sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Why Do I Still Have This?

New York 872.

I’ve had this pattern for a long time. As in, a long time. I’m not sure why. I think it’s adorable. Romper / playsuit patterns are always popular, and I think this one is wonderful, but what do I know?

I got this pattern as a part of a salesman’s old stock, so it’s brand new and in wonderful condition, so that’s not a problem. It’s a bust 29, which is tiny, of course. My mom was a bust 29 when she got married, but it’s much more uncommon these days. That being said, I sell tiny sized patterns all the time, and people are pretty adept these days at resizing patterns to fit them, so I don’t know that that’s it.

It’s an unprinted pattern, which many sewists aren’t familiar with, so is that it? Perhaps. The rules of unprinted patterns are pretty easy though, so if people get over there fear and decide to expand their skill sets, they will find that it’s not so difficult as they may think.

Personally, I think the problem here is the illustration. Not that it’s not cute, but I think that pattern illustrations or photos definitely sell the pattern, and this one just looks perhaps too old fashioned for some people to visualize. That’s why illustrations look so different. Illustrators are taught to draw in a different scale than we actually are, in order to show the garment off as well as possible. They put the models in elegant poses. I actually prefer illustrated patterns from the 40s and 50s, rather than the modern ones that show the garment on people. Sure, photos show the garment on a real body, but I appreciate the art that went into creating the illustrations, and I look at many of them with a humorous eye, especially when they are seemingly talking with each other, have a tiny person at the bottom, or when they are leaning on imaginary objects. It’s just cute.

But this garment is obviously really cute. The illustration is sweet. The pattern is brand new. So why do I still have it? Please tell me.

1970s fashion, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Where I’ve Been, and Other Stuff

It’s been a while, and I apologize. Life took a huge shift as our world tilted on its axis a bit. We went to Michigan for the weekend on June 2nd, and it turned into a twelve day (mis)adventure.

We originally went to inter my parents at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan. It’s a beautiful place, and though I’d never seen it before that day, I understand now why my parents chose to be interred there, rather than closer to one of their kids’ homes. It is simply gorgeous. The place where they are is next to a farm field, and you can hear trains going by regularly — two things my parents loved. My daughter found a great house for us to rent in Holly, where our whole immediate family could stay, as well as my brother’s kids. To say that the house is gorgeous is an understatement. Though I ended up not spending as much time there as I had hoped (more in a minute), it was beautiful, and they took great care to make sure that we had literally everything we needed. There was lots of room to commiserate, and plenty of room to let the little ones roam, without fear of them destroying anything. Plus, it was near the railroad tracks, which the kids loved, and right on the other side was Holly.

If you’ve never been to Holly, Michigan, it is a cute little village that is very walkable, and has antique shops, restaurants and a couple of breweries. We enjoyed one brewery the night we got there, and the girls had plans to go antiquing over the weekend. Alas, it didn’t happen, but I did get there later. The kids walked over to a restaurant for breakfast, and walked to the floral shop to pick up flowers for the grave. I’d love to go back. It’s a nice place to relax, kick back and just slow down for a while.

We had the service, which turned into a bit of a fiasco, as we had little to no idea what we were doing, and didn’t realize how little time (5-6 minutes) the minister was given to say his words before we were shuffled away for the next funeral to begin. You don’t argue with the military. We decided afterward to go out to eat, but looked up several places, all of which were closed. We even drove to one before finding out that they were closed for renovations. What the heck, Michigan? So we ended up at a nice place called Little Joe’s Tavern. I can tell you nothing from then on, because as we were sitting there talking, my husband had a stroke.

My son was sitting next to him and long story short, noticed he suddenly couldn’t talk, and wasn’t moving one side of his body. I went over to him and he became VERY agitated. I still don’t know if he was trying to get off his chair, lie down, or what he was doing, but it took three of us to keep him seated and not fall, all whilst ducking a couple of punches he threw at me. That’s not his normal, let me tell you, so it was WILD. Paramedics came, we drove to the ER and the clock was ticking.

