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?

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)

1910s

What Do You Think of This 1914 Blouse?

I came across this whilst trying to date another pattern for collar, cuffs and vests from the same time period. I find it fascinating.

May Manton 8462, 1914.

I thought at first that the “vest” is a different garment, but it’s not. It’s attached, and only gives a vest effect. A faux-vest, if you will. I like it in theory, and it’s interesting to look at, especially with the contrasting fabrics, but I think in reality it wouldn’t lay right when you sit, and would probably bunch up at the waist. What do you think?

Description in the ad: “Here is a blouse which shows distinctly new features. It is quite simple and severe enough to be made of linen or pique and is well adapted to the various tub silks and to combinations of materials. Since the washable silks launder quite as well as cotton and linen, it is easy to combine them and the combination is extremely handsome. In the illustration, striped tub silk is made with vest, collar and cuffs of pique but in the back view, white linen is combined with colored. The long plain sleeves are exceedingly fashionable but, in spite of that fact, many women prefer the shorter length and these can be cut off as shown in the back view. There is just fullness enough in the blouse to be becoming while the plain stitched vest gives a tailored finish.”

I have so many questions. First, combining linen and silk when laundering would be a nightmare, yes? Add colors and whites together and how in the world did they make this happen? What kind of laundry wizardry was involved here?

sewing

Call the Pelisse

I’m reading some classic books right now, because there are so many I’ve never read. I started Pride and Prejudice, loaned it to my mom (who didn’t like it and returned it without finishing it), started Jane Eyre (which she gave to me – no word on how she liked it), so now I have both going. I find it hard to restart a book once I put it down, so I’m going to finish Jane Eyre before going back to Pride and Prejudice.

I know the story of Pride & Prejudice, having seen the Kiera Knightley version of the movie. I love it, though I know, everyone says to watch the Colin Firth version. I’ll get there eventually, but I’m not much of a TV/movie person, except when hubby and I watch our British TV at night. I can’t get him on board with period dramas, so it’ll be a while. But I digress.

I know nothing of Jane Eyre, except that it’s about an orphan. I’m learning so much though. I’m still in the early part of the book. Jane just left for school, and the book mentions that she went to the gatehouse wearing her pelisse. What the heck is that? I had no idea, but now I have a name for the wonderful garment I’ve always seen and loved (including in Pride & Prejudice). Here it is.

Pelisse, circa 1809. Photo: V & A Museum, London.

Basically, it’s a dress that’s like a coat. It was of the Regency era, and was often worn for walking. See some worn here, in the Colin First Pride & Prejudice version.

I have always been in love with these, but never knew what they were called. Now I really want one, but being a fluffy middle aged woman, I doubt it would be very flattering. But I still want one. And though as a fair redhead, I’m not much for blue, I really want one in a powder blue, like the one on the left.

The thing that makes this funny is that I haven’t worn a coat in over three years. I’m SO warm blooded — probably why I hate summer so much — that it’s very unusual to see me wearing anything more than a light jacket, even when it’s freezing outside. I carry a coat in my car in case I get stuck in the winter, but I never, ever wear it. I’m the one you’ll see driving in gloves with no coat, because my hands get cold, but the rest of me doesn’t. But seriously, I want a pelisse, please.

1950s fashion, 1970s fashion, Celebrity, designers, Hollywood, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

70s Does 30s

Vogue 2286, from 1979.

When people mention something is 70s does 30s, or 80s does 50s, for example, do you know what they mean? Fashion has a great way of repeating itself, as seen in this iconic scene from The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda dresses Andy down like no other:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja2fgquYTCg&w=560&h=315]

So when someone says 80s does 50s, they mean that it’s an 80s style, done in the vibe of the 50s. This is how I actually realized I loved vintage, because all of my 80s dresses were done in a 50s vibe, with a few 80s does 40s thrown in for good measure. I had a wonderful white peplum dress with red polka dots that was a particular favorite, which my ex also dumped coffee on during a five hour drive to Boca Raton for a wedding. Nothing like showing up with a huge coffee stain across you lap. But I digress.

This beautiful Bill Blass patter is a great example of 70s does 30s. The disco era is full of echoes from the 30s, with the beautifully cut bias maxi dresses, and this one is no exception. It also has a great tuxedo vibe, which is reminiscent of the Annie Hall look of the same time period. It’s a beautifully draped menswear inspired dress, and that is one hard thing to pull off. Also, because of the jacket, you can wear it in winter if you’re daring, and taking off that jacket would give you a great Grace Kelly “Rear Window” reveal vibe, seen here at :57, in her 50s does 30s top:

Well, maybe not that dramatic, but still — you’d catch everyone’s eye when that jacket comes off.

What do you think? Click here to purchase.

1970s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

Fabulous Friday: Happy 4th of July

McCall’s 3142

Do you have plans for the holiday weekend? We don’t, as usual, but that’s fine with me. Our neighbors will be shooting off fireworks way too late in the evening and driving our dogs crazy, but the weather is supposed to be nice so we will enjoy the outdoors during the day and hide with the dogs huddling in fear at night at all the booming around us.

So in honor of the holiday, I wanted to show you this flippy little sailor dress, which is perfect for the holiday weekend. The sleeves and skirt are flared, so it’s perfect for most shapes, and it’s quick to make too. Click here to buy.

