Category Archives: Blouse patterns from the 1950’s

A Lesson from Lilly

Have you ever purchased a piece of fabric on a whim – and then regretted it? That’s exactly what happened to me, here in the midst of July. I saw this piece of Lilly Pulitzer silk fabric offered on eBay, and without giving it too much thought, I bought two yards.

I have always loved most of the Lilly prints and color combinations, and something about this silk just looked fresh and summery to me. I have long wanted to make the pattern pictured below again, and with its Asian flare, I thought the multi-colored, abstract printed Lilly silk would pair well with it.

The date on this pattern is 1958. I made the blouse/tunic a few years ago and still enjoy wearing it. I would like to make view B sometime…

I had several scraps of solid green silk, one of which I thought would be good as a contrast fabric for the button details on the front of the blouse. (The pattern calls it a tunic, but it looks more like a blouse to me.) As it turned out, I used a scrap of green silk out of which I had made a blouse to go with a purchased Lilly skirt way back in the 1970s! I still have the skirt, but not the blouse…

Anyway, I am digressing. When the fabric arrived – in an itsy-bitsy package that weighed about an ounce – I knew I had made a mistake. Yes, it was silk, but it was so flimsy and slippery I wasn’t very sure it could be sewn with any sort of finesse. (Now I know that assessment was correct.) I contemplated saving it for a lining for something sometime, although truly, it would make a flopsy lining.  Deep down, I knew if I didn’t make it right now, I would never, ever use it. And that would be a waste of money for sure.

Well, now I am going to digress. I find that if I purchase a piece of fabric of impeccable quality, I can hold onto to it for months or even years without ever fearing it will never be used. In fact, the better quality the fabric is, sometimes the longer I wait to use it. That allows me time to think about and search for the perfect pattern, time to explore possible dressmaker details for it, and time to savor its beauty. When it comes to silk in particular, I have found that high quality, fine silk, even very lightweight silk, has a substance to it and a hand to it that makes sewing with it a pleasure.

Let me tell you, this was not a pleasure. I slipped and slid the whole way through the construction of this tunic/blouse. My pins would not stay in place, falling out willy-nilly. Clipping and trimming was a nightmare, as the fabric kept sliding in the way of my scissors. I contemplated spraying the entire thing with hairspray to stabilize it! Then, once I had enough of the tunic/blouse sewn that I was able to visualize my green silk accent strips on it, I realized that the green buttons I had planned to use were going to look – awful.

The green of this button is too deep for the colors of this fabric.

Happily, my luck changed just a bit. I went to my button box and found this card of four buttons.

One button was missing, but that was okay, as I only needed four.

They had been a “bonus” addition in an order of buttons from an Etsy shop, and I really thought I would never have any use for them. But guess what? They were just right for this tunic/blouse. At least this one thing was easy!

The blue of the button seems to work well with the solid green.

As you can see, I persevered and finished this monster.

I made an Obi-style sash to wear with it, which I think improves its appearance.

The back of this blouse has a center seam, which allows for some really nice shaping. I haven’t had a chance to get any self-modeled photos made yet, for which I apologize.

Here it is without the sash. In order to keep the slippery sleeves folded up, I had to add a snap on the inside seam of each sleeve.

I haven’t worn it anywhere yet. We shall see if I get any favorable comments; if I do, then perhaps I will eventually enjoy wearing it. At the least, it will stand as a lesson to me – never, ever again to buy any fabric on a whim.

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Filed under Asian-inspired dress designs, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

A Practical Decision

A practical decision, made out of desperation, that is! It is a rare occurrence that I stop working on a project before it is completed, but that’s what I decided to do with my cashmere coat, skirt and blouse ensemble. Quite simply, life got in the way, without asking me first! Robbed of sewing time for one reason or another, I had to make a decision: should I quietly and gently fold my unfinished skirt and blouse away for a summer sleep, and get busy on my Spring sewing? Or should I plow through and continue work on this wool ensemble as the allure and charms of Spring sewing beckoned me on? Well, Spring’s charms won, especially as I am now facing middle-to-late May deadlines for a silk dress to wear to a wedding and another fancy event.

