Sunday, July 27, 2008

Universal Fashion Company 800 - Working Blouse


This may be the oldest pattern I own. Given the typeface on the envelope, I would date this to the late 1880's or the early 1890's. I haven't been able to find out much about the company, though I discovered it's pretty easy to pick up their trade cards on eBay.

The term "Blouse" when applied to men's garments confuses people, but I believe that it's used to describe any shirt not meant to be worn with a stiff collar. When men stopped wearing stiff collars the term seems to have gone away in men's clothing except for middy blouses; a good example of the kind of linguistic ossification that can occur in closed societies.

The working blouse is a practical garment. It may have functioned as an overshirt, protecting the shirt underneath. The banded waist makes it safe to wear around machinery. Several years ago JoAnn Peterson at Laughing Moon brought to my attention an eBay auction for a 19th century fireman's shirt that could have been made from this pattern, the cut was so similar. And indeed, the working blouse would look splendid in bright red wool!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

May Manton 9510 - Comfort Kit


Comfort kits are not all that complicated to make and instructions for them with measured line drawings were published in magazines during WWI, so it's a little unusual to see manufactured pattern for one. Why the Newark (N.J.) chapter of the Red Cross was favored is a mystery.

This pattern appears never to have been used. The insert of suggested items for filling the comfort kit was still enclosed.


For those of you who'd like to try making your own comfort kit, here are some detailed scans for you to  download and enlarge or print out and grid up for hand enlarging.  Notice that the longest dimension is 33", and the layout diagram shows the kit being laid crosswise (selvedge to selvedge.)   The one fabric that I know that is still available in this width is pillow ticking, which is a very suitable fabric for this purpose.




February 7th, 2017 - Added detailed scans.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

McCall 2550 - Ladies One-Piece Work Apron



About 1905

I bought this entirely because I thought the frou-frou fashion illustration was so wonderful - a Gibson Girl artist, palette in hand, a perky bow in her hair.

The joke was on me. Of all the apron patterns I've bought this is the one that shows the hardest use. There are many small tears in the neckline and lots of pin holes in all the expected places. I can imagine a woman making this up repeatedly not only for herself but perhaps for her sisters or daughters.

Made up, this reminds me of a surgical gown. It's very comfortable. The weird little cap sleeves wrap around the arm comfortably and don't look at all strange. This apron has no shoulder seam; it's cut in one piece and was designed for 36" wide fabric, very common for aprons of this period. This raises an interesting point. If this apron is made up in a print showing a decided direction, the print will appear upside-down on the back. You and I might think twice about this, but its possible this wasn't such a big deal to the original makers/wearers. Anybody who has studied originals, please feel free to pipe up here.

I took the easy way out and made this up in a cotton stripe.  As usual, there were no instructions for finishing the neck or side openings.  I cut a shaped facing for the neck but just turned under the edges of the sleeve/side openings. This was a huge mistake.  There is a lot of strain at the bottom of the sleeves, and if you blow up the photo, you can see where I'm beginning to rip out the bottoms of the sleeves.  The next time I make this up I'll either cut shaped facings or I'll bias bind these edges.  I'll also drop the pockets down a couple of inches.  The original pattern doesn't include pockets, but I can't be bothered with an apron that doesn't have them, so I put them on.

There was no indication on the pattern as to how the apron closed.  I used a skirt hook at the neck edge and am careful to wrap one back side over the other when I tie the apron.  Note that no pattern piece was provided for the strings; the instructions state "If desired, cut tie strings," and the pattern indicates where these are to be sewn to the apron.

The designation as a work apron is important; this distinguishes it from tea or sewing aprons.

Pictorial Review 3783 - Ladies' Work Apron


Probably after 1907 but before the first World War.

I've made this up in the round necked sleeveless version and it has become an essential part of my winter at-home wardrobe.

I've been trying to post pictures of my apron for months.  The problem was that I was either wearing it or it was so dirty I couldn't bring myself to photograph it.  Well, I am rather chagrined to report that these photos show the apron freshly washed.  I do quite a lot of cooking and usually wear this apron, so this is as clean as it gets.

When I made it up I forgot that the shoulder and side seams were 1" rather than 3/8", so this came out huge.  The actual bust measurement is about 52"  Unless I'm wearing a heavy sweater, the apron tends to slide off one shoulder or the other.  Sometimes I'll pin a big pleat in the center front neckline to take up the extra - a very charming look, I assure you.  I shortened it about 5 inches, to come to just above ankle length.  When I go out to pick a few fresh herbs from my garden, this apron has been known to spook passing dogs.


As is usual for these early patterns, the construction instructions are minimal. There were no directions on finishing the neck and arm holes.  I used bias binding I made from the apron fabric, which is a heavy cotton chambray.  I cut the pockets on the bias so that I don't have to spend time matching the stripes.  I actually like the way this looks.

I put enormous buttons down the back so that I wouldn't have to fuss too much with fastening them.  In general practice, when I'm cooking I tend to button only the top and bottom buttons.  When I'm doing general housework with a lot of stooping or kneeling, I do up all the buttons.

Note that the pattern envelope states that "Any desired style of trimming may be adopted."   That's interesting for a work apron.  I wonder what percentage of women making this apron added any trimming, and what it was.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Home Pattern Company 157 - Ladies' Matinee or Morning Blouse


Authorized by the American Red Cross, this pattern was produced during World War I.
The description "morning blouse" indicates to me that this was considered at home wear.

The instructions on the back of the envelope explain how to make a flat felled seam, advising the maker to observe how the sleeves of a man's shirt are sewed into the armhole.  This tells us that such seams were common in men's shirts but not in ladies' clothing.

Here is a front view of the blouse made up, both without and with the belt:







From Unsung Sewing Patterns
I also thought the collar was interesting (and very nearly fashionable in its day)