Tag Archives: 1930s

Doggies Dictate Dress

Doggies Dictate Dress

From the turn of the century through the Jazz Age, fashionable ladies became more closely linked to their doggies. The term ‘A Woman’s best friend’ was certainly more apt than the old phrase ‘A Man’s best friend’. Dogs became an essential part of life for any smart society woman, and influenced their matrons wardrobe. Thus, doggies dictating dress became a distinctive fad.

Artwork for menu for the French Casino, New York, 1930s
Artwork for menu for the French Casino, New York, 1930s

In September 1935, a remarkable scene called Ladies and their Dogs was seen in Clifford Fischer’s show Folie Parisienne. This was the second presentation at the French Casino, New York. It was transferred to the Miami Beach French Casino in January 1936 and was then the opening show at the London Casino in April 1936. It was a highly elaborate mix of spectacle, ballet, speciality acts and as usual a magnificent array of mannequins and chorus girls.

The Ladies and their Dogs scene from Clifford Fischer's Folie Parisienne show staged in New York, Miami and London, 1930s
The Ladies and their Dogs scene from Clifford Fischer’s Folie Parisienne show staged in New York, Miami and London, 1930s

In the rather wonderful scene Ladies and their Dogs eight models matched their outfits to their dogs. Vega Asp (was the lady with the Great Dane), Veronique (a Poodle), Olive Mallet (a Pekinese), Elisa Chopin (a Fox terrier), Andree Poupon (a Scotty), Marguerite de Fabliaux (the Bulldog), Iris Houston (the Chow) and Kay Young (with the Borzoi).

The programme for the French Casino show Folies Parisienne staged by Clifford Fischer detailing The Ladies and their Dogs scene staged in New York, Miami and London, 1930s
The programme for the French Casino show Folies Parisienne staged by Clifford Fischer detailing The Ladies and their Dogs scene staged in New York, Miami and London, 1930s

So for example the lady with the Dalmation wore a chic spotted dress and another wearing tartan trotted on with a Scottie. It became one of the most popular numbers indicating that perhaps the Americans and British were as notoriously addicted to their canine pets as the Parisians.

This scene epitomised the whole fad of doggies as fashion accessories – a theme that had clearly been in evidence since the turn of the century.

The adoption of doggies as a women’s best friend amongst high society evolved in the years following the creation of dog shows. The best known in the UK was Crufts held annually in London since 1886. A similar show commenced in American in 1877 and in France in 1881. Gradually over time women played an important role in these organisations. Significantly, it was in the mid to late nineteenth century that haute-couture developed in Paris first with Worth and then with Callot Soeurs, Patou, Poiret, Vionnet, Fortuny, Lanvin, Chanel and Lucile amongst many others.

A section from the London magazine Eve about doggies, 1920s
A section from the London magazine Eve about doggies, 1920s

With the development of women’s society magazines, regular features and comments about dogs appeared from as early as 1910 and onward in publications like the Sketch, Eve and The Tatler (in the UK), Harpers Bazaar and Vogue (in America) and Vogue and Femina (in Paris). Interestingly, in 1915, The Tatler in the UK became the official organ of the Ladies Kennel Association.

A section from the French magazine Femina about doggies, January 1920
A section from the French magazine Femina about doggies, January 1920

One of the first indications of the importance of Doggies dictating Dress or vice versa came in 1906 when several newspaper reports published the headline ‘The Dog to Match the Gown’. One feature suggested it was a dictate from fashionable Paris the other fashionable New York. Most likely it originated in Paris and then spread. Essentially it was revealed that the gown must match the dog, or the dog the gown. Since many dogs were in beautiful browns it was seen that brown as a gown colour had become a fashionable shade. However, it was noted that ‘one dog alone would never suit the requirements of the women of to-day, and every up-to-date establishment now includes a kennel of assorted dogs as a necessary addition to its mistress’s wardrobe. So a woman may choose a gown of almost any shade that suits her fancy, and know that her maid will produce the right dog to go with the costume as easily as she will produce the right parasol, hat, or gloves.’

