I recently ran across this skirt and a pair of matching shorts, and I bought them even though there are quite a few problems with the two pieces. To be really honest, I wanted these partly because of the issues and my desire to analyze the set. Using the questions from The Dress Detective, I wanted to hear the story these pieces have to tell.
To start with, there is a real possibility that a piece is missing. By looking at sewing patterns and catalogs from 1940 through the 1950s, these sets often came with a matching blouse. These pieces are home sewn, and there is no way to know if a matching blouse was actually made, but that is the way the pieces were marketed, and presumably, worn.
Here are some good examples from a 1940s brochure from Edwards Department Store in Rochester, New York. In these photos the top and shorts are attached as one piece, but these were also available as shorts and top separately.
After World War II ended, fabrics became a lot more colorful. Dyes had been restricted during the war, and I’m sure people were ready for a burst of color. If you look at fashion magazines starting as early as the middle of 1945, you can really see what I mean. Interesting designs and color combinations dominated. In the case of my skirt and shorts you can see turquoise, a chartreuse-y yellow, and two shades of rust, printed on white and accented with black.
As mentioned, the set is home sewn, using simple techniques. The sewer must have had one of those new-fangled buttonholers that attached to the machine. The buttons on the skirt are mother of pearl, and they are well-worn. They seem to be a bit old-fashioned for the piece. Could they have been re-cycled?
There is a noticeable color difference between the shorts and the skirt. The skirt looks hardly worn, but the shorts are quite faded. What does that say? The shorts were obviously washed more than the skirt, and so we can assume they were worn more.
There is another interesting clue on the shorts, a smear of dried paint. Could it be that after the shorts became either worn or not so fashionable (or both) that they were used to wear around the house for chores like painting. It points to a long life of the shorts and skirt, and possibly a blouse, moving from cute outfit to work attire.
There is one last thing to point out. At sometime the skirt was shortened as evidenced by the faded line. During the last part of the 1950s skirt hems did rise, and so this could have been an attempt to make the skirt more fashionable. Or it is possible this was done years later by a wearer of vintage clothing. Either way, it is an interesting part of the skirt’s history.