As many of you may know, you have about an hour from start to finish to treat a stroke, before the statistics become much more dire. He had three CT scans in rapid order, diagnosing what it was (a stroke, not a bleed), where it was (a mid cerebral artery) and how big the clot was (huge – it blocked blood flow completely from the left side of his brain). In all the bad news was good news — because of where the clot was, and the size of it, it could be treated with surgery, but he had to be transferred to Saginaw for that. They started TPA (a clot buster drug) and his (very hot) nurse, Amanda M (who my son diligently looked for on social media afterward because yeah, she was hot), got him out the door and into the ambulance. The doctor called while husband was en route, explained the surgery and got consent, and he went directly to surgery when he hit the doors of the hospital. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just get your butt to surgery right now. By the time I arrived, surgery was done and he was in ICU.

Miraculously, he now could move everything, but his speech was impaired. He would open his eyes, look around curiously, and as the lights came on in his brain, he would smile. He has no memory of the early days, though he does remember being in the restaurant, right up to the time of the stroke. He was in ICU for three days, step down for two, and then he went to rehab, where everyone proclaimed him to be a miracle (he is). He went home after six days in rehab, with orders for speech therapy.

The transition home was rough. He’s a TV kind of guy, and he can’t figure out the remotes. His speech frustrates him sometimes but he keeps trying. The appointments. Oh my word, the appointments. We’ve had an appointment every day, and sometimes two. He’s going to be evaluated for physical therapy and occupational therapy, to see if he needs it now that he’s in a home environment. We’ve had to shift some things around on how we do things and I’ve had to stay on alert at all times.

All this whilst we have an extra dog, for a total of four, because we are watching his grandson’s dog until he gets into a new apartment. AND still dealing with my mom’s estate stuff. Thankfully, the dogs have finally decided to get along, and we had a yard sale yesterday, unloading most of her stuff and donating the rest. Things look like they’re calming down a bit.

While we were in Michigan, I shopped almost every day, at least whilst he was in rehab. Visiting hours didn’t start till 3, so what’s a girl to do except shop? I found some really cool stuff. I went to lunch with a cousin in Holly, and we did finally get to hit one of the antique malls there, where I got a lot of cool stuff, including a fifties swimsuit pattern in a bust 38. Of course, I had the car completely packed, and thankfully hubby couldn’t see it. My youngest went out and brought it in thru the front door so it’s hidden away upstairs so he doesn’t have another stroke when he realizes all the shopping I did. But I mean, how can you NOT buy things like a 1940s matador outfit, and flamenco dresses to match? A fifties party dress in a beautiful yellow-green? A designer satin mother of the bride suit? An amazing Gunne Sax inspired dress that is new with tags? Seriously? I’m not stupid.

So I will get back to posting again soon, as time allows.

Until then,
Lisa

1970s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Where It All Began (Kind Of)

Simplicity 6926. Photo: FlorasNeedle.

I’ve been out of commission for a few days from an ear and sinus infection. Immunosuppression is not fun, folks. Thanks, lymphoma.

Whilst I was lying in bed feeling miserable, of course I was browsing sewing patterns when I came across this one. This is the first pattern I ever sewed. I was a sophomore in high school and decided that I wanted to learn how to sew. I took home ec in junior high, but only took the first semester, which was cooking. Second semester, instead of taking the sewing section, I switched to wood shop. Ironic, given my obsession with sewing patterns now.

I was the youngest of five kids, and though my mom could sew, she didn’t enjoy it, and by the time she got to me, she had pretty much stopped. She taught me all the needlework: knitting, crocheting (I’m VERY crochet impaired), embroidery and needlepoint, but she never taught me how to sew, and I wasn’t really interested. In my sophomore year of high school, something triggered my interest, so Mom got her old Necchi sewing machine out (a gift from my grandmother) and I set off to make this dress under Mom’s direction. I’m not sure that either of us really appreciated the process.

I made it in light blue chambray. It was, I’m quite sure, very wonky looking, but I wore it to school and was quite proud of myself. I then never sewed again until I was in my mid-30s, when I made my ex a couple of scrub tops (again, quite wonky, but bless him, he wore them all the time) and tried to make my daughter a Pikachu costume, which I dropped mid-project. It was still a couple of years before I started selling patterns, and now I’m in neck deep and loving every minute of it.

Sometimes things take time. Nursing was my passion from my earliest memories and was right up till a couple of years ago when I left to take care of my family. Sewing patterns started much later, and now I am obsessed, and learning to sew once again, albeit much easier projects. So yeah, if you are twenty, or forty, or sixty, just remember, finding your passion can take some time. The big thing is to not stop looking.

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)