Saturday, December 29, 2012

Standard Designer 3804 - Surgical Gown and Cap


This one could use a little research.  I don't have enough context to know whether this is really intended for medical use or is a costume pattern.  The only other costume pattern I have from Standard Designer dates to about the same time but is in an entirely different number range.

Just a few years earlier during WWI, the Red Cross authorized patterns for surgical gowns, so the idea of home-sewn medical wear isn't entirely new.

This unprinted pattern and its envelope both show signs of wear.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

4577 "Santa Claus" Suit

At a guess, the nineteen-teens

The envelope and typeface lead me to believe that this pattern might have been manufactured by the Beauty Pattern Company (1188-90 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, New York.)  Beauty Patterns were sold through newspapers, but I've been unable to find any reference to this one; I suspect it was available through their mail order catalog, which could be purchased for ten cents.

The double-breasted coat gives Santa a rather official air; imagine two rows of shiny brass buttons!

Leggings rather than trousers would be quicker, less expensive, and probably fit a wider variety of Santas.

This unprinted pattern does not appear to have been used.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Simplicity 3954 - Girls' and Misses' Ski Suit


There is finally snow in the mountains, so it's time to wax up the skis and head out.

Here's Simplicity's description of this ski suit pattern.
The hip-length jacket buttons snugly down the front.  Gathers at shoulder yokes are smart and allow ample room for action.  The sides are belted and there are two large convenient patch pockets.  The long sleeves are roomy and gathered to a wristband.  The trousers are dart-fitted at the top, close at the left side with a slide fastener, and finished with attached belts which buckle at the side.  Welt pockets at front add a neat note.
The description fails to mention that the legs of the trousers can either be pegged with darts, in which case slide fasteners are inserted, or left loose.  An elastic band can be sewn in to keep the legs over the boots.
Recommended fabrics include corduroy, waterproof poplin, gabardine, flannel, serge, novelty woolens.  In this case, the flannel is assumed to be wool.  Although the illustration shows only solids, you'd get a snappy effect by making the jacket in a plaid and the trousers in a solid to pick up a color in the plaid.

Although the jacket is lined, you'll probably want to wear a heavy sweater under it.

This unprinted pattern is unused.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Butterick 1200 - for Cutting Down and Re-footing Stockings

Nineteen-teens to early 1920s.

This one takes the Unsung Sewing Patterns award for Justly Forgotten Economies.  I can think of few sewing tasks grimmer than cutting down old stockings in order to sew them up again.   

That said, this pattern raises some interesting questions on clothing usage.  Did people re-use only stockings from their own households, or could one buy used stockings for just this purpose?  Was it considered acceptable to use single stockings and match them up as best one could (easier with black, of course, than with tan or other colors)?  Did ladies do this as part of charitable work to provide clothing to the poor, particularly for children?

According to Clothing - Choice, Care, Cost, published in 1920, the cost of hosiery in general almost quadrupled during World War I.  The "make do and mend" efforts of World War II are still well known to us,  but this pattern may be evidence of the same type of effort during the previous war.  This book also mentions that factory seconds stockings could be purchased inexpensively - these may also have been candidates for cutting down.

Although the instructions indicate that the stockings could be sewn on the machine, I think machine stitching would be heavy-looking and would be uncomfortable, particularly in the feet where the rather stiff seams might rub.

The envelope indicates that this pattern could be used for re-footing stockings, but the instructions themselves are silent on this point. 
This is an unprinted pattern.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Maudella 5059 - Anorak

Mens' utilitarian clothing can be very hard to date.  The shape and spread of the collar seemed to point to a late 1940's or early 1950's date, but the style of an advertising illustration on the instruction sheet seems pretty firmly 1960's.  

This is a very nice design as we get into the chilly winter months, particularly if, as the pattern recommendations suggest, a "fine woolen" lining is provided.

The Maudella brand was started by Maude Dunsford in West Yorkshire, England in 1937 (1.)  The brand seems to have lingered until the 1980s.  Maudella patterns show up for sale now and again.  The earlier patterns in particular seem very much more on the practical or utilitarian side rather than the high fashion side.

Though utilitarian, this jacket is not make-it-today-wear-it-tonight simple.  Getting the bound edges right on the zippered pockets will take a little care, and of course the lining will take some additional time.

This is an unprinted pattern.

(1)  See:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Butterick 7068 - Misses', Juniors' and Girls' Windbreaker


This is the companion to the boys' windbreaker I posted in December 2010.

