1950s fashion, designers, sewing patterns

Susie Stephens – Midwest Goodness

Butterick 6879.

I listed this cute pattern in the shop this morning. It’s Butterick 6879 and it’s adorable. I love View A, but can’t imagine doing all that bias tape trim. It’d be worth the work, but wow. This pattern is part of the “Susie Stephens” line from Butterick.

Susie Stephens, in case you didn’t know, is a line of sewing patterns designed by students at Stephens College, in Columbia, Missouri. (Fun fact: I grew up not far from there, and always thought of it as a rich kids school. But I digress.) At Stephens, they had a yearly fashion show done by the students. It was called “Susie Stephens.” It commonly had a theme, such as in 1952, where the them was “Campus Classics from the Classics,” and featured garments and millinery inspired by books such as Little Women, David Copperfield and Wuthering Heights. These garments were shown in fashion shows around the Midwest.

A 1947 article notes that the designs were fresh and adaptable, with rompers that had skirts to go over them, coats with enough volume to carry books underneath during the rainy season, and much more. On the day of the show, it was surmised that the garment district of St Louis must’ve emptied out and headed to Columbia, along with designer staff from Kansas City and New York. Budding designers were hired straight from these shows. The next day, the show was done again for the people of Columbia, where customers could choose the garment or the patterns, to take to their dressmaker for adaptations.

By 1950, Butterick had taken notice, and started their “Susie Stephens” line. This line was specifically created from the Stephens College students’ designs, and was advertised for teenagers. By 1952, they had printed 30 designs in the Susie Stephens line, but it seems to have waned in popularity after 1953, and disappeared completely after 1954. It’s worth taking a look at this cute line of patterns.

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

Thank Your Lucky Stars for Claire

I saw this meme over the holidays and had to laugh. It’s said that it’s a white-girl thing that every time someone admires a dress, the girl responds in kind “thanks, it’s got pockets.” Now I don’t know that it’s purely a white-girl thing, but women do love themselves a good garment with pockets. And do you know who you can thank for that?

Claire McCardell.

Ms. McCardell was known as the one who invented American sportswear, and for good reason. She was tall and athletic herself, the only sister in a family with three boys, and she wanted comfortable clothes she could move in. She ended up as a founding board member of Sports Illustrated. I doubt that a fashion designer has ever had that privilege since. She really did push sportswear to a whole new level (and I’m not talking about polyester gym suits and tennis dresses here).

Claire McCardell liked simple clothes that you could move in, in fabrics like jersey that draped well and moved with you. She loved cottons too, especially in plaids. Indeed, she made plaid ok to wear for evening wear. She pushed the notion of wearing tights and flats on the streets, instead of spike heels. She made jumpsuits and their shorter version, the playsuit, ok to wear outside of the Rosie the Riveter factory jobs. She put details on clothing that hadn’t been seen before or were seen only on jeans, like topstitching and yes, pockets. Those pockets that we love so much now.

Claire McCardell made it ok to wear separates, like shorts and blouses, capris, and the like. I’ve had two Claire McCardell patterns over the years: a Spadea (that sold for over $200 at auction) and a rarely found McCall’s pattern that probably sold for much less than it should have (I can’t remember). The Spadea was for one of her iconic dresses. The McCall’s was for sportswear separates. They aren’t easy to find, but the two patterns showed the full spectrum of what McCardell did.

I’m pretty sure that this Spadea 1130 is the one I had (it’s been a while). Simple lines and pockets.

Spadea American Designer’s #1130, 1953.

Here’s the McCall’s one I had. It’s a great representation of her love for sportswear separates and sadly, is from 1958, the year Claire McCardell died a very untimely death from cancer.

McCall’s 4494, 1958. Photo compliments of the Vintage Pattern Wiki.

If you are interested in Claire McCardell’s philosophy of dress, take a look at What Shall I Wear? , a book she authored that includes all kinds of advice on how to dress. I have a copy, and I love it. If you want to see more of her designs, grab Claire McCardell Redefining Modernism. It’s a coffee table book that has all the history of her designs, along with beautiful full color photos. Set aside some time for this one. You’ll want to give it its due, because it really is a wonderful book.

Until next time,
Lisa

Some links may be affiliate links where I may get a small stipend if you make a purchase.

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

Start the New Year With Something Pretty

Vogue 1434, Nina Ricci, 1959.

I was listing this gorgeous pattern on the website today and went searching for Nina Ricci online. I came across this equally beautiful photo of a dress from her 1961 collection and had to share it, because we all need to go into the new year thinking pretty thoughts. Print available here.

Nina Ricci, 1961.

