In 1939, a group of “well-known, well-dressed women” greeted shoppers at Boston’s R. H. White department store to promote a new jewelry collection.
Fifteen famous ladies, living illustrations of the latest in fashion, thought up this new style craze. Chinese jewelry is the new Vogue they sponsor… This event is being done in the name of sweet charity.Boston Herald
The charity was a fund for war orphans, and among the “famous ladies” were actresses Helen Hayes, Tallulah Bankhead, Judy Garland, Mary Martin, Gladys Swarthout–and our author, Emilie Loring.
It’s no surprise that Emilie Loring was considered a well-dressed woman. She attended every season’s fashion shows to keep both herself and her characters up-to-the-minute.
I observed the truth of this when I toured a fashion exhibit, Northern Threads: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society, in Portland.
Emilie’s wedding dress and that in the exhibit both displayed the “voluminous” sleeves of the1890s, their full bodices cinched in at the waist. Emilie chose traditional white with pearl beading.
At the turn of the century, lawn dresses were popular, especially with summer rusticators along the East Coast, and Emilie joined the trend. They were not named “lawn” for garden parties but for a sheer, cotton fabric of that name. Lawn dresses often featured white-on-white machine embroidery, high necklines, and 3/4 sleeves. Bows and hats dressed them up for social occasions.
(Incidentally, the man on the left in the rusticator photo is James Montgomery Flagg, who illustrated some of Emilie Loring’s early stories and created the famous “Uncle Sam Wants YOU” poster.)
White yielded to shades of orange in the Roaring 20s. The bright orange party dress from Bergdorf Goodman’s department store embodies the flapper look. “The orange color, metallic lace, and decorative belt buckle are period hallmarks.” The more modest, peach-lace cocktail dress gets extra pizazz from an oversized velvet bow in bright orange.
By the late 1920s, hemlines ended in trailing handkerchief points and began to fall below the knee, as seen in the Paris designer’s sketch from 1928.
Emilie’s dress picks up on the period details: light but still vibrant orange, metallic beading, drop waist with elaborate belt buckle, and handkerchief hem.
I love to imagine her in this dress. It says “party” all the way!
What a great match these jackets are! The Aviator’s flying ensemble, circa 1930, could have been the same jacket used for A Certain Crossroad‘s cover art in 1925. According to the exhibit, the aviator’s jacket belonged to Evelyn Florence Dunham of Bucksport, “the first Maine woman to receive her pilot’s license.”
The “glamour pajama suit” was “a forerunner to modern loungewear,” popular with “fashion forward women lounging on the beach or poolside during the 1930s. I wish this had been turquoise; somehow, I connect Emilie’s characters with turquoise silk lounge pajamas.
“Dressed up or dressed down, the glamour pyjama was ideal for relaxed social affairs, combining feminine flowy fabrics and masculine trouser silhouettes.”Northern Threads
Emilie adopted this trend with real enthusiasm! I’ll have to take a tally, but there may be more lounge pajamas in her books than skirts and matching sweaters. These are only a sampling:
As later she slipped a matching coat over the blue-satin pajamas she wondered why he had repressed a grin when he had agreed that he understood. Stars in Your Eyes
Not a fair hair of the smoothly waved coiffure was out of place, the costly simplicity of her black lounging pajamas, the pearls at her throat reminded him that she would inherit no mean fortune… Lighted Windows
In turquoise-blue pajamas and a diaphanous matching lounge coat Con sat on one foot in a corner of the seat under the open lattice window in the Spanish Bride’s room. High of Heart
She changed from the yellow cotton frock to white shantung pajamas. With Banners
She was wearing satin lounge pajamas of a lilac shade that accentuated the delicacy of her skin and the snnowy whiteness of her hair. As Long As I Live
Green crêpe pajamas hung over one arm, her flannel house coat striped in blue and green over the other. How had he known what to bring? Hilltops Clear
Hours later, in a satin lounge-coat shaded like luscious ripe nectarines, over matching crepe pajamas, she leaned against the frame of the open French window… Across the Years
The hammered satin of her pale blue pajamas reflected the light in the sconce above her, her hair was a fluff of gold about her head. Give Me One Summer
She looked toward the door. Snapped on the bedside light. Thrust her bare feet into silver sandals. Flung a matching satin coat over the turquoise blue crêpe pajamas. Today Is Yours
Early in her business career she had discovered that the average man is susceptible to feminine headgear and shoes. As Long As I Live
As soon as I saw these Beautiful Nanette shoes, I thought of Emilie. Their design is associated with the Broadway play that became the hit movie “No, No, Nanette” in 1930. That same year, Emilie was photographed having tea on the veranda at Stone House, already wearing the style.
It’s easy to look at “vintage” photos of people wearing “vintage” clothing and think of them as out of step and old-fashioned. Obviously, that wasn’t the case with Emilie!
“I won’t have photographs show an old-fashioned hair-do,” she insisted.Emilie Loring
“It is no use having smart heroines if their creator is dowdy.”
Thank heaven I finished Happy Landings before I got the bright idea of recording and analyzing the outfits, hair-dos, and jewelry of all of her characters and comparing them to her own and the fashions of the times!
Northern Threads: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society continues through December 31, 2022. Stop in, if you get a chance.
Happy Landings, everyone!