But I had promised photos of my coat, so before everything goes in the cedar closet until next September, I thought I should share the progress I did make. Even on a cool Spring day, this Cashmere coat felt glorious to wear, even briefly.

A Practical Decision

A Practical Decision

I am very happy with the lining!

I am very happy with the lining!

A Practical Decision

A Practical Decision

This coat is very warm and buttery soft.

This coat is very warm and buttery soft. These photos confirm for me that I need to reset the working buttons, making longer thread shanks, to accommodate the bound buttonholes.

The skirt is a six-panel slight A-line style.  Because the fabric is heavier than I would normally use for a skirt, I wanted to eliminate darts and a waistband, to help control the bulk. I decided to make a waist facing made out of wool challis (used for the coat lining and the blouse), and attach it to a skirt lining made of Bemberg rayon. The skirt is completed except for the hem.

This shows the waist facing, with the Bemberg lining attached to it.

This shows the waist facing, with the Bemberg lining attached to it.

Making a blouse out of wool challis demanded some special considerations. The fabric is finely woven and lightweight, making me hesitant to use waxed tracing paper to make any markings on it. So, I decided to thread trace all the seam lines and markings. This is, of course, the process one uses for the construction of a classic French jacket, so I am comfortable with it. It sounds time-consuming, but it goes fairly fast, and is fool-proof.

This shows my muslin pattern, cut on the seam lines, and with the darts cut out, so that I could tread trace along all sewing lines.

This shows my muslin pattern (with the changes I made to it), cut on the seam lines, and with the darts cut out, so that I could tread trace along all sewing lines.

Click on this for a close-up look at the thread tracing of seam lines and darts.

Click on this for a close-up look at the thread tracing of seam lines and darts.

I got as far as having both sleeves completed, the body of the blouse put together, and the collar pinned in place. I am feeling good about my progress, and I know I can pick this up again, knowing that I really am in the home stretch on this particular project.

The pinned collar, placed along the neckline.

The pinned collar, placed along the neckline.

One of the sleeves pinned in place.

One of the sleeves pinned in place.  The sleeves are three-quarter length.

Good-bye to Winter and Hello to Spring!  Right now it feels wonderful to be focusing on silks and linens, bright colors and feminine fancy things. I am “desperately” happy with my decision!

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Panic and Patterns

Being away, as “on vacation” (or “on holiday” as many express it), can take its toll on sewing projects. If I have to leave a project in mid-stream, it seems to take even longer to get back to it and pick up where I left off. A recent trip to the western state of Wyoming necessitated that I abandon my current “Fall” dress at precisely the time of year when I need to complete it! And now I’ve run into some complications with it.

I guess you could say that panic has set in. Here is what the dress bodice looks like on my dress form:

Panic and patterns

I am using vintage Vogue pattern 2718 for this dress.

The fit seems okay. The neckline will need a little adjustment, but nothing out of the ordinary. The sleeves look good, and I am pleased with the piping so far. So what is the problem? When I try the bodice on, it looks awful. It pulls across the bust, it doesn’t want to move with me at all, and the front seems too short-waisted even though it measures perfectly for me when on the form. Worse still, this fabric is too dear (as in expensive) to put it aside or to think about abandoning this dress.

I think I know what is wrong, and it will take a great deal of effort to try to correct it – and hopefully it will be correctable! I insisted on using an underlining on this stretch silk fabric. I thought I could accommodate the stretch by cutting the underlining on the bias. Guess what? It doesn’t work. The bias pulls from underneath, restricting the stretch of the silk. What this means is that I am going to have to remove the underlining. It is not going to be fun to remove black underlining from black fabric, sewn together with black thread, is it?

I have consoled myself with the thought that I can salvage this project by making a skirt instead of a dress, which may be what I end up doing. Needless to say, I am fighting my discouragement, and trying to stay focused so I can finish this and move on to something more fun.

