Newspaper Articles

Madame Frances Fashions of the 1920’s

We are on a fashion tangent today.  I found this article of bridal fashions, with sketches, in the Sunday, May 2, 1920, edition of the Lexington Leader.  My grandmother married in November of 1920.  She wore nothing quite like this design, but looked lovely in a dark suit with a striped silk blouse.  Her two-toned hat looked as if it were made of velvet.  She wore a pearl necklace; flowers and greenery were pinned to her waist.  The most outstanding feature of her attire were her beautiful white gloves that came halfway between the wrist and elbow.  To the end of her days grandmother always wore gloves and a hat when she went out.  She had dozens of pairs in various colors; her hats were different varieties, nicely dressed up with netting or other decoration.

Joseph Reuben Carrico and Mary Alice Montgomery on their wedding day, November 24, 1920, Washington County, Kentucky.

And now to Madame Frances herself.  Frances, birth name unknown, came to the United States about 1910 and married Nathan B. Spingold of Chicago.  Frances Spingold started one of the many fashion salons in New York under the name Madame Frances. 

In 1920 the shop was located at 10 West Fifty-Sixth Street.  The Madame Frances label was sewn in to her famous creations.  Mary Pickford’s costumes, who stared in The Little American, came from Madame Frances.  Pickford’s wedding gown was also made at this shop.  Marjorie Merriweather Post came to Madame Frances for creations for herself and her daughters, as well as others in high society.

The Owensboro Messenger, Daviess County, Kentucky

Sunday, February 22, 1920

Scissors Must Have Slipped Says Madame Frances

Madame Frances, one of America’s foremost modistes, upon her arrival in New York on the steamship Adriatic recently, had the following to say about the fashions in Paris: “They have done nothing but apply the scissors to the old styles.  The afternoon gown or street dress has a low neck, sleeves mid-way between the elbow and the shoulder, and is short at the bottom.  The skirt is just a trifle fuller.  There is no waist line.  But the evening gown!  It’s just a huge ‘V’ on four sides.  From the shoulder pit to the waist and in both front and back – all is open.  The front is frightfully low, and the back even lower.  And the bottom comes just below the knees.  The American woman wouldn’t wear it.”

The Lexington Leader and other Kentucky newspapers carried numerous articles on Madame Frances’ designs.

The Lexington Leader, Fayette County, Kentucky

Sunday, May 2, 1920

Gowns for the Bridal Party by Mme. Frances, The Famous Creator of Fashions

Springtime, the only pretty ring time, has rolled around again, bringing once more those large, white envelopes that contain a request for your gracious presence on the Eventful Day.

Bridal gowns and bridesmaids’ frocks were never more lovely than they are this season.  The bouffant skirt and floating draperies that characterize the mode of the moment lend themselves with charming grace to the picturesque wedding.

Possibly the loveliest color scheme that could be selected for a wedding party combines pink mauve, hyacinth blue and that indescribably lovely shade which some poet christened ‘ashes of roses.’

Hydrangeas lend their lovely tones to this combination of colors and the gowns illustrated would be exquisite against a background of hydrangeas at a church or outdoor wedding.  Spring flowers that blend pinkish lilacs with pink and yellow snapdragons are also a lovely floral contrast for the colors of the frocks grouped here.

Many fashionable brides are wearing the bouffant skirt of billowy tulle draped over the conventional ivory satin.  The modish silhouette is particularly picturesque when developed in these fabrics.

Here Comes the Bride

The bridal gown illustrated is the most picturesque of the many lovely wedding gowns of the spring.  The bodice of ivory satin accomplishes a becoming neckline with a tulle ruffle that softens around the throat in a tiny heading held by a narrow fold of ivory satin.  Below this fold the fulness is shirred and held by another fold, giving the effect of a small yoke.  The free edge of the tulle flares in a graduated ruffle that narrows as it approaches the shoulders.  The broad satin sash is an important part of the frock because the sash ends continue into the double train which is really part of the sash.

The bows and ends are edged with a ruffle of tulle.  There are two skirts, one of satin and the other of tulle.  The tulle overskirt is very full and is distended at the sides in the picturesque hoopskirt silhouette, so reminiscent of romances of long ago.  True to the old-fashioned charm of the ladies who used to look in Godey’s Ladies’ Book for spring fashions and wedding finery, the skirt is trimmed with ruchings of tulle set on in diamonds, or rather in two rows that zig-zag, forming diamonds.  Large bows of ivory satin ribbon are posed on the ruching where they cross.  These bows hang with old-fashioned grace.