Happy New Year to you all. May your year be full of light and joy and beautiful things.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Blast From The Past

I listed this Hollywood pattern in the shop last week. I love old Hollywood movie star patterns. It’s so fun to see who they feature. I listed this catalog last week — it features both Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis. I’ve also had one in the past that featured a dress from Gone with the Wind and Ann Rutherford. Fun stuff, they are.

So this pattern, besides being super cute and versatile, features Ruth Warrick. Ruth Warrick went on to play Phoebe Tyler on All My Children. She was one of the original scheming divas of daytime television, and I should know, given the fact that I was basically raised on soaps. My mom will tell you that she was watching As the World Turns when they broke in to say that Kennedy had been shot. Years later, they showed that exact moment at the beginning of the Kennedy movie, with Kevin Costner. I actually said out loud “that’s what my mom was watching when this happened” right there in the theatre. Yes, people stared. I didn’t care. I was having a moment.

I think at some point Mom watched almost all of the soaps except perhaps General Hospital. She was a big CBS person, so most of her soaps were there, but she watched All My Children and some of the other ABC soaps too. Little secret, I have a male friend who is 60, and he watches Young & The Restless every day. His whole family does, so it’s a bonding experience for the Texas and Arkansas sisters and parents to have with him, here in Indiana.What about you? Did you watch soaps growing up? Do you still watch them now? Tell me in the comments.

1950s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Something is Afoot

Some of you have followed my foibles in sewing. I suppose it’s a bit funny to watch someone who’s sold sewing patterns for twenty plus years actually learn how to use them. Even I think it’s rather funny that I love seeing patterns so much, yet have such limited sewing skills. So here we go again.

Simplicity 3388

I decided to make my mom a flannel nightgown for Christmas. She’s always cold and loves curling up in flannel, especially since her electric blanket isn’t working. I chose Simplicity 3388, because it’s marked easy (a lie) and it’s pretty (truth). I got the flannel from FABRIC.com, because I absolutely hate Joann’s website, and still can’t go into stores because yeah, pandemic. It’s a super soft flannel called Comfy Flannel Micro Dot, and it’s really pretty. They also have a similar one with stars, and that one’s on sale right now. I’d definitely use this fabric again.

First disaster: I didn’t order enough fabric. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe I read the requirement for the shorter style, I’m not sure. I realized when I laid it all out that I’d need more, so I went ahead and cut what I had while I was waiting for more to come. No worries, I have plans for the extra, so it won’t go to waste.

The bodice went together ok. I even felt rather smug that it was going well. The big detour I had to take was when the instructions talked about collar facings, and I had none. I spoke with my favorite handy dandy Facebook group and found that in 1950, the my didn’t make separate facings—you just cut two of whatever you needed. One piece was the actual piece, while the other was the facing. Then I was informed that I’d cut the collar wrong. Apparently when they wanted you to cut something on the fold but it wouldn’t fit along the fold, they made dotted lines on the cutting chart, and you were supposed to flip the piece and cut it as one. See below:

The ones with dotted lines mean “flip that piece over and cut it again, so you have two pieces.”

So I realized that I had cut the collar wrong. No biggie. I decided to make the Peter Pan collar as two pieces instead of one long continuous piece. I think it may have made it a bit easier. At this point, I realized that in this time period they had you make your own bias tape, which is a thing of the devil, so I pulled out some white bias tape and went to work. Because of my shortage of fabric and the cutting faux pas, I did without the facings and used interfacing as the under collar. It all came together ok.

I’m not sure why this pattern has a button and a ribbon tie at the neckline. It seems a bit much, and since I’ve never done a buttonhole yet (rookie), I just left the bodice open, and will add a ribbon if Mom wants it. Also, note that the ribbons shown on the sleeves are run through a casing, and there’s no elastic. They also are located further up the arm, to create a kind of flounced cuff. I thought the ribbon might be annoying, given the propensity for things to slip through a casing (yes, I could’ve anchored it, I suppose) so I just added elastic instead. The bodice ruffle is a bit wonky, but I’m going to add a ribbon there, I think, to help cover it.

It didn’t come out perfect, though I do feel kind of proud that I got the sleeves set in on the first try. I’ve never done anything with sleeves yet, so I expected trouble, and got none. All I have left to do is the hem, and although it’s not perfect, Mom won’t care, because it’s warm and it’s pretty. Here’s a quick picture of the finished gown:

The only other thing I will say about this pattern is that the skirt is very full. Like, when I held it up to show hubby, he thought it was way to big for my tiny mom. It actually looks like the skirt is way too big, but the bodice fits my bust 34 dress form perfectly. I think it’s just designed to be really full. And if you are making this for someone elderly, that can be a worry, because the elderly have problems sometimes with getting caught up in their bed linens and falling — it happened to my dad a couple of times. I’m a bit worried about that with Mom, but she’s still pretty spry, so we’ll see. I hope my sewing doesn’t kill her. Seriously.

