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, 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 patterns

One of Those Days

Sew Knit N Stretch 209

Yesterday was just one of those days. I usually use Sunday afternoons to do administrative stuff on the website, like update my records, add and delete links from the wiki, and tedious not-fun stuff like that. I think I sat in my office chair for four hours straight, just working on it. Ugh.

When I finally took a break, hubby asked me to drive him up to Walgreens. He’s currently not allowed to drive, because his defibrillator gave him a huge zap last week, and that takes away driving privileges for three months. I told him fine, as long as he went to my mom’s house with me afterward. Contrary to a lot of guys, he loves my mom, though they rib each other a LOT. Off we went to Walgreens. Halfway there (about a mile), I noticed that my battery light was on in the car. I’ve never seen it come on, but I’ve also never replaced the battery in the nine years I’ve had it, so I figured it was probably ready to be replaced. It was, because when I put the car into reverse to leave, it promptly died. As in that dreaded clickclickclickclickclick of death that you get when the battery is truly dead. Ugh.

Called my son. He was out of town with his girlfriend. Called our bestie. No answer. Texted one of our friends, no answer. No Uber in our town. So I resorted to the Buy Nothing group for our town on Facebook. If you’ve never participated, it’s great. You can offer stuff up to give away, request stuff, ask to borrow something or services, all kinds of things, but there can be no mention of money. Everything is totally free. So, for the first time ever, I posted a request to see if someone could rescue us, and man, did she come through! Showed up five minutes later, with her MECHANIC husband. They jumped us, he gave us some suggestions, and we got his card. All for free. And they were great people. Off we drove to Auto Zone, where we were waited on by a guy who I’m pretty sure was a robot, because he had the most flat affect of anyone I’ve ever seen, and he simply would not engage in any type of conversation. Their tester was broke, so I just paid for a battery, which Mr. Robot installed for me. (Husband had gone in to talk to them originally, and I sat in the very roughly idling car, which promptly died after a few minutes. That battery was DEAD dead.)

Well, the battery light is still on, so I’m thinking now that it’s probably the alternator, which sucks because yeah, more money. Ugh. But we do have a backup car so I’ll be driving that till I can get the main car looked at. Never did get my husband over to my mom’s, but I unwound with her by doing a new puzzle. If you’ve never bought a puzzle from Puzzle Warehouse, do. We found that it really helps with my widowed, elderly mom’s anxiety and it’s fun too. When I order from them, I get the puzzle the next day! They have excellent customer service too. And no, I do not get a kickback from them for this. I just really like the company and what they have to offer.

This was definitely a day to put a bag over my head and hide, so of course I thought of this amazing Sew-Knit-N-Stretch pattern from the 60s. It’s perfect for those days where you just don’t want to interact, or when you want people to stare, or when you want to impersonate a Japanese beetle in your tree. I’ve truly never seen anything like it before, though I did have a gorgeous makeup cape at one point. If you love this, and you want to help a girl out with an alternator, you can purchase it in my shop here.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing

New York Pattern 120

New York pattern 120. Mid-1930s.

This is a beautiful pattern from the 1933-1936 range. It has the small NRA (National Recover Act) seal on the bottom left front of the envelope. NRA patterns were from the 1930s-1940s. This one has the smallest logo I’ve seen. It’s a fabulous style — look at those cuffs! Interestingly, it also does not say “Gold Seal Pattern” like many New York patterns do, so this is an early one.

The thing I find most interesting is that it has Joan Bennett written on the front. When you compare it, you can see that it’s actually done in her signature:

Photo: History for Sale.

This is interesting to me because I’ve never seen a pattern of this era that was associated with an actress except Hollywood Patterns and Star Patterns. Hollywood, of course, was known for their patterns with stars’ photos in an oval on the front right cover, and they included them in their catalogs too. Star Patterns often had full body photographs of the actress. I’ve only seen a few over the course of time. But I’ve never seen a New York pattern associated with an actress, so this is kind of cool.

Joan Bennett was an immensely popular actress of the era, so I’m not surprised that they chose her. I’m just wondering how many more of these there are out there. Sadly, this one is missing the instructions, so I don’t know if there is anything on the instruction page about Ms. Bennett. If you know anything about them, drop me a line, because I’d love to know.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Fabulous Friday: the slip

Simplicity 1466, 1934.

For your viewing pleasure: Simplicity 1466, from 1934, for floor length women’s slips. Slips are a thing of the past for most ladies, and it’s a shame. I could identify a vintage slip by feel, because the nylon of those days is so much nicer than the icky stuff of today. Make it in silk and it’s the thing that dreams are made of. And look at that wide lace hem! ::sigh::

This pattern would work well as a slip of course, but it’s not too far of a reach for it to become a nightgown or even an evening gown slip dress, especially when paired with the right lace shawl. It’d be gorgeous in the peach color of the day, over a candlelit steak dinner. Am I right?

