Friday, December 31, 2010

McCall 1886 Ladies' and Misses' Smock

After 1931, as this is the last patent date on the envelope.

Here's another beautiful embroidered smock from the 1930s.  See McCall 4531 for a somewhat earlier and simpler smock, and  McCall 603 for a late '30s offering.  A price of forty-five cents makes this a somewhat expensive pattern.  At this period inexpensive DuBarry and Simplicity patterns were available for 15 cents, while an undecorated smock from Vogue was available for 25 cents.

This version, with its dropped shoulder line, standing collar (View A), and "primitive" geometric embroidery motifs seems to borrow from folk or regional dress.  The shaped pockets unusual.

Recommended materials include linen, cotton, silk, and wool jersey.  The recommendation for silk or wool jersey is interesting, as these fabrics would require some care in laundering, moving us away from a strictly utilitarian garment even without the extensive embroidery.

The embroidery is to be executed with tapestry wool or perle cotton.  The colors recommended for View A are gold, black, and white;  for View B, which is made up in "natural linen," coral, purple, and bright green are used; for View C pale green, orange, and dark blue.  Note that the seams and hems are all embroidered - a lot of work!

This pattern has been cut with the exception of the tie belt.  The transfers are unused.  We saw this preservation of the transfers in McCall 603, so while the beautiful embroidery may have been a selling point, and the buyer paid a premium price for the pattern to get the transfers, not all makers had that much commitment to their projects.

Friday, December 24, 2010

McCall 2062 - Family Aprons and Bib - with Gingerbread Appliques


If two points describe a line, then two aprons featuring dogs describe a trend, and McCall seems to be blazing the trail.  You'll recall their his-and-hers "in the dog house" aprons from 1942.

Ten years later, that happy couple have produced the lovely family you see here.  The menfolk wear straightforward butcher's aprons while Mother and Sissy sport bouffant numbers.  Notice that even their gingerbread gals wear skirts.  And I just don't know what to make of the pooch's bib.  They can't be serious.  But the bib does have a gingerbread dog on it.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Friday, December 17, 2010

McCall Kaumagraph Transfer 588 - Cover Design for Hot-Water Bag

I'd guess the early to mid 19-teens.

It's not precisely a pattern, but the idea of dressing up your hot water bottle is just so appealing at this time of year.  I'd do mine in pink flannel with the embroidery in white.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Butterick 7031 - Boys' Windbreaker

After 1923.

I bought this pattern because I was interested in the use of the term"windbreaker" at this early date.  The earliest use of the term found on Google Books is a February 1919 review in the wonderful Outing magazine, while Boy's Life magazine for May 1928 recommends a windbreaker as part of a bicyclist's kit of gear.

The Youngstown Vindicator for November 10, 1925 contains an advertisement for "the new wind-breaker  The newest thing for boys and girls." The Montreal Gazette for September 30, 1926, shows an advertisement for suede windbreakers designed to appeal to young women.  Some more sleuthing might find a parent of the windbreaker in the leather jackets worn by aviators, who probably knew more about wind than anybody.

We've seen the banded bottom used a little earlier on Excella 1111, Men's Jumper, as well as the much earlier Working Blouse pattern put out by the Universal Fashion Company.

Recommended fabrics for the Butterick windbreaker include:
Plain or Plaid Flannel, Camel Hair, Fleece Coatings, Corduroy, Duvetyn, and Suede Coatings
Fleece in this sense means a heavily fulled wool fabric with a somewhat soft, fleecy finish (as opposed to a smooth, sheared finish.)   Duvetyn is a "soft, filling-faced fabric made in a satin or twill weave with a fine downy nap...Its appearance is similar to velvet.  Originally made of soft wool in France." (1)  The soft quality of the fabrics accords with the view expressed by the reviewer in Outing that this firm, fleecy quality is what cuts the wind.

But possibly the most intriguing aspect of this pattern is the "instructions for knitting collar, cuffs, and band for View D."

Commercially knit banding was certainly available for the 1930's, when it's called for in the DuBarry Children's Snow Suit, but a substantial wool banding may have been harder to find, so Butterick enhanced the value of their pattern by providing instructions for knitting the straight bands for the collar and cuffs as well as a slightly shaped collar.  I must admit that I find knitting 1x1 ribbing just about the most boring knitting task possible.  However, a thrifty, thoughtful maker might buy extra yarn so that frayed or badly stained ribbing could be replaced to extend the life of the windbreaker.  My recollection is that Shetland Floss is about like our fingering weight yarn.