A postcard showing a women and her dog (taken from the internet)
A postcard showing a women and her dog (taken from the internet)

Alarmingly, it was observed that when a particular costume shade was essential and it was impossible to match a suitable dog it was suggested that the services of a hairdresser should be employed to dye the dog the necessary shade. Quel horreur! This rather unpleasant, not to mention dangerous idea resurfaced on a regular basis.

A postcard showing a women with a marching fur trimmed coat to her wolfhound (taken from the internet)
A postcard showing a women with a marching fur trimmed coat to her wolfhound (taken from the internet)

The issue of dyeing your dog surfaced once again in 1922. At the time it was observed that every French woman ‘of extreme fashion and doubtful character’ has a dog and that some have half a dozen. It was explained that a dog is a companionable animal. ‘He loves to go out with his mistress in the automobile, and he is ready at any time to accompany her on a stroll along the boulevard. And it is on the boulevard and in the Bois where the thing is important — it does not matter much whether your pet matches your gown if you cannot parade it where others can see how smart you are.’ Even though our modern sensibilities shrink from the idea of colouring our furry friends to our specifications, at least in 1922 it was made clear that ‘it became important to devise a method of dyeing dogs which would not endanger their health.’ It was thought that coffee and tea could be used to get a good shade of brown and other colours, hues and shades were devised. In America any attempt to dye your dog was deemed inappropriate and harmful and in New York the superintendent of the Humane Society became a relentless prosecutor of those who tried.

A postcard showing a women with a marching fur trimmed coat to her wolfhound (taken from the internet)
A postcard showing a women with a marching fur trimmed coat to her wolfhound (taken from the internet)

Perhaps a far less disturbing solution of matching the colour of your dog to your gown was simply to match a dogs ‘clothing’ to your own. By 1920 this was deemed more appropriate and at the Kensington Canine Society’s show in the Holland Park Rink the women owners displayed the latest novelties in fashion by matching their dogs coats to their own coats. The winner of the first prize in the greyhound class wore a yellow and black coat which exactly matched his mistress’s jumper and scarf. Another woman had a rose-colored hat and jersey similar to the coat worn by her poodle and a young owner wore a costume, hat, shoes and stockings in light tan to match her fawn coloured bull puppy.

An Erte illustration of a woman and her dog showing the perfect match of a gown to the dog (taken from the internet)
An Erte illustration of a woman and her dog showing the perfect match of a gown to the dog (taken from the internet)

The trend for matching your dog to ones costume continued unabated and in 1927 certain trends were described on the French Riviera where fur wraps were matched to dogs. Black pomeranians were favoured where the costume was trimmed with black furs such as monkey, wolf or lynx. The American police dog (German Shepherds) was the choice where the suit or wrap was wolf trimmed. Black and white terriers (Irish or otherwise) acted as a complement to black and white calf-skin furs and reddish brown chows were used in connection with brown dyed fox.

The Countess of Northesk (the ex -dancer Jessica Brown) in a fur coat matching her pet dog (Alsatian)
The Countess of Northesk (the ex -dancer Jessica Brown) in a fur coat matching her pet dog (Alsatian)

Dogs as accessories were considered as smart in American as in France. But in America the tendency was match the personalities of the owner and dog instead of matching their colour schemes. For example, in Central Park tall stately ladies accentuate their height and slenderness by leading superfluous long legged wolfhounds. Airdales were the favourites of flippant flappers and youthful modern matrons. It was thought that Sealyham terriers belonged to the aloof older generation to perpetuate their hotsy-totsyness. Formerly they carried lorgnettes Pekinese but now these were the favourites of cuddlesome women of the clinging vine type.

We also must not forget that in the 1920s many society ladies decided to adopted large expensive breeds as status symbols such as Borzoi, Afgan hounds and Saluki’s. These breeds and their fashionable owners were often frequently portrayed in contemporary art deco illustrations.

