sewing

The Ad Guys Were Working Overtime on This

I listed this cool 40s zipper repair kit in the shop the other day. It is made by Freed’m Slide Fastener Corporation, and is a replacement zipper pull kit. The advertising they packed into this baby is amazing.

For your consideration, I give you the following hyperbolic advertising:

  1. “Miracle adjustable zipper closure.”
  2. It insures against future zipper trouble. (Yes, the use of insure vs. ensure makes me twitchy too, but I think the use has changed since the forties, so I’ll give it to them.)
  3. “Freed’m Frees ‘Em.”
  4. The “Jaws of Freed’m”
  5. The Five Freedoms: freedom from catching, freedom from snagging, freedom from jamming, freedom from slipping, and freedom from failing. Interestingly, this may be a little play on Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series, painted in 1943.
  6. The “Magic Dial”

There’s no question that the ad guys earned their keep here, what with this all jammed into one little foldout. Add the bright red and green background and bingo! I hope they made a lot of money.

Now listed in the shop.

sewing patterns

A Mini-Rant Wrapped Up In An Informative Post

I may have mentioned some time back that I’ve sold online for years. I started out when eBay was text only — no pictures — so I’ve been around the block a time or two. I started out buying homeschool books, then started selling them, and it morphed from there. I started selling sewing patterns around 1999 or so, and have been hard at it ever since. I love what I do. I’ve been on eBay, another online mall (that now appears to be a porn site – WOW), my own website, and have been happily settled on Etsy for several years. I go back and forth about going back to my own website, but haven’t decided, so there I stay.

Once in a while, I get a message from someone on Etsy, asking if I will take (insert number) dollars for the pattern(s) they want to purchase. My standard response, thanks to one of my friends’ brilliance is “I’m sorry, but I post my best price.” Because I do. I’m not running a garage sale. This is my primary income. I take pride in what I do, and it’s WORK. Let me tell you how it works when one is selling patterns.

First, you have to find the patterns. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been featured in the Indianapolis Star, as well as Threads Magazine. I don’t have a shortage of people contacting me to buy patterns from them. I have to set up a time to look at them, and then travel to the location. I have to look through them and decide if they are something I really need, because patterns accumulate rather quickly. I’m choosy. Then I take them home and the work begins.

I have to count each pattern, making sure that not only all of the pieces are there, but that the pieces in the envelope match the pattern number and size on the envelope. A lot of sewists do mash ups, so I’ve found three or four patterns all in one envelope. This sorting takes time. I watch Netflix while I’m doing it sometimes. The other day, it took me two hours to get through about ten patterns because they were complicated and mashed up. It’s a process.

Once I’ve got the patterns counted and have noted any missing pieces, I take photos. I have a little space set up for this, but also have to have the right lighting. Then I have to edit the photos so they look nice. Old patterns aren’t always the easiest to make pretty, and though I don’t go to the Photoshop extremes that some people do, again, it takes time. Then I post photos to Instagram and Facebook, and try to remember to add them to Pinterest. This requires captioning and hashtags, so again, time.

Then I make the listing, again adding description, title, tags, and the like. I research prices to see what I want to list it at. Then, for history’s sake, I add the pattern to the Vintage Pattern Wiki, because that’s where the archive of patterns is located. I add a link to my shop’s listing there, too, so people can find it. When the pattern sells, I have to go back to the wiki and delete that link. Once I’m done with all of this, I file the pattern away numerically, in one of the pattern cabinets I own. It’s tedious. Filing is not my favorite thing, but it’s better than the old days when I would make the kids do it, and my daughter purposefully misfiled things because she didn’t want to do it.

Of course, when the pattern sells, there are shipping procedures, and a daily run to the post office, but you get my drift: this is work. I love love love what I do, and I’m glad that my customers find me and purchase from me. But it’s work. Are some pattern prices really high? YES. Are some patterns available less expensively somewhere else? Sometimes, but those sellers don’t make any money when you compare to the time they’ve spent.

I’m a professional seller who takes pride in her work, and has to pay her bills. So please people, before you go asking an Etsy seller if they will take less money for their hard work, think it through, because we’re not running a garage sale. We’re conducting business, and business doesn’t work like that. If it does, it won’t be doing it for long.

