Friday, July 30, 2010

McCall 1332 - Men's Western Shirt


This is the earliest western shirt pattern I've found thus far.  Unlike some of the later western shirt patterns, this is purely a fancy dress shirt - no workaday checks or stripes are illustrated here.  Note the spectacular embroidered cuffs on Mr. A's shirt.

McCall was based in New York City, and I suspect their illustrators were mostly local talent, so their knowledge of cowboys may be based almost entirely on the oaters they took in at the Saturday matinees.  Any Saturday would do; between 1943 and 1947, almost 500 westerns were released in the United States, starring the likes of John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrae, Roy Rogers; even Errol Flynn and Robert Mitchum did their time in a Stetson during these years.  (Mr. B. would appear to be related to both Randolph Scott and John Wayne.)

A few of Roy Rogers's costume changes, courtesy of LIFE magazine
But why did McCall think this pattern was necessary to their product line?  Who was buying such flamboyant western shirt patterns?  Did ranch wives make these shirts up for their menfolk for rodeo days and Saturday night dances?  Did wealthy dudes wear these while carefully rusticating at ranches catering to their dreams of a simpler, more direct life?  Did anybody east of the Mississippi wear these splendid shirts?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Du Barry 5904 - Men's Undershirt and Shorts


Styles in men's underclothes change slowly.  See Economy 4617 for largely similar men's under garments dating about 40 years earlier.  DuBarry is Woolworth's house brand of patterns.  They were produced by Simplicity.

There seems to be a strong expectation by the designers that you'll make this up in stripes; the yardage chart very carefully states the yardage for lengthwise striped material.  Cutting the waistband crosswise means that you don't have to try to match the stripes in the shorts, but this option disappears in the layout for a large size, when to make the most efficient use of the goods the waistband is cut lengthwise.

The instructions state the seams should all be flat stitched (we would generally say flat felled now) but they don't give instructions on how to do this; you're expected to know how.

Illustrations on patterns for men's clothing frequently show the gentleman smoking a pipe (see the small line drawing); perhaps this manly activity is supposed to distract us from the fact that we're walking around Woolworth's carrying a picture of a somewhat scantily clad male not related to us.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Simplicity 1459 - Women's One-Piece Dress

Mid to late 1940's.  Because this one doesn't explicitly call itself a housedress, the illustrator felt the need to show us the activities for which this casual, summery dress was suitable, such as mopping the floor.  The version on the right, made up in chambray and trimmed with eyelet ruffling, will see you nicely dressed for a quick trip to the corner market.

This being the 1940's, shoulder pads are called for.  Note that the back illustration and the fabric requirements list an option 3 for a version with contrasting yoke and sleeves. This type of color blocking is popular at this time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

McCall 603 - Ladies' and Misses' Smocks

1938 or a year or two later.

Another fine example supporting my belief that the 1930's produced some of the best design ever.

The white smock is embroidered, while the two calla lily smocks are appliqued with embroidered details.  The addition of the pleats creates a trim line on a garment that is fundamentally the same as most other smock patterns.

This is not a work-a-day smock.  Unlike many of the other smocks we've seen, the layout for this one doesn't indicate a need to do any piecing.  (Even Simplicity 2291, a very sophisticated design of roughly the same period, shows you how to piece the sides.)  The amount of embroidery and applique shown would take quite a bit of time to complete.  Yet the illustrator wants us to remember that this is still a utilitarian garment; Madame Brown Smock is armed with her bowl and spoon (I always wear heels when cooking, don't you?)

As illustrated, this smock may represent economy of materials, but certainly not of time spent in the construction and embellishment.  Note that an undecorated version of the smock isn't shown.  In this case, however, the pattern has been used but the transfers and applique pieces have not.  If the maker was persuaded to buy this pattern because of the decoration, when it came down to it, she didn't have the time or interest for it.

I can never look at calla lilies without remembering Katherine Hepburn in Stage Door, which released in 1937.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Simplicity 7100 - Uncle Sam

Early 1930s.

Check the coverage index (to the left) for more Uncle Sam patterns.  The illustrator seems to have forgotten that our Uncle Sam has only chin whiskers - the slightly fringy mustache is distracting.  But the overall look is consistent with our image of Uncle Sam.  (Though I'm partial to the starry-coated versions myself.)

Remember that at this time Simplicity has only been in business a few years and is still marketing the practicality and economy of its patterns. But alongside the practical three-in-one patterns for pajamas, aprons, rompers, and house dresses, the company thought it worthwhile to offer Colonial Cut-out Patterns for Social Functions.

The United States had had its 150th birthday a few years earlier in 1926, so Uncle Sam was much in the popular imagination, and not only in the United States; in January1929 he made an appearance at a New Zealand costume ball.  Remember that January is high summer in Australia; I hope Uncle was provided with many glasses of punch.

The instructions for this Uncle Sam Suit are printed on one side of a single sheet of paper only marginally thicker than the pattern tissue.  Here's a sample; get out your magnifying glass and pay attention!

I wonder how many worn out top hats were given a coat of white house paint and a nice blue ribbon to finish off the look in time for the 4th of July parade.

Simplicity 7101 - Sweet Young Thing

Early 1930s

This pattern is a companion to Simplicity 7100, Uncle Sam.  Uncle Sam is generally thought to be a bachelor, but for couples who wanted to coordinate at their local fancy dress ball, some option was needed for the ladies.

The "Sweet Young Thing" designation is unusual; usually eighteenth century themed costumes for ladies are titled Martha Washington or Dolly Madison.  I've never understood why Betsy Ross didn't surface in the popular imagination, but I haven't yet seen a fancy dress pattern named or themed after her.  Somewhat confusingly, the instruction sheet calls this model "A Young Virginia Miss."

Pattern companies weren't interested in reproducing historical clothing exactly; instead, their patterns represent (mostly) current styles which borrow from history.  Here is an example of what the colonial period actually looked like, as represented by a gown worn by Martha Washington in the 1780s.  It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1929.  The sleeves would have been finished with finely gathered lace or lawn; the little poofy sleeves worn by Miss S. Y. Thing are pure 1930's.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pictorial Review 6972 - Women's and Misses Blouse and Shorts

Mid 1930s, probably after 1932.

Only thirty years earlier, in 1901, here is how England's Charlotte Cooper dressed to play tennis at Wimbledon.

But in 1932, Alice Marble made history by wearing shorts in professional play. Here's a beautiful Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph of Marble from 1937:

Pictorial Review usually provided wonderful copy for their patterns and this one is no exception:
Straight from the French resorts comes this ultra-smart sports costume.  The tailored blouse may be worn with high or low neckline, and long or or short cuff-trimmed sleeves.  The shorts have a buttoned placket closing and inserted pockets.  The sash slips through straps and ties jauntily at the side.  
The espadrilles in the pattern illustration, while very fashionable resort wear at this time seem a bit odd for sportswear, but really, it's more about the look than the actual sport.  The fashion editors at Pictorial really seemed to know what they were talking about.  The odd little cap in the Pictorial illustration shows up in several of Lartigue's photographs of Renee Perle, most of which were taken in the South of France in the early 1930s, so there may have been a fad for them.