Showgirls, starlets and ingenues in training: Costume Patterns of the 1930s

US.NNFIT.SC.PN2067.T5.331   US.NNFIT.SC.PN2067.T5.319     US.NNFIT.SC.PN2067.T5.436

In the spirit of Halloween, we’ve been sharing some of our favorite costume designs from the collection on our new Instagram feed all week (@fitspecialcollections).  We found one of these costume holdings especially fun and wanted to share a little more about it as it also happens to dovetail with the current exhibition at The Museum at FIT, Dance & Fashion.

This series of prints advertising patterns for dance costumes produced by the Associated Fabrics Corporation dates to the late 1930s.  The New York based textile distributer located at 48th St. and 7th Avenue, no doubt, supplied countless Broadway stage productions, and was the retailer of specialty costume materials, such as Stroblite, “a new type of fabric which glows and changes color when exposed to ultra-violet or black light.”

As these patterns were sized for children, adolescents and adults, they were probably not created for the professional performer, but rather the amateur, aspiring showgirl in training.  Each pattern retailed for the equivalent of $8 today and close inspection finds that many have notations about the particular style of dance the costume was suited for.

Sadly, we do have the physical patterns themselves, but simply as objects on their own, the rendering and color ways of the advertisements are charming evidence of 1930s dance costume design.

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