Saturday, December 31, 2011

Patron-Modèle 100055 - Costume Sport


Translates to "Anorak and ski pants."

The rather laconic description on the back of the envelope can be translated as:
Front-opening jacket with an applied plastron; gathered hood; ski pants.
The jacket is gathered at the waist and wrists.  The ski pants have pockets, and the legs are darted and fitted to bands.  Woolen or worsted fabrics would have been used for both the anorak and the pants.

I assume that your hankie and the French equivalent of a Chapstick go in the little front pockets of the anorak.

And in case anybody was wondering, we now appear to have documentary evidence that the French wore mittens.

Patron-Modèle 400934 - Anorak et Pantalon fuseau en gabardine pour homme


Translates to "Man's jacket and gabardine ski pants."

Patron-Modèle seems to have been the "house brand" for the women's magazine Lé Petit Echo de la Mode.

The description on the back of the envelope translates to:
The anorak has patch pockets and is fitted to the waist with elastic.  Turned down collar; set-in sleeves.  Removable hood.  Ski pants.

"Pantalon fuseau" can also be translated as "pegged pants," but the intent is clear; these trousers have a narrow leg to help keep the snow out and to tuck into the ski boots, which would have looked about like this (I suspect that these laces are much later replacements.)
It's interesting that the description indicates a fabric choice of gabardine, which is a sturdy twill fabric made of worsted yarn.  The anorak would have been made out of a woolen or worsted fabric as well, and I might add a silk lining for a little extra warmth, although the pattern doesn't call for a lining.

As was true for the earlier Patron Modèle that we saw, there is no separate instruction sheet.  The maker is expected to use the illustrations on the front and the description of the pattern pieces on the back of the envelope.

Note the crotch gusset for the pants, necessary for sportswear in the years before stretch fabrics were introduced.

Although there was no instruction sheet, this pattern included a one-sheet that mostly contained advertising geared to home sewing, but had a few general instructions, and a helpful sizing chart.   This size 44 is equivalent to about a 38" chest.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pictorial Review 8017 - Santa Claus Suit


The name "Kathryn Klahn" has been printed in pencil at the very top of the envelope.   The 1930 census lists a Kathryn Klahn, age 65,  as living in Clinton Iowa, so this may be one of her patterns.   Mrs. Klahn got a nice early start for Mr. Klahn's - er, Santa Claus's arrival on the fire truck for the Christmas parade on the day after Thanksgiving.

I like that Pictorial calls this a Santa Claus "suit," rather than "costume."

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

McCall 3495 - Men's and Boys' Undershirts

Latter half of the 1920s.

Recent weather forecasts around here have featured "freezing fog," which for some reason sounds colder to me than "snow," so warm garments of all kinds seem like a really good idea just now, and an undershirt with an extra layer of material to keep the upper body warm is particularly attractive.

While patterns for men's undershirts are not uncommon, this is the first time I've seen this particular cold-weather design offered.  Oddly, I was able to obtain two copies of this pattern in less than six months.

Note that the hip gusset is visible in the illustration.  While these gussets were (and still are, in some cases) used in men's shirts and under shirts, it's a little unusual to see them shown in the illustration.  McCall wasn't taking any chances - they even provided a pattern piece for the gusset, which is quite unusual.  Typically only written instructions are given, sometimes indicating the size of the gusset, but sometimes just instructing the maker to cut a square of material.  Hip gussets are not just a nicety - the side seams will pull out without gussets to take the strain, particularly if the wearer is engaged in strenuous work.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

May Manton's 8815 - Men's and Youth's Pajamas

At a guess, 1915 to 1920.

Chilly weather is upon us, so new flannel pajamas seem like a good idea.  Though one-piece pajamas are common for children, I was a little surprised to see them offered for men.   The option for short sleeves would indicate that some men wore these in summer.  In this case, they'd be made of a light cotton fabric.

The little chart showing chest measurement and the corresponding neck measurement is helpful to have around, since some shirt patterns at this period give only the neck measurement.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Women's Day 5024 - Two-Piece Apron-Dress

January 1952

There is a lot of common sense in this ensemble designed for housework.  Both the skirt and the tunic wrap to the back - the skirt ties and the tunic is closed with snaps, so no need to work button holes.  Wrap garments are handy because they open flat for easy ironing.  Having a separate tunic and skirt allows the maker to make up enough multiples so that she can more easily put together two clean pieces when either the tunic or the skirt becomes soiled.  Both the skirt and the tunic have good, deep pockets.

