Sunday, October 8, 2023

Vogue 590 - Misses' Dress and Top

Early 1980s. This pattern was also issued by Vogue as number 8826 with the same cover artwork. Today it shows up frequently on eBay and Etsy.

Born in England on October 8, 1928, Erica Wilson graduated from the Royal School of Needlework in 1948 before moving to the United States in 1954. She became well-known for her newspaper column, books, needlepoint kits (some in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and her television show on PBS.  At that time there were few other books available on traditional smocks and smocking, particularly in the United States.

A similar smock was featured in Wilson's 1981 book Erica Wilson's Needlework to Wear, on pages 50 and 78.

This pattern would have appealed to Wilson's fans during a period of nostalgia for "traditional" crafts. Folkwear published their English smock pattern at about the same time as the Vogue pattern.

While the pattern is for a women's garment which Vogue refers to a dress or top, originally this garment was called a "smock frock." Smock frocks, some of them beautifully embroidered as well as smocked, were worn by agricultural laborers in parts of England during the nineteenth century. As farming became increasingly mechanized throughout the century, smock frocks would have been unsafe to wear around agricultural equipment and eventually became obsolete. (1)

A surprising number of the nicest smock frocks eventually ended up in museums. Subsequently, smocking itself has had periods of popularity over the years, often for children's clothes. I recall having a smocked dress when I was a small child.

The Vogue pattern hews pretty closely to traditional smocks' construction composed of rectangles of fabric. The shaped yoke and sleeve are seen in some later traditional smocks and for a modern wearer provide a slightly better fit through the upper body.

In addition to the construction instructions, extensive instructions are provided for the smocking and the embroidery.

This printed pattern is unused.

(1) The best recent work on the history of the smock is Alison Toplis's The Hidden History of the Smock Frock