“You see her leafing through pattern books – picking out a collar here, a cuff there, a new way of pleating a skirt . . . You see her fingering a tiny swatch of fabric, Yet she’s seeing it as a whole dress, or a blouse, or a jacket . . . Who is she – this lady with the limitless imagination? She’s the woman who sews. YOU . . .”
This is just one of many ads placed by manufacturers of fabric in the April-May 1950 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. Ordinarily I would not have purchased this issue, as most Vogue patterns available before 1955 were not printed, and I rarely buy a vintage pattern which is not printed! My particular interest in these vintage magazines is the opportunity they provide to identify dates for patterns, fabrics and style trends, making the experience of sewing with vintage patterns (and fabrics) even more enjoyable. However, when this issue was available in an Etsy store, I succumbed. I was born in May of 1950, and my curiosity just got the better of me.
Looking at this issue made me realize how old I am… NO, NO, NO! Just kidding, I think. Actually, what really popped out at me was how exciting it must have been to be a home dressmaker at this point in time, with the home sewing business booming, post-war, and fine fashion – and the desire to look wonderful – such important aspects of a woman’s life.
And then, as I was leafing through the magazine, I found an unexpected surprise. Tucked in between two pages was Vogue Patterns April 15 Collection, an 8-page flyer, available at pattern counters and easily something that could be tossed away. I find it remarkable that this slim printed piece survived.
The format is larger than what I am used to seeing in later Vogue pattern flyers from the 1960s and 1970s. When one looks at the fashions and patterns detailed, it is easy to imagine the woman who picked this up, looking at it again and again.
Not only that, also tucked in with this flyer was this page from Harper’s Bazaar, March 1st, 1950.
Clearly she had in mind making the dress pictured on the back cover of the flyer:
Some of my favorite pages in this, my “birthday” issue? I was delighted to find an ad for Moygashel linen, for which I have a particular passion:
A lover of polka dots makes me partial to this gorgeous blouse:
And how can I resist this stunning “moulded sheath dress with a draped cascade”?
I am so struck by the sophistication of the styling of the fashions and illustrations, the emphasis on Designer offerings, and the exciting abundance of piece goods being sold by manufacturer’s name to the home sewing population. Times and fashions change, but I believe we have much in common with these mid-century home dressmakers plotting their wardrobes with creativity and skill – pairing fabric and pattern. We are the women who sew – and are still the ones with the limitless imaginations!
21 responses to ““To the Most Imaginative Woman in the World””
As I read this article it was easy to identify with it. I love vintage clothing, but being able to sew just allows you to unleash your creative side. It’s always fun and exciting. I love reading your blog, thank you.
Thank you so much for your comment – sewing is indeed fun and exciting!
Wonderful! Aren’t ‘birthday’ issues special? I recently bought some 1957 pattern magazines and am already planning next year’s birthday dress from one of the patterns. Just like you I’m enjoying reading the ads. If only we could go back in time for one day just to shop fabrics and notions from those lost brands!
I love these vintage pattern magazines. It is amazing to see how many ads are in them from manufacturers of fabrics. And you are right – “birthday issues” are special!
What a wonderful find! And a belated happy birthday.
Thank you, Trish!
I always enjoy these articles, thanks for sharing this stash with us too!
You are welcome, Kathy!
Excellent post! And a major score to have the pattern from “almost” your birthday. The last draped neck dress is spectacular….if only one magically become taller and narrower… And I’m still working to become (again) one of the women who sew!
Thank you, Jen. And you are surely on your way to be one of the women who sew (again)!
You’re kind to say that, I’m really working on it, and I have a new plan of action! (Oh, and I’m right behind you on the birthday train, 1951)
Happy Birthday! Guess what? I’m a 1950 baby too….November! This must be the reason that whenever I read you posts I feel that we are kindred spirits. I truly do!