In some cases Woman's Day patterns were co-branded with Advance, and the layout sheet for this one looks like Advance's work to me.

I didn't realize until I saw this pattern that Woman's Day was the house magazine for A&P stores.  A&P  apparently sold the magazine in 1958.  I have fond memories of A&P; I recall that they smelled of laundry detergent and freshly ground coffee from the coffee grinders at the ends of the check-out lanes (When I was a very small child I found the grinders a little frightening - there was no telling when they might unmoor themselves, run amok, and attempt to eat small children.)
This unprinted pattern has been used.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Simplicity 1961 - Man's Shirt

The Vintage Pattern wiki dates this one to 1943, smack-dab in the middle of World War II.  Note the obligatory sign of manliness: Mr. A's pipe.

This one shows up on eBay all the time.  At any given time there seem to be at least three or four listings for this shirt.  This is a good, functional pattern that will work both as a casual or work shirt, and when made up in heavier materials becomes a nice between-seasons shirt jacket (think of the old Woolrich shirt-jacs.)

Although additional research may reveal that the pattern companies limited their new style offerings during the War, I suspect that a large part of the pattern's appeal was its simplicity.  The front is simply turned under, rather than having a front placket.  Plackets have also been eliminated from the sleeve openings, in favor of simple facings.  However, the maker of this pattern (or the gentleman) apparently preferred sleeves with plackets, because the sleeve facing piece hasn't been used, and included in the envelope are the placket and underlap pieces from a dress shirt pattern, McCall pattern 5864, along with a clipping from the pattern sheet  showing how to apply these.  The maker used only the upper pockets and flaps.

Simplicity still assumes that the maker may not have a button hole attachment and that hand-worked button holes may be needed.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

McCall 7963 - Ladies & Misses' Blouse

Copyright 1950

The selling point for this sporty, elegant shirt is the short sleeves, which can be unbuttoned for greater ease of arm and shoulder motion.

Even though this is a relatively informal shirt, the silhouette of the day still called for shoulder pads.

(I never look this nicely turned out when I'm gardening.)

This printed pattern appears to have been used.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

McCall 4202 - Men's Shirt (coat closing, detachable collar)

After 1908, probably before 1915.

There are several things to note here:

  • The new(ish) coat closing style only.  Pull-over shirts are available right through the 1930s and some patterns at this period offer both options, but for this pattern only the coat closing option is given.
  • The extremely helpful chart showing chest measurements corresponding to the neck measurements.
  • The layout showing the largest size (18" neck) laid out on 36" wide goods.  Note the piecing of the sleeve (S) and the collar stand (R.)
  • The method of attaching the sleeve to the shirt body, in which the sleeve seam allowance is turned under and then fitted onto the body.  This allows the sleeve to be sewn on from the outside for greater accuracy.  This same technique is used when tailoring men's coats, and was used on the slightly earlier Cosmopolitan Outing Shirt.
  • The collar stay made up of a short length of tape with buttons sewn to it.  The button holes worked in the collar are then buttoned to this stay, and it appears the (very narrow) tie lies in front of it.
  • The somewhat bizarre suggestion that in addition to the yardage for the shirt, one will need to get "1 Tie."

Note that the instructions are quite brief.  You're expected to make your own decisions regarding interlining, seam finish, and hip gussets.

This unprinted pattern appears to be in factory folds and was an eBay find for a whopping $3.99.  These early shirt patterns do show up periodically and usually go pretty reasonably.  A 14 1/2" neck is on the small side, which may have been why there wasn't more competition for this one - I was the only bidder.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pictorial Review 3160 - Ladies and Misses' Apron, Cap, and Cuffs

Mid 1920s.

Suitable for both nursing and general household service.  In some cases pattern companies showed maid's uniforms in their catalogs, usually toward the back of the publication, after the night clothes and under things.  It's a little startling to spend time poring over illustrations for patterns of elegant tea gowns and just a few pages later to find yourself in the territory of bungalow aprons, step-ins, and maid's uniforms.

