Thursday, December 12, 2013

McCall's 689 - Choir Cottas or Surplices


I suspect that right about now there are many church choirs out there that are right up to their floppy bows in performances that involve extended lines of "Gloria" and "Halleluja," and "O Holy." In some cases their beautifully starched and pressed cottas represent the labor of the Ladies' Auxiliary.  With luck, the ladies would have been able to plan ahead and weren't slipping away from the Thanksgiving table to sew a just a few more hems to get the choir ready for the service for the first Sunday in Advent.

The boys in this choir from the 1930s look as though they're on the verge of making a run for the ice-cream truck (or just disintegrating into a scrum.)  Wouldn't you love to know what the photographer had just said?

This printed pattern has been used.

Note the little gussets under the arms - a relic of the ancestors of this garment.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ullstein-Schnittmuster V 34 - BildhauerKittel

Based on the style of a women's dress pattern that was part of the same lot, my guess is the early 1920s.

Since I have no knowledge of German, I've relied on Google Translate to help me out here, so this post will be of a somewhat minimalist nature.

This is, apparently, a "sculptor's coat,"  which may be as generic a term as "artist's smock," or "shop coat." Available in sizes for both men and young men, this is a nice example of its kind.  Gathering the fronts and back into a yoke provides some additional ease, so that the coat could be worn over a suit jacket or a heavy sweater.  And you can't go wrong with four pockets!

Ullstein Verlag, a large publishing house based in Berlin, published Die Dame, a ladies magazine, and this line of home sewing patterns - a business model similar to that of McCall.

It's easy to imagine this smock being worn in the studios at the Bauhaus.
This perforated, unprinted pattern has been used.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Butterick 2360 - Women's and Misses' Work Garment

1940s (World War II)

It's hard to think of a more generic description than "work garment." Simplicity called their similar pattern a "Slack Suit or Coverall,"  but the concept is largely the same - a shirt and trousers united at the waist.  Butterick's solution to the drop seat is to sew the belt to the top edge of the trousers, with the shirt being buttoned to the trousers only at the side back edges.

In the description, Butterick advises us to "Note the large utility pocket,"which is the very long breast pocket on the shirt, with its convenient pencil slot.

Even though Butterick's copy department thinks that the sleeveless version is "perfect for your outdoor life," the illustrator decided to show the lady holding a pipe wrench, an implement not generally required for "outdoor life." I can imagine the sleeveless version being worn over a pullover sweater during the winter.

For the photographer's visit to the plant, this young lady has layered a white shirt with her "work garment:"

This unprinted pattern does not appear to have been used.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ladies Home Journal 1139 - Men's Overalls

1917.  What I most like about this pattern (after the brilliantined hair, the jaunty pose, and the spats) is the fact that the gentleman is wearing a tie.

This pattern was featured in an illustration in the November 1917 issue of Ladies' Home Journal entitled "Practical Work Clothes and so Easily Made."

This is an interesting style of overalls as there is no waist belt - the bib and trousers are cut in a single length.

Both the fly and the shoulder straps are buttoned.

This is an unprinted pattern.

When I unfolded the pocket piece, I found this fairly substantial thread of fabric.  Note that it's plied blue and white.  This is not typical of the yarns used to make denim, chambray, or hickory stripe.  If used in both the warp and weft, fabric made of this yarn would have had a mid-blue color, somewhat similar to chambray (even though the construction is different.) Because dyeing adds cost, plying dyed and undyed plies will eventually yield an economical fabric.  This contributes to an overall sense of the thrift of making work clothes at home.

Updated September 2015 with information from the Ladies Home Journal magazine.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Butterick 4258 - Ladies', Misses' and Girls' Martha Washington Costume

Probably the first half of the 1920s.

My town is too small to have a July 4th parade, but if we had one, it might feature a suitably costumed George and Martha Washington waving to the crowd from the back of an elderly pick-up truck.

This costume, which could also have been used for fancy dress balls, is a wonderfully inaccurate pastiche of eighteenth century styles.

And as an Independence Day bonus, if you're a fan of substantial fruit cakes, you might like to make Martha Washington's Great Cake.  This recipe comes from the web site for the Mt. Vernon historical site.
Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.
Forty eggs!  Lordy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Simplicity 4104 - Misses' and women's Slack Suit and Coverall


This one shows up on eBay now and again, and there may be a reason for this.  In the '40s Simplicity published a periodical for Home Economics teachers called School Sewing Service News.   The issue for March 1942 profiled five patterns in a section called "Fashions for Freedom."

In that feature we find this stylish, permed-and-lipsticked young woman modeling the coverall.  Note the fabric recommendations for corduroy, denim, or duck.  (Unfortunately, the snappy garrison cap - also known as a side cap - is not included in the pattern.)

One imagines young women making up this pattern during the spring of '42 so that they'd be ready to jump right into war-time work over the summer break.

Notice that the shirt is sewn to the trousers only in the front.  The overalls have a drop seat, which is achieved by opening the zippers or snaps on either side and unbuttoning the trousers from shirt at the waist.  To keep the whole ensemble together the belt is buttoned through.

Most of us are familiar with "the Rosie pictures" at the Library of Congress, and even if you have a suspicion that these color photos are a bit staged, they're still wonderfully inspirational photographs.

