By the early 1910s, nautical had established itself within the mainstream as a true style, and was appearing alongside other regular daywear. "A sailor dress is always stylish," says Sears in 1915.
Sears and Roebuck, 1915
By 1915 the real star of the nautical show was the Middy blouse. The true Middy (short for Midshipman) is a loose-fitting blouse with sailor collar, and it was popular as casual or sportswear for its comfort (allowing ease of movement) and hard-wearing practicality.
The Eaton's Department Store advert in the Toronto World impresses the popularity and practicality of the Middy for all ages (sizes range from age 6 to a 44 bust: these were not reserved for juniors). Materials on offer range from sturdy cotton to stylish, slinky silk jersey, and in various colours.
Nautical styles gained ground during the Great War as patriotic fervour ran high and fashion reflected military uniform. The look was promoted by advertising artwork such as this "Join the Navy" poster.
Pictorial Review pattern for Middy blouse, c1917
At some point the idea had emerged to make middies and sailor dresses in colours other than navy and white. Fashion detailing such as smocking and shirring was also sometimes added.
Blouses and Middies in the Simpsons catalogue, 1918 (source)
Standard Fashion pattern for a ladies' middy dress with two sailor collar variations, 1918 (source)
Middy style sweaters from 1919 (from Wearing History)
Advert for Paul Jones Middies, c1920
Middy blouses proliferated in the early 1920s, but were intended primarily as leisurewear, judging by illustrations showing girls in middies with various sports equipment. Meanwhile, Sailor dresses and ensembles in various colours (red gingham with mustard? Yes please!) continued to appear sporadically in mainstream fashion.
Montgomery Ward catalogue, 1922 (source)
Sears & Roebuck, 1922
Middy blouse c1923 (from EvaDress)
Sears & Roebuck, 1924
Middies in Bella Hess, 1929
It was around this time, incidentally, that the sailor dress started to be adopted as school uniform in Japan.
Continue reading Part 3: Nautical Sails Again