897 advertisement below, which displays the very latest style of puffed ‘leg-o’-mutton’ sleeve.




Unidentified newspaper advertisement, 1897



Priced consistently at 10s 6d, the new ‘Half-Guinea’ costumes may not have been of the highest quality, but nonetheless they provided respectable and affordable outfits for not only middle-class ladies out shopping or paying morning visits, but legions of young working women including typists, telephonists and shop assistants. Such economical, fashionable costumes helped to disseminate new styles and played a significant role in the growing democratisation of late-Victorian dress.

Victorian Fashion

Victorian Fashion



victorian fashion



On 24th March 2016 my latest fashion history book will be published by Bloomsbury/Shire – Victorian Fashion. A modest guide to a vast and complex subject, this introduces the main aspects of dress for women, men and children between 1837 and 1900.



victorian fashion



Drawing on written and printed sources, surviving garments and diverse images including fashion illustrations, paintings, advertisements and family photographs, firstly we study the ever-changing sequence of Female Fashions, from the demure poke bonnets of the early-Victorian age to the spectacular bustles of the 1880s and showy ‘leg-o’-mutton sleeves of the 1890s.



victorian photograph fashion



Next is Menswear – often overlooked in conventional fashion histories, but here considered in all its fascinating detail, from the brash waistcoats of the 1840s and 1850s to the exaggerated, slender elegance of the late-Victorian ‘mashers’



paisley pattern waistcoat victorian fashion



Children’s Clothes also receive a good airing – the smock frocks, knickerbocker outfits, picturesque sailor suits, woollen stockings and miniature adult costumes designed for the discomfort of the younger generation.



victorian fashion



Next we look at Assembling a Wardrobe – the purchase and making of clothing in the days before few outfits could be bought ‘off-the-peg’ but often entailed the painstaking assembly of many individual elements.




victorian sewing dress making machine



Evening Dress then sways into view – a glimpse of glittering ball gowns, clouds of tulle and suave evening suits. Initially these frivolous toilettes were limited mainly to the social elite, although by the late-1800s some of our ordinary ancestors enjoyed dressing up for the occasional dance or dinner party.



cuirass line evening wear victorian fashion



We also investigate Sportswear – the modified or specially-designed dress worn by more active Victorians for archery, riding, tennis, cycling, swimming and other outdoor pursuits of the day.



victorian bathing costume



In the next chapter, Bridal Style, we investigate the diverse array of wedding fashions that spanned the period, and how the ‘traditional’ white wedding gradually evolved, under royal influence and encouraged by the popular press.



victoria wedding victorian ealing top hat



We end with a look at Mourning Costume – a curious form of dress to modern eyes. Most firmly associated with the Victorians, mourning customs were already beginning to decline by the end of the nineteenth century.



widow mourning 1860s victorian painting



Victorian Fashion should interest fashion students, historical dress enthusiasts, costume designers, family and local historians and hopefully steampunks too.


This book is available from the Publisher and Amazon


Flood Finds: Are These Old Mill Worker’s Boots?

Flood Finds:

Are These Old Mill Worker’s Boots?


leather boot found old vintage work



One of the great things about my job is that many people show and send me fascinating fashion- or image-related items. In March I received these photographs from Richard Coomber, who was out walking after the River Aire floods in Yorkshire had subsided. He spotted various articles of old, abandoned footwear including several soles, a man’s shoe with a wooden sole (a clog?) and this leather boot with a nailed sole. The boot is small, evidently made for the foot of a child or a diminutive woman.



leather boot found old vintage work



Interestingly, the spot where these items emerged in the churned-up, post-flood mud is about 200 yards downstream from the remains of New Hirst Mill, a mill built for the fulling of local woollen cloth in 1745 in Hirst Wood, Shipley, where there also existed a row of small cottages for the workforce. Richard wonders whether the boot may have once belonged to one of the occupants – perhaps a child or woman who worked at the mill.



leather boot found old vintage work



Made with eyelet holes for laces, it seems possible that the boot could date from the late-19th or early-20th century. A local website suggests that the area had become virtually derelict by the early 1880s, with only one house still occupied:

Therefore it is not clear whether this is likely to have been the footwear of a Victorian mill worker, or perhaps a later wearer. Either way, leather ankle boots were rarely worn after the 1920s, so it is an interesting local survival – hidden for around a century or more and revealed by the movement of the river. Ideally, a museum professional or other expert on historic footwear needs to date the boot so that it can be placed within an accurate historical context and Richard is taking steps (!) to discover more about this fascinating flood find.