At the front of the sash is worn a corsage bouquet of orange blossoms in which appear tiny oranges.  The enveloping veil is tulle, held by a bandeau of orange blossoms.

The matron of honor who graces this hydrangea wedding is scarcely less picturesque than the bride.  Her gown combines mauve chiffon with charmeuse, in that lovely shade, ashes of roses.  Ashes of roses is the color of the gown itself.  This shade of charmeuse contributes the bodice, skirt and graceful panels.  The panels are faced with mauve chiffon and are bound around the edges with hyacinth blue charmeuse.  What could be lovelier than this transition of color?  The long panels float backward as the wearer moves and contribute a graceful double train.  The ruffle above the girdle is, of course, a continuation of these panels, and their facing of mauve chiffon shows as they turn backward.

The neckline of this gown is particularly interesting.  There is a square ‘cutout’ filled in with a vestee of mauve chiffon, run with mauve lace.  A binding of hyacinth blue chiffon outlines this right angle opening.

The neckline cuts away toward the shoulders and the finishing touch is supplied by an upstanding ruffle of mauve lace.  This collar is very, very new and surprisingly becoming.  A square of flesh appears in the hiatus between the ruffle and the vestee.

The short kimono sleeves are bound with hyacinth satin and the undersleeves of mauve chiffon are edged with mauve lace and are held by bracelet folds of hyacinth blue charmeuse.

The picturesque complement for this frock is a hat of black tulle whose generous brim flares a trifle off the face.

Our bridesmaid’s frock combines hyacinth blue chiffon with two-toned salmon pink taffeta.  Mauve appears in the roses that outline the jacket of salmon pink taffeta.  This jacket is cut away in front in old-fashioned lines that answer to the bell sleeves.  The roses are hand-made from mauve taffeta.

The soft blouse and straight, moderately full skirt are hyacinth blue chiffon.  A sash of hyacinth chiffon also wears long ends that merge into a train.

The Charlotte Corday hat that completes this costume wears a double ruffle made of two layers of tulle, mauve and salmon.  This ruffle is held by lemon yellow ribbon that answers to the yellow in the depth of the two-toned salmon pink taffeta.

The Picturesque Flower Girl

Now for the flower girl, so quaintly reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice in her Kate Greenaway frock of point d’esprit.  The ‘bebe’ waist is gathered into a round neck edged with a ruffle of point d’esprit.  The full puffed sleeves also wear a ruffle of this material.  Ruffles appear on the full skirt in the line of a pinafore.  A broad sash of hyacinth blue satin ribbon ties the slender waist and ends in a large bow in the back.  Hyacinth blue ribbon ties the hair of this quaint little girl who is a picturesque addition to our wedding part.

Old-fashioned bouquets edged with paper lace holders or ruffles with silk lace, would be appropriate bridesmaids’ bouquets.

If a hat is desired for the flower girl, she might wear a Kate Greenaway bonnet of mauve and blue.  She may also wear a garland of flowers in her hair.

Bridal gowns of the less bouffant type are developed in ivory charmeuse with apron-like panniers edged with lace, soft and creamy, but tulle is so bridelike and the bouffant skirt is so well adapted to tulle that it seems a pity to miss fashions’ opportunity to employ this lovely fabric in generous quantities.

For the bride’s going away gown nothing could be smarter than a frock of midnight blue tricotine combined with black charmeuse satin.  One such gown is cut in a straight middy effect that continues into ‘flying’ panels at the side.  These panels are about five or six inches wide and are cut in one piece with the straight blouse of blue tricotine.  The edges of the blouse and panels are bound with black silk braid.  Beneath this overblouse and panels appears the skirt of black charmeuse satin, accordion pleated.

The straight fullness around the waist is held by a narrow belt that combines metal with patent leather.  The neck and wrists are finished with turned back collars and cuffs of ivory colored batiste, hand-embroidered and trimmed with Val lace.  Yellow linen also supplies effective collar and cuffs for such a gown.

With this costume is worn an Egyptian turban of turquoise matrix blue, in one of the new satin straws.  It is trimmed with strands of pale turquoise beads.

An interesting topcoat of blue tricotine that may be worn over this frock is cut in scant, straight lines.  It buttons to the left side and is held by a narrow belt that marks a long waistline.

The deep collar and cuffs of this coat are green-blue duvetyne, strapped at one-inch intervals with silver galoon.  Its fastening may be silver buttons or it may close invisibly.

What do you think of Madame Frances’ designs?

1 reply »

  1. So interesting! Thank you for this wonderful piece of research and very enjoyable article. The pictures are especially nice.

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