1900s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

We Must, We Must….Support Our Bust

New Idea 4155, ©1906

I came across this pattern in a 1906 issue of New Idea Woman’s Magazine. “For stout figures the bust supporter is almost indispensable, as it gives a trim, firm effect to the figure. It is worn over a corset, and may take the place of a corset cover, though many women prefer to wear a chemise or corset cover with it.”

The front is two sections, a top yoke and a lower boned portion. There are five bones which are eight inches long each. The back buttons at the top of the back, and the tape wraps around from the back to tie in front. I’m not sure the purpose of that tape? It is shown plain but some would also embroider it to make it more dainty, as per the dainty fashions of the era. These were made from coutil (corset fabric) but could also be made from heavy linen or heavy muslin.

Edwardian women wore so many layers, I really don’t know how they could survive in the heat. I am NOT a summer person at all, and never have been, and I think I would’ve been in a swoon all the time. I would like this as a stand alone undergarment if I were not a stout woman though. I think it looks super comfortable if it were made without the boning. God knows it looks more comfy than a bra, yes?

designers, Hollywood, sewing, vintage fashion

Jacques Fath & Rita

Photo: Life Magazine

Rita Hayworth was something of a muse to Jacques Fath, who designed her blue wedding dress to the Prince Aly Khan, as well as her trousseau of 15 gowns to get her through the wedding week. Her wedding dress, designed in a powder blue Fath called “Rita Blue”, was copied almost immediately, and made available to the American public whilst the happy couple was still on their honeymoon. It was only available in America in navy and black. He then designed her maternity wardrobe shortly afterward. The sale of her wedding dress design caused an on again off again feud between the two, and Fath reportedly didn’t even send congratulations to Rita at her next wedding only four years later. There is no word whether they reconciled before his very untimely death from leukemia in 1954.

This dress, shown in Life Magazine was also designed for Rita, and was also seen in her namesake blue.

sewing, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Gown of the Year

As the fashion industry began to hit its stride after World War II, new fashions began to be seen. Dior’s New Look, of course, was one. Dresses began to be made with voluminous amounts of fabric that weren’t allowed during wartime rationing. In New York, a contest for “Gown of the Year” was held.

14 designers were asked to submit their designs, and they were worn by socialites at the ball. The jury was all men (!), and included Basil Rathbone, Richard Aldrick (a producer), and singer Morton Downey. The winner? Jean Desses, who had not only never been to the US before, but had never exhibited a dress here.

The ball gowns were worth a total of $7650 and were designed by Sophie, Jo Copeland, Christian Dior (New York), Henri Bendel, Ceil Chapman, Mme. Garnett, Desses, Carrie Munn, Lilly Dache (who I didn’t realize designed dresses, as she was known for hats), Oleg Cassini, Charles James, Omar Kiam, Nettie Rosenstein, and Adrian. Shown here (designers as listed above, from left to right).

The winning gown, with Msr. Desses on the right.:

Photo: Life Magazine.

The Christian Dior, New York dress, constructed 80 yards of lace and tulle just in the skirt:

Photo: Life Magazine

The Carrie Munn design. Is that skirt quilted?

Photo: Life Magazine.

The (fantastic) Adrian dress:

Photo: Life Magazine.

No word on the criteria for design or judging, other than it needed to be considered as Gown of the Year. I don’t know if they continued this contest yearly, or if it was just to jumpstart the fashion industry, but I’d love to see something like this today. I doubt we’d see it, as designing for a contest is probably too cost prohibitive for today’s fashion houses, but it sure would be interesting to see. With some female judges this time, please?

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.

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.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Surprising

Simplicity 1170, 1944.

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.

Hollywood, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Pump Up the Drama

Simplicity 1866

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.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Fabulous Friday: So Pretty

Simplicity 3444.

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.

Am I right? Click here to purchase.

1950s fashion

Originator Patterns

Originator 416

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:

Originator 1286
Originator 1200
Originator 316

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.

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.