This unprinted pattern appears to have been used and is in reasonably good condition.

(1) See Sources Consulted

Friday, November 19, 2010

Butterick 1824 - Men's or Boys' Yoke Night-Shirt

After 1899.  Note that this fairly early pattern doesn't yet include either a layout chart or a detailed, separate instruction sheet.

This is the time of year when sewing warm flannel garments begins to seem like a really good idea.  And of course, Christmas is coming up, so it's probably time to feature another night shirt pattern.

The back of the envelope is devoted to advertising for Butterick's magazine, the Delineator.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Simplicity 4626 - American Red Cross Uniform

No earlier than 1942, as this is when the older style veil was replaced by the trimmer coif illustrated here.(1)

The description reads:
American Red Cross Volunteer Special Service Corps, Washable Uniforms for Administration, Staff Assistant, Production, Braille, Canteen, Home Service, Hospital and Recreation and Paid Staff Workers (Except Hospital Workers).
The uniform on the right would appear to be that of a Gray Lady (part of the Hospital and Recreation service.)

Even though commercially produced uniforms seem to have been readily available, the Simplicity company must have thought there was enough of a demand for a pattern to make this one available, as well as number 4694, home nursing pinafore and canteen apron.

Here's an example of a commercially produced uniform in the collection of the University of North Carolina.

No fabric recommendations are given, presumably because the ARC would have issued their own specific instructions on this.

(1) Shirley Powers's web site, was very helpful here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

McCall 957 - Mr. and Mrs. Aprons


Until now the aprons featured here have been more or less functional and strictly female, so it's nice to take a walk on the frivolous side with this one.  We saw our first unisex pattern with a 1934 smock pattern, also by McCall.

Mr. D. House wears a straightforward butcher's style apron, while Mrs. House's apron features a feminine gathered waist.  The dog is actually a pot holder that slips into the front of the lined pocket.

Note that the fabrics recommended for the gentleman's apron are denim, percale, or unbleached muslin, while the lady has the additional choices of gingham, chintz, and chambray.  I would have thought chambray would be suitable for both.  The recommendation of unbleached muslin, an inexpensive and not terribly sturdy fabric, is a clue that these aprons weren't intended to be taken very seriously - perhaps they were used as humorous wedding or shower gifts.

This pattern has never been used.

Friday, October 15, 2010

McCall 3759 Ladies' and Misses' Spanish Costume


Clearly a companion to McCall 3760, the Spanish Gentleman, though copyrighted two years earlier.   This one will allow you to be Nita Naldi to your very own Rudolph Valentino.  Here's a rather muddy scan of a beautiful Saturday Evening Post cover by McClelland Barclay from February 1, 1930, showing our couple in full flamenco action.  Tango was also very popular at this time.

The dress itself is very simple, though the scalloped flounce will need some careful basting.  It's the choice of fabrics, high comb, mantilla, fan, jewelry, hair and make-up that will really make the look.

As with many costume patterns, the design echos but does not actually reproduce any particular Spanish regional or folk dress.  Note that the low waistline that we associate with the 1920s hasn't quite returned to the natural waistline.

Friday, October 8, 2010

McCall 3760 - Spanish Gentleman and Toreador Costume

Around 1932.

Why a Spanish Gentleman or a Toreador?  By the time this pattern was released, Rudolph Valentino (an Italian, but let's not quibble) had been dead for six years, but his 1922 film Blood and Sand had been wildly popular, particularly with women.

SeƱor A does look suspiciously like these images of "the Latin Lover," as he was known.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Butterick 1566 - Ladies' Sack Chemise with Round or Square Neck

1895. This pattern is featured on page 239 of the Delineator magazine for February, in the article "New Styles of Underwear."

