1910s, sewing, sewing patterns

Fashion Intersections with History

McCall 3921, Ladies Waist. ©1911

I was adding pictures to the Vintage Patterns Wiki this morning. I got them from an April, 1911 McCall Magazine. I added this one and then realized — this is the same month that the Titanic went down. These are the subtle kinds of connections that fashion has with history, when we look at a garment and think “wow, someone who died in the Titanic may have been wearing this,” or when we see a pink suit and think of Jacqueline Kennedy on that fateful day in November, or a 1940’s nurse’s uniform and think of Times Square at the end of the war. This is why fashion is so important. It’s an entire sector of understanding culture.

We shall not talk about that celebrity wearing Marilyn’s dress on the red carpet though. That was a desecration beyond desecrations, IF indeed she wore the real thing, which many people are questions.

I leave you with Miranda Priestley’s take on the connections fashion has with our culture.

1920s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

1926 Laws of Decoration

I listed a series of sewing books from 1926 on Etsy over the past few months, called A Modern Course in Home Sewing and Dressmaking. They are available as downloads, and are a fascinating look into the mid 1920s era of sewing and styling techniques. They incorporate hand and machine sewing, and cover everything from seams, to fabric choices, to trims, to construction. I posted the last one today, and it covers silhouettes and style. I thought I’d share some of the ideas found.

They call them Leonardo’s Five Laws of Decoration.

  1. Decoration exists to make more beautiful the object decorated, and not to exploit itself. (I think Coco Chanel took this concept when she said to look in the mirror before going out the door and remove one thing, so as not to overdo it.)
  2. The first premise of decorative treatment is a crying need for decoration on the part of the thing to be decorated. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)
  3. Decoration should follow the structural lines of the thing decorated and add an appearance of strength. (Don’t weaken the design by trying to go outside the lines.)
  4. Decoration should not interfere with the proper function of the object decorated. (This is especially important in sewing. Don’t try to use chiffon when the pattern calls for cotton, or the garment won’t function as designed.)
  5. Decorations should be consistent in technique, material, scale, color and texture with the object decorated and with each other. (Don’t mix apples and oranges.)

Keep in mind that these principles work just as well for home decor as they do for sewing. I think it’s a great little short course in taste. What would you add to the list?

sewing, sewing patterns

1935 Spring Wardrobe

I found an article from 1935 that mentioned what a woman’s spring wardrobe should be, so I went looking for the patterns. I couldn’t find a lot of them, so if you see any of them, please share and I will update the post. Listed are the patterns, the fabric recommended, and the final price to make it.

Swagger Coat Advance 1275 – El Chico Waffle Cloth – $1.23

Sports Ensemble Advance 1160-2 – Hollywood Yarn Dyed Seersucker – $2.82

Shirtwaist Dress McCall 8327 – Penney’s Printed Cord Fabric Pic-Pon – $1.71

Lace Knit Frock – Advance 1232 – Lace Voile $1.40

Afternoon Dress – Advance 1047 – Hollywood Printed Voile- $1.40

All Purpose Frock – Advance 1128 – Lace Voile – $1.35

Evening Dress – Advance 1138 or 1162 – Novelty Silk Crepe $4.27

All Day Frock Advance 1201- Cotton Sheers – $1.19

Eton Ensemble – Hollywood Polo Check – McCall 8328 $1.74

Daytime Frock – Advance 1286 – Rondo Fabrics – $0.87

An entire wardrobe from JC Penney’s for $17.98! That’s just amazing to me.

sewing, sewing patterns

Something I’ve Never Seen Before

McCalls 6257, ©1962

I was listing smocking patterns the other day, and I got totally confused. Two patterns, same pattern number, same year. It took me a while to see that they actually are the same pattern, just with totally different covers. If you read closely, they are exactly the same but with different illustrations.

McCalls 6257, ©1962

There are plenty of examples of patterns that were reissued with different illustrations, or in different colorways. There are also plenty of patterns that were issued with illustrations of garments in different colors for different sizes. Though Butterick 4699 has two different colors, I’m not sure that they were issued in the same year. However, I don’t think I have ever seen the exact same pattern issued in the same year with two separate covers. I have so many questions.

Were they in the pattern catalog with two separate covers? Were they found in the pattern cabinet with both covers, or was one a first issue and the other a second printing? Did they do this to market to the smocked pillow lovers? Did one sell better than the other? I. Need. To Know!

PS I love the first cover and don’t know why anyone would buy based on the second cover.

sewing

Mourning Clothing in 1906

Standard Patterns, 1906.