A few years earlier in 1916, the publication Journal of Home Economics published an article entitled "Costume in the Cookery Lab," which documented the results of a 1915 survey of clothing or uniform requirements for students at colleges offering Home Economics programs.  At that time some departments recommended specific commercial patterns that their students (all young women, one imagines) could use.  Further research may reveal that nursing schools made the same sort of recommendations.  The Journal indicates that at two institutions, their students made aprons in their sewing classes.  While the students may have made their own, they may also have purchased the pattern, fabric, and findings and had their clothing made by a family member or a local dressmaker.

Pictorial patterns are wonderful quality. They come pre-cut, printed, and perforated, making them very efficient to use.  This pattern has been used.

Monday, July 4, 2011

McCall 1776 - National Flag - U.S.A.

Copyright date of 1971, but of course, this was intended for the Bicentennial.

Happy Independence Day everybody!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cosmopolitan Fashion Company 655 - Men's Outing Shirt

1898 for certain, as this pattern is listed in Cosmopolitan's Spring and Summer Catalog for that year.  Patterns for utilitarian garments tend to stay in the backlist for a while, so this may have been offered a few years earlier and later.

After Universal's Working Blouse, this is probably one of the oldest patterns I own.  A large number of old store stock Cosmopolitan patterns came on the market in the early 2000s and I acquired several of the more utilitarian styles.  Last summer I finally had the time to start making up this shirt.

I decided to approach this as a maker in 1898 would.  I assumed that the pattern was accurate and usable and that it wouldn't be necessary to make up a muslin to test the pattern.  But I also decided to take some measurements in order to forestall surprises and to use inexpensive fabric.

I removed the pattern pieces from their envelope for the first time since they'd been originally packaged 112 years earlier.  Both the envelope and the pattern pieces were in very fine condition.  Here is what the eleven pieces looked like immediately after I'd unfolded them.

I let the pattern pieces relax overnight before ironing them with a dry iron on very low heat.  This looks a little more promising:

The pieces are, from upper left and as described on the envelope:  Sleeve Lap, Sleeve, Cuff, Collar, Neck-band, Yoke, Back, Front, Lap for Front and Two Pockets.  And remember:

The reason for this is stated in the catalog:

The 19th century maker would have laid out the pattern pieces on the fabric and traced a solid line around them with tailor's chalk or a soft pencil.  She would then cut outside this line to add the seam allowances.  Because the actual stitching line has been traced in chalk, it's sufficient to cut the seam allowances by eye and trim them even during construction.  She could also have marked a measured seam allowance, usually a dashed line, and cut along this line. Adding your own seam allowances also allows you to use different seam allowances for different parts of the garment, and I'll come back to this idea a little later.

I never sew with patterns this old, so I rolled out my pattern paper and traced all of the pieces.

Note that the pattern pieces are placed under the pattern paper so that they're protected.  It's quite easy to feel the edges of the pieces with the tip of your pencil and be guided by them as you trace.  For speed, I use a ruler for drawing in any straight lines.  You can see that I've added a uniform half inch seam allowance.  In fact, a better plan would have been to add half inch seam allowances for the shirt's side, yoke, and sleeve seams and quarter inch seam allowances for most of the other seams, since this would save having to trim these seams during construction.

The pattern pieces show a reasonably comprehensive set of notches and perforations.

I made up the shirt in an inexpensive chambray, one of the many fabrics recommended for outing shirts.   My chambray was 54" wide, which I pre-washed in hot water.  The instructions on the pattern envelope suggest that 3 3/8 yard of 36" fabric would be needed for this size 40 shirt.

Here's the layout.  Can you spot the mistake I've made?

Look carefully and you'll see that I've laid out the front of the shirt along the selvedge. It should be laid out on the fold.

It's my usual practice to cut my notches as short snips and to thread mark all other markings, so I did the same here.  I use two strands of darning cotton and a millinery needle to make my thread markings.

