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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Cold Rayon WWII Era Print Dresses

December 15th, 2023 by violette

Brown Print Cold Rayon Dress – 1940’s

A gorgeous historically significant 1940’s Cold Rayon Dress from WWII Era. With Iconic multi-directional print of nosegays, doilies, flowers, and bows.

During the war fabrics were rationed and prints were cleverly designed to be multi-directional so that laying out and cutting pattern pieces could utilize as much of the yardage as possible. Rationed yardage allowed no more than 4yds for a dress. And it was usually only 36” – 39”.wide.  Every inch of precious fabric was utilized in these clever dress designs. 

Rationing dictated the wartime silhouette and influenced the fashions. Dresses were narrow and featured short sleeves, high necklines and “short” skirts. Clever cutting and seaming was utilized to embellish this basic shape. Bodices were closely fitted and the waistline was often slightly dropped below the natural waist to create a long waisted line through the torso. This mades a woman look taller and narrower. 

Examples of embellishments used are peplums skirts, curved seams, ruching, shirred seams, hip flounces, draped skirts and extended shoulders with the use of shoulder pads. A-line or straight skirts with peplums applied over the top created the illusion of a jacket without using the extra fabric required to make one. 

Sleeves were short and often cut in one piece with the bodice. These little sleeves were called kimono sleeves. Long feminine gloves were often worn with these short sleeves. 

Fabric rationing required that hemlines be less than 2″, and in accordance with the regulations this one is a mere 3/4″ then faced with hem tape. Because of the lightweight fabric this actually looks nice and adds to the flowy effect of the skirt.

This brown print dress has shirred gathering at the side seams and one shoulder, moderate shoulder pads extend the shoulders and make the  wearer’s waistline appear smaller. The high jewel neckline was the style of the times. One shoulder, the Left one, is gathered creating a draped effect across the fitted bodice. Clever pattern construction creates a diagonal seam across the bodice from L shoulder to R hip and a flouncy ultra-feminine gathered drape over the Right hip. The narrow skirt is attractively draped, appearing long and lean, but is actually gently flared and reaches to mid-calf in length. The short sleeves are set in. A metal zipper in the center back seam of the dress is 21” long allowing for easy in and out. 

The shoulder pads are of modest size to achieve the wartime silhouette, but not extreme such as those worn by Joan Crawford. They are basted into position so that they could be easily adjusted if required. 

This dress has been freshly dry-cleaned by a cleaner specializing in vintage clothing. It appears not to have been worn much because it is still in excellent condition. Amazing for a garment that is 80 years old! This dress is very well made, but there are no labels in it. It could possibly be a homemade dress or custom made dress made by an exceptionally skilled seamstress.

Size and measurements: Shoulders: natural shoulders are 16”,across the back measured side to side at seam, but are only 15.25” across the front . They are extended to be about 1” wider with the shoulder pads. As mentioned above shoulder pads are basted into place and their position could be changed or they could be removed entirely if desired. People’s shoulders are uniquely shaped so it was common to insert shoulder pads is such a way that they could be repositioned easily to best flatter the wearer.

Bust : 17″ x 2 = 34″ maximum – because of the design fabric drape is required across the bodice. I recommend a bust size of no more than 32” to allow for adequate drape, comfort, freedom of movement and proper fit. A smaller bust size will work just fine because of the drape. 

Waist is 12.75″ x 2 = 25.5 ” at most – again, some space should be allowed for the waist to fit comfortably and allow for movement. I recommend a wearer’s waist size up to 24″ so dress is not too tight. 

Hips: measured 7” below waistline :  skirt measures 20″ x 2 = 40 ” in circumference, but I recommend a looser fit to allow for the proper drape and comfort. Wearer’s hips should not be more than 38″ to allow for a graceful drape. Anything less will also be fine. 

Sleeves: From top of shoulder to hem are 8.5″ in length. They are loosely cut to flutter gently around the upper arm. 

Back length of bodice from center of neckline to slightly dropped waist is 16.25″ . Waistlines were positioned a bit below the natural waistline to create long-lined look through the torso.  

Skirt length from waist to hem is 30″ long.  