The article provides extensive details on how the chemise could be made up, using both rather luxurious trimmings, and then using more economical trimmings.
India lawn was chosen for the development of the round-necked chemise, pattern No. 1566, price 10d. or 20 cents, being used in shaping. From the neck edge falls a frill of English embroidery that is caught up at the center, and at the center of the front, a deeper frill falls below the upper one. The neck edge is finished with embroidered revering threaded with pink baby ribbon, which is formed in a rosette in front. The embroidery is applied plainly about each arm's-eye and is narrowed under the arm, and the embroidered revering is used as a completion, being run with ribbon that is formed in a rosette at the bottom of the arm's-eye. The embroidered frills could be omitted and short, lengthwise rows of Valenciennes lace insertion and wide embroidered beading used in alternation could trim the front, while a frill of lace could rise at the neck edge. Similar frills could trim arms'-eyes, and a ruffle of the goods edged like the neck could finish the bottom.
This pattern seems to have just barely avoided being destroyed by time and inattention.  Typically these early Butterick patterns arrive folded into a packet that measures about 5 inches square, with the label pasted on.  Envelopes don't seem to have been supplied, and separate instruction sheets won't appear for another twenty years.  (The Shawl and Traveling  Case 4514 pattern dates to about the same time.)  My guess is that at some point this pattern was rolled  up and subsequently became squashed at the bottom of a drawer or shelf.  Mice or bugs or both could have attacked the paste used to attach the label to the pattern.

Here is how the pattern looked when I first unfolded it.

And here it is after a careful pressing with a cool, dry iron. (I've rearranged the pattern pieces to reflect the way the chemise would be put together.) The pattern pieces actually show few signs of use. Outside of the damage caused by poor storage conditions, there are almost no tears or pin holes, and the notches are still crisply cut.  Note the notch at the bottom indicating the hem line.

This is about as simple a pattern as you can get for a chemise, and home dress-making books of this period usually give ample instructions for drafting a chemise pattern on your own.

From Needlework, Knitting, Cutting Out, by Elizabeth Rosevear, 1894

The seam allowance of only 1/4" seems rather narrow if the maker intends to fell the seams, as should be done for body linen.  Note that yardages are given for lace trimming and insertion, but you're expected to know how to apply this, as well as any facings for the sleeve and neck edges.

The Sears and Roebuck Catalog for Fall 1902 offers chemises for ladies ranging in price from 98 cents to $1.89.  Even the low-priced model offers lace edgings and insertions (though probably not of very high quality.)

Let's wander over to the yard goods department of the catalog and see what it'll cost us to make up the Butterick chemise in the most economical way possible. (I'm assuming that white sewing thread and needles are always kept on hand in the household.)

Pattern                                     20¢
Lawn, 2 and 3/4 yards, 32" wide, @ 20¢/yard 55¢
Lace trimming, sold @ 12 yards for 8¢        8¢
Lace insertion, sold @ 12 yards for 18¢     18¢
TOTAL                                     $1.01

Considering only the materials and not the value of the maker's labor, the home-made chemise is three cents more than Sears least expensive purchased chemise, but 88¢ less than the most expensive one.

Updated on January 26, 2023 with new information from the Delineator magazine.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Advance 1686 - (Boy's Coat)

Latter part of the 1930's.  The yoke and lower back pattern pieces have been replaced with newspaper tracings from a Detroit paper that indicate a date of 1938 or '39.

I would describe this as a reefer or pea coat (the terms seem to be largely interchangeable.)  View 1 is a particularly elegant interpretation, having both hand-warmer and patch pockets.

With sixteen pieces and an expectation that it would be lined, this coat represents a lot of work for the maker.  As we did in the discussion of McCall 5327, we should consider the challenge to the maker in spending money on (remember that at this time the Great Depression is a recent memory for all and still a reality for many) and considerable time in constructing a garment that would be outgrown before it wore out.  Of course, if there was more than one boy in either the immediate or extended family, possibly the maker planned to make the coat for Older Brother who would hand it down to Next Younger Brother or Cousin.  It would be interesting to know if clothing was handled and maintained with greater care when it was planned to be handed down.  

Many of the pattern pieces are torn - something that often happens when you're working with thick fabrics - winters in Detroit are cold!

Although Advance is touting an improved step-by-step instruction guide, the entire set of instructions, including the layouts, is printed on one side of a 15" by 16" sheet of paper.  The written instructions are reasonably complete but necessarily very brief.  The maker is assumed to have good basic sewing skills such as basting, grading and finishing seams, pressing, etc.

Friday, September 3, 2010

McCall 5327 - Child's Jumpsuit and Hat


Children's clothing is a little tricky to talk about because its purposes are different from clothing for adults.  Most important with regard to the time and effort involved in home sewing, children's clothes are more or less disposable because children grow out of them.  It's unlikely that a child will wear out an article of clothing before they outgrow it, so while a home-made garment may have been intended for one particular child, its lifespan will probably extend to that child's siblings, extended family, or even to the larger community as part of a clothing exchange.