Gentlemen’s Fashions, 1851

Gentlemen’s Fashions, 1851


victorian gent fashions 1850s


Three versions of fashionable dress for the suave man-about-town appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine, October 1851. The admired mid-nineteenth-century silhouette was slender and all three figures wear the narrow trousers then in vogue, their sleek effect accentuated by subtle stripes or a contrasting band or stripe along the outside seam. However, the male wardrobe was just beginning to diversify around this time and a choice of upper garments is displayed here: on the right the traditional frock coat; in the centre the ‘cutaway’ or morning coat; and on the left one of the new loose ‘paletot’ jackets.

Gentleman usually wore a tall top hat of felted beaver fur, the crown typically around 7-8 inches high in the 1840s and 1850s. Prominent bushy sideburns were popular, as seen here, and these would begin to extend into beards after mid-decade. Cravats and waistcoats could be rather colourful in the early 1850s, but increasingly most gentlemen favoured a discreet appearance and over the following decades the trend was for growing uniformity and sobriety in Victorian men’s dress.

September Fashions from La Belle Assemblée, 1812 and 1820

September Fashions from La Belle Assemblée

1812 and 1820


regency fashion la belle assemblee



One of the seminal ladies’ fashion magazines of the early 19th century was La Belle Assemblée, published by Englishman John Bell, who followed the ‘franglais’ style of fashion publishing prevailing at the time. Launched in 1806, it was pioneering in its arrangement of the contents with a separate organised advertising supplement. Its first costume plates were black and white, but by 1807 Bell was using colour and, drawing on the talents of several skilled watercolourists and engravers, produced delicate, attractive images designed to appeal to the genteel Regency lady.

The first plate, above, ‘An Autumnal Pelisse’ for September 1812, displays the fashionable long, front-fastening pelisse coat that accompanied the uncluttered high-waisted neo-classical gowns still in vogue in the early 1810s. The pale blue shade used for this garment was a favoured colour at the time, deemed especially suitable for young women and also seen frequently in contemporary paintings.



regency fashion la belle assemblee



The second plate, above, a ‘Walking Dress’ for September 1820, illustrates the major changes that occurred in fashion during the Regency era. Throughout the 1810s the pure neoclassical line declined in favour of a more decorative, ‘Romantic’ aesthetic. Here we notice the more structured female silhouette characterised by a firmer bodice, lowering waistline, shaped skirt with stiffened hemline and also the growing love of ornamentation in terms of patterned fabric and deep bands of elaborate trimming. A tendency towards historicism is also evident in the ruff-like collar, redolent of Elizabethan styles and an accessory complemented by the larger, ornate bonnets of the season.

La Belle Assembléwas published for 30 years, until 1836. Unfortunately the quality of its illustrations deteriorated toward the end, presaging the inferior images that would soon appear in numerous Victorian magazines. However this picturesque publication informed fashionable taste in Britain for thirty years and remains a much-loved and invaluable source for today’s dress historians, researchers and costume enthusiasts.


Morning Dresses: Fashions for June 1794

Morning Dresses: Fashions for June 1794



fashion plate 1790s heideloff



This picturesque fashion aquatint was published in Heideloff’s Gallery of Fashion in June 1794. Niklaus Wilhelm von Heideloff (1761-1837), a miniature painter from a long established family of Leipzig court artists, fled from Paris during the Revolution and found refuge in London. He began his Gallery of Fashion in 1794 and promised his subscribers, who paid a hefty three guineas annually for around 30 plates in twelve publications, a ‘collection of the most fashionable and elegant Dresses in Vogue.’  He asserted that the ensembles were copied by permission from ‘those worn by ladies of rank and fashion’ and here we see a lady and her daughters wearing stylish Morning Dresses for June.


Studying the fashions expertly delineated here, we see a chaste and pretty English version of the extreme neo-classical style being boldly paraded in France. The waistline was rising and the fine white chemise gown was in vogue this side of the Channel, but for day wear a tucker or chemisette modestly concealed the breast. An ornamental sash beneath the bust and a light shawl or stole, complimenting the colours of the profuse silk ribbon trimmings on the summer straw bonnet, created a picturesque, feminine effect.

