Monday, September 7, 2015

Votre Mode 686 - Robe ou Tablier de Classe

[Class dress or apron] This unprinted tissue pattern was one of a lot of two.  The other pattern is a pull-out from the Votre Mode magazine.

The typeface and photos of women's fashions in the pull-out point to a 1950s date.  The tissue pattern might be a little earlier.   Just to the left of the boy's right arm you can just see the perforations from the tracing wheel used to trace off the pattern.

The fascinating site Historical Boys Clothes tells us that in France boys wore school smocks through the 1950s, and points out that until the economy recovered after WW II, putting smocks on your students would protect clothes that might have been expensive or difficult to replace.   I'd guess that boys would stop wearing smocks by the time they started wearing long pants.

The boy's smock in the pull-out pattern is described as being made up in black satinette, a smooth-faced cotton fabric, with a white pique collar.  Here's a fine example of boy in his smock in a painting by Balthus:

The girls' smocks are a little less dreary - one in a solid cotton fabric, the other in a "vichy quadrille," or gingham, which is used on the bias to provide decorative bands on the yoke and pockets.

I was intrigued to find this example of a commercially produced smock in an Etsy shop.  Note the front yoke on the bias, and then note that the plaid hasn't been matched on the back yokes.  This makes sense for a garment that's going to used hard and outgrown.

It would be interesting to learn how people felt about their school smocks.  Did they like them?  Was it nicer to have a new smock in the fall than a hand-me down?  Did those with home-made smocks envy those with store-bought smocks?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

McCall 4653 - Ladies' & Misses' One-Piece Overalls or Shorts

From the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Once you get your Victory Garden watered, you can change into a cool play suit and take a nice picnic out to the lake (provided you have enough gas coupons.)

Here's another fine entry into women's war-time work wear.  Miss A. wears the very get-the-job done overalls, probably made up in denim or chambray, with plenty of white top-stitching  The banded sleeves will be a little faster to make than struggling with sleeve plackets and buttoned cuffs.  The over sized right pocket with its pencil slot borrows from men's work shirts.

Miss B, who has finished her work for the day, looks cool and comfortable and ready for a game of badminton.  With her one-piece play suit, she won't have to worry about becoming untucked following one of her wicked overhand serves.

This printed pattern has been cut out in Version A.

Friday, March 6, 2015

McCall 3610 - Ladies' Apron

About 1910.

This one seems to be related to McCall 2550, although in this case, rather than holding her palette and brush, our model holds her fluffy little dish mop, ready to bring her cut glass pitcher and bowl to a gleaming shine.

Like McCall 2550, there are no pockets in this apron; I can never fathom an apron without pockets.

The style is a little uncommon, with the narrow band across the front and the deep V back.

The pattern itself doesn't seem to have been used much, but the envelope has certainly had a hard life.

The maker must have been in a hurry when she folded up the pattern pieces, as several scraps of fabric got swept into the folds - very possibly a Stifel indigo. This is the second apron pattern I have with evidence of having been made up in an indigo calico.

I recently decided I needed an apron to keep in the sewing room, so I made up this pattern in some pink chambray I had on hand.

This pattern was produced before either fabric layout diagrams or detailed construction instructions were offered, so the maker is on her own to decide whether or not to face the yoke (I did, for strength and neatness) and how to finished the edges of the straps and upper backs.  (I cut 1 1/2" bias strips of the chambray and used them as facings.)

This apron is quite large.  The front yoke finishes to 16" and I think this apron would easily accommodate a bust measurement of about 40".  I shortened the pattern by 5" and with a 1" doubled-over hem, ended up with an apron that ends just above my ankle.  The circumference at the bottom is 80".  The ties are at mid back, which isn't as inconvenient to reach as you might think.

Originally posted on 8/27/2009.  Re-posted on 3/6/2015 to show made garment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Les Patrons Favoris & Les Patrons Parisiens 17.6 - Tablier Fantaisie

Late 1940s, early 1950s.

This is a nice example of how "The New Look" made its way into all aspects of women's clothing, not just dressy clothing.  What makes this "fancy" apron such a wonderful example is that the essence of the new look shape has been captured in the shape of the applied pockets.   Probably M. Dior didn't foresee this apron in 1947 when he launched his stylistic sigh of relief that World War II was finally over.

The instructions indicate that this apron can be made up in gingham or cretonne (a printed cotton fabric often recommended for aprons) and that the pockets, as shown in the illustration, can be cut from a contrasting fabric.

This style with a full back wrap is also popular at this period in the United States.

