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with almost all of the discussion focussed on wonderful old jeans, overalls, jackets, and shirts -- most of which were originally made for and worn by men.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.


Diane Shiffer said...

I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I love this... I love the pattern, I love your fabric choice, I am also amused by your purple seam finishes, and I really really love the very idea of this sort of garment. I actually have an enormous denim dress that is in this basic shape. I bought it at the thrift store because it seemed practical and, well, it fit! The thing is hideous and shapeless however, and I can't imagine ever wearing it. Your post has got me thinking tho... with just a little work, I could remake it into something similar to your lovely smock in both appearance and purpose. I'll let you know how it goes, andrea!☺ said...

Well, patch pockets are always good, so if your dress doesn't have them you could add them. If you wanted to get ambitious, you could find a print fabric you liked, use it for pockets, and then replace the existing collar and cuffs with it.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking this would make the perfect pattern for a lab coat (I find the RTW ones are cut for men with no hip ease so you end up not being able to button the bottom button if you have hips).

Love your version of it! said...

There are some good modern patterns available for "professional wear" medical or restaurant- it might be worth taking a look at the coats/smocks. I've made scrub shirts and cook's pull-on trousers from them and I thought that the the fit was very good.