Starting in 1943 there was also Jenny on the Job, who appears in a series of posters issue by the U.S. Public Health Services. Jenny was drawn by an illustrator by the name of Kula Robbins, who seems to have vanished into the mists of unrecorded history.  Jenny would have approved of the Simplicity pattern!

In another poster, Jennie recommended low-heeled shoes.  As our model shows us, saddles shoes finish off the ensemble.  Here's a little lagniappe for Lesli - a nice Bass advert from School Sewing Service News:

This unprinted pattern was offered in sizes up to a 40" bust.  Mine is battered and I suspect it has some terrific stories to tell, if only it could.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

McCall 2379 - Girl's Middy


This is one of a special series of "school patterns" that McCall issued for beginners.  After mastering other patterns in the series for a nightgown and a petticoat, the novice could move on to this iconic middy blouse.

McCall patterns at this time didn't have separate instruction sheets.  Instead,  the instructions were largely printed on the pattern pieces themselves.  This isn't a bad approach. You quickly learn to keep the pattern pieces pinned to the fabric until you're ready to sew them, then to review the instructions on for each of the pieces you're about to sew.

For this series, however, McCall decided to print all the instructions together at the bottom of the sheet of tissue.

Look at all those pleats at the bottom of the sleeve!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ladies' Home Journal 2452 - Men's and Youth's Overalls or Mechanics' Suit

By the style of the envelope, this one is probably the late 19-teens to the 1920s.

When you unite a shirt with a pair of pants, you get union overalls.  In the UK this garment is called a boiler suit.   The other major style of overalls would be the apron or bib-and-braces style, which we've seen with Pictorial Review 3701, Boys' Overalls.  Either of these garments is also called coveralls.  Confusingly, overall or coverall (singular) in some cases refers to a woman's apron or rarely, a shop coat.

Making a ladies' apron at home offers the maker some opportunities for self-expression, if she has the money for pretty fabric and the time to add embellishments such as rickrack or embroidery.

Making overalls at home, on the other hand, is purely about getting the gentleman suitably dressed for his job.  The 27" fabric width is common for denim at this time.  There is nothing easy about cutting out, basting, or sewing denim.  While treadle sewing machines handle multiple layers well, button holes will still have to be sewn by hand.   In some household economies, home-made overalls must have made more sense than placing an order from the Sears, Roebuck catalog.

This unprinted pattern has been used and subsequently led a hard life in storage - it's been a little mouse nibbled.

Here's a nice variety of overalls worn by the crack mechanical team of 1919 at the Haverford Cycle Company in Washington D.C.
Found at Shorpy

Sunday, March 31, 2013

McCall 1310 - Boys' or Girls Western Shirts

 1946.  With Embroidery or applique trim.

A terrific western shirt, particularly appealing because it allows the girls to play, perhaps in the Dale Evans role.  Who wouldn't want to be "Queen of the West!"


This printed pattern has been cut but doesn't seem to have been used.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Butterick 7892 - Little Girls' Romper Dress

A few years before 1921

In a time before it was acceptable for women or girls to wear trousers, this seems to me like a humane way to dress an active little girl.  The rompers themselves aren't much different from boys' rompers.

But at lunch time, or when one of those old-fashioned, elderly relatives appears, give her hands and face a quick scrub and button on her skirt and you have your little lady (more or less.)

You could even make extra skirts so that you always had a clean one on hand.

This unprinted pattern is unused.

Interestingly, this idea of rompers-and-detachable-skirt shows up for women in the 1930s through the 1950s, when it's known as a "play suit."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Aladdin Apron Company - Bungalow Apron


This pattern is the first documentary evidence I've acquired showing that some women expanded beyond home sewing into cottage industry.  It seems logical that a woman who sewed well and efficiently might chose to supplement her income by sewing for others with less time or skill, but without some sort of documentary evidence, it's impossible to prove.

The Aladdin Apron Company of Asbury Park New Jersey may have been a side business for a textile mill, or it may have been a small entrepreneur (perhaps even a woman,) negotiating deals for materials and then taking out classified ads in small town newspapers like the Kingsport Tennessee Times for May 10th, 1926.

The instruction sheet provides fascinating details.

Note that among the potential customers for these high grade percale aprons are factory girls.  It's also interesting how much emphasis is made in the instructions to work neatly and evenly.   A poorly made apron won't generate repeat sales for either the maker or for Aladdin.

As the instruction sheet indicates, the pattern for this very simple bungalow apron (house dress, more or less) has been cut from unprinted lightweight brown kraft paper that will stand up to repeated use better than the usual pattern tissue used for most home sewing patterns. Only one "fits most" size appears to have been available.  This particular style with the two-piece front was very popular in the 1920s.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Maudella 2987 - Keep Fit Costume

Late 1930s, early 1940s.

This seems to be a pretty early Maudella offering.  In the United States this would almost certainly be called a "gymnasium suit," and might be worn with a white blouse underneath.

This pattern may have been offered in response to movement started in the 1930s to promote fitness for women.  It's tempting to imagine Maude Dunsford reading about (or even being a member of) the Women's League of Heath and Beauty, founded in 1930 by Mary Bagot-Stack and in 1935 carried on by her daughter Prunella. (1)

Click on the image to watch a lovely 1930s British Pathe film of League ladies going through their paces.

This pattern is unprinted but each pattern piece is stamped with its name.  There is no separate instruction sheet, only the text instructions on the back of the envelope.

(1)The League survives today as The Fitness League.