As with the boy's version, the maker has the option of knitting her own collar, sleeve, and bottom bands.  Since knitting yarns tend to come in a much broader range of colors than by-the-yard knit banding, the maker would have the potential to make a banding that complemented or contrasted with the windbreaker fabric in much more interesting ways.  Of course, that K1P1 banding is still pretty boring to knit, but sufficiently mindless to make a long bus or train trip go more quickly.

In the envelope with the pattern was this instruction sheet for the California Redwood Sleeve Board (Chicago Ill.)

This unprinted pattern shows some signs of wear.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

McCall 3845 - Ladies' Beauty Shop Apron


I don't see any detail that particularly makes this good Hoover apron suitable for beauty shop work, except possibly the pockets, as pockets were by no means a required feature of aprons at this time.  Miss A's "surplice" collar is nicely sporty.  One imagines these made up in dusty rose, dutch blue, or eau de nil, with white collars and cuffs.

Would Madame like the marcel wave today?

This printed pattern is unused.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Farm and Fireside 4430 - Economy Apron & Cap


This is the time of year when some of us spend a lot of time in hot steamy kitchens, converting the garden's produce into quarts and pints of good things for the winter.  The all-business economy apron and cap would be just the right thing to wear for those marathon bean-canning or piccalilli-making days.  I might have a couple of these aprons handy so that after lunch I could put on a dry one.

This apron is so simple that I think you would have good luck sizing up this pattern from the layout.  To give you some measurements to start with, the front length (bottom of neckline to bottom edge is 36")  The width from the center line to the back edge just under the arm hole is 17 1/2".

Farm and Fireside was a magazine published between 1879 and 1939.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Patron-Modèle 100501 - Costume de travail

Guessing here at a date of the late 1940s to the early 1950s, based on studying envelopes with a similar layout for women's clothing, which is a little easier to date.

This is the sort of find that makes this collector want to stand up and yell "Bingo!"  A vintage French home-sewing pattern for men's workwear is a wonderful find.

The rather swank illustration of Monsieur having a smoke break tends to obscure the sensible utilitarian design of this double-breasted jacket and trousers.  It also completely hides the breast pockets.  Note that the sleeves end in buttoned cuffs, which would be safer around machinery than plain hemmed sleeves.

The instructions on the front of the envelope indicate that the seams are to be flat felled (rabattues piquees) and the edges top-stitched (piqure au bord,) standard techniques used in American ready-to-wear workwear, both of which strengthen the garment.

Some basic fabric recommendations are given:  toile, or canvas, and croisé, or twill.

One is reminded of Irving Penn's beautiful photographs from his "small trades" series of 1950-51, taken in Paris, London, and New York.  The Patron-Modèle working clothes made up in white would suit les patissiers (pastry makers):

From:  Irving Penn, Small Trades, page 13.  Getty Publications, 2009
This unprinted pattern is in good condition, although the envelope seems to have had a hard life.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Butterick 4972 - Misses' Jumper


One of the interesting aspects of this pattern is the cover photo, which manages to evoke a rather romantic rural British atmosphere, with the white and red painted stone barn in the slightly misty background and the model's wellies (long before the current craze for Hunter wellies!)  This seems very much in line with some of Laura Ashley's similarly evocative designs of the period, though Butterick's design has abandoned Ashley's fondness for sprigs and flounces and is much more functional.

At first glance this looks like it might be a hoover-fronted dress or apron, but the description called it a "sandwich board jumper."

And here's how you wear it:

Although I always have very poor luck in getting wrapped garments to stay wrapped, this is on the whole a nice design.  It would make a splendid full-coverage kitchen apron.

This printed pattern has not been used.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Marian Martin 9624 [Smart Apron Frock]

July 25, 1933, as per the The Gettysburg Times.

Between the pattern and the envelope, there is quite a lot going on here.  Let's take a look.

For those of you unfamiliar with Marian Martin patterns, they were advertised in newspapers and were generally quite economical - this one sold for fifteen cents when some of McCall's elegant embroidered smock patterns from the same period sold for three times as much.  A seasonal circular was also produced for fifteen cents.  These patterns didn't come with paper envelopes in addition to their mailing envelopes.  Now and again these patterns show up with glassine envelopes, but I haven't pinned down the exact time period when this was the practice.

The illustration above is from the instruction sheet.   The instruction sheet, which is in very poor condition, refers to this garment merely as a "dress" while the newspaper article refers to it as a "smart apron frock."

