Monday, December 31, 2012

Five Easy to sew 1950's Prom and Party Dresses

how to sew 1950s prom dress or party dress or 1940s dress

Here's how to sew five classic prom or party dresses from the very early 1950's (and late 1940's).  By using one of the current sewing patterns here, these styles can be made for today's parties, weddings and proms.  I also included the cute swing coat jacket shown here as a party cover-up.

It's great how many magazine archives are now online.  The Australian Home Journal collection from the late 1940's through early 1950's has monthly fashion features such as the two pages shown here showing spring gowns that could be sewn by most women at home.  These are easy to sew styles that feature simple but effective details.

50s or 1940s prom and party gowns to sew

Illustration above, Spring 1951:
A-ballet length gown with bertha style collar, B-swing coat, 
C-gown with sweetheart neckline, D-Gown with long sleeves

50s or 40s dresses for prom party or wedding to sew

Illustration above, Spring 1949:
E-short sleeves with puffed trim, F-sweetheart neckline with lace trim
G-draped shelf bra bodice with short puffed sleeves

To create your own version of a late 1940's or early 1950's party dress or prom gown, I have found some current patterns that will help you to sew up a vintage party dress of your own.  Select the view above that you like, and you'll find the modern pattern to make it up listed below.

butterick 6022 vogue 8146 mccalls 7281 mccalls 7049 butterick5882

View A- Butterick 6022 has a similar bertha collar that can be sewn in contrast print or lace and made with or without sleeves.

View B- Vogue 8146 includes a short swing coat that could be worn with the collar turned up.

Views C and F- Curved sweetheart necklines are seen in both illustrations. A good pattern for the sweetheart necklines is McCall's 7281, which features a princess seamed bodice for a great fit.  McCalls 7049 has two sweetheart strapless bodices, one that is simple darts, the other with princess seamlines. To get the curved bodice line in B, add a fold of ribbon around the sweetheart neckline.  For F add ruffled lace edging and "pinch" a few gathers into center front bustline. 

View E- Butterick 6022 has a good bodice, low waist and short sleeves for this look.  Also, McCall's 7083 is a basic dress pattern with sleeves and princess seamed bodice that can be used.  If the neckline were lowered and a puffed edge of chiffon trim were added, this same look could be achieved.

View G-The last dress with draped neckline looks almost like a shelf bra and is similar to Butterick 5882, although this pattern does not have sleeves.

1950s or 60s prom or party dress how to sew

I had to include this cute tip for a little puffed sleeve to wear with a strapless bodice.  It's as simple as a tube of fabric with elastic at the top edge.  The dress is similar to View F above, and the illustration here shows how the front has a line of gathers up the center that emphasizes the sweetheart neckline shape.

Fabric suggestions are for soft, not stiff, fabrics that have some weight like satin, taffeta, faille or crepe.  It should also be noted that bodices had few bones to support the styles.  These were often in the side seams only.  Zippers were popular in the left side seam, instead of the back seam.  This was to keep the back view pretty and smooth, without the look of a zipper showing down the back.


Fashion pages from Australian Home Journal, 1949 and 1951

Sunday, December 16, 2012

1948 Coat: Fashion Illustration by M. Bolegard


In the Post WWII years, 1940's coats became more feminine and fitted. This version from 1948 has a cape shoulder and embellishment that is probably braid or soutache trims. Made in the princess seamed silhouette, the coat has a fit and flare style that was so new in the late 1940's. The era that followed the war showed many looks that used a considerable amount of fabric, something that was impossible during the war. The romantic trend was also part of the Victorian revival where crinoline dresses became the norm.

We also can't help but notice the vivacious red accessories. This perky hat predicts the trends seen through the 1950's, with a bit of trim and veiling.

This is an advertisement for both the "Edelson" label and wool gabardine by Lorraine Fabrics of New York. Look for the textile label when you find a vintage coat. Sometimes that may help you determine the date.

The Fashion Illustration

This is illustration was signed by "M Bolegard". It is an ink wash with black brush lines. Great accents are seen in the red details.

India ink is a rich, heavy black ink that can be diluted with water to produce sheer gray washes. Using a heavy paper with some texture, a pencil sketch was made first, often using a live model. Next, the shading was added using light gray washes. When those dried, saturate black ink was brushed on to create the illustration.

The red elements would have been painted with guache or watercolor at the same time as the gray under wash. To get that very white glove, a 'mask' of rubber cement could have been brushed on the area before adding the washes. This mask would then be rubbed off after the wash had dried, revealing the original unpainted white paper. White also may have been painted in with guache. It would have covered any gray wash to create a 'pop' of white.

The name "Bolegard" as an illustrator appears to be often used without a first name. This artist worked for department stores such as Marshal Field & Company in Chicago as early as 1919, and was probably a resident of that city at that time.

Reference: Catalog of Commercial Art, Exhibition, 1920, but Society of Art Directors, Art Institute of Chicago

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let's Talk About: Chanel Metiers d'Art, 2013 & Historical Inspiration


The Chanel Metiers d'Art for Fall 2013 has been buzzing big online this week. In part, it was the lush use of Scottish textiles and heather colors that caught the eye of everyone who has seen it. But another facet of this collection are the direct references to Elizabethan era fashion, men's apparel in particular. This slide shows both a runway look and men's doublets from the late 1500's that could have inspired it.


Lagerfeld has always shown an interest in using historical references to inspire his work, and this design from the early 1600's is a great example of how skillfully he can take a strong historical silhouette and create modern fashion that feels new and exciting.


The three slides shown include several runway ensembles along with original historical portraits. I hope they help to demonstrate how closely Lagerfeld used the late 1500's to mid-1600's as design inspiration. The women in black dresses with white lace accents from 1600's were obviously used to inspire this black dress on the runway. It also is easy to see where he worked with current trends for line, silhouette, color and texture to produce dramatic and new design ideas that are clearly derived from the past.

It is brilliant and creative collections like this one that drive fashion forward and give us something to talk about and try out for ourselves. Keep your eye on Fall 2013, we may see more of styles like these as other brands modify and copy Lagerfeld's lead.


This original article on fashion is part 9 of a series called "Let's Talk About:" that is posted only here at Pintucks. The contents of this article are the intellectual property of this blog. Please do not copy any content or images to another blog or digital media without contacting me first. I will ask that you link back to this article and give reference to this source within your feature. If you are using content or images for a research paper or project, please link back to this page in the traditional academic format, thank you!

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