Heideloff’s aim to produce a superior journal featuring images of the highest quality that would attract ‘ladies of the highest fashion’ certainly succeeded: by 1797 his readers included Queen Charlotte, the Empress of Germany and many members of the European aristocracy, as well as the Russian and Turkish ambassadors. His Gallery of Fashion ran from 1794 until 1804, paving the way for the better-known but perhaps less refined fashion journals of the Regency period.

Dressed to impress: 1860s cdv photograph and green silk gown

Dressed to impress:

1860s cdv photograph and green silk gown



cdv green silk gown 1860s




Dating photographs at the recent Who Do You Think You Are? Live family history show, I was very lucky to see not only a fine mid-1860s carte de visite photograph of a fashionably-dressed young woman, but also a length of the actual fabric used to make her gown. The lady in the photo was Jean Follett’s great great aunt, Mary Calder (nee Jamieson) and the family have carefully preserved the very dress that she wore in the photograph almost 150 years ago. This extra length of material was found only recently, tucked away in an old suitcase. No doubt its safe storage away from the light had helped to preserve its vibrant emerald green colour. The fabric is a stiff silk with a very fine black stripe that isn’t evident in the photograph, but Jean confirmed that the surviving dress is also trimmed with black bows down the front of the skirt and that the pleated edging around the hem also incorporates a narrow band of black braiding – a very stylish and co-ordinated outfit!




ladies fashio plate 1860s




Black and white Victorian photographs can demonstrate the style of garments, but they tell us very little of the colours worn by earlier generations. However we know that bold-coloured silks were very fashionable in the 1860s. This fashion plate from 1863 demonstrates some of the vivid hues then in vogue for ladies’ clothing materials, including an emerald green very close to the colour of our fabric. The taste for vibrant colours was inspired by the recent development of the first chemical (aniline) dyes. Mauvine – a strong purple shade – came into existence in 1856 and in the following years the spectrum of new colours commercially available for dress fabrics ranged from violets and blues to greens and reds.

The ancestor in the photograph may only have been a domestic servant  but she was dressed to impress in her special portrait and was bang up to date with the latest 1860s fashions!

Fashion in the 1940s

Fashion in the 1940s



1940s fashion book



Last week my 6th book was published – Fashion in the 1940s      

(Shire Library, October 2014).


The Second World War and its aftermath dominated dress during the 1940s, so the book focuses closely on Home Front fashion throughout the conflict and in the following years, as evidenced in family photographs, official government images, magazine advertisements, dressmaking patterns and surviving articles of dress.



milk man ww2 woman driving



The first chapter, Dressed for War, examines sartorial developments such as the siren suit and gas masks and the uniforms worn by women who joined wartime organisations and considers the ways in which everyday clothing was modified to suit wartime conditions and new work roles.




ration book ww2 1940s fashion



Restricted Fashion focuses on clothes rationing in Britain and what this meant for families from all social backgrounds; also the Utility scheme that from 1942 controlled much of the nation’s garment manufacture and the austerity measures that limited the amount of cloth and decoration that could be used for dresses, skirts, trousers, suits and coats.



make do and mend sewing ww2 1940s



The third chapter, Keeping Up Appearances, deals with the challenges of preserving a decent wardrobe and maintaining a respectable appearance at a time of growing shortages and restrictions. It includes details of the Government’s Make-Do and Mend scheme and demonstrates how women extended the life of their own and their family’s clothes and had to improvise when it came to hair and beauty products and cosmetics.



wedding ww2 canadian bomber command beaver lamb



The fourth chapter covers Bridal Wear during and after the war. It looks at 1940s bridal choices, including both romantic white wedding fashions and the smart civilian styles that were popular when weddings were arranged at short notice and there was no time to acquire a special white dress and veil.



new look fashion 1940s 1947 christian dior



Finally Post-War Style examines the development of fashion after the war. Christian Dior’s controversial ‘New Look’, launched in 1947, revived a sense of feminine glamour and, despite early criticism of its extravagant styling when Britain was still in the grip of rationing and austerity, versions of the new silhouette were widely adopted by the end of the decade.



1940s fashion bathing suit swim



Late-1940s bathing costume courtesy

Another major strand of late-1940s fashion was the development of colourful beachwear and a general trend towards youthful, comfortable separates, inspired by casual American fashions.

This is just a glimpse inside my new book. For the full story and dozens of beautiful contemporary illustrations, see Fashion in the 1940s:


This book is available from: Publisher