The newspaper copy is wonderful:
"Here's a new recipe for housewives!  Send for this pattern, buy a few yards of fabric...cotton prints are pretty and cost so little, add a bit of contract, (sic) make it during leisure hours and you'll have a most attractive frock.  It has reversible fronts, perky flares and handy pockets.  You'll want several different colors."
I guess that the copy edit department at the Gettysburg Times was overworked during the Great Depression and "contract" just slid by instead of "contrast."  The article just above this pattern advertisement is titled "Washington Highlights" and in passing mentions former president Hoover, for whom this style of reversible-front apron is often called a "Hooverette."  And indeed, that's how the maker Mrs. L.L. Long thought of her smart apron frock: note how she's written that across the front of the envelope:

This address appears to have been consumed by the Interstate highway
Note also the small insignia at the top center of the envelope.

This tends to stump those who are new to vintage patterns, and they wonder what on earth the National Rifle Association had to do with anything.  At this time, NRA stood for National Recovery Administration, which had the responsibility for implementing the National Industrial Recovery Act.   NIRA was passed in 1933 as part of the New Deal, but was declared unconstitutional in May 1935 shortly before it was set to expire.

NRA was strongly pro-union, so by putting the logo on their envelopes, the Des Moines Tribune was making a statement (those of you with expertise in unionization in the newspaper industry, feel free to chime in here!)  In color, the logo was known as "the blue eagle."  With the eagle holding an industrial gear in one talon and the power of electricity in the other,  this is quite a striking image.

On the reverse of the envelope, Mrs. Long made a note to herself about the amount of fabric required.   Because the pattern and envelope are so battered, I suspect that she made up her Hooverette multiple times, as the newspaper copy suggested.

But honestly, I bought this pattern entirely because I thought the illustration was so engaging.  It's very tempting to supply a caption for it:
"All hail to the god of sweet iced tea!  Sing Lipton!  Sing Tetley!"
"That's funny, in those nice Agatha Christie novels the poison just dissolves"
What's yours?

Monday, May 28, 2012

McCall 1090- Ladies' and Misses' Victory Apron


So that you don't have to find your reading glasses, here is the verse on the envelope front:
Tie this apron round your waist
And join the Victory war-on-waste,
Plan your meals for zest and vim
And don't forget Ye Vitamine!
Remember that the right nutrition
Is Uncle Sam's best ammunition!
I'm guessing that this was written by that nice Mr. Murple up in McCall's Accounting department - who knew he was so talented.

This is a lovely apron pattern - easy enough to be made by girls in home ec. classes as well as by ladies' groups.  Imagine refreshments tables at dances with all the attendants in their victory aprons worn over white dresses.  The rick-rack braid stars are very clever.

In my family we have a cookbook which we refer to as the Women's Victory Cookbook.  The correct name is the Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cookbook, an enormously popular cookbook of the mid-twentieth century.  The Victory binding edition provides a small appendix on wartime cookery, which includes such contemporary-sounding advice as eating more fish and whole grains and retaining the vitamins in vegetables by not boiling them to death.

Happy Memorial Day, everybody.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Butterick 2209 - The American Red Cross Volunteer Special Service Outdoor Uniform

"1/14/43" is written on the flap of the envelope of this one.

Women's Red Cross uniforms had been re-designed around 1941 by Elizabeth Hawes to be more contemporary looking.  "Red Cross Lassies Get Snappy New Uniforms,"  burbled the St. Petersburg Times on May 4, 1941.  Indeed, without the epaulettes (and the cap) this is a pretty standard women's suit of the time.

Wool gabardine in blue-gray would have been used for View A, the winter uniform.  View B, the summer uniform, would have been made up in a rayon-mohair mix for summer weight or seersucker for tropical weight.

By April 1942, about 20,000 women wore some type of Red Cross uniform.  The Red Cross had to walk a fine line between complying with the overall need to economize in every possible way and to assure that its workers were properly recognized.  The New York Times reported on April 3, 1942 that the bellows pocket with flap that had previously been used on jackets was being dropped in favor of pockets using less material.  In the same article, Mrs. Dwight Davis, the Red Cross's national director of  volunteer special services stated that uniforms should be reserved for women who spent the bulk of their time performing Red Cross-related activities - particularly if this work took them out in public:  women working in chapter work rooms were not to wear uniforms.

Even though uniforms could be purchased at department stores, making or having a uniform made might have been a good option for a woman who required special care in fitting.  This uniform pattern was available in bust sizes from 30" to 46" - a much wider range than that of patterns for civilian clothes.

