Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nelly Don: a short film clip

The "Nelly Don" label represented the largest women's dress manufacturer in the mid-20th century. This Kansas City business was started in 1916 by a fascinating women named Nell Donnelly Reed who created innovations in manufacturing, design and employee benefits. Here is a short clip is from a larger film titled "Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time"(2006).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Suits by Adrian: Fashion Illustration from 1951

This newspaper advertisement for fashion designer Gilbert Adrian appeared in 1951. He was at the very height of his career as a fashion designer with a salon that catered to Hollywood's young and fabulous. The fashion illustration is drawn to capture all of the style details that Adrian was famous for, in a layout that uses two suits in different scale, thus calling attention to the larger image. As was common at the time, the artist is not credited.

The copy reads: "British Samer...unsurpassed fabric achieving its perfect conclusion in these Adrian suits. Solid colors as well as a variety of intriguing weaves. $230" department store: Robinson's of California.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sewing a Vintage Style Wardrobe: 1952 Dress

When I saw this Lobell's advertisement in "Charm" magazine, spring 1952, I thought those amazing pockets seemed very familiar. It only took a quick look through the Butterick pattern's set of retro styles to find this exact dress! How often does that happen? So in the interest of fun sewing and vintage styles, here is a great project that is easy to sew as well.

This is the original 1952 ad, and in it you can see all of the fun details that make this dress unique. The only departure from this original design in the sewing pattern is the lack of buttons down the front, but those are easy to add.

Here is Butterick 6055, the pattern that captures this vintage look perfectly. The bodice has an easy fitting kimono shoulder and sleeve, which makes any alterations easier too.

This close up of the pocket details shows how similar the dresses are, and it also gives a better idea of how the pockets are sewn. These could have contrasting ties, or even be a contrast color as well.

When sewing a dress with this type of kimono sleeve bodice, I recommend fabrics that aren't too stiff, thick or crisp, since this will make the sleeve look and feel like wings. Any moderate woven will do, even sheers like organdy or organza sew up well in this style (plan on a co-ordinated color full length slip instead of lining). For fall or winter, a dark plaid cotton with white collar is a classic look, both in the 50's and now as well.

Advertisement copy:
Pocketeer, in flower fresh zephyr cotton…Just $8.95
So smart…this combed zephyr cotton step-in that takes a day’s labors in its stride…goes blithely on to an evening’s date!
Pockets on the grand scale…a skirt that billows free and full! Sanforized to launder perfectly!
Raspberry, green, navy, aqua, charcoal grey, maise, lilac
Sizes 10 – 18, 9 – 17, $8.95.
Lobells, Inc., Hanover, Penn.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Claire McCardell: 1942 Popover dress, the design diagram

When it comes to an American classic, this popover dress by Claire McCardell is one of the most popular. McCardell was able to capture a moment in the social scene where utility and fashion intersected, creating this original garment design that was patented October 31, 1942 at a time when yardage and trims were in short supply.

This dress wraps across the front and buttons down the left side. It pre-dates the later back wrapped house dresses made popular by such labels as Swirl. Sewn up in sturdy fabrics like cotton denim, it provided a women with a serviceable garment that had a bit of style as well.

A photo of the original appears in the MetMuseum web site HERE. With a closer look at the actual garment, it appears that the sleeves were probably cut very 'flat' in a kimono shape, rather than set to hang down at a angle from the shoulder line, as the draft suggests.

If you are wondering about patenting apparel, it is interesting to note that at one time the apparel industry tried this method to reduce copies from being made of original garments.  Class D2 patents (apparel) during the 1940's was about 16.6% of all patents (compare this with 3.6% today).  That was for 45,277 patents made during the 40's.

source: US Patents


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