Vintage Q & A – What’s wrong with zippers and bows?

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One of my lovely, vintage loving friends emailed me with a fascinating question:
dancinglady.jpgDear Deb(utante):
Recently, I watched the movie, “Dancing Lady” (1933) with Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and Fred Astair. Check it out at
It’s not a great movie – except for the CLOTHES! Joan Crawford is a burlesque dancer (stripper), waiting for her big break on Broadway. She meets a drunky society guy who wants to clean her up and take her home to Mom, so he pays for her to get into a Broadway show, but it turns out she can really dance! And she falls in love with the director (Clark Gable). But that’s not my question – the society swell tells her at the start that she’s got to clean up her burlesque ways if she’s going to make it in high society. First, he tells her to “buy a dress without zippers” and then to “stop wearing shoes with bows on them.” Why? I’ve just been puzzled by this since I saw the movie. I think it may be that shoes with bows were the equivalent of “hoochie” shoes back then, but I really don’t get the zipper comment. Can you help?
Curious in Orange,

Dear Wanda,
Well now I have to see this movie! Joan Crawford as a burlesque dancer – perfect! My feeling is that zippers on women’s garments were meant for easy on, easy off action – if you know what I mean. Show girls would need to get their costumes off in a snap, er, zip.
elsaschiaparreli.jpgZippers were introduced to women’s fashion in 1935 by Elsa Schiaparelli. An innovative designer, Schiaparelli loved using unusual fabrics and details. She had the zippers dyed to match the fabric. Up until this point, you saw zippers on men’s trousers and corsets. This is probably another reason why zippers weren’t considered appropriate for a “lady”.
Bows on shoes were often found on dancers shoes as well, not on the toes of upper crust ladies. They weren’t considered very chic in the 1930s. But good old Elsa, always pushing the envelope, loved bows as well. In fact, her knit sweater with a bow tie pattern.
Just one more example of why following fashion rules leads to boring, cloned style. Elsa Schiaparelli would have been proud of Joan Crawfor’s tarty character.

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1 Fajr { 12.04.08 at 11:07 am }

Wow, that is interesting to know. I love zippers, guess that means I’m “easy” on the eyes and bows make my heart flutter. There goes my upper crust card. Lol. Great post!

2 C.B. { 12.07.08 at 9:36 am }

I never could imagine that zippers and bows where so horrible in the 30s…. I always considered bows elegant applications to a garment… like… the kings and the court used to wear bows on their shoes in the XVII and XVIII century!!
Your blog is soo nice :)

3 Market Publique { 12.07.08 at 2:06 pm }

Elsa Rocks! And I love she invented shocking pink and collaborated with DalĂ­. I say zippers, bows and the whole she-bang should are exactly what a burlesque dancer should wear!

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