Have a great weekend and stay safe with the explosives, please.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Home Patterns

I was trying to date this particularly beautiful Ladies’ Home Journal pattern, and came across some interesting information. Note that the envelope says that Ladies’ Home Journal patterns are manufactured exclusively by The Home Pattern Company. This company was apparently dreamt up in 1904 by the people at Ladies’ Home Journal — probably trying to jump on the burgeoning sewing pattern business.

In 1907, the company held a dinner for “men in the pattern trade” — can you imagine? Only men were allowed? Sheesh. But I digress. Over 200 people attended. The toastmaster was the head of Home Patterns, Theron McCampbell. Mr. McCampbell said in his speech that his company was the “first to issue fine draft patterns,” and also the first to invite customers to meet with the officials face to face. He said that after three years in business, the Home Pattern Company now had 400 employees, sold in 2000 merchants across the country, and that in the last quarter, their printing bill had been nearly $150,000. Not a shy host, he. Apparently the biggest complaint amongst the speakers of the group was that “women were not made to fit their clothes, as designers of patterns insisted that they ought to be.”

Think about this. I’m not 100% sure what they mean, but I take it that they didn’t think women fit their patterns, or knew how to fit them, but they didn’t invite any women to the dinner where they complained about it. How does this make any sense? As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “women belong in every place where decisions are being made.”

In 1910, Home Patterns had an ad out, stating that they thought that American women could dress as stylishly as the French, and offering the chance for any woman who submitted a design to them to have her pattern printed for distribution. All they had to do was send in a rough sketch. Indeed, Home Patterns put themselves out there as being progressive, and really played down “old fashioned patterns.” It appears that the experts that they sent out to meet with women about their patterns were women themselves, but the officers of the company were always men.

It all appears to be rather short-lived, however. The Home Pattern Company disappeared from packaging certainly by 1920, and likely before 1915, when mentions of them disappeared from the newspaper. Ladies’ Home Journal continued to issue patterns into the 1970s though. It’s likely that the Home Pattern Company was absorbed somehow into the larger company. They continued to issue patterns for years, just under the Ladies’ Home Journal name.

vintage clothing, vintage fashion

College Wardrobe – 1913

I found an article in an old McCall’s Magazine from 1913, listing what a girl should take to college. Interesting, especially given the fact that not that many women went to college, and most of the time, I think their parents did it so the young woman could find herself a husband. But if you’re interested in what Edwardian co-eds packed, here goes.

A medium weight suit that won’t be worn often. Hat and gloves to match, as well as a dressy silk or chiffon waist and half doze whit waists of tailored or lingerie styles. Note that all of these waists, hat and gloves are to go with a suit that they say will be worn only to church or afternoon teas, or for trips into town. The suit would be worn more often if you were in school in a large city.

Plain dresses for wearing to class. Because buildings were better heated than homes, and were close together, gingham and linen was worn later into the fall and earlier in the spring than at home.

“Nine out of ten Freshman” wear one piece or blouses dresses of dark serge or flannel in the winter. They may be embellished with rosettes or ribbon ties. These dresses were worn with cardigans or lightweight coats in spring and fall, with a heavier coat for the winter.

It was not acceptable to wear middy (sailor) blouses or jumpers (sweaters) outside a skirt unless you were on an outing or at an athletic event. They reported that one unnamed student association made a dress code saying a blouse could not be worn outside at chapel, recitations or at the table.

Hats were only worn for dress occasions (with the aforementioned suit), but a simple felt hat was worn in the winter or for walks off campus. They suggested a crochets cap was also welcomed for cold and stormy weather.

Later in the day, style of dress “depends upon the size of your — or your father’s — purse.” Dressing for dinner was the norm, to change out of the dress you’d already worn all day. This was wear the suit-skirt came into play, or gowns from last summer, in light colors in silk, cotton and wool. It was also acceptable to wear white pique or linen skirts with lingerie waists. Just don’t wear your day dress!

Dinner wear or elaborate evening gowns for concerts and other more formal evening events were worn with an evening coat or cap. It is suggested that it should be durable in fabric and color, because it would be worn to everything “from fudge parties to committee meetings.”

One should also pack two or three wash dresses, a couple of simple afternoon dresses — one thin and one thick, and a boudoir cap. Pack a washable kimono for slipping on at the last minute, as well as another for dress up occasions. Kimonos were the rule for hanging out in the dorm, and silk crepe was the best fabric to make one in.

Underwear should be sturdy underwear that can stand up to college washerwomen, in enough quantity so as not to run out if the laundry runs a week behind. A nightgown of better quality, for when the girls drop in — no sleeping in a T shirt in 1913.

Extras: a gym suit and shoes, another kimono for washing, a warm bathrobe, bedroom slippers, a soap box to carry to the tub, percale or seersucker petticoats, high boots, low shoes and pumps, rain boots, umbrella, raincoat and a hot water bottle.

They also remind the reader to start a memory book as soon as they arrive at school, by keeping ticket stubs, programs, invitations, postcards and the like, and to remind family to keep their letters. They suggest making the book from manila paper and brown linen cover, or buy one in the college bookstore. I still have my grandfather’s memory book from his time at West Point. It is one of my most cherished items.

So now you are ready for college. Get packing!

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.