Care: This type of Rayon should be dry-cleaned only. If it needs ironing use a cool iron and press on the back side of fabric only.  I recommend pressing over a pressing cloth. 

Modern sizing is equivalent to a size 2  – my recommended best fit for this dress is modern sizes 0 – 2. 

Fitting Note: My mannequin is a well endowed size 6 and this dress does not come together in her bodice back. 

Wartime Fashion Facts: 

An interesting historical note : Food was also rationed during WWII and many people did not get enough to eat so were very thin and often malnourished. This historical fact explains why many of the clothes from the period are such small sizes. These women just did not have any fat stored on their figures. A woman who was a nurse in England during this time period explained this to me. She said the girls looked fragile and waif like and very pretty in their clothes but this was the result of not having enough to eat.  It was easy to be slim if there was not enough to eat! Audrey Hepburn was an example of this. She grew up in Holland during the German occupation and they could not get enough food. She was malnourished after the war and it caused her lifelong health problems. That delicate gamine look came at a price! 

Rayon fabric is made from wood pulp and as such is considered a semi-synthetic. Its properties are akin to a natural fiber. Rayon is breathable, takes pressing quite well, is absorbent and can hold in body heat. 

Cold rayon is made via a cold process. It is smooth, has a subtle sheen and drapes beautifully. It initially feels cool to the touch. During the World War II era it was a popular, more affordable and more available than silk and was used to produce women’s dresses, blouses and lingerie. Fabric artists cleverly developed multi-directional prints so that pattern pieces could be cut and seamed facing any direction instead of just one – way. This allowed for the maximum use of every inch of rationed fabric. 

Rayon takes dye very well so prints were often quite colorful. Whimsical floral patterns were popular as well as unusual atomic prints…. The multi-directional prints developed by clever artists allowed you to use all the fabric without concern for which way the print was running. 

Rayon fabrics in solid colors were used for summer weight military uniforms for men and women as well. 

Rayon was economical. The established American rayon industry was positioned with raw materials and manufacturing capacity to produce goods for the war effort and civilian use. In 1940, the average price for a pound of rayon yarn was $0.53, while wool was $1.34 and silk was $2.79. 

Silk was allocated to the military for parachutes. Soldiers would sometimes send damaged parachutes home for their women to make into dresses, blouses, nightgowns, slips and other lingerie. A few girls even made their wedding dresses out of damaged parachutes. Parachute silk was highly prized! 

Most women sewed and sewing skills improved during the war as you had to keep your old clothes in decent shape, mend and remake things into other things, and make what new items you could out of rationed fabrics. You got more value for your ration coupons in sewing fabric than in ready made clothing. 

 A woman’s skirt could utilize no more than 2.5 yds of fabric. The number of pleats allowed in a skirt was also restricted. Remember this fabric was also narrow! By 1945 each woman was allowed only 36 clothing coupons per year. A woman’s ready-made tweed suit cost 18 coupons and a pair of shoes cost 5. Be aware that people had to pay money as well as present coupons to buy the rationed articles of clothing. By 1946 the number of coupons issued was reduced to 26 per person per year. 

All silk came from Japan. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 silk was completely banned because it came from Japan! That put an end to luxurious silk stockings, lingerie and dresses! Rayon was the substitute and they began to call it “artificial silk.”

Fabric artists, clothing designers and the women who sewed and wore rayon during WWII became clever and resourceful resulting in some very attractive prints and clothing designs and styling options resulting from the limitations of rationing.

After the war, more synthetic fabrics were developed and manufactured. Then cold rayon the distinctive WWII era rayon prints were replaced in the marketplace by something newer. Rayon gradually disappeared from the marketplace and now is practically impossible to find! The type of cold rayon in the prints used in these Iconic WWII Dresses is now rare, expensive and highly sought after.

If you find a dress in good condition that fits you should acquire it! If you come across a 4 yard piece of Cold Rayon fabric from WWII era that has not yet been made up you should acquire it! And if you find a lovely dress pattern from that period you should also acquire it. Either make your own dress or find a seamstress to do so. The styles of this era are unabashedly feminine and charming!