I was thinking the other day about how crazy it is in America, that employers expect their staff to return to work usually only three days after losing a spouse, child or parent. Of course, we may be able to take longer if we have paid time off accrued, but some employers don’t even pay for the initial three days. My mom has been gone now for three months, and I’m still mucking about with her stuff and dealing with her tiny estate. I can’t imagine going back to work while I’ve been doing this, much less if she had a big estate to contend with.

So when I came across this article about 1906 mourning, I was intrigued. Remember the first episode of Downton Abbey, when the always forthright Lady Mary asked if she had to go into mourning for poor cousin Patrick who had been lost on the Titanic? Mourning was a big deal then, and you literally wore it on your sleeve. I’d be interested to see the actual timeline of how and when we lost mourning, and began expecting people to just get on with life. I’d also love to know how other countries deal with mourning now. Do you have to go right back to work, or do employers give you time to process things before jumping back in?

The article I read, in The Designer magazine, talks about the importance of all of your black being the same shade. At three months, you could add a thin band of white at the neck and wrists. Fabrics used for street outfits were flat and dull, usuall crepe (of course), Venetian (per Merriam-Webster “a fine worsted fabric used especially for suits, coats, or dresses and made in twill or satin weave with a napped or clear surface and a lustrous finish”) broadcloth, serge, cheviot (made of wool or shirting) or zibeline (a wool from camel’s hair, alpaca, or mohair). In the home, cashmere, henrietta (a twilled wool), “Priestley novelties, eudora, albatross or nun’s veiling” were worn. Trims were done in dull braids, crepe cording, or mourning silk frilling.

By 1906, young children were no longer put into deep mourning, so their options were more open. Frequently worn were white dresses with black sashes, gray dresses with black braid or the like. If deep mourning was considered appropriate, they might wear dresses of black cashmere or henrietta, with guimpes of plain white lawn or nun’s veiling. Very little girls always had the white guimpe to relieve all of the black. These outfits were finished with black shoes and stockings (no patent leather tips), and all black hats and gloves.

What do you think? Do you think we support mourners today like we should, or were the year long mourning periods of old over the top? I’m interested in what you think.

Standard Patterns, 1906.

1900s fashion, sewing, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

A Fact About Nurses That I Never Knew

I’m a nurse. Have been for a while. I graduated in 1983, so I’m what my boss used to call an old nurse. I’ve seen uniforms come and go, and even got into a discussion on Facebook the other day about how I miss nurses wearing white. Yes, it was a pain in the butt to do the laundry, but at least people knew the nurses from the housekeepers, but I digress.

So I came across this little nugget the other day, when I was scanning a new book about drawn thread embroidery and listing it in the shop. First, let’s look at nurse’s uniforms in the UK in the early 1900s.

British Nurses, early 1900s. Photo: Pinterest

Apparently,their caps had bonnet strings. The book I scanned said that nurses liked to decorate their bonnet strings with drawn thread work. The designs were simple. The strings were made from lawn linen, as were a lot of garments then. One piece of lawn could make several strings, so you could make them in multiples all at the same time. The lawn had to be 56 inches in length, and 5-6 inches in width.

The pictures above and below show the end of a bonnet string when embellished with drawn thread embroidery. I’d never hear of this before, but I think they are beautiful. It reminds me of how kids in school uniforms still try to stand out by accessorizing differently, but with nursing, we’ve always been held in an even tighter box with our uniforms. When I started working in the nursery, we couldn’t even wear mascara, because it might drop on a baby and contaminate them. Mascara. Life threatening. Who knew? I’ve never had manicures done on any regular basis, or even worn nail polish. Jewelry is even a no-no in many nursing jobs, except a pair of stud earrings and a wedding band, so this really fascinated me. It shows me that even in the days of washing out bedpans by hand and taking care of patients without antibiotics, there were still living human beings who just wanted to look pretty. Isn’t that wonderful?

And while you are at it, check out this list of nursing rules from the early 1900s. “Don’t forget your coal.” Good stuff.

1900s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Corsage Skirt

I came across the term “corsage skirt” in my readings. It’s shown here in this 1906 pattern.

3015, 1906.

They were designed to show off the figure. I’m thinking perhaps the corsage term came because they tucked flowers into it, but I could be quite wrong. They were very detailed skirts, embellished with lace, embroidery or both. Here’s an explanation of the skirt that I found: “whether built upon princess or modified Empire lines, corsage skirts require soft separate blouses to wear under the dainty framework waists which are so cool and pretty for the summer. Such blouses are never trimmed with cross-wise lines, but observe the long lines of the garment with which they are worn, by having trimming, frills and tucks, or folds, put on lengthwise lines, from shoulder or neck to waist. The only deviation from this rule is when a girdle is made of a fold, or ribbon of satin or velvet around the top of the corsage skirt. In such cases one or more ribbons or folds are run around the blouse, hanging loose from the lower edges and giving the appearance of continuation of the lines of the skirt or a little bolero worn with it.” (The Washington Times, June 17, 1906)

Celebrity, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

You Learn Something New Every Day

Hollywood 1111, circa 1933.

