Category Archive: Fashion History

1910s Vogue Patterns | Edwardian Fashion Sketches

1913 Costumes Parisiennes George Barbier
The Edwardian period was a turning point in fashion history; the Victorian ideal of strict, structured dress met the beginnings of a softer, more lighthearted view of fashion. Young people were anxious to shed not only the physical constraints of the “old” style, but also the social mores that up to that time had been intrinsically linked to clothing in general. It was a time of breaking through limitations, both physical and philosophical.

The fashions that resulted from these social growing pains became more flamboyant, with designers trying radically new and different silhouettes, colours, and textures. They broke rules left and right, pushing the envelope of what was considered ‘acceptable’.

Here are several beautiful Vogue pattern sketches and George Barbier drawings, illustrating the contrasting styles of the decade.

1910s Vogue Pattern 4799 and 47891910s Vogue Pattern 48211910s Vogue Pattern 48001913 La Folie du Jour George Barbier 1913 Costume Parisienne Jewelry George Barbier1910s Vogue Pattern 4828 and 48231910s Vogue Pattern 48311914 Costumes Parisiennes George Barbier1910s Vogue Pattern 4833-341914 Costume Parisienne "Pagode" George Barbier

Private Secretary by Kay Windsor

There I was, scouring the racks of a dusty Salvation Army for the umpteenth time, when to what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a smart little double breasted dress with impeccable 1950s tailoring. I was even more excited to behold the label — “Private Secretary” by Kay Windsor. One of the original 1954 designs! I stuffed it greedily into my cart.

Private Secretary by Kay Windsor

Allow me to elaborate. I am a huge fan of 1950s television. And from 1953 to 1957, CBS broadcast a show called “Private Secretary”, starring Ann Sothern as a devoted secretary to a talent agent. In 1954, the show partnered with with Kay Windsor Frocks to produce a line of Private Secretary dresses. The dresses were advertised in newspapers and departments stores as being “chosen especially for you by Ann Sothern.”

Billboard, Sep. 25, 1954

The line was dubbed “The Look Career Girls Love,” and was very popular with young women who wanted to invest in smart, stylish work-wear. Two other Private Secretary franchises included a line of skirts and sportswear by Ernest Donath, and an eyewear collection by Flairspecs. Ann’s wearing glasses on the show had made them a popular fashion statement of their own for the well-dressed woman.

And here's my dress in a 1954 Montreal Gazette ad!

Here’s my dress in a 1954 Montreal Gazette ad!

New Vedero Fabric

In 1955 the “Private Secretary” line evolved into “Secretary-of-the-month”, presumably as the partnership with the TV show ended. Under the new name, contests were held where participants could win a free Kay Windsor wardrobe — one dress for every month of the year. What a score!

Kay Windsor was bought in 1971 by Vanity Fair, who eventually discontinued the line in 1982.

House of Worth Evening Gowns

I came across an awe-inspiring collection of images of the House of Worth’s 19th and 20th century gowns in an online collection at the Met, and just had to share a few of these luscious designs.

Evening Dress, House of Worth (French, 1858–1956), c. 1898

Court Presentation Ensemble
House of Worth (French, 1858–1956), c. 1888

Afternoon Dress, House of Worth (French, 1858–1956), c. 1872

Afternoon Dress, House of Worth (French, 1858-1956), c. 1872

Dress, House of Worth (French, 1858–1956), c. 1880s

Evening Dress, House of Worth (1858-1956), c. 1888

Evening Dress, House of Worth, 1910-1914

From the Met website regarding this dress:

By this time the House of Worth was past its peak of popularity and opted to keep up with the budding Orientalism of the period instead of setting trends of its own. This example, which is an extravaganza of trims and decoration, manages to be fussier than the Orientalist designs of one of Orientalism’s major proponents, Paul Poiret (1879-1944). Although they were not setting trends at this point, this dress indicates the continued elegance and beauty of their gowns.


See all the lovely pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online exhibit here.