::end mini rant wrapped up in an informational post::

Uncategorized

Completely Unrelated

This is completely unrelated to vintage fashion or sewing or anything I normally talk about, but as the author of this space, I get to choose, right?

So today, I want to talk to you about My Octopus Teacher, on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it yet, why not? I will admit that I saw it pop up in my suggested viewing and wondered what the heck? A movie about an octopus? Seriously? Well, as you may or may not know, I usually watch something on Prime or Netflix while I’m counting pattern pieces, and I love me a good documentary, so I decided what the heck, I’ll watch it.

WOW.

This movie is SO good. The story is amazing. It’s about healing and our relationship with nature, conservation and yes, an octopus. It’s so moving. Every time you think it’s going to go one way, it surprises you and goes another. It’s simply brilliant, and gorgeously shot. You will probably never look at the ocean the same way, and I’ve always loved the ocean, so that’s really saying something.

And the music. It’s worth it just for the music alone. Kevin Smuts is the composer, and he truly made a gorgeous score. It’s very visual music — you can literally see the water moving when you’re listening, but maybe that’s just me. More on that later, but in the meantime, go watch this movie, then listen to the soundtrack on Spotify. It’s my new go-to work music.

sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Poor Boy Tops

I listed this pattern the other day. It calls these (very cute) tops “poor boy tops.” I’ve never heard that term before. Apparently it was something that was seen in the 60s and 70s, and was a real thing at the time. Poor boy styles started to be seen at the end of 1961, but didn’t really start taking hold for a few years later. 1961 saw them being sold in combination with “hot dog pants”, which cracked me up. In 1964, they were described as “ribbed, gently shaped pullovers.” The name reported had nothing to do with poverty, but I can’t find a reference to where the term actually originated. The original poor boy tops looked more like a sweatshirt style: looser and very casual, with ribbed cuffs and collar. Keep in mind that the early 60s were a time where it became more acceptable to be seen in public wearing pants, so the style morphed over time to something more fitted and stylish, designed to be tucked in. When they were worn with hip huggers (or low-rise, for the younger set who may not know the hip hugger term), it showed off the detail of the pants, gave a longer look and accented the waist.

Poor boy tops were often knit, but were also seen in cotton, with embellishments like lace. I even found one that was made of wool. Collars could be plain or rolled. They were occasionally cropped length. I found at least one reference to poor boy dresses with dropped waistlines, but have never seen a pattern for one.

. They continued to be seen in fashion over the next few years, and dominated the Fall, 1966 season, and continued to be seen well into the 70s, though not on the top of the fashion heap. By 1976, the style had disappeared — or at least the term had.

Click here to purchase.

1970s fashion, sewing patterns

Mrs Roper Was a Prophet

I wasn’t allowed to watch Three’s Company when I was a kid. My mother said I was “too young.” Basically, she was appalled by all that jiggling, but then again, she said I was “too young” to watch Gone With the Wind until I was in high school too, so I’m not sure where the bar was for her. I’ve seen a few shows of Three’s Company over the years, and was always amused by the always-clad-in-a-caftan Mrs Roper. Looking back, I think she most likely was an ancestor of the beloved Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek, but it would take a month of blog posts to discuss Moira’s fashion (which is AMAZING!).

Mrs Roper probably wore the most comfortable wardrobe in television history. Can you imagine how comfortable it was to never have a waistline, never have to worry about weight, and to have fabric fluttering around you under the lights? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is to be comfortable, especially over the past few months. But you know, I got thinking about it and realized that Mrs Roper was really preparing us for a prophet.

Think about it — caftans are perfect for Netflix and chill evenings (or days). They’re perfect for quarantine when, if you are like me, some extra pounds accumulate from baking banana bread and eating a lot of carbs. They hide all the figure flaws. You can even hide the fact that you’ve not been to the gym. Alternately, many of them can be belted, to change the look up. So when I came across this pattern in my stash, I squealed. It’s not only a long caftan, but you can make it in a pullover caftan top AND elastic waistband palazzo pants! I think this is the perfect 2020 outfit. Click here to purchase in my shop.

Uncategorized

Silkateen

I was prepping a new crochet pattern for the website (keep an eye out — it’s an Edwardian sleeping cap!), and came across the term Silkateen. When one is prepping vintage patterns, one has to be sure that the materials required are still available, or figure out what the comparable modern item might be. This one’s been tough.