This cut, unprinted, pattern doesn't include allowances for either seams or hem, and was produced in only a single size.  French patterns were typically offered only in a single size with a bust measurement of about 38 inches.  Not having the seam allowances actually makes it easier to alter the pattern.  Note the small box on the back of the envelope that describes how to resize the pattern.   There are some interesting questions around this.  Where did women learn to alter patterns with confidence?  Altering an apron is one thing - altering a pattern for a suit jacket is another matter entirely.  Could women hire somebody to alter home sewing patterns for them if they weren't confident of their own skill at this?  What was women's tolerance for less-than-perfect alterations?  Striving to avoid that "home-made look" comes up repeatedly in home sewing books, but for the demographic who bought these patterns, was a slightly gappy neckline or twisted sleeve acceptable?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Butterick 4514 - Shawl or Travelling Case

May, 1892

Are you traveling over the holidays?  Don't forget your shawl case.  What?  You don't have one!  How are you going to keep track of your shawl, raincoat, galoshes, train ticket, drawing tablet and pencils, book, and cheese sandwich?

The wonderful latin word for "stuff we feel compelled to lug along with us" is impedimenta.  The Romans, naturally, used the term mostly to refer to "stuff the army feels compelled to lug along with it,"  and although they didn't have train tickets, I hold out a hope of cheese sandwiches.

Impedimenta has always been with us, and we've always come up with imaginative ways of lugging it, and sometimes we make our luggage at home.

The shawl case is a member of a whole family of soft luggage that could be made at home or at sea, in the case of ditty bags made by sailors.  The Workwoman's Guide of 1840 gives extensive instructions on making travelling dressing cases for both gentlemen and ladies,  glove cases, brush and comb bags, boot bags, housewives ("hussifs,") and watch pockets.

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the term "shawl case" had become a generic term for a smallish case, carried by hand by women, not unlike today's ubiquitous tote bag.

The exact form of the shawl case varies.  The shawl case pattern listed in Demorest's Family Magazine for August 1879 is a standard duffel or hold-all shape.  It had to be decorated because the Victorian decorated everything.

The flat form of Butterick 4514 makes it a little easier to make.   Nineteenth century instructions for making shawl cases often recommend making them of "hessian."  Today hessian is usually defined as being equivalent to burlap, so I decided to try making up my shawl case in burlap.  I used a good quality burlap from James Thompson.  But fabric definitions frequently change over time and today's burlap is, I think, a far coarser material than nineteenth century burlap.  The Thompson burlap was too loosely woven to be used on its own, so I decided to use it only as an outer covering, and to make the inside of the case from ticking, my go-to fabric for all kinds of utilitarian sewing.  I decided on a bright red wool binding to liven up the potato brown of the burlap.

Here's the finished case, outside.  The little rectangle is a pocket for your train ticket.

And here's the inside in ticking.  All kinds of nice pockets for tucking away cheese sandwiches and things!

But how does it really perform?  Let's pack it up for a day trip to go to the countryside to watch birds.  This is about enough for a warm day in winter.  No cheese sandwich yet, but the all-important chocolate bar makes its appearance.

Now let's get it all tucked away:
And finally, a rain jacket, just in case:
All buttoned up:
And ready to go.  Hmmm.  There seems to be a design problem somewhere.

Perhaps the design team at Butterick never tried out their shawl case. I think a little retrofitting to allow the bottom edge of the flap to button would fix the problem.

Originally posted August 3, 2008, entirely re-written December 20, 2014.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

McCall 5040 - Man's Pirate Costume

Early 1930s.  Another nice color illustration from McCall, very likely by the same illustrator who did our deadly handsome Spanish Gentleman.

Pirate movies seem to have been popular from the dawn of the film age - D.W. Griffith made one in 1909.  I'm not as knowledgeable about pirate movies of the 1920s and 1930s as I perhaps ought to be, so I can't tell if this gentleman is drawn from anybody specific.  Victor Fleming directed an adaptation of Treasure Island in 1934, about when this pattern was issued.

However, I think that McCall's pirate is close kin to Howard Pyle's elegant pirates in his Book of Pirates.  I suspect many gentlemen of the 1930s (forced by their wives to attend charity costume balls) would have known and loved Pyle's book when they were small boys swinging through the rigging of apple trees in their back yards.  (I highly recommend visiting the Project Gutenberg edition so that you can see all of Pyle's wonderful work.)

This printed pattern does not appear to have been used.  Note that the pattern includes pieces for not only the trousers, shirt, and vest, but also for the sash, kerchief, and splendidly floppy hat.

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, everybody!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

McCall 1597 - Mr. and Mrs. Aprons hat and Mitts


For your summer barbecue season we have another novelty apron.  The theme is consistent with other McCall novelty aprons we've seen - there is always a dog in there somewhere!  (See also McCall 2062 and McCall 957) This pattern shows up regularly for sale on eBay, so it may have been popular, or it may have been recommended for school or other sewing class use.

This is a perfectly good basic apron with nice deep pockets.  The bias binding while cheery, also strengthens the apron and will give the beginning maker some good experience in working with binding.

The maker cut out all the pattern pieces but decided not to tangle with the little upper pocket and just shoved it back in the envelope.

A close examination of the illustration reveals that this pocket is for your pack of cigarettes.

Although the pattern was used,  the transfers were not. (What? You don't want to spend time embroidering silly dogs on your apron?  Why ever not?)