While traveling is not conducive to sewing, it doesn’t put a damper on looking at more patterns and fabrics online! Sometimes I go weeks without finding a pattern and then I’ll find several all bunched together in the space of a few days. You might be guessing that such was the case during the last few weeks. So while I am struggling with vintage Vogue 2718 right now, I look at my new acquisitions to give me encouragement for the future. Here are some of my “new” finds:

I was delighted to find this DvF pattern in my size, at a reasonable cost!  This one should see some fabric next Spring or Summer.

I was delighted to find this DvF pattern in my size, at a reasonable cost! This one should see some fabric next Spring or Summer.

DSC_0303

This one was too good to pass up, although I don’t have any plans for it right now. This looks like a dress, but it is really a skirt and top, paired with the jacket.

DSC_0304

What can I say? I love coats.

DSC_0305

I have been on the search for this pattern for a long time. I hope I’ll have some reason to make this dress sometime soon…

DSC_0306

The sleeves on the blue version of this blouse are so pretty!

In addition to these new patterns, I just ordered two Marfy patterns, which should either add to my current sewing anxiety or help alleviate it. I hope it is the latter!

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Coats, Cocktail dresses, piping, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap dresses

The Necessary Blouse

Fashion sewing is an interesting combination of inspiration, aspiration, indulgence and necessity, manifested singly or collectively.  My newly completed bow blouse is an example of a bit of all of these motivations rolled into one.  This is the blouse I made to go with my No. 2 Chanel-inspired jacket, made from the same red and navy blue geometric print silk with which I lined the jacket.

The Necessary Blouse Inspiration came from several sources.  I was mostly inspired by the pattern, which is copyright 1957 by The Conde Nast Publications, Inc. (Vogue Patterns) – so much so, that I purchased it in a size larger than I usually wear, as that was what was available – and with vintage patterns, one is never sure to find a favorite one again soon – or ever.

Looking at blouses 1957

Some of the aspects of the pattern which appealed to me are: 1) the “dropped” bow shown in views A and B; 2) the various sleeve lengths; 3) the shaping in the body of the blouse – soft and understated, but very feminine.  Just for fun, I looked through a few of my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines from 1957 and 1958, to see if I could find examples of this blouse pattern.  That was easy!  Here is one sketch and one photograph of Vogue 9227:

The blouse was featured in the December/January 1957-58 issue.

The blouse was featured in the December/January 1957-58 issue.

Part of a feature entitled "A new era for the soft BLOUSE."  In the August/September, 1957 issue of VPB.

Part of a feature entitled “A new era for the soft BLOUSE.” In the August/September, 1957 issue of VPB. 

After making a sheath dress to coordinate with my Chanel-inspired jacket No. 1, I aspired to pair my Jacket No. 2 with a suitable companion, too.  A bow blouse seemed to be a versatile and useful solution.  And then it became a necessity!   I decided my Jacket No. 2 would not be complete until I finished this blouse.

Back view

Back view

Step number one was to make a muslin (of course), knowing that I would need to alter the pattern to fit me correctly.  Sure enough, I needed to take out the bagginess in the bust and body of the blouse, and I needed to shorten the sleeves.  I went to my favorite book on making alterations which guided me through the correct changes:

I highly recommend this book.

I highly recommend this book.

My muslin showed me that the sleeves were also a little too full for me and for current 2014 styles, so I removed some girth from them as well.  I was skeptical of the bow (cut on the diagonal) when I looked at the pattern and then the muslin.  Would it be too full?  Made up in muslin it seemed a little overwhelming.  But, my silk was so lightweight and fine, that I decided it might just be okay, using the original dimensions.

Here is the bow/collar ready to be attached to the body of the blouse.

Here is the bow/collar ready to be attached to the body of the blouse.

This blouse went together quite as planned, although I worked on one side where the bow/collar joins the corner at the front facing for hours, until I had it inserted correctly.  I kept making the same mistake over and over, which was a little irritating.  I also added some extra hand-sewing, understitching the facing by hand and hand-stitching the hem.