Silkateen first was seen in 1897. It was shown at textile shows, and reportedly buyers were surprised at how similar to silk it appeared. The company manufacturing it (Kerr Thread Company) said that they were using techniques to create it that were over 50 years old, but had been lost over the course of time. Those techniques became a trade secret. The company ran night and day, trying to keep up with orders.

Ads are seen for Silkateen into the late 1900s, where it was advertised as both a fabric as well as a crochet thread. It is compared in one article as being comparable to DMC, thought I think they perhaps mean in weight rather than appearance. Silkateen was used for clothing, umbrellas and there were experiments in using it with lawn linen (with mixed results). It is described as a lustrous cotton for crochet, knit and embroidery.

Silkateen obviously had some lasting power in the industry, and though the name changed several times, it was around in different forms for years. Problem is, I still haven’t found what an actual modern substitute might be!

designers, vintage fashion

The Couture Group

While researching Donald Brooks for the previous post, I found that he was part of “the couture group.” Although I had heard of FOGA before, I hadn’t heard of this specific group, so I went looking.

The New York Dress Institute was a group of designers which numbered 1300 New York designers, and the Couture Group was a subset of top designers. The Dress Institute was the sponsor of the twice yearly Fashion Week, and dozens of designers showed there. First mention of the group is in 1945, but the Dress Institute was created in 1941, with the encouragement of the Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, in order to encourage people to buy American Fashion. It was much better known starting in 1946. This likely was due to the devastation of Paris’ fashion industry during the war years, and Americans attempting to establish themselves at the forefront of fashion.

In 1946, the designers numbered 19, but it grew over the course of time. The original 19 were: Hansen Bang, Anthony Blotta, Hattie Carnegie, Fox-Brownie, David M. Goldstein, Joseph Halpert, Anna Miller, Clare Potter, Jo Copeland, Ben Reig, Ren-Eta, Nettie Rosenstein, Herbert Sondheim, Spectator Sports, Claire McCardell, Pauline Trigere, Samuel Kass, Adele Simpson and Joseph Whitehead. By 1948, there were 30 members, all “high style, high price ready to wear manufacturers.” The group grew over the years to include Ceil Chapman, Mollie Parnis, Tina Reser, Ben and many more. Some of the members were also creators of French Haute Couture, such as Christian Dior.

Though the Couture Group definitely set the trends for fashion, they also seemed to be involved with the price of fashion as well, especially in the early 50s. They released statements seasonally in 1950-51 stating that the prices of their clothing would not rise, even if the government changed or even froze the prices of fabrics. Members of the Couture Group also contributed to underwriting the cost of Fashion Week (then known as Press Week) in New York, to the tune of $3000 each in 1952. That would be about $49,000 now, meaning the show cost about $1.5 to put on. That was a LOT of money, and though the couture designers showed collections, there were over 100 shows total to be seen during the week.

In 1966, the New York Dress Institute merged with the American Designers’ Group, which had been started in 1962 by a former chairman of the Couture Group. It was renamed the New York Couture Business Council, and in 1976 was again renamed New Directions.

designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

Donald Brooks

I found this pattern in my to-be-listed pile and wondered, as is typical of my inquiring nature, who Donald Brooks was. What I found was that I’m not sure I liked him very much.

Donald Mark Blumberg was a lifelong New Yorker. He worked in the early 50s doing window dressing for Lord & Taylor, while he was still a student at Parsons. Lord & Taylor asked him to design a collection for them, and his career took off from there. He began working at Townley in 1958, and took over the helm after Claire McCardell died — those were some BIG shoes to fill. (The more you learn about him, the more you will realize how different he was from her).

He worked at Townley until 1964. He favored bold prints. His 1960s Townley collection featured a python printed chiffon evening gown as its centerpiece. 1964 featured cowl necks (like the one above), bare shoulders, and got away from side closings on dresses. He opened his own house in 1965. Mid 60’s found him noted as one of the “three B’s”: Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, and Donald Brooks. He was all about details like back belts (martingale belts, as they had been known in the 40s and 50s), detailed metal belts, and the like. He dressed Babe Paley and Jacqueline Kennedy, and did a number of theatrical costuming jobs as well.

