Hundred-Year-Old Fashions for Stout Women

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, September 5, 1912: Ditto.

1912 Dress and Coat for Obese Women

Source: Ladies Home Journal (February, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm—I guess that it was a slow week for Grandma. This is the third day in a row that she hasn’t written much. It seems odd. It’s the second week of the school year—and I’d have guessed that she would have been bubbling about the happenings.

In any case, I’m going to go off on a tangent . . .

Several days ago, a reader commented that in the old days that wealthy people were often overweight—or to use the term that was commonly used a hundred years ago, “stout.”

Her comment reminded me that the February, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal showed fashions for stout women:

Many distinctive features favorable for the woman who is included to stoutness of form are typified in the graceful, fringed wrap on the first figure in the group above. It is made of dull-finished black satin—for the stout woman will wisely pass by the more lustrous satins, which tend to accentuate plumpness.

A charming house dress for afternoon or for more informal evening occasions is pictured on the second figure in the group above. Here a soft old-rose satin is used for the foundation dress, brought into a subjection more becoming to the stout woman by the overdress of marquisette in the same shade.

1912 woman's suit

There is a pleasing fitness not only in the quiet colors used for the semi-dressy tailored suit, but also in the right placing of the lines of the coat and skirt for a figure inclined to overfullness.

17 Responses

  1. lovely language to cover the fact that the subject is dicey

  2. I love the description of “overfullness”. However, they show sleek models and even though the clothing is beautiful, they are tailored beauties. I am a bit “overfull” and I don’t think I could wear them. However, when you see a stout actress in old movies of this period – they always looked lovely in the clothing of the day. I suppose a corset was in place as well. God help us.

    • I also thought that the women in the drawings didn’t look particularly stout. I did think that they looked older than the women in other fashion features in Ladies Home Journal.

  3. Sounds like either the excitement of starting school already wore off or Helena is busy with plenty of homework. I can sure understand how she feels. Nothing exciting to write about in math homework. ;) I love the pictures of the dresses. Even for “stout” women they were stylish.

  4. Hey, you’re fast! I think well constructed clothes go a long way to improving the appearance of ‘stout’ women or men. When clothes are well made they hang better. A common mistake a number of women will make is to buy the wrong size…Denial isn’t just a river in Africa.

  5. I seem to recall the word “portly”

  6. What’s happening Miss Muffly??? … hope it’s nothing bad and you’ll soon be “chatting away” again. Love your research and post re: fashions for stout women, Sheryl :-)

  7. Their faces are full but their figures are not. I speak as a stout woman ;-) Sorry I am so far behind my blog reading and responding lately.

    • Both then and now it seems like models for “stout” sizes often don’t really look stout.

      No need to apologize for being behind on your blog reading–I know how hectic things can be. :)

  8. Love the post, and I enjoyed the read… I love your blog by the way… When I get a quite moment, and my little one is in bed I shall read some more

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