The instructions on the envelope (separate instructions sheets won't start showing up until the 1920's) describe how the pieces are put together, but the maker is expected to know what constitutes good shirt-making technique.  For men's shirts the collar, neck-band and cuffs are almost aways interlined for body and sturdiness.  One of my Women's Institute books recommends using the shirt fabric itself for this interlining.  There is something to this.  When the collar wears thin it can be discretely darned to the interlining. (When this is no longer possible the collar can removed, turned over, and re-attached. Ask your grandmother how much fun turning the gentleman's collars was back in the old days.) However, I felt that the chambray was a little too heavy to work well for this, so  I interlined the collar, neck-band and cuffs with a fairly lightweight unbleached muslin.  I have a cheat for doing this.  I pin the cut pieces to the muslin rather than the paper pattern pieces.  This means that as soon as I cut the pieces out, I'm ready to do the basting.  Here I'm ready to pin the collar to the muslin.

And here is the completed basting.  I don't use a special basting thread.  I just examine my thread board for the ugliest color I can find and use that.  Honestly, I don't know how I ended up with a spool of bright yellow thread.  Using a basting needle makes this a very quick job to do.

And now I'm ready to start sewing.  As much as possible, I tried to construct the shirt in exactly the order specified in the original instructions.  I also wanted to do as much of the sewing on the machine as possible, for both speed and sturdiness.  The outing shirt was athletic wear in its time, so it needed to hold up to strenuous activity, such as tennis, which you can just make out being played in the background of the illustration.

So here we go.
"Open the front from neck edge as far as single notch and sew the front lap to the left front by notches with the seam on outside, then fold lap over front on line of perforations.  Sew a facing or underlap to the right side of the slash and close the front with button holes.  Stitch the pockets to position, placing the large pocket on the left front and the small on right side."
There is no pattern piece for the underlap; you're expected to know how to take measurements of the shirt and the neck-band and cut a rectangle of the right size to allow the shirt to close correctly.  To give you a sense of proportions, one of my sewing books of about the same period indicates that the front opening should be waist-depth.

There were no indications on the pattern pieces as to the placement of the pockets, so I guessed (incorrectly, as it turned out.)

"Slightly gather the upper edge of back between the notches, sew to lower edge of yoke by notches and join the side seams as far as single notches, finishing the seams with small gussets."
In the matter of the yoke I did deviate from the original instructions.  I cut a facing for the yoke, both for strength and for neatness of finish on the inside of the shirt.  This meant that the shirt back was sewn first to the facing.  My approach to sewing on the yokes was to turn up on the seam allowances and top stitch to the shirt back.  Here is the back sewn to the yoke facing.  Unfortunately, I removed the hand-basting stitches before I took the photograph.

And here is a close up.  The top two rows of stitching are the machined gathering stitches.

For both yokes, I machined along the seam line, notched to the line of stitching, and then pressed the seam allowance up.

Thus prepared, the yoke was then carefully basted to the shirt before being machine stitched. (Once again, I don't seem to have taken any pictures showing the basting.  With the exception of the side seams, every seam on the shirt was hand basted before machining.)  Here is a close up of the right side of the shirt, showing the yoke edge-stitched to the shirt back.  I'm currently using a 1945 Singer treadle machine for all of my sewing.  I used a short stitch length throughout the shirt.

Here is the wrong side, where the effect is of edge stitching, which attaches the yoke facing to the shirt, and top stitching, which attaches the yoke to the shirt.  I was pleased with how well this came out, which I owe to the hand basting.

Although I didn't take any pictures of this, I basted the yoke and yoke facing together.  This functioned as stay stitching to prevent the neck and sleeve curves from getting stretched.

The maker is expected to decide on a seam finish for the side seams.  I used a flat felled seam.

The maker is also left to decide what kind of gussets she wants to use (and how large or small to make them.)  My preferred way of handling hip gussets is to cut triangles.  The edges are all turned under, and the base of the triangle is sewn to the inside of the shirt...

 ...then the tip is turned over to the right side and sewn down.

"Sew the lap to slash in sleeve by notches with the seams on the outside, then fold the lap over on line of perforations, stitch to position as indicated by corresponding perforations and narrowly hem the unnotched edge of slash."
And here is a fairly uninspiring shot of the newly placketed sleeves.  The bits of tape are to indicate the right sides, as I have a real genius for unintentionally making two left sleeves or two right sleeves.

"Gather the sleeve on lower edge between the notches and stitch the cuff to lower edge of sleeve."
Unfortunately, I took only one picture of this operation.  Here you see two rows of pink hand-gathering threads and one row of red thread basting the sleeve to the cuff.  You can't see the cuff because at this point it's on the inside of the sleeve.  After I sewed it down, I turned it over to the outside on its fold line and edge stitched the cuff to the right side.

