Thursday, September 24, 2009

Butterick 1057 - Women's and Young Girl's Smock

Late 1920's. Compare this to McCall 4531 and Simplicity 160 of roughly the same period, and Ladies Home Journal 1719, which is about ten years earlier.

There is a fair amount of interest in vintage workwear just now, with almost all of the discussion focussed on wonderful old jeans, overalls, jackets, and shirts -- most of which were originally made for and worn by men.

As I was working on making up this pattern, I came to realize that I was re-creating what is probably prototypical women's workwear from a time when women who had jobs outside the home would have worked primarily in retail, secretarial, or service occupations. This smock (here comes a very bad pun) has you covered.

If you're old enough to have ever re-inked a stamp pad or changed a typewriter ribbon, you'll immediately understand the practicality of this smock in the workplace.

The instructions very carefully instruct you to make felled seams, which are rarely specified in more fashionable women's clothing patterns of the period.

As an aside, making felled seams with 3/8" inch seam allowances isn't easy. I didn't even attempt to fell the gathered fronts and back into the yoke - I just bound these with lovely bright purple bias binding, which I also used to bind the collar, because it amused me.

Another interesting feature is the pocket slits in the sides - just like a man's shop or lab coat.

Even though women's styles in the late 20's called for a slender look, the amount of ease in the smock is enormous. For a stated bust measurement of 44 inches, the actual measurement under the arms is just over 64 inches. This means that you'd be able to wear this smock over a suit jacket. Skirts were very short at this time, and with a length of just 42" from the center back, the smock reflects that. The circumference of the sleeve around the bicep is about 20". The length of the sleeve from armscye to edge of cuff is 25"

In a section on house dresses and aprons, the Fall/Winter 1928/1929 Montgomery Ward catalog carried several different models of smock. This cheerful model on page 68 has hand-embroidered pockets and collar.

The catalog copy states that smocks are now becoming widely known as house coats, which gives us an interesting insight into how clothing terminology changes over time.

Another smock on page 71 of the same catalog was offered in black sateen. (1) I'd seen other smocks and house dresses offered in black sateen so I thought that's what I'd use for mine. Unfortunately, at the moment I was ready to start work, the only sateen I could find was stretchy, so instead I pulled this cotton print out of my stash.

My job requires me to roam around with my laptop, mouse, whiteboard markers, and pens. Depending on the time of year I'm also carrying tissues and cough drops, so it's not possible for me to have too many pockets. I wear this smock over jeans and a knit shirt or turtleneck and find it very successful (if it bit voluminous - it's really several sizes too big for me.)

(1) A generation earlier, the Sears catalog listed bicycling shirts in black sateen, so this seems to have been considered a utilitarian fabric.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Advance 1471 - (shirt, divided skirt, and sash)

Mid 1930's.

Note how similar this is to McCall 9094.

I recently ran across a very funny bit of dialog in Margery Sharp's Cluny Brown in which an older lady, Lady Carmel, observes one of her young house guests crawling around the tennis court on her hands and knees, and asks another house guest to "...make her get up, dear, I don't know what she's wearing." and is reassured that "It's a divided skirt, Lady Carmel."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pictorial Review 1543 - Ladies' Athletic Combination Undergarment

Mid 1920's.

Here's what to wear in the event you were wondering about the correct underpinnings for a gymnasium suit. This combination garment is a close relative of men's union suits. No fabric recommendations are given, but the pattern does specifically call for some knitted fabric (like that for men's undershirts) for the back waistband. Otherwise, cotton broadcloth or lawn are likely choices.

When not participating in sports, women at this period had an almost bewildering variety of undergarments to choose from, including corset covers, (no longer necessarily worn over corsets) brassieres, which seem to be identical to close-fitting corset covers, camisoles, chemises, step-in or envelope chemises, drawers, bloomers, and petticoats.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Simplicity 4737 - Women's Jumper and Blouse

World War II - probably 1942 - 1945

This blouse and jumper combination is pleasant but not really remarkable until you read the back of the envelope:
The blouse can be cut from a man's shirt and the jumper from an old dress, for which instructions are included.
And here they are:

Making over clothing has been practiced as long as there has been clothing, but it's only during times of war or economic hardship that the practice tends to get a public seal of approval. The booklet Make and Mend for Victory shows up on eBay regularly, so thousands of copies must have been printed; people probably felt patriotic just buying a copy. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing, published in 1943 includes a chapter on making over garments. Here are few ways to use men's clothing.

It would be interesting to know how well people were able identify remade clothes worn by others and what their thoughts were when they observed children wearing rather somber grey or navy home-made coats. Was the practice common enough that nobody thought much of it, were the practitioners uneasy about it, were children teased for wearing made over garments. This kind of social history of clothing can be hard to document.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

McCall 4480 Ladies' Misses' and Girls' Quaker Bonnet and Tyrolean Hat

At a guess, first half of the nineteen-teens.

Technically speaking, this bonnet would probably be better called a cap. By the time this pattern was published, few Quaker ladies were plain dressing and wearing caps, and it's doubtful that those that were would have purchased a McCall pattern to use for making their caps. But late in 1910 the operetta Quaker Girl opened and was very successful. Here's Ina Claire as the Quaker Girl:

The Quaker Girl, by Tanner & M... Digital ID: TH-45074. New York Public Library

The Quaker Girl, by Tanner & M... Digital ID: TH-45075. New York Public Library

The Tyrolean hat, generally in a nice loden green, is still with us, though less exuberantly styled than this version and, if the Google image search is to be believed, much more commonly worn by men than by women. Millinery can be a tricky art, so the somewhat relaxed shaping of the Tyrolean make it a good candidate for a home seamstress with a desire for a casual, sporty chapeau.