Hand understitching looks just so much nicer than machine stitching!

Hand understitching looks just so much nicer than machine stitching!

When I started the blouse, I had not yet picked out buttons, thinking I would use some that I have in my vintage collection.  But then I was on Waechter’s website and found these buttons, which seemed just about perfect:

The Necessary Blouse - button

These buttons measure 5/8″. 

(Sadly, Waechter’s is closing their business in Asheville, N. C., to my great dismay.  This makes me even more grateful for Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, from which I purchased all the fabric for this blouse and my Jacket No. 2.)

Sewing with vintage patterns is such a pleasure in so many ways.  For example, the sleeve vents had their own separate pattern piece:

The instruction sheet from the pattern . . . .

The instruction sheet from the pattern . . . .

The vent sewn on . . . .

The vent sewn on . . . .

. . . . and the finished vent.

. . . . and the finished vent.

Another classic vintage aspect is the proscribed use of snaps  – in this pattern, at the waist and below, which takes bulk away from the “tuck-in” part of the blouse.

And that bow?  Once I had it made up, was it too much?

I think the bow is just about perfect.

I think the bow is just about perfect.

I am very glad I didn't tinker with the size of the bow!

I am very glad I didn’t tinker with the size of the bow!

Shown with the jacket.  I really like how the collar on the blouse shows a bit when i have the jacket on.

Shown with the jacket. I really like how the collar on the blouse shows a bit when I have the jacket on.

The Necessary Blouse

A comfortable fit.

The Necessary Blouse

Would be nice with a navy skirt as well …

The Necessary Blouse

Whew!  Blouse and jacket turned out as I had hoped!

Whew! Blouse and jacket turned out as I had hoped!

I am feeling quite good about indulging in the extra fabric and extra time needed to make this blouse.  Now that my No. 2 Jacket is complete, I can indulge in my other current project – my color-blocked coat –  which might add a new word to the vocabulary of fashion sewing – obsession!

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, sewing in silk, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

No. 2 ~ The Beginning

I may – or may not – find Chanel No. 5 Paris Parfum in my Christmas stocking, but Chanel-inspired, Classic French Jacket No. 2 can currently, definitely, be found in my sewing room.  Well, actually, it’s not a jacket yet.  It is just lengths of fabric and loose trims and buttons, but that is how these things begin, as every home dressmaker knows.

I actually started planning this jacket long before I took the Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje this past summer.  In September of 2012 when I was at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, I found this boucle and purchased it – even then – as my intended Jacket No. 2.

This fabric is very soft, perhaps due to a certain percentage of mohair wool in its composition.

This fabric is very soft, perhaps due to a certain percentage of mohair wool in its composition.

My first jacket is definitely very dressy, so I wanted this one to be less so, which meant I had to find just the right lining, trim, and buttons.  It took another, recent, trip to San Francisco to produce those ingredients – and I couldn’t be more pleased with what I found again at Britex.

A bolt of this light-weight silk twill was tucked under one of the front tables, and it was love at first sight.  I was hoping to find something with navy blue in it, and the geometric pattern in this fabric makes it bold and less dressy than a floral silk charmeuse would be.

No. 2 jacket

The ruler will help you get a feel for the size of the squares.  Click on the photo for a close-up view.

The ruler will help you get a feel for the size of the squares. Click on the photo for a close-up view.

Immediately, however, I knew that I had to purchase enough for a blouse as well, which I did.  I suspect I’ll be using this pattern from 1957 for a blouse with a bow, which should evoke the correct Coco Chanel look. (A muslin should tell me if I need to tame the bow.  I don’t want it to be overwhelming…)

View B with long sleeves has my vote.

View B with long sleeves has my vote. 

With fabrics in tow, I then headed up to the Buttons and Trims Department on the 3rd floor.  An initial look at the red trims flummoxed me, as none of them seemed right.  Then one of the wonderful assistants in the Department came to my rescue and found these two trims.