But it turned out pretty and I’m happy, and I think Mom will like it. I still have to hem it before Christmas. If you love the pattern and want to try it, you can get it from my shop by clicking here for bust 34 and here for bust 42.

sewing, sewing patterns, Uncategorized, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Lookie, Lookie!

Butterick 3205, from 1890.

I was looking through this amazing Butterick monthly catalog from 1890, and came across this gorgeous wrap on the right. I have no idea how it works, but I’m in love with the idea of it. Is it a coat? A cape? A cape-coat? Where do your arms go? What does the front look like?

I. Have. No. Idea. But it was love at first sight, and I’d make it in blood red velvet or even green, and I’d probably never take it off. What do you think?

genealogy, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Connections

Pictorial Review 2712, 1927

I love genealogy. I love to see how we connect to our past, and all the stories connected to it. This pattern is one example. It’s Pictorial Review 2712, and it’s from around 1927.

My grandmother worked for Pictorial Review in the 1920s. She was a fashion editor, and was something of a Manhattan socialite, having come from a family who came over on the Mayflower, then settled in New York. She went on to marry my grandfather, a West Point graduate, and to give birth to my dad and uncle. Grandma was born Helen, but changed her name to Helene because she thought it was more romantic. She continued to write under pseudonyms, including Camilla Kent — ironic, given the fact that the former Camilla Parker-Bowles is now the Dutchess of Kent. She did a lot in her life, and lived to be 95. I wish I could talk to her now and hear her stories.

So Pictorial Review patterns have meaning for me, especially the 1920s ones, because maybe she had her hand in choosing them for the magazine. This one, being from 1927, has special meaning, because that’s the year my dad was born. I imagine her wearing the 1920s styles Pictorial Review put out, and even though this one is a girls’ pattern, it might have fit Grandma because she was TINY.

Grandma went on to author a book with my grandfather, after collecting antique dolls and dollhouses for years. Grandpa wrote his autobiography, as did his dad, and then my dad. The stories are there. I hope that my kids appreciate them one day as much as I do.

Click here to purchase this pattern in my shop.

sewing, sewing patterns

Cool Christmas Gifts for the Sewist / Fashion Lover

Every year my mom asks what I want for Christmas. She seems to think I’m hard to buy for, despite the fact that I tell her to get what she’s gotten me the past several years: a good coffee table fashion book. Of course, I like weird things like sewing patterns that she’d never know how to buy, but you can’t go wrong with a good book, right?

So here is a list of things that I like, and maybe you will. Some fashion, some not, but tell me what you think, or maybe buy one or two (I may get a small fee for some that are affiliate links):

  • Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams. I have this book and it’s just lovely. Quality binding, gorgeous photos and the text is top notch too. Great for any vinage fashion lover.
  • The Bombshell Manual of Style. I love books that tell how to dress or act. Etiquette books are among my top favorites, but ones like this that tell you how to depict a character are great fun. This one tells you everything from makeup to wardrobe to perfume, with references as to where the ideas came from. Everything you need to get in touch with your inner Jane Mansfield.
  • Vogue UK . Don’t mess with American Vogue. It’s trash, and Anna Wintour needs to retire (I feel a rant coming on). Edward Enniful has done some glorious things with British Vogue. This one is the Kindle edition, but you really need to see it. It’s incomparable to American Vogue (which sucks).
  • Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty. This one has been on my list forever, and somehow no one gets it for me. I think maybe my mom is scared by the holographic cover, which switches from Alexander McQueen’s face to a skull (sadly prophetic, yes?). Alexander McQueen was a modern genius who left us too soon, and I’d love to have this one in my collection. And if you haven’t seen the Amazon Prime documentary about him, why not? It’s SO good.
  • I want one of these so much.
  • You should get this and this for the sewing pattern enthusiast in your life. Books on sewing patterns are few and far between, so if your person doesn’t have these, get them. They’re wonderful.
  • Evelyn Wood is my favorite sewing You-Tuber. She breaks down things so even I understand them, and she’s adorable. Get your person a subscription to her Vintage Sewing School and it’ll give them fun all year long, even during quarantine.
  • If your person wants to learn how to sew or is just learning, they need the Vogue Sewing Book. Spend the money to get this first edition or find a used copy, but this is the all-encompassing sewing book that they need. Don’t worry about the age — trust me on this. It’s the perfect resource for sewing helps.
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::

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.