In 197s, it was said by the New York Daily News that Pat Nixon must’ve been planning a trip to China, because she bought one of his evening gowns, in a Chinese theme. He denied this, saying he had “no great rapport with the Nixons,” and added that his designs were “to theatrical and young” for the First Lady. Well. Judgmental, much?

In October, 1972, he was interviewed and said that women had been dressing down for a period of time and during that time had gotten away from fur. He thought fur was coming back. He said “American women’s guilt complex about ‘obviously chic’ clothes are erased now because achievement prone women have concluded that fashion is not a deterrent to accomplishment.” Wow. By this point, I was really thinking him to be rather a misogynist and wondered about many of his life choices. That year, he showed a collection of fur caftans in poncho, street and cape lengths, saying basically that any woman could wiggle, but wearing a draped poncho was more sensuous. He defended himself on the fur issue by saying he didn’t use any endangered furs because he did “no crimes against nature.” He did one collection a year from that point on.

Later in the 70s, he was primarily known for his work with fur, which continued to be his focus for the remainder of his career. He was quoted at one point as saying “You can turn an absolute whore into a lady by just putting pearls around her neck.”

See what I mean?

He was a great designer, winning the Coty Award three times, starting in 1962. He had Three Oscar nominations, including “The Cardinal” which required 2000 costumes, including 138 ball gowns. He ultimately designed for Ann Taylor, beginning in 1990, and died on Long Island in 2005 at age 77, as a result of effects from a heart attack he had a couple of weeks before.

That being said, I do love the dress shown above. It’s simple chic, and not difficult to sew, either. Click here to purchase from my shop.

1950s fashion, designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

Aurora Battilocchi

Advance Import 113, by Aurora Battilocchi

Aurora Battilocchi designed ladies’ fashion in the 1950s, and was thought by some to be the most creative Italian designer of the time. Her designs had a Parisian feel that combined with contemporary designs. Her designs worked for most women, because she did everything — empire looks as well as long torso looks with incredible details. She favored rich fabrics in brocades and satin, and her colors were equally so, in gold, flame red, sea blue and basic black.

One of her typical looks in 1955 was designed in tiers: a jacket where the hem created the first tier, and worn over a sheath dress that was cut again above the knee, creating the second tier above the final hem. Another model had a twilight themed skirt, with layers of pink, violet and blue organza. She was one of the only designers of the season to show a silk print. Ballgowns from this collection included a aquamarine silk dress with a pintucked bodice as well as a “tightly wound red and gold sheath with a huge bustle.” How I wish I could find a video of one of her shows!

She didn’t have much of a lifespan in American fashion though, as she disappeared from the scene here after 1961, and I can’t find anything about her from that point on. Perhaps she passed away, but she left a beautiful legacy. As was said about her in 1952, she was “renowned for her refined taste and understatement of the dramatic that is in itself dramatic.” Coco Chanel would approve.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing

Victory Sewing – the original upcycling

Anne Cabot pattern, 1941

I was researching this pattern, and found something interesting. It is from 1941, and was published by Anne Cabot, a mail order company. Ms Cabot wrote in a newspaper article that she first saw this apron during a fashion show at the White House, held during a press conference of Eleanor Roosevelt’s. The fashion show was to show off defense clothing that was durable and practical , and was put on by the Department of Agriculture’s Home Economics Department.

Ms. Cabot went home after the show and copied the apron, declaring it to be the best looking apron she’d ever seen. The bottom is separated into two pockets, and the top is one big pocket, so you can carry lots of supplies like brushes, rubber gloves, etc. It’s made from a yard and a half of fabric, so it can be made from scraps. Remember that during the war, fabric was rationed and there weren’t supposed to be frills or ruffles on clothing, so this is a great use of what you might have on hand, or make it from an old skirt or dress.

She suggested making it in denim — it would last forever — cotton, ticking, chambray or gingham. Denim would make this durable enough to wear at a defense job or in the garage! She designed a cleaning cap to go with it, along with a cute applique of a dustpan.

I love this little story of how this apron came to be. Buy it here, in my shop. If you want to read an interesting book about the history of home economics as it relates to fashion, read The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish. It’s fascinating reading.

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