"Sew the arm's eye to sleeve, three-fourths of an inch from the edge of sleeve, placing the seam in sleeve at side body seams (the single perforation indicating the front), and stitch the upper edge of sleeve to position."
The 3/4" offset from the edge was a real head scratcher, and I basted in the first sleeve a couple of times before I thought I had it right.  What that 3/4" gets you is sufficient material to make a very sturdy felled seam.  Again, remember that this shirt is athletic wear, and the sleeve seam can be expected to take a lot of stress.  A shirt is ruined if the sleeves pull out, since there is seldom enough sound fabric left to make a repair.  One test of a well-made pattern is the accuracy of the sleeve fit, and this pattern passed the test with flying colors.  It was at this point I realized that I'd sewn the pockets in far too high, so I reset them a bit lower.

And finally:
"Stitch the collar between the neck-band by notches and the neck-band to neck by notch."
It's important to get the collar set correctly because it frames the face and thus gets a lot of visual attention.  The band must be centered correctly on the shirt, and the collar must be centered correctly on the band.  The collar points should spread symmetrically and be the same length.  

Collars are not trivial to do well.  You're working with relatively small, narrow pieces of fabric that have just enough curvature to make accidental stretching a concern.  Once you're ready to attach the collar to the band, you'll be working with multiple layers of fabric and narrow seam allowances.  Given the very brief instructions, it was up to the maker to have solid shirt-making skills to guide her to a happy result. 

The pattern was accurately notched, but I failed to notice a very odd thing until I'd sewn the collar to the band:  the collar is the same length as the band.   Because the band overlaps when buttoned, this means that the collar fronts overlap as well.  I don't think I've ever seen this in photographs of the period - to the contrary, the gap between the collar fronts can be quite substantial.  This gap is necessary to accommodate the knot of the neck tie, and the 19th century being what it was, a gentleman might choose to wear a tie with his outing shirt. (Our model wears what is probably a soft silk neckerchief.)

On examining the original pattern pieces, I discovered that the neck band extends beyond the collar by 1/2 inch on either side, so at some point I managed to introduce an error, either in inadvertently stretching the collar or in mismanaging my seam allowances.  Now that I know that overlap is an error, the solution is to rip out the collar, restitch the front edges and re-apply the collar to the band.  In fact, a thrifty, thoughtful maker would have made an extra collar at the same time she did the original construction and stored it away against the day the original collar could no longer be darned or turned.

Button placement was not indicated on the pattern pieces, leaving this to the maker.   Having a large stash of old mother of pearl buttons, I could afford to be generous with the buttons.  I worked the buttonholes by hand.  My normal method of working button holes is to work a one-stitch wide box of double running stitch, slash inside the box, and then button hole stitch all around the box, bringing up the thread for each button hole stitch just outside the double running stitches.  However, a plain sewing manual of about the same period as the shirt recommended simply overcasting the cut edge and then working the buttonhole stitch, so I decided to give this a try. This approach is probably fine for a more firmly woven fabric than chambray, but my results were somewhat uneven.  This wasn't helped by the fact that I simply used a doubled sewing cotton (and a fair amount of beeswax) for my stitching, as the only button hole thread I had on hand at the time is part polyester, which I don't care for.

Here is the finished product, overlapped collar, wonky button holes and all:

For a stated size of 40" chest, here are some measurements:

Circumference under the arm = 50 1/2"
Neck from center of button hole to center of button = 17 1/8"
Sleeve from center bottom of neck band at back, to edge of cuff = 32 1/2"
Circumference of cuff = 10"
Front length from bottom of neck band = 29 1/4"
Back length from bottom of neck band = 34 1/4"
Length of front placket = 19 3/4"

And what about that little pocket?  My guess is that it's a watch pocket.  I can tell you from personal experience that it's impossible to get your watch out of a watch pocket set into your waistband when you're seated, so putting this small pocket in the shirt would make the watch accessible while the wearer was seated riding (either a bicycle or a horse are possible for 1898) or in a canoe, for example.

And here the shirt is again, styled with my favorite red spotted handkerchief, and showing how the small pocket might have been used as a watch pocket:

Originally posted in 2009, entirely re-written in 2011, following construction of the shirt.