I have a copy of a McCalls pattern book from Fall of 1950. I purchased it from EBay for the same reasons as your birthday copy! I share with everyone here the same longing to experience the glamour and hopefulness of that post war era our moms experienced. But you are so right when you say that we as sewers carry on that creative spirit. And how wonderful to have access to those same wonderful patterns. One thing you would get a kick out of in the Fall edition was the “College Campus” outfits that were showcased. Whew! Gorgeous suits and dresses. Dresses shown for date nights that are more glamorous than what women wear to semi formals today. And for the college football games, well the 1950s gal would be decked out in tweedy tailored suits and lovely wool coats. The sewing skills needed for creating these fashions would readily be classified as very advanced by today’s standards. This is why your beautiful creations inspire us so much, you’re keeping alive the wonderful creative spirit of home sewing, but not just wash and wear stuff…the true couture masterpieces we see in these cherished copies from yesterday.
Definitely kindred spirits! I loved reading your comment, and share so many of the same sentiments about that post-war era. It’s funny how 1950 seems like a long time ago, but I don’t feel that old…
You are so right that sewing takes imagination and involves endless decision-making. Selecting fabric, seeing it as a completed garment, choosing buttons and trims, deciding the best method for seams, hems, etc. As Marguerite pointed out, the construction would be considered advanced today.
Marguerite knows what she is talking about! And that’s one of the things I love about sewing – all the decisions.
I wasn’t going to write, but it’s easier to quit being distracted by these fond memories and get back to my big stack of retirement paperwork if I tell what’s on my mind. First, cover lady belongs in my mirror where she can point that finger at me and suggest, “Are you sure you don’t want to dress up a bit more, dear?” Also, I miss that era’s blatant promotion of womanhood and homemaking being tied to a greater noble cause. My 1930’s flour cookbook’s character (also on flour sacks/cup towels so always visible) glorified our responsibilities for our family’s nutrition and the home budget, for making meals attractive and happy for health. Post-war propaganda and tv censorship was even stronger to keep Rosie The Riveter happy at home. My grandmothers, mother and her friends organized the communities and the state, cooked 3 meals a day, gardened and canned and gave high priority to their own hobbies and family play time. After about 1973 when everything became so expensive after oil embargo, and more of my 1952 generation went to work, the volume quickly turned down on the glorification of happy homemaking. I miss it. I think most of us do. The 80’s saw a lot of crafting (& the ugliest suits I ever wore), but long work hours of early 90’s ended that era. My oldest sister, born in 30’s & influenced by Hollywood’s glamour, was always very chic. Even as a busy young mother who enjoyed water skiing I never once saw her not chic. My mother could do it well but she had a bohemian streak too: she sometimes worked in the yard in town in her ranch jeans! But even she wouldn’t wear them inside her own home. She took them off in screened porch, slid thru bath and put on a dress. It was funny to watch but not as funny as trying not to laugh when the neighbor called to tell us Mother was going to hell for wearing pants and us for wearing shorts, while we were forbidden to tell the lady that everyone could see her sz 52 panties for a quarter of a mile when she worked in her prettiest flowerbeds in town. No one ever told her. Happy belated birthday. May you have a beautiful year. And your birthday suit is really pretty: I mean the flowered one with the yellow jacket.
I apologize for rambling so, late at night. Thank you for thrip back
Merry, your comment brought back visions of a couple of my aunts circa 1960. They had a huge garden and worked there when not working full time as hairdressers. They too wore “overalls” and “dungarees” on hands and knees covered in mud. But what a transformation when they left the house! On went the lipstick, dress or suit (sewn by them) , high heels and and coifed hair. Oh, and let’s not forget the fabulous Italian meals they could dish out. And the younger of the two was mother to three small kids. So the gals of today that feel like they can multitask could learn a lot from my aunt! Lucky for them their neighbors were more understanding than your mom’s!
Thank you, Marguerite. I’m still enjoying the company of visions of your aunts during my current endeavors. More later.
Are you sure you are not a social or cultural historian? What a fabulous, funny, and insightful comment. Thank you, thank you, dear Mery. I am so glad you left your “retirement” papers to write!
Thank you, Karen, for your kind words. I was concerned I’d escaped into another place in time, from this retirement paperwork, and that it showed via rambling too much. I sure enjoyed the trip back in time and how you make it all relevant for today. (See my reply to Marguerite too).