Now for sale in the shop, in bust size 34.

Have a lovely weekend,

Lisa

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

The Answer Dress

Simplicity 2390, 1957.

I came across this pattern, soon to be listed in the shop, and was intrigued by the fact that they call it an “Answer Dress.” What now would be known as a Little Black Dress was known as the Answer Dress in the late 50s.

The term Answer Dress was used for a few patterns in 1957-1959. Simplicity used it as a marketing term for “an ensemble that fills every dawn to dark need in a woman’s wardrobe.” They also marketed Answer Dresses for girls as well. These styles could be worn at work or for shopping, but could also be dressed up for cocktail parties. Some could be used as jumpers as well, which increased options even more.

How could you use this today? It’s perfect for someone who travels a lot, especially if you have to travel for work and need a dress that will take you from work to a more formal function. Add to it that these patterns are listed as “simple to make” and it’s a great idea for expanding your wardrobe easily. (Disclaimer: “simple to make” in the 50s is not necessarily the same as an easy pattern nowadays.)

These dresses have simple lines and can be dressed up or down according to your needs. They are a perfect idea for a capsule wardrobe, for those of you working on simplifying life. And yes, dresses can simplify your life! You can totally change these looks with accessories or shoes, or if you wear it as a jumper or not. Need more information on making a capsule wardrobe? Check out Project 333, by one of my favorite bloggers, Courtney Carver. She teaches you how to create a capsule wardrobe from only 33 items that you change up quarterly. I love this idea, especially since for the past year, I’ve probably only worn about a dozen different garments, because we are securely entrenched in quarantine. Post quarantine, perhaps it’ll be something more stylish than sweats and leggings, but there’s more time for that later on, post COVID.

Meantime, check out these patterns for cute Answer Dresses, and consider adding them to your wardrobe.

Simplicity 2444, 1958. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki
Simplicity 3130, 1959. Girls’ Answer Dress that grows. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki
Simplicity 2466, 1958.

I LOVE this one! There are so many options to choose from here. Plus, of course I’m always drawn to red, so that may help to explain why I am nuts for this one.

Which one would you make? Do you know of another pattern that would work for an Answer Dress but wasn’t marketed as such? Drop it in the comments and let me know.

Have a great day,

Lisa

Links may be for affiliates, where I get a small amount of compensation from purchases.

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

Treasured

McCall’s 4365

People email or call me from time to time, asking if I buy patterns. I do, sometimes. I’m always interested in what people have, and what the story behind them is. It’s very easy to hoard patterns, so I have to be cautious. At one point, I had 40,000+ patterns, but that was when I had a huge workspace. These days, not so much. That being said, I still have patterns in every corner of my office, mostly because I love them so much.

Last week, a lady emailed me saying that her mother had recently passed away, leaving several hundred patterns. The daughter plans to send some to the Vintage Sewing Center and Museum, but postage is very expensive, so she wanted to pass some along locally. We set a time and I went to look. What a sweet lady she is. She had all of the patterns laid out in boxes for me to look at in her garage. She even had a water bottle for me, in case I was thirsty.

The best part of getting patterns from people is hearing the stories associated with them. She said that her mother was a prolific sewist who made all of her clothes. She said that looking through the patterns was a blast from the past, because so many of them were associated with memories from her childhood. She had even found the pattern for her wedding dress in the mix, but she had thankfully pulled it out to keep it for herself. The patterns are a beautiful mix of kids’, women’s, mens and a few other assorted things like toys or home decor. She suggested that I take them home to look at them.

While I was browsing, she asked “is this you?”. I looked, and she was holding up a newspaper article about my shop, printed in the Indianapolis Star probably fifteen years ago. I told her yes, it was me — my name is different now — and we got talking. Turned out that we had lived in the same neighborhood in Indianapolis, gone to the same church, and she worked at the library we frequented for years. She left about ten years before we got there, but the parallels were crazy. Turned out that her mom had tucked the newspaper article into the boxes of patterns. “I think she wanted you to have them,” she said. I believe her.

So that’s how I ended up coming home with several hundred new-to-me patterns that I will treasure. And this is why I do what I do. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve connected to patterns from their past: their wedding dress pattern, kids patterns that their mom used for them and now they want to make it for their own kids, even one lady’s 1956 prom dress pattern, so she could make it for her granddaughter. I love what I do. I love the stories of where patterns came from, and where they are going, and I love the human connection. They are small pieces of fashion history that are so personal. I treasure them all.

Thank you, Melva. I will be custodian of your treasures until they find the next person who loves them.