As you might imagine, after last week’s arrival of 10,000 patterns — no joke, folks, it is 10,000 — one could probably surmise that I’ve been just a wee bit busy. It’s actually been like Christmas in May here, with all of the beautiful designs I’ve seen. I’m slowly working my way through them, as well as building another website, because hey, who’s a glutton for punishment? THIS GIRL.
I may have squealed a little bit when I came across this beauty. I’d imagine that there is a fair bit of handwork in it, but it’s glorious, nonetheless.
Isn’t it lovely? On that note, I’m off to bask in more patterns. Click here to shop. Have a great weekend.
This is what my afternoon looks like. This truck is currently heading toward my house, ETA in two hours, straight from Texas. It contains five sewing pattern cabinets (YAY – I need them!) and ten thousand new-to-me vintage patterns.
TEN THOUSAND PATTERNS.
Dear Lord, what have I done to myself? Oh well, one grabs these things when one grabs these things, so I’m actually pretty excited. Husband, not so much, but he hasn’t really spoken badly of it. No matter, it’s my work to do anyway. It’s taken six months of planning this in the middle of a pandemic and a broken supply chain (and a knee replacement for the person at the other end of the delivery), but we persevered and now it’s happening. I’ll be interested to see what I find in there, and you’ll be seeing more lovelies, I’m sure.
Pray for me. Light a candle. Send good juju. I’m gonna need it in order to fit all of this into my workspace! More will be revealed after the unloading.
I was looking around in the newspaper archive, trying to date a Pictorial Review pattern, and came across a fun little article. The week of July 14, 1931, was Cut-Ready to Sew week.
What was this, you ask? This was the week that Pictorial Review offered five different patterns that you could purchase, and the store would cut the fabric for you. Why, you ask? Here was their reasoning:
Beginning sewists could just start sewing, without the intimidation of cutting the fabric.
Experienced sewists who were hesitant to cut fabric could just sew, without the fear.
Expert sewists could consult with the reps to learn shortcuts and new techniques.
Both the patterns and the fabrics were pre-chosen, so the fabric definitely matched the pattern, but also limited choices. I’d love to know how this went over. Personally, I hate cutting, so perhaps it would work out ok for me. I even buy my patterns previously cut, because I hate cutting so much. I’d think that this probably didn’t allow expert sewists to adjust the pattern prior to cutting though, so perhaps it was more appreciated by beginning sewists.
Either way, it was a great marketing technique to get people to use the patterns. Window displays were created with the five dresses and fabrics, to show sewists the final product. I’d love to know what the five patterns were, wouldn’t you?
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.
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.
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.
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?