No. 2 Jacket

Shown with the lining/blouse fabric...

Shown with the lining/blouse fabric . . .

... and again.

. . . and again. 

Back and forth I went between them, unable to make a decision.  It was then that I went to my fail-safe method of choosing between two equally wonderful trims:  I bought both of them! ( It certainly helped that neither was terribly expensive – and both very versatile.)

Now that I have them home, I am leaning toward one of them – can you guess which one?  Does it help to see the buttons, too?  Once again, the experienced button assistant quickly found these – and there was no question in my mind that they were just what I wanted for this jacket.

These are shank buttons, with gold decoration reminiscent of Chanel "C"s.

These are shank buttons, with gold decoration slightly reminiscent of intertwined Chanel “C”s.

And here with the other trim.

And here with the other trim. 

Well, as in so much in life, timing is everything – or it sometimes seems that way.  My timing could be better to be starting such a lengthy project.  It is, after all, one month until Christmas.  I have those proverbial stockings to fill and much to do, but I’ll just bet I can squeeze in some sewing time before my sewing room transforms into Santa’s workshop.

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Boucle for French style jackets, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

Looking at Blouses

In my quest to make a couple of “simple” pieces before I start another “Chanel-inspired” jacket, I decided to make a blouse.  I am very partial to the color of deep pink – and the remains of a length of silk, which I have already used in two projects (here and here), kept surfacing whenever I went through my fabric collection.  The weight is perfect for a blouse – so my plans starting taking shape, based on this fabric.

First I went through my pattern collection to see what I could find.  Two blouse patterns from 1957 and one from 1959 are lovely but did not seem quite right for my fabric.

View B is my favorite - and how current is this look?

View B is my favorite – and how current is this look?

I have already used this pattern once, but I think I took some of the fullness out of the sleeves.

I have already used this pattern once, but I think I took some of the fullness out of the sleeves.

This blouse pattern is part of a suit.

This blouse pattern is part of a suit. 

Just for fun, I thought I would look at some of my early Vogue Pattern Book Magazines to see what else was being featured for blouses.  In February/March of 1955, this tucked shirtwaist is the very picture of elegance:

The tucks make this blouse very ladylike.

The tucks make this blouse very ladylike.

In the same issue, this “bloused jacket” gives the appearance of a classic shirtwaist blouse:

Looking at blouses 1955 - dress shirt style

And look at this “wrap” blouse, also from 1955:

Looking at blouses 1955 - wrap style

Three years later, in October/November of 1958,  “A Change of Tops” was suggested.  “For variety’s sake, make a wardrobe of extra blouses and jackets to change the look of your skirts…”  That sounds like a good idea to me, especially with the pretty styles that are featured:

Another beautiful wrap blouse among the suggestions!

Another beautiful wrap blouse among the suggestions!

By 1972, collars were beginning to be a bit on the large side for my taste, but these three blouses are still “smashing” even 40 years later!

Made up in a plaid taffeta.

Made up in a plaid taffeta.

This is the same pattern as the blouse above, but with a ruffled collar.

This is the same pattern as the blouse above, but with a ruffled collar.

The diagonal print is very effective in this style.

The diagonal print is very effective in this style.

I was particularly drawn to the diagram for the blouse shown above, as it is just a classic shirtwaist style:

Looking at blouses 1972 - plaid 3 sketch

Seeing this blouse reminded me of how much I like an old (very old) RTW David Brooks blouse that I have been wearing for years.

Looking at blouses

It still looks stylish, and I really enjoy wearing it.  So – why not make a “copy” in my pink silk?  Could I possibly find another pattern in my collection that could be suitably altered to achieve this look and style?

Well, I did.  My blouse is currently “under construction” – but the pattern (to be revealed in my next post) is so funny looking that one may truly ask “Why did you ever save that one?”  Hopefully I’ll have a really good, bright pink answer to that soon!