This Cold Rayon Print Dress and and other rare and beautiful historic clothes and accessories are for sale in my online shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy on Ebay

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservatory: ladyvioletteboutique

Note the high round neckline, the shirred gathers on the left shoulder, the short sleeves, the below natural waist dropped waistline, the flounce on the right hip, and the non-directional print.

Note the curved seams, the ultra-feminine hip flounce, the softly gathered skirt, the mid-calf skirt length, the shallow hem giving lightness to the skirt; and, again, the multi-directional print that could be cut and assembled in any direction.

Note the curved seam, the waistline which is dropped below the natural waist to elongate wearers torso and the hip flounce which creates the illusion of a jacket with very little material being used.

Note: A Closeup of the multi-directional print and the fact that only four colors were used: brown, white, green and yellow. Also of note are the brightness of the colors since rayon absorbs dye very well.

Note: the high round neckline, the small shoulder pads, short soft kimono sleeve with a bit of billowing drape, the figure flattering fitted waistline and the gentle bust shaping.

Note: how the waistline dropped below the natural waist lengthens the torso adding to the illusion of length and slimness

Note: The ultra-feminine shape of the torso achieved when all the elements of the design come together. There is skill in the design and construction of these dresses which results in feminine flattering results.

Note: The long metal back zipper ( 21″) in length which facilitates getting in and out of such a fitted dress with ease.

Note: how all the features of the WWII Wartime Era Cold Rayon Dress come together in this Iconic Example of the feminine beauty and ingenuity of design during an historic time of adversity.


Recognizing Faux Alligator

October 3rd, 2019 by violette

Here is a collection of alligator shoes - some are real and some are faux or fake alligator. Can you tell which is which? Starting on the left side and traveling front to back, 1) is a pair of real alligator Palter de Lisa sling back pumps,

Starting on the left side and traveling front to back, 1) a pair of real alligator Palter de Lisa sling back pumps circa 1950s, 2) a pair of real alligator Springolators by Beth & Herbert Levine – 1951, 3) a pair of embossed faux alligator pumps by Anne Klein II , late 1990s; moving to the right side and traveling back to front 4) a pair of real mid-century alligator pumps by Foot Flairs. 5) a pair of embossed faux alligator pumps from Via Spiga, late 1990s, 6) a pair of real “baby alligator” pumps by Andrew Seller, circa 1950s.

Yesterday I posted photos of real alligator purses and shoes so you see what  real alligator looks like. Today I want to show you what faux alligator looks like so you can learn to recognize the difference. Faux alligator is usually created by embossing cowhide or calfskin with a repetitive scale pattern designed to look like real alligator. The reasons people do this are economic.  Real alligator skin is the most prestigious and expensive actual animal leather on the market because it is relatively rare and it is tricky to work with. Thus, if you can fool people into thinking they are getting it when they aren’t you can conceivably profit from it.

Due to the high midcentury demand for real alligator accessories the American alligator was so heavily hunted that it decimated their population, and it was listed as an endangered species in 1973 by the Endangered Species Act. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and they were removed from endangered status in 1987. Now alligators are farmed in order to produce hides for luxury goods and for their meat which is considered a Southern delicacy in Florida and Louisiana. In case you are curious, it tastes like tender chicken, in my opinion.

Some people will buy faux alligator or embossed alligator because they actually like the look of it and they cannot afford the real thing.  Some faux alligator is actually quite pretty and has earned its own prestige position in the fashion world and the luxury goods marketplace. 

Let’s take a look at what some faux alligator look like.

Faux Alligator shoes by Via Spiga are embossed cow leather. Look closely and you will see that all patterning on the skin is repetitive and exactly the same over and over. On real alligator skin these patterns will change size and shape all over the skin just the way they do when the alligator skin in on the alligator’s body.

Faux Alligator shoes by Anne Klien II. Note, again, how even sized the design is all over the shoes. It is also obviously embossed onto the surface of the cow leather only, whereas real alligator skin patterning is obviously in the entire depth of the alligator skin.

These are labeled Genuine Alligator! They are from the 1940’s. You can that the patterning is different sizes and shapes on the different parts of the shoes. Note how it changes in size and shape for example on the three straps over the front of the shoe. and yet again on the heals and the ankle straps. Also note how the designs are deep in the skin not just embossed on the very top. there is also subtle natural variation of the skin whereas fake alligator is too even in this way to be real.

