Monthly Archives: December 2011

Clothes for Christmas

Another part of the world of vintage patterns, which is now available thanks to the Internet, are old copies of the Vogue Pattern Book magazine.   Published 6 times a year by The Conde Nast Publications, Inc., this magazine featured current and up and coming Vogue patterns, articles on construction and notions, a “question and answer” section,  news on just about anything having to do with personal sewing, and wonderful ads for fabric and sewing machines.  (By the way, it’s still published 6 times a year!)  I’ve been able to purchase a few issues from varying months and years, and sometimes I find a pattern featured which I have already bought on eBay or Etsy.   The December 1957/January1958 issue, which I recently obtained, devotes 8 pages to “The Ladies Love Clothes for Christmas.”

Here is the cover of the December 1957/January 1958 issue.

It features patterns for young girls and for teenagers; there is a section on lingerie and sleepwear; and finally some suggestions for the lady who presumably will be doing all this sewing!  Here is a sampling:

Suggested dresses to make for your little girl and one for your young teen.

There were patterns like this to make slips - for yourself or as a gift!

This billowy peignoir and matching nightgown would turn anyone into a vision on Christmas morning! The pattern cost 75 cents.

Here is the empire nightgown. I hope you can see that this lovely lady, now sans peignoir, is standing under the mistletoe!

This bolero cover-up, lined in polka dots (no wonder I love this!), would be perfect on New Year's Eve.

Or - if you are really in a festive mood, they suggest you make this cape in "ruby-red velvet lined in white silk."

Here is my favorite suggestion, and I quote: "You might give this pattern and enough camel's hair wool to make this coat, to someone who loves to sew." The pattern was priced at $1.00

Here is another suggestion, next to a picture of its pattern envelope.

This robe is very easy to make! (I wonder what is in the long wrapped present she is holding behind her back? A rolling pin?)

This pattern makes up beautifully into an elegant robe! It has additional pattern pieces and instructions for lining it, as well.








Yes, I purchased this pattern last Spring and have already made it up in the “lower calf” length.  Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of it before it went to its new owner, but here is a shot of a small bit of the silk charmeuse left over from this project.

This silk is really more orange-ish than it appears here. I washed and dried it before I cut it out, so that the finished garment would be washable - much more practical for a bathrobe!

The reason I am showing you this, is that last week, Pantone, the color guru of the fashion world, declared a color very close to this as its Color of the Year for 2012.    Specifically, that color is called Tangerine Tango and its number is 17-1463-TCX.

Personally, I have come to appreciate various shades of orange a lot more than I once did. I particularly like to see orange (or coral or tangerine or whatever name you want to give it) paired with hyacinth blue or leaf green or charcoal gray.  Although I am not one to feel like I need to be dressed in the current “fad” color, if I get the opportunity to use it in my sewing this coming year, I definitely will.

Well, I am digressing from my Christmas theme here, so back to the robe in bright green polka dots.

This statement says it all!

If I could ever find such a fabric in a lovely silk suitable for a bathrobe, I would buy it in a minute and make myself this robe in the long version!  For Christmas morning I’d pair it with a long and flowing red silk sash…

Here’s to a fashionable, fun Merry Christmas for each and all – and warm wishes for a colorful New Year!


Filed under Coats, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns

Lessons from 1953

When I first discovered vintage Vogue patterns on eBay last Spring, I was delighted to find that most of the patterns from the 1950s were dated, usually with a line which stated, for example, Copyright 1956 The Conde Nast Publications, Inc..  It took me a couple of weeks to realize that I should also be looking for another important bit of information on the pattern cover: the words Printed Pattern.  I discovered this the hard way;  I purchased a pattern, dated 1953, that was not printed.

I've always liked Asian-inspired dress designs, and I thought this one from 1953 was so pretty. Do you see the size on this pattern? Yes - it's a 14! That's the size one wore in 1953 to fit a 32" bust and 35" hip.


I remember my mother mentioning how difficult unprinted patterns were to use – and I was about to find out why! The tissue pattern pieces were only marked with small holes of varying sizes;  to try to make sense of these markings, I had to look at the instruction layout sheets and translate if they were for a dart,  a stitching line, a pivot point, or some other detail.

These particular pattern pieces had never been used – and I must admit I felt a little guilty taking them from their envelope where they had quietly lived for so many years and pinning them onto my fabric, but pin I did.  I cut that baby out, marked that nebulous galaxy of pattern holes as best I could with chalk, and proceeded to sew, following the directions precisely.

The first thing I realized was that the bust darts were a little too high, but that was an easy fix (seam ripper and redrawing the dart lines).  These early patterns say that the dress should be fitted over the proper foundation garments.  (I don’t think they meant just comfy bra and cotton panties.) Anyone who has watched old movies or even Mad Men recognizes that mid-century look of the pointed and properly perched bosom! That’s one mid-century look I’ll forego.   So that was adjustment # 1.

I lowered the bust line by re-placing the darts.

Next, do you see that band that runs the length of the dress?  The pattern pieces for that were shaped to match the curve of the neck and across the chest.  I thought to myself – now why not just use a bias piece of fabric, which I felt would take the curves better and be easier to topstitch without puckers.  But I followed the pattern exactly – and wouldn’t you know, I had exactly those problems topstitching the curved areas.  As if that were not bad enough, when I tried on the partially completed dress, the neck fit too high and tight, rumpling up the shoulders and it looked awful.

I was going to have to re-cut the neckline, to make it larger. In doing that, I knew the neck area of the band, as it was cut out, would no longer match the new neckline.  I was going to have to piece in another section.  This was not fun, and I was beginning to think this lovely blue dupioni silk was going to end up as a skirt instead of a dress.  But I went back to my original thought – and cut a bias piece to fill in that recut section.  It worked!  That was BIG (ver-r-r-ry BIG) adjustment # 2.

Here is the recut neckline. I was able to hide the pieced seam under the front flap.

Here is the back of the neckline after I recut it.

Here is a close-up of the bodice and armhole band.

By now I was sick of this dress.  I still had buttons to cover and attach, armholes to do, interior snaps, the hem, and the cummerbund to complete.  Well, you can see from the photos that I did finish this dress, although it was late summer before I sewed the last stitch.

The completed dress. You can see I shortened the hem from mid-calf (as shown on the pattern envelope) to just below the knee.

Here is a close-up of the covered buttons and button loops.

I’m still not completely happy with it, but it provided me with these valuable lessons:

1)   Stay away from unprinted patterns.

2)   Check the bustline placement before marking and sewing the darts.

3)   When in doubt, trust my instincts (I should have used all bias for that band and those armholes.)

4)   For best results, make the pattern up in muslin first.  If I had done this, I could have made the bust and neck adjustments before I cut the pattern out in the blue and white silk.

I had a chance to wear this dress during the warm September we had here in eastern Pennsylvania – and I am sure no one suspected I was wearing a dress designed in 1953!  Amazing!


Filed under Asian-inspired dress designs, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns