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.

9 comments:

Gertie said...

That pattern is fascinating! Thank you for sharing. I have a sewing book from 1949 and it shows you similar techniques for turning dresses into jumpers, and so on. There seems to be renewed interest now in this kind of clothing makeover (at least in the sewing community)--in the interests of being ecologically and economically responsible. I would love to link to this on my blog, if that's okay with you.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

It'll be interesting to see if the "Project Runway" set collide with the the "New Frugality" set.

Feel free to link - the more the merrier!

Magdalena said...

It's a little late, but for what it's worth - my Grandmother learned as a child to amke over old clothes. Her winter coat, when she was ten, was one she had cut down from a man's coat. I understand from members of her geneation (born before WWI) that this was a common practice. Children in the northeast and eastern Canada wore more somber colours then anyway.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

One of the things one hears a lot in oral histories of the Great Depression was "We didn't think we were poor because we were the same as everybody else." In places where re-making clothes was common, I don't suppose anybody thought anything of it - that's what one did. Same thing with hand-me downs.

Susannah said...

Thank you for posting this! I have come into a load of rather fine men's shirts thanks to a wardrobe clearance by the boyfriend, and have been hunting for instructions on how to transform them into a blouse WW2-style.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

Hello Susannah, You might want to keep your eye out for a copy of the booklet "Make Do and Mend," (or perhaps it's already online) which was put out by the Ministry of Information during WWII. That may provide some additional hints.

yolita.schmidt said...

In the book, Go Down Together, The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, by Jeff Guinn, there is a odd mention of re-cycled clothing. After the deadly ambush, Clyde’s clothing was returned to his family. His mother “cut down” Clyde’s death trousers to fit one of the grandkids. “Cut-Down” is the expression I've heard in the South. The Barrow family was as poor as church mice, but this doesn’t quite explain her action. Did Mother Barrrow cut down the trousers for economy sake; that is what she did with any usable clothing or Were the trousers meant as a memento for the grandchild, blood stains and all?

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

Hello Yolita,

Without having Mother Barrows's own words on the matter, we'll probably never know her motivation. If the family were very poor, any bit of cloth would be useful. Men's trousers at this time were frequently of wool, usually in dark colors. Some blood stains will come out of wool, and the dark color would help hide what couldn't be washed out.

I don't know Mrs. Barrows's character - it's also possible she chose to do this to draw attention to her family's extreme poverty.

Rushd Lady said...

Thriftiness was once considered a good character trait to have. Mothers pointed that out to their young men and told him a thrifty gal would make him a good wife, hence the motto: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!" Haven't you heard Dolly Parton's song "Coat of Many Colors" https://youtu.be/6me_kOQX3jQ . Her mama made do with a bag of rags and Dolly said she was rich. Maybe not by society's standards, but her coat was made with lots of love. My mother said when she was growing up during the war years, everyone made do -- the men were off to war and almost every factory was geared up to provide for the men, their uniforms, their food, their munitions and women took their place in those factories and tried to keep body and soul and their families together. New fabric was hard to come by that was not the regulation army green or navy blue, so the women had to be creative and remake clothing for themselves and their children out of what was left at home. My mother's grandmother was a milliner and seamstress and some of mom's clothing was made by her out of printed feed sacks when she was younger. Mom said that since her dad was a farmer, when he would go into town to buy feed, grandma would tell him to buy it in matching patterns if he could. Any leftover bits, not made into clothing, would get sewn into warm quilts. They were being green and they didn't even know it then.