How children's clothing is used is also a little different.  There is the clothing children are required to wear for what are essentially adult functions; little suits for boys and dresses for girls that are worn to church, to Christmas parties, and weddings and the like, and which almost always itch or pinch in one way or another.   Pajamas and bathrobes, sometimes sewn annually at Christmas time combine a labor of love with deep practicality, though the recipients may not appreciate this.  Clothing that is appropriate for school (at least during the elementary grades when parents still have some control!) is essentially occupational clothing that conforms to current styles.

And then there are play clothes.  Play, I think, is the truest occupation of children, particularly young children, so it makes sense to provide them with appropriate occupational clothing.

What makes this pattern so attractive is the matching hat - an occupational necessity for all railroaders, regardless of the size of their rail operations.

This pattern does not appear to have been used.

This one is for Jim and Olen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ladies Home Journal S-33 "ITALY"

After 1905, probably before 1920.

Ladies' Home Journal apparently produced a series of these country-themed fancy dress patterns.  We've also seen the pattern representing 
England.  Here is how Italy is described:
ITALY In representing Italy a composite Dress taken from the peasantry garb has been designed in the colors of the Italian national emblem. A pleasing satisfaction can be derived from the attractiveness of this Costume, for it is typical of brilliant colors, regardless of harmony, and an abundant display of jewelry.
The illustration is obviously in black and white, so I assume that references to colors (and the designers' opinion that the Italian national colors lack harmony) refer to a color illustration that appeared either in a Ladies' Home Journal Magazine or pattern catalog.  The designers get honesty brownie points for admitting that they've designed a composite of peasant dress.  I like the instruction for "an abundant display of jewelry."

And earlier maker made some pencil notations on the pattern envelope for the colors of the blouse, bodice, apron, skirt and bodice facing including red, green, and dark blue.  The bodice was also cut a bit lower, with the cut-off piece carefully folded into the envelope.

I believe that the young lady in our illustration may be reading her dance card, a clue that this type of costume could be worn to fancy dress balls.

Here is my grandmother in another interpretation of "traditional" Italian folk garb from about the same time that this pattern was published.

While we "read" the red, green, and white in my grandmother's costume as typically representing Italy, the Italian tri-color flag with which we're now familiar wasn't formally adopted until 1948, though there were many variants of these colors in earlier Italian flags.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Standard Designer - Ladies' and Misses' Apron Bathing-Suit

Mid 1920s.

Here's a nice photo from Shorpy from 1920 showing what was probably a purchased bathing suit made of knitted fabrics.  By now we've definitely abandoned the earlier dress-and-bloomers style that we saw in May Manton 7853 but some sort of skirt is still thought necessary.

For this pattern the designers recommends Jersey for the "tights," as they're are calling the undergarment.  At this time Jersey would have been a fairly sturdy knitted fabric of wool.  Recommendations for the "apron" include taffeta, shantung, satin, printed crepe and crepe de chine.

The print on view A looks very much like Egyptian hieroglyphics to me.

As it happens, King Tut's tomb had been discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, and worldwide Egyptomania promptly ensued.

Friday, August 13, 2010

McCall 2243 - Misses' Casual Tunic or Cobbler Apron


By the 1950s cobbler aprons were very popular.  With its bust darts, curved sides, and pocket detailing, Cardin's interpretation for McCall's is a little tonier than the completely unstructured tabard-style aprons offered by most pattern companies at this time.

Pierre Cardin was trained as a tailor and worked at Paquin, Schiaparelli, and Dior before setting out on his own and showing his first couture collection in 1953.  He would release his first ready-to-wear collection in 1959, but in 1958 he enters American popular culture with a series of patterns for McCall.  The elegant little suits and cocktail dresses one understands, but the thinking behind the apron and "casual tunic" is a bit mysterious; can you imagine a Calvin Klein apron pattern, for example - or better yet - Karl Lagerfeld?

But compare the tunic to Cardin's "Cosmos" dress from 1967.  The evolution is very clear.

Victoria and Albert Museum
The perky little bows provide a rather strange counterpoint to Cardin's generally very clean design aesthetic.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Butterick 3120 - Women's and Misses' Hospital Gown


Patterns for hospital wear still up now and again in the backs of the big pattern catalogs, but they don't stay in print very long and can be hard to find.  Really, this is just a nightgown pattern cut off short and modified to tie in the back, but wouldn't it be comforting to go into the hospital supplied with gowns that somebody who cared about you had made?  And wouldn't it also provide some measure of comfort and purpose to the maker to have done something so useful?