Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sailor Style Evolution Part 3: Nautical Sails Again

Are you enjoying our series so far? If you missed them, catch up on Part 1: Nautical Fashion is Born and Part 2: The Rise of the Middy.

Although the later 1920s had seen the middy relegated once more to activewear, sailor styles enjoyed a resurgence in the 1930s. The Telegraph Herald in 1934 declares nautical style "quite the newest Paris favorite [...] most attractive and so decidedly new". It also suggests making the frock up in "nautical printed fabric, pastel washing cottons or pink and white candy striped seersucker". The nautical fashion frock was back.

Butterick 5074, "Sailor type one-piece frock", early 30s (source)

Telegraph-Herald, April 1934

Leach-Way Fashions no. 19, c1934

Simplicity 1710, c1934 (source) - an unusual low-backed twist on the traditional sailor collar.

McCall 8272, c1934

Beach fashions, 1934 (from Wearing History)

The 1935 Spring Sears catalogue demonstrates the variety available in sailor styles, from the offerings in maize and brown gingham (the maize and brown scheme seems to have been a popular alternative to traditional blue and white for sailor frocks) or silk and "colorful stripe" cotton broadcloth, to the unabashedly girly pink version in the opening pages.

Sears & Roebuck, 1935

If there was any danger of the nautical star fading, the 1936 release of the film "Follow the Fleet" sealed its popularity. Ginger Rogers' sailor suit inspired legion nautical fashions, including at least one sailor snow suit - an example of nautical style making a rare departure its normal reserve of Spring/Summer fashion.

Sears & Roebuck, 1936

Nautical jackets in Bella Hess, 1936 (from Wearing History)

Nautical style in Bella Hess, 1936 (from Wearing History)

Nautical fashions, 1936 (from Wearing History)

Sailor snowsuit (from Wearing History)

"Whether at the boardwalk or at tea, any gay young thing will be smarter than smart in a sailor frock. Make it in washable silk, linen or cotton gabardine." -The Pittsburgh Press, March 1937

Princess seamed sailor dress, 1937

Butterick 7346, c1937 (source)

Sears & Roebuck, 1938

Military style trims - including "Middy braid" and "Middy sets" comprising woven embroidered anchors, chevrons and stars - were available in navy, red, white, black, gold and brown, reflecting the taste for nontraditional hues for sailor styles.



Continue reading Part 4: Wartime Patriotism.


  1. Thanks again for this series. I absolutely love it.

  2. I've been meaning to try and reproduce that pink one! I've even found some patterns that I think will work. :)

  3. **swoon**
    Seriously, these posts are making my week fabulous.
    Someday I'll get Simplicity 1710. Someday...
    I need both those looks from Sears and Roebucks, 1938. Yum!

  4. Thank you for taking the time to do all this research and write these _highly_ inspirational posts!

  5. Oh I love the images in this post so much that I think I might have to make something Naval inspired for my summer wardrobe!

  6. I want one of everything! Too darling!

  7. I'm loving these posts, thanks so much for sharing! I'm seriously lusting over the Simplicity and McCall patterns!

  8. Ooh! Love these pics, thank you for posting......sewing machine here I come!! Lol. X


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