While the envelope for this pattern is rough around the edges, this unprinted pattern does not appear to have been used, possibly because there was less demand for the generous size 46.

The American Red Cross was founded on May 21st, 1881.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Manton 6599 - Boy's Base Ball Suit

About 1910.

Note the padded pants, a feature that seems to have originated in the 1880s and disappeared around the first World War, as far as I can tell from looking at high school team photos of the period. (1)

The pull-over shirt is a pretty standard outing shirt design, with three sleeve options:  long, short, and convertible. (We've seen these convertible sleeves before, with Pictorial Review 5969)

Consider the amount of work involved in making this uniform:  colored facings are sewn to the shirt; button holes must be worked (by hand) for the convertible sleeves, the shirt, and the fly front of the pants; the pants must have padding sewn into them; the cap is lined.

And because I know you'll ask, here is what the cap pieces look like.
 The three perforated crosses in the brim indicate where it's placed on the fold of the material.  It's interesting to see that the cap sections are shorter toward the fronts, which will give the cap a jaunty set.

"B C", I assume, very cleverly stands for "Ball Club,"  but wouldn't it have been fun if the illustrator had had the imagination to use "M M?"

(1) See the history of baseball uniform pants on the web site for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

McCall 1015 - Clothes to Fit the Little Lady Doll


During World War II, even dolls could help the war effort, either by nursing with the Red Cross or by working for the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense as an Air Raid Warden.

It's interesting that the two occupational garments are given top billing in the illustration, while the party dress and school clothes provide hope for the future.

The Office of Civilian Defense was established on May 20th, 1941, a little less than six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The designers were careful to be accurate in rendering the insignia for the armband, though they had to simplify it a little due to the very small size.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Woman's Day 5107 - Down-to-Earth Smock

February 1956.

On its own, the "Down-to-Earth" smock appears to be a nice utilitarian design enlivened with some easy machine embroidery.  But in this case we have additional documentary evidence to provide some context.

Tucked into the envelope was the page from Woman's Day magazine featuring this pattern.

Suddenly, we have a sense of materials, color use, wardrobe decisions, and an insight into the designer's vision.

"Black-raspberry" denim is much more interesting that the mid-gray of the black and white pattern envelope, and it's interesting to see the smock worn with "licorice" denim Wranglers (note the white top-stitching) and what are assuredly, the late (and much lamented, at least by me) Bass Weejuns.

Margaret Parker Gary writes that the smock is an "exact copy" of a Haitian field hand's vareuse.  Well, maybe.  I've been unable to find compelling visual evidence of an embroidered Haitian vareuse, although I've come across several text references to the vareuse in a general sense.  In his book Haiti, Her History and Her Detractors, published in 1907, Jacques Nicolas Leger describes the Haitian peasant: "On week days his costume consists of a "vareuse" and trousers made of blue denim..." and a footnote describes the vareuse as "a kind of loose jacket with two pockets in front. "  The web site for Haitian Enfance Education reports that for a recent celebration of Agriculture and Labor, parents were asked to dress their sons in the traditional vareuse.  The accompanying photographs don't provide enough detail to distinguish the vareuse.

The term vareuse is used today in France for the "traditional" Breton fisherman's smock.  (See the armorlux web site for an example.) (1)  Less frequently the term is used to describe a military garment somewhat similar to a sailor's middy blouse.

It is the French version of the fisherman's vareuse that Dior adapted for his 1957 "Free Line" collection, according to Daniel Delis Hill, in his book As Seen in Vogue, A Century of American Fashion in Advertising.  If this date is correct we have an interesting example of near simultaneous design, with both Gary (in the New World) and Dior (in the Old World) apparently picking up on the vibe of the larger aesthetic of the folk revival of the era.

Margaret Parker Gary started designing for Woman's Day around 1947-48.  In a 1952 newspaper interview about her work with Woman's Day, Gary states that "You don't have to be rich to be well-dressed."  Gary worked for Lord and Taylor for a number of years before making a big shift in demographics and joining Woman's Day.

While the Down-to-Earth smock is a relatively simple garment, it will take some time to make.   In addition to the machine embroidery and lots of top-stitching, tiny tucks fit both the front and the back into yokes, and the sleeves have rather tricky applied facings.

The photographer, Howell Conant, was a well-known fashion photographer of the day, shooting such icons as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

This unprinted patterns does not appear to have been used.

(1) An English cousin of this garment is the Norfolk slop.