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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Artcraft, Stockings of Elegance: Fashion Illustration, mid-1940s

This fashion illustration from the mid-1940's is a show stopping layout designed to showcase stockings. It makes a statement through the use of attitude, style and elegance, which is probably the most any stocking brand can hope for in a magazine advertisement.

Artist: not credited
"Artcraft, Stockings of Elegance"
technique: India ink wash for cast shadow, India ink and quill pen for sketch, highlighted by white crayon (conte crayon or oil pastel), on a gray paper stock. Lettering graphics were written in purple ink.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sewing a Vintage Style Wardrobe: the 49er Plaid Jacket from Vintage Pendleton

I love those vintage 49er wool plaid jackets from the 1950's Pendleton ads. When summer winds down, a vintage style wardrobe can be inspired by the ads and articles in fashion magazines from past decades. Pendleton's 49er jacket were widely popular during the middle of the century, but its classic lines, color and fit are terrific as a new vintage inspired wardrobe addition.

This advertisement from the autumn of 1956 would be perfect to sew for this year's vintage inspired look. It is a very simple shirt jacket, with easy to sew details: four black shell buttons up the front with a convertible collar, long sleeves with cuffs, and a back yoke with small gathers. All of this can be topstitched to keep its shape.

Most of these jackets were shown belted. This ad from the winter of 1953 featured low set patch pockets cut on the bias, that sit below that belt. The convertible collar has longer points, and easily creates an open neckline above the larger scale four button front. The roomy sleeves have buttoned cuffs. From the back view, there is a back yoke with modestly gathered shirt body sewn to that.

Finding a current pattern with this style in women's patterns is not easy. While a convertible collared blouse has been considered a classic, right now the larger pattern companies are not featuring this style. Working from a Palmer/Pletsch sewing pattern may be the best option. Where I may have to alter that pattern is to create a higher sleeve cap, because I want the classic 49er shoulder. The sleeve should be shaped with a higher shoulder so that it hangs straight from the shoulder. Another feature in the original 49er is a front tuck in the jacket armhole that releases bustline fullness at about mid-armhole in front. A more modern fit solution is a side dart.

McCall's 6942 is the nearest in style to the 49er. It has the same convertible collar, back shoulder yoke, cuffed sleeves, and center front buttons without a placket. This means that the bias cut patch pockets will need to be drafted, and the back pleat at the yoke will need to be converted to gathers across that seamline.

This pattern may be too large in scale for smaller women's sizes. It also should be checked for the sleeve shape. I might alter the armhole and insert a more fitted sleeve with cuff from another sewing pattern (I must have a few patterns around with that sleeve). If the sleeve pattern is used, I would tape together the extra sleeve seam that creates that cuff placket and sew a more traditional cuff placket.

Two other patterns caught my eye: McCall's 5992, a PJ top with the right shape, and NewLook 6963, a shirt pattern with a more fitted body, high sleeve cap and back yoke. This pattern would need the sleeve lengthened and a cuff added (or substitute in a similar sleeve with those details). The back yoke probably rolls around towards the front more than the original does, but that might not be a problem.

With several different plaid variations, it's possible to sew up several to wear this fall. I also think this easy to sew shirt jacket would be a good pattern to use for making up holiday gifts that any vintage lover would want to own.

Read more about this famous shirt jacket by Pendleton, HERE.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Milena Pavlovic Barilli: Hanes Hosiery, Fashion Illustration of the 1940's

Fashion illustrations are part of what makes women's fashion magazines of the mid-century era wonderful. Tucked into those issues are advertising illustrations that surpass most of what we see today in the media and advertising. This artwork, influenced by Surrealism, was painted for Hanes hosiery by Milena Pavlovic Barilli (a talented artist who has gained more presence in recent years on the internet).

"Hanes no-seam stockings, sheer beauty from every angle", Milena Pavlovic Barilli, 1944: Hanes

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let's Talk About: Visual Timeline of 1950's Fashion

1950's fashion has a wide range of styles, silhouettes and hem lengths. Trying to sort all of this out can be confusing. This visual time line shows fashion as it slowly changes over the decade. The images I used are from that era: no costumes or drawings are included. Most are day wear outfits. All are shown from head to toe, so the true sense of proportion is easy to see. These fashions come from popular sources, brands and labels that were what women actually bought and wore. Evening wear is not emphasized, and this shows the more popular styles worn daily by women.

This visual timeline can be used to date a vintage dress or outfit, by locating the best photos for a comparison. This also can be used as a reference in dating photos, however keep in mind the subject's intention: are they wearing their best, or some old dress to do house work in? It can also be used when putting together costumes or outfits that should look like the 1950's.

These are images of popular fashion styles as worn during each era by the majority of women. High fashion or historic fashion events are not included, rather it shows what many American wore during that time.

When using this, keep in mind that many women wore fashion silhouettes that might have been a new idea 5 years earlier, so not all people wore the most current fashion trend. This is why you will see here a blending in 1955 of the previous silhouettes, worn with a few of the new "A" line silhouette. It took a few years for that "A" line look to be more widely accepted.

In the early years, two styles were most common: a narrow skirt or a full skirt. This early full skirt is not extremely wide. The body in both dresses and suits was fit smoothly with darts or seam lines often like a corset. Three quarter sleeve lengths worn with long gloves were the most common suit look. All hemlines are at the mid-calf level.

The skirt styles shown here are the widest silhouettes that were seen during the 50's. This look was worn for several years, overlapping the "A" line skirts that began to appear in the second half of the decade. After 1955 many full skirts showed decreasing width, becoming softer in silhouette.

This set of styles show slender dresses and suits that have a natural waistline with an hour glass or corset shape. The suit jackets fit close to the body and have hip length hemlines. The skirts come to mid-calf length. In 1955 there was a new trend towards and "A" line silhouette in both skirt and dress shape. While it was not widely adopted that year, it does appear in a wider pleated skirt.

The later half of the 50's decade saw a swing away from the corset fitting bodice and into a softer or lightly draped silhouette. New suits had boxy jackets that are not formed with heavy tailoring or structure. Fabrics started to have more texture, with mohair wools and other soft looks.

At the decade's end, the "A" line silhouette had begun to fill in most wardrobes. It was worn shorter, at the bottom of the knee, so it seemed younger and more sporty. This linear look inspired all layers of fashion, and can be seen in suits, coats, dresses and skirts. All seem to have a lean, flared, clean and smooth look.

The end of the 1950's was a transitional fashion era. Many of the styles popular during previous years were still being advertised, sold, and worn, however the "A" line look affected those silhouettes as well. Both wide skirts and slender sheath dresses were available, along with the new empire or high waistlines.

Using these slides are reference, it's possible to get a better understanding of the progression of fashion styles through out the 1950's decade. All images were sourced from my own library of magazines and books. Nearly all are from advertising, showing American fashion designs that were produced in the US for middle class households. This shows most clearly how the hourglass silhouette was replaced by the "A" line silhouette over the course of a decade.

This original article on fashion is part 11 of an educational series on Fashion Design called "Let's Talk About:" that is original to Pintucks.

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