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap blouses

Season for Shopping and Sewing

Well, every season is the season for sewing, and shopping, too, for that matter, especially for fabric.  But somehow, the holiday season seems to take both activities to a new level for the year.   Somehow, knowing how to sew makes one very susceptible to feeling like at least one or two of your planned gifts to family or friends be hand-sewn by YOU.  I, of course, am one of these people.

Remembering some of the gifts I have made over the years came into sharp focus this week.  I went into a storage box (acid-free, of course) where I have some family textile heirlooms in safe-keeping.  I was in search of a Christmas item, but what caught my eye were two aprons which I made the first Christmas my husband and I were married.  It was 1973.  I wanted to do something special for my new mother-in-law and my husband’s aunt, and since they were both “apron-wearers” I thought they might like hand-made aprons.  I designed  a simple pattern, which had two pockets and rick-rack trim.  Gingham was widely available, so I chose colors I knew they each liked.   Most of the sewing on them was by hand, and I still remember furiously working on them to get them finished on time.  I also remember the true delight that both ladies showed upon opening them. I obviously had made just the right thing!

This was the apron I made for my mother-in-law.

This is the apron I made for my mother-in-law.

Season for sewing - apron

And this apron was for my husband’s aunt.  If I made this apron for myself, I would add a “bib” to it.

I added a label with my name on it!

I added a label with my name on it!

Twenty years earlier, in 1953, Vogue Pattern Book magazine had a multi-page feature on “Merry Christmas Gifts and Fashions.”  I must say those 1950s’ home-sewers must have been very ambitious, as this is only part of what was suggested as gift projects:

1)  Lots of sequin-embellished ornaments and decorations.

There were sevben apages of projects like this in the December/January 1953-54 issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

There were seven pages of projects like this in the December/January 1953-54 issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine, c1953, The Conde Nast Publications, Inc.

2)  Doesn’t everyone make ties, shirts, jackets, and pajamas for husbands and grown sons?  “The tailoring is not hard with Vogue’s step-by-step, clear sewing directions.”

This is one of two pages of things to make for men.

This is one of two pages of things to make for men.

3)  Of course you’ll sew for your little ones (which I did a lot of when my own children were young….)

Everything from petticoats to overcoats were featured for children.  Lacking from all these suggestions in this feature were dolls' clothes, surprisingly.

Everything from petticoats to overcoats were featured for children. Lacking from all these suggestions in this feature were dolls’ clothes, surprisingly.  Maybe Vogue Patterns had not yet started making patterns for doll clothes.

4)  Now we’re getting into my favorite ideas – “something special for the girl who loves pretty, unusual  things…”

The two tops shown on this page would be very stylish today.  And the grouping of accessories just happens to from a pattern which i own.

The two tops shown on this page would be very stylish today. And the grouping of accessories just happens to be from a pattern which I own.

Here is the pattern, which includes patterns for other accessories, as well:

The curved belt (not the one with the spikes!) attracted me to this pattern even though it is an unprinted one.

The curved belt (not the one with the spikes!) attracted me to this pattern even though it is an unprinted one.

And here are more suggestions for stylish women:

I can do without the jacket with the ball fringe, but I love that wrap blouse featured in the red triangle on the right!

I can do without the jacket with the ball fringe, but I love that wrap blouse featured in the red triangle on the right!

5)  It seems appropriate that the section ended with a feature on aprons and clothes to wear at home.

"At home clothes for serious work or lazy-lounging."  I doubt too many home sewers are doing lazy lounging this time of year - or ever!

“At home clothes for serious work or lazy-lounging.” I doubt too many home sewers are doing lazy lounging this time of year – or ever!

So – am I making/sewing any gifts this year?  I have just one very simple thing planned (still in my head).  But – along with the Christmas decorating, the shopping, the wrapping, the cookie-making, the cards, the parties and all the other wonders of the season – I am hoping to finish my current work-in-progress (a wool dress for me) and start and finish (?) a pair of wool pants – also for me.  Yes, for me.  Should I feel guilty about this??

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Filed under aprons, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns