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?
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.
I added this beautiful pattern to the website this morning. I find it interesting, because it came out in 1944, in the height of World War 2. The war changed fashion quite a bit, because the war effort even affected fabric. Though the US didn’t strictly ration fabric as Europe did, the recommendations in the US were to try to limit textile useage for fashion by 15%. This meant that hemlines went up, and fripperies were very limited: you saw very extras like ruffles, lace, pockets, and the like.
It is amazing to look at war era fashion and see what inventiveness comes out when you are limited in what you use. Perhaps the war years were a pre-Project-Runway reality challenge, to figure out how to create style out of limited means, or by upcycling old clothes. Remember, these were people who had lived through the Depression years, having to scrape by, so they knew how to pinch a penny. But this pretty pattern just surprises me in its timing. Having lived through so much conservation mindset is part of what set people off when Dior came up with his “New Look” in the late 40s, because it required voluminous amounts of fabric, compared to what had been seen in the war years. The culture shock shocked people, and they picketed in protest about what was seen as a perceived waste of fabric.
This look coming from 1944 surprised me. Had it been 1948 or 1949, it wouldn’t surprise me, as I think women really came out of the war wanting to look feminine. But 1944? Surprising. There are not only pockets that aren’t really necessary, but there are ruffles everywhere. It’s gorgeous, but surprising in its timing during a period of minimalism. Perhaps it was seen as a protest against the guidelines. Perhaps women just wanted to feel pretty with everything they were going through. The result is gorgeous, but again, sometimes it’s just the timing that makes me wonder what is going on.
I, like Cristobol Balenciaga, have a real thing about sleeves. Cool sleeves can really make an outfit. I love bell sleeves, batwing sleeves, Juliet sleeves, you name it. So when I saw this super cute 40s suit, I may have squealed a little bit. Look at those cuffs! They are just amazing. I’m imagining them in velvet, for an even more dramatic contrast.
But see the difference those cuffs make? I mean, it is a really, really nice suit. The details of princess seams and double breasted top are something you just wouldn’t see today, but those cuffs push the drama up considerably. It’s not necessarily something you’d see in a film noir, because you wouldn’t see the cuffs on camera (more on that another day), but they are definitely a look that is memorable.
What do you think? Do you love them, or would you prefer to stay away from all the buttons? Let me know. The pattern is available in the Etsy shop.
I came across this pattern this week and just sighed. It’s so softly feminine. What a pretty look for both a wedding dress and a going away dress, back in the day. I imagine it in a soft gray, kind of like it’s shown in the long length, and maybe a pale blue in the shorter version. I can’t stop staring at it.
I question the lace on the collar and pockets in View 1. I think it’s a bridge too far. I questioned the pockets as well, until someone pointed out that it would hold a hankie. I suspect however, that as my mother would say, “they are just for show.” I think that with where they hit on the hip, anything you’d put in them would fall out. Skip the extra lace and the pockets, and get yourself a cute little bag to carry. It’s all you need. This type of dress doesn’t need the extra embellishments.
I was going through a box of patterns a couple of weeks ago, and came across something I’d completely forgotten I had: four Distinctive Originator patterns. Sometimes known as Fashion Originator Patterns, these are one of those rare finds that always make you gasp a little bit.
Not much is known about the company itself. It appears that they were only published from 1948-1951, hence the scarcity. The designs are always very fashion forward. I’ve only come across a couple of other ones in over twenty years of selling patterns. They are, however, always fabulous, though difficult to date because of their rarity. Case in point, the above pattern, and these:
One 1948 ad mentions that the patterns were edited by “the style-wise Florence Hort,” although I can’t find any information about her either. Ads mentioned that they were made in limited editions, and in some cases, were only available on order in stores. Often, mention of Originator patterns was in tandem with Modes Royale patterns, which were also more cutting edge. It’s obvious that they were marketed toward fashion forward sewists.
Though they had only shown up in ads in the early summer of 1948, by the end of 1951, no mention of them is made. Perhaps they came before their time, or perhaps they weren’t as popular among every day sewists. If you find one of these now, you will have found a real treasure.
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.
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.
There’s a commercial on TV right now that I believe is for a cancer facility. It says that a person never forgets the moment they were told that they had cancer. Let me tell you about that moment for me.
I had had surgery for a large mass in my back that had been causing an incredible amount of pain. Doctors varied on what they thought it was – infectious disease thought an infection, orthopedics thought perhaps it was a hemorrhage (I’d been the chiropractor in search of pain relief), and oncology thought it was a tumor. So I spent the night in the hospital the night before to manage the pain, and they rolled me off to surgery not knowing what was in store.
It was cancer. I woke up from anesthesia surround by my boys and my husband (I can’t remember why my daughter wasn’t there but I think the baby was sick). My husband took my hand and looked very serious, which in itself is a big deal, because he’s a sarcastic nutjob like me. Everyone stared at me very intently as he told me what they’d found. A huge tumor, wrapped around the spinal cord, that they couldn’t remove without a tremendously complicated surgery. They didn’t know what kind of tumor, but they biopsies and closed me up. If they had to, they’d go back in, but we needed more information.
I will tell you that I have never felt more love in my entire life. The looks of concern in those three men’s eyes was something I will never forget. And you know what? I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get worried. I knew we had this, because with love like that, how can anything go wrong?
They didn’t know till later that day exactly what kind of cancer. It turned out to be lymphoma, and there were other tumors. We came up with a plan, starting with radiation to, as my orthopedist said, “melt” the spinal tumor. Three radiation sessions and it was completely gone. Immunotherapy, to kill the rest. A year later, there is no sign of the other tumors, though I have another year and a half of maintenance treatment to keep it gone. I have gone from Stage IIIB to “no evidence of disease.” Yes, it may come back, because with my type of cancer there is no cure, just remissions of varying length. But till then, I live my life and have a lot of fun.
So yes, you really do remember the moment you were told you have cancer. But that’s just the beginning, not an end. And in the middle, have a lot of fun.
Hospital gown pattern from World War II era, likely made for new moms who were in the hospital. Why can’t bed jackets make a comeback? They’re so pretty.
I blogged about this pattern illustration some time back. Look at how weird it’s drawn. It looks rather juvenile, especially when compared to other similar patterns of the era. This is Butterick 4699, from the 1940s. I love the style and, like it says, it’s Quick and Easy to make. But that illustration is disturbing. The faces are so crudely drawn, and when you add the claw-like hands to it, it’s really kind of creepy.
Then I came across this:
Same pattern, without the wonky faces. Doesn’t it look so much better? Now, I’m not sure I’ve seen other Butterick patterns from the era that were drawn only in outline, but in this case, it’s a vast improvement. I have no idea what happened here, but I’m thinking that the fashion editors rethought it and reissued the pattern without the weird illustrations. What do you think?