A beautiful pair of classic alligator pumps from the 1950s. Note the variation is size of the scales larger on the toes, smaller on the heels. This is obviously real!

Beautiful Petite Black Alligator Bag from Bellestone circa 1960. Again, note the difference of size in the natural scales from small to large on the front of the purse. And compare the front to the back side as well.

The backside of the little Black Bellestone Bag: note that the size of the scales differs greatly on each side of the purse. It is not uniform. This is a clear indication that this is a real skin.

This is the Bellestone label which is always stamped discreetly inside the bag on the lining! Bellestone only used real skins so that is a good way to tell too!

A label such as this one is a great help in identifying
what type of skin this is! Many vintage items are labeled inside because saying they really were alligator helped the seller get a higher price for then. Alligator was a real luxury item in the 1920’s – 60’s. A pair of real alligator pumps sold for $1500 in 1960 at Henri Bendel’s!  Of course, new alligator items are still very expensive. You can fid better prices if you find vintage items but you should be sure they are in good condition and this is quite rare! 


How to Recognize Alligator Skin

September 3rd, 2019 by violette

In the past owning a real alligator purse and/ or a pair of alligator shoes was something elegant women aspired to. Lately, vintage aficionados have been seeking them out again. I have been a connoisseur of the real deal for a very long time and have managed to acquire a few choice specimens. Therefore, I become passionately enraged when I see reptile skins incorrectly identified. For this reason I have decided to show some examples of real reptile skins and correctly identify them for people who are interested in the real thing so that they can learn what it should look like. If you are looking for an alligator purse or a snakeskin handbag or a pair of real alligator shoes be sure you know what it should look like because one of the places I have seen a profusion of misidentifications is on vintage sellers websites! Yes, people who claim to know what they are selling frequently misidentify different types of reptile skins – calling lizard and python alligator for example.
It is not really difficult to tell the difference once you have seen a few good examples and it is fun to impress people with your knowledge! Plus, it is important to know what is what if you are trying to acquire the real thing. I think the best way to learn identify alligator is to look at a few examples of the real thing. Lets get started with:


Three Real Vintage Alligator Purses From The Lady Violette Vintage Handbag Collection

Three Real Vintage Alligator Purses From The Lady Violette Vintage Handbag Collection

Beautiful Petite Black Alligator Bag from Bellestone circa 1960

Beautiful Petite Black Alligator Bag from Bellestone circa 1960

The backside of the little Black Bellestone Bag: note that the size of the scales differs on each side of the purse. Is t is not uniform. This is an indication that this is a real skin.

The backside of the little Black Bellestone Bag: note that the size of the scales differs on each side of the purse. It is is not uniform. This is an indication that this is a real alligator skin.

A label such as this one is a great help in identifying what type of skin this is! Many vintage items are labeled inside because saying they really were alligator helped the seller get a higher price for then. Alligator was a real a

A label such as this one is a great help in identifying what type of skin this is! Many vintage items are labeled inside because saying they really were alligator helped the seller get a higher price.

These are labeled Genuine Alligator!

These gorgeous Butterscotch shoes from the 1940s are fortunately  labeled Genuine Alligator!

Green alligator shoes made in Italy in the 1980s. Again note how the scales change sizes -

Green alligator shoes made in Italy in the 1980s. Again note how the scales change sizes – a sure indication that the skin is real, not calf leather embossed with an alligator looking faux scale!

A beautiful pair of classic alligator pumps from the 1950s

A beautiful pair of classic brown alligator pumps from the 1950s – these were the ultimate status symbol shoes to own and could be worn with everything – this pair was made by Foot Flairs.

The Ultimate score! A pair of Alligator Springolators by Herbert Levine

The Ultimate score! A pair of brown Alligator Springolators by Beth & Herbert Levine – 1951

The ultimate 50's Bag was a Bellini to go with your alligator pumps and springolators

The ultimate 50’s Bag was a Bellestone to wear with your alligator pumps and springolators! You could get your alligator shoes at Henry Bendel’s Shoe Salon for about $1500 and then head over to the Bellestone showroom  and find a co-ordinating real skin handbag for $3.000 to wear with them. These bags and shoes were so expensive that women wanted to show them off all the time – thus they could appropriately be used all seasons and worn with everything else in your wardrobe.