Programme for a Mistinguett show at the Moulin Rouge, Paris, 1920s
Programme for a Mistinguett show at the Moulin Rouge, Paris, 1920s

Perhaps in response to the success of Fischer’s Folie Parisienne, a Park Avenue fashion salon in 1937 staged a fashion show that illustrated how to dress to match your dog. Women with black and white spotted Dalmatians wore black and white prints similar in pattern to the dog’s spots. There were Scotch-plaid costumes or a silk dress matching a Collie’s tawny coat with a large-brimmed hat. A filmy long-skirted white gown and garden party hat accompanied a Great Dane. A very feminine white silk costume with a bright blue hat matched a white poodle and a women wearing a black velvet suit, with a large black hat and silver fox furs had black Poodle. Sables were worn with a Russian Wolfhound and a high bonnet-hat was worn by a one woman to counteract the long, low-slung lines of a dachshund. Lovely gowns were display with great danes who were regarded as the greatest clothes connoisseurs.

A sketch of a woman and her dog for a theatre programme, 1930s
A sketch of a woman and her dog for a theatre programme, 1930s

By 1938 and 1939 there were more stories about matching fur styles to your dog with the thought that poodles, dachshunds and terriers have caused a boom in the fur business. Since most of the fashionable dog breeds were short-haired so the fur trimmings for ladies coats and wraps would follow suit. Petite collars, Victorian muffs and fur hemmed coats became all the rage. At the same time there were more attempts to match one’s actual costume to the colour of your dog, even though this was considered a difficult task.

Cover of the magazine Femina from the 1920s (taken from the internet)
Cover of the magazine Femina from the 1920s (taken from the internet)

Less difficult was the trend to match dog accessories like dog collars, leashes and dog coats to either their mistress costume or her lipstick and nail vanish. For example, a woman dressed in navy and white, would be accompanied by a white terrier wearing a navy blue and white striped collar and lead, while another who displayed the popular cyclamen coloured lipstick and nail varnish would ‘dress’ her dog In the same shade.

Sources

The Tatler 6/1/1915
Morning Leader 17/10/1906
The Graphic 17/11/1906
Belfast Telegraph 25/3/1920
Ballymena Observer 3/9/1920
Roscommon Herald 23/9/1922
Berkeley Daily Gazette 21/3/1927
Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore) 15/6/1937
Western Morning News 15/7/1937
Liverpool Echo 6/2/1939
Halifax Evening Courier 12/6/1939
Programmes for Folie Parisienne
Documenting Fashion – A Dress History Blog (https://sites.courtauld.ac.uk/documentingfashion/tag/1920s-fashion)

Casino des Folies

Casino des Folies

A long time ago I acquired a delightful little programme that looked as if it was for a venue called the Casino des Folies. The artwork by Ada Peacock is one of my favourites . But what was it for? and what or where was the Casino des Folies?

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The London Couture House of Jean-Philippe

A prominant London couture atelier in the Jazz Age was that of Jean-Philippe based originally at 39 Conduit street, W1, which thrived through the 1920s and into the 1930s. Jean-Philippe was owned and run by the society hostess Mrs Simon Hartog and since the first known listing in the press was in late 1926, one must presume that the establishment was formed in or around 1926.

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Chez des Nudistes

Chez des Nudistes

On 20th December 1932, the famous American cabaret owner, Joe Zelli, seemingly inaugurated a rather racy two hour cabaret show entitled ‘Chez les Nudistes’ at his venue called The Royal Box at 16 bis Rue Fontaine in Paris.

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Dolly Tree: A Dream of Beauty

Dolly Tree: A Dream of Beauty by Gary Chapman

A long lost artistic genius of the Jazz Age, Dolly Tree was famous on both sides of the Atlantic, for her extravagant creations that appeared in stage shows, cabaret, couture and film in the glamorous 1920s and 1930s. It is now time for her to be reclaimed as one of the great British dress-designers of the 20th century

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