I love the Smithsonian. I think everyone should visit it, although it likely would take a month to make it all the way through the museums. I was wandering around the catalog of the Museum of American History, looking for the dress I mentioned in my last post, and lo and behold what should I find but that the Smithsonian has sewing patterns! Specifically, these two patterns, though there may be more that I haven’t found. Amazing. The first is the iconic Ginger Rogers on Hollywood 1111, circa 1933. The second is Betty Grable on Hollywood 870 from the forties. The Betty Grable one is an odd choice, since there are so many cuter ones with her on it, but I’m not a curator, so what do I know?

Hollywood 870, circa 1940s.

I was more than a little surprised to see at first glance that they do not have any of the Lucille Ball patterns there. She was truly a beautiful woman, and there are some pretty phenomenal patterns featuring her (and Desi). I wonder how they choose what they add. If there are any curators out there, I’d love to know more.

designers, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Bringing the Extra to Extra

I’ve had this sheet music for a while and have always said that it would look great framed. It’s from the 1944 movie “Lady in the Dark,” and features Ginger Rogers in all her glory. That costume is fantastic.

I saw this post on the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Instagram the other day and it explained why this dress is simply iconic. This costume was designed by Edith Head. She, of course, went on to win eight Academy Awards for costume design. At the time the beauty was designed, it cost $35,000 to make ($15,000 of that was the mink). That equates to about $571,000 today. For ONE dress. It is said to be the most expensive costume in movie history. Ms. Head was right when she said that it simply couldn’t be made today unless a studio gave the costume designer an open wallet. Funny thing is that Ms. Head wasn’t even supposed to be the costume designer for this movie. Valentina was, but Ginger Rogers didn’t like her designs, so they brought in Ms. Head. Serendipitous.

Photo: V & A Museum, Instagram.

What makes it even more amazing is that this was done in 1944 — smack in the middle of wartime. So much for fabric rationing, though the actual amount of fabric is pretty small, but those sequins. WOW. And mink trim and train? Yep. Couldn’t be done today.

Original movie dress and jacket, embellished with faux stones and mink. Photo: Edith Head, by Jay Jorgensen.

Pretty fantastic, huh? It appears that this dress is the sequined version. Two versions were made, according to the book Edith Head: The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer, by Jay Jorgensen. The original dress and matching mink jacket had faux jewels applied to create the shimmering effect, but when Ms. Rogers tried it on, it was too heavy to wear during the dance scenes. They created a second, sequined dress. That dress was worn during the dance scenes, and Ms Head later took it to the fashion shows she would host. The original dress with the stones was shown in two scenes of the movie, then was donated to the Smithsonian, though I haven’t been able to verify that it is still there.

Sequined version of the dress. Photo: Edith Head, by Jay Jorgensen.
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Not Fashion, But Can You Imagine?

A menu for a 1906 stag dinner.

Stuffed olives: These are served on rounds of crisp bread which has been fried in butter then spread with anchovy paste.

Soup Royale: made from chicken broth, clams and sweet corn pulp, with eggs dropped in. Sounds like a version of egg drop soup. Alternately, a clear beef marrow bone soup could be served. The recipe for the clear soup takes two days.

Planked fish, brown bread sandwiches: the easiest dish on the menu.

Thumb Bits: broiled tenderlion of beef and served with potato balls with Mustard sauce.

Broiled Squabs with orange fritters around a mound of boiled rice. The rice is just for show.

Artichokes on toast.

Tonquin ice – a type of lemon ice with added ginger.

Game pasty: a type of double crusted pie served cold or hot. The pie’s filling is made from six quails just in half, then combining the livers of the quail, minced mushrooms, the yolks of two hard boiled eggs and one yolk from an uncooked egg. The birds’ cavities are filled with oysters, then the whole thing is covered with chicken stock and then cooked. BE sure to top it with a pastry rose!

Lobster Salad: This can be made a day in advance — hallelujah! It is comprised of lobster, cucumber pulp, gelatin and mayonnaise, then moulded.

Mocha Pudding: yes. Coffee infused pudding.

Cafe brule a la chandler: Use a sugar cube that has been saturated with “high proof brandy.” Set it afire, which will burn it down to a nice caramel syrup, then turn it into the coffee. “Pass sugar, for the caramel, like all caramel, will not possess much sweetness.”

I also came across a 1902 Thanksgiving dinner menu that included a recipe for mincemeat that added up to almost fifty pounds — including nine pounds of sugar! These old recipes are crazy, aren’t they?