This is the Bellestone label which is always stamped discreetly inside the bag on the lining!

This is the Bellestone label which is always stamped discreetly inside the bag on the lining! This company used only real skins for their creations. If they said it was alligator it was. Familiarizing yourself with the names of the designers and manufacturers who made the status goods will help you locate the real thing.




Vintage Bags, with Vintage Liberty of London scarves for Fall 2019

August 31st, 2019 by violette


After viewing the Liberty of London Foulard Handbag Collection I had to pull out a couple of my own vintage handbags and tie them up with my vintage Liberty of London Scarves. The black frame bag is a vintage snakeskin purse from London made in the 1950’s. I can’t tell you the maker’s name as it has worn off, but it is a darling little lady-like purse. The green clutch is a vintage Brahmin leather bag embossed with a faux alligator skin print. The Liberty scarves are silk and quite old. The black edged one on the black frame purse shows the Liberty of London logo.

I used a scarf clip to help me attach the scarf to the green clutch. I got the idea for doing a scarf on the front flap of a clutch from the Liberty of London Stevie Clutch which has a built on ring on which you attach your scarf. It is a cute idea! Almost every handbag you own should be able to be decorated with a scarf. I can’t tell you exactly how to attach each one, because each bag is different, but I can give you hints. I attach the scarf initially where the strap is attached to the purse on the inside of the flap where it won’t show when the purse is closed. I then pull the scarf out to the front and access how I might be able to wrap or tie the particular purse I am working with. In this case I decided to utilize a scarf clip to add a touch of golden hardware to the front of the purse and to bunch the scarf up and hold it tightly together on the front surface. I moved that around, experimenting, until I found a position I liked. I then brought the ends back to the underside of the clutch flap and figured out a way to tuck tie them up and tuck them in to conceal the extra fabric. I can open and close the purse to get things in and out easily without disturbing the way it is wrapped. You do want to be sure you can use your purse normally once it is scarfed. It could be very inconvenient if you managed to tie your bag shut and you had trouble getting into it in a hurry!

The black frame bag is a simple design that is easy to scarf. I simply looped the scarf over and through the loop on one side, then adjusted the tails of the scarf to make them look pretty.
I love to utilize my scarves. The colors and textures make me happy! And I get a lot of compliments on how pretty my bags look when I have added scarves to them.

People, even Liberty of London, have asked me where I find my vintage scarves! I can’t really send you to any particular place. I have found them at charity shops, thrift shops, estate sales, consignment shops and rummage sales. I have seen them for sale in online vintage shops on Etsy and eBay so you could try there. It is really just a matter of keeping your eyes open so you see one if you are in the right place at the right time. The same advice applies to finding interesting vintage handbags…


A Lovely Update on Scarves and Scarves on Bags! The Foulard collection from Liberty of London

August 30th, 2019 by violette


I’ve been advocating personalizing, decorating  and updating your handbags with scarves  for years so I was delighted to receive a tweet from Liberty of London on their new Foulard Collection of Handbags. They have put out four new styles of handbags designed to be decorated with a scarf. A Liberty of London scarf, of course! The bags are simple sleek designs with rings attached that make it easy to add on a scarf. Check it out and then take a look at the foulard scarf tying guide which gives instructions on how they tied their scarves onto their bags.

I have written several previous posts explaining how to decorate your vintage handbags with scarves which I will link below if you care to reference them for ideas and how-tos along similar lines. Here are some of the ways I do it!

Here for reptile bags.

Here for spring and summer bags.

And here is one on my personal collection of Liberty of London vintage scarves.  I think fall 2019 is coming and it is time for me to get these out and use them to redecorate a few of my precious vintage handbags with my own favorite Liberty scarves!

I think, if I am clever, I can be at the height of this fall’s fashion using precious things from my own collection. Liberty of London scarves are total forever classics! I’m freshly inspired now to get them out and use them this way for fall.

Thank You Liberty of London! For these stimulating ideas for upcoming 2019 fall fashion! I will post pictures of my own Liberty Scarves on bags 2019 as inspired by their new collection over the next few days.